Monday, January 30, 2017

Women Involved Series: Anne St. Clair

Originally a Pennsylvania native, Anne St. Clair migrated west on a cross-country road cycling adventure--eventually landing in Breckenridge, Colorado in 2006. Her love of bike-touring and her first mountain bike ride in Moab launched her head over heels into a decade-long career as a mountain bike guide based out of Moab, UT with a race resume in gravity and ultra-endurance events. Having guided over one hundred multi-day bike tours across the western U.S.

Anne's greatest joy has been sharing the ride experience and encouraging lifelong trail exploration.

Anne also works as an instructor for the VIDA MTB series, as a coach for Maverick Sports Promotions MTB Junior League, and as a volunteer for the Cycle Effect as well as a guide for Magpie Cycling. During the winter months, she teaches avalanche education for the Backcountry Babes and works as a lead backcountry ski guide and snow safety director for Powder Addiction cat-skiing. Anne is excited beyond words to see women in the mountain bike industry making waves, and she is grateful for the opportunity to contribute through her involvement with VIDA. Most importantly, Anne is a Cancer, her spirit animal is a buffalo, and her favorite breakfast is huevos rancheros.

Tell us about what inspired your #bikelife-
Growing up, I had little exposure to the cycling world. However, having competed as a gymnast, I was accustomed to training as an athlete. My initial footing into 'bikelife' was inspired by my transition from gymnastics into more lifelong activities in college. Having studied abroad for a semester in London and having traveled throughout Europe, I realized I had seen little of my own country. On the mend from several knee surgeries, I felt desperately out of shape, and as a college senior, I was unsure of what to pursue post-graduation. I ended up cycling 4400 miles across the U.S. with twenty-five other students from New Haven, CT to Seattle, WA. By the time I reached Seattle, I knew I wanted to continue bike-touring, and I began a decade-long career as a multi-day mountain bike guide based out of Moab, UT that following summer.

Tell us about working as a mountain bike guide, what does the job entail and why have you enjoyed it?
I would be hard-pressed to summarize everything the job entails. I think what sets it apart is how dynamic and rewarding the work can be. It's never the same ride twice! And, in addition to the sunsets, singletrack, and dessert every night, the best part is sharing an experience with people when they are most inspired, alive, and engaged.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
In the last several years, rather than rolling up to a start line, I have been more inspired to challenge my competence on long bike-packing adventures. However, I am a huge supporter of racing and think it's great for the sport. In fact, another one of my (many) favorite summer gigs is working as a race crew member setting up courses for race events such as the Firecracker 50, the Summit Mountain Challenge series, and the Breck Epic. From this, I'd have to say my favorite event is watching the local junior girls (who I coach in our Mountain Bike Junior League) race in the Wednesday night Summit Mountain Challenge series. Seeing their grit and progression is so inspiring! And the race event I just won't miss is the all-women's Beti Bike Bash in Colorado!

What was the motivation to start participating in events?
During off-weeks from guiding, some of my fellow co-guides were high-tailing it to races, and I started tagging along. I started racing more gravity-fueled events because those races were the best match for the bike I was riding and for the skill-set I was motivated to develop in Moab. My first endurance race was a last minute compromise when I couldn't find a partner to join me for a 70+ mile ride in the remote desert. I didn't want to tackle the route solo for my first attempt, so I was ready to give up on an endurance challenge. Then, I heard about a 12 hour race that same day just a few hours away. I figured the race would be a more fun option for a long ride, and that's how I ended up racing my first solo 12 hour race--and I ended up in 3rd place! 

Do you have any suggestions for those on the fence about participating?
Anything can happen! The race accomplishment I am most proud of was at a race I never would have entered without the insistence of a good friend. I had only raced a handful of times in the beginner or sport category, and this event only offered a 'Pro' category. If I had listened to my own insecurities, I would have never signed up, and instead, I won! Anything can happen, and it can be anyone's day. That's why we race! 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Exhilarated! My first ride was in Moab with a highly skilled group of riders. I felt so accomplished having survived. There were rocks, and I rode OVER them! Then I learned that we had ridden one of the more beginner trails in the area. I was amazed, and I was hooked.
If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
There were so many trails in Moab that I found intimidating, but I focused simply on riding my bike... a lot. I pedaled mellow trails to build my confidence, technical trails to push my skills (or just watch other people with skills while I walked my bike), and group rides to be with friends who made it more fun. Riding is the key to building confidence... so keep it fun and go ride! 

Clips or flats? What works best for you and why?
Both clips and flats have their pros and cons, but I am a huge proponent of learning with flats. I rode my entire first year in Moab on flats, and I know it made a significant difference in my progression by allowing me to attempt new skills without hesitation. When I progressed to longer endurance rides, I started to clip in again, and now I'm having a hard time breaking the bad habits I picked up from going back to clips.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Of course. Crashing is part of riding, and certainly all of my crashes have been different physically, mentally, and emotionally. I find that it's so easy to dwell on the drama of the trauma, and it's difficult for me to focus on what's best for my healing in the long run. I think it is important to consider the big picture and that I am in this sport for the long haul. Then, I can better reflect on what I need to ease back into riding enjoyably--because that's what it's all about.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Definitely. In the beginning, I was lucky to get to watch remarkably skilled riders out on group rides without caring that I wasn't at their level. It was so cool seeing what was possible! Eventually I was able to follow some of these riders and learn from trying to match their speed, lines, and body position. Ultimately though, when it came time for me to step it up to more technical moves, it took time. I'll never forget the day I took my first ride down a gnarly downhill trail in Moab. I had been trail running it for years and could never imagine riding it on a mountain bike. On this day, while running, I started imagining riding my bike through the obstacles. There were a few spots where I just couldn't figure it out, and I asked my friend Nancy. She told me the line was just to roll straight down the ledges. The next day, while running it again, I saw it and it clicked! I ran through her door and was like, "Nancy, I see it. I'm ready!" We grabbed our full faces and we were off!

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
The challenges never end, and that's why I love riding. The longer I'm in the sport, the less likely I am to get dragged down. If I'm not riding as fast as I did once or hitting a drop like I have before, I can be okay with that--as long as I'm having fun on my bike. Some days, I might look at a move and think 'I can ride that!' And the next day I might think 'not today.' The key is not to come to unnecessary conclusions about yourself as a rider because you don't feel like riding at the top of your game every time you get on your bike. Go with your flow. There are so many reasons to ride, and progression doesn't always mean bigger or faster... unless I just did something bigger or faster! Ha!

What do you love about riding your bike?
The fact that every time I go riding, I find something new to love!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I am most proud of my $7 townie that I bought 10 years ago at the Moab thrift store. I installed the biggest pannier rack they make and I can haul a week's worth of groceries on it. Those rides are probably my scariest.

I have a Santa Cruz Highball C 27.5 hardtail that I love riding on the multi-day tours I guide in Canyonlands with Magpie Cycling as well on any of my overnight bike-packing trips. There's nothing like loading your camp gear onto your bike and pedaling into beautiful places for a few days.

My Santa Cruz Bronson full suspension bike has been a game-changer for me. I got on their latest model this spring, and the new geometry in combination with an upgrade (for me) in the suspension has given me an extra boost of confidence, and I'm loving it.

I am excited to get on my first Yeti Beti this season! It might give me the extra push I need to throw my hat back in the endurance racing scene.

