Women Involved Series: Jane LeMasurier

I live in Norwich, VT with my husband and two kids ages 3 and 5. I try to ride my bike almost every day (at least in the summer months)!

I race Cat1/Pro XC, but I ride primarily for pleasure and for the opportunities it has granted me for connecting with people in my community--with other riders, kids, and trail advocates. I have my PMBI Level 1 certification and this past fall I coached a mountain bike class for 4th-6th graders.

Beginning this summer I will be leading a Little Bellas Chapter here in the Upper Valley. Little Bellas is mentoring program for girls ages 7-16.

Our Upper Valley chapter will be held in the Boston Lot trails in Lebanon, NH. This is a great location because of its proximity to so many different towns. I think our area is ripe for a program like this. It should help foster a growing trend amongst women and girls to get on bikes and get out on the trails!

Little Bellas on Facebook

Tell us what introduced you to discovering your #bikelife and how it has influenced your world-
I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with three siblings and incredibly lenient parents. Given our proximity to the woods and mountains, it was free-range living for many years! Most of our childhood days were spent exploring on bikes in the backwoods. I have vivid memories of barrelling down creek beds with my younger sister, no gps, no map, no cell phone, just a sense of general direction and a couple of quarters in our pockets to call from a gas station pay phone if we got lost. Things were certainly different back then. But we survived! Without a doubt this is the inception of my #bikelife.

What would you say is your favorite racing event to attend? Why do you enjoy competing?
I absolutely love the Vermont 50. It starts out so cold and dark on a late September morning. I question my sanity when I’m nervous and shivering on the start line (why am I doing this??). But around mile 20, we crest the top of a place called Garvin Hill, and it affords the most spectacular views of the Vermont countryside. Even amidst the pain of racing, seeing that view and realizing where I am and what I get to do is one of the most spectacular moments I have on a bike.

Do you have any suggestions for folks who are thinking of attending their first event? What could help with potential nervous feelings?
Keep it in perspective. Nervous feelings are inevitable, and in some ways they’re essential to fueling the racing fire, but don’t let them overwhelm you. It’s only a game! At least that’s what I try to tell myself.

Can you take us back to your first mountain bike ride? What did you learn from it?
I don’t necessarily remember my first mountain bike ride, I just remember being a kid with a bike and lots of places to explore. My sister and I would build jumps out of plywood in our backyard and ride around the roads where we lived. Eventually this progressed into finding trails in the woods. I remember the thrill of discovery when we would “make loops” we could ride from home. I still feel that thrill today.

For those nervous about off-road riding, do you have tips or suggestions that may help them cope?
Know yourself and listen to your instincts. If a bridge or rock or any off-road feature seems too difficult, walk it first, take a look at it, and then go back and try it when you’re comfortable. Follow people who are better than you. I’m a visual learner, so if I see someone do something, I’m more willing and able to try it myself. It helps to have a bike buddy who you can learn from and feel comfortable trying to imitate. I can promise you, the confidence you gain from improving your off-road riding skills is addictive!

Clips or flats? What do you like and why?
I use clips because I like climbing and it’s harder to climb as efficiently with flats. But in regards to skill acquisition, I envy those riders who use flats. I try to use flats every once in awhile to become a better rider.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
No major biffs (knock on wood!). I’ve taken some hard crashes and spent a lot of money on damaged bike parts, but nothing too serious. Counting my blessings!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
All of them! It’s a little counterintuitive, but most handling skills are actually harder to do at slower speeds. It requires more precision. For example, you need momentum for riding over a log or a rock pile. So the sooner you feel comfortable trying things at a little faster speed the easier they will become.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I feel so free -- and this comes from being able to choose my challenges and choose where I go. It’s life-affirming.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
At the moment I have an XC race bike. I like racing and for a majority of the riding I do, it’s a perfect choice. However, I would love to have something a little more slack, more Enduro-style to ride the gnarlier, more technical trails in the area. It just makes it more fun.

What was the inspiration to become a certified coach?
I’ve been coaching some camps and recreation classes in my area. I became certified to better structure my progressions with the kids I teach. It’s a challenge to learn to ride, but it’s also a challenge to know how to teach someone to ride! Having education on how to instruct new riders gives me more confidence as a teacher.

Tell us how you became involved with Little Bellas and why you enjoy working with the organization-
I ski raced in high school and college. Lea and I were the same year so I knew her from our skiing days. After I graduated from UVM in 2005 I lived in the Burlington area for a few years. When Little Bellas first got started in Williston, Lea and Sabra invited me to be a mentor. I’m so glad I did because now I’m coming back around to it 8 years later!

You plan to start your own Little Bellas chapter! What are you looking forward to the most as you move forward with your group?
Little Bellas does a great job of creating a strong sense of community, amongst the participants and amongst the mentors. I look most forward to seeing this group of riders come together and to be part of the group’s evolution from the beginning. I have a feeling it will be an invigorating experience.

What has been the most challenging aspect of creating your own Little Bellas chapter?
To be honest, given the success of all the other Little Bellas chapters, it’s so well organized and all the parameters are in place for me to create this chapter. I’m mostly just recruiting girls and mentors, and this aspect of it is fun!

What have you learned about creating your own chapter that could help other folks out who are looking to create something similar?
Don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm. People feed off of this energy. If they know you’re passionate, they know the program will have a heart behind it. Good heart + good structure = a popular program!

Why do you feel introducing young women to off-road riding is important?
Selfish reason: because I like to do it, and I want more women riders to ride with!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Several things: time, access, equipment, and confidence. It seems women are more likely to get out if they have a group of friends to ride with, which is why I’m so happy to get the Little Bellas chapter rolling. I think it will be a good introduction for a lot of women into the sport

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Things are changing. As evidence, I taught a course this fall with 9 girls and 3 boys. It’s a sign that girls are just as psyched to get on bikes as boys are. Furthermore I think the barriers are dropping in every aspect of sport. Not to get political, but I think women feel galvanized in general these days and this will trickle down into the biking world.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
If I set an alarm, I always set it on an odd number. No rhyme or reason to it. Maybe it’s superstition. For what, I’m not sure! Odd numbers just feel edgier.