Monday, January 28, 2019

Women on Bikes Series: Staci Nash

Hi!! My name is Staci Nash, I am 27 years old and currently live in Anaheim Hills, Ca with my husband. I grew up playing soccer and made the switch to running cross country/track my freshman year of high school. I ended up receiving a scholarship to the University of Colorado at Boulder and finished my last year of eligibility at Azusa Pacific University, where I won 2 NCAA D2 titles in the mile and 1500 meters and met my husband. Currently I am working at my family’s company , Crane Rental Service, where I am the office manager.

Although I love my job, when I stopped running I needed some sort of competitive activity back in my life (I am a VERY competitive person). My best friend was really into mountain biking and she convinced me to buy a road bike because a mountain bike might be a little much for a first time cyclist. However, I wasn’t in love with it and ended up getting a mountain bike seven months later.

I got my first mountain bike May 2016 and 10 days later I was racing at our local summer race series called Over the Hump and haven’t stopped racing since. Last year I raced half the year in CAT 2 and decided to move up to Cat 1 where I finished the year racing at Nationals and getting 3rd in XC and 5th in short track. I was not pleased with my performance and knew I had to do a lot more if I wanted to win. This year I joined an amazing team called “Team Baghouse” and one of my friends started coaching me. Much to my surprise, I ended up winning Marathon Nationals in the Cat 1 19-29 age group, I don’t think I have ridden that far in my life! A couple months after marathon nats I flew out to West Virginia for XC nats where I won my age group, Cat 1 25-29 and got 5th in 17+ Short track. I finished this season and wished I knew about this sport while I was growing up! The mountain bike community has been so supportive and helpful; they have made it possible to accomplish my dreams. My goal is to be able to support young riders and help get more girls into the sport one day!

Instagram is @staciimafosterkid
Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I purchased a mountain bike hoping it would be more fun than road biking and since that day I haven’t stopped riding my mountain bike! I knew mountain biking was for me because of how competitive I could be at this sport and how challenging it was. Ten days after purchasing my mountain bike I entered into our local Over the Hump weekly MTB race series. During that race I thought to myself holy crap this is painful but why didn’t I start this sport sooner?! I was so in love.

When you bought your first mountain bike, what did you do to ensure you got the right bike to meet your needs?
I wanted to make sure I got a somewhat light full-suspension carbon bike so I was able to enjoy the sport right from the start! I didn’t want to go out there on a 50 pound bike on steep hills and absolutely hate it. My first bike was a black/pink specialized era and I was so obsessed ☺

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
The handling skill that challenged me the most when I started riding was this trail called chutes and it has this chunky downhill rock section at the top that I was mortified to do! I was finally able to grasp it by getting off my bike, checking out the trail, lowering my seat post and finally riding it when no one was looking, it takes most the pressure off for me.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
The one riding aspect that I still find tricky is uphill, slow rocky sections. Most of the time I freak myself out and unclip before I even get to the challenging part. I try to overcome the tricky sections by building my confidence and telling myself to not stop pedaling and most the time I end up making it ☺

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?
Just have fun with it! If you get nervous about a section, get off your bike and walk it. If you are getting too tired, go home and do it again the next day. Each day on the bike gets easier and easier. When I first got my mountain bike I was hysterically laughing at myself because I had to walk every trail, fast-forward a couple weeks and I could ride it all. You just need to be consistent, find a group of people to ride with and mountain biking is such a blast!
Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
100% Clips! I wouldn’t be able to function without them. I have been using them since day 1 and they help me climb and descend fast.

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?
YES! My first year riding I could not stop falling but one crash that was very challenging for me was this past February at a race in Arizona called the Cactus Cup. There was a group of 6 girls and I was at the back and these 2 guys kept yo-yoing with us, 30 miles in one of them thought it was a really great idea to pass us on a super rocky fast downhill, he clipped my bars and I went flying over my handle bars. I laid down for a minute and thought I broke every bone in my body but quickly realized I was still in the middle of a race and got up and finished the race. For me I was most bummed about the fact that I felt so good and was sticking with those girls, and that I had scrapes all over me. I got over it pretty quickly when my coach kept reminding me that it was just a race and to focus on the next one.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The thrill of it and all the trails I am able to explore! I love being able to fly downhills and grind the uphill’s, but mostly I love the competitiveness of it.

Tell us about your first mountain bike race! What was the experience like?
IT WAS A BLAST!!! My first race was 10 days after I bought my first mountain bike at our local summer weekly race series called Over the Hump. There were about 500 people on the course at once which was very overwhelming for my first time but everyone was so sweet and supportive. I haven’t stopped racing since that day!

Since your first event, you've gone on to participate in Nationals, what did you enjoy about your experience this season?
I enjoyed being able to share my accomplishments with the people who support me daily! My first year racing I was on my own and wasn’t really supported by anyone. This year I was able to enjoy it all with my team, husband, coach, family and those who train with me. I also enjoyed having teammates at races, I didn’t realize how much of a difference this makes but it was a blast having support throughout the weekend and in my races.

For folks new to bike racing, can you elaborate on the Cat 1/2/3 categories and what those mean?
Mountain bike racing is broken up into three categories Cat 1/2/3. I would describe it best as Cat 3 would be those just starting out to mountain bike racing, Cat 2 would be more of intermediate class and Cat 1 would be considered advanced, one step down from the pro level.