You also coach for VIDA MTB, tell us about how you got involved with the organization-
I became involved in the organization through an opportunity to join other VIDA coaches in an IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) instructor certification course. I was motivated to take the course to improve my professionalism and skills coaching for my work as a guide, and I found myself in this incredibly fun crew of women who ride hard and want to spread the joy. I got hooked on the community and there's nothing more fun.
What has been the most inspiring moment you've had since you've been involved with VIDA MTB?
Being a part of this inspiring community. Sarah Rawley is like a magnet for finding women working in the industry with incredible stories, and she surrounds us with them at the VIDA clinics--from female bike mechanics, to professional athletes, to nutritionists, to mountain bike clothing designers! We can all improve on and off the bike, and VIDA has a unique way of motivating us to do that through the experiences of these women in the bike industry. It's definitely more than just wheelies, and I love wheelies! 

What would you like folks to know about the VIDA clinics and why do you feel women should consider attending one?
Oops, see above. I learn something new every time! It's so valuable to spend time re-visiting the fundamentals and then taking it to the next level. And it's even more valuable when you get to share it with rad women.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Gosh, that's a hard one. I think for many women mountain biking is a completely new endeavor they are introduced to as adults, while men generally had more opportunities for skill development hanging out at the neighborhood BMX park as kids. There are certainly plenty of folks on either side of this generalization, but I do see a lot of women who are learning to ride as adults who were never introduced to it when they were younger. Learning something new as an adult definitely takes more grit.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I have seen so many positive changes in the last ten years that I have been involved in the sport. I'm too stoked with how far we've come! There are so many more options for women's specific bikes with higher quality designs, more sponsorships, more races with equal pay, and the women's ONLY Beti Bike Bash! The industry is on the right track.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I really believe in the value of this sport in increasing quality of life, and I am passionate about
helping more women develop the skills to feel capable exploring the backcountry. I recognize that there are so many ways to be motivated by this sport, and there are few things more fulfilling than working to help women find that motivation.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I spend my winters sticking my head in the snow as a professional ski guide, avalanche educator, snow safety director, and snow nerd. :)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Shawna Anderson

I'm 43 years old, middle school special education teacher for 21 years, mom to a rescue St. Bernard and wife to a very patient husband. I see myself as very average- not athletic in school or anything. Purely spectator sports. We moved to Superior from the upper peninsula of Michigan in July 2015 and I made the commitment to myself to get out and meet people outside of work. I wanted to be active and busy. Fast forward to the holidays when santa left an awesome bright orange fat tire bike under the tree for me and I fell in love. Then I met the ladies group and I haven't looked back. To be able to get out and enjoy the amazing scenery around here in the quiet wooded trails is healing.

Riding trails takes my mental focus and takes my mind completely off the stress of work. It's so therapeutic! Now if only insurance would pay for the bike (and accessories!)

Tell us a little about your introduction to your #bikelife-
I had an old Giant mountain bike that I rarely touched until I moved to Superior, Wisconsin in the summer of 2015. I found a nice paved bike trail along the lake two blocks from my house so I dusted it off and tried to get back into it. I remembered why I didn’t ride much- my wrists hurt. My husband had a new fat tire that he liked, so he took me try one out. Holy cow have bikes changed! Santa spoiled me last Christmas and I found a Specialized FatBoy under the tree and I fell in love!

My reintroduction was kind of quiet. I heard about this group of ladies who ride on Tuesday nights in Duluth, I had a new bike to try out and I was committed to making the most of things in my new town, so off I went. I had no idea what I was doing, had never ridden a trail before but I haven’t looked back.

You received a fatbike as a Christmas gift- how has the fatbike been a life changing tool for you?
My Beast is just so much fun to ride! He’s been nicknamed Beast, but only because he can go anywhere! I’ve rediscovered the joy in biking. I love when I see people smiling at my bright orange bike and my fat tires. I have had more conversations with total strangers about my bike then I ever imagined. There are so many beautiful trails to around here there is no shortage of places to explore. I love getting outside and just soaking it all in.

So many folks feel that fatbikes are heavy, cumbersome, and not very fun- what are your thoughts?
They couldn’t be further from the truth! Of course, I don’t know all the technical aspects of bikes to do a ‘by the numbers comparison’, but I am an average middle aged woman and I can handle my bike without a problem. I pedal up hills, through mud (only when I have to, always try to protect the trails!), down the hills and anywhere I want to go.One weekend while riding a paved section of trail I had a gentleman comment on how ‘slow’ my bike was as he passed on some small road bike. Shortly after I passed him carrying his bike down a small grassy hill because his bike couldn’t handle it. I believe my comment was something to the effect of ‘I may not be quick but I can go anywhere.’ He scowled but his friend laughed. I wouldn’t trade my bike for anything.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
At first I was scared to death, gripping the handlebars and tensing my whole body! Once I realized that I could do this and relaxed, I enjoyed every minute. I stopped at one point, covered in sweat since it was hard work on a summer evening, and thinking “This is amazing!”. I knew then that I had found a new sport that was good for my soul.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
Like I said, I was nervous! But thanks to the encouragement of the ladies in the group, I let go a little at a time and stopped overthinking things and before I knew it, I was having fun!

Clips or flats? What do you ride and why do you feel it's beneficial?
Flats only because it’s what my bike came with and the only thing I know. I am totally a novice, no ‘fancy equipment’ to try. Honestly, the idea of being clipped to my pedals kind of makes me nervous, but if I had the chance I would try. Heaven knows I’ve been wrong before!

How did you meet the Duluth mountain biking women's group?
How did I meet my people? Good question…..My husband and I are members of COGGS, our local bike group, and I heard about a women’s group there, but it wasn’t until I saw their Facebook post promising an ‘all levels’ ride that took the plunge. Took me a couple weeks to build up my courage, I’d never been on a trail before and I thought for sure I would be too slow for the group, but the ladies took me in with open arms and I am forever grateful.

For others who have yet to find a group to ride with, do you have suggestions on how one could go about finding such a group? What made you feel comfortable?
Check social media in your area- I have found groups for other activities in my area on Facebook- you just have to look. If you don’t find any, throw it out there and start one! You’ll likely be surprised to find that there are others who would love to join you! As far as making people comfortable, be honest about what you are looking for. Don’t say you want to find a distance riding group when your longest ride has been 5 miles. Communicate, be open and have fun, the rest will follow.

Have you ridden off-road solo? What do you enjoy about riding solo and how do you feel it benefits you?
I haven’t done any off-road trails solo, not quite confident enough for that. But I love to ride the bike trail near my house alone. It may sound strange, but I find it healing. I teach middle school special education so my brain is running at full speed all day, some days a ride is the only thing that clears it all. Focusing on finding the rhythm of the pedals that matches my breathing, looking at the world around me, soon I find myself calming down and thinking clearly. Trail riding does that even more, you have no choice but to focus on the trail in front of you and everything else just kind of fades to the background. It’s truly a sanity saver for me.
Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
For me, I haven’t put myself in a position to take a real biff yet. Looking back at my summer I think I should have pushed myself some more but I did what I was comfortable with at the time. My biggest challenge is mental- pushing myself to move to that next level, to try that new terrain, to ride through that tight turn. But I know with time and practice I will get there.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I knew nothing when I started. Looking back, I am amazed I didn’t hurt myself! I learn something every time I go out. I watch the other ladies, I listen to them talk to each other, I take any advice they give. I have so much more to learn but I know it’s a process. I can’t possibly expect to be an expert in one summer! Only suggestions I would have are not to take yourself too seriously, be willing to learn and have fun as you learn.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Like I said, I’ve only been doing this for a summer so there is SO MUCH I have to learn. I have to remind myself to keep my pedals in a neutral position! Some nights I kick myself for having to walk parts of the trail and I start to beat myself up mentally for being inadequate. Then I remind myself that it doesn’t matter that I am walking, I am out and moving. I am doing more than most other people. And it’s not about how you get through the journey, it’s about enjoying the journey while you are on it.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the freedom to be outside, the wind in my face, the blood pumping through my body, the quiet, the scenery….I’ve met amazing people, seen parts of my new city that many people don’t see, there’s not much I don’t love about riding! I had someone tell me that they were inspired to get back out on their bike after seeing the fun I was having on my bike, that to me is what it is all about.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I know most riders have a collection and stories behind all their bikes, not me. I have one, my Beast, a Specialized Fatboy in bright orange. He’s amazing and we make a great team. To be honest, when I walked into the shop I was drawn to the bike because orange is one of my favorite colors, but it’s been a great fit.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I am just starting to build my bike accessory collection so I don’t have much. Bought my first pair of ‘padded’ shorts mid-summer and I wish I hadn’t waited so long! Now I am all about the lights. I have a Light & Motion headlight and have been quite happy with it. They have great customer service too!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think most women, myself included, are just scared to get started. You see the videos of people ripping down mountains, jumping moguls, ripping through curves and think that is beyond your skills, and it is when you start! What you have to remember is that they all started out on the ‘easy’ rated trails and had their share of falls and biffs.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think just having more women represented will help. I can’t say enough about the ladies group I found and the ladies who lead it. I think small groups of like minded women, encouraging each other, have the potential to make a huge impact. Companies who support those types of things will likely see some great returns.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I just want to share the joy and pleasure I get from riding with others. I ride to school some days to
encourage my students to get out and ride, I stop and chat with people when I am out for a ‘town’ ride and they have questions. I want everyone to feel this happiness!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Hmmmmm…..random fact? I’ve been to 14 countries and counting. I have 4 tattoos. I’ve lived in 3 states now. I’ve paraglided 3 times (All in Alaska). I don’t know how to count? lol

