Women on Bikes Series: Tara Reddinger-Adams

You can tell you're ready for spring when you start dreaming of tacky dirt, perfect tabletops and blue skies.

Some people say I am obsessive about riding, I politely disagree. Sure, I spend my free time reading about components, gear, trails, racing and planning the "epic" trip, but in my defense I am only this way when it comes to mountain biking.

I accept road riding as a necessary evil and fat biking as a way to get outside in the winter, but my heart is in the dirt. 

So, as the temps rise and the snow gives way to brown grass, my spirits lift, spring is on it's way and soon it will be time to ride.

Aside from my passion for mountain biking, I am committed to providing opportunities to young people. As a kid, my family (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, great grandparents) expected me to go to college, it was never an if, but a matter of which. My grandparents took me on vacation and the outdoors were my playground. Now, I am fortunate to help a younger generation have some of those opportunities. I am the District Director for AVID, a college readiness system, for the Saint Paul Public Schools. Part of my work involves collaborating with a host of colleges, non-profits, and businesses to provide students with opportunities to learn about and explore potential career paths, colleges, and even go camping in a tent. It is demanding work, but when a student talks about seeing the constellations for the first time, or beams with excitement when they are accepted to college, it makes it all worth it.

When did you first start riding a bike?

I don’t really know how old I was, I grew up riding bikes and really never stopped.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I love the challenge the trail provides. With mountain biking there is always something new to learn, whether it be cleaning a feature you have never cleaned, pinning a new trail, or exploring someplace new by bike, it never gets old. I also love being outside and find it to be very peaceful, restorative and a great way to relieve stress. Another big aspect has been my husband, Byron, who also rides. I do most of my riding with him, it’s great to have a partner you can do things with and who motivates and supports you.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
The Monarch Crest Enduro has been my favorite event to date, it was on some of the best trails I have ever ridden and both physically and mentally challenging. I enjoy how demanding racing enduro is and the mental fortitude it requires. I also really enjoy that it combines technical descending with climbing, I’m not the fastest climber, but I can get it done and I love descending.

You recently obtained your IMBA Level 1 certification. What inspired you to take this step and what are your plans?
Last summer my coach, Jon Casson, suggested I get my IMBA ICP Level 1 certification. I had thought about it some over the past few years, but Jon was the one who pushed me to pursue it. I have wanted to be able to teach others how to ride and encourage more women to get out and learn how to ride and hopefully find it to be an empowering activity and something that also becomes a lifelong activity.

This year I became an Ambassador for Vida Mtb Series, Petal Power and Pearl Izumi. My husband and I went through the IMBA ICP Level I class together and are beginning to create a plan to start guiding and providing beginner level instruction. I am planning on obtaining my Level II certification as soon as possible. 

My immediate plans are to lead beginner level clinics for Penn Cycle’s Ride Like a Girl Cycling and I am also a coach for VIDA Mtb Series and will be coaching at their Flagship Clinics in Keystone, CO in June and at Lebanon Hills in Eagan, MN in August.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
What I do remember is a sense of “I’m out alone in the woods, what if…”, being replaced by “this is awesome, look at that bird, that plant, where does this trail go, etc.” I love being outside, watching the seasons change, the wildlife, and exploring new and old trails alike.
If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
Oh, hell yes. Last year I was racing the SuperD at the Colorado Freeride Fest at Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park, CO. SuperD is like downhill on steroids, with super long, technical descending. I remember pre-riding the tracks and thinking “how the hell am I going to get through this with speed and not F up?”

I walk the trail, I think about the line I will take, I think about the technique I will use, I also vision myself riding it clean, and lastly tell myself, “you got the skills and technique, now go do it.”

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I do ride clipless. When I first began, I rode flats. I think there are many benefits to learning on flats. Foremost, they allow you to more easily bail in case you are going down. They also help you to become more aware of foot position and how foot position effects power into the crank. I will still occasionally ride flats when I am learning something new. I will admit though, I hate riding flats for downhill.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I have had a few over the years, my worst was last year during stage 3 of the Monarch Crest Enduro. I was eight miles into an 11-mile descent on Canyon Creek trail. My run has been going extremely well, I was carrying good speed, clearing obstacles easily and had passed two of the guys who went off in front of me. I came out of the woods and into a left hand turn, I looked at the course marshall and went flying over the bars. My helmet’s chinbar hit first and I rolled. I tried to bounce back up, but it hurt and the marshall made me lay back down to check me over. I remember thinking “I need to finish this stage” and also thinking “be smart, that was a bad crash.” It probably took me five minutes to get back up and going, maybe more. I remember the marshall saying “you’re tough” as I put my helmet back on and stood up. I rode the last three miles out very cautiously (and poorly) and finished the stage. I had an hour plus shuttle back to town and ended up deciding to go to the ER to get checked over. I ended up pulling out of the race, I was sore and was not mentally prepared to race the last two stages. After getting back to MN, I found myself riding a bit more cautiously for a few days, over the course of a few rides I became more comfortable and regained my confidence.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
A lot of things have been challenges over time. When I was first starting out it was logs and rocks, mainly getting up and over them without falling. I did not know proper technique. In 2010, I convinced a friend to fly out to northern CA for a Dirt Series camp, I had been racing cross country and knew it was time to further develop my skills. That was a huge learning experience for me. I was taught proper technique and it really energized my riding. Since then, I have made a point to take at least one clinic each summer so that I can continue to improve my technique, grow and challenge myself as a rider. I would recommend to anyone who rides to take a clinic. You really can’t tell what you are doing unless you have someone watch you or if you video yourself (which I also recommend doing). Having someone evaluate your riding and teach you the proper technique is incredibly valuable, and is something you can apply on every ride.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? What are your methods for dealing?
My focus for this year is drops and jumps, it is something I started working on last year and want to continue working on. I tend to overthink drops over 36”, I know I need to spend more time on them until they become second nature. I have the technique and form, it is just a matter of repetition. I wish there was someplace close to home that had drops of varying heights where I could practice. For jumps, my focus is on getting more pop and air off the lip. These are both areas where I will seek out coaching advice to help me dial in my form more.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that no two rides are ever the same and that there is always something more to challenge yourself with. I also love getting out and immersing myself in nature, listening to flowing water and rustling leaves, seeing birds, foxes and other animals, I find it very therapeutic. I also just love the challenge, I need that type of mental and physical stimulation in my life.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them-

