Friday, November 30, 2018

Specialized S-Works Epic Hardtail Review

This review has been a long time coming, but I'm finally getting around to officially introduce the world to my Specialized S-Works Epic named Maui.

Maui was purchased as a frame that we would build up into a very capable & fun mountain bike that would take adventures on gravel roads.

I was super excited to have a lightweight and efficient bike that had capabilities of having a bottle cage!

My last hardtail was a WSD design and because of that, it didn't have room for a bottle cage. I felt like I was stepping up in the world!

This bike was built with a SID World Cup front suspension fork with a remote lockout. It doesn't have the brain tech like my full suspension Epic does. I don't find that to be an issue as I'm used to non-brain technology front suspension forks.

Travis put on a 32 tooth oval chainring and it's an 11-speed drivetrain. We went with the 32 tooth size so I could have gravel gearing that would suit my riding style, but also successfully ride this bike on trails. It's more important for my bikes to be able to go on mountain bike trails because that is my favorite type of riding, having the bike cross over into another territory is a bonus. I feel this ring size works well for me, and while it might not be enough for some, I find it is a good balance for my needs. I do tend to favor some of the easier gears when it comes to climbing on our mountain bike trails which is why the season prior we had changed several of my bikes to a smaller chainring to eliminate a crossed chainline (and to try and get me closer to using my middle gears more consistently.) This setup backtracks that whole concept, but I'm not using this as my daily dirt ride, so it doesn't matter too much.

We put on the Roval Control SL carbon wheelset from my full suspension Epic since that bike was getting a set of sweet Industry Nine wheels. We set the wheels/tires up as tubeless (no tubes) and that allows me to run lower air pressures for trail riding. Most times for gravel riding I'm around 20-23 psi and I feel that is fine for my rides. I like having a tubeless setup so I can worry less about puncture flats, even still, I'll carry a spare tube with me just in case.

I currently have the stock tire setup on the wheels: Fast Trak 2.3 in the front and 2.1 in the back. The Fast Trak tread worked quite well for the gravel rides I've gone on and I'm not sure I would feel as tho I need to go to a different style. I might consider trying the Renegade tires next year, to see if I like the lower profile. Overall, I would say I am not as confident on gravel as I am on singletrack, so I like having tires with decent traction and grip.

My first ride on Maui was a pavement ride to Bluffton and back, and let me tell you, I said: "I'll never need a road bike again!" I fell in love, and I fell hard. For being a mountain bike, I felt like it was so light and nimble. It's how I wished my road bike could've felt- I felt stable and confident, yet I could stand up and crank away with ease. I would not want this bike to be any lighter than it is, because that would almost be scary in terms of handling. I would say this bike felt like a sprite as it was very responsive and nothing felt out of control. I couldn't wait to see how this bike would handle on the mountain bike trails.

Fast forward a few months later and I got to find out!

Riding to the trails felt so effortless and that put a huge smile on my face!
On twists and turns, I felt like I could point it and go. It responded well, regardless of how tight the corners and trees were. I was surprised to feel like I could ride into turns more confidently on this Epic than my full suspension. I feel the posture of my hardtail is slightly more upright than on my full suspension Epic or it's because I have a traditional suspension fork on the bike vs. a Brain fork, and somehow that makes it feel more compliant.

Riding the Pines East and West trails would be the test in terms of how comfortable the bike could be on consistently bumpy terrain. There are many roots that lace within the trail and full suspension definitely keeps you from feeling so beat up. I found that the carbon hardtail absorbed some of the vibrations, and due to that, I had no issue with powering over roots at a decent clip. Would this be my bike choice for riding hours and hours on root and rock filled trails? Not likely. Did the bike handle well for riding my local trails for a couple hours? A resounding yes! I had an extremely good time riding this hardtail on my local trails.

This bike was my go-to for riding trails when I would have to do trail checks after some of our larger storms this season. I quickly found the bike was ideal for my exploration rides due to its weight. Have to climb over a tree (or five?) or jump across a natural stream? Easy! The bike takes little effort to lift, which my shoulder appreciates. Surprisingly, I felt really confident on the bike with less than ideal trail conditions. I was able to finesse my way over slick roots and rocks as well as climb up hills in relatively greasy conditions.

I found that this bike was a winner in dry or slick conditions. I have not ridden this bike in a race yet; It's not something I'd consider taking to Chequamegon due to how that course typically is, but I might consider riding it for our local Time Trials.

I had fallen hard for full suspension and this bike made me appreciate the joy that riding a hardtail can bring. You don't have rear suspension cushioning bumps, and it doesn't aid you with climbing- you learn how body position can affect the ride. It's been really fun to jump back on a hardtail after riding a full suspension so regularly. I'm really stoked to have Maui in the fleet and I can't wait to ride this bike more next season!

Holiday Shopping For Cyclists 2.0

When it comes to purchasing a gift for the bike rider in the family, it can be immensely tricky. If they have been into cycling for a while, it's likely that it seems they have "everything" and for folks new to riding, it can be overwhelming because they might need a lot. Last year I introduced some gift ideas and this adds more to the list, which will hopefully help you find the perfect gift or stocking stuffer this holiday season.

A New Helmet:
It's recommended that helmets be replaced every 5 years or if you have a crash that sustains impact to your head. Even still, the technology that helmets are being built with now is impressive and some are coming with additional features to keep you safe on the roads or street. MIPS technology is being offered in more helmets now.

MIPS stands for "Multi-directional Impact Protection System." Created through years of research, the combination of the brain's own protection and MIPS can provide better protection from angled impacts.

It was first seen in road and mountain bike helmets, but now you can purchase the popular Specialized Centro LED helmet with MIPS!

Even the Specialized Align helmets and child/youth helmets can be purchased with MIPS technology.

Specialized also released a new technology called ANGi, which is a sensor that comes with some helmets (or can be purchased for ANGi compatible helmets) that can detect bicycle crashes. It will alert your emergency contacts, share your location, and connect you to help. When you purchase a helmet with ANGi or purchase an ANGi sensor, the first year is free. ($29.99 after that)

Decorah Bicycles has select helmets available in the store that are ANGi compatible with a lot of options to order in.

Bar Mitts:
I cannot say enough how amazing the Bar Mitt Extreme mitts are. Your hands are protected from the cold and elements, and if you suffer from chronically cold hands like I do, that extra barrier is so very helpful. In extreme temperatures, my hands might be cold, but I know I don't have to worry about the wind/snow/rain making me feel even more frigid. Bar Mitts also allow many to get away with not having to wear such big, bulky, cumbersome gloves. Maintain dexterity and experience comfort on your ride or commute.