Tell us more about Team Baghouse and why you enjoy being part of a cycling team-
This was my first year on a team and it was such a positive experience. Team Baghouse was a constant support system all year and helped me attend some big MTB races! I couldn’t have achieved anything I did this year without them. At marathon and XC nationals, my teammates were constantly helping me get my bike dialed, pre-riding the course with me and encouraging me.

Why do you feel should folks try at least one mountain bike event?
They are such a blast and you get to hang out with people who love mountain biking as much as you! Definitely no pressure to race, but you can always go out there have fun and meet some new people in the sport.

What are your goals for 2019?
Defend my marathon and XC national titles
Race Leadville
Win Sea Otter
Help get more girls on bikes!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a 2018 S-Works Epic and 2017 Specialized Epic Hardtail! I raced my hardtail almost all year, I chose that bike because of its pretty color (pink/orange fade) and how super light and fast it is. My full-suspension Epic is even more amazing! It has a rad paint job and one of the lightest full suspension frames in the industry. Both of my Epics have suspension with Brain technology that keeps my suspension firm when I need it but will automatically open when I hit a bump. I also like that I don’t need to worry about lockouts and that I can focus on my riding.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
The price of getting involved in the sport is pretty outrageous. It is hard to spend all this money on mountain bikes and equipment if you don’t know if you will love it 6 months from now.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Industry wise I believe they are really trying to get more women on bikes and giving them support, Ten Speed Hero x Specialized Cyclocross team for example! They could continue encouraging more women to get involved by creating more teams, once you reach a certain level you really run out of support and honestly there aren’t enough women teams in mountain biking.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Being able to show other women the positive impact riding has on our lives! I believe it is such an awesome way to get to know other women in the community and to laugh and have fun all while riding our bikes. I would love for more women to experience that ☺

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I was at Cross Country running practice my sophomore year of college at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a sheep dog was chasing a car and was running right for me, it hit me and I tore my MCL. Pretty random!!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Women Involved Series: Angie Anderson

How’s it?! I’m Angie Anderson, I live among the beautiful red rocks and desert of Southern Utah! I am a wife, mom of 3 awesome and exhausting kids ages 14, 10 and 4. I’m also a hairstylist and Founder of the women’s mountain bike group, Women Ride! Mountain biking has become a major part of my family’s life!

I started riding mostly to hang with my husband and have another hobby to enjoy together! I didn’t know that it would develop into such a passion! I was a Runner and casual triathlete (although not very fast or good at either!) but when I started mtn biking, something clicked!

I love adventure and being outside in the dirt, and felt that mountain biking was something I really enjoyed and was kind of good at!! I am super social and like to hang out with my friends, so it was natural to start a women’s club to gather women together to ride!! 

My most favorite thing about riding with women is how incredibly encouraging and positive they are! Every race I’ve done has had a cheering section for the other lady racers! That doesn’t happen in many other sports and I feel lucky to be a part of it!!

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!" 
I first started riding very casually, getting the hang of the basics. My husband taught me as I went, and once I felt comfortable, I wanted to go faster and on more difficult, steeper trails. That’s when I really started to love mountain biking!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Braking was a challenge, learning to use only one finger, and when to let off! Also, a good quality bike with the best components you can afford makes a world of difference. Knowing that you’ll be able to stop because you have good brakes is always a good feeling!! Learning to get back behind your seat and how to have loose arms also helps tremendously in bike control. Those are all things you have to practice doing in order to be comfortable.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I recently had a lesson with a coach who corrected my cornering. I THOUGHT I was doing it correctly but was super inefficient, and I’m learning to change those bad habits! It’s frustrating to re-train your brain and body, but correct technique will only make you faster!

You started mountain biking so you could join your husband on rides. Do you have tips/suggestions for folks wanting to ride with their partner when there might be a gap in experience?
Ha!! Ask them to have patience!! My husband is a really rad rider, and I wanted to be able to ride the same trails, so that was my motivation!! Even still, he’ll ride ahead at his pace and stop to wait for me if I’m behind. He likes to ride fast, like race pace, for most every ride, so I know if it’s just us riding, it’s going to be a max effort ride. If I’m not feeling a hard ride, I’ll go by myself or with a social group where it’ll be a more casual pace. Trying to keep up with him has definitely made me a better rider and learn how hard I can push myself!
Mountain biking is becoming a family activity! What do you do to keep it fun for your kids?
My kids like being outside and active, so it’s not too hard to get them out. We have quite a few friends who ride with their kids, so it’s been fun to go on rides and trips where we can all ride together. Your kids are less likely to complain when they’re with other people!! Our kids also like to go fast and aren’t too scared, which makes it fun for everyone! The apples don’t fall far from our tree!!

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?
YOU have to want to ride for you, no one else. 75% (or more!) of mountain biking is fear. If you’re terribly afraid of going fast or over rocks, it’s not a good fit for you. Taking a lesson (even informal) from someone who knows what they’re doing is super beneficial. There are so many quality coaches in most every area, take advantage of their expertise!! They have different ways of explaining skills for all levels and experience!

