Monday, April 30, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Alison Good

I am a bicycle fiend who works as a nurse practitioner. In biking years, I am only about 3 1/2. I am divorced, remarried, and went through breast cancer at the age of 32. I was very overweight, unhealthy, and not very active. At the age of 34, I decided enough was enough, and that there must be a better way to live.

I a test-road a nice road bike, and 6 miles later, decided I was in love. That was the start of my journey back to health. Biking was something I could do that didn't put extra stress on my joints. I then began to learn how to eat healthier, and gradually became more and more active. I joined a morning workout class; I found a few people to bike with and did a lot of solo biking.

Biking began to become a way of life for me. I lost 100 pounds in 3 years, through movement (primarily biking), eating real whole foods and consuming a mostly plant-based diet, and making healthier choices. I have completed RAGBRAI twice, and have even joined a kickboxing class! I was introduced to dirt biking in September of this year, and borrowed a friend's fat tire bike...what a game changer!!!! It was like finding a whole new sport!!! It has also allowed me to continue riding through the winter, which has done a wonders for my mental health. Soft trail riding is fun, challenging, and more empowering than I could have ever imagined. I have met some really great people through this sport and found a way to connect with nature and with my soul in an incredible way. My body continues to get stronger, and my network of strong, empowered women is the best it has ever been in my life. I have found the most inspiring role models! I am continually thankful for this blessing of a sport that I have found.

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it influenced you from then on-
I had not biked in years until fall of 2015. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life, at a size 24. I had been through breast cancer a few years prior, at the age of 32, and was just ready to try to get my life back on track. I went to Bike World in Ames to test ride a bike and try to get a feel for something that might be the right size/fit. I ended up walking out with a road bike that changed my life. I started riding every day, by myself, on the Trestle Trail out of Madrid. I did RAGBRAI the following summer, met some really great people, and started eating and living healthier--it was life-changing, starting a chain of events I never could have predicted. 2.5 years later, I have lost 100 lbs, and live a completely different, more active life.

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
Absolutely! I went on my first single track ride this past fall, at the end of September, with an OLD mountain bike. I was absolutely IN LOVE! It was like learning a whole new sport. Shortly after that, I borrowed a friend's fat tire bike, and that was all it took to become hooked. I purchased a Fat Boy Specialized the next month, and now my love for single track/soft trails has rivaled my love for road biking. It's just SO MUCH FUN!!!!! The challenges, the ever-changing terrain, the learning curve with each new trail...I crave it like nothing else!!! And the people, especially the women, that I have met along the way, have been something to aspire to. It is a very empowering sport!

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
For now, I will leave the clips to the road bike, and keep flats for mountain biking. For me, it's a comfort level issue. I have taken and witnessed a few falls (mine were my own stupidity), and currently feel more comfortable not being clipped in as there are many a time when one needs to put a foot down quickly. Someday maybe I will do clips? For now, I am quite happy with flats.

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 have. My first time out on my fatbike, I felt invincible (doh!) and tried to jump too big of a log. Went over the handlebars, landed on a big log, and was extremely sore. I also did this in front of a large group of guys that I was riding with for the first time. Double oops. Damaged the pride and the body a bit, the bike was fine :) I gained a healthy respect for the bike and learning your limits that day. I kept moving, got back on the bike immediately after it happened, and kept riding the next few days, even it was short increments. I also realized that I had made an error, and could learn from it for the future.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
At first, it was a little tough for me to gauge what gear I should be in and when. It was SO DIFFERENT from road biking!!! That improved with time, and just getting out there. I would just play around with the gears and learned what worked for me. The other big one for me was tire pressure preferences, depending on the conditions...I am still working on that one! Again though, you just have to play with it, and try out different things. The more time you spend on the trail, the more you understand how those changes affect your ride.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Of course! I think I learn something new every time I go out. It's all part of the glorious challenge of it to me. One day, I won't make it up a tough incline; the next day, I will tweak my gears/timing/mindset, and make it up. I have my frustrations, but I try to apply those feelings to come up with a solution on how to improve the next time.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I have this exuberant, freeing, ageless feeling when I ride. It makes me feel like a kid, with no responsibilities or cares in the world. It resets my soul in a way that nothing else does. It is a form of meditation, really. With mountain biking, you have to be constantly paying attention to your surroundings, as there might be a new obstacle just around the bend. Therefore, it keeps me focused, grounded, and centered on the here and now. Worries melt away, and there is only determination and pure joy. It has also helped my endurance and cardio ability--bonus!

Tell us your experience with winter biking- why should folks consider giving it a go?
I was a total newbie to winter biking this year--and fell in love with winter for the first time in my life. I am no longer stuck indoors! I can bike year-round! It took some trial and error to figure out how to dress appropriately, but I am getting the hang of it! And the can see so many different sights when the leaves are gone from the trees. And there are new challenges to be had as you ride the trails in different states....wet, snow, frozen, etc.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Women's Trek Silque road bike, and a Fat Boy Specialized fatbike. I also have an OLD Trek mountain bike that needs some repair. I love how fast I can go on the road bike, and how light it is. When I was much heavier, it gave me a step up to get me closer to being able to keep up with others while biking. I love my fat tire because it gave me a whole new confidence level for being able to try new things/obstacles while mountain biking. And, I must admit, I have an affinity for the way those big tires sound on concrete. And it looks MEAN!

