Monday, April 1, 2019

Women Involved Series: Ash Bocast

Since y'all last heard from me (a few years ago, working for Liv Cycling, fresh off a career as an international adventure tour guide), a lot has happened.

In late 2016, despite this step being terrifying, I left my perfectly great job at Liv and started my own event management company - Roam Events. At Roam we partner with different brands to host women's bike events all over the country.

Our events are quite different from one-another, but they all share one commonality: no skills clinics, just shredding with other ladies until your legs stop working or, for us normal humans, until you are ready for a beer and a burrito.

I'm still traveling the country full-time with my pup Ryder, we have a new member of the family, my partner Andi (a pro racer and badass female bike mechanic)...and we've upgraded to a schmedium-sized school bus that we built-out ourselves and lovingly call Nancy. Nothing like being 33, professionally nomadic, and getting to ride bikes with hundreds of women for work!

Follow: @thisisroam (company) @roamrydes (Ash) @zoltonator (Andi) @theroambus (Nancy)


First off, for the folks who haven't met you or read your first interview- Why mountain biking?
Mountain biking is like soul medicine for me. Need a dose daily, even if it’s just catching up with fellow riders on Instagram or reading an article from Singletracks or Mountain Flyer Mag.

What inspired you to create Roam Events?
Two main reasons:
I was tired of women’s bike events being so hyper focused on beginner riders, it was like the industry forgot there are thousands of women out there who ride pretty damn well. I wanted to put on events for the experienced riders who just wanted to unapologetically shred with friends.

Traditional bike demos tended to suck (ie ride-a-bike-for-40-minutes-from-a-parking-lot). I knew we could do better with test rides; longer rides, multiple bikes, more variety of trails so that folks could feel great about their decision before dropping a few thousand on a new bike.

We’ve been hosting women’s-only events for three years and they just keep getting better and better. Our approval rating is insane, something like 99.8% across 50 events...and I feel especially stoked when we get the stamp of approval from former world champions and the “hardcore” ladies that I really look up to.

What has been the best part of creating Roam?
Seeing the industry change drastically once everyone recognized quality was more powerful than quantity. We’ve created a new mold for bike events, and are ecstatic to see others putting their own twist on it and putting on even more fun-first experiences for cyclists.

What has been the most interesting or challenging thing you've learned since creating Roam Events?
It was surprisingly hard to convince women that our events don’t suck.

I’ll meet someone that is the exact kind of person that would have a killer time at our events (advanced rider, likes to let loose, self-sufficient) and she’ll say something like, “I don’t do women’s events.” I’m still trying to figure out what they think goes on at our events, but I’m sure if they saw the ladies shredding mach 10 through a sketchy drop, or enjoyed a shot of tequila with us while we were whipping up the taco bar...they would think differently.
It’s been awesome when the skeptics come to our events and have the best weekend of riding they’ve ever had...we even surprised the hell out of Jill Kintner, who had never been to a “women’s-only” event outside of competition. She’s since hired us to help her put on her own women’s-only events after attending our festival last fall.

Inquiring minds want to know why Roam doesn't offer skills clinics-
Plain and simple: we wanted to offer something for the lady shredders who would rather just have the support (food, demo bikes, trail leaders, shuttles) to just go ride their asses off all day.

Even still, why are skills clinics so beneficial for new and experienced riders?
We are the biggest supporters that everyone, men included, should take clinics or get private coaching. Seriously. I’m like a broken record, “Take a skills clinic! Take a skills clinic!

This list goes on and on as to why, but the biggest reason for me is that riding with better skills and more confidence is SO MUCH MORE FUN. I had no idea how bad I was at riding (I thought I was soooo good) until I started taking clinics - my riding has improved at light-speed since then and I smile much more out on the trail.

Tell us about the Roam Bike Fest and what it's all about-
Roam Bike Fest is the world’s only women’s mountain bike festival and shares more similarities with summer camp than a festival.

First things first - the festival is ridiculously fun. That’s coming from hundreds of participants telling us over and over again how much fun they had. We gear the event towards experienced riders who want to ride a world-class riding destination with friends (or new friends). Aside from a crazy amount of riding to be had, we offer hundreds of demo bikes, free shuttles with local guides, workshops, presentations, suspension clinics, film screenings, and an intimate setting to personally interact with women who work in the bike industry. Throw in the biggest taco bar you’ve ever seen, free beer, and our famous Saturday night dance party, and the festival is unlike any other bike event in the country.