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Clips!! Once I really started riding more aggressively, I got tired of my feet slipping off the pedals and stabbing me in the calf! Southern Utah has very technical trails and it’s to your advantage to clip in! So many are scared to be connected to the bike, but I felt like I improved greatly once I did!

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?
Definitely!! I’ve had my share of hard landings! I crashed pretty good in Moab on a cliff edge and it took me a few weeks to feel comfortable, mentally, again. I also broke my wrist last year and was in a cast for 6 weeks. That was hard mentally and physically! I tried to run as much as I could but it’s not the same as biking and I lost a lot of fitness. It made me more aware when I’m on my bike and I’ve learned to hold back a bit.

What inspired you to create the group Women Ride Utah?
Ahhhh!! I love mountain biking and I’m super social! I wanted to share that and get more ladies out together on bikes! Women learn differently from other women, so having a fun, safe place for ladies to ride is amazing! My whole goal was to introduce women to others who might not be friends otherwise and it makes me so happy to see that happening!!

How can folks join your group?
We’re womenrideutah on Instagram and Facebook, or you can email me at Our group is pretty rad!!

What has been the best thing to occur since creating your women's ride group?
Seeing the amazing improvements these gals have made on their bikes! It’s awesome! Also, seeing the friendships made! I love hearing the riding plans being made independent of our group!! That’s such a huge reward to me!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I LOVE going fast down a rough or rocky section, challenging myself, sometimes scaring myself a little, and seeing where I’ve worked hard and made improvements. There is no better confidence booster than cleaning a hard section or climb that you hadn’t been able to before. I love a challenge, and getting a little adrenaline doesn’t hurt either!!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Right now I’m on a 2018 Yeti 5.5. Her name is Shaniqua! I freaking love my bike! I’ve been racing Enduro and it’s the perfect bike for it. I have an Ergon Women’s SM Pro saddle and custom Flexx handlebars by a local Utah company, Fasst Co. Those additions alone made a world of difference in comfort! I feel super lucky to have a nice bike and it makes it easier to ride well!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
So many things! Fear, kids, money and time to name a few! A bike is a big investment to make, and it’s hard for a lot of women (especially moms) to throw down on a bike. Taking time for yourself, away from a spouse, family or work is tricky, but so worthwhile! My mental health thrives on it and I’m a better wife and mom when I’ve made the time to be out on my bike.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I’m seeing a big shift from some major companies in designing products for women. They’re realizing that women will spend their money on important components to biking and it’s a niche that’s starting to open up finally! I’ve definitely had times where I’ve felt like I haven't been taken seriously as a rider, but I’m seeing that mindset change as more women are getting sponsored, being employed by and running businesses.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

I love introducing a sport to people that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise explore! Seeing women learn skills and put them into practice while they’re out having fun and enjoying the outdoors is amazing!! And then seeing their confidence boost in return makes me so happy! I love it!!!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love my kids and love to embarrass them even more! Usually that is by head banging to my favorite Queen song in the car, home or grocery store or kissing their faces uncontrollably! I keep reminding them that I’m cool, but I’m not sure they agree!!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Women Involved Series: Caroline Washam

Photo Credit: Katie Holdon
Hi! I’m Caroline Washam, professional downhill mountain bike racer, mountain bike skills coach, and content producer.

I fell in love with bikes when I was 10 years old. That's when I bought my first BMX bike with allowance money and started racing in Raleigh, NC at the local track.

Starting out racing against the boys, it took me a whole year to manage six 1st place finishes to move into the "girls" category.

Since then, racing -- whether it is Downhill, Dual Slalom, Enduro, XC, cyclocross, or Xterra Triathlon (yup, I did that once) -- has always been part of my life.

For me personally, having a goal I am working toward helps me be my best self. Every time I go for a ride, pick up some dumbbells or hit the streets for training, I see progress. Biking is cool like that, there's always room to improve and progression is addicting.

In 2019, I’ll begin my fourth year of professional downhill mountain bike racing with my sights set on Crankworx events, World Cups, and World Championships. At 30, I’m getting the opportunity to accomplish my big, crazy dreams.

Racing fulfills the part of me that needs to push my own body and mind to the limit. MTB skills coaching feeds my soul. Mountain biking is so much more than racing or going fast, it is about community, connecting to nature and mental health. After attending my first skills clinic at Rays Indoor MTB Park in 2013, I realized a few things:

1. Even after racing for 15 years, I still had so much to learn (and I shouldn't feel embarrassed about that)

2. There was a HUGE community of women who liked to ride bikes just as much as I did,

3. I wanted BIKES to be my job.

So, I found a job in bikes with Liv Cycling (Liv/giant at the time) as a demo driver, got my PMBI Level 1 MTB coaching certification later that year in Whistler, and started spreading MTB stoke immediately by coaching at Liv-sponsored events.

After moving back home to North Carolina in 2015 and assuming the role of Content Contractor with Liv, I took the opportunity to start my own mountain bike coaching business: Spoked, LLC. My goal is to fuel a passion for mountain biking by bringing people into this awesome sport and showing them what they are capable of!

