Monday, July 31, 2017

Women Involved Series: Audrey Duval

Originally from Quebec, Audrey Duval started skiing when she was 3 years old, so being in the Canadian Rockies has a lot of appeal to this petite brunette has a level 3 ski instructor/level 2 coach, and is an accomplished mountain bike and yoga instructor – her yoga practicing is tightly woven into her two other sports, as she knows the importance of yoga in her daily activities.

Fourteen years ago, Audrey started road biking and a job in a bike shop landed her the first mountain bike experience – it was love at first trail! This happened nine years ago and, since 2013, Audrey is a certified mountain bike instructor, always ready to ignite your ride with her passion and enthusiasm.

As a result of her experience teaching women-only bike camps, Audrey decided to focus her energy to support other women in this male-oriented sport. Audrey started with the Dirt Series and is now teaching mountain biking and leading bike and yoga retreat in Golden, BC.

Audrey loves to share her passion and see her clients’ smiles when they accomplished something they didn’t think it was possible. Audrey also loves to challenge herself in scary downhill trails, to push her limit and do things she didn’t think it was possible – maybe that’s the secret why she understands her clientele so well. She really enjoys technical trails, and for this summer she wants to become a better jumper and pump more efficiently.

As an instructor and coach, Audrey cares about her client’s goal and knows that technique is not all: “I like to understand where my clients are coming from and see how I can help them get over their fears, or do a feature, a specific trail they didn’t t think they could do”, explains Audrey, adding that “as an expert skier and working toward my level 4 instructor, I found that one of my challenges is mental – and fear. What I am currently studying is how to unlock this mental challenge to become a better skier and be more relaxed… And how to apply it to mountain bike instruction.

Personal Website:

What was your introduction to your #bikelife and why did you enjoy it?
The little town I live in started to offer spin class and my mom asked me if I wanted to join her, so I did!!! After a year enjoying spinning, I got my first road bike and the owner of the studio ask me if I would like to teach spinning!

Tell us about your time working at a bike shop, what inspired you to seek employment in the cycling industry?
I loved working retail and I worked at a ski shop in the winter since I was teaching skiing full time. I went to this shop a few times and really like the vibe, so I requested a summer job as I was studying to become a realtor.

What did you enjoy most while working at the bike shop?

Free espresso, amazing people (clients and staff), and bikes everywhere!

Why do you feel women should be active and involved in the cycling industry?

If you want a change, make the change happen yourself. The cycling industry is fun; there many great gals and guys! I have met so many amazing people from the industry that are really great friends now and I feel lucky to have this community.

Take us to your first few mountain bike rides, what did you learn and what inspired you to keep at it?

My cousins came out to visit me from Quebec, they mountain bike there, and I was a roadie.
So we decided to rent bikes at the nordic center in Canmore and at the time there weren't maps. It was a bit confusing, and at some point, we came down to a black run. I couldn't believe people rode that! My cousin did, so I told myself I will ride it someday and that same summer I did some black runs.

Clips or flats- what works for you and why?

Clips, I love them when riding XC or DH.
In winter I'm on flats as I like the challenge they provide me as I prefer clipless.
I love to not have to think of where my feet are related to the pedals, they provide me stability and it's so much easier to climb

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
My biggest challenges are more mental than anything else:
This is a blog post I wrote about it-

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 don't quite remember, besides few times before taking a skills course, I was so scared! I remember the boys at the shop telling a customer and me to only have one finger on each brake lever; there was no way I could wrap my head around that one. I was scared and I wanted all those fingers on the brakes! After a bike course, my riding totally changed, I fell in love with the sport and couldn't leave my mountain bike alone anymore.

What inspired you to become a certified mountain bike instructor?

I volunteered at several bike camps one summer and I loved the dynamic of women teaching. I love the simplicity of bike teaching compared to skiing. I love seeing women tackle down a challenge together and push the limit! Love the cheerleading!
What has been your most inspirational moment with mountain bike instruction?
The isn't really one moment, what I love the most is to see client's progress. I have one ambassador who I instructed from the beginning, and it so great to be part of someone's success and love of the sport.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The freedom of being outside, the challenge that trails give you, and that you are always learning to push your limit and progress. The friends I made throughout the year through biking; bikes and friends are the best!
Love the community and friendship.
Love the challenge each ride brings, love pushing my limit each time I ride, I love to tackle down technical terrain and do a line wasn't able to do before.
Love the freedom the sport gives me. I can hop in a car, drive a km, and ride my bike! I get to see new scenery and meet new people!

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

Ohhhh there are so many bikes!

I will go with my favorite one:
Thunderbolt 770 msl with Rocky Mountain Bicycle

It is my third model riding it, I remember the first event time getting on it! I couldn't believe how much fun that bike was, super nimble, easy to pedals, so much fun going down, can get air time so easily! It just a fun playful bike!

- Descending bike: Altitude 770- Just order myself a Maiden full on DH bike, will see how I like it!

- Fat Bike: Blizzard

- Road Bike: Conalgo

Tell us about Shred Sisters and how it got started-

I basically wanted to create an online community of women, to connect around the world so they could basically go travel somewhere and get show the goods!
I loved teaching so much that I decided to turn Shred Sisters into a bike skills teaching company, as I felt there was a need in my area to have more accessible courses. So I did! 

How can folks become involved with Shred Sisters?

So many ways-
You can come to one of our retreats, which happen twice a year!
You can join us for one of our courses!
You can come to one of our events, we usually host one event a month.
We also have an ambassador program.

Why do you feel organizations like Shred Sisters are important for women and the industry?

Because we learn differently; we have different hormones and that affects how we learn. In what is sometimes considered more of a "men's" sport, I feel it is key for women to be in a supportive environment that they feel understood. I've found we usually need a different progression.

