Monday, March 18, 2019

Women on Bikes Series: Jenna Downey

Jenna Downey, born and raised in Atlanta has been an athlete all of her life. She is currently the Regional Marketing Manager for the Southeast for CLIF Bar & Co. and a competitive mountain biker & cyclocross racer.

Growing up doing triathlons and playing soccer, she eventually devoted all her time to running competitively.

After graduating from Holy Innocents’, she went to the University of Richmond to run Division 1 Cross Country & Track.

Fitness and health has always been a passion for Jenna and after moving back to Atlanta, she found the joy of running and importance of overall health while working as a boot camp instructor and High School Track & Cross Country Coach. After sustaining a severe ankle injury in 2013 that required surgery and completely shut down running, Jenna discovered cycling and it has truly been life changing. After dabbling in road racing and finding a love for Cyclocross…it was when she entered the lottery for Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race in 2016 that she started riding mountain bikes and found her new passion. She now races all over the Southeast (and Colorado) and has her sights set on some international stage races!


Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
Formerly a competitive runner, I started riding because I kept getting injured. After breaking my ankle and not being able to run anymore is when I really got into cycling. Some guys I rode with encouraged me to sign up for a crit. I hated it! I walked into Peachtree Bikes and they said, why not try Cyclocross? They gave me a bike, I went to my first race and I fell in LOVE! I got a mountain bike to work on my bike handling skills for 'cross, but I never really rode it. It wasn’t until I paced Leadville 100 mile run and I decided to enter the lottery for Leadville 100 MTB with some friends. I was standing on the hill at CX Nats when I found out I got into Leadville…I decided it was time I started riding my mountain bike more! I can remember the first real mountain bike ride was at my local trails…we did 10 miles and I thought it was the hardest thing I had ever done!! I did not know how I was going to do 100 miles at altitude…but the challenge made me work for it!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Tight switchbacks!! They still give me a hard time sometimes! The best advice I got was at the Ladies All Ride Clinic with Lindsay Richter…she said look where you want to go, which means you are pretty much looking behind you and way ahead! Feels weird to be flying into a switchback not really looking where you’re going, but it works.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Absolutely, but what I love most about mountain biking is I feel like I am constantly learning new things, overcoming new technical challenges and I come away from every ride gaining something new. My favorite place to ride is Pisgah National Forest in Brevard…it has everything!! Every time I leave there, I am a better rider – and I have usually gone over my handlebars a couple of times! Recently someone taught me that if you do crash/mess up on something, you should go back and ride it immediately so it doesn’t get in your head.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I always clip in! I think when learning to try new skills, it is best to be in flats though.

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?
Oh gosh, yes. Last October, I was racing CX in Boulder, CO – it was a UCI race and the biggest field I’ve ever raced in, so I was already intimidated! My tire burped on an off camber and as soon as I hit a downhill section at Valmont, the front tire blew out and I got bucked off my bike and landed on my shoulder. I got up, but I didn’t have a pit bike and it was too late…so I DNF’d. I went out the next day to race again but was completely off balance and did not have the confidence I had going in. I was excited to just finish the race without getting pulled. I went back to Atlanta and tried to ride but really couldn’t – I fell while I was running, I had a stupid crash and busted my knee, and decided I needed to take a break. Turns out, I sprained my AC joint (there may have been a separation in there too) and it took FOREVER to heal – almost a year til I stopped noticing it. It really got into my head because I didn’t want to crash on my shoulder again. I definitely rode less aggressively on my mountain bike and things I had ridden in the past made me real nervous. I have spent the past several months getting my confidence back on the bike by practicing features, working on my technical skills and continuing to get back out there. Besides physical, mountain biking is such a mental sport and it is really important to be in the right headspace. I have learned to listen to my body and brain and if I am not feeling right, it’s better to stick to easier trails, gravel or the road than risk getting hurt.

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 was really nervous about mountain biking, especially with other people. I felt like everyone was better than me and they would spend their day waiting on me or laugh when I couldn’t ride something. Turns out, mountain bikers are pretty rad! I highly recommend going with people who want to help you get better and are patient. I also recommend not going on trails that are too advanced…start off on some easier trails to get a feel for the bike and play on the bike! If you have the opportunity, do a clinic – the instructors are awesome and can teach you how to handle the bike from the most basic of skills to jumps and drops!

What was your inspiration to start participating in mountain bike events?
Truthfully, I am not sure where I would be if I hadn’t gotten into the Leadville lottery. We were in, we had to train! I had ~8months to get in shape for a 100-mile mountain bike race at altitude. On the way to Leadville, I did the Austin Rattler 100K (SO FUN!!!) and Blue Ridge Adventures Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell (ORAMM.) After that, I was hooked!!

What made you fall in love with 'Cross?
The people!!! The ‘cross community is amazing and so much fun. I remember my first race, I walked up clueless and ran into two other female racers. They immediately welcomed me (one has become one of my best friends.) On the start line, we were all talking, laughing and having a good time. ‘Cross is a crazy sport, but it creates a bond like no other. Road racing is very much about tactics (and having a team becomes very important) – I found ‘cross was a way to really push the physical limits. There is truly nothing like ‘cross – as I am reminded at the start of every season!! Hah.

Tell us about your favorite event!
Oh gosh, that is a tough one. I would have to say the Pisgah Stage Race. This is an event where I combine work (with CLIF Bar) and riding and I really get to know all the people racing. Riding in Pisgah is super challenging and a 30-mile day is a BIG day. PSR is 5 days in a row of about 30 miles/day. These are truly some of my favorite trails – they’re raw and rugged, there are rocks and roots – and usually, it is wet. There are long gravel climbs, plenty of hike a bike, and the best descents! At the end of every day, there is an awards ceremony with delicious food and beer and good conversation. The race is limited to 200 people. After 5 days (usually riding with some of the same people) and then eating with others, you get to know everyone and it is just a giant party after Stage 5.
Why should folks participate in at least one event?
I highly recommend checking out an event to see what it is all about – it is not for everyone, but it is a great experience. Cyclocross is a great way to get a taste of racing …and usually, you can jump in with a Cross bike or a mountain bike just to test the waters. It has been exciting to see the increase in women racing in Georgia. The consensus is “it is hard, BUT FUN!” Some people do the Pisgah Stage Race as a way to get a tour of all that Pisgah has to offer – so you don’t even need to “race” it, but you get to experience amazing trails with support and a bunch of new friends!