Decorah Bicycles has Bar Mitt Extreme mitts on sale for $89.99

New Saddle:
Purchasing a new saddle for someone can be challenging, but it never hurts to purchase a gift certificate so they have something to put towards a new saddle. There are many saddle choices out there, and it can be challenging to know what will be the best fit. Often it takes coming into the store and trying out several, or purchasing one and exchanging it for a different one if it's not quite right.

One saddle that is making waves right now is the new Specialized Power Saddle with Mimic Technology. Mimic technology uses multilayered materials to maintain equilibrium and minimize swelling in soft tissue. It might not be a saddle for every rider and it would work best for folks who ride in a neutral or forward posture (think of the posture on a road or mountain bike.) I'm currently testing one out and will write a review on it after I've had a few more rides!

If you are looking for a gift for someone that likes to do longer rides or possibly does a bike race or two, then a bag might make the perfect gift. There are many bag options out there, so choosing one might feel difficult! I have a hard time eating when I'm racing, and I find it cumbersome to try and reach into my jersey pocket to get food. I've had a difficult time shoving a packet of chews up my shorts leg, too. A Wolf Tooth Handlebar Bag proved to be the perfect solution! I could store several snacks in it and when there weren't snacks, my sunglasses fit perfectly.
Some folks might like a top tube bag instead, and others might like the thought of a frame bag. Ultimately, it depends what all you think they will want to carry or have with them. Seat packs make great flat repair kit bags. You can fit a tube, set of tire levers, and possibly a small canister of CO2 in the pack- if the person you're buying a gift for attends races or goes off on long mile rides, a flat kit would be a very thoughtful gift.

Cold Weather Gear:
Think neck gaiters, skull caps, thermal headbands, and balaclavas. Neck gaiters are great for folks who absolutely detest balaclavas. You can pull it up over your nose for extra protection from the elements and wear it lower when it's chilly. Skull caps and Thermal Headbands are great for wearing under your helmet. Both will keep your ears warm, but the cap will be best on those very cold days. Caps come with the option of being more thermal or wind resistant, and either option will work better under your helmet than a stocking cap.
Balaclavas are ideal for the coldest days as they do provide the most face coverage. For some (like myself) they can feel too constricting or just unpleasant to wear if you're having to breathe heavy. There are several different designs for balaclavas, so there is a very good chance you'll find one that meets your needs perfectly. Again, these also fit easily under your helmet so you can maintain comfort along with being warmer.

Removable Fender(s):
There are removable rear fenders for traditional-wheeled bikes and there are fenders for fatbikes. Inexpensive, easy to use, and perfect for the rider who is wanting to stay dry on wet days or for their commute. Many times folks will opt for just a removable rear fender, but there are options for front fenders or perhaps a front/rear fender combo pack. The nice thing about the removable fenders is you can take them off when the weather is dry (or frozen).

Gift Certificate for an E-Bike or Fatbike Rental:
Folks are intrigued about E-Bikes and Fatbikes and one of the easiest ways to get them out on one is to pre-pay for a rental. Fatbikes are typically rented in the winter months as folks are looking to get out of the house and out into the snow. E-Bikes are commonly rented in the warmer months and riding the paved trail possible or commute to the grocery store or out to lunch super fun. Knee problems? You can worry less about limiting where you ride since it can give you assistance on hills.

The first step to trying something new is walking in the door, and this can make it a lot easier to do so!

Wind Jacket or Specialized Therminal Alpha Jacket:
A wind jacket is a great piece of gear that can keep one comfortable for a variety of conditions and rides. Those who ride in open areas may appreciate it more than a mountain biker, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't find a use for one. A wind jacket typically has some water resistant property to it, so if one is caught in a light mist or rain, you won't get soaked right away. There are different wind jackets, some are considered more lightweight and "packable" than others. If you're purchasing a wind jacket for someone who doesn't own one at all, opting for a lighter weight one wouldn't be the worst idea. That way if they get too warm it could be stuffed in a jersey pocket or pack.
Josie is wearing a purple Bontrager Vella Wind Jacket (on sale for $49.99 at Decorah Bicycles)
and a Specialized Therminal Alpha Jacket (black)
Specialized came out with a new jacket called a Therminal Alpha Jacket which is a lightweight, but very warm jacket one can use for layering under a jacket, wind jacket, or jersey to keep you warmer in the cold months. It's amazingly warm for being a layering piece and I personally can't say enough about it. It is challenging to find the right size for "everyday" wear as the jackets fit a bit small for snug layering. They mention that if you want a "street look" to size up. It's not an inexpensive piece of gear, but with the versatility, it provides for keeping one comfortable in cold conditions, it's totally worth it. It even has a lightweight hood you can wear under your helmet and if you have long hair, there is a hole you can fit your ponytail through.

Padded Bike Shorts:
Like saddles, padded shorts can be something a bit challenging to purchase for someone because there are different brands/pads and sizing can be tricky. Decorah Bicycles carries shorts from Bontrager and Specialized: Several styles and a size range of each. If you're planning to buy shorts as a gift, check out the sizing guides: Bontrager & Specialized. They can be especially helpful if we need to order in a style (like bib shorts.)

If you have a clothing item that is sized in "Small", "Medium", or "Large" you can use that as a guide. Start with that and if they need to exchange for a different size it's easy to do at Decorah Bicycles.

Shorts can feel complicated due to the different styles lycra vs. baggy and bib shorts vs. shorts. Most times it depends on the riding, but know that you can always put a baggy short or an athletic skirt over top of lycra shorts to give them a casual look. That can lead to being more versatile for some because you can wear the outer layer multiple times before washing vs. washing your singular pair of shorts. Some baggy shorts do not have a removable outer layer, so you need to wash the whole thing vs. just the padded short part.

Padded shorts should be washed after every wear, so if you know of someone wanting to do a couple days of RAGBRAI or simply get out and ride more often, a new pair of shorts or a gift certificate for a pair of shorts is a great idea!

New Tires or Tubeless:
This can be tricky to purchase if you're not 100% sure what your friend/partner is running for tires/wheels, but if they have dropped hints that they need to get new tires next year or are thinking of converting a bike to tubeless, then that helps! We can always do a gift certificate that can cover all or most of the cost of either/or.

Not all bikes can be converted to tubeless, so that's why it's best to either bring the bike in or take pictures of the bike, current wheels/tires and we can try and assist with what knowledge that gives us on if it can be converted or not.

New tires are personal, too, but if one has heard complaints of the tread being worn down or not having great traction out on the trails, we can help with that! If their bike isn't set up to be tubeless, you can still purchase higher quality tires to lighten up the ride and/or make it more compliant and comfortable.

Know someone who hates getting flats and can't get a tubeless setup? Tires with more puncture protection would be a great investment.

Know your friend/partner already has a tubeless setup? Why not give the gift of tire sealant? All you need to know is their sealant of preference.

