Women on Bikes Series: Holly Cass
I’m the owner of a real estate brokerage in Big Bear Lake, CA called Summit Real Estate. Even my personal real estate branding is bike-life centered. Every Trail Leads To Home.
Real Estate has been my jam now for 12 years and I absolutely love it from the non-stop chase to my favorite part- the "kill!"
We moved up here last summer to literally live our dream life and it’s working out well, we're flourishing! My two older kids have really enjoyed the extra time training and racing DH. My 15 yr. old daughter Zoë has her eye on nationals this next season. We are currently prepping her to race Jr. expert for the full winter Fontana series and a few bigger race series next summer. She wants to go all the way so as a crazy race mother, I’m all in!
I’m the president of the Inland Valley Mountain Bike Association. An IMBA chapter. This is something I’m still tryin to wrap my head around.
My husband, Will, has really been the catalyst for all of this bike craziness. I’ll explain later, ha!
After coming home from having a horrific c-section with baby number 4, my husband surprised me with a bike. I had always had natural deliveries so the c-section left me feeling somewhat less than a “woman”. Hard to explain but being a natural mom has always been something I was really proud of. I realized after they pulled 9 lb 15 oz Willie form my poor body I wasn’t in charge, he was!
Waking in and seeing that bike really gave me a goal, albeit a small goal at first. I literally had to duct tape my abs, I was 80 lbs heavier, and I felt like crap. With that, feeling the wind in my hair, even for a cruise around the block, was intoxicating. I needed more!
For the past 15 years I had been on a uphill battle post-cancer. I was also diagnosed with very painful, genetic, rheumatoid arthritis (thanks Mom). Over the past years I had really lost all health and at times, hope. After baby Willie was born, I had the help of a local naturopath, that bike, and my incredibly supportive family. I had been depressed, in pain, and sick about all of the time; I had been on my way to my death bead and we all knew it.
In my younger years I had spent years traveling and being athletic: rock climbing, triathlons (half-Iron Man), marathons, snowboarding, surfing (and anything I could paddle!) You name it! If it was an outdoor adventure, I was in. That made the tailspin of declining health so terrible- every tie I would try and work out I would be back in bed. I had lost myself. Everything in my body, including my organs, was inflamed. My poor kidneys had just about given up on me.
Every morning while breastfeeding my little boy I focused on my next ride, no matter how little I just wanted to be in the saddle. After weeks and months went by the healing had begun! It was a huge lifestyle shift. Lots of acupuncture and nutritional therapies; a lot of work on handling the stress of motherhood and a full-fledged career.
Take us back to your first couple mountain bike rides, what did you learn from them and why did it inspire you to stick with it?
I learned that I had a long way to go! I learned it was okay to not be the fastest, gnarliest, or most talented rider. It was a hard pill to swallow as I was a natural-born competitor. The bike truly humbled me mentally and physically.
What do you love about Enduro compared to other forms of mountain biking?
Wow! Where to I begin? Enduro is magical. Combining the suffer of the climbs with all the technical prowess of Down Hill racing. Enduro is the perfect BEAST! It rattles me to the core and I love the pure adventure of it.
What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
Kamikaze was definitely my favorite this past season, it really tore me down on every level. I was such a nervous wreck leading up to the race that I don’t think I slept well for a week. I was terrified. It was everything I expected. Just stage after stage of radical gnar. I crossed the finish line and literally sobbed. I had dedicated the event to my father who had passed 17 years earlier to the day. It was emotional for me and I felt like it was my coming out party. It was for me to show myself that I was pretty awesome! (Sometimes I’m not sure!) We all have our demons and self-doubt has always been mine. Enduro slaps me a good one.
Any suggestions for folks looking to participate at their first event?
Pick a small race. Keep it to a couple stages if possible and local to you. Pre-ride like crazy. Make sure your bike is dialed and learn from my biggest fail-not knowing how to fuel. Get that down way beforehand! With all my autoimmune problems it was a struggle to find something I didn’t puke up. Carborocket Evil 333 is now my best fiend, my XC buddies spilled the beans on that one. I can’t eat when I race, so I drink all my calories.
Why was it important for you to ensure your children were introduced to off-road riding?
I wanted my daughters to be bold and my sons to be disciplined. I want them to experience life outdoors. The rest is history. Even my 2 year old, Willie, scares the death out of us. You’ll hear him yell “gonna send it” and we all go running! Marley loves pump track and anything on two wheels as well. Both Justice and Zoë love to get their wheels off the ground; my husband is an accomplished dirt jumper, so I blame him.
Clips or flats? What works for you and why?
