Monday, September 24, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Kim Andera

Hey there, I'm Kim. Wife. Mom. Sushi eating beer lover. Photographer. Bride pleasing, baby squeezing, lover of all things pretty.

Your boys were your main reason for learning to ride off-road, tell us why you felt encouraging them to mountain bike was a positive thing for them.
Honestly, it was more about me, I told you I'd be honest. In the beginning, it was this badass manly thing they could do. They didn't believe that their wimpy, out of shape, mom could possibly do it...let alone be good at. At the time they were 5 & 6 years old.

I couldn't even keep up while walking and jogging the trail, so, I didn't actually see them ride parts of the trail until they'd ridden a few times. They'd ride something over and over just waiting for me to catch up. They also went on rides with my sister. They had ridden trails that I didn't know existed in Decorah. After I got my bike it became more clear that this would be something that we could do together that was healthy and a positive use of that unattainable little boy energy that is always in abundance. It was also a way for me to show them that this old wimpy mom could and would smoke them at every chance. :)

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!" 
Well technically, my first or so ride(s) was in the dead heat of the summer with my sister Steph. I was a big baby and hated it. It was too hot for me. For me, riding with my sister, whom I love, adore, and admire, wasn't the best thing for me because I'm a bit competitive. Seeing how good she was and how confident and comfortable she was was my own mental shortcomings. At that point, instead of saying "Maybe I should try this with some riders who share my skill level", I just gave up. Side note: this feeling is a real thing. Which is why it is very difficult to learn from a spouse, close friend, or family member. The FWD rides became a game changer for me. It wasn't until things with my boys had progressed to the point that it was unsafe, then I decided that I HAD to be able to keep up to them. Parts of the trail that they would ride over and over waiting for me became less appealing and on one ride they road out of the trail and sat at that four-way intersection known for heavy truck traffic. When I caught up to them they were talking with a total stranger (a very kind Iowa-nice type of stranger, but, a stranger nonetheless.) The next day I walked into the bike shop. I knew this was something that was good for the boys and I needed to find a way to keep up.

Decorah Bicycles hooked me up with a few new bikes to test ride. I left the shop, with the new bike, rental helmet, and off I went. Riding as fast as I could because I had a haircut scheduled with Steph and I wanted her opinion. On the first test run, I caught my toe on a log that was buried into a punch little hill. This sent my front end into the front of the bike known as the handlebars. I stopped, looked around to make sure there were no witnesses and returned to Decorah Bicycles huffing and puffing and as red as a lobster. "So, how did it go?" they asked. "Oh it was awesome, I loved it" I replied. "I'm still feeling like a brown bear riding a unicycle", I replied. "Do, you guys have anything bigger?" On the 2nd test bike, I slammed on the front brake trying to ride down a section of the trail that I shouldn't have pushed my bike up in the first place. Once again, this sent me into the handlebars. I rode another bike after that one and dashed off to my haircut. I remember talking it over with Steph. At one point she mentioned that she had also ridden the purple Stache 7, and loved it! So, that was it. I went back to Decorah Bicycles, freshly plucked eyebrows and a new haircut & color, and I told them I wanted the purple Stache 7 because that's what my sister wanted. Josie hooked me up with pretty pedals, a helmet, and a bike rack to haul 4 bikes.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I use flats because that's what the girls I ride with use.

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 totally! In the beginning, We were fearless, and still are, just a bit more skilled. One of the very first times I remember having a mental set back and a regression in my riding was on a FWD ride. I was riding with Josie and another riding buddy. It was her birthday and she had just gotten a brand spanking new bike. This was her very first ride on it. Welp, we were riding up a hill and I heard branches breaking behind me. I stopped and turned around to see her rolling down the side of the hill backward. I stopped and made my way down the hillside to help her out of the thick brush. She was fine, the bike had a brand new birthday scratch. I remember feeling really shaken up. That was the very first time I remember feeling that mental setback. Ya know, that voice in your head that says "Oh, shit that could have been me" or "You're too old for this" or "That was really scary". Not even 30 minutes later, I went superman over the handlebars and my bike rode me down a part of the trail I'd ridden a hundred times. What I did to overcome those setbacks was to keep riding. After another big ol' wipeout, I was so nervous to get back on single track that I rode gravels for weeks afterward. I'd go to the MTB trail and my brain just wouldn't have it. I was making mistakes I hadn't made before. It was as if I'd never been on the bike before. I was fearful of things that I hadn't thought of as scary or dangerous, but I knew I had to get through it. I kept riding gravels, I'd ride beginner sections of the trail that we had gotten bored of. I'd ride with other beginner riders. I'd ride by myself so I didn't feel pressured by my boys to ride more challenging trails. I talked about it, a lot. I basically started over and slowly regained confidence. At the end of the summer, I took one of Casey Sheppard's skills workshops. That really helped me to feel confident in myself and I learned so much from her about the basic fundamental skills. For me, that workshop was the missing piece to overcome my mental setback.

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 all of them challenged me! I had no clue about moving my weight around or having level pedals or covering the brakes. Going on the FWD rides helped me immensely with cornering, braking, and getting out of the saddle. I remember one ride specifically with the boys and my sister leading. She would tell them stuff that I had no idea I was supposed to be doing. She'd say stuff like "Look 10 feet ahead of you" "Scan the trail" "Keep your head up". She would stop at the top of a descent and basically walk them through a more challenging part of the trail and give them reminders to get out of the saddle and push their butt back over the rear tire. I soaked that stuff up like a sponge and so did they. During the work week, I'd ride alone and do the exact same thing we did on the rides with Steph or the FWD Sunday rides. I just kept practicing. I would say hands down the FWD rides with those women who shared the same skill level as me.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Some of the things that attracted me to mountain biking are many of the same challenges that attracted me to photography. There is an endless wealth of information. You never stop learning new things. I don't believe there is such a thing "reaching one's full potential". I'm constantly making mistakes, doing things I'd wished I hadn't done and because of that, I'm still learning. There are a million ideas in my head for my riding goals. Trails I want to ride, places I want to ride with my boys, places I want to ride with just my girls.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I really just like bombing down hills. :)

You were chosen as a Fearless Women of Dirt Ambassador this year, tell us how you learned about Fearless Women of Dirt and why you wanted to be part of the community-
I learned about it through my sister. FWD was a huge part in helping me be a confident rider. I want to pay that forward and hopefully help other women become confident riders.