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"You're On Flats?"

Look at those flat pedals!
Somewhere during the middle of Chequamegon 40, I was riding next to a fellow who noticed mid-climb that I was riding flat pedals. "You're riding all of this on flats? You're a badass!" I gave him a smile and said "Thank you!" Confidence brimming; especially since 99.9% of the folks at Chequamegon were likely clipped in.

When I first signed up for Chequamegon and Gaston was just a bare frame with color accents, we had gone thru the process of choosing some double-sided ISSI pedals (in pink, of course) that would let me feel more comfortable riding clipped in. I like a wider platform for my foot, especially if I can't engage right away. Then we heard classic Chequamegon stories of folks piling up in Rosie's Field and other areas. Soon Travis' insistence of my riding clips for that race went far, far away. HT pedals were mentioned; his anxiety of my riding the race solo would lesson knowing that I wouldn't be part of a pileup of people who couldn't clip out in time.

After I started riding off-road trails on a regularly, seasoned locals started asking me:
"Are you clipping in, yet?"
Always, the answer was "No!"
I felt ashamed because everyone was riding clipped in and I wasn't ready to try.

A summer about 2 years ago, several of my friends got the "clip in" bug and it was the thing to do. The pressure to switch was strong and I caved in, feeling ashamed that I wasn't the one to start this "revolution" of newly clipped in riders.
The first ride clipped in was on my FWD ride, and I was so afraid of making a fool out of myself that I had Travis drive me up to Van Peenen while the others rode trails to meet me. I wanted to be able to ride a hill or two in private before taking up my ride lead duties; I found it wasn't impossible and it resulted in an okay time. Of course I made the common mistake of unclipping the wrong foot when I came to a stop and I fell over. Great. I got over it as quickly as it had happened.

On less than perfect trail days I would ride my other mountain bike that was set up with flat pedals and on dry days I would ride clipped in. I know that swapping back and forth wasn't going to make learning any easier. My average speed plummeted and areas where I had grown to be more confident to ride had become intimidating again. I was torn, but bullheaded enough to not quit trying, even tho I didn't like it.

It was said "You're not riding clipped in enough to get used to it."

But I thought "Maybe I don't want to get used to it."
It was a struggle for some time, this battle between what was seemingly "right and wrong" for off-road riding. I didn't like how connected I was to the bike and I learned I relied on my clips too much. For example, I went back to flats when the trails became leafy and found myself spinning out on climbs. "Why?!" "Because you could be in a harder gear clipped in and still pedal thru it." "Oh...." Thus, the battle of emotions I had towards clips and flats continued. There are benefits that come with clipping in, but were they truly worth it to me when I felt so much of my carefree riding escaped me?

I started my timid walk into the clip-in world again for the 2016 riding season. One evening I was having a really awesome ride on my Cali on the mountain bike trails. I was feeling good, strong, and not focused on how "attached" I was. Then I clipped a tree with my handle bars while riding over 9mph. I was flung from my bike, forced out of my clips, and rammed my shoulder into the ground. My bad shoulder. I laid there afraid to move for a bit, feeling like a rag doll that had been tossed out of a bed. That sucked. Would riding flats have helped? Probably not in that situation, but it would've saved my ankles from feeling like I had rung myself out like a wet rag.

For my gravel rides I used clips and battled the same insecurities I had when using them on the trails: "Will I unclip in time?" and various other things. It didn't help that I had deep-rooted fears and concerns of riding on gravel in the first place. I found them useful for our rollers, but on the downhills I battled the worry of "What if I eat s***?" Visions of myself and my bike as one catapulting down a hill were playing in my head. Eventually I got over my high anxiety of being clipped in on gravels, but it took time. When it was closer to Chequamegon the clips came off and I rode flats. I wanted to feel like I didn't condition myself into believing I would fail based on my pedal choice.

I rocked it.

My setup for riding on flats equates to a few things:
Happy oval for my fatbike!
1. absoluteBLACK oval chainring
2. HT pedals
3. Five Ten Freerider Contact shoes

With all of the pieces of this puzzle put together I feel like I can ride a bike with flats just as well as if I were clipped in. The oval chainring has been one of the best things I've tried! I felt it gave a smoother, more fluid pedal stoke and the efficiency it provided for getting up our inclines was fantastic. I also felt it was more beneficial for my knees.. It may not be for everyone, but I am of the attitude "don't knock it until you try it."

HT pedals are going to be costly, but they are absolutely worth it if you want a high-performance, super grippy flat pedal. The HT pedals I use are light and not bulky, which is excellent in helping me avoid clipping my pedal on roots/rocks. The pins are amazing, tho be warned, you will bleed if you smack yourself in the calf or shin. It's just part of riding flats.

Five Ten Contact shoes are my go-to shoes for flat pedal riding. I really like the compound of the sole and the smooth surface on the bottom of the shoe, more so than the honeycomb of the Freeriders (non-Contact style.) I felt I was playing around with shoe placement much more with those, plus they aren't as stiff as the Contacts.

For me, a stable foot equates to a less foot fatigue, which is why a lot of folks go for clip-in pedals/shoes. Clipless compatible shoes are usually much more stiff than non-clip shoes.

For me, Freerider Contacts are what I need for a supported foot and Travis prefers to ride in the Canvas Freerider shoes as he likes to feel the pedal beneath him. It's all personal preference as to which shoe style will float your boat.

There is no pedal style that is truly right or wrong, it's all about what you feel will make you a more confident rider. Which setup will allow you to have the most fun on your bike, especially if you are new to riding off-road? Personally, I would ride flats the first two seasons before considering clipping in. Riding flats allows you to work on learning how to ride; you figure out traction, you learn how to lift your wheels up without relying on a contraption, and you have the ability to put a foot out easily.

When riding clipped in you are guaranteed to fall at some point for a couple reasons, you couldn't unclip in time or you unclipped on the wrong side. Clips also allow you to cheat with some skills; you can easily hop around like a bunny because you and your bike are attached, but you won't learn the technical aspects of that move if you only do it clipped in.

