Women on Bikes Series: Susie Douglas
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.
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.
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.
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 down2bikeproject.com
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
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