For example, I was taking a ski jump course we had 4 guys and 3 girls.
The 3 boys took the medium jump - it was technical and some of them looked so scary!
2 of the girls were super strong skiers, one could barely get air, the second one was loving air but wouldn't feel 100% on one jump so she wouldn't go to the next one until she knew she could master the jump.

During that course, it proved to me that men take more risk, and will just do it from the pressure of their peers. Women are more cautious we want to know we master something before moving to the next! This is my observation from teaching and taking courses.

What are your hopes/goals for Shred Sisters over the next few years?

Expand to more territory, offer more advanced courses, and have more events that help women connect!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?

I think we are past this as there is currently a huge community of women out there. For example, I would see more gals on Golden trails then men on a regular basis!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?

I feel we are on the right path! The women's movement is already strong! Keep building a supportive community that helps women enjoy the sport more.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

It's just so fun! I want everyone to get out there and have fun and I want to share the passion I have for the sport. I want the girls to feel the same freedom I have on a bike! I want them to find their bike buddies; it's such a positive place to be! It's one of the best hobbies ever!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

I used to be a realtor.
I love gardening.
I love animals.
I can't imagine a day without being active.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Seeking Fearless Women of Dirt Ambassadors for 2018!

Josie is looking for the next group of FWD - Fearless Women of Dirt Ambassadors for 2018!

FWD Ambassadors pledge to help create and foster a supportive environment for women and off-road riding (mountain bike/gravel) in their communities.

FWD Ambassadors should have a desire to lead women's rides or one-on-one rides with folks who are off-road curious.

FWD Ambassadors should be willing to share their experiences with off-road riding with others, either on a blog or the FWD - Fearless Women of Dirt page.

Sharing experiences with rides and races bring others together and helps to create a positive environment for new and experienced riders. FWD Ambassadors should post to social media on a semi-regular basis with their rides/races/events and use a couple FWD-related tags: #fearlesswomenofdirt #bikelife #womeninspire
There will be some fun opportunities for FWD Ambassadors in 2018 with several FWD Women's Nights at Decorah Bicycles along with Decorah-based group rides. Josie would also like to work with additional FWD Ambassadors on setting up destination rides for local FWD riders if schedules allow.

If you know of someone who would make a great FWD Ambassador or if you would like to nominate yourself follow the link to the online application.

Josie will accept submissions for FWD Ambassadors until November 30th, 2017.

FWD was established in 2015 to bring more connectivity between women and off-road riding. Join the movement. Be inspired. Inspire yourself and others. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Women Involved Series: Lindsay Piper

Lindsay Piper- my official title is Consumer Brand Softgoods Manager at QBP, which means I manage the KETL brand, and do product management, development and sourcing in apparel for QBP's brands... primarily KETL, 45NRTH and Surly, but others as well.

Bikelife... weeeellllll.... I grew up in South Burlington, Vermont and my family  and I have always been super active & outdoorsy. We were downhill and cross country skiers in the winter and bikers, hikers, kayakers etc in summer.

In my pre-driver's license years my bike was my freedom machine, and I would ride all over town, whether aimlessly or to meet my friends at the mall or something.  I dabbled in mountain biking on my nearby trails but nothing too serious.

In high school, I got pretty serious about the somewhat esoteric sport of biathlon, and that continued into college, in Marquette Michigan.  A big part of my college team's summer training was mountain biking- we typically did a least one ride per week, and since we are talking about a group of cocky 18-21 year old athletes, things tended to get pretty rowdy and competitive. So I had to learn to get better and faster in a hurry because the other option was to be left completely lost in the woods by myself. And this was well before smartphones. No GPS to help.

So then I worked in a bike/ski/outdoor shop for a couple years, which kept my bike love going.

I got more into road biking while I lived in an area of northern Wisconsin where the mountain biking trails weren't so great.... 

And then I moved to Minneapolis and started working at QBP as a sales rep in Arizona, Utah, and Idaho. Well, that meant lots of bike rides with bike shop folks in really cool places, which was really fun, but also more often than not was me riding with a bunch of guys. It was really tough sometimes! I have done plenty of inopportune bonking, almost passed out once on a really hot, humid ride, and ridden some beautiful roads and trails and seen plenty of great views. 

After about a year of that, I had the opportunity to take my large amount of interest and, at the time relatively small amount of experience in apparel development, and work on building that product category for QBP's brands, which I've been doing for about 6 years now.  KETL is my most recent project and a really important one for me as it is something that really comes from my (and another co-worker's) desire to see something different in the market and to create a product that is really representative of ourselves.  At this point, I am a total bike dork. I ride mountain, road, gravel, fat, urban... I don't care, just get a bike under my ass. But mountain biking is my first love and still my favorite.


Your #bikelife has been a large part of who you are job-wise, why do you enjoy being involved in the cycling industry?
Oh man!  So many reasons.  For one, being a bike person working in the bike industry, it’s a job that comes with free built-in friends.  There are so many like-minded, cool people in the industry.  I do feel really lucky that I get to work in an industry that I care so much about.  I am not a corporate type of person and there’s no way I could get up every morning and drag myself to a bank or something.

From working at a bike shop to now working at QBP, why do you feel women in the industry play an important role in the growth of cycling?
I’m going to attach this one from a strictly economic viewpoint.  Once you reach a certain level of market share or penetration, growing that share becomes much more difficult, and you spend more for smaller gains.  Well, cycling has pretty solid market penetration among white men at this point, so the easiest, least expensive growth potential is outside that; namely women, trans folks, and people of color.  The cycling industry is not exactly a hotbed of Ivy leaguers with masters degrees looking to get rich… it’s a bunch of people who love biking, making and selling products they understand, care about and want to use.  When you consider it in those terms, the cycling industry’s best way to grow itself is to bring in non-white, non-dudes.

