My main passion was running before I discovered how awesome mountain biking is. I can thank my wonderful husband for that. I was previously a road biker (and this was rare as well) but after riding dirt for a bit it reignited my passion for the bike. Now I can say I prefer mountain biking but have been known to ride the road when necessary. I am married to my best friend and best husband a girl can ask for. We have been happily married for two and a half years but together for 8 years. We have the best dog, her name is Dingo, no kids. I am the oldest of six kids so I think that kind of pushed having kids out the window for me, lol. I love my siblings and make a great AUNT.
I just recently finished the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa. I was chosen to be apart of an all-women XC race team called the Liv Trail Squad.
Liv Cycling started a project to promote more women on bikes and empower them to do something EPIC. A global social media contest was conducted and 6 women were chosen across the globe to represent the Trail Squad. I was the USA rep for the team. The other women chosen; Kate Ross; Australia, Madeleine Gerard; France, Olivia Smedley; UK, Sandy Savagar; Mexico, Anna Barea; Spain. Among being chosen for the team, we found out our EPIC race was going to be the Cape Epic. Talk about EPIC!! This adventure was a once in a lifetime, Liv Cycling provided all the gear, gave each of us a Liv Pique, coaching options and we also had two pro racers Serena Bishop Gordon and Kaysee Armstrong as mentors. My partner Kate and I were successful finishers of the Absa Cape Epic, this did not come without work, tears, blood or pain. The sisterhood that was developed with the Trail Squad and Liv Cyclings project can never be undone and has forever changed me! There is so much to be told of this adventure...so please ask me more questions if you want specifics because I can write a novel on this...it was an incredibly humbling but empowering experience!
DT Swiss was also one of my additional sponsors for the Cape Epic and provided me with some pretty rad lightweight wheels!!
So back to my life...lol...When I'm not working...my husband and I travel! We often will spend the weekends camping or racing...and usually spend at least one holiday on an extended camp trip. Our camp locations usually are chosen with riding or running in mind. If its a weekend warrior type trip we will go to Big Bear, Sedona, Flagstaff or Phoenix area. Most of our longer travels are spent in Utah and Colorado. We absolutely love these areas for riding and running; Moab and Telluride.
I am on the board for the Colorado River Area Trail Alliance (CRATA) which is our IMBA chapter in this region and on the leadership team for the Girlz Gone Riding Mojave Chapter.
Instagram handle: @runningnative
Liv Cycling: Liv-Cycling.com/Trail-Squad
Dt Swiss: dtswiss.com
IG handle: @dtswiss
Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it influenced you from then on-
Well, lets see...my #bikelife started when I was fresh out of college in Tulsa, OK, 2008. I bought my first bike when I decided I was going to do a triathlon. I had learned of triathlon from my fellow runners in Tulsa. I had not ridden a bike since probably middle school. I didn't do any research, to be honest, and went into a bike shop...I asked them about a road bike in my size and at first...they said they didn't have anything available. However, a moment later, the gentleman helping me ran to back and rolled out a beautiful “Made in Italy” Bianchi SHE road bike. The bike shop owner gave a great deal because it was the last years model and a hard size to sell. I bought it right then and there, no researching of specs or weight or blah, blah, blah. It fit and it was pretty...by far the most important aspects of riding right, lol!
Fast forward 3 years...I live in Arizona...travel nursing and not doing much riding. This super cute guy I was dating at the time (who is actually my husband now) introduced me to the world of mountain biking. I loved running and he loved dirt biking, so he thought we should try a hobby together. He chose mountain biking as we had just got back from an adventurous weekend of me trying to learn to ride off the beaten path. Plus, my husband absolutely despises running. He helped me pick out my beginner mountain bike...a Giant Revel...I rode that bike until the wheels almost fell off...probably riding that bike on trails it wasn't equipped to go on. But a few miles in the dirt and I fell in love with the dirt 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!"
First mountain bike ride EVER...wasn’t even on dirt. My husband and I were in San Diego for my birthday one year and we decided to rent bikes to ride along La Jolla for the weekend to the shops and restaurants. I had never been on a mountain bike prior to this so everything was foreign to me. I didn't really know how to shift and riding on anything other than flat road was something unheard of. I literally was afraid to “roll” off a curb on this bike. I remember my husband just jumping off these curbs and I would roll to them and stop immediately, get off the bike and step down. I thought my husband was crazy for riding down that “ginormous” drop!