Stationary Trainer:
There are many options of trainers out there and it can be challenging to know what one would be the best choice. Thankfully, Decorah Bicycles has the ability to order in any CycleOps trainer you could want. In store you'll find the most commonly purchased trainers- and many times those work out great and meet most needs. If you know that you or your partner/friend would rather catch up on their favorite t.v. shows vs. using something like Zwift, the trainers on display will work just fine. If you opt to order a trainer through Decorah Bicycles, it is likely it will show up the next day!

When you purchase a trainer you'll also want to purchase a climbing block, or maybe two if you want the ability to change things up (ride at an incline). A trainer tire or a smooth tire that doesn't have tread would be a good idea, especially if you know one plans to use the trainer often.

Gloves can age and wear out, and sometimes folks don't know that you can (and should!) wash your cycling gloves fairly regularly. If they have reached a point of no return, a new pair of gloves can be the perfect gift!

There are many different gloves one can look at, and it would ultimately depend on the type of riding that would point you to one direction or another. Many folks opt for fingerless gloves with gel padding for comfort on road/gravel/pavement rides.
For mountain biking or gravel riding, lightweight full finger gloves are a great idea. There are options for lightweight, full finger gloves with some minimal padding. Some folks will use fingerless gloves for mountain biking, but it depends more where they are mountain biking on if that's a great idea or not. Decorah has a lot of close trees on our mountain bike trails, and it can be really easy to accidentally smack a knuckle on a tree. I'm a fan of long fingered gloves on gravel, too.

There are many different grip and bar tape options out there and it can be an inexpensive gift/upgrade for someone. Maybe they are looking for a grip that offers more palm support or maybe they have coveted that plush bar tape but haven't felt they could spend the money on it. Plus, a fresh pair of grips or new bar tape is an easy way to freshen up the bike.

Dropper Post:
A dropper post is being added to many a wish list because it's a nifty accessory that can increase confidence on the bike. It's not always the easiest thing to purchase in secret, because it depends on the style of bike and if they have internally routed compatibility or if it would have to be externally routed. If you're sneaky enough to take pictures of the bike and know for sure the make/model, your LBS may be able to assist with ordering in the exact dropper post you'll need. Otherwise, a gift certificate that would cover the cost of the most likely option would certainly help.

Gift Certificate for a bicycle tune-up:
There are several options for tune-up packages from just mechanical work to getting the bike disassembled and having all new cables/housing installed, plus the frame/wheels cleaned, etc. Some folks get their bike serviced every year, others go for years without bringing their bike in. Either way, the gift of a service job is like giving the gift of an oil change for a vehicle. It dials everything in and if you opt for a package that cleans the bike- it can feel almost like you gave the gift of a new bike!
When the bike is in for a service job is a great time to put on new pedals/grips/bar tape or any other accessory (like lights.)
These are just a handful of ideas that can be utilized for gift ideas for your favorite rider or possibly yourself. You will notice that gift certificate is mentioned quite a bit, and that's because it is a foolproof way of being able to give the gift of something without worry over purchasing the wrong item/size/color. It's not always as fun as putting something in a box, under the tree.

This could be a solid gift for a mountain biker who either doesn't have a fatbike and misses the trails or for a fatbiker to use when snow conditions just aren't ideal for biking. You can literally hit up the trails on foot and get away from the hustle and bustle of home. All you need will be some winter boots and away you go! Decorah Bicycles does offer snowshoe rental for $10.00 for 24 hours and they have several pairs of Redfeather snowshoes available for purchase.

Something Small:
Decorah Bicycles or Fearless Women of Dirt Socks! We have sizes S/M and L/XL available in both styles. They retail for $11.95 - as a bonus, you can mix/match them!

Hopefully, this gift guide helps you find the perfect gift for your favorite rider, perhaps you might find one for yourself! As always, the folks at Decorah Bicycles are always happy to answer any questions you might have on any of these gift ideas.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Women Involved: Amanda Batty

The ‘big news’ is that I’m leaving racing. I’m still passionate about going fast, I still adore the mechanics of racing, I love the forever chase and the challenge and the demands that racing puts on people, but what it came down to for me were a few points of contention that I’ve had over the last few years.

Check out

It sounds like it was a decision not solely based on your latest injury. Can you tell us about it?
Overall, the ROI (return on investment) of professional DH racing is extremely low for a privateer and as someone who makes business decisions every day, I couldn’t justify spending massive amounts of money despite my love for it. I’m an excellent rider and racer, but have struggled to break through to the top level; I’ve been unable to create the conditions for myself that are required in order to perform consistently at that level, and it takes a massive amount of money and support in so many different arenas in order to create a single performance every weekend; for me it was a question of practicality and whether the investment was justified. As I’ve struggled to get and retain sponsors over the last five years because of the things I say and who I am at my core level, it was a very clearly unsustainable practice for me to continue, especially considering the injuries, the costs of keeping and maintaining equipment, care, etc etc etc. Racing is expensive. And that’s just the logistical side of things. Emotionally and mentally, I’ve been examining my ‘need’ to race for a few years and the potential benefits of racing versus doing other things with my time and money; when racing is held up under comparative analysis to determine risk/reward ratio, it doesn’t make much sense for me to spend my money and time chasing jerseys and results that don’t really matter beyond that race season; nobody remembers or cares about a title or a race win from five years ago let alone ten or twenty. And physically, you have to factor in age, cellular degeneration, healing times, costs of physical maintenance should something go terribly wrong (which it eventually does) and then add in the other arenas in which I can perform similarly and ask where my time and money are better spent. Ultimately, it came down to allocating resources — that’s what time, money, energy and effort all are. Where are my resources going? How effectively are those resources being used? What’s the gain ratio? What’s the loss ratio? Can I improve those numbers while making a bigger impact on the communities I care about in a more efficient manner that has a larger impact with a longer retention rate?

It sounds pretty cold and calculating, but at the end of the day, efficiency drives my brain processes and when emotional argument is taken out of the equation, there are a lot more reasons to leave racing than there were to stay. It was also a practical decision on the part of impact: as an athlete, how much more could I possibly do to make a difference? Are there other areas of cycling or sporting in general where I can be more useful achieving change within? At the end of the day, my skill set is only as valuable as how it’s being used; who I am and what I need as a person is always going to come second to any possible good I can do, and I think choosing to live by that has made a wealth of difference in my fulfillment, which is ironic. But doing good and creating change and building a sustainable industry has always been my priority, and racing was no longer a channel for that. I have nothing left to prove as far as ‘being fast’ or ‘going big’ is concerned — and I started to wonder if I ever needed to prove any of that in the first place (not ignoring the ongoing demands of ‘proven legitimacy’ within sport for women or the constant requirement that we ‘earn' our right to speak or our humanity or our personhood by performative provenance). As I wrote about in my medium essay (, there are bigger things for me to pour those resources into that actually create change and build something positive, like the kids’ bike giveaway I did last winter and am doing again this year, the cookie book I’m writing to benefit Little Bellas and NICA, building a new NICA chapter in New Mexico, and an entire host of other endeavors that will actually make the bike and sporting worlds better, forever. And the discussion of allocated resources doesn’t even begin to touch on the organizational issues within cycling, like USA Cycling, federation problems, the battle for equal pay, the increased costs and lower prizes, the lack of sponsorships and opportunity for female racers and on and on and on.