What are your plans for the 2018 riding season?
I am signed up to ride my 3rd RAGBRAI, so gearing up to do a lot of road biking, but also plan to get several miles in on single track trails, too. I would also like to explore the single track trails in other areas--they make for great new adventures!!!

Where are your favorite places to ride?
I really like Camp Ingawanis in Janesville, IA, and riding the trails around George Wyth Park in Waterloo. Both areas present different challenges and keep things interesting.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think it can be intimidating, and it is a sport dominated by men, traditionally. It also puts you out in nature in a way that some may not be used to. It requires being a bit self-sufficient. It can also be daunting when you don't know the trails and are directionally-challenged. I am hoping to get a Garmin this year to help combat that, but I am improving!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved? 
I think primarily having more of a presence locally, doing more public events that encourage women to come check it out. Bike shops could host rent-a-mountain bike day for women, with a group ride. More meet-and-greet events for women to generate more interest. I feel like I literally had no idea that this was something I could access and get into. It had just never crossed my mind. Your organization is doing some amazing things for the sport--bringing such a positive spotlight on women who bike trails, and really getting the word out. I ride with Cedar Valley Cyclists, which is mostly road bike. I have done one ride with CVAST, Cedar Valley Association of Soft Trails, and plan to get more involved with them, for soft trails/single track/mountain biking. I ride with a women's group called Spokes Women, which is mostly road bike. I ride with The Girlfriends' Club, a women's group who does both road riding, with a few of us who do soft trails.
(Check out Fearless Women of Dirt Cedar Valley!)

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love seeing strong, healthy, independent women, and I know how much biking has done for me. It gave me a passion again and made me want to keep getting stronger. It got me on a path to good health, both physically and mentally. It has introduced me to some really amazing people. It has become a continual source of inspiration for doing better in other areas of my life.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I lived in Saudi Arabia when I was 3 (my dad used to be in construction overseas).

Monday, April 23, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Kristin Cleveland

My name is Kristin Cleveland and I live near Holland, Iowa. I am 46 years old and own a freelance graphic design business. The major portion of my graphic design work is art directing and designing magazines for the home and garden publishing industry.

I am also a semi-professional photographer (mainly shooting portraits) and my dream would be to work full time as a travel/landscape photographer.

I am a mom to 3 amazing sons and am married to my hubby of 25 years, Ole. I LOVE to spend time outdoors with my family. We are all avid runners, love mountain biking and skiing (downhill and XC), backpacking and camping.

You can find me on Facebook (Kristin Cleveland and Cleveland Design Co)
Instagram (@clevelanddesignco
Twitter (@weavingkris)

Tell us about the introduction to mountain biking and how it influenced you from then on-
I purchased my first mountain bike (Giant Rincon) as a college graduation gift to myself with money I earned from an art show award. My husband and I would always ride dirt bike trails, gravel roads and old logging paths before we really knew anything about singletracks. I have 3 sons and when they were little we would spend weekends riding bikes (towing them in a Burley) on the Raccoon River bike trail near our home. In 2008, when my youngest was 5, my husband and I decided they were finally old enough (riding 2 wheels!) to give mountain biking on single tracks at try. I think deep down, I knew my boys would love it and it was something our family was building up for. We took them to North Carolina to ride at Tsali. In hindsight, we probably should have started on easier trails in Iowa first, but I think riding in the actual mountains gave us the adventure we were really looking for. We were all instantly hooked. We traded our bikes in for disk breaks with better front forks and haven’t stopped since! Our family vacations are centered around riding mountain bikes and we head to the Mountains and trails in the midwest every chance we get. My family thrives on time spent in the outdoors and mountain biking is the perfect way we share time together.

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
My very first single track ride was in Tsali, which is literally mountain biking heaven. It was hard, I was biking with a 5-year-old (my husband and the older two were way ahead!) and I realized at that moment that having disc brakes would have been better as anyone and everyone riding the trails could hear my braking. After my son and I made it to the top, the view was out of this world. After several hours, we all made it back down without any broken bones, only a few scratches, a bit of mud caked on our legs and smiles on our faces. My boys begged to go back the next day and I knew mountain biking was for me, for my family. I loved the feeling of conquering my fears, enjoying nature, the view from the top, and feeling how strong my body was. It peddled a bike up and back down a winding, rocky trail and ended with a smile and sense of a HUGE accomplishment. My first few rides after that were definitely a struggle. Learning how to position yourself on the bike, falling, falling some more, facing your fears and finding your inner strength all while maintaining confidence is a real struggle every time I ride. But, I keep coming back to the joy that builds up inside as I ride. I love being on my bike. I love the sounds of nature urging me on. I love the peace and tranquility, my tires crunching in the leaves. I may not be the fastest and I know there is a lot of things I have yet to learn and conquer, but the sense of strength you find on a trail is unbeatable.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I have always ridden with clips, but have just made the switch to flats. For me, it is a comfort level thing. I would always clip out in sections where I felt really unsure of myself and I think it was causing me to second guess my ability and ride with too much caution. I had a couple of bad falls where I was clipped in and never felt confident after that. I like not having to think about the “what if…” and flats are helping me gain confidence in the really technical sections again.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Oh, dear lord, YES I have biffed it quite a few times! One time in Crested Butte, my family was just finishing a trail with a really flowy and fast section from a long mountain climb ride. I could see them all waiting at the end of the trail (I’m always last in my family) and as I approached my peeps, I came to a stop and fell to my side. I forgot I was clipped in. I never crashed the entire ride, except for the stop at the very end. I have learned you can’t dwell on the crashes and I have learned to laugh at myself. Mountain biking is FUN and it comes with some risks. If I don’t feel comfortable riding a section, I get off and walk my bike. It's okay to walk and play it safe. In the end, I just want it to be fun. I don’t take my self too seriously and I know that each time I ride, I gain new skills and continue to challenge my ability.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Turning tight corners on a 29” wheel can be a challenge and it's something I still continue to work at. I need to learn more about body positioning and my sons are great at teaching me things that help my riding. Also, for me, steep technical downhills are my nemesis. I’m still working at a lot of things and would really like to attend some clinics. I also have not attempted any jumps…my boys love them, I am scared stiff to try.