Learn more about me and my little business Spoked, LLC here.
Social Media:

With your #bikelife experience, how would you say it helped you be your best self?
My #bikelife started at a young age. When I was a kid racing BMX, I never thought I could make a career out of cycling. I thought, “Well, it’s either I become a Pro BMX racer or I go to college.” I chose college, and pursued two degrees in Journalism and Photography. But, little did I know that cycling would continue to find its way into my life. When I found mountain biking and the collegiate cycling team at Appalachian State University, it was like I found my purpose again. Cycling was a part of me, and from then on my best decisions came when I chose bikes over other paths in life. Mountain biking has giving me so much: health, passion, community, and the ability to see the world!

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!"
My first mountain biking experience was not a good one… I was in high school and although I was a nationally competitive BMX racer, I had no idea what I was doing on the local cross country trail. I borrowed my Dad’s mustard yellow Specialized Hard Rock (completely rigid) bike and headed out to the trails with some of my BMX friends and their parents. I came home bruised, bleeding and with a very sore bottom. I swore I was never going to get on a mountain bike again. Flash forward to my junior year of college when the school’s mountain biking team actually found me! I had hung up my BMX bike after my first year of college to focus on my studies, but when an old professor told me about dual slalom I decided to bring my Gary Fischer hardtail out to the next race. To my surprise, I won that race and figured this mountain biking thing wasn’t all that bad. Downhill racing took me a bit longer to figure out, but I loved the challenge, the friends I was making, and the places that I saw collegiate racing taking me. Bottom line: bikes are so much fun!
Tell us more about racing and why you feel it's important for women to participate-
I’ve been asking myself the same question since I was 10 years old: “Why don’t more women race bikes?” I’m not going to pretend I’ve discovered the answer to that question, but I’ve seen so much awesome progression to help more women get into the sport recently with NICA, collegiate cycling, support for women’s events from awesome companies like SRAM and Liv Cycling, as well as the great work done by my fellow female mountain bike coaches across the country. As more women are welcomed into the sport of mountain biking, I would love to see more women give racing a try. The thing is, at least for me, mountain bike racing isn’t about trying to beat the competition; it is about challenging yourself to do something you previously thought was impossible. The more women we have out there pushing their own boundaries, the more we can elevate the visibility for women in this sport and consequently encourage companies to put more dollars behind supporting women and creating better cycling products for women. The result is a better cycling industry for everyone.

Plus, did I mention how FUN racing is?!

Do you have any tips or suggestions for someone who is planning to do their first race?
Find out what type of race is best for you. There are so many different types of races! Do some research to determine what type of racing fits best with the type of riding you love to do. Sure, I started out racing downhill, but that’s probably not the best route for everyone to take. Maybe a short track cross country race would be a good place to start if you are new to the sport and want to test out racing without getting too far out into the woods. If you love the downhills more than the climbs, a local enduro race might be right up your alley. Are you super-fit, love to climb, and looking for an adventure? Maybe a MTB stage race is for you!

Ask questions! No matter what type of race you are doing, the mountain bike community if full of amazing people with big hearts who would love to help you get into the sport. Don’t be afraid to ask your local bike shop, local mtb club, or your friends who ride about the race you’d like to do. What are the trails like? What kind of gear do I need? Is my bike appropriate for this type of racing? What category should I sign up for? There are no stupid questions!

Be prepared. Being prepared for your first race is the best way to ease your nerves. And, that doesn’t necessarily mean training hard for months before the race. If the race is local, try to check out the trail before the race so you know what to expect. Brush up on your skills by taking a mountain bike clinic and give yourself time to practice what you’ve learned before the race. Take a Fix-a-Flat clinic at your local bike shop and become a little more confident diagnosing bike issues. Get a tune-up on your bike at least two weeks before the race to make sure everything is working properly. Going into the race with a working bike, proper gear, and knowing what to expect will help you tackle your first race with your best pedal forward!

Just have fun! Don’t set any expectations or demanding goals for your first race. A great way to have more fun is to sign up for a race with friends that you ride with, but if you don’t have any friends to sign up with – make some at the race! Enjoy the experience, stay positive, and celebrate at the finish!

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Both! I started riding clips when I was 12, about two years after I started racing BMX. Because I started so young, clipping in and out was pretty natural for me when I started riding mountain bikes. However, I also had this deep-seated fear that without clips I would be a horrible bike rider. After I received my first mountain bike coaching certification, I knew I had to get over this fear. And, it was hard. I had developed a lot of bad habits over the years, like pulling up on my pedals when jumping and riding with my toes down over rough sections of trail. I definitely slipped a couple of pedals during the process, but it was all worth it. I am a firm believer that being able to ride trails with flat pedals makes you a better rider, even if you ride most of the time with clips. It teaches you proper technique and helps you learn how to pump – instead of power – over obstacles. Nowadays I use flats for coaching, dirt jumping, or pump tracking, but I still always race and trail ride with my clips because I believe I can go faster with them.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I have certainly had my fair share of crashes. I want to stress that most of the time falling down does not result in severe injuries. Bruises, scrapes, and scabs are the norm. Sometimes big gnarly crashes happen, but most of the time they are avoidable.

In February 2014, I was riding alone near Pasadena, California on an unfamiliar trail. That might sound like the start of a scary movie, but at the time riding alone on unfamiliar trails was totally within my comfort zone. As I climbed up the narrow trail with a steep drop-off on my right-hand side, I was distracted, tired, and I wasn’t paying close attention to the terrain. I clipped my handlebar on the left hand of the trail and was shot off the right and down a 15-foot embankment. I broke my hand in 3 places, broke my scapula, and separated my shoulder.