What do you love about riding your bike?
After a year of very serious training and some extreme fatigue. I have spent the Fall reminding myself why I got started riding bikes and why I fell in love with riding in the first place. It truly is the people and the places it takes me. I got started riding with some friends, then got introduced to group rides and then I started racing. I have traveled all over the country with my bike to ride or race. I have met some of my best friends through riding, gotten to go to places you probably couldn’t get to without a bike and I love the sense of freedom. What I love specifically about mountain biking is it is truly mentally and physically challenging and you continue to pick up new skills each time you ride. When running was taken away from me suddenly, I didn’t know what I was going to do. Mountain biking has truly replaced running for me.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My very first mountain bike was a Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Hard Tail and I seriously LOVE this bike – I did Leadville on it and won ORAMM on it. It made me a better rider and I am actually in the process of rebuilding it. My first full suspension bike was a Specialized Camber that I just sold to get a brand new Specialized EPIC Evo! I am IN LOVE. It is like Specialized was in my head and created exactly what I wanted...this baby rips and I am stoked to race on it this year! My CX bike is a Sworks Crux, but my newfound love is Singlespeed CX!! Peachtree Bikes hooked me up with a SS Specialized Crux and I fell in love with racing SS. Of course, I can’t forget my road bike…a Specialized Amira (Lululemon team bike) that I have had for over 6 years and can’t part with it!
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
From my experience – personal and women I have met – if they have a bad experience from other riders not being nice, or going on a trail out of their skill level, or crashing, it seems to discourage them from getting back out there. Riding with people who are encouraging, patient and enthusiastic is really valuable. It is also a male dominated sport and can be intimidating. I remember my first group rides, the guys wouldn’t talk to me until the very end when I was still there (aka, they didn’t drop me) and then they were curious who I was and how long I’d been riding. It still happens occasionally that men do not want me in front of them and will do everything possible to stay ahead. Thankfully, I met a pretty awesome lady early on who encouraged me to keep coming out and helped me early on with how to ride in groups on the road. Whenever a new female comes to a group ride, I try to take that same approach because I know how valuable it was for me.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
It has been really exciting to see the cycling community grow, especially more women, in the past few years. I think it takes a lot of great women supporting and encouraging more women to get out there and ride/race/spectate. Programs like Little Bellas and NICA GRITS are promising for the future of women’s cycling. Not only is it giving girls the confidence and a community to ride bikes, but people like me are inspired by the youth!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Everyone has their own story of why they ride. Most of the women I have met through cycling, they say it has changed their life one way or another. Whether it is road, indoor spin class, triathlon, cyclocross, mountain bikes, I have seen women transform -- they gain confidence, have a purpose, a community, women who thought they were never an athlete, are athletes! Selfishly, I want more ladies to ride with too. ☺ I get excited every time I meet another lady on the trail or at a group ride. I know how riding bikes has changed my life, and I want others to experience it as well!

Tell us about your job at CLIF Bar & Co. and why you love it.
I am the Regional Marketing Manager for the Southeast for CLIF Bar & Co. I am based out of Atlanta and manage our partnerships, relationships, and events in the Southeast. I have met some of the most amazing people through my work and I get excited to go to work every day because no day is the same. I am constantly inspired by people at the events we support as well as my co-workers. When I joined CLIF, I quickly realized it is a company that practices what it preaches and that makes me proud. We are a family and employee-owned company and CLIF takes care of its people, the planet, and our communities. We make a great product and we have really awesome people. It just happened to work out perfectly, that I ride bikes and CLIF was born on a bike.

Why do you feel it's important for women to seek out jobs in the outdoor/cycling industry?
It is a very male-dominated industry and the more women that are getting involved as well as the female-owned companies that are popping up, it is clearly changing the landscape.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I started doing triathlons at age 6 and played soccer before I became a competitive runner. I wish I had discovered mountain biking sooner – which is why I love Little Bellas and NICA so much!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Thinking About A Hardtail Bike? Read This!

Hardtails are a bike that comes with a front suspension fork and no shock in the rear. This makes it an excellent bike for mountain biking yet also can be more dual purpose for gravel/pavement rides for cross training.

Because you aren't paying for dual suspension you can make your dollar go further with a hardtail vs. a full suspension.

Hardtails help you learn technique better because you have more feedback from the trail under you. You learn how to separate your body from your bike a lot quicker on a hardtail than a full suspension. Hardtails also have you work on skill and body positioning when it comes to climbing.

A full suspension can "squish" and give you added traction when riding uphill. A hardtail really has you learn the basics.

I recently wrote a review on my Specialized S-Works Epic Hardtail, which you can read here.

I think what helped me appreciate the hardtail more for what it allows you to do (or doesn't help you with) was my experience on other bikes. Gaining confidence in my handling and control- figuring out how to better move my body for certain things. It really let me see how my skills had progressed and allowed me to further work on bettering them.

Carbon vs. Aluminum...
*Carbon is going to be lightweight and can dampen trail feedback/vibration. It's not going to be as active as suspension, but it can make quite the difference.
*If you live in an area where you'll do a lot of climbing you might find going with as light of a bike as possible to be helpful. You'll still gain fitness and have a workout, but you aren't pushing a heavy bike up a hill.
*If you want the bike to be multi-purpose for gravel, pavement, and mountain biking- going carbon might be a good choice. It's lightweight and again, carbon material dampens vibrations, so can make the ride less fatiguing.
*Carbon is spendy but can also be repaired.
*You will spend more money on carbon. So you should do a comparison between a carbon and aluminum bike and their component spec, to see which is going to benefit you the most.
You can spend more money on a bike with a carbon frame with lesser quality components vs. spending the same on an aluminum frame with upgraded components. It will come down to what you feel will be the best value vs. what you may want to upgrade in the future. Is getting a lightweight frame that you can upgrade down the line more important to you vs. the drivetrain and other mechanical bits? You can lighten up an aluminum bike with carbon bits/wheels, etc.
Aluminum is going to be more budget friendly.

