Women Involved Series: Erin Machan
I am the creator of a non-profit that empowers women with a bicycle, providing them safe and independent transportation.
I started the idea in December of 2015 and after sharing it in February of 2016 with Belen Remirez, a girl I just met on a mountain bike ride, we co-founded what is now Project Bike Love.
I am also an avid mountain biker and dedicate a good bit of my life to getting more women on bikes. Not just through PBL but also locally in my community; I was just recently certified to coach fundamental mountain bike clinics! I love the mountain bike community and I love that it has connected me to people all over the world, and I love that my passion for bikes has also become a tool for helping women around the world. I grew up riding horses and never imagined doing anything different with my life until I was forced to find something else because competing at the level I wanted to in show jumping became way too expensive. So after selling my horse in 2010, a friend of mine suggested getting a bike because it would get me outside and still keep me fit. I was immediately hooked! I first started doing triathlons and I got a mountain bike while training for my Ironman to break up the monotony of swim/bike/run. I started racing my mountain bike at a local race called Over the Hump and eventually sold my tri bike and haven’t looked back. Mountain biking has my heart. I raced cross country locally and then someone convinced me to try a 12-hour race, which lead to me to doing a 24-hour race (twice, once solo and once as a team) then Leadville twice and Breck Epic and numerous other events. This year I branched out and raced a few Enduros and I did pretty well. My coach always laughs at me for being good and endurance and enduro because I guess not many people do a crossover between those two disciplines. I just love riding my bike, and getting better over time is so rewarding. I also do yoga and recently started climbing which I am addicted to already! Basically my life is: empowering women with Project Bike Love and through cycling and traveling with my boyfriend and dog riding, racing, climbing and all things adventure. I lost my dad a year a half ago and my life changed dramatically. He was the closest person to me in my entire life. We had an amazing and close relationship and when he died unexpectedly I knew as much as I wanted to just fall apart and use it as an excuse to just disappear, I couldn’t, so I took it as a lesson, that life is incredibly short and can be taken from you at any minute. So I put that passion and urgency into my work and my relationships.
I started riding because my ex-boyfriend was getting into it. Of course, it was a disaster. I fell a lot and learning from a guy who barely knew how to ride was not ideal. I eventually got some help from some women in my area and I was hooked. The real life-changer for me was a solo mountain biking trip to Lake Tahoe. In 2014 I was supposed to get married and a few months before, I called the whole thing off. It was my decision but it was still a really tough time for me. I was doing a lot of triathlons back then and was mountain biking just to break up the monotony. I had been given a condo in Lake Tahoe for a week during our wedding and even though the wedding didn’t happen, my friends offered to let me keep the condo. I went up by myself and rode bikes all week in the mountains by myself. Some people thought I wasn’t being very safe, but I was. I would spend hours every day just exploring the trails with no real idea where I was and I wasn’t a very good rider but it was one of the most transformational weeks of my life. I got past that dreaded wedding day that never happened and fell in love with mountain biking. I drove straight home from Tahoe to the bike shop and sold my triathlon bike… I never looked back!
What would be your favorite mountain biking event and why do you enjoy it so much?
Leadville 100!! I love it so much. Also another event I went to the first time by myself. I drove out to Leadville having no idea what to expect. I spent a week there leading up to the race and just fell in love. The town and the people were incredible and I felt right at home regardless of being alone in a place I’d never been. The race itself is so freaking amazing. It’s challenging in ways you never could expect and it’s the most beautiful course. The entire experience is surreal. There is nothing like it in the world!
Do you have tips or suggestions for folks who may be on the fence about participating in their first event?
Have fun! I’m sure that’s so cliché to say and everyone gets told that but it’s what it’s all about. I remember my first event I was at the start line and I felt like I was going to vomit. I had no idea what I was getting into but once the race started all that was behind me. I just had a blast! So I guess that’s the real advice, don’t let the nerves, expectations, or worry keep you from starting. All that is temporary, once you cross that start line you’ll never regret it!
Clips, but I started that way. I think if you are just learning to ride, flats are the way to go. When you use flats you have to use your feet a lot more. You actually gain more bike handling skills with flats then I think you should switch to cleats. But that’s just my general consensus, I am sure people would have opposing opinions.
What excites you most about being certified to teach mountain bike skills to others?
I think it has a huge impact on the cycling community and that is what excites me most. I feel like being able to instruct others on how to safely and properly use fundamental mountain biking skills will make for more confident riders, safer riding on our public trails and getting more people on bikes! I just know that first clinic I ever took was a huge game changer for me!
Have you had any biffs (crashes) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I’ve had a few bad crashes. I grew up riding horses and I took a lot of major falls that put me in the hospital. I eventually learned how to fall. Being able to bail quickly was a necessary skill in riding horses and it transfers to mountain biking as well. My worst crash was in a local park when a guy was going super fast down a fire road and ran right into me. I have never been so banged up as I was that day. I was bleeding all over, my legs were bruised from top to bottom, my bike was in pieces and I was actually pretty lucky that that was the worst of it. It could have been much worse. I was super new to riding, it may have been my 3rd mountain bike ride or something, so it scared the shit out of me! It was hard to get back on the bike but with my years of horseback riding, I knew getting back on was the only option. I think I’m still super cautious in the parks to make sure I am way over on the right when there is two-way traffic. It definitely left an impact. My worst fall on a horse was when I was 16 and it left 12 stitches in my head and I would cry anytime I even got on a horse. It was the hardest thing to overcome. It took months, a lot of patience, and some really amazing people until I overcame that fear. But that process and that willingness to keep trying no matter how scared I was and never giving up really made an impact on who I was forever. It was terrifying and a lot of parents or coaches would have been ok with me quitting forever. I am sure my dad did not want to see me get hurt again and he could have let me quit. I think that has transferred to not only mountain biking but every area of my life. It was one of those pivotal moments in life that made me who I am today.