Going back to your bike shop days, what was your role at work and what was your biggest challenge?
The shop I worked at (Hey Downwind Sports Marquette!) was a really cool combo of bike, ski, kayak, hike, camp, climb, clothing… kind of everything you’d want to go play outside.  My primary job was sales & customer service on the floor, and I also helped with Nordic ski clinics and youth mountain bike coaching.  I would say with the massive breadth of product disciplines we carried, my biggest challenge was in trying to maintain product knowledge. The good news is we had reps coming in all the time to give clinics to the staff, which was so helpful in maintaining knowledge and stoke.

Your job at QBP is Consumer Brand Softgoods Manager- what do you love most about your job and what is your biggest challenge?
As someone who has always had such a strong love for bikes, playing outside, and clothes, I can’t think of a more perfect job to have.  I feel really lucky that this weird little niche is even something that exists and that I get to be one of the people who do it. I love that sometimes it’s my job to touch a million fabrics and pick the good ones, and sometimes it’s my job to just go ride my bike with a different glove on each hand or with some new shorts, and sometimes it’s my job to negotiate! (ok I might be weird….)  My job is a combination of creative right brain stuff, and detailed mathy, thinky stuff, and sometimes I’m not really sure where one ends and the other begins.  I’m never, ever bored.  With that in mind, the challenge of the job lies in its complexity.  At any given time, I’ve got products going for three or more different brands, and three different seasons, all at different stages of the process.  Things can get crazy and there’s a lot of mental juggling.  

Tell us about KETL and what your hopes are for the brand-
KETL is a really exciting one for me!  I got together with another coworker because we shared a pretty strong vision for a brand and a group of products that we felt were missing, both in the market and in our own gear closets.  KETL has a few main tenets: We are focused on creating really high-quality, functional, great looking mountain bike clothes, and doing so with women & men on equal footing. My biggest hope for the brand is just that it makes a difference for riders. If I hear people saying these are their favorite pieces, then I’m happy.
With the KETL line, do you have a particular product that is your absolute favorite?
It’s a bit hard to pick a favorite, but one product I’m extra excited about and proud of is the women’s liner bibs with IPF, which is our solution for on-trail pit stops.  I had this idea rolling around in my brain for quite a while about this kind-of three panel, crossover, trap-door system.  Getting from the abstract idea, through the talking, gesturing, explaining to designers, through design, pattern, fitting, testing, re-fitting… it definitely took some time and effort, but the result is something that works really well.  Super cool to see it come to life.

Who would be interested in the KETL line?
Anyone mountain biker who is ready to get a little more out of their clothes.  I think our customer is someone who is a pretty avid rider, who has progressed past the beginner stage, and knows what they’re looking for out of their bike.  That is where I think you really start thinking about your clothes and whether they’re contributing to or detracting from your experience.  

What do you love most about having a hands-on approach to making a clothing brand?
Mwwwwaaaahahahahaaaa!  (that was my evil laugh…) Exerting my personal viewpoint on others!  To say that a nicer and perhaps more accurate way, it’s pretty dang rewarding to go through the process of having an idea, getting people behind that idea, turning it into an actual physical product, and then seeing that product be used and appreciated.  It’s a bit of a long play, but it ends in a concrete, observable outcome.

What would you say was your biggest challenge or best lesson you learned with creating the KETL brand?
I’d say the biggest challenge in creating and launching a brand is the volume and breadth of details… big stuff through minutiae, there is a TON to consider, think about and remember.  I recall pretty close to launch when we were going through website edits.  This is after all the tiny product details, making sure every snap and button are right, every I dotted, t crossed…. I went through the following little moment of panic:  I realized on our contact page there had just been a placeholder phone number. Then I realized we hadn’t gotten an 800 number yet… then I realized I hadn’t considered WHO WAS GOING TO ANSWER THE PHONE??!!  

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what inspired you to keep at it?
Those were probably when I was 12 or so growing up in Vermont, and honestly, I don’t recall learning too many lessons… I just dorked around the trails at Catamount (trails in VT where I grew up) on my mom’s rigid Specialized Hard Rock without any great deal of thought about any of it.  I just liked mud.  The mud kept me coming back.

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 guess the worst one for me, particularly on a mental/emotional level, was when I was 14 or so, biking back home from meeting a friend at the mall (a very 14 thing to do)… I was riding on the shoulder of a busy road when an aggressive dog came out from a house and started coming after me.  Without even thinking about it or looking behind me, I swerved out into traffic and was taken out by a Honda civic.  Luckily my injury wasn’t serious, just a big lumpy technicolor bruise on my knee, but that made me super nervous riding around cars for a long time after, and riding in heavy traffic still tweaks me out a little.  I guess if anything, after a short break, the most important thing is that I recognized my part in the accident, and got back out there and kept riding.  You better believe I look over my shoulder before I swerve out though .

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!  When I started getting a little more serious about mountain biking was in college, and I would go on rides with teammates who were so much faster and more skilled than I was, and they had no mercy in terms of waiting, so I had to improve in a hurry.  Probably the two toughest things were hopping over obstacles like logs, and clearing rock gardens.  I’m still not a fan of certain rock gardens.  But what I did, and what I do, is just always try to expand my comfort zone a little more on each ride.  If there was a log that was just a little bigger, that I hadn’t had the guts to try on the previous ride, I’d make myself try it on the next.  Just incremental steps up in difficulty.  I think a lot of the time you’re dealing with a mental block more than a skill deficiency, and if you take the time to stop, check out an intimidating feature, think about how you’re going to clear it, then commit and go for it, you find it wasn’t such a big deal.  If you’re not sure about the skill part, grab a friend who is more experienced and ask them to work with you a little on skills. This year I’m planning to spend some time on manuals & drops.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that feeling when you’re on the absolute edge of biffing, and you somehow pull out of it by the seat of your pants.  That extreme terror followed by extreme relief.

