Women Involved Series: Paige Ramsey

It's not clear if Paige's love for bikes started way back when she was a four-year-old cruising around on a lime green two-wheeler with coaster brakes, or in 1992 when she hit the dirt on her first mountain bike. Anyway it goes, it didn't take long to discover that riding in the dirt and in particular downhill, was where she belonged!
Paige has raced pro downhill and dual slalom and has spent time on the cross country course as a cat 1 racer as well. Teaching and coaching had always just fallen into Paige's lap by request or community need. So in 2010, Paige decided to make it official and became certified through USA Cycling as a coach. In 2013, she took it one step further to become an IMBA, ICP Level 2 Certified skills instructor.

Paige has a passion for teaching. Whether it is coaching downhill racers, a group of high school mountain bikers or a group of riders who have never ridden before, the thrill of helping others accomplish their goals or conquer a skill never thought possible remains the most exciting part of coaching for her.

Paige spends summers coaching all levels of riders at the Specialized Bike Academy at Northstar Bike Park. The rest of the year is spent coaching clinics and private lessons throughout Northern California. Along with many years of racing, coaching and teaching mountain biking, Paige is also an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and Pilates Instructor, specializing in corrective exercise and athlete performance. This unique combo allows Paige to address dysfunctional movement patterns, pain issues, and work intensity to help riders of all skill and fitness levels attain their goals on and off the bike.

Tell us why your #bikelife is important to you in a recreational sense as well as your livelihood-

For me, bikes take up many different aspects of my life. They are a form of exercise. An avenue of excitement and adventure. And whether I like it or not a form or sense of identity. I've found the self-esteem and strength I've built while on the bike follows me to other areas of my life. No matter what I do or where I go, the bike always comes back to me. I've taken time away from the bike for kids, family and plain old burn out. But, I ALWAYS find my way back to a bike.

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What about them inspired you to keep at it?
In 1991 I was teaching skiing in Winter Park, Colorado. Everyone I knew said, "You gotta get a mountain bike!" So... I got a mountain bike. That summer I moved to Denver so I could go to college and I worked for a local sporting goods store where I was lucky enough to get an ok bike that had originally been ordered for the owner's wife. She decided she didn't want it, so I got it for cheap! I rode it to and from school, on the pavement all summer. It wasn't until a friend said "Hey! Let's go up to this Norba Nationals Race. It'll be fun! There will be a lot of guys there!" So, we went. I rode in the dirt for the first time and it was the most FANTASTIC thing ever! For me, it was a cross between skiing and horseback riding. Two things I loved. Then I saw the downhill race. I looked at my friend, pointed at a DH racer and said "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to be a pro mountain bike racer".

I went home. Bought my first REAL, legit mountain bike (a Mantis xcr) and started riding. I rode anything I could find. I followed anyone I saw dropping on to dirt, whether I knew them or not because I didn't know where the trails were. It didn't take too long before I met some more friends and started working in a shop. I started racing and did great as a beginner (cat 3). When I moved up to the Sport class I just got pummeled! I said to my boyfriend at the time that I wish I could race only the downhills! I'd kill there! He said, "Well, there's a Norba Nationals at Vail next week." I said "Yeah, I can't race that! I'm not a pro!" He laughed and said, "What class do you think those pro riders start in?" He asked if that was what was taking me so long to get in the DH game! So, I entered the Sport class and went to race DH and DS at a Norba Nationals! This boyfriend of mine happened to be friends with some guy named Hans Rey who was going to be at that race. So, he set me up to meet with him to talk about the course. It was June in Colorado and it was snowing. I was going to race my first DH race in the freezing rain and snow and the guy that was gonna tell me about the course before I took my first and ONLY practice run was Hans Rey!! I won my DH race. I got 2nd in Dual Slalom. I upgraded to Expert for a race the next weekend. I won. I met a girl who was going to Big Bear the next weekend for another Norba Nationals. This time as an expert racer, I didn't win. I got my ass handed to me... I went home and practiced. I also set out to learn HOW to race.