After this, my husband helped me pick out a beginner mountain bike and took me out on some trails in Lake Havasu City, AZ. One dirt ride and I pretty much became hooked...I loved the challenge...the burn in the legs and the lungs and mostly it was just exciting to learn something new. I met other women riders who took me on a beginner MTB course and somehow I was talked into doing a 12-hour MTB team race...literally 2-3 mos after I started riding. That race in itself just added fuel to the fire. I have a competitive spirit by nature and doing that 12-hour race just made it for me...I fell in love with the sport of mountain biking. I loved the dirt!
Your husband was the one to introduce you to mountain biking. How did he help make the experience a positive one?
For me, my husband always encouraged me on our rides together but he was also VERY patient and kind. He never made me feel “slow” or that I was ruining his ride in any way even though he was significantly more skilled and faster than I was THEN. Personally, I am the hardest on myself and I wanted to be able to ride like he did...climb the obstacles he did and ride as smoothly as he did. I would get frustrated with myself and he would always be the calm for me...telling me things come with time and encouraging me to be patient with myself. Each ride, I became better and faster and he would always be my number one cheerleader on the trail. He is still my number one cheerleader, except now he’s on the sidelines as I have taken to the world of mountain bike racing.
Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to ride with your partner or introduce a partner to mountain biking?
Take the beginning rides slow and easy...understand that this will be the agenda for a while. Don't push your partner to do more technical or difficult terrain if they are not ready. Part of enjoying the sport of mountain biking is to enjoy the fun stuff...but building the technical skills, confidence and endurance takes time and should be established before going out on that black diamond trail. In the beginning, shoot for a timed ride versus a “miles were gonna cover today” ride. This allows both the beginner to not worry about the “mph” goal or how long it is taking to cover a certain mileage.
Communication and understanding is key! My husband and I don't always have amazing rides together, sometimes I feel like he's riding me on technical sections or giving me advice I don't want to hear, lol! We’ve all been there...it's important to know how to communicate respectfully to each other the frustrations that we may be having and what we expect out of that ride...which moves us to the next tip!
Don't make your partner, your ONLY riding buddy. Encourage your partner to ride with other people...I've learned so much from riding with other women riders. The camaraderie and bonding only increased my love and confidence in the sport. Its ok to not ride every ride with your husband/spouse/boyfriend etc. In fact, it's healthy to ride without each other and much can be learned on those separate rides, this only makes riding with your partner later on more fun.
Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I started with flats when on the mountain bike...mostly because I was used to riding smooth and flat roads. So, the thought of riding over rocks and uneven terrain clipped into my bike was just crazy. Now, I ride with clips...mostly because I love XC style riding and I feel more in control on descents and stronger on climbs when I have the full pull from the pedal. The style of riding you like to do I believe plays a big role in deciding clips vs. flats. There is much to be debated on this topic in the two-wheel world. I believe you just have to ride with what's comfortable for you. Some of the best riders in the world ride with flats and some ride with clips. You have to do you...
Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
When I first started riding, I had a decent crash in Sedona on a horseshoe turn and broke my ankle. I didn't realize it was broken until three days later when I finally got an x-ray. I did not have to have surgery but it was a long 8 weeks to not be able to bike or run. I remember feeling very sorry for myself at one point and to be completely honest what got me out of this was the 2013 Boston Marathon. I watched this race on the day of, and as many of you know this was a terrible and unfortunately memorable year for this race. I watched the runners on my laptop and when the bombing occurred and the feed stopped, I followed along as best as I could with the news reports. I read and followed up on the injured runners who had lost a limb or were injured or killed. I immediately stopped my own pity party...I cried for those injured and could not imagine the recovery process both physically and mentally that these athletes would have to endure. So, point in the story...is that each of us are blessed to be out doing what we love...whether that be running, biking, swimming, hiking…(insert your outdoor activity here). The point is to enjoy it because it isn't a right it's a gift.