So. Injury doesn’t even begin to touch on why I’m leaving, but it was the straw on the camel’s back. Or maybe it was the perfect opportunity to just walk away — nobody with half a brain would fault an athlete for leaving after a crash like that and an injury like this and a year like I’ve had in 2018. I guess you could say that I just embraced the opportunity to refocus my attentions and energy and that I’m really looking forward to what comes next.

What's next for Amanda Batty?
Speaking of next — what’s next is pretty hectic. I’m starting an accelerated law program at the UNM School of Law in January, building a foundation for the kids’ bike giveaways, giving free women’s bike clinics, finishing the cookie book, hopefully starting to build the NM NICA league in the next few months for the 2019 scholastic season, working a lot with a few exciting clients, doing speaking engagements and volunteering probably way too much. I’m also doing a few other things that have to stay under wraps for now, but when shit hits the fan, you’ll know who’s behind it! Hahahaha. I think that racing was a huge limiter and sort of an easy addiction for me to have because it was such an easy excuse to use to avoid doing certain things that needed to be done and now that it’s gone I’m jumping in with both feet. Embrace the chaos, I say!
You have been a mountain biking advocate for so many of us- why is it important for you to advocate equality and fair treatment?
Because we’re all human and, as I’ve written elsewhere many times, bikes and mountains have zero prejudices as to the person riding that bike or conquering that trail. It shouldn’t matter what gender, race, sexuality, nationality, age, etc. etc. someone is — gravity affects everyone the same, and we all start in the exact same place. Everyone was a newbie or a squid at one point, and it’s just very weird to me that there’s a single person in the bike world who thinks that they’re better than someone else or that it’s okay to exclude or dehumanize or objectify or mock anyone for something they have zero control over. And economically, we’re struggling! What possible sense does it make to alienate people who want to contribute to this amazing sport?! It just doesn’t make logical sense to pull the nonsense, and logic bears a lot of weight with me. There are so many people out there who think themselves superior to someone else, but when it all shakes down, they’re just human with all the frailties, flaws and inherent humanity as everyone else. We all bleed red and none of us are getting out alive, so I’ll be damned to watch anyone be bullied into thinking they’re not welcome here.

Humans are amazing and when you give them the support and stoke and love they need, they thrive. I want to see people thriving, and I want folks to know that they’re not alone in their humanity, in their frailty or in their need. None of us are alone and it’s way more productive to accept and help people than it is to degrade and objectify and dehumanize them into nothingness. Why would anyone possibly want to do that when they could help build something amazing, just by treating people like equals?

There have been some positive changes in the industry- what changes have you seen that you're excited about?
Honestly, I’m really excited about the proliferation of women-owned brands, teams, and the massive swing of support that women’s cycling has received. The last five years has been amazing and we’ve gone from sexy nurses and naked women in advertisements to seeing gals like Casey Brown and Rachel Atherton and Kate Courtney and Ellen Noble absolutely crushing it — we’re giving the next generation the visuals they need to say “yeah, I’ve got this!” And that’s pretty amazing. There has been so much focus on inclusion and growing sport and while the growth has been begrudging at times and a lot of people and brands still look sideways at women and girls and there’s still a massive disparity in support for women and cycling programs, a lot has changed. A lot still WILL change in the next year; just wait for it. I think on the horizon now is the final death knell of podium girls and a huge industry push to get equal pay on the books, legally and in writing and as official policy. There is so much changing and although I may have once been the most critical voice in cycling and the person standing up to say “fuck you and fuck your policies”, there are so many voices now saying the same thing, and also working to back it up. Words only do so much. Anyone can have an attitude, but working to create change is absolutely everything and you can see the results of not just words, but years of actions. I think we’re moving past the nonsense tokenism of ‘womens-specific bikes’ and into the reality of ‘bikes for everyone!’ Because as a sport, we’re finally recognizing that people ride bikes, not genitals, not age, not race, not sexuality. We’re supporting trans folk, we’re having the important discussions surrounding people of color and so many of the issues that have wider social ramifications, and there’s a LOT of work going on from companies and magazines and organizers and people who are educating themselves and working to make it better. I’m also really excited that folks are starting to speak up — everyday folks. Not just pro athletes and public figures, but normal folks on social media have started to realize that they’re able to shape the sport simply by how they raise their voice and spend their money and enter events and what they share and ride and do on a daily basis, and that is just so exciting to watch. I’m more positive than I have been in a long time about the direction we’re going, despite all of the indicators that I shouldn’t be… And there’s a new dawn coming for the bike industry and sporting at large, and it’s being shaped by people who understand that the only limits they have are the ones they put on themselves.

What would you say were good lessons you learned about yourself this riding season?
Whew. Uhhhhh… Patience. Resilience. Grit. It’s been a long season. From not really taking a break off the bike at all last winter to early spring riding on a ton of trails that were new to me to my massive shoulder injury in March at the ProGRT to the subsequent injuries and the National Champs debacle, it’s been a pretty hectic roller coaster. I learned pretty early on this year that I’m still growing as a rider and even as a racer and a coach and a mentor — things I scoffed at last year as being too hard or something I’d never do, I went out and did, just because I could. From the stupidly difficult road rides I did in early spring while I was rehabbing my shoulder to the really technical, steep XC climbs I found great pleasure in during the summer, I learned that my sense of humor is probably my greatest asset. I’m getting better at laughing at myself and not being afraid to look stupid. MUCH better. At this point, I’m just hellbent on enjoying myself, regardless of how I look. I’m embracing the uncertainty, trying to be prepared and then just having a blast with it all. I’ve done away with expectations, I think. I no longer have this bar of how I ‘should’ look or feel or ride or walk and am far less focused on perfection than I am on just enjoying it or, barring enjoyment, just surviving it. I think that’s the great benefit of failing spectacularly on a national stage, to be honest: I’m so comfortable looking like a total moron that laughing and trying it all again is something I’ve accepted as normal. I’m human, just like everyone else, and it’s been a fun, difficult and hilarious adjustment. None of us get out of this alive — may as well enjoy it and laugh along the way. I guess there’s a lot more humility and humor than there ever was before.