What do you enjoy most about helping women become more confident with mountain biking?
I love seeing women riders. I love riding with other women whether it's just showing them the local trail system or riding most basic trails. It's fun to be with women who share your passion.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Honestly, when I first bought my bike I bought it based on Travis's recommendation. I wanted a nice bike that would help me be a successful rider and be a solid choice that would give me room to grow without having to upgrade too soon. I feel like I got everything I was looking for and then some.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think the main reason more women don't get involved is fear. There is this unrealistic idea that mountain biking is bombing big descents and jumping over obstacles. A lot of what we see on YouTube in regards to mountain biking is downhill bike parks. They are awesome and I LOVE watching that stuff, but, that's not what we're doing in Decorah. All those things are very possible IF you want them to be. But, it doesn't have to be. The majority of the riders we see are mom's and grandmas who just want to try something new. They quickly find out that it's just a nice ride in the woods. Sure, sometimes we ride over obstacles. Some folks just get off and walk their bike, some folks try to ride it. Decorah really has SO many trails to accommodate every rider. I'd suggest watching some clips from the FWD YouTube channel. Some beginner trails like the pines, fire road, and the prairie are some great examples of beginner trails. It's a more realistic representation of how chill our rides are.

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

Hmmm, that's a tough one (in my most sarcastic voice ever). I'll start by saying that Decorah Bicycles has been incredibly helpful with special ordering sizes directly from the manufacture and with finding things and keeping larger sizes available in store. Being a small business owner myself, it is very important for me to buy as much as I can locally. As far as the biking industry as a whole goes, it's not friendly to big (bad ass) lady riders. I know this is vain and superficial, but, it really blows goats that women's jerseys fit like a sausage casing and all the sized run super duper small. I special order my 4x from the manufacturer. I wear men's bike shorts because the super cute and stylish pearl zummie ones don't come in anything bigger than an XL and the XL fits more like a medium. TMI ~ My buns are larger than an XL, but that doesn't mean I hate them. That doesn't mean I should have to look like a lumberjack of a lady on the bike trail. That doesn't mean that I'm not interested in wearing cute lady bike shorts. My bike gloves? Both men's size XL and neon green. My size 12 foot has a pair of super masculine men's Five Ten bike shoes that serve the purpose and do the job if their job is to make me look like one butch bike lady. My winter riding pants are also a men's. Not because I'm 6'7 but because they only make pants that fit me for men who are over 6 feet tall. Now, I'm sure there will be those folks who say BS like "Well, maybe you shouldn't weigh 200+ lbs at 5'6 in the first dang place". Valid point, I hadn't thought about that, I'll just stop riding my bike now until I drop 100 pounds said no one ever! So industry wide the lack of feminine riding gear is discouraging in the specific area of clothing. :) Jumping off the soapbox now, sorry I blew up :)

Locally, I'm blown away by Josie's commitment and endless ambition in the area of women
empowerment and inclusion.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Welp, seeing other women riders is inspiring. I want to see women be successful and I will continue to help out any way I can.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I still listen to Garth Brooks' live album from time to time.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Women Involved Series: Ali Hyde

 Ali studied Leisure and Recreational management in college with a specialty in outdoor activity leadership and has been teaching for over 15 years. Born and raised in England, She moved to the U.S. in 2006, settling in Big Bear, CA. After finding a job managing her local bike shop; Bear Valley Bikes, she quickly became obsessed with all types of cycling. She began racing XC and XC endurance but quickly branched off into enduro and downhill, but has most recently been back to racing XC on a single speed!

Also passionate about road cycling, she can often be seen towing her kids in long distance events, or solo on rides like the Peak 2 Peak from Mammoth to Big Bear or the Breathless Agony Century.

Her passion for teaching, patience as a mom of 3 and ‘Shop Mom’, make her an ideal ride leader for Girlz Gone Riding. Her enthusiasm for education and community in women’s cycling is both undeniable and contagious and as Director of the GGR chapter in Big Bear, she strives to support the women’s community and to continue to ‘Spread the Love’ of cycling!

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it influenced you from then on-
I actually first started riding road bikes back when I worked in a gym and wanted to do triathlons. Even though I'm seen as 'a mountain biker,’ I still have a secret passion for road cycling! I then took a course in MTB leadership at a summer camp I worked at, but it was still just another sport to teach. I really got bitten by the mountain biking bug when I started working at Bear Valley Bikes, and I think that has had an influence towards all aspects of cycling in my life including racing, group rides, and inspiring me to 'spread the love' of cycling.

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!"
When I really started getting into mountain biking, all my crashes were when I was going uphill! I was determined to make it and would stall out and fall off the singletrack! I was fascinated by the skills involved and watching other people clean things, up and down, that just didn't seem possible. I quickly became obsessed with conquering the challenges I faced and fell in love with the social and community aspect of riding.

What is your favorite race/event to attend and why?
My favorite event would have to be the Girlz Gone Riding Big Bear women's weekend. It's amazing to see so many women come together in my town, meet new people, reconnect with friends, show people the trails and dedicate an entire weekend to mountain biking!

My favorite race is probably the 12 hours of Temecula. Each time I participate, I feel like I'm stronger and faster, yet every time it is still a challenge, with different courses and different teammates keeping it fun and interesting every time!

Do you have tips or suggestions for someone attending their first mountain bike race?
For me, racing is not just about the race. Everyone is there to socialize and have fun, so just relax and go with it. Take your bike to your local shop before the race, and get it checked over and race ready; there's nothing worse than arriving at a race and realizing you have a mechanical issue! In my experience, everyone is very supportive, especially of first-timers.

You enjoy a couple different styles of mountain biking, for those who may not know that there are "different types" of mountain biking, can you elaborate on which styles you enjoy and why?
Oh my, where do I start?! I will try to keep it simple. Cross country is where the challenges are in both the climbs and the downhill, 50/50. I love XC because the climbing is difficult for me, but the DH is easier, so I can relax and go really fast without any stress! I like to make it even more challenging by riding my hardtail (no rear suspension), single speed (only one gear).

Enduro is where you still climb but you are only timed in the downhill. The downhill is more technical, but still requires pedaling. I enjoy enduro because the downhill is more technical, and I like to push myself to pedal hard every chance I get. Usually, at enduro races, everyone hangs out together at the top, and I love the social aspect of sharing that experience together.

Downhill is just what it sounds like. You are focused purely on the downhill side of riding. Usually, the bikes have 'bigger' suspension to handle chunkier, more technical terrain. There can be more 'natural' features that are steep, loose and chunky, but then bike parks also build man-made features like jumps, berms, and walls. These features keep the course interesting with ever-changing fun things to try. You either hike, shuttle or take a lift to the top because the bikes are not designed to go up. Downhill is a real adrenaline rush for me, and I love trying things that scare the crap out of me and the achievement I feel when I overcome them. Again, I love the social aspect of being on the lift or on the shuttle with friends, and everyone stops and 'sessions' the hard stuff together.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I like clips for road, XC, and enduro because I believe they are more efficient when I pedal, and I feel like I can use them to help control the bike. I prefer flats when I ride DH so I can ditch out more easily on the scary stuff; although, I had to adjust to flats and my feet not coming off the pedals when I jump! I love how sticky flats feel nowadays when combined with the right shoe. I don't like flats when they 'bite' me though!