I love talking about my bikes and their builds, so if you’re not into components you might want to skip reading this section. I work part-time for Penn Cycle and ride mostly Trek bikes. Right now I have four rides, they are:

2015 Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5 - My Remedy is my do-it-all and enduro race bike. I built up my Remedy to be light, I am running a SRAM X1 11-speed drivetrain, Fox 36 Talas 130-160mm fork up front. The Talas allows me to drop the travel down to 130mm for riding locally and open it up for long descents out west. I have two wheelsets for the Remedy, a set of Industry Nine Torch Trail 32h and a set of DT Swiss XR 1501 Spline, the I9’s are beefier and are what I ride out west. This bike took everything I could throw at it last year and has been a great bike.

2016 Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon CC - I picked up the frame in December and have slowly been buying the parts, hopefully I will have it done by May. I am building it with a 11-speed SRAM XX1 drivetrain and a Rock Shox Lyrix 160-180mm fork up front. I will most likely run I9 Torch Enduro wheels on the Nomad, as the I9 Torch Trails have been great on my Remedy. I chose to buy a Nomad because my Remedy is a little short travel for the bike park and I wanted something with 180mm travel up front. The Nomad also gets great reviews and has better climbing geometry than some other bikes in it’s class.

2015 Trek Farley 9.6 - After years of saying I was not going to get a fatty, Byron and I both got fatties last fall to give us an option for something to do in the winter. My fat bike is mostly stock, I’ve converted the Jackalope wheels to tubeless and have switched out the stem for a 60mm and have carbon bars on it. I will most likely add a dropper come fall.

2015 Trek Emonda SL6 WSD - Mountain bike racers need to ride road for training, so I picked up a new road bike last year. The Emonda fits me really well, is light and fast, all things that are a necessary to me in a road bike.

Fatbikes! Many people have misconceptions that they are big, lumbering, slow tank of a bike. What have you learned from owning a fatbike that others may find useful?
Fatbikes are no longer slow and lumbering. The industry has done a tremendous job in the past few years with getting the geometry dialed in. My Farley weighs in at 26 lbs which is the same as my Remedy, and is no means slow or lumbering. Some tips I have for fatties are:

1) Go tubeless and learn how tire pressure affects your ride. Snow conditions change almost every ride and having the proper tire pressure can really make the ride much more enjoyable.

2) Clean your bike after every ride. Winter conditions can play havoc on your bike, clean and dry it off and lube up the chain after each ride to prevent rust.

3) Wait until the trails are groomed after a 6”+ snowfall to ride. Grooming makes things a bit more enjoyable.

Many people seem shocked that riding in the winter, on snow covered trails is possible. What inspired you to get out during the cold weather months? What would you like people to know about fatbiking in the snow?

Alfred Wainwright said “There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” which is so true, especially when it comes to fatbiking. With proper layering and warm boots, riding in zero degree temps can actually be enjoyable. Winters can be dark and dreary here in Minnesota, so getting out to ride on a sunny winter day is very enjoyable and really helps boost your mood. One of my favorite memories fatbiking this year was riding just before sunset and seeing the golden shadows the trees were casting across the snow in the woods. It was very cool and something you would not even know about if you were sitting at home on your couch.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think there are a variety of factors which deter women from getting involved in mountain biking. Not knowing any women who mountain bike and not knowing how or where to start riding can be a factor. Balancing work, home, family, dog, etc. can also create a time barrier, mountain biking typically takes longer than going for a run from home. I also think money is a real issue for some people, buying a bike and the basics (helmet, pump, gloves and shorts) can be out of reach financially for some.

What do you feel could happen locally or industry-wise to encourage more women to get involved with cycling (and/or the industry)?
I think within the Twin Cities we have a lot of positive things going on to promote women’s riding, however there is quite a bit of duplication of groups, etc. and one of my goals as a Vida Ambassador for this year is to get a better sense of what local women want from the local community so that Vida Mtb Series can better support women locally.

I also think the cycling industry still has a long way to go in terms of making women equal to men. There have been numerous times when I have been in shops and have been talked down to, and treated as if I don’t know anything. That is discouraging. Please ask me questions to learn about me and determine my needs. I also think the industry needs to do a better job at hiring women and positively promoting women in advertising. The industry is very male-dominated and at times sexist, as has been shown in the past year with 661, E3 Harelbeke and Colnago ads. This type of objectification of women is certainly a factor which causes women to feel uncomfortable, feel as if they are taken seriously, and does not create a sense of belonging.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

I want other women to be able to experience the joy, challenge, freedom, relaxation, solitude, strength, accomplishment, perseverance and empowerment that comes from riding. I think each woman gets something different out of riding, and through riding each woman is able to determine what her benefits from riding are.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

I love dogs, I found our dog Oscar as a stray 8 years ago.