There is a lot to think about when investing money into a new bike and this blog post isn't going to give you a black and white answer because every person will have different wants/needs. It will take research, asking questions, and riding bikes to figure out what is going to be the best route for you.

Wheel size...
Wheel size is another rabbit hole that can be confusing and depending on our height and the brand, your options may be limited. My review of wheel size is strictly my experience between the two brands that Decorah Bicycles sells: Trek & Specialized.

At roughly 5'2" Trek would put me on a 27.5" wheel and with Specialized, I'm able to purchase a full suspension or hardtail with 29" wheels.

Do I feel 29" wheels are "too big" for me at my height? Most of the time I would say no. I personally like to have an option, and I do feel that the 29" wheel size is best for what I want my hardtail to do, which is be multi-purpose. (Gravel/Road/MTB)

I feel 27.5" wheels are a fun wheel size to ride on singletrack, and my Procaliber 9.8 felt quick to accelerate and going into turns felt quick and nimble. Folks find 27.5" to be more a more "playful" wheel size where 29" wheels lend to stability. 29" wheels are going to be the faster wheel size, but that shouldn't be the only thing to base your decision on.

I would recommend trying out a hardtail in both wheel sizes to see what size you feel works the best for your riding. I would suggest going with the wheel size that will best meet your needs for what you'll primarily use the bike for. If you're mostly mountain biking and looking to do the occasional gravel ride the wheel size might be different than if you're looking to use the bike for gravel riding and the occasional singletrack rip.

A lot of folks have found a hardtail to be a great option for mountain biking in Decorah or anywhere else that could be considered "cross country" riding. Overall, it's a bike that will help you learn how to use technique to achieve your end result, like climbing up a hill. In my opinion, a hardtail is a great bike that will help you grow and develop good handling skills that will take less of a toll on your body than a fully rigid bike.

Is it the right bike for you? You'll have to ride a few and find out! Remember to keep in mind of future needs rather than solely focusing on current needs to help you make the best choice possible.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Women Involved Series: Laurel Darren

I love to hear people tell stories of adventures they have had in the outdoors especially when guiding. After years and years of endurance racing (mountain bike, road cycling, marathons, ultra marathons) I made a tough decision to leave the racing scene, the podium (sometimes), the early mornings of long miles, and the going to bed super early.

Instead I would pour my heart and soul into owning, managing the best guides ever and still guiding in my own safe, private, boutique mountain bike and hiking adventure company. We are entering year 3 and it is amazing.



Social Media:

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I want to say mountain biking was kind of a natural progression to try something more epic. I started off as a runner, then a half marathon, marathon, ultra--then to save my knees I started riding a road bike which turned into a triathlon, then half ironman, then ironman then after you complete an Ironman there is that weird awkward space of --what's next? So, I started riding a mountain bike and attempted the Leadville 100 MTB race--in 2011 and DNF'd.

I have been hooked ever since--being one with nature is way better than being one with cars--AND I love the community of people --anyone who will have a beer after a ride or a burger is definitely RAD in my book.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Shimano SPD pedals--I am a single speeder I need all the grab on the climbs I can get.

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?
Crazy story I was once out by myself on a training ride in an area that is very remote with no cell service. I was riding my Cannondale Scalpel which has a LEFTY fork--long short I started to drift LEFT -hit some sand --lost control and literally SUPERMAN'd it over the handlebars --broke my Oakley Hollbrooks and had some pretty nasty trail (gravel) rash. I had a Catholic Pastor and his son pick me up on the rad because my eye was bleeding--I did not know it.

Needless to say, they were pretty awesome and lucky they happened to be out that day just for a drive. I overcame the fear by going out and re-riding that section numerous time and am good now.

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 COULD NOT DESCEND to save my life. I was that girl who got off and walked the descents. Literally--it took me many years to feel comfortable on gravel descents and put me in a rock garden and I would literally shit my pants. Over time I began to understand speed --in control is your friend and that my 29" tires were meant to roll over anything-I was BOCK BOCK Chicken for sure on descending. LOL WOW. I also could not corner worth a crap--that was another story --AND riding at night...I am laughing thinking about that experience. My friend, Kaolin had to let me borrow a light that basically could be seen like a million miles away and I was scared to death--in that same race, I encountered a PACK of coyotes on trail...

Silence--they wanted to eat us I am sure of it. LOL

To overcome my fears of descending and cornering I took a "Ride Like a Ninja" skills course one on one with Richard La China at Balboa Park in San Diego--amazing what the advice "ride straight" can do for you. Love Richard La China.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?

I admit I SUCK at technical anything. I am all day long an endurance cross country girl. You put me on Porcupine Rim descent Moab or Hangover Trail Sedona....its hike a bike for this girl. I have gotten better over the years but I am not the one who wants to go and try the Waterfall here in Phoenix at South Mountain. I will take you on miles and miles of flowy singletrack though. When with friends who love that stuff --we typically compromise and I get laughed at and made fun of. LOL

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 own a mountain bike guiding company so we deal with A LOT of beginners and people who have never mountain biked before. The best thing you can do is be calm, explain and let them know to relax on the bike. Proper seat height, the ability to brake and step off the bike is crucial and letting them ride their own pace is a huge component. It's funny --typically when they "get it" they have to call it a day on the tour. To me--it's about believing in my guests, laughing and smiling right along with them.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I LOVE riding my Roca Roja single speed because I know it is the only one in the world. Lots of times we forget that in moments--we are the only ones in the entire world at that moment. Riding gives me freedom and space like no other. Just me and my Roca.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My ULTIMATE BABY is my Roca Roja Rockstar Titanium Single Speed. I love this bike because it is the only bike in the world and it is totally custom for me. My friend, Kaolin who owns Flat Tire Bike Shop in Cave Creek also owns Roca Roja and he custom named the bike and made it just for me.

I have hand made with love, from Dominic LoPresti of SPUN Bicycles in Cincinnati (Northside), wheels that have custom painted candy purple rims from Velocity Blunt, Gold rear single speed hub (it sounds like 5 rattlesnakes are chasing me) by Profile Racing BMX, A Kick Ass Cog and DT Swiss spokes. AWESOME. Plus always a 34 *20 chainring and always eccentric chain.