Can you give us insight into what it was like to race on a pro-level?
For me it was scary. I won't lie. I did great at a regional level. But at a National and World Cup level? I was what I jokingly call "filler". I may have been in the same class as people like Elke, Missy, and Leigh. But, I really didn't compete against them. I think I just helped fill the class up. We had much, much larger women's fields back then. Straight up... I often went on a race course scared of the course. I really didn't know how to race or train. I crashed A LOT! 
I definitely wish I knew some of what I know now back then! But, it was really nice to have good practice time and get to meet people. It really doesn't matter what level you race, cycling is a community and typically a small one even if it spans worldwide. I was lucky enough to start racing at a time when a low-level pro and even some amateur racers had pretty good sponsorship.

Out of the events you have done, which would you say has been your most favorite and why?

Well.... As a coach, there are many great memories. I have loved coaching and traveling with my high school teams. I am part of several large super fun events each year and I traveled to many races, large and small and even if the race sucked I can usually find something good that happened. Recently though, we did a clinic at Woodward in Tahoe and I think that was one of my favorite events. It wasn't real big. It was a last minute plan, a basic clinic and I managed to only ride down one trail there. Now, don't get me wrong, DH is my absolute favorite place to be on a bike. What I love most is getting to coach DH riders. But this clinic was new. We hit stuff that was totally out of my element and I got to feel as nervous as my riders. Luckily we had coaches that specialized in these new areas. It was great to team up with a totally different kind of coach and learn. It was fun to hit the foam pit with all these women for the first time. Listening to the yells and laughs. Watch them drop in when they were really scared. What they didn't know was I was pretty scared too! I had only hit one drop into that foam pit before the clinic day!

Any tips or suggestions for those who are on the fence about participating in a race, especially their first one?
Do it! Enter the right class and go in with an attitude of challenging yourself not others. I think often this is hard for new racers. (It was for me) Challenge yourself, Inspire yourself first and the good stuff will follow.

Clips or flats? What do you like and why?
Both! Yes, I ride both. Nothing will get you balanced and connected with your bike like riding flats. Even if you clip in, if you learn to ride flats, you'll be better! With that being said, it absolutely takes more energy, power, and strength to ride flats. With knee and hip problems, I often find I just don't have the strength to ride flats all the time. I coach in both flats and clipped in.

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've had too many to count.... surgery on both shoulders, fractured the iliac crest of my pelvis, dislocated my kneecap, broken collar bones, broken wrist, hand.... the list goes on. I also grew up riding horses, so hitting the ground is just part of my sports.

I think the biggest thing with injuries is to make sure you actually heal! As mtb'ers we WANT to ride! And as competitors we think we are losing fitness, skill and people are passing us up. When you come back take it slow and practice your fundamentals in a safe place diligently. Sometimes injuries are the best thing that can happen. It gives you a chance to allow yourself to not be the fastest or jump the biggest. Now can be the time to break some bad habits as you come back. You're broken down and you have the opportunity to rebuild the right way, not in a frantic way. I also think it is a fantastic time to take a lesson!!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I first started riding I didn't know what I didn't know. I guess if I had to give you a specific I'd have to say tight switchbacks and climbing. Being from Colorado, it feels like that is ALL you see there! I don't really feel like that here the part of California I live in.

Key to getting the switchbacks? Body position and pressure in your feet. Depending on the switch back your body could be in many different positions and you have to be comfortable getting low, knowing when to be tall. When your center of mass moves forward or back.

Hills? Again body position. But mostly, learning how to suffer!!

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Dirt jumps... Yeah, comfortable in the DH park. Drops, jumps, rocks, and steeps- these are my love! But, put me in the dirt lot with all the dirt jumps and steep transitions and I'm a mess. This is something I'm getting better at. But, like anything else it's practice! And I don't always practice as much as I should! It's gotta be practicing almost every day to make a change!

What do you love about riding your bike?

Freedom! Fun! It's a great way to get the crazy under control!!

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

Specialized Demo 8
Specialized Rhyme 29er
Specialized S-works Enduro 27.5 (in build process right now!)

Right now I'm an ambassador for Specialized Women. So, I ride Specialized. Don't get me wrong though! I rode Specialized before I was an ambassador!

I'm on my third Demo. As a DH bike I LOVE this thing!! This bike takes care of me! And is just a ton of fun.

