Women Involved Series: Lauren Hutchins

In addition to mountain biking, I enjoy road cycling, fat biking (when we get enough snow) trail running, snowboarding and hiking. Pretty much all things outdoors. I was born in KY, grew up in GA, moved to WI and lived there for 7 years. In WI I was introduced to road cycling and then mountain biking a couple years later.

My husband (Travis) and I moved to NC in August of 2015 so that we could live in the mountains and have an all of the things that we love most in our backyard. We have two dogs and a cat.

Between the two of us, have about 10 bikes. I am an occupational therapist. I've been working in pediatrics for the past few years, and am now transitioning to the adult population.

In the biking world, I've done a couple xc style races and one fat bike race across a frozen bay in Lake Superior. I just really enjoy riding my bike and exploring new trails. Since moving to the mountains, I've had to work on my technical riding skills especially steep descents and rocky climbs. (WI has beautiful trails, but they are pretty tame compared to the trails around here). I've recently started riding some more rugged and remote trails and I love the feeling of being out in the woods with just my bike and friends. I'm hoping to start some bike-packing in the future.

Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/Belljoyrideboonenc/
Instagram: @the_cycling_ginga_ninja

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how cycling has influenced you- 
I started cycling when I moved to Appleton, WI. I was mainly into trail running but it seemed like all the new friends I made were much more into cycling. I purchased a road bike, joined local group rides. It was a really great way to meet new friends. Nicole Worden, the owner of Chain Reaction Cyclery, was a big help in getting me started. I was introduced to mountain biking a couple years after road biking, there really aren't too many mountain bike trails near Appleton. My first couple years of riding were just going occasionally a couple times a month to the local trails in Suamico, WI. I really enjoyed being in the woods and the new challenge of mountain biking, but it took me a very long time to develop any real skills since I was riding so infrequently. 

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what inspired you to keep at it?
My first couple rides were fun and frustrating at the same time. I didn't understand the basics of body position, bike handling, momentum, etc. You name it, I was more than likely doing it wrong. I felt very uncoordinated and awkward, but I enjoyed the connection with nature and the challenge it presented so I just kept trying.

With the cycling events you've done, what did you enjoy most about the experience?
I love the people at mountain bike events. They are fun, encouraging, and know how to have a good time! There's also a great connection at events with other ladies. Although the sport is growing in popularity with women, we are usually the minority at events and I love that other women are so encouraging on the trail.
Your mountain bike journey started in Wisconsin, tell us about the trails you rode and which one(s) were your favorite(s)- 
I think the CAMBA trail system in WI is top notch. There's a great variety of trails to ride, and the volunteers that maintain the trails are fabulous. I have to give a shout to the trails in La Crosse, WI, this is where I really learned to ride technical features. There was a weekly ladies mountain bike ride and these ladies really helped me learn the basics of riding so that I could conquer some of the obstacles that I felt so intimidated by. The trail system in La Crosse is unique and challenging, they just suffered extensive trail damage due to flooding, and I was so inspired by the efforts of so many volunteers to get the trails back in shape for a WORS race.

In your current location, where do you love riding most?
The local trail in Boone, NC is Rocky Knob, it is an awesome trail system complete with a jump line, pump track, lots of climbing, but then lots of descending. I also love riding in Wilson Creek which is part of the Grandfather District of Pisgah National Forest. Wilson Creek is a beautiful place to explore waterfalls, swimming holes, tunnels of rhododendron, but it's also pretty remote and easy to get lost. It's recommended to go with someone that knows the area on your first couple rides.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all? 
I started out using clipless pedals, I was pretty comfortable with these from road biking. If you've never used them, I suggest riding around in a big grassy area and practicing unclipping 50 times on both the left and right before you hit the trail. I've switched to flat pedals because I realized that I was relying on being attached to my bike when I ride, and my technique was suffering. I've been riding flats for about a year, and feel more confident with my abilities. It made me focus on body position and I feel like I am riding better now.

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 "biff" happened on a section of road when we (my husband, brother, and I) were riding home from a trail system. An oncoming car lost control in a curve an came into our lane. I managed to miss the car and went over the guardrail, the car slammed into my brother who was riding just behind me. It was terrifying, luckily his injuries were broken bones and road rash, but he did have a long recovery process. Physically, I was fine, just a few scrapes and bruises, but it was mentally and emotionally difficult. Even though the accident happened on the road, it took me a while to even want to ride my bike again. I took a break from riding for several weeks, because I couldn't get on the bike without hearing the crash over and over. Sometimes you need a break, and that's ok. I had to tell myself it was fine to take a break and I stuck with trail running, and hiking for a little while until I mentally recovered.

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 for me! The best advice I have is to trust your bike and look ahead. Looking ahead at the trail and knowing that your bike is capable to handle the trail will solve a lot of problems you face.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I have a hard time with drops, I can do small ones and I know I have the ability to ride bigger ones but I still get intimidated. I used to get really hung up on it, but now I just ride my bike if I feel good I go for it, if I don't I walk. The beauty of mountain biking is no one really cares if you walk a section. Ride to your abilities and comfort level, you have good days and bad days, who cares if you have to walk. You're out riding your bike, enjoy it.

What do you love about riding your bike?

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My last bike was a Santa Cruz, Juliana with 26 inch wheels. I loved that bike, but unfortunately, the framed cracked. Since Santa Cruz has an awesome warranty program, they offered to send me a new frame of my choice since they no longer made the Juliana I now have a Juliana Furtado, 27.5, I9 wheels (a great local North Carolina brand :) This bike can climb and descend! It has more travel than my previous bike which has given me the confidence to grow my skills.

Tell us about why you applied for the Bell Joy Ride program and what the program means to you- 
I was encouraged by my local bike club, Boone Area Cyclists, to apply. I was leading women's rides a few times a month and thought this would be a great way to grow the community of women riders in the area. The program has been awesome. My ride leaders are invaluable to the program and to me, and the program has connected so many women across the region.

Why do you feel programs like the Joy Ride program are important?
Mountain biking can be intimidating, and the Joy Ride program is all about creating a fun, no-pressure atmosphere for women to connect and ride. It can be hard to find other ladies to ride with, and the Joy Ride program is creating an opportunity to make those connections.

Tell us why you feel women should apply for programs like Joy Ride or those similar, even if they might not be chosen- 
If you are applying it means you are already passionate about more women on bikes. Even if you don't get chosen, talk to your local shops, and find out who your reps and dealers are you can make it happen on a local level.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
As a whole, I think we are self-conscious (myself included) and the sport is intimidating. The bike itself is intimidating, I am not mechanically inclined; you need to understand bike set-up, how to change a flat, which chain lube to buy...the list goes on and on. It can get overwhelming, and it's easier to stick with running, hiking, swimming, etc where the gear needed is very minimal.

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

We have to appeal to all types of women, not just athletes. The utilitarian aspect of cycling and biking is a great way to add biking to your life. Commuting, running errands, touring, bike-packing are other ways to introduce cycling to women.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love taking beginners out and introducing them to the sport. It is so fun to watch them tackle a new feature or section of the trail that was once difficult for them.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love pickles