My other children are my Cannondale Scalpel LEFTY custom painted Circus purple with glitter accent. 29"

I also have a Cannondale Trail SL single speed and a LIV Avail Advance Pro Road Bike

I also have a fleet of 2018 Marin Nail Trails along with kids bikes for my business, Wild Bunch Desert Guides.
Tell us about your business, Wild Bunch Desert Guides and how it came to be-
My business, Wild Bunch Desert Guides came to be after I worked for a big outfit here in Arizona as a guide for a few years. While I had a killer fun time--things became more cooperate based as that company grew and I wanted to still be able to take the small groups and families out to do fun stuff with fewer restrictions on trails-- all that comes with the transition to the cooperate world etc. So, I left the company and my business, Wild Bunch Desert Guides was born.

What has been the best part about starting up your own guide business?
The best part about starting up my own company, Wild Bunch Desert Guides, is the authenticity and the amazing people who choose to work for me. I can run the business how I want to --of course ethically and honestly. I choose to be safe, eccentric and super fun with all our guests.
What has been one of your favorite guiding experiences?
For me personally, EVERY TOUR is my favorite guiding experience. I can honestly say --even with the other companies I have had the honor of guiding for, EVERY tour has its own piece that I LOVE and have had some sort of fun connected to it. I think the one that comes to mind is the day my guest Fred and I encountered a Mojave rattlesnake out of nowhere that just kind struck at my rear wheel of my bike and dropped out of a rock onto the trail--it was between Fred and I and I must have said the "F" word 500 times while my heart was beating 5000 beats per minute--I kept saying "I am so sorry this is so Effing unprofessional, please don't tell my boss I am using the F Word." Funny thing was--the CEO of the company I worked for has a masters degree in herpetology and was actually out riding in the same area --we encountered him and he came over checked the snake out and gave some cool facts about it--I still had a mini heart attack I think and to add to the fun--I took Fred some years later on a tour for another company I worked for in Sedona with a fake Mojave rattlesnake. LOL

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think the sport of mountain biking in general and let's be honest with ourselves like most things--is viewed primarily as a man's sport. Do not get me wrong there are a ton of badass women out there riding and keeping up with the boys...please do not misunderstand. I think what keeps women away from mountain biking is fear of crashing. I know that sounds strange---take a day and go out with a mountain bike guide who has beginners--females tend to be scared of crashing period. Anything or way they can keep the bike upright is always what the major goal is.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I know here locally and I have encountered this when I was racing. There seems to be a small number of women --single speed specific --so, therefore, we are asked by race directors to ride with the males or go into a mixed open category. Some race directors like my friend, Jeff Frost have actually listened to the women and have added categories for a podium specific to women--single speed for sure at some of his local mountain bike and cyclocross races. I know though last year for example 12 hours of Mesa Verde made the single speed ladies choose if they wanted to be in the geared open category or the male single speed category. Even though there were enough of us to full the podium--but their past history with that specific category makes consistency difficult. So the badass chicks have to be ready for any category--especially on a single speed.

I think though changes are being made and women are being listened to if they approach it in a nice and understanding way absolutely.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Due to my business taking off like wildfire these last couple months most of my outdoor time is on my feet hiking with guests, my guy, Brett and my plott hound, Daisy Mae. I have not had the time I used to --running a business to get out and do the riding I used to. In all honesty, my body needed a rest and break from all the wear and tear that endurance training does. I have felt amazing and sure a few LBS--have appeared --at the end of the day those experiences with Brett and Daisy Mae--the Moscow Mules and Cheeseburgers sure were good. YUM.

Now, I inspire women to ride by being on the bike when guiding mainly. I, for years, rode with a group of ladies here locally and we had a ton of fun. Times and things change--so now it's about the women who I get to inspire on our tours.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I skated Roller Derby for the Quad City Rollers for almost 3 seasons as Iron Rub'r #262 and during that time I won BEST LEGS in AMERICA for Max Muscle in 2011.
I was a badass mutha.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Embracing Uncomfortable: A Mountain Biking Lesson

Photo Credit: Rod Hasse
I've talked about living with uncomfortable and how it leads to growth when it comes to general life stuff, but this time I'm talking strictly about biking.

If I had stayed in my comfort zone when it came to biking, I would not be where I am today. Likely I would not be mountain biking, as mountain biking (in general) was something that greatly challenged me.

I'd go so far to say it provoked fear.



I felt uncomfortable riding terrain that wasn't smooth. I had to develop a relationship with the bicycle. I had to do things that scared me because if I didn't, I wouldn't have progressed. If I hadn't progressed, I wouldn't be exploring on trails local or far and having fun!

Uncomfortable. It's a word everyone wants to avoid, but without it, we are stuck in our comfort zones afraid to step out and see what else we can do. Mountain biking is what I would consider a very progressive sport. The more you do it, the quicker it seems more of it is possible than impossible. You find it's still intimidating, but maybe not as fear-inducing as you originally thought.
The more you push your boundaries, the more you'll learn, and you'll find you are capable of more than you knew.

My mountain biking journey was filled with fear, tears, and me vehemently saying that I couldn't do it. At the same time, I really wanted to. It was a continual battle with myself- convincing myself that I could do it vs. my ego saying that I was out of my mind for trying.

Eventually, I felt better about what I was able to do, and that is when Travis figured we should make me uncomfortable. Yes. Go on a new trail and try to ride something that challenged me. You can't keep it easy, otherwise, you won't build up skill. Oh boy! I get to referee the internal battle inside my head again. Fabulous.

Without being uncomfortable, without pushing my boundaries, and without accepting that I might fail repeatedly- I wouldn't have become a mountain biker.

Bringing mountain biking into my life has been the best thing and being uncomfortable helped me realize that. Mountain biking has ultimately helped me deal with feelings of being uncomfortable in other areas of my life. Overcoming those feelings has allowed me to do things that I would otherwise not and bring adventure into my life!

Once I had the general riding thing down, I knew I needed to expand my horizons. So I entered my first fatbike race: The Pugsley World Championship
I promptly got my a** handed to me. It was my first year regularly fatbiking, but I still had a lot to learn in terms of handling and control when riding in snow. The snow conditions were extremely challenging as temperatures warmed up. Encouraging folks told me to do the second lap. I walked a majority of, rode a portion that tripped up others, and found myself finishing 2nd for women and absolutely dead last. I loved it!