My everyday trail bike is a Rhyme 6Fattie. It is the same frame as the Stumpjumper. I'm running it as a 29er. This bike climbs like a beast!!! I like the fact that you can run this bike as a 27.5plus or a 29er. I think the plus tire is great for new or unsure riders and then the 29-inch wheel turns it into a race machine!

The Enduro is pretty fantastic as a trail bike. I've been riding one at Northstar and can't wait to hit Moab on it!!
What has been the most rewarding aspect of becoming a certified coach/skills instructor?
Changing perception! Conquering fear and most of all helping people find freedom and strength they didn't know they were capable of!

Tell us about why you applied to be a Specialized Women's Ambassador and what the opportunity means to you-
As a long time cyclist and a woman, I felt this was a great opportunity to help make some changes in the industry. I think the industry has it wrong. It's not about cute shorts and small pink bikes. It's about respect. We need to change the culture, not the bikes or clothes. Bike companies make awesome bikes! There is NO need to make a specific bike for women. There are short men, short women, tall men, tall women. There are aggressive women, aggressive men, as well as less aggressive men and women. There are skinny, fat, fit skilled and non-skilled, wonderful women and men. Humans, both male and female come in ALL shapes and sizes, abilities and attitudes! The industry needs to make fit and desired use, the most important aspect of equipment. Not whether a product is pretty enough to fit their perceived female customer. Notice I say perceived customer. I say this because I really don't think most bike companies have gotten out and figured out what women actually want. I think they are taking the words of the 25-year-old shop employee who has never taken the time to truly learn about his customer. I think most women just want to go into a shop and get the same respect from the sales guy as their husband would. Why does the guy in the family get the bike with high-end carbon, awesome cranks and tricked out stuff and the woman gets a bike that is lesser in many ways? Shops often make assumptions about a woman's riding abilities and even whether or not sure deserves to ride high-end stuff the moment she walks into the store. It's kind of like making the assumption that the guy on the Huffy can't ride. You better watch out, cuz he may kick all of your asses! There are so many amazing women riders! There are also so many potentially amazing riders that get discouraged when the walk in a shop and are directed to "the girl" stuff. I want the industry to stop with male-female and just learn some respect for all riders and fit the individual correctly for the kind of riding they do or want to do.

Why do you feel programs such as the Specialized Women's Ambassador program are important for women and cycling?
After coming on board with Specialized it became clear that their intentions are so much more than just build a women's program. It's a woman's program, a kids program, and a family program. Specialized has a spoke in many different areas. Really, we need to start addressing the treatment of women at home. We, in general, need more kids doing things like riding with their families. Not just their dads, but moms too! Being a strong, confident mom will create strong confident kids! I'm really excited and proud to be a part of not just building women in cycling, but building a societal change!

Why should women consider applying, even tho there may be a slim chance of being accepted to this program (or any other)-
Well... really when it comes down to it, good things are not going to find you. You must go find them.

It's kind of like when you say "I don't know how I just got down that trail!" If you just said that, I can pretty much guarantee, it was luck. If you're depending on luck or chance. It will eventually catch up with you!

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

Fear, money, time, knowledge, exposure... a lot of things really. You could say things like reality t.v. And our expectations of women and how it is often better to look good and we have just created this feeling that everyone can't do this. I guess some of this is answered in the next question. Somewhere here it needs to be said loud and clear to everyone... YOU can do this! If you like to hike, spend time outside, looking for exercise, YOU can do this! No matter your age, size or skill, YOU can do this!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think for starters respect. But more than that, it's got to be ok for women TO ride. It's hard as a mom, a wife and often the one who holds it all together to find time away, to spend the money on yourself and not feel somewhat guilty. I think sometimes that is one reason why women only rides do so well. One, you've made a commitment to others to be there, so it helps hold you accountable. There are others there going through the same challenges so the can relate to your fears, fatigue, frustration what have you.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Freedom. Self-esteem, independence, and strength. I want every woman to know she can handle what is thrown at her and she doesn't need a man to "take care of it" or "take care of her."

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

In high school I played the viola and originally started in college as a music major. I also had red Mohawk and a safety pin through my cheek.... That pretty much explains everything!