How do you see your future #bikelife?
At this point, my #bikelife is going to be any time I’m on two wheels. Less time freaking out about how I look and whether I’m fast or not, and time just spent enjoying the fucking thing. I wasted a lot of time worrying about meaningless things, and I think this latest injury has been a huge help in just appreciating the fact that the next time I get on a bike, I’m going to simply ‘be’.
You've been in the social media spotlight as an advocate for many years, how difficult has it been to have such a socially "active" lifestyle? How do you keep yourself grounded?
I won’t lie: it hasn’t been easy. I’m also not going to ignore the fact that for a lot of those issues, I was the only person publicly speaking out and taking a stance, and that I also painted a target on my own back. I’m not excusing the actions of the people too stupid to see me as a human being or too ignorant to offer up basic respect (or who still demand that I be something they want), but I did choose to post the things that I’ve posted. I will say that it hasn’t made my life easier. It’s made it rather difficult to be ‘Amanda’ versus ‘Amanda Batty’ and that relationships have always been fraught with issues about what people see on social media and who I actually am as a real person, and I don’t know that I wouldn’t undo it were I given the chance. Social media is hard. The algorithm and the neuro-hacking and the chemicals that are influenced in a very pavlovian way by our use of it makes it a minefield fraught with assumption and consumption and the disposable nature of it all. I think it’s been an incredible tool to reach people, but it’s also been weaponized by people who hide in their own cowardice and stew in mediocrity, yet project those emotions onto people just trying to make a difference. It’s a rough go, but lately, I’ve enjoyed not having the ridiculous mantle of ‘professional athlete’ holding me back — I don’t have to be nice (not that I ever was) or tolerate any nonsense whatsoever (not that I really ever did). At this point, I’m kind of enjoying watching my follower count drop as people realize they have literally zero interest in me as a person and that I’m no longer useful for their consumption. It’s been a very fascinating intellectual study to walk away from my life as a bike athlete and see folks get vehemently upset because I’m no longer willing to fulfill their fantasies or create a narrative they want to see. I post what I want to post now, and there’s been a really hilarious amount of furor about me being exactly what I am: a person. Nothing in my feed is curated and I’ve completely done away with Facebook (thank fuck!) and the circus that brought about, and I find myself checking social media less frequently than ever. Maybe it’s laziness and maybe I’m just burnt out after years of being subjected to what strangers thought, but I just don’t care anymore. And that’s not a great place to be when interacting with other people, but numbness is nice sometimes when stupidity in concerned.

For those who wish to follow in your footsteps as an advocate for cycling/fairness/etc. what advice would you give?
Don’t. Please don’t follow in my footsteps at all. It’s not a road, it’s not a trail, it’s not even a footpath. It’s a dangerous crawl along the cliffs built by someone who has already seen the other side of hell. If you want to be an advocate, be one. But you can’t advocate for people you don’t understand and experiences you haven’t lived, and so my advice is to go out there and live your life and learn the lessons you need to learn and immerse yourself in the doing, but don’t set out to be an advocate — those are my least favorite people. Go find something that sets your soul on fire and then fail at it. Pick yourself up and do it again, ten thousand times. Go live your life in a way that doesn’t hurt other people, and you’ll learn quickly enough that you can’t advocate for things you don’t understand, and you’ll never understand something until you fail at it ten thousand different ways. Go out and fail, and you’ll learn the answer when you’ve failed enough.

Why do you feel it is important for women to be involved in the cycling industry?
Because there’s a place for women everywhere, and because diversity makes for stronger businesses and better products. I outlined this in an essay a few years back that I’m almost certain exactly three people read. It’s an interesting topic that can’t really be summarized in a quick quote for an article, but if you have genuine interest in the argument for women and POC (and LGTBQIA and different ability folks) to be included, check it out here:

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Whew. I think women have to be involved at every level, and they have to be corralled and encouraged and cheered on — women operate differently than men in an organization and with very rare exception, tend to do a lot of work but stay on the fringes of leadership for fear of failing in very public ways, and we have to change all of that. We have to give women and girls opportunity to excel and the leniency to learn and fail, without judgment or condemnation. But that’s also going to require a much bigger cultural change on a global scale because right now, we still condemn women when they’re not perfect. We take tiny imperfections and use it as leverage to make a case for why women are unfit to lead, own, create, work and collaborate when, I mean, look around you! The world is burning and not once have I heard the words “perhaps men are just unfit to lead” leave a person’s mount as a sincere consideration… Not that I want it to be, but that’s a contrast of what needs to change. We need to treat women like humans, like people who will fuck up, and welcome that learning process. Change starts with equality, and equality means true equality — same standards, same demands, same measuring sticks. And I don’t think that exists right now and that it won’t exist until women start challenging the status quo and demanding that it exists. I truly would love to see women stop waiting for permission and just take what they want and burn down the structures that stand in the way of what they need. It would be great to see fellow ladies in the industry just step up and stop waiting for an invite to the proverbial table. How do white men get power? They take it. If we want to see more women involved, we need to start encouraging aggression and end the coddling. Women are brilliant and powerful and stronger than they even realize, and part of giving them that power back is ending the bullshit messaging surrounding our gender.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Part of my favorite thing of taking women out on trail rides and putting on clinics and speaking to groups is the opportunity it gives me to knock down the bullshit messaging that so many women have internalized and show them how strong and capable they are. A lot of women have come to me in the past after a free clinic and told me they were kind of scared at the demands I had for them, but by the end of the clinic they realized that I saw more in them than they saw in themselves, but that they realized they didn’t have to wait to get better at riding. That’s what inspires me and it’s why I do what I do — I want women to stop letting fear rule their lives. I want women and girls to see themselves as the force they are and I want them to pass that knowledge on. Getting women out to race and ride and push their limits shows them that they’re capable of facing fears and rising to the challenges, and it builds communities full of women who continue to push their limits and show other women that it’s possible. I’m inspired by women who face those things and who deal with scary stuff and who confront their fears and rise out of it as better riders and better people who are more capable of changing the world. That inspires me, whether I’m coaching a bike clinic or speaking to someone… I believe that two wheels can change a person and that facing small fears on the bike or on skis translates to massively different abilities in real life. And that’s what I want to do for people: I want to give them the ability to create the tools they need to conquer the world. I’m inspired by what sport has given me, and I want to pass it on. That’s my duty.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I hate underwear.

What would be your battle cry?
My battle cry has always been “chin up, eyes forward, elbows out” because it’s an inherently aggressive stance — you can’t cower when your chin is raised and your eyes are staring into what’s ahead. It’s a move of defiance, of strength, of determination, and anyone with their elbows out is headed to fuck shit up, whether it’s a dinner party or a mosh pit.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Favorite Things of 2018

I'm back again with a list that might help you find some fun gift ideas for your favorite rider, or maybe for yourself!

There was a solid list for 2017 and I must say that 2018 has a good number of new items to add.

Not all of these items are cycling specific per-say, but are things I discovered that just made life better and/or cycling better. Most everything is linked up and most everything can be purchased or ordered in at Decorah Bicycles. (Excluding * items.)