After that event, I realized that racing could be fun, even if it's just doing your thing and not worrying about anyone else. (Just like what everyone else does!)

Borah Epic was a race I went to that sent me into a state of uncomfortable. One because it was the longest event I would do for actual mountain biking: 35+ miles of singletrack. I did not condition myself as much as I should have. I ran out of water early on. I felt guilty for not being at work on a weekend that could be busy. I discovered that mass starts that lead into singletrack can make the first 5+ miles of riding absolutely nightmarish. Anxiety was definitely high until I was able to escape the train of riders and do my thing. However, I discovered my technical riding ability was solid, Decorah trails conditioned me for lots of climbing (when there wasn't much), and I could manage with limited water as I regularly rode with little to no water back home. (Thank goodness for aid stations!)
I discovered my mettle and I came in 1st for my age group for women.

The photo at the top of the page was taken at 2018 Chequamegon- my most challenging Chequamegon to date.

My first Chequamegon was in 2016 and I ended up riding it solo (without Travis as company.) It was a wet year in 2016 and many were giving me props for doing my first Chequamegon in "crappy" conditions. It was an event that made me feel uncomfortable due to the sheer volume of individuals surrounding you. I worried if I was pacing myself well or if I needed to ride faster. I sucked at taking in nutrition. I made climbs I wasn't sure I'd make, walked what I absolutely couldn't (with everyone else) and plugged away until I came to the finish. I encountered nice people out on the route when I was riding, I enjoyed the scenic scenes of the Hayward and Cable area, and I felt absolutely stoked that I did something so big, by myself. In a sea of fellow humans, I was met with camaraderie, smiles, united struggles, and determination.

In 2018 I was set to take on my most challenging Chequamegon race. Multiple reasons why, but mainly due to lack of overall bike fitness and conditions. I knew going into this event, even with a companion, I would be in a different league. Travis somehow has the ability to be able to put out good clips without ever training. I'm the one who holds him back, even when I feel like I am "bike fit." I am the one encouraging the both of us to pace ourselves, and as much as he feels as tho we must rush forth, he thinks the ability to pace is great as it's not in the forefront of his mind.

I also experienced my first continual mechanical which really put a damper on my spirit. My chain kept dropping, and we both sacrificed hydration to clean it multiple times. I didn't eat as much as I hoped because all of my non-gu foods were wet or mud-covered. I actually swore towards the end as I spun out on a muddy climb. Exhausted, I exclaimed, "Damn it!" and trudged up the rest of the hill.

I physically felt exactly how my 2018 year felt in my head. The final hill before the finish, when we rode past our friends, I felt rejuvenated. The cheers, whoops, and smiles made me cry. I had tears in my eyes all the way to the finish and had to stop myself from sobbing. I was spent. I waded through what one could consider a "pile of sh*t." I finished. That's all I asked for going into that event.

During Chequamegon, I was practically pleading for some sort of "sign" that my dad was there. My dad would help me ride better than I would (nope.) My dad would somehow keep me mechanical-free (big nopenope.) There wasn't a fairytale ending with my race, other than I gave myself tangible proof that I am a persistent individual. My gift was finding out how to embrace the uncomfortable and push through all of the emotional sludge that builds up.

These are a few experiences that really left an imprint on my #bikelife, and they were opportunities that I could choose to let myself feel beat down or I could rise up and say #challengeaccepted. I always do my best to be an optimist when it comes to uncomfortable moments in life, but it's not to say that I don't find frustration or sometimes, the feeling of defeat. It's after the experience and digesting of emotions I can sit back, reflect, and acknowledge that these are experiences meant to be savored.

Without embracing uncomfortable moments I would not have grown with mountain biking. I would have no idea of how much I'm capable of. I wouldn't seek adventure and I wouldn't embrace unknowns. I would be stuck, afraid of moving forward or backward- because I overcame the uncomfortable, I could grow. Accept there will be uncomfortable moments in your mountain biking journey and push yourself to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable (like a skills clinic or race) and see the progression you'll make. It's impossible to take the uncomfortable out of learning to mountain bike, and life is too short to try and suffocate in perfection. #whatsworthit

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Downhill Fatbiking in Duluth

A few months ago, a friend of mine suggested that we (and our husbands) should go downhill fatbiking up in Duluth at Spirit Mountain.

Not one to really go on a whirlwind weekend "vacation" I convinced Travis that this would be a great learning experience. Plus, it would be our "last hoorah" before the spring season hit.


Our original weekend was canceled due to extremely cold temperatures. As fun as it sounded, downhilling in -40 or whatever degree temperatures just didn't sound appealing! Fast forward to Mid-February and it would truly be our "great escape" before the busy season would start. 

Our friend Libby secured an Air B&B that was close to the ski resort. On Saturday, the 4 of us rolled out in our respective trucks, starting the journey to the "great white north" aka Duluth, MN.

The drive up was simple. I think the best part was the wide array of music one ends up listening to as the radio stations change. From rap to 80's rock ballads...I have decided my life needs to be narrated by 80's ballads. Nothing says "road trip" like singing off key to the likes of Journey, Cinderella, and others.

After hours of driving, we landed in Duluth at the Air B&B and unloaded our trucks. We figured that we arrived early enough to try and sneak out onto a groomed fatbike trail for some bonus riding. Unfortunately, we discovered as we entered the trail that it was definitely not groomed- or if it was, it wasn't packed down. We eventually exited the trail and rode back up the road (as far as we could ride, there were sections we had to walk.) It was beyond challenging (the whole adventure) but I was grateful to have gotten outside. Being in a truck all day really makes you appreciate being outdoors, even if it's not ideal snow conditions. (Duluth had around 30" of snow over a 10 day period?!)

After we got back to the house, we readied ourselves to head out for some supper at the Duluth Grill. Did you know that Duluth Grill was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives? I didn't! For folks who look for a beer- we didn't see anything there. However, if you want some really tasty food that is super fresh with unique flavors, and super healthy portions (as in big)...this is the place.

We ordered up some appetizers including the Brussel Sprouts (amazing), Buffalo Chicken Cauliflower (also amazing...and strange), and Onion Rings (yaaas queen.)
Libby and Nick ordered two different bowl options that seemed absolutely huge (and delicious), Travis ordered a Cheddar Burger, and I ordered Wok-O-Tacos (chicken with a delish Korean bbq sauce.) With the appetizers, I can say I was legit stuffed...and then we decided to order 3 pies without knowing that for being small, they would be on the big side! I definitely had plenty to eat.