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 think bike body separation was really challenging. With riding horses and riding road bikes you stay really tucked in and your body goes with the horse/bike. With mountain biking, it’s nothing like that. It’s all about having your elbows and knees out and letting the bike move around underneath you and there’s this sort of dance you need to learn with your feet. It was SO HARD. I still practice it to this day even though it’s become more natural. Practice is the only thing that helps. Putting pride aside and going out on a grass field and doing all those small things that will make you a better rider.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I still find high speed cornering to be tricky. I have gotten so much better at it but it’s really where I see myself slow down, and I especially notice it when riding in groups. Like all other skills I can do now that I wasn’t able to before, I trust that eventually, it’ll click if I keep practicing.
I love that it keeps me humble and grateful. I’ve learned so much through riding, about myself, about others and about what we are capable of as humans, mentally and physically. It’s been such an amazing part of my life. Because of riding, I have started a nonprofit that has impacted so many people, I have met some of the most amazing humans, I have learned so much about my self and last year when my dad died riding was seriously my best friend. I’d ride for hours and just cry, it felt so much better than sitting around trying to deal with the grief. Even though I didn’t have the energy to train or race I would just pedal my bike and let go of all the emotions I was holding on to. And selfishly, that's what I love most about riding, it makes me a much better human. It’s also why I ride alone most of the time, I need the solitude to let go of the bullshit so I can be present in life.
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
All my bikes are Specialized. I have been riding Specialized since 2010 and I’ve tried other bikes but I haven’t found anything I love more. I think it started because of Rock N Road Cyclery. I went there as a new rider and they were so great and for me, the shop experience is what matters most. As a brand new rider that didn’t know anything rock n road was so good about teaching me everything and introducing me to people who would help me ride/train.
My race bike and prized possession is my 2018 Epic S-Works. I love this bike, it’s fast, fun and super light. It’s a beautifully engineered machine. I also have a '17 Enduro Pro, a '17 Epic HT Pro, a '17 Crux Pro, and a '17 Tarmac Disc Pro. I have a lot of bikes, but I use them all. I will be getting a Stumpjumper for teaching all my clinics. I chose all my bikes for specific reasons, the Enduro is a great teacher for riding at the bike park and doing steep technical descents, I don’t love it for climbing but for as big of a bike as it is, it climbs pretty well. I chose the Epic hardtail (HT) because it’s also a great teacher, but in a different way, a HT isn’t very forgiving so you have to pick and chose your lines carefully, my first MTB was a HT and I think I will always have one. It’s just too hard on my old body after 3-4 hours so I need the full suspension (FS) for racing endurance. The Tarmac and Crux I chose for training purposes. I don’t cross race much but I do Cross Vegas and I got the Crux for that and when I want to do some pavement and dirt rides. The Crux is fun! The Tarmac is an awesome bike too, but I really only use it for training.
Tell us more about Project Bike Love and why it's so important-
It’s the impact. That’s what’s so important. I had this sort of epiphany in my personal life about how disconnected we are from each other. I really wanted to do something in my short little life here on earth that would bring us more together as humans. I wanted to create a more global connection in the world. That’s basically how PBL started. There are so many small and meaningful events that lead to creating it exactly as it is now but that vision was a global connection. Every step of the process is what creates the huge impact. It starts with the people here in our communities who donate their money or their time to create the bikes, we then work with local partners in the areas to find beneficiaries and organize the bike deliveries, we then hand deliver the bikes to the women, that entire delivery experience is unreal, it’s seriously impossible to describe but it’s life-changing, it will change you to be on one of these bike deliveries. Then the impact goes on and on from there. These women transform their lives because of the bike. They get hours back in their days, they are able to create more income in less time and they can do things in much less time. Most of the women spend hours walking to school or work or just to do laundry, with a bike they can do it in minutes. The most important thing is that PBL empowers people and it empowers people to empower people, creating an impact that will make the world just a little bit better.
It’s empowering and life-changing. I think on a personal level growing up young girls were almost always in competition, and I see it linger well into adult years. Women don’t empower each other, they are always comparing and judging and talking behind each other's backs. I see it in my community of female cyclist and I want to be a part of transforming it. I want to bring more women together and create a real authentic appreciation for each other in our similarities and differences. #bikelife is just my tool or avenue to get there, I know there are a million other women making the same efforts with different tools. I definitely see it changing and I love that!
How can folks help or support Project Bike Love?
The two biggest things are to donate and to share it. You can donate by either giving money or purchasing something from our store. You can share by reposting things on social media, putting a flyer up at your office or bike shop. Anything like that would be so helpful.
What are your goals for Project Bike Love?
To get a bike to every woman in this world that needs one!
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
It’s intimidating, it’s dirty and it can hurt when you fall.
What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
More women in the industry. More women working in shops, doing bike fits, racing, leading clinics etc.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I know how amazing and life-changing it is. I also feel like I am not one of these girls that grew up riding, I had to learn and work really hard to just learn basic skills. I was a beginner mountain biker that didn’t start until I was 30 and I think that is relatable and sometimes being able to relate to someone is what inspires women to do something they wouldn’t normally do.
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have a master degree in sports and exercise psychology :)