I was told a couple years ago by a friend and excellent rider that if I wanted to win races, I would need to clip in....and guess what?
I've won races....not clipped in.

There is a growing trend among the cycling community with more folks switching to flats periodically so they can purposely work on skills or re-learn skills. I think that is rad! It's a great way to spice up your riding, challenge yourself, and keep it fresh!

Many folks find benefit and enjoyment with riding clipped in while mountain biking, but it's important to remember that clips are not a requirement! You should try both pedal styles yourself to make your own judgement on what will work best for you and where you're riding.

All in all, you want cycling to be something you enjoy, so do what you want and have fun! Clips or flats, this is your #bikelife. Own it!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Exploring New Trails- Hixon Forest and HPT in La Crosse, WI

As we enter into the fall season, Travis and I are able to find time to escape Decorah to go on some mountain bike adventures elsewhere. One of the locations we were interested in exploring was the trail system(s) in La Crosse, Wisconsin. We were told that the trails in that area were going to be similar to ours, yet different at the same time. Always curious about seeing what else is out there, we made it our destination as my day-after-birthday, birthday getaway.

What makes La Crosse so fun is that it's not terribly far away when it comes to the drive. I'll admit, I've had my fill of 5-hour one-way drives for the time being, so less car time for a trip was a treat!

We were given directions to Hixon Forest Park, being told that there was a trail that started there that would take us over to a cul-de-sac where we could ride to the other off-road trails from. That way we could get to the trails quicker and have a fun downhill trail to ride back to the truck. The climb would be easy, but it would go on for quite some time.

If you are going to park at Hixon, be aware that there isn't a chalet- but you do have a port-a-potty. I would recommend having tissue paper with you in case there is a toilet paper shortage. There may be a good number of vehicles parked there- many of those will be hikers, walkers, and runners. The trail is two-way, those who are coming down the trail are to yield to those going up the trail.

The trail from Hixon to the housing area is easy riding- just a lot of climbing. There isn't anything technical about the trail (that we were on) and you can take a break and visit a scenic overlook. The views were beautiful!

Once you get to the gravel path that takes you to the housing area, you take a right and follow it to a road. Take another right and you will eventually see the "golf ball" at the weather station. That will take you to the next trail head that you'll find the HPT trails. Again, you will find a port-a-potty, but no where else to change if you were to drive there. We weren't put off by changing quickly in the truck when we were at Hixon Park but if you want guaranteed privacy- stop at a gas station or drive to the location in your riding clothes.

Anyways...I was excited to see a large kiosk with a big map set up showing the HPT trails. I have yet to figure out MTB Project, so having photos on my phone of a map was pretty stellar. That didn't necessarily help us with everything, tho. We made our way around the prairie path and went into a trail called Twister. It was a fun trail but one we should've probably saved until closer to last as it popped us right back out on the prairie path. Oops! So we went on the prairie further until we came to the entrance of Buckthorn. We rode that until we hit Hill Pig and then decided to try OB1; that is when the challenge began.

OB1 was a technical trail where you definitely had to be a Jedi in order to ride all of it. It was hit or miss for me in spots. I'm not super great with bigger logs and/or rock sections, I would say out of my riding those would be the weak spots. In Decorah we don't have too many areas in which I can practice- tho having a few things set up for practice in our yard is on my wishlist!

There was a moment when Travis asked if I was okay with what I was riding. He was able to ride everything almost flawlessly and I was struggling, that's for sure. My pride was definitely borderline between plummeting and staying stable. I picked the trail, I would tough it out- and I wasn't going to complain. My confidence with what I was riding was not high, my bike wasn't the best one for the job- something with larger tires or more suspension would've been helpful. I was feeling insecurities I hadn't felt for a long, long time. It was humbling to be in the position I was in- I felt like I did when I first started riding off-road. Anxious and intimidated by what lay in front of me- do I give it a go or play it safe? I did just as I encourage new riders to do- observe what's in front of you and if you're feeling okay about trying it- do so. If not, walk it and don't fret.

We made it up a climb of a trail and were at a fork in the road. We wondered "Where the heck do we go from here?" and watched two riders bomb down a trail. It looked super fun. We decided "Let's try that!" and it lasted all but a few moments. We ran into the fellows and Travis asked them if they were locals. Jed and his friend were kind enough to lead us out of the section of trails we were at and take us to the other side. Jed has done trail work in the La Crosse area for 10 years and was super helpful with explaining the lay of the land!

It was wonderful to have guidance and I greatly appreciated when they waited up for me. Allergies along with being on new trails had me feeling a bit sluggish. I was feeling self-conscious and totally battled with myself on if I should apologize or just be thankful that the guys would wait up for me. I opted for the latter. Eventually we came to the group of trails and they gave us some options on where we could go. We started on French Connection and eventually hit up Skeeter and Stinky's- If I remember the trails correctly, I really enjoyed Stinky's. It had tighter turns, more hairpin style and some fun sections that were slightly technical. You rode so fast thru it that you didn't have a chance to worry- which was great! I definitely felt like I had a boost of confidence gained after riding that trail.

All in all, I would say that the adventure out of town to the trails of La Crosse, Wisconsin were worth it. I had my butt handed to me a few times but I also had some great accomplishments as well. You could definitely say I was not bored! It reminded me that I have quite a ways to go yet when it comes to feeling confident technical features. I had to be okay with feeling nervous and anxious; beating myself up over feeling inadequate on what I couldn't ride wasn't going to improve things. I also had to suck down my pride and accept that I was not going to be as fast as the guys were, and believe that it's okay.

Embrace the challenge vs. working against it; as easy as it may not be at times, it will make the experience more worthwhile.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Women Involved Series: Meagan Broughton

Smiles all around at Joyride 150’s annual Women’s Weekend!
Sacred Rides is a proud sponsor of it and I’m the lucky lady
who gets to give out a trip to one lucky winner!
I’m seen here with my BFF and
Women’s Weekend coach, Charlotte Batty.
Hey there, well, my full name is Alice-Meagan Broughton, but you can just call me Meg. I’m lucky enough to call Collingwood, Ontario, Canada home, boasting some of the provinces most technical singletrack, longest downhill runs, and picturesque country roads.

By day, I’m the Operations Director with Sacred Rides Mountain Bike Adventures, ranked "Best Mountain Bike Tour Company on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure.
By night, you’ll find me out shredding our local trails (like at our Tuesday Night Race Series), planning an event (like the Blue Mountain DH Women’s Weekend), or creating something delicious to fuel my body (like these mouthwatering dishes).

One thing for sure, I’m constantly striving to create, build and foster a community dedicated to learning, progressing and conquering new skills on the trails, in the gym, or in the kitchen!

Tell us about your #bikelife and how that has influenced your life/career?
My biking adventures started as a kid, riding a purple cruiser with a banana seat and white tassels flowing out of the handlebars. I ripped around the neighborhood, off curbs and through every puddle I could find. Come to think of it, I remember closing my eyes if I was about to run into something or someone (instead of avoiding the obstacle) and my older neighbor getting mad at me for my lack of skill and knowledge. I’ll show her!

As a teenager, my interest for adventure sport grew strong, although I had no real influence, mentor or teacher, stunting my progression until my 20’s. Similar to many women I know – for better or for worse – a boyfriend introduced me to the sport of mountain biking. I soon realized mountain biking was so much more than a sport: it’s a community, a reason to travel, a lifestyle.
I moved on to coaching, getting coached (there is so much to learn!), racing for fun, and now, I have the opportunity to explore the world by mountain bike with my work: Sacred Rides Mountain Bike Adventures.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Alive (and probably scared!).

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
For me, nervousness or fear is derived from the unknown. By getting coached, light is shed by demonstration, explanation and practice. I’ve always been a huge fan of skill development, and still to this day, seek instruction.