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 TON yet to learn. I still find steep technical hairpin turns really hard and I hate the thought of doing a jump. If I can’t ride a section, I push myself to my limit and then walk my bike. Its okay to walk if you don’t feel confident. Mountain biking is supposed to be fun, don’t beat yourself up! I think what is most important is striving to develop your skills so that each time you can conquer something new or push your limit a bit further. Like anything else, you strive to get better. My sons study a lot of videos and read about mountain biking constantly. They are much better riders than I am and but riding with others helps you learn.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that I am powering my own transportation. Truthfully, I have large thighs (I like to think they are all muscle!) and biking has helped strengthen my body, legs, and core. I have always loved riding a bike. As a kid growing up on a farm 8 miles from town, my brother and I would ride our bikes around to visit neighbors or ride to town out of boredom. It has always meant freedom to me.
You were chosen as a Fearless Women of Dirt Ambassador for 2018, tell us how you learned about FWD and why you wanted to be part of the community-
I learned about FWD through Facebook (I follow Decorah Bicycles) and I was really looking for a group of women I could ride with. At the same time, I discovered FWD, I also found out about another group in the Cedar Valley area (Nature Force) and was thrilled to learn of more women who mountain bike. I have always ridden with my sons and husband and have NEVER ridden with any other women. I want to connect with other women who love mountain biking and if I can help get others involved, it means a larger base of support for us all.

What are your plans for the 2018 riding season?
To ride as much as I can around the midwest and to help grow the movement of women in mountain biking. I have always ridden with boys (I rarely see women on the trails wherever my family rides) and I am really looking forward to connecting and making friends with other women who are passionate about mountain biking. I also would like to enter a competition, but not sure when and where just yet.

What do you enjoy most about helping women become more confident with mountain biking?
I am looking forward to seeing their faces as they conquer a trail and find their inner strength.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Trek Cali WSD, 29er bike. It's a women’s specific bike. My bike is a gift from my husband and although I love him very much, I wouldn’t recommend this route for getting a bike. I am saving up to get a different bike as I don’t think it is the best fit for me. I am 5’9” and I feel at times that I sit upright too much on my bike as it has a shorter wheelbase. I know this affects cornering and my ability to get down lower on the bike in steeper descents so...I am considering a bike change in the near future. I will hang on to this bike as I do enjoy riding it on flat and flowy trails. I think it is really important to test different bikes to find the right fit so that you are comfortable and confident.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
The cost of purchasing the right bike, knowledge, and network of friends who also mountain bike.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Always more marketing and promotion of women-only events. Demo days for women to try a bike on a trail. A larger support network so its easier to connect with a group that is local. And more options for women’s specific designed bikes. A lot of your confidence comes from a bike that you feel at one with and friends that make you smile.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The chance to build friendships and to see others find the same joy that keeps me riding.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I used to speak Norwegian quite well and was an exchange student in Stjørdal, Norway. (I’m not so good at it anymore…out of practice.)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Susie Douglas

My name is Susie Douglas and I am a lover of all things bike related, including motorcycles and Unicycles. 2013 was when I made the switch from a hardtail to a full suspension bicycle and that’s when my passion for the sport became all-encompassing.

I liked mountain biking so much that I made the decision to resign from my career as a wildland firefighter with the US Forest Service. Why? Firefighting left no room for riding bikes in the summertime. And after doing it for 9 years, it was time to move on to something else.

So I switched my season of work, from summers to winters. I chose to ride bikes and work at bike shops in the summer and then would pick up work in Antarctica for the winter. Lol..yes, Antarctica. Starting winter 2013, I worked in Antarctica as a Fuels Operator and Helicopter Crewmember for 6 months per year, leaving the summer months open to explore the world by bicycle and continue feeding a passion for a sport that continues to change my life. And if you’re curious, I did ride in Antarctica!

In 2017 I was fortunate to become part of the Bell Joy Ride program as one of 12 ambassadors between Canada and the USA. This incredible opportunity to lead and teach women how mountain biking can be a super fun sport was a niche that I couldn’t help but feel natural in doing. This opportunity led to many other amazing ventures, including a sponsorship from Hometown Sports in McCall, Idaho and being supported by Juliana Bicycles and Club Ride Apparel. Starting spring 2017, I had a dream and vision to start a Mountain Bike Coaching and Guiding Business, in order to share my passion for the sport with others, and as of October 2017, it has come to fruition.

The name of my company is Down 2 Bike Project (D2B project for short) and it is an ‘on the road’ coaching business, traveling to events and locations around the country, instructing clients along the way. The website will notify folks of the current location and future locations of Down 2 Bike Project and if they see that D2B is going to be near their location, they can schedule a lesson (group or private) and D2B will drive to them.

