Women on Bikes Series: Julia Reich

I've been self-employed for 17 years as a graphic designer/ branding consultant/visual practitioner.

I've been riding for 4 years. Although I'm not one of those women that have been riding forever and ever, I am COMPLETELY ADDICTED. I ride almost every day. If the trails are dry I'm out there, all year-round. I'm not that interested in racing. I just want to be a better rider so I can ride anything without fear. I love trying new trails, but also getting to know my favorite trail systems really well.

I've enjoyed attending the Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinics and those experiences have given me the skills to ride with more confidence!

There's a really nice community growing at Griffin Bike Park and I hope as that community grows there will be more people riding, of all abilities, ages, gender.

Instagram: @motherofcoonhounds

You've been mountain biking for 4 years- do you wish you had been introduced to mountain biking earlier in life rather than in adulthood?
Oh God yes. I’d be such a badass by now.

Tell us why age has nothing to do with whether or not you can mountain bike-
Mountain biking came into my life just as I got a back injury, and I was so frustrated. I worked hard in physical therapy to feel better again and I was so excited to have mountain biking to help me get into shape. Believe it or not, I think mountain biking is a low-impact sport (crashing into trees notwithstanding). In general, I’m at an age (48) where I need/want to push myself to exercise more.

Your introduction to mountain biking wasn't the most desirable- how did you not let those experiences deter you from pursuing growth in mountain biking?
Yes, one day my husband decided he was going to get into mountain biking and he got a bike and loved it. Then he offered to get me a bike and I knew if I was ever going to see my husband again, I should take him up on it.

So every weekend we would go to a different trail system and he would take off and leave me to ride on my own. I had no idea what I was doing and would be riding along thinking, I’m scared and this sucks.

But for some reason, I stuck with it because I love being outside. I love being with my dog, who runs with me. And I loved the workout I was getting - I wanted to be more fit.

Tell us about a moment where "something clicked" when it came to mountain biking- what was it and how did it make you feel?
In 2015 I went to the Women’s Midwest Mountain Biking Clinic in Brown County State Park, Indiana. Two and a half days of learning and sharing and practicing with dozens of other women and amazing coaches from around the country. I learned enough skills that I was no longer scared when I rode. In fact, I felt powerful. Mountain biking became a rush. I went back for two more summers, as an intermediate-level rider.

Now when I ride, I’m happy! Riding my bike in the woods makes me happy. Is there anything more fun?? Seriously.

Clips or flats? What do you enjoy and why?
Flats all the way, baby. I have these super-ugly men’s FiveTens that look like oversize orthotic shoes and together with studded pedals they are really grippy and comfy.

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 crash all the time, but nothing too serious, knock on wood. As I become a better biker I continue to try more challenging things and I guess wiping out just comes with the territory.

Recently I started trying to do little drops - we have some built wooden features at our local bike park. At first, I would ride up and get scared and think “nope, no way”. I kept riding up to it until I had the courage to just roll over it. Then when I didn’t die, I tried it with more speed. I still didn’t die, and it became fun! So I kept trying it, each time trying to improve my form, to get more air and lift my wheels. I think I’ll be able to progress soon to larger and larger drops.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Just knowing some basic riding technique goes a long way - one finger on each brake lever, neutral/ready positions, bike/body separation, equal weight on the pedals, eyes scanning ahead, moving my butt back over the rear wheel when I descend.

Sometimes when I go for a ride I’ll have a particular skill I want to keep in mind to practice and try to get better at. Cornering is a big one. So is climbing.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Oh, there are tons of things I need to work on.
There’s a 48-foot long bridge at my park about 8-ft high over a ravine with a little decline section and I’m currently too scared to ride that. It’s totally mental. I know I have the skill to ride it, but I’m scared.

I’m also a pretty poor climber. I can’t seem to get the air I need in my lungs. If I do successfully make a tough climb, I’ll sit at the top gasping for air for a few minutes. Or if it’s a steep downhill leading to a steep uphill, I have a hard time getting all the way up to the top on the ascent. I know I need to increase my leg strength and maybe switch it up sometimes and go for long road rides.