The amazing thing with Duluth Grill is there is absolutely something for everyone. You can have breakfast all day, too!

We went back to the house, socialized, Libby and I worked on our stretches, and then we went to bed. I will admit that I didn't sleep the best. The bed had this amazing blanket that felt heavy and comforting, but I got super warm. Also, I think I was nervous about what the day would bring on Sunday. Sleep eventually came, but so did waking up. 

Libby and Nick worked together to make pancakes, Travis went out to get butter and bacon. We sat at the kitchen table, ate, and got excited about the day. I was so happy with the breakfast, it was the perfect amount for this notorious "I don't really like eating in the morning" eater.

We got ready after breakfast, donning layers upon layers. I worried that maybe I didn't bring enough to wear. What if I would get cold? How would I survive? Should I double up on baselayers? Should I have more hand warmers? The list goes on. I decided that I brought what I brought and I would have to deal with it.
We followed Nick and Libby to the doggy daycare that Izzy would stay at while on our adventure, then we hit up the hill! We were told by a worker to ride down a groomed trail to the bottom of the hill, and there we could purchase our lift access passes. I was excited and nervous! What if I wiped out before I even got started. What if a skier didn't see me? Could I move out of the way fast enough if a skier went in front of me? Aaaah! I made it down the hill just fine. I was shaking, my adrenaline was up, and I was feeling stoked. 
The trails we would end up on were: Juggler Joe, Timber Cruiser and Calculated Risk...Juggler and Timber were both skiable while Calculated Risk was a singletrack, downhill trail. Unfortunately, because of all the snow, it wasn't the most amazing trail to ride. It's hard to pack down softer snow, and it was extremely easy to get off-line and stop, fall over in knee-high snow, and then some. Everything that was groomed for skiing/snowboarding was amazing.

The latter part of Calculated Risk was really fun, but if you rode the whole thing to get to the latter part you definitely got a workout. We spent our time going down Juggler Joe, Timber Crusier, and found an entrance to the lower portion of Calculated Risk via Timber Cruiser. All in all, our first few hours on the slopes was awesome. I was getting the hang of letting off my brakes, letting the bike move under me, and having fun. I was feeling a little bummed tho, because I kept eating snow (rather than sh*t) on the singletrack portions and I couldn't figure out why. I was feeling bad because I was becoming the very last person out while everyone waited for me. Everyone else would bumble in a spot here or there, fall over, etc. I just wasn't seeing it. 

I realized I was being too hard on myself along with trying to control too much when I really needed to "let go."

Libby was great with sticking with me as much as she could, granted, if I plowed into the snow I was a lost cause, but I found myself smiling again and enjoying the ride.

It was an awesome experience to ride down a hill so fast. I was nervous at first about navigating with other folks, but it wasn't that bad. I feel like I have pretty good reflexes and I have a decent ability to anticipate what others are doing. It was part of the rush, finding a good line, maintaining it, staying out of the way, etc.
Our last run down Juggler Joe (by that time we were calling it Jolly Jumper) was perfect. I was able to stay on Travis' wheel the entire time, caught a little bit of air here and air. My silly self never turned the GoPro on for that particular run. If I had, folks could've seen Travis catching some good air. They wouldn't have seen that the 4 of us made a perfect train down the hill. It wouldn't have captured the smile on my face. Frankly, I figured it was fate. If I had turned that GoPro on, I probably would have crashed, maybe I wouldn't have gone as fast, or something else would've gone wrong and it wouldn't have been "perfect."

Nick said I got "sendy." That made my day!

After we rolled back to the trucks to get our dry clothes, we went back to the main lodge to change and get some F.O.O.D. because boy...we were hungry! We found a lounge/bar, ordered up some beverages, and I was stoked to get a swiss/mushroom burger. YES. So mushroomy, so cheesy, and so delicious. I felt like I could've eaten 2.

We followed Nick and Libby back to pick up Izzy and made our way back to Iowa. It was interesting because back home we were receiving snow...and it had totaled around 6ish inches. My anxiety was up, and I wanted to make sure I could stay awake to be deer watching support for Travis if it were needed. Also, I really didn't like the thought of crashing into a ditch while I was asleep!

The closer we got to La Crosse, you could tell weather was happening. By Spring Grove, it was definitely interesting driving on snowy roads. Heading to Decorah...oh boy. I surprised myself with how I managed to stay awake- and as soon as we were able to settle down in the house, I washed my hair in the kitchen sink! (Our bathroom wasn't quite done with being remodeled.)

I was so happy with our Minnesota adventure! 
I am really excited to make 2019 a year of experiences. This was the first in what I hope are new and exhilarating biking trips with friends!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Women on Bikes Series: Casey Sheppard

Lincoln Native Casey Sheppard lives a life of adventure. From Van-Life to riding a bike across a foreign country, no feet is too big (or too small) for her. As a Content Creator, Sheppard authentically sculpts her stories into blog posts, videos, stop-animations, lectures and really whatever inspires others to learn, live and laugh.

(WARNING, watching/listening to this content may lead to a possible life change or even better, to the development of superpowers!!!)

Sheppard just finished her biggest adventure yet! Tour Aotearoa, where she rode her faithful bike, a Surly Karate Monkey named Skidmark, over 3000km (solo and self-supported) across both island of New Zealand, which took her 31 days.



Sheppard was the first recipient of the Big Agnes Bob Swanson Memorial Grant (2018) and was named Best Digital Content by Upventur (2017). She is based out of Lincoln with her retired adventure dog, India but spends most of her time nomading. 

Sheppard is also a professional speaker, published writer, educator, adventurer, filmmaker, brand ambassador, content creator, and gifted storyteller.

For folks who are new to meeting you, tell us about your mountain biking introduction and why it was influential-
My ex-boyfriend introduced me to MTBing. He was supportive and pushed me! I didn’t always like being pushed but I LOVED mtbing. In my first year I road every terrain and crashed countless times. I invested in ibuprofen and a reusable icepack, which I used after every ride due to crashing. But I felt something that I hadn’t before, thanks to the bike. I felt free, empowered, on fire, and in love with the bike and nature. Overcoming the challenges of singletrack gave me self-confidence. I think nature, adventure, the bike (or exercise of some sort) are essential for building self-confidence, self-reliance, respect, disciplinal, community, trust, and knowledge for life.