Five Ten Freerider Pro Shoes
I wrote about the Five Ten Freerider Pro shoes earlier this year in my flat shoe review. Since then I've had several more miles on them and still really, really enjoy them. They have been my go-to shoe for just about every ride this season. I have stayed true to my original idea and have not worn them to work. The only gripe I have with these shoes would be the lack of lace bungee. I have a difficult time trying to stuff my laces and they never seem to stay tucked for the entire ride. So far, it's not been a huge deal.
Wear-wise being I have only used these shoes for biking, they seem to be holding up well. I did wear these shoes at Chequamegon 40 this year and they got annihilated. I rinsed them as well as I could, washed the liners, and put them on top of the dehumidifier to dry. In the end, they survived and that's all that matters!

ESI Fit XC Grips
I have been a fan of ESI grips for multiple seasons now with the Chunky and Extra Chunky. This year I transitioned to Fit XC grips on my full suspension S-Works Epic. I would have issues periodically last year with my hands hurting when using my extra chunky or chunky grips if I wore gloves with padding. I had this on/off again love with trying to figure out what combination worked well for mountain biking or gravel riding.
This year I investigated the Fit XC grips with several different gloves of varying padding, either without any to somewhat substantial for a mtb glove. I found that I liked having less grip to grip! The design of the grip worked well for climbing and general riding. All in all, I felt like I was able to maintain a better grip without experiencing so much hand fatigue.

I still have Extra Chunky grips on my hardtail S-Works Epic, but that shall be changing before too long I think.

Specialized Therminal Alpha Jacket
This jacket has been a game changer for me when it comes to my daily commute, and I'm positive it will be a heavily utilized article of clothing this winter. The Polartec Alpha insulation is amazing and the jacket itself is breathable yet very warm. It's meant to be used under other jackets, like the Specialized H20 jacket. I wore it over a baselayer during a 28-degree morning and was super surprised with how comfortable I was the entire time. This jacket has also allowed me to use a softshell jacket for commuting far longer than usual. A really great investment piece that will help keep this perpetually chilly person much warmer.

Christopher Bean Coffee*
I found Christopher Bean Coffee though some mountain biking friends of mine and thought I'd give it a try. I love coffee, I wouldn't say I'm a connoisseur, but I really love coffee- especially when I can grind my own beans! 
There are many flavors to choose from if you are feeling adventurous. My current favorites are Dawn Patrol, Hawaiian Kona, and French Roast Sumatra. The nice thing is they roast when you order, so it's darn fresh when it arrives on your doorstep.

CBD For Life Spray*
It's been said multiple times this year, but many know that my dad passed away and it's been extremely hard on me. I've also known that I've dealt with some amount of anxiety for many years, and with this upheaval in my world, it grew a tremendous amount. I was having more pain and discomfort with my neck/shoulder, and simply grew frustrated over popping ibuprofen multiple times a day without relief.

I found the company CBD For Life and decided to try their CBD spray. I liked how it was packaged- easy to transport. No glass to worry about breaking. It looks like breath mint spray. It is 99% CBD pure extract without any THC.

I've reduced my ibuprofen intake by 99% but the most noticeable benefit was the reduction of my general anxiety. It helped me lose that "on edge" feeling
I was getting on a daily basis, and it helped me focus. Life threw me a curveball and this spray helped me feel like I could maintain some form of sanity and control.

Hempworx Relief Cream*
The product costs $69 and feels like a very luxurious cream. You do not have to use very much, at least from my experience. It rubs in easily and they say not to rub any on the affected area more than 3-4 times a day. This cream is infused with 50 mg of CBD Oil and Emu Oil and has no THC.

There is menthol in the product, but honestly, it smells so minimal and doesn’t have that harsh “cold” feeling you get from other products. It’s not a sinus-clearer! This is great for me as I often seek out something to use, but smells are a concern for me since I work retail. As much as I love the smell of Icy Hot and other similar products, I don’t want to impose the smell on someone who doesn’t appreciate it.
I won’t say that I’ve found 100% instant, perfect, relief but it along with other products has definitely helped me cut back on my Ibuprofen use by 99.9%. It is definitely worth exploring if you are not a fan of greasy “ointment” style rub and would prefer something more like a lotion. The added bonus of not smelling strong makes it easy to find relief without the whole world knowing.

I’ve had the container of rub for over a month and I don’t think I’ve even used half of it. I use it as needed when I’m at work and as I mentioned before, I feel I only need to rub in a small amount at a time. So, for the cost, I think it is a good value.

Specialized Fast Trak Tires 2.3 front/rear
These tires came stock with my full suspension S-Works Epic and I have been super impressed with how well they've handled our terrain here in Decorah. On top of that, we've had such wet weather this year, and they have done amazingly well when conditions have been on the greasy side!
We changed my full suspension S-Works Epic to having 2.3 size tires on the front and rear vs. having the 2.3 in front and 2.1 in the rear. I really liked the extra cushion they gave along with the added stability and "bombability" the size offered. These tires also make an excellent gravel tire. I currently have my hardtail set up with the 2.3 size in front and 2.1 in the rear.

Wolf Tooth Mountain BarBag
This bag was a saving grace even tho the sound of my snacks rattling around drove me up the wall! Going over roots and rocks? You better believe I was serenaded with the sound of chews and M&M's being thrown all around the inside.

The bag is awesome as it's easy to get into, room enough for ample snacks. This made it far easier for me to consume items or stow used gel packets away (rather than jersey pocketing them, etc.) I was able to tune out (for the most part) the noise of my snacks rattling around, but when you go over really bumpy spots on trails, etc. it can be annoying. Again- if you don't put M&Ms in your bag, you'll be fine!

Chequamegon use was imperfect since it was so wet.
It rained on our bikes before the event (our bags were already on...oopsie), and the conditions in general were wet, so mud/water splashed up on my gloves causing my snacks to be seasoned with Wisconsin Grit. Delicious! All in all, this bag was worth the investment and I will be using it for future events without question.

Honey Stinger Cracker & Nut Bar
These bars are delicious! I can't get enough of them and I've found them to be a delightful snack. The two flavors I've been eating have been Milk Chocolate & Cashew butter and Dark Chocolate & Almond butter. The dark chocolate is rich and the milk chocolate is quite nice and smooth. It's legit chocolate! The butters are both excellent, too. I especially like when extra chocolate gets between the crackers, so you get a really chocolate-y bite. It's not something that I would take out on a ride so much as enjoy pre or post ride. Mainly because you wouldn't want to have a warm and melted mess to eat.
S-Works Prevail Helmet
It's been hard for me to find a helmet that would stay comfortable on my head during 40+ mile rides. Even with my POC helmet, I found myself having some headaches crop up after so many miles. This helmet is lightweight and it fits oh so well! I have worn this helmet for several longer mile rides, but enjoy using this helmet on the mountain bike trails, too. I really like how streamlined it looks and it vents very well- a plus for hot days. Plus, I like that it has just the right bit of pink color to tie in with McNasty.