I feel blessed to have Blue Mountain 
in my backyard, offering a super fun 
Tuesday Night RaceSeries. 
I’m seen here racing to a 3rd place finish! 
Photo Courtesy of: Jason Petznick
Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional
My first mountain biking crash to note was descending a switch back. I was still very new to mountain biking (on true mountain biking trails), and the idea of maneuvering myself and my bike around a tight turn was totally new to me. With the fear mentioned above gushing through my veins, I focused on the drop off a couple of feet away from the trailside, instead of where I wanted to go. And, as we all know, you go where you look. I am now blessed with a foot long scar on my left thigh.

What did you do to heal and overcome?
Oddly, I think what really helped me was moving from a 26’er to a 29’er. I sought advice from coach friends of mine for any suggestions on the transition from a 26’er to a 29’er. The one piece of common advice that repeated from all who I asked was “just take it wide”. And “wider than you think is necessary”. So I did, and success prevailed. Still to this day, every single switchback I ride, I secretly say to myself “just take it wide and look where you’re going”.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Everything was challenging. Really.
I would say the one skill that moved me up from the beginner level was simply standing up. Get your butt out of the saddle! With mountain biking, you need to be ready, and you are nowhere near ready if your are sitting.
Here are a few key elements of the “ready” position:
head - hovering over your top tube
shoulders - low
elbows - flexed and angled as an extension of your handlebars
hands - pointer finger hovering over your brakes
hips - centered over your bike
knees - flexed and ready to absorb obstacles
feet - level pedals while coasting or descending

What do you love about riding your bike?
The answer to this has changed over time, but I’d say today, it’s all about spending quality time in the great outdoors with even greater people.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
BIKE #1: Trek Remedy 9
I demo’d a Trek Remedy in Moab, and totally fell in love. It was on my wish list for a while and I  finally made it happen. I’m. In. Love. This is the first dual suspension bike I have owned, and I was a little worried it would slow me down while climbing (not my strong suit). Much to my surprise, the  Trek Remedy 9 is a climbing machine! And descending? Oh. My. It just floats down the most  technical of descents. Once I played around with the rebound, it airs as smooth as my DH bike!
BIKE #2: Santa Cruz V10
Well, this purchase was when I was still riding a carbon, 29’er hardtail (a Trek Superfly which I truly adored for other reasons). Need I say more?

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Cycling in general, possibly the financial commitment. Mountain Biking, possibly the idea that it is “hardcore”.

Tell us about Sacred Rides and how you originally became involved with the company?
I was originally hired to research, design and launch a line of women’s mountain bike adventures  around the world. After gathering insight from over 2000 mountain biking women world wide, we now offer a full line of multi-day Women’s Rides in  British Columbia, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Ontario and Utah. It was an incredibly satisfying project to work on. And now, seeing the fruits of my labour pour in through women riders creating their own memories of adventure that are sure to last a lifetime.

Tell us about your job with Sacred Rides and what it entails:
Since the launch of the line of Women’s Rides, my focus is now dedicated to the operations of
the company. I work closely with our Ride Directors in each destination to ensure all aspects of our Rides are getting equal attention. I specifically focus on overseeing the quality of the riding, guiding,
meals, and accommodations. The latest project I completed was developing an intensive Online  Training Program, in efforts to align our global team. This way, any trip you take with Sacred Rides, regardless if you’re in Patagonia or Slovenia, you can expect the same high standards in every aspect.
My goal for 2017 is to increase our overall Ride rating to 8.6 out of 9, and I am confident I can
make it happen!
I long to develop my DH riding skills, and assume other women must too.
If you build it, they will come.
So I did just that with the help of Blue Mountain Bike Park.
I’m seen here (far right with the blue and orange Trek Remedy)
at our 2nd annual Blue Mountain Women’s Weekend where
I lead the beginner group.
Photo Courtesy of: Jason Petznick
What do you enjoy the most working with a company like Sacred Rides?
I’d have to say the forward thinking approach to business and company culture Sacred Rides founder, Mike Brcic has created. Our team works remotely (a.k.a. from home...the coffee shop...or Sedona, where I’ll be in February!), we have flexible schedules (did someone say pow day?!), and every Tuesday afternoon from May 1st to October 1st is dedicated to riding.

What do you enjoy the most about creating biking adventures for others?
Well, all of it really!
What I’ve been enjoying the most over the past 6 months, and where I feel as though I’ve really impacted the overall enjoyment of our Riders, is diving into understanding what Riders (really) want out of a mountain bike adventure, and then figuring out ways to deliver it. After every Ride we operate, we have our Riders submit an End of Ride Survey. I review every single piece of feedback we receive with a fine tooth comb. Any trends in feedback then dictate the necessary changes required to make the trip even better. Gathering hard data is key in understanding what Riders want, as opposed to going on a hunch, or what I may want. For example, our Riders are more inclined to opt for a lighter, trail side picnic lunch over a sit-down, relaxed warm meal (to allow for more riding of course!).

Who should consider going on a trip with Sacred Rides?
Any Rider looking for a trip so memorable, it’ll be reminisced when old and grey. A trip so touching, it changes your outlook on life. We strive to deliver a “Trip of a Lifetime” each and every time.

How could a Sacred Rides trip be beneficial?
A Sacred Rides trip is beneficial for those who want:
to be challenged.
to connect with other people, places and cultures.
to be thrilled with spine-tingling moments of joy and awe.
to be moved with soul-stirring locations and experiences.

What do you love most about being involved in the cycling industry?
The people. The culture. The lifestyle. The constant room for improvement.

Why do you feel it is vital for women to be involved with the cycling industry?
Wowza, that’s a big question that could be taken in so many directions. Women bring a different perspective. A perspective created through our own personal experiences as women, and women in cycling.

From a recreational perspective, it’s vital for more women to be involved in cycling in efforts to
provide role models for our children, an outlet for our girlfriends, and an excuse to just get outside and breath.

From a competitive perspective, it’s vital for more women to be involved in efforts to demonstrate a thoughtful approach to the sport, one based on grace and finesse (something I’m still working on!).
From a business perspective, it’s vital for more women to be involved for similar reasons as in
competition. A thoughtful approach to business challenges, one based on grace and finesse, can be more effective than brute force and fearlessness (hmm...also still working on this!). In the end, involving more women in the cycling industry allows us all to build, foster and grow this incredible and diverse community we call cycling.

Any suggestions for those who want to make a larger impact in the cycling industry? What do you feel are good steps for one to take?
Volunteer. Check in with your local cycling club, trail organization or local shop to see what events they have coming up that require passionate volunteers.
Become an Ambassador. There are many opportunities just waiting for you to apply. Companies seek out passionate individuals who are ready to spread the word about their brand through events, social media and PR.
Coach/Guide/Instruct. Female leaders in the cycling industry are still very few and far between, and are becoming more and more sought after.
Check out these courses to get certified:

What do you feel could change locally/industry-wide to encourage more women to become involved with riding and/or the industry?
We need more women in a position to step up to the plate, to do so. Many of the events I have been involved in creating, was due to my own desire to take part. When searching for cycling skill development events or courses (for adults who are not necessarily competitive), I’ve come up short, giving me the opportunity to make one happen. If you see an opportunity being missed, grab it. Make it happen. We need you!
I was part of a “guinea pig trip” to Costa Rica to test out our
Pura Vida Yoga and Mountain Bike Adventure.
I was sent to scope out the riding, accommodations and overall flow of the trip.
I’m seen here waving at a giddy group of
school children in Dos Rios, Costa Rica.
Photo Courtesy of: Martina Halik

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The memory of just getting into the sport and not knowing how to progress, or really even where
to start or how to start.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I put pots, pans and big utensils in the dishwasher and do not rinse anything before doing so!
Gasp! I’m such a rebel.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Goals and Stoke- The Road to Accomplishment

Photo Credit: Chad Berger
A new year has come 'round the bend and I am already battling with the "What will I accomplish this year?" thoughts and concerns. I know I will accomplish riding my bike, I know I will accomplish going to events, and heck, I'm getting married! I consider all of these things something to look forward to.

