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.