You went on an incredible biking journey in NZ. Tell us what you did to prepare yourself for the cycling adventure-
I trained a LOT! I wanted to get my body used to being in the saddle for 3-5 hour increments. The challenge was training in winter. I’ll ride outside until the temps dropped below 25 degrees. I ride alone and know hypothermia can sneak up FAST so when it was that cold I played it safe by riding at the local Y.

When I first started training I spent 30 minutes on the bike then increased to an hour, then to two hours. I spent 2 days a week riding for 5 hours. In total, I spent about 5-6 days a week on a trainer at the gym. I then added, strength weightlifting training three days a week, to bulk up my body weight.

I was also a bit extra cautious. I usually ride anytime and don’t worry about ice or snow but I was going to do whatever it took to do this trip. That meant not being so tenacious and sticking to the trainer!

Research was another thing I did to prep myself. I looked up what gear to bring, how to set up my bike, how to ship my bike (and the cost), downloaded maps, saved/raised money to finance the trip (I did a Kickstarter and I won the very first Big Agnes Bob Swanson Memorial Grant!) I also calmed my constant freakouts with mediation!

What was the most challenging part of doing this journey by bike?
The biggest challenge about riding 1900 miles solo across New Zealand in 30 days by bike was carrying everything with me: clothes, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, water, glasses, toothpaste, first aid kit, bike kit with tubes, chargers, rain layers, lights, Garmin, maps and more. Once everything was packed I had to then find my balance with riding a 70 lb bike. My bike was soooo heavy. The first day I rode on the beach at low tide. It was fun riding on the hard wet sand but when I hit a soft bit my wheel would catch sending me flying over the bars. For the first week, the bike handled me. I walked up every incline and EVERY hill. My bike fell endless times, usually with me on it. I was bruised and continued to collect them throughout the ride. This was a challenge BUT after a week things got easier and by the end, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do!!!

What was the most inspiring moment of your NZ adventure?
The most inspiring moment was pretty much every day, looking out at the beautiful landscape and I was in awe that I was actually doing this!!! I reminded myself every day what a privilege this experience was and to enjoy the good and the bad. I really learned to be in the moment and to not rush. The land in New Zealand is filled with inspiring energy. It’s an amazing country with the kindest people who helped me along the way.

Where there challenges or mechanicals you had to deal with? How did you cope?
About a week in, I hit rock bottom and wanted to give up. I was focusing on miles and that I was so behind. This was stressing me out and I wasn’t having ANY fun. So I decided to just take it pedal stroke at a time, focus on smiles, not miles (thanks Jolly) and to just keep going.

I had very little mechanical problems BUT I did have to change my brake pads, which I had never done before and my fork bottomed out. I was grateful that I had spare brake pads. The bike shop in my hometown in Nebraska advised me that it wasn’t necessary to bring extra brake pads. They also said my bike won’t make the 1900 mile trek. I knew my bike and knew she could do it. She’s steel and we have been through a lot together. Plus, she was all I had so she had to make it. I also did a TON of research on what to bring. The bikers in NZ said it was a must to bring extra brake pads, I’d be riding over 100,000 feet of elevation with steep, steep descents. They were right. I was glad I did my research.

-BTW, local bike shops are super helpful and great with bike prep. I love my local shop and others (like Decorah Bikes). They are a great resource. They might not know everything about all terrains or riding but the internet can help with that. Go with your gut, know your gear and you will be fine!

I also had issues with my bags and gear stay on my bike. It ALWAYS fell off. I went cheap and didn’t buy a bike specific seat postbag. I borrowed a handlebar bag and bought a cheap bigger frame bag. I used straps to keep everything in place. This was an expensive trip so I choose to be cheap and paid for it with my time. It was sooooo frustrating but I learned so much. I won’t have it any other way.

Another challenge. Food. I dropped a LOT of weight, about 15-20 lbs, which is a lot for my 5’ 11’’ 140 lb frame. I knew I would eat a ton of food since I was burning so many calories but I had no idea it would be like it was. I ate 3 times the amount I thought I would. I tried to put on some weight before the trip with strength training and calories but it didn’t matter, I lost WAY more than I thought I would.

My diet is gluten and dairy free, which was a bit of a challenge in a foreign country, especially in a dairy country like New Zealand. I had to make sure and read labels. Items in the US that are GF may not be in New Zealand. But everything was labeled and most everyone I came into contact with was aware of these allergies.
Carrying enough food was another problem. I did my best to carry enough but I was eating so much. I would spend about $50-75 a day on food at grocery stores, way more than I had planned. In a few remote places, I did run of food a few times. This sucked more than it was scary. It killed my energy and mental being. I could barely ride my bike and the hills in NZ!!! So many and so steep! One night I arrived in a town after dark, I stopped at a backpackers to see if I could spend the night. There wasn’t room but I was taken to a community center where I had the place to myself. The town was asleep so there was no food but the man who was helping me gave me a can of coke cola and baked beans. It was delicious!

My mental well being suffered and took a huge toll. I always find traveling alone to be empowering. On this trip, I really embraced it and enjoy it. What’s hard is when you go through something tough and you are the only one to get yourself out of it or to keep yourself going. I had a lot of side of the road crying moments. A lot of temper tantrums. I was lucky to have a bit of cell service so I could talk to my family. The downside, NZ is 18 hours ahead of the states.

Then I faced navigation problems. I relied on my NZ cue sheet maps, my Garmin, and my cell phone. It took all three to find my way and I still got lost, daily. I also camped 15 of the nights. I also stayed in hostels, hotels, and even a caravan in someone’s backyard. I didn’t plan out each day until that day, or midday. I kind of winged it. Figuring out how to charge everything was another of the endless challenges.