Also, I'm super stoked about having some great partners to work with this season: ESI grips, TOGS, and Honey Stinger.

I'm humbled and thrilled that there are companies that feel value in working with a woman who makes it her mission to be an advocate for getting more women on bikes, involved with off-road riding, and participating at events.

Now on to goals. Oh, goals. Everyone starts coming out of the woodwork with them and I don't know where to begin half the time. I'm always torn between the goals of self and the goals of advocating. Of course, one goal should be to find more balance for myself between the two. I can be an advocate while still pursuing my personal goals, and I must accept working on personal goals is a good thing to do. I must also look at it as not being selfish.

I feel a large part of my concern is because I discovered my #bikelife in adulthood and I'm battling the feeling that I need to make up for lost time. I'm also trying to cultivate my own path with advocacy and I'm busting at the seams with ideas, bewilderment, and wild hope. Fortunately, I have a job that allows me to grow with my passion and incorporate said passion into my life. However, as great as that is, it doesn't take away the difficulty of achieving balance.

I feel I'm at a point in my life where I'm clawing for change, but I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking to change. I want to break down the walls of my metaphorical box; I want to grow and I want to be the BEST rider I possibly can be, before I can't be. I want to be able to look back on my riding and say "Damn, girl! You are RAD!" I suppose I'm looking at myself and worried that I won't reach my full potential before my body wears out from under me. I want to reach that potential and I want to put forth the work to do so. I know I may never be the "greatest" but I want to be as my grandma Gert would say, the "bestest"....I want to be the bestest I can be.

So, I question: How do I get better? How do I get faster? How do I get past the fears hiding underneath my skin that keep trying to hold me back?

I have to force myself forward and step out of my box, even if it ends up making me cry. I'm sure there will be tears because I am a person who cries and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Often with learning and pushing myself I hit an emotional point where things just collapse around me. I tend to hold in a lot of "stuff" and subsequently "snap." After I let everything out, I come back to it with more focus and determination and accepting of the challenge. Everyone goes thru the learning process differently and being I spent about 80% of my learning riding solo, I could cry whenever I darn well wanted to.

Recently, Travis decided that he wanted to change the brakes out on the Giant STP dirtjump bike I rode periodically on our past street rides. The rides had discontinued in '13 after my accident This year Travis feels will be the true resurrection of street riding for us and a great way to build up my handling skills. Because of my accident, cement/blacktop/concrete intimidate the crap out of me- I have reigned in my courage because of a concussion I got due to lack of basic handling skills.

Is my desire to build up better handling skills greater than the fear holding me back? Yes.
I don't know how long it will take for things to change, other than I have faith I will, because I bought a bike. 

I bought a bike.
I purchased something that gave me fear and freedom. After years of telling myself I couldn't, I told myself I could...and that is why I know I will accomplish my goals. Some might come easier than others and some might not be accomplished this year- and that's okay. So long as I have the drive to work on them, progress will be made and it will happen as it should time-wise.

Potential goals for 2017:
Learn how to do a power wheelie before I get married.
Do a 50 mile ride without substantial breaks.
Learn how to bunny hop.
Street ride.

Do my best & have fun at:
45 NRTH Whiteout
Frozen 40 (20)
Time Trials
Borah Epic
PertNear 20

Potential improvements for 2017:
I want to trust my bike more- go faster, brake less, etc.
Embrace my riding in the present moment and not let numbers (averages or event placements) dictate in my head my "worth."
Remember that I am a women's mountain bike advocate and I am making a difference- even if I can't physically see it.
Remember it's okay for me to take times to work on my personal goals.
Be my authentic self and share my story.

I'm sure I'll come up with more ideas for goals for myself and mindset as the year goes on, but I figure that these are a good start.

"Just like fire, burning out the way
If I can light the world up for just one day
Watch this madness, colorful charade
No one can be just like me any way
Just like magic, I'll be flying free
I'mma disappear when they come for me
I kick that ceiling, what you gonna say?
No one can be just like me any way."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

FiveTen Freerider Contact Women's Shoe: A Product Review

Travis and I first saw the Five Ten Women's Freerider Contact shoes when we went to SaddleDrive in 2015 and I was stoked! I was an avid Freerider Canvas wearer, but I was curious about the bottom of the Contact and wondered if it might be more beneficial for control and support.

Since acquiring the shoes, I have now found my favorite style for riding flats. Like the Freerider Canvas shoes I wrote a review about previously, they have a super grippy rubber that really sticks to pedal pins like you wouldn't believe. The Contact version of the shoe I feel is even better than the originals I had worn and swore by.

I love how stiff yet flexible the Freerider Contact shoes are!
After I broke them in, I was able to comfortably wear them during the workday so I could have confidence and stability with shredding trails after work!

The Freerider Contacts are made with a treadless Contact Outsole™  under the ball of your foot, which allows you to make quick adjustments to your foot placement. When I compare the Contacts to my Freerider Canvas shoes, I found the Canvas shoes were much more flexible and my feet would fatigue easily. The Contacts have firm support which gave me less foot flex and I found that more effective and comfortable for longer rides. For folks who want to feel their pedals under their shoes you probably won't gravitate towards the Contacts because of their lack of flex.
New colors for '17!
At first I did have an issue with the Freerider Contacts being a little too stiff when wearing them for everyday wear. I have sensitive spots below both balls of my feet, and my foot would want to over-flex as I walked which caused mild discomfort. Once I remembered that the shoes were not as flexible and of course, once they broke in a bit, the issue resolved. Just be aware, if you have sensitive spots on your feet, this may be something you notice for the first few wears.

The Freerider Contact shoe also has a more water-resistant material on the outside of the shoe. They are also durable against impact and abrasion; you wouldn't think with the materials of the shoe- it is the lightest Freerider in the line! I would say there is water resistance to the shoe, but if you're out in a downpour and riding in extremely wet conditions- do not expect your feet to stay dry. I found this out during the 2016 Decorah Time Trials. We had an exceptionally wet and muddy race and my shoes were soaked.
Showing wear, but still going strong!
With having a season+ of wear on these shoes, I'm pleased with how well they are holding up considering they became my go-to for mountain biking. My Freerider Canvas shoes have become an "everyday work/commuter" shoe and you can see extensive wear on the bottom. They aren't truly made for daily, consistent wear- but for the abuse I've put them thru they have done well.

You can see from the photos of what a season+ of continual off-road riding on super grippy flat pedals can do to the shoes. There is wear for certain, but they are still completely usable as a shoe. I will say that the rubber sole area right under the blue logo is coming away on both shoes, which could be more of an issue if I went puddle jumping in these shoes.

There are no holes to speak of, other than sole coming away from the bottom, which might be fixable with some sort of shoe glue. The pins from my HT pedals have definitely chewed up the smooth rubber sections, but not to a degree where I can't continue to wear the shoes.

I also have a habit of having my feet too close to the crank arms sometimes, which has caused some wear on the inside portion of the shoes by my big toe. Oh well! It just affects how nice my shoe looks, not the functionality. In other words, no big deal.

The only other thing I wish for is a way to keep my laces tucked nicely, without having to shove them in a haphazard manner. It's not a huge deal, but sometimes they come untucked and I might stop mid-ride to shove them back under the cross-laces so they don't flop around. An elastic lace keeper would be perfect for these and the Freerider EPS High shoes I wear during the late fall/winter months. The laces are plentiful!