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
My worst/most consequential crash was probably a few years ago on my birthday. Many factors led to me face planting off a decent sized drop. I snapped my clavicle and tore my labral cup (the socket that holds your shoulder in place). I then hiked out because I didn't want to be airlifted on my birthday! Riding bikes are therapeutic to me, so I had to deal with not having that and being off the bike for a while. I felt like the medical system failed me. Healing was slow and I re-broke my clavicle twice. I needed surgery, but it never has happened. I had to re-learn to ride because my arm doesn't work or move like it used to. I feel like this made me a better rider though because I had to learn to lean the bike more when I cornered, and become more aware of what my whole body is doing to control the bike. I didn't want to race because I felt slow and clumsy, and the risk of further injury was high if I crashed. I felt like if I couldn't go full throttle, what was the point? This caused me to reevaluate my focus on riding. I gravitated back towards teaching and mentoring.

I coached my 70-year-old, beginner friend through a race series and eventually formed the Girlz Gone Riding Big Bear chapter. I still love to race but now I love coaching my kids and organizing fun group rides and events. Before my crash, I was pretty focused on self-improvement in my riding, but now so many more aspects of riding have opened up for me. I care less about riding as fast as possible over the most challenging terrain, and more about just riding, whatever the pace or skill level.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I first started mountain biking all of my 'crashes' were when I was climbing! I was so determined, I would refuse to unclip, and then I wouldn't have the strength to get up something steep or technical, and I would topple over. I quickly learned to fall into the slope, not downhill! I think I still struggle with technical climbs, but now it's more of a head game. It's easier to get up that rock or root when you're a little stronger and you're not spinning a super easy gear.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Getting hurt was a huge set back in my riding. I had to relearn to steer the bike because my arm wouldn't work the same as it had before, and everything was a challenge like when I first started out. I just figure if I keep trying, I will get better every ride, and if I don’t, then so what? I'm having fun and enjoy riding, regardless. For so long, I couldn’t ride, so I figure whatever I'm doing now, it's better than not at all.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything. There's something indescribable about riding a bike and the way it makes you feel. I love solo rides, but I also love the social aspect. I love that I feel like I found my tribe.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My XC bike is the Specialized Era 29. I like the Era because it has the brain technology which automatically locks out your front and rear shock when you don't need them. The suspension is super stiff when climbing but I enjoy that I don’t have to remember to adjust it for undulating or downhill terrain.

For enduro riding, I have a Specialized Stumpjumper 650b. I love the bigger suspension and smaller wheel size for the downhill, but the bike is still very responsive and capable in the uphill.

I also ride a Specialized Crave 29 single speed. I like the single speed because it gives me another kind of challenge in my riding, and it's a really good workout!

Tell us about your experience with Girlz Gone Riding and why you became Director of the GGR Big Bear Chapter-
I first met Wendy several years ago when she emailed our shop looking for a tour guide for her and a few friends who were planning a trip to Big Bear. The following year, she reconnected with me and asked if I would show her some trails. She introduced me to GGR and I was happy to help out. After that, I became good friends with Wendy, becoming more and more involved with the club, and the Big Bear GGR women's weekend grew each year. I think starting the Big Bear chapter was a natural progression. In working at the shop, I meet a lot of women who are looking for people to ride with or a group ride because they don't know the local trails. After my crash, I was hurt and recovering, and I think I needed Wendy and GGR in my life as much as there was a need for a Big Bear chapter! Wendy is so inspirational and has been so supportive as a friend and as head director of the club.

Why do you feel women's groups like Girlz Gone Riding are important?
I think that riding with other women has a different dynamic than a coed ride or riding with your partner. I love both kinds of group rides and am happy to provide a different experience of riding for women. I feel like sometimes it can be difficult for women to learn and grow their skills riding with a coed group or their partner, and we provide a support system more conducive to individualized learning. Men and women learn differently, and I feel GGR is a great opportunity for women to meet others who understand each other and can share difficulties they may be facing. It’s also just wonderful to have a community in which to have fun and build great friendships. I've always loved the relationships I’ve created in riding, and I believe building a strong women's community can only be a good thing!
For someone who might be nervous about attending a group ride, do you have any tips or suggestions that may be helpful?
There is nothing to be nervous about! People attending the ride are there because they want to ride with others, and all are welcome. People are encouraged to contact us beforehand with any questions or concerns if that makes them feel more comfortable, and we also host social events so that you can come and meet some of the rest of the group and connect before attending a ride.

You are the manager at Bear Valley Bikes, tell us about your job and what drew you to it-
When offered the job part-time at Bear Valley Bikes, I honestly drew up a list of pros and cons. In the end, it probably came down to the fact that I had taken apart my 1983 road bike when I moved here, and I needed help putting it back together! Before I knew it, I was working there full time and become obsessed with cycling. The shop became like my baby, and I have worked tenaciously to improve and grow the business, which has actually become two businesses with the launch of Speed Evolution, plus an event that we host, The Big Bear Grizzly and Gran Fondo.

What do you love most about your job?
I love working alongside people who share my passion for cycling, and helping customers find the perfect bike, part, accessory, trail, or getting their bike working again. I love the people that I meet and the fact that I get to spend a lot of time talking about bikes and bike riding.

What has been a challenge you've had to overcome (if any) as a woman working in a bike shop?
Most people are appreciative to have a woman helping them in sales and are open-minded, but you do sometimes get a customer who 'wants to talk to one of the guys,’ or just presumes you don't know anything about bicycles because of your gender. This can be frustrating, especially when you know more about the particular subject than the guys who are working! I just try and be polite and give good customer service, and think I have pleasantly surprised some people. As for the others, I know my coworkers are capable of helping them, and they just missed out on my knowledge, and that's their loss.

Why do you feel it's important for women to be involved in the cycling industry and have jobs in bike shops?
I think women approach things differently than men, and that having both men and women creates a dynamic working environment. I feel that with the women's side of the industry growing so much it is important to have female employees who can give a first-hand experience of the products available.

Any tips or suggestions for women looking to seek employment at a bike shop?
If you are passionate about cycling and want to work in the industry, go and apply and show that you are just as knowledgeable and skilled as any other candidate, male or female.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially in mountain biking?
I think all the different bikes and gear can be overwhelming, and mountain biking especially can be difficult and seem scary when starting out without anyone to guide and teach you the basics.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think the industry is already changing to appeal more to women. Advertising has become less sexist and manufacturers seem increasingly aware of women’s needs, and it just needs to continue to evolve in this area. I think locally, having women’s cycling clubs and women’s only clinics and rides can help people feel more comfortable getting involved in cycling.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love to help anybody get into cycling, meet others, and enjoy the sport more, be it, men or women. If I could introduce someone else to the sport I love or help them improve in their riding, then that makes me happy. But I feel that as a woman in the industry, I should be sharing my knowledge and experience with other women, as other women did for me when I first started out. I am inspired by many of women I have met over the years who work hard to share their passion for the sport.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I used to live in a van and traveled around Europe in it!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Women Involved Series: Christian Little

What is Christian passionate about when it comes to biking?