There is apparel available on the website and original one-of-a-kind hats for sale in person. I have a 4x6 enclosed trailer that I tow with my Subaru and that is what I live in. I call it my Wee Bitty and it has its own fun story.

Tell us about your mountain biking introduction- what did you learn and what about it made you say "This is for me!"
I had won a hardtail Huffy at a local grocery store raffle drawing. Funny right? My boyfriend at the time had a Trek hardtail of much better quality so he thought it’d be a good idea to go for a pedal. I was immediately winded and couldn’t believe that people rode bikes in the woods like this. He let me ride his Trek and then I realized how much easier it was to ride and how fun it could be.

You started off on a hardtail and eventually went full suspension. Can you tell us what helped you with your decision and why it was the best decision for you?
Oh my gosh, I will never forget that day. My friend had a Cannondale Jekyll he was selling and told me that I could take it for a spin. I’d been riding a Gary Fisher hardtail with old-school pad brakes for years. So decided heck, why not? I had NEVER ridden that fast nor had as much fun on a bike as that day. It’s as if the skies opened up and I saw heaven. I bought the bike the same day.

We have to ask, what was it like riding in Antarctica?!
Absolutely thrilling and freezing, all at the same time. There’s nothing like riding down a volcanic rock ridgeline with 30 mph winds and seeing the sheer drop off of the side down into the frozen sea ice. The ice will some years break up and you can see icebergs floating around, penguins swimming and orca whales spy hopping. Absolutely stunning.
Clips or flats? What do you enjoy best and why?
I am back to riding flats after years of clips. I find this to be helpful in really emphasizing the importance of foot positioning and movement during technical moves. Plus it’s how teachers are supposed to instruct beginners in learning fundamental mountain bike technique.

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 dislocated my elbow during a pump track/wall ride session that required months of Physical Therapy and later that summer I launched off my bike down a steep rock embankment that resulted in a massive evulsion on my right forearm needing 14 stitches. It got so infected that I had pitting edema in my entire right arm. Super disgusting and painful.

Overcoming the fear of riding aggressively again was and is still challenging. The next 2 summers I focused on the idea that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Surprisingly my speed and riding ability increased, all the while I thought that I was going slower. I go by this every time I ride now. If I find myself saying “whoa..that was a close one” or “yikes, I should’ve just biffed it”, I am riding outside of my limits and need to take it back a notch on the braap scale. No need to injure yourself.

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 cornering is always something people struggle with. I can haul on the straights during races, but my cornering always slows me down. It wasn’t until I took some clinics that my cornering technique started getting better.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky?
I’d say that overcoming gaps/doubles and big drops are mentally tricky for me. I believe that I have the technical ability to do it, but my past experiences of being injured mess with my mind. Every day seems to be a new challenge of pushing through that fear and believing in my ability to accomplish the feature.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything! The smell of the outdoors, the ability to travel far distances in little time, the speed, the playfulness of what your bike can do. I smile the whole time I ride a bike, especially at a DH park.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
*Juliana Roubion - with all the bells and whistles, including a carbon wheelset. I didn’t understand the hype on why carbon wheels were so amazing until I got this bike. Wow, a game changer for sure. I feel confident riding this thing down any DH Park or for just an Enduro stroll around the mountain.

*Surly Crosscheck – for the gravel grinding, town riding and ability to cycle tour.

*19” Unicycle – Because it’s fun

*Specialized 29er hardtail (don’t know the kind/year) – bought this a few years ago in New Zealand for a 5-week cycle tour of the South Island. I have found a place to store it there and use this as my cycle tour machine and way to get around town when passing through every year for the Antarctic Program.

You have your own business called Down 2 Bike Project- what was the inspiration behind D2B?
Witnessing the pure enjoyment of seeing people try out mountain biking and get ‘hooked.’ There’s nothing better than being there during the moment they realize how much fun riding bikes can be. Why not start a business that is focused on healthy living while having an adrenaline rush at the same time?

What are your goals for D2B for the next year?
D2B will be teaming up with Payette Powder Guides in McCall, ID during August/September 2018 for backcountry yurt mountain biking trips. Stunning backcountry singletrack, Hot Springs, catered meals and a Sauna, all with an unforgettable view over the Payette National Forest. D2B is also planning to partner up with a few coaching clinics throughout the country, with the goal to be utilized as a helper or private instructor for the many coaching clinics that are starting to pop up. D2B is a mobile coaching/guiding service and can travel to your neck of the woods. More info on

What inspired you to become a coach and share the passion of mountain biking with others?
Seeing a persons smile at the end of a group ride.

What has been your most rewarding moment since you have started coaching riders?
Seeing people go from “Nope, can’t spend that much money on a mountain bike” to “Check out the new whip I just bought”. Going from “I’m scared to ride off-road” to “Which trail have I not ridden yet?

You have some awesome sponsors, tell us more about them and why you are stoked for their support-
**Club Ride Apparel – I’m super pumped to be supported by Club Ride because their tech wear is super durable, comfy and made of really high-quality materials. They are also based out of Sun Valley, ID and there’s nothing better than supporting local if possible. The riding in that area is also out of this world and the folks that work there are super down to earth and sleep, eat and breathe mountain biking.

**Bell Helmets – I can’t rave enough about this company. They have been a catalyst in starting up the womens group ride movement through their Bell Joy Ride program. They give away thousands of dollars in helmets and swag throughout the country and at several Enduro events throughout the year.