I would highly recommend the Freerider Contact shoes for their stiffness and support (after being broken in.) I also like that they are a bit more protective than straight-up canvas shoes, in case one finds themselves in particularly rocky/technical sections where more supportive coverage (like near your toes, for example) is beneficial.

If you're looking for shoe to wear with flats that are supportive, will stick to your pedals, and are comfortable on and off the bike- Five Ten Freerider Contacts are the way to go!

They retail for $150.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Shebeest S-Pro Shorts and Petunia Bib Shorts: A Product Review

Today I am featuring a review of two Shebeest products that I have used regularly during the 2016 riding season, the Petunia Bib short and the S-Pro short.

When it comes to gear (I consider bike clothing "gear" as I look at it in a functional sense) I like to think ahead for the next dry season, especially as I'm planning more longer-mile rides early than before. Plus, cycling clothes are really the only time I can let my true colors shine- I work at a bike shop 6 days a week. I could literally live with one t-shirt!

What do I consider important for long mile rides?
The right short and chamois combination!

I wore both the Petunia Bibs and S-Pro shorts during most of my dry-season riding on mountain bike trails or gravel grinders. Please note, this is also my first time utilizing bib shorts, so I do not have multiple different styles to compare with. The nice thing about Shebeest is they came out with some pretty wild patterns and I decided that I needed to give them a shot. I have become a fan of the houndstooth collection, being that it can go with just about every jersey due to the neutral colors (black & white.) I was able to come to terms with the fact that I can wear a pattern, I just might not wear it every ride. The great thing is that Shebeest also makes less flamboyant designs for their shorts as well. You have the option of getting a black pair of shorts or tights with a faded design that let's you feel nifty without being a bomb of color, or you still have solid black options for leggings, shorts, and bibs. Classic black does go with everything, but I've found I'm enjoying the "sneaky" approach of having a couple faded print items to give a little pizazz to my wardrobe.

Petunia Bib
From Shebeest-
Innovative comfort and NO OUTER SEAM, make this bib fashion forward
Unique minimal, breathable bib construction stretches from the spine and finishes behind your neck allowing it to be lowered without removing your jersey
7" Inseam
Two-layered, wide waistband with easy access pocket

I wasn't entirely sure that I would like the concept of bibs, what they were about, and how it would feel to wear them. I will say that the construction and fabric of the shorts material felt beautiful and silky smooth. It was really nice to have a legitimate "seamless" feel to the shorts.
The chamois was one I was familiar with, similar to what I already had in my capri tights and shorts from a couple years prior.
They are not necessarily constructed for long, endurance-oriented rides, (think 40+ miles) but are suitable for most of my riding.
*Note- I wore the bibs for a race this fall that was about 20 miles and the bibs felt great. The chamois worked well for the distance, too! I have worn these on 40 mile rides without issue as well, but would rather have something that has more compression.

When it came to fit/size, I was befuddled by how the bibs were supposed to feel. I wasn't entirely sure I would like the halter-style strap behind my neck nor was I certain how the fishnet material that came up from the shorts band was supposed to fit. Did I want it snug or loose? How was I supposed to feel? I felt like I kept putting a left shoe on my right foot. Ultimately, based on everything else in my world shorts-wise is a small, I opted for size small bibs. After several rides I felt that I made the right decision.

The bibs are designed to have an over-easy approach to removing them, you move the halter strap down in front and unzip your jersey a little to pull it down so you can relieve yourself. It's simple enough, but I wouldn't say that it had me fall in love. I'm one of those folks that would rather be able to pull my shorts down quick and fast, go, and get going. This took more time and adjustment than I cared for. (Impatient?) If the main benefit of bibs was to not have a waist band, then I didn't really see a point- I will admit that I am low-maintenance but also I hadn't done as many long-mile rides during the beginning of the season to really get the concept of comfort with bibs vs. shorts.

They are comfortable when you get used to them and keep in mind it may take awhile before you do. I would say what you decide for shorts/bibs is going to be based off riding experiences and preferences. If you are doing a lot of miles on road or gravel, you may find bibs to be a more comfortable choice. Especially if you feel waistbands are too bunchy, etc.
I do a lot of off-road riding, so I'm on and off my seat a lot, but with more gravel rides in my future, these will likely make an appearance more often.

After getting used to them I would say they are very comfortable for fabric, fit, and feel- I'm just not sure I'm patient enough to wear them often when I'm riding with others and I need a quick pit stop.

Personally, I've never really been bothered by waist bands of shorts- so it's not been something I've found to be an issue. I don't feel I have issues with waistbands on longer rides either, but I did like how the whole unit moved with me. It was nice to know that even if my jersey rode up,my backside would be covered; everything stays in place nicely.

I love the thigh bands of these shorts and I feel Shebeest really made a great move with them. They stay put and don't pull your skin. I like the length of the legs for the shorts as well, for me, I want as much coverage as possible to reduce sun exposure. I'm a farm kid, I grew up with tan lines!

I feel that the bibs are a great piece to add to your repertoire if you find that you are not satisfied with wearing regular cycling shorts. The seamless design is nice, the fabric is lightweight and breathable, and they are quite comfortable once you get over the whole "I have a halter band around my neck" feeling.

From Shebeest-
8-panel construction for the perfect fit
7-inch inseam is ideal for moderate to long rides
All-new body-contouring Lux™ chamois contains carbon fiber threads for bacteriostatic and heat dispersion.
Discrete slide-in rear pocket for stowing energy gels, keys, or credit cards
CompressTech™ fabric uses advanced microfiber technology to wick away moisture yet feels silky smooth
New sleek SheBand™ leg bands offer a comfortable, light grip to keep shorts in place

As a person who loves a great pair of cycling shorts, I would say that I'm usually always trying out a new pair or two of chamois shorts per season. One reason is I ride almost every single day and laundry day does not always coincide with my number of shorts. (Such a problem!)

Also, as I grow with cycling I'm experimenting with longer-distance gravel rides or trying to increase my time out on the mountain bike trails. I become intrigued with shorts that are designed to be supportive and made specifically for longer-distance rides. With this pair of shorts, I give them a resounding two-thumbs up.

I would say between my two designated long-distance shorts: Shebeest Century shorts and now the S-Pro, I feel the S-Pro works better for me for more miles. Shebeest may have changed up the Century short since my review of it, so keep that in mind.

At first I thought the thickest chamois would be best for my endurance rides, especially for Chequamegon. However, the more gravel miles I put on, the more I realized that sometimes the Century short simply felt like "too much" short. We'll say, even with using Chamois Butt'r I still experienced too much friction/chafing if I wore the shorts too long. It didn't matter if I reapplied cream or not, I knew I didn't want to deal with that during my race.

As I started riding more with the S-Pro shorts, I felt that they would be the best choice for me for Chequamegon 40. The pad is thick, but not too thick, and I felt it was more supportive as well. The length of the short is fantastic and I felt the band was comfortable for my riding posture. The leg bands are great as well- no annoying tugging or pulling of the skin.

If you find that you want a short that is supportive for long-distance but doesn't have the thickest chamois pad, these may be the ticket for you. I would highly recommend these shorts for folks that are looking to put some distance miles in, but still want a short they can use for shorter distances as well.

Also note, the S-Pro shorts are currently on sale at Shebeest, so if it is going to be a re-invented or discontinued product, now would be a great time to purchase them!

I recently purchased a pair of Kleo Bloom (fade) shorts and they have been updated with the
Shelastic 2.0 chamois, which I must say looks incredible! I have been a fan of the Shelastic chamois, but the 2.0 is definitely a step up. It looks/feels more sleek and supportive, which I feel many will appreciate.