-Adventuring on two wheels and sharing the experience with others; encouraging and inspiring growth on and off the bike through Leap2Fly retreats

-Founded Leap2Fly in 2017 to encourage growth on and off the bike.

In 2016 she nearly died from falling off a mountain while mountain biking in NZ, suffering a broken back and spinal cord injury. She realized in the midst of her hardship and recovery, part of her purpose going forward was to encourage, inspire, and empower growth on and off the bike through MTB retreats.

-It was in the midst of her healing that she climbed the European Alps on her mountain bike in honor of her best friends mom who was overcoming cancer that Leap2Fly was born as she realized how impactful adventuring on two wheels can be while connecting with yourself, friends, and the outdoors. Christian is an adventurous and genuine soul who is passionate about helping others live life to the fullest.

The Story:
Almost a year ago I punctured a lung, busted my ribs and 4 lumbar transverse processes, and grade 3 separation of my shoulder at a bike park in Canada which took time to heal and ease back into jumps and drops. It was a struggle not to spiral into depression and get overly discouraged as I also had broken my back and had a spinal cord injury a year prior. I could have quit riding bikes and let PTSD and fear ruin what had brought me such joy in the past and just give up. Honestly, the hardest part of this journey has been the hardship with my best friend.

Despite all this, I’m still hopeful and trust in God’s unfailing love, faithfulness, plan, and promises. For one, I shouldn’t be alive and it’s a miracle I am. I experienced God saving my life as I was falling to my death and felt God’s power in all things and all around me choose to save me and then laid me down gently on the side of the mountain. I experienced several other miracles over the two years that showed me God’s joy, strength, and love. He gave me hope and faith for His promises ahead.

He healed my broken body, soul, and spirit that had been crushed by and injuries and lastly he has been healing my broken heart in the midst of growing deeper in my relationship with God as His is my home no matter where I am or who is in my life. It’s all for Him and through Him that I’m alive, healed, and taking steps wherever he guides me ahead. I’ve embraced the journey with God 100%
and step by step He has helped me overcome complete brokenness. Absolutely no way I could get through all this without God. Hasn’t been easy with lots of tears, serious injuries along the way, my 14yo pup passed away from terminal cancer, and hardest of all my best friend shattered my heart and ran just when I thought we where going to love and support each other through the toughest of times with God at the center of helping us through.

I hope my story can encourage others and I’m hopeful for restoration with my best friend someday. I simply want to share the love God has shown me and to encourage you to follow the light in the midst of hardship.
Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it influenced you from then on-?
I am an adventurous soul who loves to explore in the mountains, yet was missing the competition and camaraderie that came with being an athlete in college. After playing soccer in college I was into many adventure-style sports such as snowboarding, surfing, trail running in the mountains, and had been on a mountain bike a few times. I wasn't until my best friend mentioned she thought I would really enjoy mountain bike racing, that I dove right into a race to give it a go before really knowing how to bike haha. Since that first race mountain biking in Colorado a few years back I have not looked back and fully embraced #bikelife as I began racing XC and Xterra Off-Road Triathlon Worlds, Adventure Racing, multi-day Pioneer race, and Enduro races. What a journey it has been for the past few years! I really value living this short life to the fullest and not taking those in your life, the moments, or the experience in your life for granted. I am truly grateful for the friendships and experiences I have been blessed with through mountain biking. Mountain biking has opened a whole new world of adventures on two wheels around the world for me. It has brought me so much joy, stoke, and laughter with my best friend. Also, so grateful for the entire bike community of friends I now have around the world through the various adventures and races I've been a part of. Really such a uniquely awesome community to travel around the world riding bikes or racing and be able to connect with new and old friends wherever you go. Biking has taken me on some of the most meaningful adventures of my life from biking through the European Alps with my best friend to the remote trails of New Zealand. Mountain biking has taught me to truly embrace my childish wonder and love for adventure/exploring. Mountain biking has also helped me learn and grow while truly embracing "leap to fly" in mountain biking and life. Gotta leap2fly in #bikelife!

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!"
Looking back I really dove into mountain biking 100% from the start haha. I was a collegiate soccer player back in college and loved to adventure in the mountains, yet didn't take mountain biking up seriously until my best friend who also played college soccer was just getting into mountain bike racing mentioned it to me. So I went ahead and entered a mountain bike race after my first few rides on an old heavy bike when I didn't even know how to unclip from my pedals without falling over haha. I remember showing up to the first couple races excited, yet felt nervous for the unknown and was concerned I would come in last or get lost on the race course. My main goal was just to give it a go, give it my all, challenge myself, see how far I may be able to go in the sport and have fun. I ended up loving the exhilaration of going as fast as I could while racing and turning on that competitive edge to give it my all on the course. Felt so good to compete as an athlete again and I loved the challenge of the sport as I had no clue what I was doing. I also remember thinking how awesome the mountain bike community was as it brought together people who love to get after it in the outdoors and I realized this is a community I really want to get immersed in. Basically, I was hooked from the get-go and dove right in. My first year of biking I had so much FUN growing exponentially in riding and racing ability and exploring this whole new world adventuring through the mountains on two wheels. Was such a special thing to share with my best friend who introduced me to biking and to meet so many friends through the sport.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Both. Personally, I use clips for riding and racing, but when practicing skills I use flats. I like to practice in flats as it helps to work on fine tuning my foot weight through pedals and foot positioning with skills. I ride and race in clips because I like to utilize the power on the upstroke of a clip with enduro racing or climbing up a mountain.

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 have to laugh looking back at myself. When I was a newbie I would try to stay balanced on the bike by just riding it faster and keeping my momentum and I didn't learn until much later to practice track standing and going up and down features slowly to work on balance on the bike. Better balance on your bike is a skill that through practicing has helped translate into being more dynamic on the bike and has improved my technical riding throughout. May seem simple but has been a most effective foundational skill that translates into every other skill. When I started riding I was so determined and focused to get better early on and I would try following my friends lines who were obviously way better than me racing expert or pro. I didn't learn from going to skills clinics, but rather just pedaled my little heart out to keep up with friends that challenged me quickly to grow exponentially. While this approach is not for everyone I thrived off pushing myself to get up or down a section of trail that was challenging. If I saw a friend of mine ride something that was outside my ability it motivated me to give it a try or if in assessing risk was too high given my ability then would try to identify what I could still work towards for next time I rode the trail to be able to do it. I sure wish I had learned the foundational skills by going to a clinic early on, but I didn't know about them and now there are so many skills clinics out there to help riders grow. I would also encourage you to stick with skills that challenge you as I would session and still do session tricky technical sections to improve skills. Also, as I progressed in mountain biking I started riding more high consequence terrain. While fear or hesitation is something that you want to work through and ride within your ability at the same time pushing yourself to improve. I began asking myself what is the risk versus the reward with this particular feature and if I am not feeling the reward outweigh the risk, then I know it's not for today and something to work towards. One thing I love about mountain biking is that you are always learning and growing in the sport, so wherever you are at in the journey of mountain biking the most important thing is to have fun out there.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Absolutely! Part of the fun with biking is that you are always learning and growing. Just like life. I love learning from others such as shredding with locals when I ride a new trail in a new part of the world who show me how it's done. Also, my perspective has changed over time with biking. I am not so hard on myself to get it right pushing myself 100% each ride and now it's more about enjoying who I'm with and having fun while riding. I still love to progress in my riding, but I don't put pressure on myself for racing and simply enjoy being able to ride a bike and take in the experience of who I am with and where I am riding.