Physical healing is just one element of recovering from a crash. The hardest part of physical healing is time. You have time to think, time to be hard on yourself, time to get depressed or stuck replaying the accident in your head and how you could have done something differently. That time away from the bike and thinking about the accident can leave little mental scars that will show up every now and then, but what the time away also does is make you appreciate what you love about mountain biking. I’ll never forget my first mountain bike ride four months after that accident. I was riding the easiest trail ever, going super slow with tears streaming down my face; I was literally sobbing with happiness.

I’m still afraid of narrow trails with steep drop-offs and exposure. But when I find myself in those situations, I stop, breathe, and focus on the trail ahead. I remind myself that I have the skills to ride that trail, I am focused and I’m ready. Crashing is part of mountain biking, but learning from those mistakes is how you become a better rider.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Bunny hopping and getting over logs in the trail! First of all, it took me 15 years to learn how to do a proper bunny hop. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true! I didn’t understand the concept. I thought a bunny hop was the same thing as a level lift. So, I used my clips, I preloaded and I hopped up, lifting both my wheels at the same time. When I finally learned how to do a proper bunny hop (lifting my front wheel first, then scooping my pedals and shoving my bike forward to lift the rear wheel), it made getting over obstacles so much easier.
Finally, I could get my front wheel high enough to make it over logs on the trail!

You became certified in PMBIA 1 instruction- what inspired your decision?
When I was a demo driver with Liv Cycling, the company gave me the opportunity to travel to Whistler to get my certification so I could teach clinics at events. I leapt at the chance to get certified as a mountain bike instructor. Ever since I attended my first clinic at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park in Ohio, I had dreamed of being able to make the same impact on the community that the instructors made on me in just a couple of hours.

What I didn’t expect was how much my own riding would improve by becoming a certified mountain bike coach. I learned so many things I was doing wrong and have become more consistent and controlled in my riding. Since then, I’ve gotten my PMBIA Level 2 certification in drops and jumps.

What has been one of your most inspiring coaching moments?
You know how I said that it took me 15 years to learn how to bunny hop? Well, two years ago I taught a pump track clinic to a group of about 14 women. We spent three hours working on wheel lifts, cornering and finding flow. It was an awesome day! At the end of the clinic, one of the women asked if I could teach them how to bunny hop. With a sigh, I said, “Ok, but I don’t want anyone to get discouraged if they don’t get it. You’ve all be going hard for hours and this is a skill that takes time to learn.” 15 minutes later, every single one of my students had gotten their wheels off the ground. I can’t explain it, and that certainly isn’t always the case when I teach bunny hops. It must have been the collective stoke and positivity of the group… but I will never forget that moment.

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! The awesome thing about mountain biking is there is always something you can improve upon. There is never a moment when racing or riding that I’ve said, “Oh yeah, I did that perfectly.” It all goes back to the basics: knowing how and when to brake, when to get low, when to unweight, when to push your weight back or get a little forward, how to twist your hips to pivot around turns and obstacles, knowing where to look and how to choose a line. I wouldn’t say there is one specific skill or type of obstacle that I find challenging, the challenge is putting it all together and having the confidence in your own abilities. Messing up, sliding out, casing a jump, braking before a drop instead of sending it the first time… these aren’t things that I let bring me down, instead they are reasons to keep going. For me “failing” is a reason to push back up and try it again.

Tell us about your coaching business, Spoked LLC and what your plans are-
Spoked, LLC is an outlet for me to impact the community around me. I’m so lucky to have the support of some awesome companies in the industry like SRAM who invite me to teach alongside other awesome coaches throughout the year, and I LOVE making an impact at these big events (like Sea Otter, Crankworx, etc). However, I know there is a need for mountain bike skills coaching right here in North Carolina and the surrounding states. With Spoked, I put on clinics in the region and work with local mountain biking groups or municipalities for their events. I also just want to be here for anyone to reach out and ask for help. I’ve loved working with individuals on a one-on-one basis and with small groups at their local trails. Though my main focus in 2019 will be racing, Spoked, LLC isn’t going anywhere. I plan to continue to play a significant role in the Southeast mountain bike community for years to come.

What has been the best part of establishing your own coaching business?
The reason why I do what I do is to grow the community of mountain bikers right here at home. I love seeing that dream come to life. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching women at the beginning of their MTB journey who have now become leaders in their own communities. It’s humbling to know that I’ve played a role in shaping their lives and establishing a growing group of shredders in the Southeast.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Is everything an appropriate response?

Seriously, I love EVERYTHING about mountain biking. I love being outside, the adrenaline, the sweat, the dirt, the taste of a cold beer and Mexican food after a good ride, I love the confidence riding has given me, the strength (both physical and mental), and at the same time the humility to laugh at myself. I love riding alone, sharing rides with my dad, brother and husband, and constantly making new friends on the trail. I could go on and on…

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I'm so grateful to have the support of some of the best bike and components companies in the industry who keep me riding and racing the bikes of my dreams. In 2019, I will be riding all Liv frames for downhill, dual slalom, trail, and road. I couldn't do what I do without SRAM/Rockshox/Truvativ (drivetrain, brakes, suspension, handlebars, and stems), Schwalbe (tires), Industry Nine (wheels), Flat Tire Defender (tire inserts), Joe's No Flats (sealant, bike wash, and lube), and HT Components (pedals).

