Women Involved Series: Leia Schneeberger

Born, raised and still residing in Madison, Wisconsin. I've been in advertising as a senior account manager at Mid-West Family Broadcasting for 11 years. I enjoy the competition of sales and coming up with creative ways to help my client's tell their story to the masses.

I have a fiancé, his name is Ryan Rollins, he also competes. We met 3 summer's ago during the Wisconsin Off-Road Series. I was never a cyclist, I was a soccer player growing up, played college ball then tore my ACL the year after I graduated. Knee was never the same. I continued playing through the pain, using spin class as a means of rehab.

About 9 years ago the guy I was dating asked if I wanted to go for a ride in the woods. Took me out to Kettle Moraine, the John Muir Trails and off we went. No helmet, tennis shoes, soccer shorts, hybrid bike, 5 miles later I was completely cashed and in love. We started riding once a week just for a fun workout.

3 Years ago I had to give up my cleats so I started racing with goals in mind. Dedicating real time to training. I bike all year round now. Racing Fat Bikes in the Winter and Mountain Bikes in the Summer.

I race for Broken Spoke Bike Studio in Green Bay. 
I host a podcast show called, "Dose of Fat," you can find it on www.fat-bike.com
I am on Strava, people can find me by my name.
Facebook by my name.

Tell us about the introduction to mountain biking and how it influenced you from then on-
I had a boyfriend that asked me to go for a mountain bike ride one day. I had no idea what that was but I’m game for anything. He took me the John Muir trails at Kettle Moraine State Park in Wisconsin. I was on a $500 specialized, hardtail with hybrid (commuter) tires. No helmet, soccer shorts, tennis shoes t-shirt and no clue what I was about to get myself into. We made it around a 4-mile loop that day and I was toasted and roasted. What a great workout. We started going there once a week, we’d drive an hour for a 6-mile ride. Until this point, I just played soccer all the time so Mt biking was something to do to switch it up.

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!"
Mountain biking gets the adrenalin pumping, it’s exciting, challenging, you have to stay ultra-focused on the task at hand. Get lost in the moment, all exterior stress or anxiety from the day diminishes.
It was hard work, most weeks I couldn’t bring myself to do the 10-mile loop. Now I wouldn’t even make the trip to the Kettles without riding the 30-mile loop.

Tell us the process of buying your first mountain bike? Do you have advice or helpful tips for those looking to buy their first mountain bike?
Chat with all the mechanics at your local bike shops, they will give you some pointers.
I purchased my first Mountain bike after I learned there were races. Once I participated in a race I knew it was time to upgrade from my commuter bike to a full suspension Mt Bike.
Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Start with flats until you get used to riding the terrain, this way you can touch down more easily, less crashes. Flats are also a better tool for learning Mt bike skills. The clips let you cheat.
I waited a year before I got my first pair of clips.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Biffs are part of the gig. If you can’t take a couple hits, this is not the sport for you.
I still crash all the time as I am always pushing myself to the edge of my abilities.
I’ve gone into full whaling sessions in the middle of the trail
The worst was going over the bars, landing on my shoulder and severing the ligaments one week before my first race of the Wisconsin Off-Road Season. Obeyed all the rules of healing while off the bike and pushed through the pain during the races. My collar bone isn’t connected to the rest of me so you can push it down like a piano key. It’s funny looking but no longer affects me.

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 best advice on handling is to find another woman to help you and to take a skills clinic right away. You won’t feel as pressured to just roll on when you are with a woman. I was slow to learn handling because I only rode with a guy that didn’t know much about it either. I just rode and went with my natural instincts. I didn’t learn how to handle a bike until I took a weekend women’s skills clinic a couple of years after I started riding.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I am still looking for someone to teach me how to wheelie. It hasn’t slowed me down but it’s like a soccer player not being able to juggle a soccer ball. Feel like any mountain biker should just be able to do a wheelie
If there is ever something that sketches me out I try not to get discouraged about it. I get off the bike and walk it. Better to walk today and ride tomorrow then be out for a season.
What do you love about riding your bike?
I like going fast
The burning in my legs that lets me know I’m getting a fabulous workout
Ripping single track gives me a high
You can cover so much more ground, see so much more while on a bike rather than a hike
Nothing else matters when I am biking

You met your fiance while participating in a race series- awesome! What do you enjoy most about having a partner who loves to mountain bike as much as you?
Ryan and I plan trips all over the country to explore new trails.
I can’t imagine being with someone who didn’t ride a bike, who would take care of my bike?

What are your plans for the 2018 riding season?
My biggest goal is to win the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships this summer, everything I do up until that day is centered on winning that race.
I’ll be competing in the Wisconsin Off Road Series
Dakota 50
Ore 2 Shore
Coolest is Ryan and I are heading to New Zealand to race in the Pioneer 6 Day Stage Race for our Honeymoon!

Tell us about a race that you are the most excited to compete in this year-
USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships

For those on the fence with participating in a bike race, do you have any tips or suggestions that can make the experience more enjoyable?
Some races have a “learn to race clinic,” take the clinic.
Start in the easiest / shortest race they have available
When someone wants to pass you, try to move over to the right side of the trail and help them get by you as quickly as possible. I hate having someone behind me breathing down my neck wanting to get by. Don’t hold them back there, get them around you fast so that you can get back to focusing on your ride.
Chat with the people around you at the start line, make some friends.

You host a podcast over at Fat-Bike.Com- tell us how you got involved with Fat-Bike.com and the show you host-
Last year after winning the Fat Bike Birkie, Gomez, the director for the show asked to interview me about the race. The interview went well and there was some chemistry there.
A few months later Gomez asked if I’d like to be one of the hosts of the show. Didn’t hurt that I work for a company that owns 7 radio stations and so I have a nice fancy studio we can use to record the show.

What do you enjoy most about hosting a show over at Fat-Bike.com?
We gave each other these nicknames: Beer, Fun and Race.
What is funny to me is that of the 3 co-hosts, I am Race. It’s the female on the show that has the most competition experience.
Gomez and Spinner will get into some serious nerd speak and I have to shut them down, bring it back.
I enjoy giving race recaps and heckling my co-host Spinner about how slow he is.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My Mountain bikes are now chosen for me as I am sponsored by Broken Spoke Cycles up in Greenbay. I trust the owner, George Kapitz, to choose a bike that will help me accomplish my goals. This year I’ll be on the new Santa Cruz.
I tell my friends that they should choose a budget, buy a light, full suspension, carbon frame, take it to the shop and have them build out the rest based on their budget.
My fat bike is a Salsa Beargrease with HED Wheels. It’s only 23 lbs. I will never give up this bike, love it.
I have a Niner RDO Cross bike for training on the roads and bike paths in less than perfect conditions.
My road bike is a Trek Madone.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
We just didn’t know it existed. I had no idea what Mountain Biking was. None. Riding on dirt in the woods? Never crossed my mind. I think social media will really help spread awareness about the sport. More and more women are seeing other women’s posts about biking and racing and inquiring about how to get involved.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Many of the bicycle shops are offering up women’s rides and clinics.
The Youth programs will help, get them in while they are young and the sport will grow

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I’d like to have more ladies to race against!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am a sucker for sappy Christmas Miracle Movies