**Juliana Bicycles – Straight up, this bike can take what you give it. And they have been really great in their Juliana Ride Out program, a full day of breakfast, yoga, bike ride, post ride beers and food. All for FREE! Why wouldn’t I be stoked to rep a bike from this company? Made for an Enduro Race or for a stroll around the mountain, I love my Juliana Roubion.

**Hometown Sports, McCall – Without the sponsorship of this local bike shop, I would not be riding a Juliana nor would have been able to make the Bell Joy Rides such a success in the McCall Area. Hometown Sports has been there every month, throwing in cash for burgers, having on-trail mechanics during group rides, offering our leads/sweeps free bike rentals. They are 100% in support of supporting the growth of MTB in our area and have gone leaps and bounds out of their way in an effort to get more women on bikes.

**North Fork Coffee Roasters – I love coffee and my friend Corinne started her dream in owning and creating this absolutely beautiful coffee roastery in McCall, ID. We have a lot of our group rides start or end at her shop. There’s a bike tuning stand, bike artwork and she has supported a lot of the Bell Joy Rides in providing Coffee pre-ride/AM. Support your local businesses!

You are one of the Bell Joy Ride Ambassadors, what did it mean for you to be chosen as an ambassador for this program?
It meant the world to me. I have been applying for programs like this for a few years and needed to pinch myself when I found out.

Why should folks apply for programs like the Bell Joy Ride program?
Because it’s better to live with I tried than a What if. The people you meet through these programs are freaking awesome. You will see lives changed and smiles bigger than you ever have before. And these folks are integral to getting to know how the mountain biking industry works, helping you move forward with the idea of working in the industry and giving you the contacts needed to find out more.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
A couple things. Cost is a big one. The cost of bikes are freaking expensive. Yes, they’re getting less expensive, but it’s still a lot to afford for a single mom who likes to go out and ride every once in a while. Another deterrent is the idea that it’s only for the hardcore athletes or crazy adrenaline junkies. Not true!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I would love to see a way to have communal mountain bikes with a very low cost for using them. I’ve seen too many women not start mountain biking or ditch on a ride because the cost is too high for a rental or the price of buying a bike is too high. It’s also great to have a lot of free rides or biking events in a location, in order to get the women's interest piqued and give them a reason to perhaps second guess their frugality towards purchasing one.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The women I teach inspire me. I can’t get over how brave some of these ladies are. It sometimes terrifies me seeing them push their mental psyche and try a new obstacle. I’m stoked that they are pushing through the fear, but of course, scared that they may crash. They inspire me every ride, every time I go on a pedal with them.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I was used to DJ on turntables back in the early 2000’s and was also a Ballroom Dance Instructor

Monday, April 9, 2018

Women Involved Series: Olivia Round

Olivia Round is on a daily mission to make friends with fear. She uses her talents as a writer and artist to cultivate empowerment and compassion, and one of her greatest joys is exploring this world by bicycle.

In 2011, at the age of 21, she rode her bike alone across the United States. She’s currently writing a memoir about that epic, transformative trip.

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and why it was a monumental decision for you-
My first hero on two wheels was my mama. She was one of the very few people in my hometown of Ketchikan, Alaska who cycled on the soggy, narrow roads while I was growing up.

There was no bike shop, and no “bike scene” to speak of, so my mama was regarded as a very brave eccentric. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up: I wanted people to think I was a brave eccentric, too.

What inspired you to take to riding across the United States as a way of healing?
For reasons that remain unclear, I developed a fear of sexual violence at a very early age. I was never physically harmed or molested in any way, but somehow I learned that rape existed and that the perpetrators were usually male, and that lead to me developing a phobia of men. I was constantly worried about rape, and because I was obsessed with it I started to see it everywhere: on the news, in people’s stories, in books, movies, etc. Sadly, that fear of being sexually assaulted as a young girl was totally legitimate. I remember learning in high school health class that one in four young women are assaulted before the age of 18. That’s 25% of all females in America!

So, my fears kept being corroborated. They got worse and worse. By the time I left home and attended college, my phobia of men was debilitating: it’s hard to function when you’re terrified of half the human race. I knew I had to do something drastic, something to shake myself out of this scary mental rut and prove to myself that the world wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.

I decided that riding my bicycle alone across the United States would be the perfect medicine. And boy, it was! I don’t think I realized it at the time, but looking back I see that I needed to reprogram my brain. I needed to spend time on my own, away from my friends and family, to sort myself out mentally. And, to be at the mercy of the world. I’m so glad I did it. That trip wasn’t easy, but it was essential.

Preparing for a bicycle tour can be challenging, especially for those new to the concept. How did you prepare?
I didn’t do much physical training, that’s for sure! I had a full-time job and didn’t have much time to ride, so I didn’t worry about it. I just focused on route research and getting the right gear. Rather than training beforehand, I allowed myself to train on the road: for the first week, I didn’t ride more than 30 miles per day. By the second week, I would ride up to 50 miles per day. I had the whole semester off from school to do the trip, so I wasn’t in a hurry once I got started.

What would you say were the most challenging aspects of your trip?
Dealing with my fear was definitely the hardest part. I’d get triggered by stupid little things: someone yelling at me out of a car window, or getting cat-called while passing a construction site, etc. Once the situation was over, my fear would stay with me, hovering behind me like a ghost. I was always looking over my shoulder and trying to get myself to calm down.