I love the feeling at the end of a really challenging, limit-pushing ride when you are completely exhausted and your legs feel like noodles and all you want to do is eat everything and lay on the couch, but also you feel like you totally crushed that ride and you can take on the world… tomorrow.

I love being outside enjoying the air, pushing myself (or not, depending on the day), and feeling strong.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Mountain Bike- Salsa Redpoint Carbon X01.  This bike is ridiculously fun. Coming from a 26” wheel mountain bike and being of small stature, I was convinced I would hate this bike, but one demo did me in.  It is fast, fun, and confidence-inspiring. I feel like I can hang it out there a little more because I know the bike is going to maintain stability.

Road Bike- Ridley Asteria ISP with Fulcrum Racing 1 Wheels & SRAM Force Group. This is my light, speedy girl.  I’ve had it for years- it fits me perfectly, never lets me down mechanically, and it has a super sweet cornea-searing custom paint job.

Gravel, tour, etc bike- Surly Straggler 650B.  This is a totally stock build as I actually was a prototype tester (one time when being small was actually beneficial in bikes-  YUSSS.).  This bike is sweet- it is reliable, comfy, and goes everywhere. I did Almanzo on this bike, I did a week-long mixed surface rando tour in Sweden on this bike, I towed a 40-lb single wheel trailer for an overnight behind this bike because we needed wine and the big tent obviously.  I’ve ridden road, trail, path… you name it.  It’s my Swiss army knife.

City bike- Another Surly Straggler 650B, set up single speed with a flat bar, hamburger bell and hamburger seat bag.  Just a super fun city bike, which I built because I’m spoiled and I hate having to change pedals.

Fat bike- Salsa Beargrease Carbon X7.  It’s the blurple fade color- I took the front derailleur off and made it a 1x10 because really, no reason for 2 front rings in the Midwest. It is pleasantly light as fatbikes go, and rides so much like a regular mountain bike.

Fatbikes! Why should folks consider them a viable product?
Because snow is a thing in many climates, and riding on a trainer kinda sucks.  It used to be that Nordic skiing was the go-to winter alternative to biking, but with unreliable snow conditions, that’s tough in funky years and shoulder seasons.  With the right tires you can fatbike in just about any conditions, and riding groomed singletrack is ridiculously fun.  

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? 
I think that depends on the woman.  A lot of people want to lump all women together as one big group, but we are a diverse set of people with a diverse set of needs and influences.  That said, I’ll generalize a few things that I see and hear:
-Not being sure where to start- Cycling comes with a bit of an upfront investment, and if you’re curious about it but not really sure what you need, what you’re interested in, etc… it can be a bit overwhelming to figure it all out.
-Ye Olde boys club- This has been discussed to death, but a lot of bike shops are pretty dude-heavy establishments, and may not feel super welcoming.  I think it’s intimidating when you want to go learn about something new, and the place to do that feels like this foreign land where you are the weirdo.  I think about it in terms of, let’s say I decided I was really interested in video games.  The thought of going into a store for that and asking a bunch of rudimentary questions gives me hives.
-Time- There are studies out there showing that on average, women have something like 70% of the household and child-rearing responsibility vs. men’s 30%, on top of everyone having full-time jobs.  I have time to ride in large part because I don’t have kids and my house is a mess, but I see the 70/30 thing in action with friends and it sucks.  

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
When it comes to participation, friend recruitment is huge. This could apply to any activity and gender.  People frequently get into a new sport because their social circle recruits and encourages them.  Invite a friend on a ride, and be a resource for friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who are new to the sport.  

Within the industry, there are things happening that are encouraging, like the women’s UBI scholarships, and QBP’s WTF internship program.  It is incumbent upon industry leaders to keep working at recruitment, not just hiring women who are “there” right now but setting up the pipeline for the next 3, 5, 10 years.  

And for women like myself already in the industry, we have the ability to work on changing it from within, to keep pushing the industry to grow and progress, and to push to get ourselves and our female colleagues into leadership roles.

I think you’ve gotta find your friendly local visionary and support them however you can. I look at the amazing force that is Anna Schwinn, and I wish she could be cloned like 50 times over. Here’s a woman who is personally responsible for reviving women’s track cycling in Minneapolis, which was a huge feat in itself, but did she stop there and pat herself on the back?  Hell no. She figured out how to replicate that success and used her experience to help other women in other cities start teams.  She is personally responsible for getting well over 100 women into racing, and now she’s doing it with trans riders.  And along the way she’s fought a lot of hard battles, pissed a lot of people off, and taken a lot of grief, because what she was doing mattered and it was right.  She deserves a grant for existing and doing her thing.  So I want everyone to look around their community, find their Anna, and support that person in any way possible because those are the people who create big change.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I would love to tell you it’s altruistic but it’s not.  

I encourage the women I know to ride because I want more riding buddies.  Riding with the boys is fun too, but I love hitting the trails with my girls and I want to do that more.

I’m also inspired to encourage more women to ride out of sheer economics- the more women ride, the more they need stuff. That means I get to develop more, cool, women’s products; it makes my job more fun.  
Tell us a random fact about yourself! 
I have a group of friends who do something we call Riri rides—it’s a non-competitive, easy pace ride with a bunch of ladies and dance music (heavily featuring Rihanna, hence the name)- we get outside and ride and have a blast together, and are always inviting new people to join.  I would like to encourage all of your readers to start their own Riri ride.  You can even use our playlist, curated by my friend Leah. 

