Women on Bikes Series: Elise Manders

In 2001 I worked the medical tent volunteering at Chequamegon. I had the itch to learn to bike and realized I didn't want to spend my time in the tent but rather on a bike so I needed to get a bike. That was my first year out of college and with my year-end bonus at my first job I bought my first new mountain bike.

I love biking and anything bikes.

Life took a turn in late 2013 with marriage troubles. I used my trainer as my outlet during winter of 2013/2014. In summer 2014 I met my boyfriend on match.com and suggested we meet in person and go for a bike ride. For me I was thinking if the date is bad at least I get a workout in. :)

I am not super fast and won't win any major awards, but I hold my own and the longer the distance the better in my books. Currently I have 2 road bikes (one on my trainer), 1 fat bike, 1 mountain bike, a cruiser and a few clunkers. My boyfriend and I also have a tandem fat bike and we rode Fat Bike Berkie this year - only tandem on the course and what a fun experience. I love being stoker because typically I brake down hills so we ended up doing ok because I didn't have control over the brakes ;)

I have a 6 year old son in kindergarten. With the exception of 2015 he has been to Chequemegon weekend every year as well. He started riding a Strider young and 2 years ago started pedaling from the get go. This past December I bought him a fat bike and he is now big enough to ride it. We spend a lot of time on our bikes during the summer and bike to farmer's market, soccer practice, to get ice cream, and just have fun on our bikes. Much of my Ironman training last year was logged on my fat bike with my son Jameson on the trail-a-bike cruising around Green Bay. I had to be creative to log training!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I don’t remember what age I learned to bike as a kid, but we all bombed around the neighborhood on our banana seat bikes. In college I tried to mountain bike a few times, but didn’t really pick up the sport until a year after college.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I love the freedom of pedaling.

You have attended Chequamegon for several years having done both the Short and Fat along with the 40 mile race. What do you enjoy most about Chequamegon?
I love the atmosphere at the race. You can feel the excitement in the air. Out on the course it is fun to share a little small talk when climbing the hills.

Do you have any tips/suggestions for those attending their first Chequamegon event?
Have fun and enjoy the ride. The race goes by so fast – enjoy every climb!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
My very first mountain bike ride was challenging. I went to college in Houghton, MI and tried mountain biking for the first time taking a PE class. I felt out of my league and very challenged.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I was very nervous and didn’t mountain bike the remainder of my time in Houghton. After college I learned to mountain bike on the trails in Copper Harbor. I took small steps and would walk my bike when I didn’t feel comfortable. Each time I rode the trails I would push myself a little more – wait a few more seconds before applying brakes or try climbing a new hill.

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 use clipless pedals. Tips - practice and practice more. And don’t worry if you fall because we have all been there.

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 fallen several times but have not been injured too badly. One fall was on a bridge in Copper Harbor and I fell 5’ on my back with my bike on top of me. It was scary but I hopped back on my bike and continued to ride the weekend out. I have walked my bike on this particular bridge since and am completely fine walking. Most bridges I will ride, but if I am not comfortable I am confident enough in myself to walk. ☺

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Berms always were challenging for me until 3 years ago. I took a women’s skills clinic in 2013 and 2014 and learned so much during the 2 weekends of clinics. I strongly suggest attending a clinic taught by women. Men tend to position themselves on the bike more naturally and in my experience I was not taught how to handle my bike properly from my male teachers/riders. One of the biggest (and most obvious) improvements I made within the first hour of my first clinic was to brake using one finger. My first decade of mountain biking I used 2 fingers to brake and no one ever told me to do otherwise.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Of course – bridges and hills challenge me.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything! I love the confidence I have on my bike – really owning and controlling my bike. I love the scenery on road rides and I love the challenge the trail brings (constantly scanning the trail). The benefit of strong legs as a result of biking is a plus.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Colnago World Cup road bike – I purchased this bike used with the intent to ride it during Ironman Wisconsin 2015. With a set of tri bars added, this bike handled the course well and now I have a great road bike to play on instead of a tri-bike.

Giant TCR road bike – this bike I bought used about 7 years ago and it lives on my trainer at the moment.

Salsa spearfish mountain bike – fun full suspension 29’er. This bike replaced a full suspension Trek I had purchased in 2007. With plans to bike race in the UP and Colorado this year I wanted a 29’er.

Quiring tandem fat bike – This bike is so much fun! My boyfriend purchased this bike a year ago and we tooled around the trails this past winter and raced Fat Bike Berkie on it.

9:Zero:7 fat bike – Fun bike to tool around town. Chose this bike because the frame was on sale and I wanted a fat bike with the same wheel spacing as the tandem. Also a great bike to attach a trail-a-bike to.

What do you enjoy most about having a partner who loves to bike, too?
We are able to spend quality time together doing something we are very passionate about. Our children also enjoy riding so we spend quality family time together while riding our bikes.

What do you enjoy most about your son enjoying biking?
I love that we can enjoy a healthy sport together. I also love the confidence he has in handling his bike.

What do you enjoy about fatbiking and why should people give it a shot?
My favorite thing about fatbiking is biking during winter. Winter can get long and I used to dread it a bit. Now I look forward to the change in season! The trails in winter are so much fun!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think biking with boys deters women from getting into cycling. It can be intimidating starting biking and typically women will try the sport with a male companion. This was the case for me. It took me a few years to really feel comfortable with the sport.

What do you feel could happen locally/industry-wise to encourage more women to be involved?
More clinics are being offered so I think the industry is heading in the right direction. Last summer the local bike shop in Green Bay did a small women’s/girl’s clinic and I think that helped our local area. I think it is important to get girls out on their bikes at a young age too.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love seeing other women challenging themselves. And seeing the “light” turn on when a friend conquers a new turn or trick.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
My middle name is Katrinka and I have never met anyone else with the same middle name as me.