Sleeping alone in a tent was the hardest. Don’t get me wrong, I love camping. Anytime I was in a designated campsite I was okay, but if I tried to stealth camp (just pitch a tent in a secret place at the side of the road) I was up all night in a nervous frenzy. Which didn't make for a good ride the next day. You need sleep in order to cycle!

Did you have any unexpected surprises that resulted in positive outcomes during your tour?
Hell yeah! Every damn day. I learned this country is populated by 99% kind, generous, good people. There were so many times that I needed rescuing, in some way or another, whether I’d lost the route or lacked a place to stay or needed to hitch a ride due to dangerous road conditions. It was mesmerizing how often someone would turn up at just the right moment and offer just the right assistance. I called them “angels,” and I refer to that experience as “road magic.”
What was the best part of your solo bike ride? A town you visited, a life lesson learned, people you met?
I loved having a clear mission in life. Every day I woke up and knew what I had to do. I can’t tell you how liberating it is to throw all your energy into something and see yourself making progress. It’s addicting. When the trip ended, after 5 months of travel, I felt lost. After riding my bike all day every day, I didn’t know what to do with all my free time.

I learned how important it is for me to have a clear goal, and to always have a big, exciting project to work on. I was born with a lot of focus and energy, and if I don’t channel them properly then these gifts can work against me. I start doubting myself, worrying, letting anxieties get the best of me, and spiraling downwards into depression. With a purpose in life, I wake up every day so thrilled to be alive!

Also, I learned the importance of meditation. When I felt scared on the road, I had to clear my mind and focus on the present moment, rather than “what could happen next.” Daydreaming about worst-case-scenarios is unhelpful. You’ll find yourself panicking about hypothetical things, instead of enjoying what’s really happening.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Oh my goodness, YES! For the life of me, I could not figure out how to stand up in the pedals in order climb steep hills. I remember cranking my way up my first mountain pass in Oregon, panting and straining but keeping my butt firmly in the saddle. Another touring cyclist, an older man, zoomed downhill past me, fully loaded, and shouted, “Stand up! Rock it out!” He was gone in a flash but I knew what he meant. I felt so disheartened that I didn’t know how to stand up in the pedals, and that maybe it meant I wasn’t a real cyclist. It took me over two months and a dozen more mountain passes to get the hang of it: only in Missouri’s Ozarks did I finally succeed. And thank heavens, because those Ozarks are wicked steep!

The trick was revealed in what that fellow tourer had shouted at me: Rock it out. You have to stand up, lean forward, and allow your bike to rock side to side as your upper body sways in the opposite direction. It’s terrifying, but you soon realize that gravity is on your side and you’re not going to fall over.

What advice or suggestions do you have for someone looking to complete a long-distance tour on their own?
Get out a sheet of paper, and make two lists. First off, list all the reasons why you want to go. Secondly, list what will happen, and how you’ll feel in 10 years if you don’t go. This will either make you realize you don’t really care that much, or it will be the tough-love moment you need to make it happen.

Adventure Cycling Association, with their routes, maps, gear recommendations, and even guided bike tours, is a great place to start.

What do you love about riding your bike?

My bike is my medicine. “It’s cheaper than therapy,” my boss used to say at a bike shop where I worked last year. Within two minutes of getting on my bicycle, I’m overwhelmed by joy. This little-kid sparkly feeling comes over me, and I start making dumb noises: whooping, cheering, singing. I can’t help it. My bike makes me so happy. It feels like flying, like freedom.

What inspired you to write about your journey? Particularly what motivated you to write a book?
While I hope this book helps others, I’m actually writing this story for myself. It's like a love letter to the little girl I once was. My childhood might've been different if I'd found a book like this when I was in middle school. (That’s not to say this book is appropriate for kids, because it’s not, but at a young age I was already reading books above my reading level, with content that really scared me.)

And, I confess, a huge part of my motivation to write this book is to be understood. I spent most of my life feeling misunderstood and different, even wrong, because of how unusual my behavior was (refusing to date, turning down every slow dance, declining to hug men, etc). When I told people I was afraid of men, they’d say, “Why? What happened to you?” and I felt like I had to have a definitive answer, because otherwise I wasn’t allowed to be afraid. I want to write this book because it gives the little girl inside of me permission to be afraid. I want to tell her, “Hey, I heard you’re scared. That’s totally legitimate because this world can be a scary place. But you know what? Fear only rules our lives if we let it. So… let’s go play.

Why is it important to you to be candid, honest, and open when talking about your experience and fears?
I’m pretty open. I’ve been known to happily divulge my hang-ups, bowel movements, dietary restrictions, sexuality, and deepest fears to complete strangers. Not everyone is comfortable being that uncensored, and I respect that. But the fact that I can do it, that I want to share, means I should. Because if enough people share their stories and are honest about their experiences, it helps others heal. Honesty is inclusive, comforting, and helps other people feel like they can be their authentic selves, too. And, you know, the truth is often hilarious. I love making people laugh.

How do you feel that we, as women, can create a change in how we converse about our fears, worries, and the concept of self-sabotage either in conversation or writing?
The #MeToo Movement is revealing how much we aren’t telling each other. I’ve heard multiple stories of women being assaulted or harassed and keeping it to themselves for years while their perpetrator went on to hurt other people. A lot of other people, in some sad cases. If those early victims had come forward and said something, they could have spared others the same fate.