You had an accident that challenged you on multiple levels. When one is going through something so extreme where multiple levels of healing are needed- where did you start?
The way my injury happened actually is part of what kept me going. Towards the end of my mountain bike race season in New Zealand, I was riding the longest bit of single track in NZ which was truly backcountry riding hours from civilization. I was training for an adventure race with a 40lb pack on my back and after climbing the remote mountains for 5 hours my friend and I hit a narrow section of the trail that had a sheer drop off. I hit a rock just right flinging me off the side of the mountain resulting in me tomahawking to what should have been my death crushing my back in several places resulting in a spinal cord injury, but then a miracle happened. As I got a glimpse of what was below mid flip I realized I could not see the bottom of the mountain and it was not level out to slow me down, so at that moment I was at peace knowing I was dying. Then I felt God's power in all things and all around me just stop me and lay me down gently on the side of the mountain. While I sat there in anguish with the pain, I was okay simply because I realized I was saved for a purpose. As it was raining and getting dark my body did not have long before it would shut down, so I looked above realizing I had fallen further than one survives and that I would need to rock climb back up even though my legs were not working very well, yet I knew I was meant to survive at this point and climbed up to wait for my friend. She helped me get my bike the last 30 feet up to the trail and then I used whatever momentum I had left to pedal to the hut 5k away. Then I was heli evacuated out that night and released soon after to hitchhike with our bikes back 8 hours to our van as they missed several fractures and did not provide me with proper pain management and another day before returning back to Wanaka, NZ where I had been living. Once I finally laid down my body shut down and I was in bed most of the time for the next 6 months. I would lay there in tears asking God to help me while working in and through me in this hard time so I could learn and grow from it in the ways he desired for me. I put my trust and hope in him with each step and would wake up choosing to be grateful rather than choosing despair as I knew this miracle of life and the growth through this hardship was not only for my own life but to eventually somehow get to a place where I could encourage others through my story and help others in their journey too.

Did you have a difficult time being patient with yourself during the healing process or did you have a way of kindness towards yourself?
YES, I really struggled with patience with myself, but had to learn a great deal of patience through this and continuing to work on the kindness to self as I am very hard on myself! Every day I was faced with a choice. Would I be grateful for what I was able to do OR would I be frustrated and depressed by what I could not do. I would start every day choosing to be grateful that I could use my legs to walk and that I was still alive for a purpose. When you lay in bed for most of 6 months you have a choice to grow or spiral into the darkness of depression with all the unknowns ahead in such a long period of waiting, pain you are in with a broken back, and emotional hardship with a nervous system that is shut down leaving you without any energy. I was completely broken in every way and even my best friend was not there for me, yet God was there to help me through. I completely surrendered myself to growth with God and whatever he may have ahead in complete faith and trust asked him to help me through.

Some may have an accident and choose to not do that activity again out of fear or worry of the incident happening again. What was your deciding factor to not stop mountain biking?
I have been asked this a lot. For me personally, I found so much joy in mountain biking and was not going to let fear of getting injured again get in the way of experiencing something that brought me such joy. Adventuring is a part of who I am and adventuring on two wheels is my favorite way to explore, so to stop biking would mean I would not be living my life to the fullest and simply quitting when life got tough. It was not easy as those outside my mountain biking community did not support my return to mountain biking, so I had to move forward with what I knew in my heart I was to do and not rely on others opinions. I did end up having to work through PTSD which I did through slowly easing back into riding versus growing frustrated when I couldn't ride something I once was able to ride. I also was in bed for most of the day for almost 6 months as my nervous system shut down from the trauma my body sustained and being faced with death, suffering a broken back and spinal cord injury that left me with balance and strength deficits in my core and legs unable to get out of bed for months without using my arms to pick my legs up and slowly walking as if I were 90 years old for months. It was a really discouraging time and a daily choice to follow the light or the darkness ahead. I truly have tried to approach every day by following the light, yet absolutely you have to be real with yourself in the journey of tough moments to work through them so you don't run from them and rise above them, so you can truly "leap to fly." Doesn't mean it's smooth flying from there. After returning to riding I rode through the European Alps in honor of my best friends mom who was diagnosed with cancer, which was one of the most impactful rides of my life as I was able to ride again so soon after my injury (not on my own strength, but that of God as I was still in bed a few weeks prior) while supporting my friend and her mom as we pioneers our own route through the Alps. It was on top of the Alps that Leap2Fly was born. As the thought of moving forward with my purpose in life began to be revealed as I was to support, encourage, and inspire others in life through mountain biking in breathtaking places such as the Alps. I realized the positive impact the experience had on me and I wanted to share it with others. Soon after I lost my best friend as she ran from the hard times just when I thought she would be by my side through it all to reach the blessings ahead, I lost my 14-year-old pup to terminal cancer and was left alone, I got injured again and was feeling defeated, my savings had dried up from being out of work from my first injury, and I was in a state of physical and emotional trauma from it all. When I thought I had gone through the hardest time in my life it just got harder and I wondered why I survive. I thought I had this purpose ahead, yet I was all of a sudden alone and broken without a home and those closest to me were not there for me through it. I only had God and He is what helped me through the hardest of times including the fear of the unknown ahead for life and biking. I did get back on a bike and have since started Leap2fly to encourage, inspire, and positively impact others lives. It brings me so much joy and I feel I am living out part of my purpose in still being alive when I see participants sharing the stoke and laughing while growing on and off the bike together in epic mountain bike locations just as I had envisioned. I am inspired by the lives that are impacted and the light and joy that radiates from each person over the course of the retreats. You see if I had given up, then I would never: see lives positively impacted and changed for the better at Leap2Fly Retreats, gone back to ride the trail I fell on to experience joy, peace, and gratitude to also share with others to encourage them (see miracles and hardship write with Zeal Optics), spent part of the summer riding with friends in some of the most breathtaking and terrain I have ever ridden in British Columbia. If I give up now, then I will not live life to the fullest to embrace Gods best ahead. Don't give up and please don't lose hope or let fear win. Taking that leap into the unknown and embracing your fears is not easy and doesn't always work out, but the only way you will ever find out is if you truly leap in biking and life. You were meant to fly!