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 had trouble riding drops and loose technical terrain...for me it took time and practice. I even attended a couple of mountain bike skills camps. Sometimes it's important to see what you are really doing on the bike when you ride. So taking some short video clips of what your bike and body are doing are great ways to analyze your form. I would feel that I have great bike/body separation but when I looked at myself riding I realized I was a very stiff rider and not as loose as I needed to be. Once, you can SEE what you're doing wrong, then you KNOW what needs to be corrected.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding.
Absolutely, I still can't do a manual and when I'm tired I have trouble riding loose, off cambered terrain. I feel that riding is a transient and fluid motion....some days I'm “sending it” and feeling strong and other days I'm getting off my bike and walking those same sections. When I'm having “bad” ride days...I try to focus on what I am enjoying about my ride. I love being outside and having the opportunity to even be able to get to ride my bike. I love the freedom it provides and how strong it makes me feel. Sometimes, this is all I have to give and its ok. I don’t have to be awesome at riding, it's my hobby and I have a day job that pays the bills. So, just ENJOY it!!!
What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that my bike keeps me healthy and fit and also makes me feel strong and empowered!
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Juliana Furtado CC that I purchased for a steal from a friend. I love this bike for places like Moab and Sedona.
My XC MTB is a Liv Pique SX with XM 1501 DT Swiss wheels. This bike is very sentimental to me as is was the bike given to me from Liv Cycling and the bike that I completed the Cape Epic on.
My oldest bike is my Bianchi road bike...my very first bike ever! She’s about ten years old now and as heavy as a downhill bike but there is some nostalgia in this bike. I still ride this bike often as it sits on my Wahoo Kickr. One day, I plan to convert this bike into a single speed to give her new life on the road.
You were chosen as part of the Liv Trail Squad to participate at the Cape Epic, tell us why this opportunity was so special to you-
When I applied for the contest, I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be chosen. Things like this just don't happen to me. But I read the information and one of the recommendations was that you had to have a passion to get more women on bikes. I thought...I do this! I love doing this! So I decided to go for it...I worked with a great friend who helped me create my video and found out about two months later I was chosen for the Squad. The opportunity meant so much to me because it pushed me out of my own comfort zones and I met so many AMAZING women on this journey. The best part is hearing women's stories who have bought a bike and are getting out there and enjoying themselves, learning a new sport or fine-tuning an old one. I love to see these women progress and build confidence in themselves... tackle new obstacles on the bike and overcome fears! You can see it in their eyes, how much pride they have and I love seeing that in a woman.
I also learned much about myself on this journey with Liv Cycling. Trust me, completing a race such as the Cape Epic has never been on my bucket list or in my thoughts because I personally believed that I could not do a race like this. But, now I KNOW I am capable of more...this has actually changed my personal bucket list to include things that I know I can do. Like an Ironman!
For those who have no idea what the Cape Epic event is, can you tell us about the race and what it entails?
The Absa Cape Epic is an 8-day annual mountain bike stage race that takes place in the Western Cape. It has been accredited as hors categorie (beyond categorization) by the Union Cycliste International. First staged in 2004, the race typically covers more than 700 kilometres (435 miles) and lasts eight days - a prologue and seven stages. The race is completed in teams of two.
What was the best part of the Cape Epic for you?
There were so many amazing moments to this adventure it's hard to truly just pick one...many would say, the finish was the best part, which it truly was a feeling that is hard to put into words but It as a little anticlimactic and not what I think about when I think of the Cape Epic.
For me, the best moments were made up of the meat of the adventure...Stage 1 I felt so sick and was so sick, but to make it to the start line and pushing and pulling for 6+ hours and Kate and I figuring out how to get to the finish line together...the hardest day such as the Queens Stage and barely making the cutoff (30 min to spare) and just feeling so mentally and physically exhausted but knowing that you made it. Having your team and the other Liv girls there at the finish line to hug and help wipe your tears.
The best parts of the Cape Epic were more moments than anything….that's what I remember.
What was the most challenging part of the Cape Epic for you?
No doubt, the daily grind of the climbing. I thought I was a decent climber...but the Cape Epic does an excellent job of serving up a big ole slice of humble pie. I didn't think there was any terrain too technical at the Cape, even the Land Rover Technical terrain sections. The regions that I had to train for the cape epic (AZ, NV, CO, UT) all have similar terrain to what I experienced in South Africa. The Queens Stage had some pretty technical, loose single track that was super fun at first but after a while, it begins to wear you down. That's what made this stage though, it was 70+ miles of technical terrain with no easy miles...every pedal stroke was earned and worked for.