It’s on Spotify, called #ririrides.  That’s also the Instagram tag.  Go, blast, ride, tag. Get your #ririrides on. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Laurie Ditch

If you would've asked me 4 years ago if I liked to bike, I would've responded with "I've taken spin class a few times and I have a cruiser which I enjoy riding around the neighborhood". That was the extent of my biking experience or passion. Exactly 4 years ago I was going through the most horrific separation and divorce.
I survived but was broken and my confidence was completely gone. Everything in my life felt like it was falling apart my job and my husband/partner of 15 years and I were calling it quits.
Thankfully through the support of friends and family, I maintained a feeling of hope that I would come back and find myself and figure out what I wanted in life.

Through the process, I remained hopeful that while I was in the worst place, I truly felt like I could come out of this and be happy.

I started to see signs of hope everywhere - while I was in NYC for work during the spring of 2013 I went for a run and found the LOVE statue and realized that there was still love out there and that's really where I felt the first bit of passion, hope and optimism come back. That summer I started running and ran my first 5K and then trained and ran the Urbanathalon Relay in Chicago. I wasn't all that fast but I finished and was very happy with my time. I decided I would continue to keep myself open to trying new things with friends, fun trips, new foods, hiking, etc and adventures.

Finally, it happened, I met this man who was all about adventures, racing, biking and anything that was exciting and full of adrenaline.Typically not my thing but hey, I wanted to be open to adventure and really, with a man so handsome as him why not! Introduction to mountain biking, I had no clue what it was about but it seemed like something pretty badass and I was all about pushing myself in a new direction. This wonderful man bought me a bike and I got myself some gear and I was totally stoked to be a mountain biking girl!!! I couldn't wait!

First ride: I made it about 20 feet on my first single track trail and I ran straight into a tree and halfway down a ravine. It's true when riding a bike, look where you want to go. Apparently, I wanted to go inside a tree. I was pretty banged up and totally freaked out but I got back on and kept going. I feel at least 100 more times that first spring and summer and by the end, I was done, totally shaken up and scared to get back on it. I had hurt myself and my confidence enough I was ready to turn it in. My lovely man tried to encourage but I was frustrated beyond belief so I hung it up for a year. The spring of 2016 we were sitting in a bar and talking about getting me back on a bike and on my facebook page, the Midwest Women's Mountain Bike clinic popped up. Maybe this was what I needed to do to get back on, get some good coaching and instruction and try this again. 

June of 2016 I attended and it changed my life and my perspective. I was so excited to be part of such an amazing community of women. I gained back some of that shaken confidence and some tools to help me on the trails. I couldn't wait to get home and start riding...the only catch I didn't know anyone other than my boyfriend to ride with me. In talking with some of the women at the camp and asked them for advice on how to get started they were like you just need to do it if there's nothing else get it going. So I did...I created a Facebook page, Glass City MTB Girl and started posting events (Ladies MTB Ride Night, Girls and Guys Ride, etc). Every week I would set up an event and post to all of the local bike community pages, shop pages, etc. The first few weeks I would get 1 or 2 people to join me and by the end of the summer, I had sometimes 10-15 riders from beginners to advanced and even some local pros! Spoke Life Cycles was so excited about what I was doing to build awareness for women and mountain biking they asked me if I'd want to work at their shop on weekends and help host local events. I've continued to spread the word and now have followers. I've stayed connected with some of the amazing coaches I met at the MidWest Women's MTB Clinic and can't wait to attend again this year as it's now Sundance MTB Skills.

I'm not a pro racer and I don't have very many skills. It's a good day when I go in with confidence and succeed on a big climb or scary windy turn. I'm a girl who loves to be outside on my bike. Every time I ride, I learn something about myself and how to push myself beyond what I think I'm capable of. I still get super frustrated, fall down and make an ass of myself when trying new things but I keep going back. I love that feeling more than anything and I want to share that with others. There's something special about being a beginner in this sport, I have low expectations but high gains. The mountain biking community is so supportive and happy to help you get up anytime and often drink a beer with you and spend an entire day talking about adventures. I aspire to ride as many locations as I can and represent those of us who maybe aren't trying to race or compete but just want to get out there and give it a try and get an amazing workout. I want to see more women getting out there and working through the challenge, I want to see more support from the industry for women when it comes to clothing, gear, etc. I'm not about to change who I am just because I mountain bike! I plan to continue to wear pink and look like a girl!

Tell us why your #bikelife is an important thing to have in your life-
FUN! I’m not biking to compete, I’m biking to play. I am a full-time working single parent who also works out about 3-5 days per week. I am always striving to reach goals, however, with mountain biking I tend to focus more on just getting out there, exploring and having fun. I’m always working to improve my skills but the focus for me is less about achieving a goal and more about just having fun with the experience. It’s the only time I really have an opportunity to PLAY!!!

You had a lot of learning during your first off-road rides. If you could go back in time- would you change anything about your introduction?
I wouldn’t change it because it got me to where I am today. Getting out there with an experienced rider challenges you right from the beginning because you’re just trying to keep up. It would be awesome to get coaching and instruction first, but to me it almost helped me to do that after the fact so at least I knew what I was trying to improve on. I would’ve liked to start on a beginner trail vs. an intermediate but we all start somewhere.

What was your inspiration to not give up on mountain biking, even if your experiences weren't the most positive?
When I wasn’t falling down and getting hurt, I was having so much fun. We had many rides where I just had a blast and I wanted to get that feeling again. My inspiration was really my boyfriend, he stood by me regardless. I knew that it was something he loved and really enjoyed and I wanted to find something that we could spend our free time doing together. I also loved how much he cared about helping me work through the challenges. He could see beyond where I was and he knew I had it in me to take the next step and push myself a little further. He believes in me and inspires me to keep working and having fun.

You regained your confidence after attending a women's clinic. Tell us why attending the women's clinic helped you reset. 
The best part about the clinic is it broke down all the steps so that I could really understand what I was doing (and not doing) so I could build on each basic step. I LOVE attending clinics because I learn things about biking and myself that I didn’t know existed and you’re surrounded by others who are going through the same things and experiencing the same frustrations and successes.