Leap2Fly was created in 2017, tell us more about Leap2Fly and your purpose behind it-
Leap2Fly is a mountain bike retreat business that offers retreats in Colorado, British Columbia, and New Zealand. I started Leap2fly to support, encourage, inspire, and empower growth on and off the bike by providing an opportunity to connect with yourself, others, and the outdoors in some of the most epic mountain bike locations I have ridden in the world. My goal is for every person who comes to adventure with us on a retreat to leave not only stoked at an epic experience with lots of hi-fives and laughs with new friends, but to feel it was a life changing experience for them that they truly embraced "Leaping to fly" on and off the bike.

What do you love most about having your own business? Especially one relating to mountain biking?
The ability to ride with purpose and use my bike as a vehicle to positively impact lives through Leap2Fly.

You are certified as a level 1 IMBA instructor, what do you enjoy most about helping others learn mountain biking skills?
I love to help people overcome an obstacle whether that is an improvement in a skill or overcoming a mental block with fear or even working through something more serious such as PTSD to see them finish the day with a huge grin on their face and completely stoked with biking and what they accomplished. Love being a part of bringing stoke to someone's life, so even better when they let you know later that the skills work significantly helped them with confidence and ability to ride things they never thought they could in their riding and/or racing season. Whether I am mountain bike coaching or guiding I simply love taking in the moment being appreciative to share the experience with others riding such beautiful places.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Adventuring on two wheels is the best way to roll. I love the exhilaration of movement and speed, the stoke shared with friends and the community around biking, the ability to adventure and explore new trails around the world, the challenge of it as I'm always learning and growing, and the ability to ride with purpose and use my bike as a vehicle to impact lives through Leap2fly.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I ride a Yeti SB5 which is the perfect all-round enduro bike for me personally. With the enduro geometry in mind with the SB5 it descends well, yet is still playful and poppy. Ideally, I would have a SB6 as well to send down things fast with more cush, but the SB5 is lighter and climbs well too.

Why do you feel it is important for women to be involved in the cycling industry?
Important for those who have a passion to be involved in the cycling industry to get involved whether they are a man or women. If you have a passion to be in the industry, then go for it! Definitely important for women to be involved in the industry to have a voice in the industry decisions. Expanded on in question on how we could encourage more women to get involved.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Different for every individual, but could be fear of the unknown, lack of confidence in riding mountain bike trails perceived as too challenging, do not have friends to go with, costly sport, or overwhelming as not sure where to start with getting into a new sport.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I believe we will reach a point where this will no longer be a question. More and more women are riding bikes, more women's skills clinics than ever are offering ladies an environment to improve skills, and more women are getting involved with the bike industry that leads to a woman's voice being heard at the industry level to better understand women who ride and how we can get more ladies on bikes and involved. I believe this is multi-factorial. First, those who are new to biking may not know where to start, so offering skills clinics and community riding groups is crucial to introducing ladies to mountain biking and providing a supportive environment to feel welcome and create community. I would love to see ladies take that next step by joining a Leap2Fly MTB Retreat which is about creating opportunities for ladies to continue to grow on and off the bike exploring trails together while creating connection and community. If ladies want to then get into racing or progress in racing Leap2Fly is starting a Retreat for Enduro racing in partnership with Anne Galyean who was the first and only female on Yeti's factory team. With that being said we need to continue seeing growth in support of women on bikes and in racing from bike brands. With more women supported by factory teams as well as more ambassador programs for ladies in general. Mountain biking is not a cheap sport, so the more bike brands who offer ambassador programs to ladies for pro deals on bikes enables more ladies on quality bikes who will continue to progress in the sport and stick with it for a lifetime. Believe bike industry ambassador programs have a real opportunity to progress women in mountain biking by financially supporting key ambassadors who serve at Leap2Fly ladyshred retreats or skills clinics out to progress in mountain biking, which leads to proper support in enabling more ladies to encourage more ladies throughout the world. I would also love to see more ladies in there local communities get in touch with their local shop and organize group rides to offering support, hi-fives, and stoke on rides together.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I really value living this short life to the fullest and encouraging others in their journey in biking and life. Mountain biking has opened up a whole new world to me of adventure, friendships, and travel around the world that I would love to share with others. What truly inspired me to start leap2fly is encouraging others to "leap to fly" in biking and life to live it the fullest. You've got one life. Live it well!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

I am a mountain girl who loves to surf
Check Out:
-Brand Ambassador for Mons Royale and Zeal Optics
-Sponsors: Mons Royale, Zeal Optics, Crankbrothers, EVOC, IXS, Yeti Cycles
-Colorowdies Ambassador, VIDA MTB Series ambassador and coach, has her IMBA Level 1 MTB Coaching Certificate, Wilderness First Responders, CPR, and surf instructors license

-Doctorate of Physical Therapy, Orthopedic Certified Specialist, and Manual Therapy Fellow, as well as Certified in dry needling.
-Previously a MTB racer also a physical therapy for elite athletes internationally and a professor of physical therapy
-She has competed in Xterra off road triathlon Nationals and Worlds, MTB races throughout Colorado, the Pioneer MTB Stage Race in New Zealand, and Enduros in the USA, Canada, and NZ

Zeal Optics ambassador page:

Most recent podcast from Gear Show: From suffering comes growth 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

I'm Going To Do This.

"I want to ride down Backbone."

These were the words that Travis probably didn't want to hear. In fact, I know he didn't want to hear them! However, I had deemed it was "time" for myself to make the descent.

I told myself it was in my "5-year plan" for mountain biking...

Had I felt confident enough and brave enough to ride down a hill that had a rating of an average grade of 18% and a max grade of 22% sooner, it would've been something I could've told Dad about.

I have that on my mind a lot...everything now that I would like to share with him, I can't. I can share the experience with a keychain that has a charm filled with a few his ashes. I can be told multiple times his spirit is with me. It's all fine and good, but damnit- it can be frustrating when you are still wanting the human presence. I don't get to see the expressions or hear the change in voice as he hears how I rode down a technical and steep hill....successfully. Twice. 

I considered this trail a "Rite of Passage" as tho I wouldn't be a true Decorah mountain biker until I rode down the descent successfully. I have been able to ride up some challenging trails without fail, and I felt that more things started to "click together" with skills. What was I waiting for? I'd always have an excuse not to ride down it. There would always be "something" that would make me second guess my decision to ride down Backbone.

That needed to stop.

I was holding myself back and without a good reason. After reflecting on my past season to the present point, I came to the conclusion that I was capable of riding down this trail and what I needed to do was simply believe in my ability to do so.

McNasty was the steed of choice. We hiked up Backbone and I looked at each section that I felt was scary and diagnosed it. Let's take one chunk at a time, look at what line might be best, and realize that some of what I would ride down wasn't as scary looking as I originally thought. It's all about perspective. I didn't have huge, gnarly rocks to drop down from, not to the degree I imagined in my head.