Are there more plans for the Liv Trail Squad this year?
As of now...we're all doing our own thing, in different countries with the same goal… motivating women to get out of their comfort zones...whether that be to ride a bike, start running or just taking the steps to try something new. Liv will be releasing video footage of our Epic journey at the Cape Epic in June. The Liv Trail Squad website also has more stories of the squad and blogs to motivate you to get out there!!
What do you love most about bike companies working to better support women riders?
Absolutely everything! But to be more specific, I truly appreciate the passion and time that these companies take to commit to research and development to fine-tune and create women-specific products. Women are so different anatomically...I know there are some women who prefer the fit of a mens bike but there are MANY women who can feel the difference when they get on a bike that was created for a woman. I, personally am on the extreme of short and petite...so I am thankful to know there are bikes that are made to fit my frame.
You are involved with your local IMBA chapter- why do you feel it is important for women to be part of their local trail organizations?
I believe as users of the trail, it is important for us to know what kind of work goes into the building and maintenance of your local trails. Being apart of your local IMBA chapter gives you a voice and provides a platform for cohesion amongst mountain bikers.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Having a bad First experience.
I feel the most important ride for a beginner is the FIRST RIDE. You can truly make or break an opportunity for someone depending on their perspective of their experience. Was it a good or bad experience? Most beginner women are already nervous to be trying something new, so if they come away from their first ride feeling frustrated and comparing themselves to experienced riders it can be demoralizing. I always tell beginners, “You do you...don't compare yourself to anyone else.”
The concern that they slow other more experienced riders down or take away from their ride.
Read Section 3
Being out of mountain bike shape.
Mountain biking, in the beginning, is hard and can be a little painful on the legs and lungs. Let's face it, it is a demanding sport at times and being out of bike shape is tough. But this is where that whole patience and understanding come into play. The more one rides, the better and stronger we will get. Also, to the rider trying to get others out there, it is important to remember that we were all in the same boat at one time or another, so patience is key.
I don’t want to fall and get hurt.
Education and teaching about this sport is essential. Events like Red Bull Rampage have popularized the crazy downhill spectra of mountain biking and many women don't know there are other realms of this sport that don't require you to descend a mountain at warp speed.
Utilize resources to become a better rider to develop those skills and confidence on the bike. There are so many all-women mountain bike clinics and bike chapters that have beginner oriented rides. Take advantage of these!
What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Currently, there are big changes occurring industry wide on all platforms to get women more involved in this sport. I am a little biased as I have had the opportunity to be involved in Liv Cycling over the years, and this company has been completely dedicated to getting more women into this sport. I have seen pretty decent growth in bike companies and clothing companies that have begun to cater towards women. However, there is still much to be done! Industry-wise it would be great to see more
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
What inspires me is how much joy and growth I have gotten out of riding my bike. I feel that I am a better human because I ride my bike, lol! This may seem pretty cliche, but the years that I have been mountain biking I've met some really amazing people who have taught me patience and what a true love for a sport really is. I've learned to ENJOY what I'm doing and to be thankful for the opportunity. I've gained confidence in myself as an athlete and as a woman. I've been a beginner and went from walking down a street side curb in San Diego to clearing decent drops in Moab with ease. I've felt that pride in myself each time I've accomplished a goal on the bike I didn't think was possible and I love seeing this same excitement and joy on faces of women who are on the same or similar mountain bike journey.
I love seeing other women grow in this sport and watch them come from a ride saying, “I've never done that before...or I never rode that section before!” It truly makes me genuinely excited for them as I can recall those feelings for myself. One of my favorites is when a woman tells me she can't ride or that she's too old to do this sport; if my influencing powers are good enough I am able to get them on a GGR ride and they usually find out they actually CAN ride and thus begins their own journey of #bikelife! It's like reliving my own love and growth from the very beginning of my bike journey over and over again… It's really a gratifying and fulfilling experience to be able to empower women to push themselves out of their comfort zones and see them grow through this.
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Hmmm….most random fact ever..when I was 12 years old I was in a Walker Texas Ranger episode. Many may not know this show but it was an epic series back in the day, starring Chuck Norris!!