Mountain biking is all about understanding your body position and focusing on the basics and building from there.

Once you know how to position yourself then you will have those tools to use even when you fall or get a little wobbly on the bike. It really helped me re-set and understand what changes I needed to make and build that muscle memory.

With becoming more confident with mountain biking, do you feel it was easier to grasp skills/techniques learning from women vs. your partner? If so, why?
My partner didn’t know how to break down the steps, he grew up biking and for him, a lot of it was just built in over years. Not every experienced rider knows how to coach/teach. There are tons of coaching tips out there and I’ve been lucky to learn from the best in the business from Leigh Donovan, Sally Marchand Collins, Danielle and Kate Nolan, Caroline Washam, Cory Coffey and Hillary Marques are all amazing riders AND coaches. They can break down the most basic techniques and have been able to help me figure out some key things that I was doing to hinder my riding performance. Little things like my foot position when pumping or moving my hips when turning, etc. Coaches are trained what to look for and how to correct. I love any chance I have to take a clinic or some instruction from an experienced coach, every little bit helps and makes it more fun when you have some tools to use on the trails.

From first-hand experience, what advice would you give guys who are wanting to get their partners/wives/girlfriends out mountain biking?
Get them out there on a trail that you know very well, help them by slowing down and walking them through obstacles in the beginning. Beginners don’t know how to find lines through a rock garden without some practice. Have them look at some youtube videos and practice a few basic techniques like doing crazy 8’s in the yard/parking lot. The one thing I learned very quickly is to always look ahead and cover your brakes, those 2 things, in the beginning, are major!

Clips or flats- what do you like and why? 
I only know flats. I’ve never clipped in and I hear all kinds of mixed thoughts. I hear more from the coaches that I’ve worked with that until I’m more advanced I should stick with flats. I know that I could gain speed and energy but given I’ve never clipped, so I’m hesitant. Many experienced cyclists have more experience in clipping and I know there are tons of benefits for those who are good at staying on their bike. My suggestion, unless you really know how to anticipate trouble/falling, then stick with flats until you have more experience.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
My roughest fall was in a rock garden under a bridge. I didn’t have a line and went for it and took a pretty rough fall and got pretty scraped up. I still get nervous riding that section and often times chicken out and walk. Healing took a while but for me, if I can get out there and walk the line and go back and ride it helps to plan where I’m going. Rock Gardens, Skinnies and Bridges...totally mental and freak me out every time. Rock gardens are sketchy when they are flat or uphill because you really need to have speed and a line and I tend to get focused on the obstacle vs. getting past it.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Shifting...because I was such a new rider I really didn’t understand and it took me several times to get comfortable know when to shift to get through a climb and also regain some speed. I think that still takes some work, but having someone ahead prompting me in the beginning really helped. I couldn’t get my mind around shifting up or down. I replaced it with shift easy or hard.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The freedom, the wind in my face and knowing that every time I get on I’m going to learn something new and have a new adventure.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why you chose them.
My sweet baby blue. She’s a Cannondale Women’s Habit 1. My bike was a gift and my boyfriend refers to it as my promise bike. Earlier this spring, I saw a really beautiful full suspension bike and told my boyfriend to skip the ring and get me the bike, and he did! He and the guys at Spoke Life Cycles surprised me with this beauty in October they had me going all day with this gorgeous bike they were building and then at the end of the day, the store manager, Justin said please put the price tag on it and my boyfriend had just happened to come into the shop. When I flipped it over it said,”for Laurie”...I cried it was the most amazing surprise ever. Pretty awesome 40th birthday gift/promise bike moment on the planet.
Tell us about your group, Glass City MTB Girl and what it's all about. 
After I got back from the Midwest Women’s Clinic. I wanted to find others to ride with and I decided the best way to do this was through social media. I set up a Facebook page (Glass City MTB Girls) and initially wanted to focus on women. I started posting weekly events via Facebook on all of the Toledo Area bike social pages and called the bike shops and ask them to promote as well. I found that there were fewer women riders who would come solo but if I invited the guys, they would bring their girls! Once that happened the doors opened and I met a nice group of people who loved to ride and excited to join us (my boyfriend would join me every week too). Every week it seemed we had new joiners! I really didn’t have much of a goal in the beginning other than to find a community of mountain bikers, promote safe riding and get out there and have fun! Typically we ride with all levels so the advanced riders in the front and beginners in the back. I enlist some experienced coaches to hang with us and give us tips while we ride. I’ve also taken people with me who are very hesitant and we walk some and ride some areas. Toledo only has 1 main singletrack trail (Jermain/Ottawa Park) right now and come spring we will also have Oak Openings. We are also just 40 miles from several Michigan trails as well which really makes us more mountain bike friendly than I think most think. I’d love to see us continue to expand our trail options in Toledo, have some of our local coaches help in offering clinics for folks to help all of us improve our skills and continue to build out our community.

Do you have suggestions for folks looking to start up a ride group in their area? What helped you? 
Research! Find out what resources, social media sites, etc are already existing and figuring out how you can work with what exists or see where there might be gaps. In my case, I wasn’t finding mountain biking group rides in our area and found there was a void in Northwest Ohio for all levels (especially with beginners). 1.) Our main trail is intermediate and 2.) the location of our single-track trail is in a pretty rough neighborhood. Additionally, don’t have a Northwest Ohio/Toledo IMBA chapter. For those looking into ride groups, local chapters I would recommend researching your local chapters via IMBA/Singletracks as many cities and communities have ride groups and trails. Starting small and supporting those who want to get out there is what it’s all about.