Why is it important for women to be involved in the cycling industry?
Cycling isn’t a sport for just men, so why should the cycling industry be run by men? Just like in any industry, workplace diversity is so important in the cycling industry. The only way we are going to have fresh ideas that get more people on bikes and create better products for all cyclists is by companies and organizations reaching outside of their bubble… and that doesn’t mean just hiring more women, but it’s a good place to start.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I feel like a lot of times strong women who have found cycling on their own and who feel comfortable in their communities see a question like this and think… well, there are no boundaries for women getting into cycling. Certainly, I didn’t have any boundaries getting into biking when I was 10. I was lucky. I had super supportive parents, my brother paved the way by starting BMX racing first, and I was a bit of a tomboy. I felt comfortable on my BMX team as the only girl, in fact, it made me feel pretty cool to be different. But, not all women had the luxury to be introduced to cycling at an early age or feel comfortable being the minority.

Let me flip the question to, “What deters men from getting involved with yoga?” Obviously, there is something… because every yoga class I’ve ever been to has only 0-20% men in it. Maybe it’s because men don’t feel all that comfortable working out in a room full of women, or maybe it’s because most men were raised to believe that lifting weights is the manly way to work out and yoga-type exercises are for girls, or maybe it’s because yoga studios and products aren’t marketed to men…

So, what deters women from getting involved with mountain biking? Most women don’t feel welcome in a bike shop or group ride when they are surrounded by men, most women weren’t given the opportunity to mountain bike at a young age or were made to feel like it wasn’t for them, and in the grand scheme of things mountain biking is still mostly marketed toward men.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Luckily, a lot is already changing.
NICA and Little Bellas are doing AWESOME work to welcome more girls into mountain biking at a young age. This is huge and soooo important. Yes, mountain biking is for girls! Women’s Ambassador programs sponsored by Liv Cycling, SRAM, Bell JoyRide and others have created female mountain bike armies that welcome women into the sport and give them the resources they need to stick with it. Women’s MTB Events and clinics have created a community and helped women gain confidence and improve their skills. Heck yeah!

So we are making huge strides by creating spaces where women are NOT the minority in the cycling industry and beginning to do better by bringing young girls into the sport early to create life-long cyclists. I think the industry can still do better by investing more money to create better bikes and gear for women, supporting equal funding for women’s racing across the board, and giving women equal coverage in industry media and within brand campaigns.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
When I first started riding mountain bikes in North Carolina, I had a handful of female biking friends. That number has exploded in less than ten years. Now, it isn’t unusual to show up at the local trails and see several other ladies out riding. That inspires me. I hope by continuing to race downhill (and doing some crazy things on the bike) and coaching I will continue to show women what is possible and what we can do when we lift each other up.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love animals! During my childhood, I had three cats, two dogs, two rats, two snakes, two hermit crabs, a hamster, and some fishies. My first solo pet was a bunny named Jelly who I adopted while in college. My husband and I currently have two rescue cats named Greer and Grom who make near-daily appearances on my Instagram Story feed. @caroline.washam for all the cute, weird and funny kitty antics.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Women on Bikes Series: Zoemma Warshafsky

I feel like I'm still a beginner mountain biker because there's always so much to learn! When do you ever advance from beginner? I've only been mountain biking for about a year and a half (started spring 2017), but wow how I've progressed. My husband (at the time boyfriend) bought me my first mountain bike. He's in the Coast Guard and was in Hawaii for 6 months. The first day when he got back, we went to look at mountain bikes. The second day we bought a beautiful Scott Scale Contessa. Previously I'd only ridden on the road and had been doing road triathlons for about 6 years and was a good road biker, but had very few bike handling skills. The thought of riding off-road on bumpy, rooty, rocky, twisty trails scared the crap out of me. But I was getting a little bored and burnt out of road tris, and mountain biking was a great new challenge! My husband Alex has taught me everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything (how to go over a curb, how to brake, how to shift my weight, etc, etc) because I had no idea how to do anything at all!

It's been so amazing learning something so challenging with the person I love the most in the world and to have him believe in you more than you believe in yourself. If it wasn't for him, then there's no way I ever would have tried mountain biking and kept trying to get better at it. Now our weekends are spent out adventuring on the trails.

I needed a creative project recently and noticed that most of the content online about mountain biking is by experienced riders that are mostly male. I wanted to write about learning to mountain biking from a beginner's perspective (and add another female face to the mix), so I started my blog The Unexpected Mountain Biker. Hopefully, it will encourage more people to get out on the trails, no matter their skill level or confidence. Because if I can do it, then anyone can!

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
The last place I ever thought I’d ride would be on trails, but when my husband suggested it, it sounded like a fun challenge. I warned him how terrible I’d be, but he was okay with it and has stuck with me every step of the way. Even though I rode barely faster than walking speed for my first ride, I loved it. I love learning new things and working toward improvement, and mountain biking offered all that and more. All the challenges, obstacles, and sense of adventure (not to mention all the time I could spend with my husband being active) made me really fall in love with mountain biking.