GoPro Hero 6*
We invested in a GoPro so I could better showcase the FWD rides. Unfortunately, I didn't get to play around with it for that as much as I would've liked. However, I was able to use it for taking video of our trails to start the Fearless Women of Dirt YouTube channel. I will say it's been fun to play around with the new technology- figuring out the best way to get action shots that I can use for blogging, etc. It also gave me the motivation to get outside and do something to keep my mind off of life stuff!
What I have learned is the timelapse photo option works great for getting action shots. You do have loads of pictures to delete- but clarity is improved vs. taking video and snagging a still. It's been handier for me to use the GoPro vs. my phone, and even Travis has found it less frustrating to get photos with it vs. using my phone. The annoying part for him is when he's holding the button down to get a burst of photos, the back screen is black, so he isn't able to see what he's taking a picture of. (Or to see light quality, etc.) Either way, I've enjoyed having this little action camera and I look forward to learning how to use it better.

Joshua Tree Lip Balm*
This balm is on the list again because it's just my favorite. I love the sparkle that the desert Shimmers lineup gives, and lavender has been my wintertime go-to. The nice thing about the Desert Shimmers balm is it has SPF 10- great for added sun protection for those long rides. Perfect size for your pocket! I have one with me at all times on or off the bike.

Camelbak Charm pack*
I purchased this pack before Chequamegon 40 as I wanted something smaller than my smallest pack that I had at the time. I figured I'd need space for post-ride $, a missing link, and a multi-tool. The rest of the bag should hold water. I wanted the least amount of weight on my shoulder as possible- and this bag provided that. I did have a difficult time getting it as full as I wanted due to only having a jug of water to pour from (vs. a faucet.)

I did find for Chequamegon, it was almost too little water. This was more or less due to the muddy conditions and my having to use some of my water bottle mix to clean my chain off. I was getting to the point of running out of water all around- but if conditions had been drier, I suspect I would have been fine. I do tend to drink primarily from my pack when I'm racing- but I'm trying to be equal between the bottle and bag so I can have less weight on my shoulders.
Borah Teamwear FWD full-zip jersey
Last year we made Freeride FWD jerseys and this year we made full-zip, sshort-sleevedjerseys! Either jersey can be purchased from Decorah Bicycles and shipped to your door.

Borah has been a great company to work with and I couldn't be happier with the design. It's been awesome to see these jerseys out in "the wild!"

Click here to see the rest of the Fearless Women of Dirt gear, including socks! 
S-Works Epic Hardtail
I promise to do a review on my hardtail S-Works Epic, soon. Maui had a good number of trail rides this year for me to fall back in love with hardtails. I was also shocked as to how I loved riding Maui on pavement/gravel rides. The carbon frame is a dream to ride- it isn't going to be the bike you'd want to ride over the bumpiest of trails (at least, I wouldn't want to!) but I had a great time riding the bike on my local trails. I especially appreciated how light the bike was when I would do trail checking after some big storms and would have to carry my bike over several trees.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Kelsy Kellermann

Is mountain biking really a workout?

This is what I actually asked my husband as we were transitioning from running to biking 5 years ago. I had a legit comfort bike at the time. Our knees told us it was time to do something new. My first ride proved to be much more than a workout. It was the beginning of a love/hate relationship. It has since bloomed to a passion and a deeper understanding of myself.

I’m Kelsy Kellermann and I have a privileged life. I’m so grateful for my stellar husband Noah, our kids Harper (9) and Alden (7), and my job as a Physician Assistant in OBGYN. We live in DePere, WI.

We travel frequently to Marquette and Copper Harbor Michigan to ride, but also enjoy our local trails (Reforestation Camp and Baird Creek).

I’m competitive by nature, so riding for fun, getting faster, and participating in the Copper Harbor Woman’s Weekend to improve my skills lead to dabbling in racing. I found my peak when I realized that I only wanted to spend 5-7 hrs per week “training”. Spending time with our kids is more important at this moment in my life. I now do a race here and there. Finding this peak was accompanied by something I hadn’t given myself before: grace. This came with biking and my other love, yoga.

Mountain biking makes me feel like a BA. Shredding down a chunky trail, nailing some feature it took me a while to get, racking up elevation and miles fills my soul and heals past wounds. I do most of this alone, as my husband and I switch with the kids. I don’t have many close female friends at this time in my life, but when I see another woman on the trail...we could be friends!

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I love the challenges that come with each pedal stroke on the trails, conquering each with practice and determination. In addition, it's such a rush! Barreling down some gnarly section, feeling like you're floating on your bike, the "oh shit" moments that you nail, getting faster - there is nothing like it!

We've featured several who transitioned from running to biking, what about the initial transition proved to be insightful?
An open mind :) I didn't like mountain biking at first because I failed many times. Perseverance, just like life, is key.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Clips help me get up some steep climbs and provide power at all times.

Have you had any biffs (accidents) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I'm grateful to have only sustained a few bumps and bruises. Every ride I "keep it upright" I'm grateful for, knowing that things could change at any moment.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Steep climbs with rocks/roots. I didn't have the leg strength or balance at first. Vinyasa yoga, practice (Baird Creek in Green Bay), and the Copper Harbor Women's Weekend has helped a lot.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Rock rollers and drops are still a mental block. I just accept that I'm not there yet, and it will come with time. I also remember all of the shit I couldn't do and now I can.

For folks who are nervous about giving mountain biking a shot, do you have any suggestions on how they can go about creating a positive experience?
I would ride with some women that are passionate about mountain biking. I had the privilege of taking 2 friends that had never been MTB biking out this summer. It was so fun to see them surprise themselves on what they could accomplish. I could see their buzz! Creating a positive experience - don't have any expectations of oneself.

What do you love about riding your bike?
My mind stops thinking about anything other than the trail. I also feel like a BA. I'm something to a lot of people being a Mom and Physician Assistant. On my bike, I'm just me, immersed in nature.

Tell us about your first mountain bike race! What was the experience like?
WORS! It was exhilarating, eye-opening, and a blast. I didn't fall and wasn't last, so it was all good!

Why do you feel should folks try at least one mountain bike event?
The vibe at events is electric. I've been fortunate to experience nothing but support from other riders and spectators. It's so exciting to ride with other people that love the sport.
What has been your favorite event so far?
It's a tie between the Bear 100 (km) and Marquette Trails Fest this year. I had this perfect balance of training, nutrition, and hydration for both events.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Trek Stache, Farley 9.8, Fuel EX 9.8, and Crockett. I didn't choose them, my husband is my buyer and mechanic. I am grateful. I look forward to when I'm interested in the mechanics of biking.