What do you enjoy most about your collaboration with Spoke Life Cycles?
They are the most amazing group of guys (and gals). They really were excited about me just trying to build something and liked that I had an opinion that was slightly different than the rest of the cycling community which was focused on our beginners and building something from scratch. I love having the chance to pitch in at the shop when I can. I’m a single mom with 2 young boys and a full-time job so it’s hard for me to get there more than 2 Saturdays a month but I love being part of their family and pitching in when I can. I love the shop’s approach which is to build relationships and work with the riders to make sure you get the most out of the bike you are looking to ride. They really take the time to listen to the rider. They want you to be comfortable and more than anything they want you to be happy and out there having fun. They have great attitudes and are all about promoting fun, which is why we get along so well.

Why do you feel groups such as Glass City MTB Girl and others are important for women and the cycling community?
There are tons of amazing biking groups, I follow many of them on social media and have friended many groups as I think there’s a ton going on within women’s mountain biking and lots of great information to share. I learn a lot from reading about other’s experiences and it inspires me to get out there and stay focused on enjoying life.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Most of my friends think I’m nuts, they picture me like I’m some crazy rider who’s flying off jumps, mountains, etc. I think it’s like most things, the fear of the unknown. They associate mountain biking as a crazy, rugged warrior type sport. Which it can be but what people are really missing is just how much fun it is. I think there’s a lot in the industry around racing and competitiveness which many people are into (Ironmans, Triathalons, Duathalons) but not everyone wants to race. So I think it’s those 2 associations that can deter some. I’m more inspired by seeing my friends and seeing people get out there and trying something and absolutely loving it. I explain that if you like roller coasters this is a way to drive your own!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Basically, what I’ve said above. There are your racing/competitive-types and then there are those who just want to play. That’s me. I think if there were industry focus and more people talking about the fun and benefits (health, wellness, etc) you’d get more interest on the women’s side. Women aren’t afraid of sweat and I think we want to kick butt and improve ourselves. I think women who’ve not really biked like myself just don’t know what they are missing and getting them out there without it seeming so scary would be pretty enticing to many. I can’t relate to the level of a Lindsey Richter or Leigh Donovan who’ve been racing and riding for most of my life. What interests me is finding out that after 38 years I can still develop a hobby and a passion that I didn’t know existed for someone like me. I wouldn’t associate myself as being athletic and often known for lack of coordination but, I’ve always strived to be adventurous. Mountain biking is like riding a roller coaster but in my version, it might be a little slower than most...I get to control the pace and speed to what I’m comfortable with and sometimes I might get a little crazy and confident and push past comfort into adventure!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I know the confidence I’ve gained each time I ride, how much fun I’m having for myself. It’s double
that when you take a friend out there and they get done riding and they are beyond ecstatic claiming it’s the most fun they’ve ever had and how exciting and how they didn’t think they could ever get up that big hill and they did or they didn’t think they’d survive riding over the bridge and they made it without any trouble. It’s those experiences that inspire me even more.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I was not an athlete growing up, I liked sports but I loved music. I played flute for 12 years and some through college. I absolutely loved being in the band and growing up it got such a bad rap but I was really proud of my success playing through high school and even some into college. I also have a deep love for everything food related and have been cooking since I was old enough to stand over a stove. I read cookbooks like most people read novels and I could watch cooking shows all day. I love to try new recipes and will find any excuse to talk food. My 2nd dream hobby would be in a kitchen baking or cooking.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Shake n' Bake

Really, I do not have a relevant title for this post at the moment, but I guess you could say that I feel the term "Shake n' Bake" somewhat sums up what has been going on over the past several weeks.

I will admit in the most sincere way that I have been in a funk. I have had so many things that I wanted to write about (and likely will.)

I could do nothing other than look at the laptop and let my mind be consumed with everything else. I was given an offer pertaining to blogging that was hard to refuse, but in reality, I knew that I would not be able to juggle that job with my full-time job at Decorah Bicycles. Especially during the busy season...and that made me shrink back into myself for awhile due to my questioning "Did I really make the right choice for myself?" 
Looking at everything after I've had time to digest my response, the answer would be yes. At least this time.

A lot of my energy has been going to planning further women's rides, a mom/daughter intro ride, my women's night in August, and consuming myself with worries over the lack of "training" for Chequamegon. In reality, there has been a huge lack. I'm wondering if I even care? I'm really more excited about trying to plan women's events and rides for NEXT year vs. worrying over how well I will do at a race I will never "win" at.

Life has had stresses yet good things. I would say one of the biggest blocks in my riding as of late has been...well, me.
I've been paying more attention to my menstrual cycle and more attention to the ongoing and nagging cramps I've been experiencing before, during, and after. Yes, it seems that my body would be going thru a continual cramping without any real relief from it- minus giving myself stomach aches from too much ibuprofen.

I have an IUD (at the time of writing this post) and it's been wonderful, but something changed. I also noticed and would be frustrated over how I would feel after long races (cramping.) Not only do I get to deal with chronic shoulder discomfort, but I would have to deal with feeling pain "down there" as well. Gosh, that really makes you feel like you want to go bust out 12ish miles for Time Trials for crank out almost 40 for Borah Epic.

Then I had a ridiculously early period.
Enough was enough. I made the decision to go see a new Dr. and get things checked out. In my mind, I had to quiet the thoughts of all the possible things that could be potentially "wrong" with me. One thing led to another- blood work to check my thyroid (as there are thyroid issues on my paternal grandma's side.) That came back great.
Uterine ultrasounds (external and internal) to check and see if there would be anything like cysts or fibroids. Nope.

It's so fun to have menstrual oddities happening to you in your late-early to early-mid 30's. Especially during a particularly busy year. Stress was being handed to me left and right...what a beautiful opportunity to work on embracing the unknown.

What was deduced was that the arms of my IUD are poking into the sides of my uterus. I do not believe it's to the point of embedding itself, but it wouldn't surprise me that it has shifted over the past year or so.