Your husband was very supportive of your mountain biking, what did he do that worked well?
I would never have started mountain biking without Alex and I definitely would never have gotten as good as I am without him. I think the biggest thing he’s done is believe in me more than I believe in myself. He’s probably the most patient person in the world and will wait forever while I session something, no matter how silly the obstacle. Also, he is sort of lazy in that he never really cares how fast he goes or how much of a workout he gets in, so he was happy to just bop along behind me as I timidly felt out the trails. Really importantly, he encourages me to try scary things and push myself. He’s my teacher and is great at breaking down skills into their fundamental movements so I can learn them. He’s my biggest supporter and best friend and there’s no one I’d rather ride with.

Any tips or suggestions for folks wanting to introduce someone to mountain biking, especially if it's a significant other?
I think the most important tip is to view someone learning to mountain bike as a long-term investment. Alex knew I wasn’t going to awesome overnight, but knew that if he put the time into it, I’d get faster and have better skills and then we’d be able to ride more technical and challenging trails. His investment has definitely paid off! It’s much more fun to ride with others, so if you can put in the time and effort to teach someone, then you’ll both have more fun in the long term.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
ALL OF THEM!!!! Despite the fact that I had been road riding for 6 years, I had almost no bike handling skills. I didn’t really ride bikes as a kid, so I never developed that innate balance and confidence on a bike. So I basically had to learn how to ride a bike. I had to learn how to ride up and down curbs (which still scares me), how to turn (still struggle with), and pretty much everything else you can think of. I think me making Alex break down the skills into their basic movements and body positions were essential. And Alex demonstrating them a million times and him not letting me give up when I got frustrated. I don’t think I could have ever learned them by myself.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Can I say all of them again? I much better at going over the little stuff, but now the curbs have turned into drops and the turns have turned into tight switchbacks. If I only rode things that I was capable of riding, then I’d get so bored. Though I love to challenge myself, riding things that are outside of my comfort zone can get frustrating quickly when you feel like you’re walking more than you’re riding. But that’s where sessioning becomes so important. If I mess up on something, then well session it until I can confidently conquer the obstacle. But if I’m getting tired or just want to ride, then I’ll try to do the more intimidating parts and if I can’t then I’ll say next time and walk over it and keep going. It’s good to stop and work on things, but it’s also good to just ride. And if I’m not having fun on a ride, then it’s probably time to call it quits for the day. Because what’s the point of riding if you’re not having fun?

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
One day I’ll ride clips… maybe. But for now, it’s flats for me. I get scared too much on the trail riding on flats that clips would probably be an even bigger mental block because I’d be too nervous that I wouldn’t be able to clip out in time if I were attempting a more difficult section. I really like the freedom of flats and I don’t think the benefits (more power climbing, more traction on technical sections, more peddling efficiency) would benefit me much at this point in time. I also like being the only person at an off-road tri in skate shoes. I think I make a good fashion statement.

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?
The only goal you should have when you’re starting to ride is to have fun. If you’re not having fun, then you’re doing something wrong. Who cares how fast you’re going? Who cares what you have to walk over? Who cares how long your rides are? But if at the end of your first ride you don’t have a smile on your face and a sense of accomplishment in your heart, then rethink why you want to mountain bike. Be proud of yourself for doing something challenging and celebrate all your accomplishments, no matter how small. Also choose your riding partners carefully. Some experienced riders aren’t as good at going slow and working with beginners because they want to ride hard and long. That’s fine, maybe you can ride with them in a while if that’s your style. Choose someone who is encouraging and patient and has a fun attitude, but definitely ride with someone else or a beginner group where you can have lots of support around you.

Tell us about your first mountain bike race! What was the experience like?
There’s a trail about a mile from our house and they were doing a race there so I figured I’d do it. I did a 5k running race that morning because it was also less than a mile from my house. So my legs were a little tired to start. The trails are super, super rooty and twisty, so not really the most fun trails, but I knew what to expect and there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. I had practiced the week leading up to it on two sections (one they didn’t even include because it was “too difficult”, psh!) and I knew I’d be fine skill wise. I was the only female there, but I knew a bunch of the guys doing it since we ride with that group a lot. I wanted to race in the Women’s race, but I did the intermediate one because it was the same distance. It started off down a fire road to try to spread everyone out. And I was with the group for the little sprint, but I let everyone go in in front of me because I didn’t want to slow anyone down and I knew they were all faster than me. I was just doing the race to do it since I hadn’t done one before. I was alone for most of the race and I didn’t come in last only because someone wiped out and I passed them. It was kind of boring being alone and I missed riding with Alex. I don’t think I really like mountain bike races because I’m not super comfortable going that fast, but I want to go fast because I’m racing, so it’s kind of pointlessly stressful. I much prefer off-road triathlons where not as much pressure is put on the bike portion. I also kinda prefer riding just for fun and sessioning things and exploring new trails. I also really want to get into cyclocross races, which I think I’ll be terrible at but I think they’ll be silly fun.