At the top, we lowered our seat posts (we don't have droppers on our bikes). I originally was going to watch Travis ride down, but someone chose that moment to walk up the trail. Ha! We did a small loop-away and back, and I was following behind Travis. "I bet you just want to ride down, don't you?" I looked at him, thought for a second, and turned on the GoPro. "Let's do this."

I followed behind him, taking cues- going slowly and poking my way down and over rocks and small ledges. Avoiding sketchy lines, allowing my bike to go forward, not using my brakes too much, and keeping my weight back so I wouldn't be too front-heavy.
After we got past the rockiest points, I realized that I had nailed it! I was in shock! Literally, I was shaking from the adrenaline. It was awesome!

I decided it was time to do it again because I needed visual proof that I could ride down it- as in needing Travis to get a picture.

The second time wasn't a perfect descent- I didn't realize I was going down too fast, I felt my weight shift to the front and my front wheel started going off to the side. Shoot! I had to bail, and thankfully the only damage to my bike was scuffing up my bar plug. The main reason for not being able to follow through with riding down the trail was more due to speed.

"I'm going to do it until I make it one more time."

I hiked my bike up the hill, carefully placing my feet on the rocks beneath me. It's a trudge of a walk up the hill without a bike- add walking your bike up the hill and having to hoist it over rock ledges increases it. I was intent on succeeding, no matter how many more bailouts I would have to do.
I re-started the GoPro and made my way down, this time being sure to start off slower than last time. I kept my breathing steady and focused on what was in front of me. Let your wheel drop, keep the tires rolling, don't brake too can do this.

Next thing I knew, I had ridden past Travis and knew that I was victorious! YES!
I wasn't shaking as much this time and decided that three times total was plenty for the day. I had done it. I rode down the trail that I never thought I could. I accomplished the goal- and did so on McNasty. I don't think I could've been happier.

It was good for me to take the leap and push myself to do something I thought beyond my level. In reality, I was at the level I needed to be in order to do it. I simply stopped telling myself I couldn't and allowed myself the opportunity to prove to myself it was possible.

At this point, I will regret not having done it sooner- but at the same time I feel like it started when

(Note: everyone that has seen the YouTube video says that it does not represent at all how steep the trail really is. That's why the MTB Project link to the trail is linked in the post. 
That is also why I kept my weight back- the grade towards the top is VERY steep.)

Monday, September 3, 2018

Women Involved Series: Gloria Liu

I'm a writer, mountain bike racer, and editor-at-large at BICYCLING magazine. I specialize in enduro racing, but I love all kinds of riding: I've raced XC, 'cross, and even a little bit on the road; and I most definitely enjoy just-for-fun rides, my quick daily bike commutes, and sunny days at the bike park.

My path to cycling was a little unconventional. When I was younger, I partied a lot. I now recognize that I was searching for a sense of excitement, wanting to push into places that felt out of control and unpredictable, and I just didn't have a healthy outlet for it. I had a promising career in finance, but I dreamed of a more adventurous life. I wanted to feel passionate about what I was doing. Eventually, I quit my job and went to New Zealand to be a ski bum—it was an experiment in doing something I loved every day. Chasing winter led me back to the US by way of Aspen, Colorado, and when the snow melted, I found mountain biking. I was hooked immediately.

That eventually led me to a job in the bike industry, in Boulder, where my coworkers introduced me to racing.

How I got into journalism is yet another story, and involved quitting my job and traveling again—maybe we'll get to that in the questions. :) But I've been at BICYCLING now for three and a half years, and moved to Emmaus, Pennsylvania for the job. I edit all kinds of stories, but my favorites are personal narratives and profiles about interesting people—and those are my favorite stories to write, too.

I started focusing on enduro racing about two years ago. I love the social aspect of the race format—the best races just feel like one big group ride with your friends. And I love the community. It's been a fun and at times funny journey (I wrote a story about the ups and downs of my first season for BICYCLING), but last season was a solid one. I won a few local races in the pro/open category, was 2nd in my age group at Nationals, and was the women's champ in the enduro classification at the Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Race. The past couple years have taught me a lot about racing, and about myself. I'm looking forward to doing more of the nationally competitive Eastern States Cup races this year, and going back to the Nationals.

Tell us about the introduction to mountain biking and how it influenced you from then on-
I found mountain biking relatively late in life. I was 27. My then-boyfriend and I had moved to Aspen, Colorado to be ski bums. He was a mountain biker. When the summer rolled around, we went to the local secondhand store and bought me a 2002 Kona Bear full-suspension trail bike for $400.

My first ride was up this soggy dirt road that was waterlogged with snowmelt. We just climbed up and bombed back down. I loved it immediately, and I hadn’t even touched singletrack yet. I knew I would go all-in.

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!"
As I mentioned, I was already all-in after ride number one. That was good because my second ride was at the Snowmass Bike Park. “You’ll be fine,” my ex and his friend assured me. We were doing legit downhill trails, and I remember being pretty scared. My arms were so pumped from braking after just a couple runs.

That day, I learned just three cardinal rules that I still tell beginners: 1) On descents, keep your weight back. 2) Don’t pull the front brake on its own. 3) Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. Fortunately, that’s actually how I learn best—just being thrown in over my head and having to figure it out. Later, I’d learn that this isn’t the best way to teach everyone.

What do you enjoy about the various styles of mountain biking, since it's an all-encompassing term for XC, Enduro, DH, etc.
I love it all. I started racing XC about five years ago, now I mostly race enduro, and the past couple seasons I’ve had a season pass to our local bike park. But I also ride on the road, and I’ve raced ’cross too. I think it’s cool to be well-rounded enough as a cyclist that you can jump into almost any ride—road included—and have a good time. And I love racing. It’s helped me tap into my competitive side, and it’s taught me a lot about what I’m capable of. I think as women, we’re often socially discouraged from being outwardly competitive. But if you have that personality, racing gives you a healthy outlet for it.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Clips. I learned on them.

Tell us about your favorite race(s) and why you enjoy them-
I love enduro racing. It’s an experience, not just a race. Because most people pre-ride the day before the race, even a one-day local race becomes basically a weekend event. Plus it’s a pretty small and tight knit community. I also like the personalities of enduro racers—it takes a certain amount of YOLO spirit to embrace that style of riding. I get along with them well. They’re my people.

My favorite enduro was the first one I ever did, which actually doesn’t exist right now. It was called PA Rocks (R.I.P.). There were only about 70 racers, and it was two big burly days in the backwoods outside State College, Pennsylvania. It just felt like one big group ride punctuated by moments of hanging on to your bars for dear life. I met all these new people and it was so much fun.

Last year I also did my first stage race, the Trans-Sylvania Epic. I loved it for similar reasons—just the sense of camaraderie we built through the week, and the total escape from work and daily life for five days. My mom was laughing at me when I told her that was how I wanted to spend my vacation days. She was like, “Will you ever just take an actual relaxing vacation?” But after finishing TSE I felt more recharged and energized than I would have lying on a beach for five days. And I walked away with first place in the women’s enduro classification! So that was pretty cool.