Tuesday I will get it out.
I can't tell you how relieved I feel.
Sure, I'm back to square 1 in the whole ongoing process of "Josie doesn't want to have kids" however, the feeling of "I can finally STOP feeling like something is scraping the inside of me!" trumps the whole "What the hell am I going to do now?" It's freeing.

I'm actually looking forward to Chequamegon now...even if I end up having my period. Because I won't have to deal with the discomfort that I felt because of the IUD vs. the period itself.
I am looking forward to hammering it out on the trails, because I know I won't have that godawful feeling of feeling like I have nails on a chalkboard happening inside.

I really can't stress how frickn' EXCITED I AM!!!
I have spent virtually ALL of my biking years with an IUD and have always had some sort of "eh, this doesn't feel great" post-ride. I suppose I'm not a hospitable host for such things, and you know what? That's okay. I experienced it for a total of 9 years with two different IUDs and I'm going to be glad to have one less thing bringing me down a notch with riding with hopes I'll be able to ride with more power.

In other news. I will be getting a full suspension bike for next season- it's not officially decided yet if we will keep Gaston the carbon Salsa Spearfish (size small/16") at this point (because I really do love the bike) but I am open to SERIOUS inquiries on if anyone would want to purchase the frame/fork/Industry 9 wheelset either all together or separately. This has been an excellent bike and the decision behind having it leave the stable is due to the fact we are no longer Salsa dealers. For my blog as well as general social media, we (Travis and myself) feel that it would be more appropriate for me to be riding a shop brand.
I will be riding Gaston thru the end of the season because the new bike will not be available until after Chequamegon.
Another bike that we will be selling is my road bike. It is a carbon Specialized Ruby Elite Compact EQ (48 cm) I physically just cannot ride it comfortably and I prefer to spend as much of my time on the dirt or gravel as possible. Full disclosure, I did have one crash on the road bike, so the shifter/brake lever did get scuffed up and there is minor bar tape damage. It's cosmetic and totally does not affect how the bike works mechanically. You can see the road bike (Bettie Paige) here. It has ridiculously low miles for the years that I've owned her. We just purchased a replacement seat pack for her as the original one had a funky zipper. I've had 2 rides on this bike this season and am going to admit I just simply do not jive with Bettie and it's time to move on.

If you want to inquire on specifics per the bikes, you can email me at: josiebikelife @ gmail . com
As I said, serious inquiries only.

Fearless Women of Dirt has been going extremely well (in my opinion) and I'm very excited at the potential of having things shape up to be even more involved next year. Especially with my new connections with other women who live outside the area wanting to have FWD group rides.

So, one of the things that I'll be doing is changing the format of the rides for 2018. The biggest change is that I will not announce every ride being "introductory" this is especially important because there will be a handful of women who have been joining the rides regularly who would be outside of the "introductory" phase. We're exploring new trails and working on handling skills- and without multiple ride leaders being able to show up on the same day, it's hard to cater to all ride levels without one or the other feeling shorted.

Until we have more women who would feel comfortable leading introductory rides the same day as the intermediate rides, the first Sunday of the month will be a designated "Introductory" ride at 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. All other Sunday rides would be geared towards intermediate and advanced riders.

Long term goal: Two Sunday rides, one as an introductory and another for more experienced riders being led at the same time. Then we all meet at the shop or somewhere for a beer. Yeah!

FWD Women's Nights will happen again next year and I aim to make them more involved. This will possibly entice women from out of town to make a trip to Decorah that will be more than just "Hey, let's hang out at the bike shop!"
The concept of getting women together will be the same, but the event will start earlier (at 5 p.m.) and have a short off-road ride session prior to the social hours. We would have a ride leave the shop at 5 p.m. and we'd come back around 6:30 p.m.

For folks who are new to FWD and want a chance to meet FWD members and learn about our group rides, they are welcome to join the social time from 7:00 p.m.-9 p.m. We'd have pizza and provide some snacks, you BYOB and come learn about what FWD is all about!

I'm going to try and wrangle up more guest visitors who are interested in sharing their experiences/stories. A field trip or two to trails elsewhere is also on my mind. (More easily done during a year that isn't super busy!)

FWD Women's Night Dates for 2018 at this time will be:
April 24th
May 29th
June 26th
July 31st
August 28th

If you read this and are someone I've interviewed that doesn't live too far away from the Decorah area and would like to be a special guest for one of the FWD Women's Nights- let me know!

Additional FWD Goal- FWD Jerseys.

Finally, Mother/Daughter FWD rides. 
I'll be hosting my first Mother/Daughter FWD ride on Tuesday and am very excited! There seems to be a number of folks who think it's a wonderful idea, so I'm hoping I can figure out another date in which to have one for 2017 before school starts. I'm open to day suggestions for 2018 and so far I've figured out a couple Sundays to mark down for these intro rides:
June 10th
July 8th
August 12th

My idea is these Sunday rides will start at 8 a.m. and last until 9 a.m.
I'm toying with the idea of having an additional Tuesday ride for those same months, which would start at 7 p.m. that would give parents an additional day to have possibly work with their schedule. I'm open to suggestions as I know parents and kids are both incredibly busy and there is no possible way to make it work well for everyone. For kids who are old enough to attend the Park and Rec mountain biking class next year- this would give them another ride opportunity (or two) that should help bolster confidence and comradery with other female peers.

I'm really super stoked to have some dates solidified for 2018 and I really think that there will be some fun things happening next year! Of course, things might get tweaked and change- there's a lot of time between now and 2018 (Really?! Doesn't feel like it!)

So, obviously things have been a bit hectic, but overall things have been well. My emotional and mental overload will pass and I'll have some introspective things to share again. This has been quite the year and I'm really grateful for the opportunities that have come from it so far.