Tell us about your experience at the Copper Harbor Women's Weekend and why you found it beneficial?
I've been twice and it's SO rad! My technical skills improve exponentially each year and I get to ride with loving, supportive women. At this time in my life, I never ride with women (only my husband from time to time) due to schedules/kids, etc. I get so filled up at this event. It's unreal.

How do you balance spending time with the kiddos and cycling? What works for you?
This summer we traveled to a bike destination (mostly Marquette and Copper Harbor) every weekend, so I was able to ride a lot. When we're home, riding twice per week is a gift. When the trails are too wet, I spin. Our kids bike too! I could devote more time to biking, but my Fam is where it's at right now.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?

Possibly a lack of a connection to the sport. MTB biking - shit gets real - fast. The roots, rocks, climbs are not easy. The fall factor is present as well. Choosing to possibly get hurt may not be in the cards for some folks.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I'm not super plugged into the industry, so I can't fully comment, but what I've seen thus far has evolved in the 6 years I've been riding. Locally, more women-specific events.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I want anyone, who is willing, to feel the accomplishment and extreme fun that this sport offers. It's so fulfilling. Mind, body, soul.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I longboard too!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Jes VanDerPuy

I'm a wife. I'm a mom. I'm a mountain biker. I work in management at UPS and and I love a good adventure. Preferably outdoors. I love Jesus and the opportunities I have through mountain biking to show it. I started cycling after my second baby mostly because my husband couldn't shut up about how awesome it was. (Turns out he was right, but don't tell him that.) He raced in the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS) and I remember watching all the fast girls and thinking that it looked really tough but would be cool to try. So I did.

I trained all summer for that one race and all I kept thinking was... "Don't be dead last. Just finish."

It turned out to be a life changer for me. I won. By a lot. But I really didn't think I would even finish going in. I took that as a lesson and have been racing ever since.

I love mountain biking because it's a chance as a woman to feel secure in a place that I would never walk alone, but on a bike, you feel so free and able to venture into the unknown unafraid and confident. It allows me to get that little bit of peace in a chaotic world. And it's an absolute blast.

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
It’s funny because years ago I always thought biking in the woods sounded cool. I never realized it was something that you could actually do and compete at until I met my husband. He raced through four of my pregnancies and I would tag along and watch all the women race and think how hard it must be. I contemplated trying it but never really thought I actually would. I actually rode with my husband a couple of times and decided that mountain biking sucked. It was extremely difficult and I hated it. All I could remember was rolling my eyes as he would say, “just wait…. Once you get enough fitness it will be fun. I promise.” Then he conned me into buying a road bike. I used that to increase my fitness level and actually started to enjoy mountain biking. Once I realized I could actually do it and enjoy it, I was in.

How did you learn the basics of mountain biking? Did you figure things out solo, take a clinic, or did your husband help?
I had a lot of help from my husband as far as getting started, but once I figured out what I needed to learn I just rode. I rode as much as I could. I would re-ride things I couldn’t quite get. I used an extremely heavy mountain bike to learn on, which I truly believe helped me master a lot of my skills. Then when I hopped on a new bike it was like magic. I just flew.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I have always used clips. Flats scare me. I feel more secure in clips. However, my first time using them I fell flat on my face from a complete standstill because I couldn’t get unclipped.

Have you had any biffs (accidents) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I really haven’t had anything too serious. I have a few scars that remind me that I don’t have to kill myself out there. I have four kids at home that need me. I try and remember that.

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 couldn’t climb. It was so frustrating. We have a section of trail in my hometown that is uphill with probably a million roots. I watched some YouTube videos on climbing and went out and climbed for days. Once I got that section down, I moved onto the next one. There is still one hill I have yet to conquer. But I will.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Of course. There will always be things that need some work. Cornering will forever be a work in progress for me. Also, I’d really like to learn the manual. I can’t let it drag me down, because I’m the kind of person that always needs something to work on. It keeps me interested and gives me something to look forward to.

For folks who are nervous about giving mountain biking a shot, do you have any suggestions on how they can go about creating a positive experience?
Remember that you may not love it overnight. Ride with people who are patient and remember, you’re just riding a bike. Stick with it. Get in some road bike miles so you have the fitness and spend the money on a good bike.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The freedom. The fact that I can get lost in the middle of nowhere. I clear my head and just pedal. I love that it is a sport that I can do with my entire family. I don’t have to sit on the sidelines of a soccer field on Saturdays, we can all do it together. And it keeps me healthy and fit enough to be able to do so many other things.

Tell us about your first mountain bike race! What was the experience like?
It was a WEMS race. My husband and I did the 6-hour duo. It was awful and I was so ridiculously slow. But I really did have fun and it piqued my interest in racing. It gave me a starting point to train for something else. When it was done, despite being dead last it was the most amazing feeling to actually have finished. I was hooked from there.

Why do you feel should folks try at least one mountain bike event?
Racing is different than just mountain biking and it’s hard to tell where you are at without competing against other people. It is a great way to meet people to ride with and an awesome chance to show your skills.

What has been your favorite event to participate in?
We have a winter series here in Wisconsin called Hugh Jass. It’s a one of a kind winter fat bike series. We get to drink beer at every lap and wear ridiculous outfits. It’s actually pretty stiff competition if you want it to be but it’s an absolute blast.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Giant OCR-1 road bike. It’s old, but it’s the bike that made me fall in love with cycling. I got it cheap on craigslist and don’t love road biking enough to buy a new one. My hardtail is a Trek Superfly AI. I absolutely love this bike. We fly together. Also, a craigslist purchase.

I also just recently purchased a Salsa Spearfish from a friend. This bike is my dream bike. And she knew it. When I ride this bike, I feel like a superhero. I remember where it came from and how hard I worked to get here and it gives me the drive to keep moving forward. There is something special about each and every bike you own and it’s always a cool story to tell.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Have you seen women racing mountain bikes? They look like they’re about ready to kill someone. It’s extremely intimidating. I remember watching these girls race and thinking, whoa. That would be so cool to try, but I could never take anything that serious. I get it now. It’s a sport that requires you to be intense. And it’s tough. But conquering something you never thought you could is so empowering and extremely worth it.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
We as women mountain bikers need to encourage our friends and especially the younger generation. Be intense in your race, but afterward remember to make yourself approachable. There are so many people that would be so much more willing to try new things if people made a point to make them feel comfortable. Not just on the bike, but socially as well. I would have tried it a lot sooner if one of the women I watched would have said, “Hey, have you ever tried mountain biking?” Or something like that. Get yourself out there and encourage other women to give it a shot

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
My daughters. I want them to be able to try anything they want in life. The best gift my parents gave me was that chance to try new things. I never stuck with anything for very long, but now I have so many options.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I’m a private pilot. I got my license when I was 16. I had a near death experience and haven’t flown much since then, but still go up whenever I get the chance.