I hope that you find this review helpful when it comes to buying a new pair of shorts or bibs this next riding season! Remember, every body is different and what works for one person may not be the ticket for others. Chamois are quite personal and it might take several pairs of shorts and experimenting with distances to find what works best for you.

Women Involved Series: Uriell Proft-Carlson

I started biking in 2009 and bought my first bike that summer. It was the original Santa Cruz Juliana. The following year I started racing local xc races and found myself falling more and more in love with biking.

The day that I admitted out loud to myself that I was now "a biker" instead of the "snowboarder" that I had been as long as I can remember (I went to a mtn. school and competed in snowboarding all through highschool and into college) was a really big deal. Now I can't imagine it any other way.

Since those first couple years, I've transitioned to mostly enduro racing, but I got talked into doing the Breck Epic this year, so it's really just all over the place.

I got my IMBA level 1 coaching cert in 2014 and have really enjoyed coaching for VIDA since then. It's an amazing thing to be able to work a job that you love so much. I'm always thankful for that.

Beyond that, I'm a registered dietitian nutritionist and I own a nutrition counseling business called Whole Life Nutrition in Breckenridge.

I ride for Juliana Bicycles, Chris King and Skratch Labs. I also cook for Skratch at various sporting events throughout the country. Again, a "job" that's pretty lovable.
Instagram: uri_carlson
website: Whole Life Nutrition

Tell us about the moment that inspired your #bikelife-
I will always remember doing my first enduro race at Keystone for the Big Mountain Enduro. I had just won the Juliana Bicycles MyRoubion contest earlier in the season, so I had this incredible bike and I felt like I owed it to Juliana and the bike to try at least one enduro race. After some convincing from my friend, Ebeth, I signed up. I ended up winning my category, but that wasn’t even what I remember the most now. The biggest thing that I took away from that event was the fact that I suddenly knew more than 10 incredibly fun and rad female riders! Over a span of two days, I found I had this community of lady shredders. It was one of those times where I just felt whole and extra inspired! Not only that, but many of the ladies that original crew are a big part of the reason that I am where I am today in my #bikelife, so I have a lot of people to thank for that!

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I enjoy competing because of the people that I get to ride with when I’m competing and because those people and the competition environment make me push myself in ways that I normally would not. I’ve found that my favorite biking events are the ones that last multiple days. The Crested Butte BME Enduro and the Breck Epic were both amazing because I get to spend 3+ days with nothing else on my mind except riding my bike. To me, that’s a pretty amazing luxury to be able to take the time for.

What helped you feel comfortable with the idea of participating in an event?
The best part about doing an event is getting to see your friends and making new friends! It's really fun to find yourself riding in a completely new state or area of your own state but see all the same people that you see at local events.

Do you have tips or suggestions for those who are looking to participate in their first event?
Find a friend to do it with you!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
I specifically remember asking myself the entire time, "why did it take me so long to try this?!"

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
Yes, I was nervous, but the fun factor of biking has always beat out the nerves.

Cllps or flats? What do you use and why?
Clips. Even though I have fallen plenty of times because of being clipped in, it's valuable for the push/pull power of climbing and it's what I'm comfortable with. I do need to practice with flats though!

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
There will always be things that scares me on my bike, whether that’s a technical section or some unknown terrain or something else. A lot of the time, in order to overcome these fears, I just have to do whatever it is that is scaring me. It proves to me that I can do it, but that is certainly not an easy thing. Honestly, one of the best things to overcome those fears is to ride with buddies that share some of those fears and that are willing to try that same scary thing with you. That’s one of the best things about riding with my lady friends!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
There’s too many to remember. Everyone has their own challenges when it comes to handling skills. But, I will say that getting proper instruction on how to do things right (from the VIDA clinic I attended) has been imperative to helping me grasp new skills. In order to do something right, you need to figure out what you’re doing wrong, and coaching and being coached have helped me do that.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
There's always something to work on. I am constantly working on getting better and faster at cornering. Another thing I worked on a lot this year was my overall form on my bike, while climbing and descending. Some rides are better than others. There's times when I feel really dialed and other times where I feel like I barely know how to ride my bike. The main thing I've learned is that I have to expect that's going to happen and be okay with it. There's no point in getting frustrated because that will make things even worse. Recognize that there will be bad days, but there will also be amazing, perfect days and both of those can inspire you to keep getting out and riding as much as possible.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love everything about riding my bike. I love that I can get in a really good workout and get the payoff of an incredibly fun, adrenaline filled downhill. I love that I can represent women crushing it in a sport that has previously been male dominant and I love that I can represent brands like Juliana Bicycles, Skratch Labs and Chris King.

Tell us about your business- Whole Life Nutrition and what it entails:
I'm a registered dietitian nutritionist and my business is a private practice nutrition counseling business. It's an opportunity for me to get paid to do what I love and set my own schedule so I can do other things I love.

What is the best thing about owning your own business that can tie into a sport you love?
I can set my own schedule, which makes it possible for me to work early mornings and late afternoons so that I can usually get out on a ride during the prime time of the day.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I consider myself very lucky to be able to ride for Juliana Bicycles. With that, my current bike is the Juliana Roubion. It's a 27.5 with 6 inches of travel up front. One of the things I love about it is that it's a stonewashed purple color, but it's build and geometry make it look like a chiseled beast (which it is). Over this past summer I also got to adopt the newest Juliana Joplin, which I used for the Breck Epic. The Joplin is a 29er (or 27.5+) with 5 inches of travel up front. The only thing I'll say is that I've never been a believer in 29ers, but the Joplin made me a true advocate for 29ers. It was the perfect bike for a 6 day stage race across high alpine mountains. I honestly don't think I will ever need any other bike than a Juliana.

You are a coach for VIDA MTB- how did you become involved with VIDA?
It was a few years ago that my husband, then boyfriend, got me a VIDA clinic for my birthday. It was in Crested Butte and I was just in awe of all of the incredible coaches, especially mine, Wendy Palmer (former pro down hill racer). I knew after that clinic that I wanted to be a part of that crew of women.

What has been your most inspiring moment since working with VIDA MTB?
I feel like I have at least one inspiring moment every time I coach a VIDA event. To see someone have that “ah-ha” moment when a skill clicks always makes me really happy, especially if I helped them get there! Just to be a part of helping someone fall in love with biking is inspiring over and over again. It’s a part of what makes me love every aspect of my bike life so much.

Why would you encourage women to seek out a VIDA clinic?
I’m speaking from experience of being a participant (before I became a coach). I tell people that I went into my first clinic wondering, “how much is there to really learn about biking” and I left mind-blown! That one clinic made me a better biker in two days than I could have become over two plus years of trying to figure it out on my own. I encourage women to seek out a VIDA clinic to become better riders for sure, but also to become a part of the VIDA community and to find friends to ride with and even to maybe become a coach one day, like I did.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
It can be intimidating and scary. Sometimes people have a bad first experience because they go out on a ride with someone who just drags them along and makes them do everything out of their comfort zone.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think the fact that there’s more women’s group rides and skills clinics popping up all over the place is awesome. It allows women to start riding without some of the intimidation factors that come with riding alone or with others who are significantly better than them. Additionally, I think what Juliana Bicycles is doing by creating a brand around women is really helpful. It automatically creates a community that women can identify with, which is huge when starting something new.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Seeing other ladies riding and inspiring the ladies that I coach makes me want to encourage more ladies to ride. If it makes you happy and gives you a community to identify with and lets you find new adventure buddies and makes you do things that scare you and excite you all at the same time, then I want to share this little world of women and mountain biking with as many ladies as possible.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I grew up on an organic farm with 4 brothers, one is my twin!