I have a hard time keeping up with a group. Even if it’s a no-drop ride and no one seems to care how slow I am, I can easily start to feel defeated when I’m in the back, struggling to keep up. I try to tell myself, this is *my* ride, and I love riding my bike in the woods and exploring new trails and having an adventure. But it’s hard to get the negativity out of my head.

There are things I am good at and I try to give myself credit. I am truly getting better at technical features. One recent day I did all 4 of the black diamond trails at my local park in one ride. It wasn’t fast or pretty, but it felt really good to overcome most of my fear.

What do you love about riding your bike?

I love that I can be having so much fun that I don’t want to stop, and then when I finally do I’m exhausted and have had a great workout.
I love feeling strong.
I love the mountain bike community. Mountain bikers are awesome people.
I love having a beer with other riders in the parking lot after a ride.
I love spending time with my dog out on the trails.
I love being outside in nature and looking around.
I love exploring new trails and having different experiences, but I also love riding my home trails hundreds of times and getting to know them really well.

I love helping others improve their bike skills. This summer I became an IMBA (International Mountain Bike Assoc) Level 1 certified coach.

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

I ride a Salsa Bucksaw, a full-suspension carbon fat bike with 4-inch tires. IT’S FREAKING AWESOME. I can ride it all year round in any conditions and not worry about it being too slick or icy or sandy and I can pretty much ride over anything.

Sometimes I get some flack from others - they’ll say things like “you don’t need much skill to ride that bike” or “that bike will make you lazy about picking a line”. But the way I see it empowers me to pick a more challenging line and become more confident. And riding straight through without dodging obstacles is more efficient. Plus it’s such a monster truck, I’ve become strong in order to handle it.

I also have a 29er, a 2014 Trek Excaliber 6 hardtail, which was my first bike. It fits me perfectly and I appreciate how nimble it is, but since I’ve had the Bucksaw, I ride the fat bike 95% of the time. It’s just more fun to ride, and I’m in it for the fun - not to be the fastest person out there.

You attended a women's mountain bike clinic- why was it beneficial for you and why should other new riders (or experienced) consider going to a clinic?
I touched on this above, but I would add that there’s something really nice about the camaraderie of like-minded women. I’m eager to improve my skills but don’t often have an opportunity to do so. The coaches are phenomenal. You can’t come away without having learned new skills.

What has been something you've learned about yourself since you started mountain biking?
OK, two things:
Finding the mountain bike community and making new mountain bike friends has completely changed my life. 
When I first moved to Indiana 4 years ago, I didn’t know anyone/ That’s all changed. I can pretty much go anywhere for a ride and find cool people to share mountain biking with.

I also have a new bucket list - to ride a mountain bike in all 50 states. I’ve got 12 so far. It can take the rest of my life to reach that goal, I don’t care. It’s the journey, right?

For women who ride with their partners or are introduced to mountain biking by their partner- any suggestions on how they can communicate to make the experience more positive?
I see some couples where the experienced rider is very patient introducing the sport to the inexperienced partner and they enjoy riding and learning together. That’s awesome.

But that’s not how it was in my case! The first few years my husband needed to pile on the miles every time he went out - he needs it for his physical and mental health, and it is difficult for him to ride with me at a slow pace. I get it. So most of the time we ride separately.

If we go a trail system further away, the way we do it is he’ll ride fast to the next intersection or landmark and wait for me. Then he takes off again and waits for me.

With my skill and endurance improving, it’s more likely we have opportunities to ride together. He’s a stronger, more confident rider and he enjoys helping me learn new skills. We like to use our phones to take photos and videos of each other doing a tricky feature or whatever. Then we have fun afterward by reviewing them to see what’s working or what needs improvement.

This is how we’ve made it work for us.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Fear of getting hurt.
Fear of getting lost.
Fear of being alone.
Fear of feeling inadequate.
Lack of time; too many other commitments.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Women riding with other women who are supportive and non-critical.
Equipping more women with the training necessary to lead rides and offer coaching skills.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I want to share the fun!
I want other women to feel powerful and happy.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I lived in NYC for 15 years.