For folks on the fence about doing a bike race, do you have tips or suggestions that may help their first experience?
I think for their first race everyone mostly worries that they’re gonna be last. But just remember that if there’s a decent field then statistically speaking that is highly unlikely. :) In all seriousness, I’d just say, do it. You might mess some things up, but everyone has hilarious stories about their first races, so you’ll be in great company.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Right when I first started, I had issues on very exposed trails—singletrack that has a sheer drop off on one side—which there are a lot of in Colorado. The trick that helped me then was one that was key when I was learning to snowboard too—look where you want to go (down the trail), not where you don’t want to go (over the edge).
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Cornering! I live in eastern Pennsylvania now, where the trails are very tight and technical. There are lots of rocks, logs, and turns. I didn’t learn to ride on trails like this, and I really admire riders who can corner fast in tight, twisty terrain like this. I do get frustrated sometimes if I feel like a skill isn’t “taking,” but I try to remember a thing a friend said once: “Never be angry on your bike.” I liked that a lot because it made me think about how many things had to be right for me to even be riding a bike: I have to have the financial means to have a bike, I have to be healthy and able-bodied, I have to have the luxury of free time to even be out there doing a recreational activity.

In the meantime, I practice. I’ve done a few sessions with a couple of coaches, and one day a week I usually dedicate a ride solely to skill-building. I’ll go out by myself and not worry at all about the pace, and just work on a single skill.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Going downhill :)

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I just bought a Pivot Switchblade. It’s an all-mountain bike with 135mm of travel. I wanted a 29er, because big wheels just roll faster and make getting over stuff easier. Why not? I rode the Switchblade once during a weeklong bike test a year ago and never stopped thinking about that bike. That’s when you know.

Tell us about your journey into the world of journalism and how it has influenced you.
I always wanted to be a writer. It was my childhood dream. But my parents, who are immigrants from Taiwan, always told me that I should pick something more practical. They both grew up poor, and they drilled into me that in America, we don’t take chances. You pick a career that is needed and you make sure you’re the best at it because if you’re not people aren’t going to give you a second chance. (They’ve since definitely softened on this, but this was what I was brought up to believe.)

So I studied business and worked in finance. I was pretty good at it and got promoted quickly, but I always felt like I had other skills that I wasn’t using. I ended up quitting my job to ski bum for a couple of years, and at the end of that, I got a marketing job in the bike industry. I started writing for a local cycling website. When I turned 30, I had this moment where I was like, what am I waiting for? You only live once. So I quit my job again and freelanced and traveled. While I was spending the summer in Chamonix, France, I pitched BICYCLING Magazine on a story about mountain biking in the Alps. They told me about a job opening for a gear editor position. I had no journalism experience, but I figured it was a way to possibly grease the wheels for a future freelance assignment. I ended up getting a job offer instead.

Working in journalism, writing, and editing, I honestly feel like I have found my career. I think I could do this for many years and be very fulfilled.

You work as a features editor for Bicycling Magazine, what do you do and why do you love it?
I edit and write stories of all kinds: profiles, narratives, interviews, special packages. I love the process of writing, but I also love editing. I love the fact that even if I’m not the best person to write a story, as an editor I can make a story come to life. I love working with writers, seeing how the talented people create. I love brainstorming ideas with other editors. I love hunting down story ideas. I love the idea that the stories we create could change the way people behave, inspire them, and maybe change the world in a small way.

Why do you feel sharing the story of cycling, in its various forms, is important?
If cycling calls to you it can help you discover things about yourself that can make you a better person. (Sorry if anyone’s eye-rolling but I believe this to be true.) For myself, cycling helped me discover my sense of self-reliance and self sufficiency, how far I could push my body, how I could work for something and have that hard work pay off, and how I could trust myself as an athlete to perform under pressure. Bikes can offer lessons that help us get through challenges in life.

I also believe in the limit of bikes. I don’t think cycling can help you find answers to life’s biggest questions. I think cycling can cause problems in our lives when we chase it too single mindedly. Still, cycling is a really effective conduit for telling a story about the world because it’s a unifier. In a cycling magazine, we can talk about bigger issues like abuse, discrimination, poverty, illness, disability, the environment, because we’re starting from a common ground, which is bikes. Readers who might not think they want to hear a story about one of these topics can relate with a subject because we all have the same passion. Bikes give us an “in.”
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially in mountain biking?
I think the cost of entry is a huge deterrent. When a decent full-suspension bike can cost upwards of $2,000 at a minimum, that’s a huge investment for people in general—and I do think that, for whatever the reason, women are more reluctant to spend that much money on equipment. (I don’t have numbers to back this up, just anecdotal experience.)

I also think mountain biking has a steeper learning curve than road riding. It seems like most people who get have someone or a group of “mentors” who took them out for their first rides, taught them basics like how to lift your front wheel, where to shift your weight on a descent, and basic skills we take for granted as proficient mountain bikers. So if you don’t have someone who’s interested in mentoring and coaching you beyond your first ride, you’re less likely to get involved.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I’m not sure how much this is an economic reality, but we need more and better entry-level bicycles and parts that work well. That price point is where most new riders enter the sport, but if the experience isn’t good, they’ll stop riding before they can really fall in love with it, let alone get into buying nicer stuff.

There are good things happening in that regard—both SRAM and Shimano’s lower-end 1x MTB drivetrains are solid, for example, and brands like Santa Cruz have brought their popular models down to aluminum versions—but in my opinion, frames and wheels on sub-$2,000 bikes still have a long way to go. Lugging around a 33-pound beast with no rear suspension when you’re already trying to learn all the intricacies of trail riding is just not fun, and if that’s the beginner experience, we’re going to continue to lose a lot of riders in the first few rides. Being on a lighter, capable bike can make riding so much more enjoyable, and ultimately the more people who can get access to bikes like that, the more our sport will grow. But most of the development happens around the higher-end stuff, which I’m sure makes near-term financial sense for companies. I wish I knew the solution to that.

On the bright side, women’s-only rides, festivals like RoamBike, and clinics like Lindsey Richter’s Ladies AllRide series, seem to be blowing up. I think they’re doing a lot of the important work of that mentoring and guiding for newer riders, as well as simply connecting women to other riders. The success of these events is showing that there’s a lot of demand, and it’ll only give rise to more events.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Mountain biking can be so empowering. You can ride out into the backcountry for hours on your own and discover how it feels to be self-reliant, and to solve problems on your own. It’s a very tangible way of seeing that if you put time into something you can get better. It’s a way to get into nature after being stuck in an office all day. It’s a way to meet people. And more importantly, it’s just really fun. I wish everyone would fall in love with it.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I’m a certified scuba dive master. You said “random”! :)