We need to remember that we’re all in this together. We need to be gentle with the accusers, as well as the accused. The more we can respond with compassion to both sides, the more comfortable people will feel coming forward with their stories. This isn’t “Men vs. Women,” as I thought it was when I was a kid. And harassment is not a “women’s issue.” Men get hurt, too. And no man wants his mother, sister, daughter, friend, or lover to be hurt. So, what happens to one of us affects all of us.

As far as self-sabotage goes, that’s a tricky one. People are complicated. I’m being challenged during this memoir-writing process to dig deep and write the whole truth, and it’s bringing up all these surprising revelations. For example, I spent years telling my friends that I wanted to heal from my phobia, but looking back I realize that I wasn’t ready. I’d identified with my fear for so long, I couldn’t let it go. I was afraid of who I’d be without it. It takes courage to kill your former self and let the new one have a chance. I wasn’t ready to take that step, and invite that kind of dramatic transformation into my life, until recently.

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

I’m a one-bike-girl, as I like to say. In 2011 I bought a gorgeous, well-maintained Miyata from a guy on Craigslist in Portland. I’d test-ridden other bikes, but when I hopped on her I knew she was the one. She felt like part of my body. I named her Miya, rode her across the country, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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

Studies have shown that women are biologically more risk-averse than men, and cycling is currently a risky activity in the US. Providing bike lanes and bike paths greatly increases female ridership, because having a designated place to ride makes cycling safer.

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

Bike shops are the gate-keepers. For an aspiring cyclist, a bike shop can be the most intimidating place. It holds all the answers, but they’re worried about being judged. If a shop employee is kind, supportive, and enthusiastic about new riders, they can win customers for life. Especially female customers. There’s no need to intimidate or overwhelm newbies with industry jargon and athletic pressure: just help ‘em find a bike that feels comfortable and allows them to do what they want to do, and then cheer them on. Hiring more women to work in the cycling industry is a good thing, too.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

I fell in love with cycling, so that’s the platform I use when I reach out to women. But, really, I don’t care if anyone else rides a bike, ever. I just want to live in a world where more people overcome their fears, have epic adventures, and surprise themselves. In case anyone is looking for permission to be a badass, I want to offer it to them.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

I have some secret rituals to ward off bad luck (and bike thieves). One of them is to whisper “don’t go home with strangers” to my bicycle whenever I leave her unattended. Another is to kiss her handlebars after a ride.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Women Involved Series: Tess (Dusty Betty)

My name is Tess and I started mountain biking in 2014. A couple years ago my husband and I decided to sell our house, downsize to an Airstream travel trailer and get mobile jobs so we could travel full time. As we started traveling we found ourselves riding more than ever. We already loved the outdoors and we learned that we can cover a lot of ground quickly on our mountain bikes and it's just a great way to see many of the beautiful places we travel to.

And all this saddle time is really helping me push my skill forward too (bonus.)

More and more women are getting involved in mountain biking all the time and I wanted to help create an online community where mountain bikers, including women and noobs would feel comfortable getting involved in the discussion. [Enter Dusty Betty] I already had some experience creating content for YouTube and I decided to use that as my main platform for Dusty Betty. I create a variety of videos including how to's, trail rides, basic tech projects, reviews, events, vlogs and more. I love connecting with my viewers online and on the trail. My husband Steve and I created the Dusty Betty YouTube channel and the response and support from the MTB community has been overwhelming. I feel so grateful and I'm excited to keep this project moving forward.

Tell us about the introduction to mountain biking, what did you first learn and what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I blame FOMO. My husband Steve is a long time mountain biker and over the years he gave me lots of chances to get into riding but I wasn't really interested in high adrenaline sports. One night Steve and a bunch of our friends came back from a ride and as they stood around the kitchen eating pizza talking about how much fun they'd just had, and it occurred to me that I was missing out. That's when I started riding but the love affair really began when I got comfortable enough to start riding more technical stuff a year later. Then I was hooked.

What do you enjoy most about being able to share #bikelife with your husband?
Now that we enjoy the same main form of exercise it gives us so much quality time together in the outdoors. And because we travel full time, it's a great way for us to explore a new area and cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. The challenging nature of mountain biking also brings out different sides of our personalities. Because of that, we've gotten to know each other in new ways and it's definitely brought us closer together. We're a real team.
Was your husband the person who introduced you to mountain biking? If yes, do you have suggestions for folks looking to introduce their partner to mountain biking?
Yes, Steve got me into riding and he's been an awesome coach. I've also had the chance to witness a lot of riders introducing someone new to mountain biking and I've seen a lot of things done right and a lot of things done badly. For anyone introducing someone to mountain biking I've got a great video on this topic called "how to get your girlfriend hooked on mountain biking" (forgive the shameless plug.) But for a few quick tips: I'd start by putting them on a good bike that fits and works well. If needed, before you hit the trail practice shifting and run some breaking drills in a parking lot (for the love of all that is good and holy, please make sure the one you love knows how to brake so they don't crash into a tree 5 minutes into the ride. I've seen that on the trail a time or two) Once you hit the trail, start super easy. You can always find a harder trail if your partner is bored, but get them overwhelmed before you get them hooked on riding and you may never get them back on a trail. Focus on making it fun for them.

What inspired you to create Dusty Betty?
I love MTB YouTube channels like BKXC, Skills with Phil, Seth's Bike Hacks and others but I also wanted to be inspired by other female riders. When I realized there just wasn't a lot of MTB content from female creators out there I decided to start creating the kind of content I was looking for. Boom!