Clips all way for me. Too many years on a Tri bike. I would break my ankles if I wasn’t clipped in as I’m incredibly clumsy and I have horrible form. Clipping in keeps me straight.
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 some good ones. The least painful and most scary was at Crafts and Cranks last year. I knocked myself out cold on Fall Line. It was loose, I was tired and I took a tree to my head. The most painful was a few months prior at a really technical riding area. I was really working on my speed in berms. Took one way to fast, washed out my front tire and body slammed, knocking the wind out of myself. I had a bruise from my ankle to my thigh from due to my bike frame. My acupuncturist had to manually dig out a large hematoma on one of my tendons on the inside of my knee, it was insane! Both wrecks got in my head; both were caused by my errors and I learned a lot from each. At Crafts and Cranks I was low in fuel and I make poor decisions when I’m tired. The other wreck I was greedy- too much speed and my weight was in the wrong place. I got checked!
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 still struggle with keeping my elbows out and my ass back. My daughter has to constantly yell at me “boobs over the bars”. We remind each other all the time. I'm not sure why but I always want to be so upright on the bike. I think much of this is due to lack of fitness and that I get tired. On a long race stage I battle this constantly. My husband takes video of me often and we critique it. I’m always shocked at how terrible my form is. Seeing it on video is huge.
I love to jump my bike even though I'm super sketchy at it. I have a hard time compressing off the jump. As I explained above I’m always too high off my seat. I still hit some big stuff, mostly so my kids and husband don’t clown me (and I know my hubs thinks I’m sexy in the air.) Haha! Seriously, they all have pushed me to be a better rider and we all push each other.
What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that it’s just me and my breath. It’s simple. It’s a solid game against fear, my body, and my goals. It’s a meditative place. I cry often in pure gratitude when I ride. It’s bliss.
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I’m a bike hoarder. The bike that started it all was a Turner Czar, a 29'er XC bike. It’s a carbon climbing machine but loves technical stuff as well
Then I have a Turner Flux. My Flux is built for Enduro. I really love this bike because I can pedal really well, but it’s nice and light so I can flick it around in super scary stuff. If I get back behind the saddle and drop the seat I can literally roll just about anything on this bike.
My new fav is my Turner Cyclosys. This is my gravel bike. Whoa! I have really had some fun on single track around Big Bear on this bike. Gravel bikes are super punk rock and I love how nuts you can get on one!
You are heavily involved with the mountain biking community in your area, what inspired you to become president of your local IMBA chapter?
Yikes. I didn’t pick this position, it picked me, and it happened so quickly. One day I was the head of fundraising, then next thing I knew they were voting me in. It’s a huge honor. It’s a heavy burden that I don’t carry lightly. I saw the incredible issues within our community and the trails we all ride. There are some serious cultural issues I hope to adjust with my wonderful board of trail advocates and educators. This group of selfless volunteers and I have some major work cut out for us. Exciting times!
How can folks become involved with your local chapter? Especially women?
Since I came to IVMTB, I have added two stellar women who have added so much depth to our meetings; I love watching the dynamics! We always welcome people to our board meetings- we have local race directors and community politicians who show up. We really need more memberships going out this year; without support we are kind of dead in the water. I’m starting a podcast soon that I hope to use as a tool to get more people engaged.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
It’s intimidating with (sometimes) lots of maintenance. Bikes are crazy now. If my husband didn’t ride, I don’t know if I ever would’ve gotten involved. For this reason I try to support as many women on bikes as possible like our local Girlz Gone Riding Chapter. A lot of men take women on trails they shouldn’t be on when first learning. One bad experience and they are over it, who wouldn’t be? Men if you are reading this, call me! Don’t take your wife out, you don’t get it- women do.
What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
We need to unify the culture of mountain bikers as this is a lifestyle. Like in advocacy, we need to take baby steps toward a larger goal. For instance: I love to jump, but gaps scare the turds out of me. I would love a jump line that’s built for me and my ladies where we could fill the gaps with plywood, hit it, and then remove it. I have to go to work on Mondays and I can't take huge risks anymore, my children and clients depend on me. What I don't want to hear is "if you can’t ride it as is then don’t hit it." Also, women need more moral support from other women. That’s my take. We don’t ride like men. We are women. So we need other women to guide us, at least I did. My husband annoyed the hell out of me when I was learning. Christina Turner and some other local bad asses took me under THEIR wings and it was life changing. Grab a friend and teach her to ride.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Well, I love bikes and I know what this freedom can do for other women. It’s a power we all deserve.
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I had dreadlocks and hairy armpits well into my 20’s. My husband is happy those days are gone. Though I think he secretly wonders if I will revert again in retirement!