What has been your favorite event to participate in so far?
My favorite event for mountain biking has been the XTERRA Myrtle Beach Triathlon. I LOVE that trail. It feels like you’re riding a roller coaster the whole time. And I’m not afraid to go fast on that trails because it’s so smooth and flowy. I got to see my mom and Alex several times on the bike portion, which was awesome. And the best part was that my dad did! He’s the one that got me into triathlons, but he’d only ridden a mountain bike once before. So when he came down for the race, Alex and I gave him a crash course on mountain biking. He’d been having some injury issues, so I wasn’t sure how he was going to do, but he did the whole thing and loved it! I also got 6th female overall and 1st in my age group. I really hope I can do it again next year.

Why do you feel should folks try at least one mountain bike event?
I don’t think people need to race. You can get enough pleasure and excitement out of regular trail rides that racing isn’t necessary for having fun mountain biking. But if you need an excuse to push yourself or a reason to get up off your butt, then a race is a great motivator. If by event you mean anything bike related, then I think a skills clinic is probably the best event you can go to! It’s amazingly helpful to learn from someone and to be with a group that wants to learn. Lots of bike shops offer skills clinics and I did one recently and it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot from it and definitely want to do others in the future. You can also meet new people to ride with!
What was your inspiration to start blogging about your mountain biking journey?
Before I started blogging, I saw that most things online about mountain biking were by experienced riders and mostly male. But I thought I had a different viewpoint given that I’m still learning and could encourage people to ride by sharing my ineptitude and eventual successes. The experience of beginners is very different from that of experienced riders. Also, most of what I saw online was people succeeding, not everything it takes to get there. So I wanted to share my journey of learning to show it’s possible to get better. I also wanted to add another female face to the mix.

What has been the best part of sharing your experiences?
The best part has been seeing how many people view my stories even though my reach is so small. I’m only a few months into blogging, so my following is pretty small. But when I share my posts on Facebook, people somehow click on it! I thought after a few posts, people would stop, but (knock on wood) they haven’t. I think it shows that reading how people face challenges is something that a lot of people can relate to, whether they mountain bike or not. Also, it’s been pretty cool seeing that people from all around the world read my posts!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the freedom that a bike allows. It’s a vehicle that can take you to some spectacular places as long as your legs keep peddling. It can take you to places that you’d otherwise never go. It takes you into nature and away from the stresses of life. You can go almost anywhere on a mountain bike!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
You can never have too many bikes right?? For off-road riding, I have a Diamondback Clutch 2, Scott Scale Contessa, and Fuji Cross 1.3. For on-road riding, I have a Fuji Aloha TT and Felt ZW76. And for commuting, I have a 20+-year-old Specialized Hard Rock. (Alex has the same number of bikes). I won’t talk about my road bikes since this is about mountain biking (but I miss riding them!). My first mountain bike was my Scott, which is a hardtail. After we were apart for 6 months, our second day together he bought this bike for me. I had no clue what to look for in a mountain bike, so he was helping me find one. I rode it and it felt good and it was a good deal, so we got it! It was a great starting bike and was great for me to learn on. Then I started getting tired of dealing with stupid little roots, so when I finally felt I had learned enough on a hardtail, I got my Diamondback full suspension. Alex has the guys version of this one, and when he was away, I rode it and liked it, so when I found an awesome deal online for it, we go it! It’s a super fun bike to ride and feels very reliable and comfortable. My ‘cross bike was more of an impulse buy because I found a good deal for it online and it had pineapples on the fork (very important factor in my decision). I want to get into gravel riding and ‘cross races, but there’s just not that much where we live now. But when we move next year, there should be more opportunities to ride it. And I really want to because it’s a very solid, fun bike!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I don’t think there’s a lot that deters women from road riding since it’s become more mainstream (except access to good, safe roads, which is pretty hard to find). But mountain biking is much more male-dominated than road riding. I think the things that deter women are lack of exposure, fewer friends that ride, and most importantly lack of confidence. I really didn’t even know what mountain biking was or had any desire to try it before Alex. Very few people that I knew mountain biked and because I had no handling skills on my road bikes, I would have been afraid and completely lost to try mountain biking on my own. It’s hard to get into a sport where you don’t know anything about it and there’s a pretty steep learning curve. So having someone or a group to introduce you to the sport is essential to trying it and staying with it. I think these barriers apply to both men and women, but I think women may struggle with self-confidence more than men and are more likely to let it hold them back. But everyone is scared and self-conscious while mountain biking, regardless of their gender. So don’t let your fear or gender hold you back! Being female means absolutely nothing about how much you can enjoy mountain biking and how skilled you are. Mountain biking is for everyone, no matter their gender, age, skill level, exercise level, etc.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think something that could really help would be to feature more women riders on YouTube channels. Most (almost all) of mountain biking videos are of males, but showing that women are involved and active and badass would probably inspire more women. And showing that it’s okay to mess up and not be the best would probably show that you don’t have to be a daredevil to pick up the sport. Also having “bring-a-friend” rides would probably be really helpful in getting more women out there. It’s intimidating to arrive at a ride by yourself, so if you go with a friend, then you’ll probably be more comfortable.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I am inspired to get everyone riding regardless if their male, female, young, old, black, white, whatever! I just want to see more people on the trails having fun. I want to help people overcome their fears and see their happiness at their successes. There’s no better joy on the trail than seeing someone clean something they were struggling with.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I rode with training wheels until I was around 10 years old when my cousins made fun of me and I finally rode without them.