Clips or flats? What do you prefer and why?
Flats…for now. I'm still working on learning a lot of important trail skills like bike control, bunny hops, wheelies, manuals, jumps and more. Though you may gain some efficiency in your stroke on clips, a lot of important technical skills tend to plateau once you switch to flats. In fact, a lot of downhill racers do some of their training on flats even though they race on clips. So for me, flats are a better fit for my current riding goals. I've also got a lot more confidence charging at techy climbs and such knowing I'm not clipped in. I do see myself riding clips someday but not exclusively. There's sort of an idea in mountain biking culture that you have to ride clipped in if want to be taken seriously. As a result, I've seen a lot of people, especially women, switch to clips too early and I've seen it result in broken bones. Do ride clips, but do it at the right time for you and do it for the right reasons.

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 haven't had any major crashes yet but I've had loads of little crashes. That means little to no physical recovery time but getting my head back in the game is the hard part. The biggest thing for me is to take a moment to collect myself if I really need it, but I need to get back on my bike pretty quick and start moving again. Mountain biking requires my whole brain so if I can push all the crazy "what if" thoughts out by focusing on riding, that really helps. Someday, I will get properly injured and that will be a real challenge. If I can't just hop back on my bike it may be hard to keep my mind in check while I heal so I don't psych myself out. But hopefully, I'll come back swinging!
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
My first year of riding, I passively bounced and trundled around sitting in the saddle 90% of the time. But learning to stand up and get out of the saddle more of the time is what unlocked bike handling for me. Once I started standing more I could adopt that more aggressive position and let my bike move around more. I could lean it on turns, get forward on the bike for steep sprinting climbs, and push my bike ahead of me as needed. I could also let my bike take the brunt of the chatter on rocky sections without being bucked around. So if you're new to riding, definitely try standing and getting out of the saddle more.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Wow, there are so many important skills I still want to learn. The bunny hop has been especially elusive to me. I'm currently taking an online bunny hop course from Ryan Leech Connection and it's helping a ton but it still takes loads of work and persistence. I think the thing that keeps me going is the fact that I want it so bad. I'm learning that when it comes to advanced skill, you've really got to want it and put in the time it takes to master the skill.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I get to be outside in nature, getting exercise, learning new things, challenging myself, and I get to be with cool people. I love the mountain biking community.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I ride a 2017 Santa Cruz 5010. It's light, it's a spry climber, poppy and playful, easy to handle at slower speeds but surprisingly capable when pushed to go fast. The headtube angle is slack enough to feel fun and smooth going downhill but it's easy to choose a line and keep the bike on track. I love how quiet Santa Cruz bikes are (no rattles or squeaks.) Santa Cruz bikes also have a real sleek look and every other year they put out some fun wild colors. I chose it because it's capable but still responsive and good for learning new skills on. It's been a fantastic bike but I'm ready for a bike with a little more travel so 2018 will be a new bike year for me...

What do you love most about using social media as a platform for connecting with other riders and building the mtb community?

It allows me to share my story and connect with riders I couldn't otherwise. I talk with people in my online community not just in different parts of the country but the world. It's just incredible. It brings the MTB community to riders in areas without a strong mountain biking scene. Also, as I travel the US, I feel like Steve and I have friends everywhere we go. Sometimes life on the road gets lonely so it's really fun when we get to connect with other riders and Dusty Betty definitely helps us make those connections.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think women have less exposure to mountain biking for one thing. Then there's fear. No one wants to get hurt, and some ladies think they have to be super hardcore and ride really techy stuff to mountain bike. The good news for these women is that you can just ride mellow scenic trails if that's all you want out of it. I think perfectionism also keeps some women from trying mountain biking. Women don't hold a monopoly on perfectionism but we certainly have a stronghold in the market. The fear of looking foolish or possibly being bad at something for a while is enough to stop a lot of ladies before they start. Even for women who do pick up riding, you will often see perfectionism rearing its ugly head. Perfectionism manifests itself in many ways. Chronic apologizing, becoming intimidated by other riders in non-competitive situations and sometimes even riding dangerously beyond your skill level all trace their roots to perfectionism. And hey, I struggle with perfectionism myself so I'm not casting any stones here.

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

I actually see things heading in the right direction for the most part. Women's group rides, clubs, and clinics are springing up more and more. And we're seeing a more coed community in general. It's still a boys club in some areas but it's changing all the time. As far as the industry goes, a different approach to marketing could help. Your average female rider isn't as plugged into the pro racing scene as her male counterpart so seeing an image of a female downhill racer roosting a corner isn't something your average female rider connects with. Now, women are a diverse group, so yes, someone women are going to have posters of the pros hanging in their room but if that's the only type you market to you're failing to reach a big part of the female demographic. Some companies get this, some don't and some may choose to target one type of female rider in particular and focus their marketing based on that. But brands that focus more on personal progression and excellence, getting out in nature and the social aspect of mountain biking are the ones who will have the greatest reach (in my opinion.)

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

For a long time I wasn't remotely interested in mountain biking but one day I heard something that changed my mind and made me want to ride. Now I'm hooked. Mountain biking is this amazing part of my life and I want to share that with other women. Maybe something I say or do will inspire them to ride too.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I live in a 23-foot airstream travel trailer with my husband and my dog. It's cozy but no matter where we park it, we're home.