Not having a day off killed my moral and energy levels. I would have LOVED a day of rest but my time was limited. A few days I took the morning off to explore. One morning I went to Hobbiton, which was amazing.
How did I cope? Again, side of the road crying, temper tantrums but also taking the time to eat, even if it was on the side of the road. Thank goodness for the access to a hot shower, I carried lavender oil with me, which I sprinkled in the hot shower to relax. I also relied on the kindness of strangers and their help, which was endless. And sleep, nothing is better than a good nights sleep. The first day I was sunburnt, exhausted, alone, and WAY over my head. But I knew if I just ate and got some sleep that everything would look different in the morning and it did.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I wanted to wear my five ten flatforms that have clipless built in but they were new shoes and I hadn’t broken them in. Plus, my budget didn’t allow for platform and clipless duo pedals. I had worn my clipless shoes for over 3,000 miles on gravel and singletrack. I trusted them and knew they would work. So I went with what I had. Plus I also knew there was less technical riding and more miles. I use platform for technical and clipless for miles. The downside is that my shoe did break towards the end of the tour but I just fixed them with a bit of trusty duct tape, which held them together 'til the finish.

Since your previous interviews with us, 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?
The entire TOUR was on big BIFF!!!! Plus, I biff ALL THE TIME! When you take risks sometimes you fall, it’s natural. I'm used to it by now. After a crash, I pick myself up (along with my crushed ego) and keep at it. To heal and overcome I cut myself some slack. I give myself some self-love and sometimes cry, yell, or just sit there. You will fall, you don’t always have control over that but you do have control over if you get back on the bike or not. So get back on the BIKE!

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I absolutely have handling and technical riding aspects I still find tricky or scary. Again, I like to push myself and when you push yourself you run into tricky things.

Some days I’m on fire and kill it with technical riding. Other times I can’t ride anything and walk everything. It does get to me sometimes but I remember that I’ve come so far from when I started just years ago. And that this is supposed to be fun. If you aren’t having fun, take a moment, stop and figure out why you aren’t enjoying yourself. Is it the people you’re riding with? The terrain? Are you stressed? Just having a bad day? It’s amazing how outside elements affect your riding. My period affects my riding, which I didn’t realize right away. Now, I just role with it, understanding that I may not be 100% that day, which is more than okay. The bike has taught me to be more patient with myself and others. To love myself for me, not what I can do on a bike. And that getting rad doesn’t mean showing off. Means having fun, that’s what life is all about, right?
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?
Take it easy and have fun. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and try out riding with other people to find the right people to ride with. I usually ride alone, I’m a solo nomad and a bit of a loner at times. When I ride with others I choose to ride with supportive, independent, fun people. Those are the people I like to ride with. Find who you like to ride with. It makes SUCH a difference. Also, the right bike. Your local bike shop is a great resource to try out new bikes (which most will let you take out for an afternoon), gear, hit new trails and all your bike needs. Take advantage of it!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the freedom and being in nature! I love flowing through singletrack it’s like dancing! The bike has helped me find empowerment, self-confidence, and find myself. Bike camping has taught me how to be self-reliance, to be open to the help of others, and learn that life is about experiences. Ah man… I LOVE riding my bike!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I currently have only one bike; hardtail Surly Karate Monkey. I like Surly bikes because they’re steel and can take a beating. I’d love to have a fat bike for snow and desert riding. A full suspension for downhilling, a single speed 26-inch mtb for strolling around town but I’m stoked with Skidmark (my karate monkey), she’s badass and keeps me safe!

You went from a nomadic lifestyle to less nomadic, and back to- what has been your journey with discovering how you want to be?
It’s never-ending and just that, a journey. I think we are constantly learning about ourselves as we are constantly evolving. I do find that I am more at peace with myself and with who I am thanks to my nomadic lifestyle. It just fits me. I had to experiment, kind of a trial and error to see what life was right for me. Thanks to adventure and the bike for showing me that.

How has #bikelife been helpful during the transitions of this past year?
I had a bad break up recently and life has been really hard, I’ve been struggling. But I’ve learned that the struggles we face (in life or on the bike) are worth it. I’ve learned who I am and what I am capable of thanks to that struggle. We all have strength, the bike helped remind me of that and has helped me find my strength, even when I feel I’ve misplaced it.

What are your plans for the year?
I’m currently writing about my bike trip across NZ and the struggles I’ve faced this past year. This is helping me heal, remember what an epic trip I had, and (hopefully) inspire others to get rad. After the book, I have a big adventure planned, which includes the bike. I’ll keep ya posted!!!

You're writing for Women Who Explore, tell us more about them and where to find your work-
I think co-founders Linsay and Jenny say it the best: “We started Women Who Explore because we didn't feel like we belonged in the outdoors, that we weren't experienced or had the best gear to be out there. We realized that other women out there must feel the same, intimidated, not good enough to be in the outdoors. So we wanted to create a safe space, a welcoming space.”

There are getaways, informative blog posts, and community for women who explore. I create blog posts for them. You can find my work on their blog. I also have a blog and a Youtube channel that focuses on my experiences with being a nomad.

Women Who Explore
Case of the Nomads

What do you love about sharing your stories?
I have learned so much from others and what they have shared now I get the honor of paying it forward. Now that’s a priceless gift!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I don’t know. Maybe if others would stop trying to “take care of” or “protect” woman and treat us as the equals we are, then maybe more woman would get involved.

To be honest, I try not to think about this too much. It ends up pissing me off. I just focus on being as self-sufficient I can be. I think the more self-sufficient we are, the better. Getting your own camping gear and bike equipment makes you independent and self-reliant. You don’t have to wait for others to go on an adventure. Learning about your gear is another way to be self-reliant. I learned the basics of my gear, equipment, bike, car so that I can rely on myself when something breaks. There are great resources out there to learn like community, friends, and YouTube, but the best way to gain knowledge is by DOING!!! Knowledge is (em)power(ment) so go out and do it!

What inspires you to encourage women to be adventurous?
I know the struggle of being a woman and the added struggles of being a solo adventurous woman. I also know the rewards. I was scared for a LONG time. I didn’t follow my passion for adventuring. I found courage through other women’s stories. That inspires me to share my story, to help others get involved and to give back what others have given me.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
In my early 20s, I lived in NYC and worked as an assistant agent at one of the top model agencies in the world. I went to every party, wore designer clothes, and got paid a TON! It was a fantastic time but I’m much happier now, less money and more adventure, but I still love fashion.