Tell us about the Roam Retreats, and what makes them different than the Bike Fest?
Roam Retreats are all-inclusive bike vacations, meaning we take care of everything from the moment participants arrive. The retreats include accommodations, all meals, and are capped at around 25 participants - the three biggest differences from a Roam Bike Fest.

Our theme for our retreats is, choose your own adventure. If you are crazy fit and love to ride the biggest hardest most technical trails in the area, we got you...if a normal 2-3 hour spin on intermediate trails is more your thing, we encourage participants to enjoy the remaining afternoon in the pool with margaritas. Everyone gets to ride as much or as little and as fast or slow as they choose.

We scope out and lead all the best rides in the area, have shuttles, put together gourmet meals for every dietary preference, and have our own fleet of carbon demo bikes from Specialized with custom Industry Nine wheelsets that participants get to test ride all weekend.

Best of all, the retreats are really affordable (on average about $500-$1,000 less than a similar vacation). We don’t think high-quality mountain bike trips should only be for the super wealthy. Our business model is a lot different than other tour operators - participants only pay for what it costs us to put on the trip...no upcharge. We work really hard to secure partnerships that help offset the costs of the retreat - Specialized, in particular, has really stepped up because they believe in what we are doing.
What's the scoop on the Sturdy Dirty Enduro?
The Sturdy Dirty!!! Talk about fun. The Sturdy Dirty Enduro is a women’s race that was created to encourage more women to try out enduro racing in a fun-first environment. The race (hosted at Tiger Mountain near Seattle) follows a standard enduro format, but the entire atmosphere is wildly different from your typical bike race. From pro riders to beginners, the vibe is inclusive, the cheering supportive, and the aid stations and volunteers are next-level (like snow cones and bacon wrapped dates at the top of Stage 1 next-level). The founders of the race, Sturdy Bitch Racing, were tired of being the only women racing at enduros, so they created their own event to show how fun enduro racing is in the hopes more women would start racing in general. The race sells-out at 250 riders with 10 categories, including pro and masters beginner. It’s definitely a bucket-list race for every female rider.

Roam Events recently worked with Rebecca Rusch, tell us about the experience and what it entailed!
It was a little crazy getting a call from Rebecca last fall - I’ve idolized Rebecca since I was a kid, back when she was professionally adventure racing - so it was completely surreal.
Rebecca launched new endurance training camps, Rusch Academy, this summer and we were absolutely thrilled to work with her on that project. The multi-day event takes riders all around Rebecca’s stunning hometown, Ketchum Idaho, and they receive 1-on-1 coaching from Rebecca and her team. We take care of rider care and transportation logistics, which means we feed everyone, keep their bikes tip-top, and schlep everyone’s gear from place to place - which is way more fun than it sounds! We’re excited to be working with Rebecca for three more camps for summer 2019, as well as helping out with Rebecca’s Private Idaho a crazy fun gravel race primarily ridden by mtb and roadie crossovers. Also in Ketchum...another bucket-list race!

With your events, who would be the target audience? Advanced riders? New riders? Both?
Our target audience is definitely an advanced rider. The reality is about half of our participants are intermediate riders, 40% are advanced or experts, and about 10% of our shredders are newer to mountain biking.

If you are reading this and are a rider that can absolutely shred on a bike, and maybe don’t do women’s events...our events are for you! Haha. Really though, we despise the hand-holdy pandering BS that the bike industry has a bad habit of putting the word “women’s” in front of - so we stay far far away from anything resembling that.

Our rides and schedules are definitely focused on a more intermediate+ rider. Blue or black trails, multiple hours of riding…we are committed to targeting our events to a more skilled rider. Nothing against the new riders - just more reason to take skills clinics and then come play bikes with us!

How quickly do these events fill up?

We’ve sold out nearly every event we’ve put on. So we don’t recommend waiting to register.

For folks on the fence about attending one of the events, especially if they would be traveling solo, what should they know?
Over half of our participants come solo to our events! Regardless to who you join with, everyone leaves with new friends...and that’s not some mushy marketing crap - we’ve witnessed hundreds of friendships formed over the course of a weekend and do our best to encourage it.
Why do you feel it's important to have some #ladyshred events out there?
Actually, I don’t think it’s as important to explain the worthiness of #ladyshred events as it is for me to convince the non-believers that they are worth attending. We ride, we drink, we dance, we laugh and smile until our faces hurt, and at some point, probably go ride some even gnarlier stuff because there are so many other rad ladies shredding. The focus isn’t that we are women, it’s that we all love to ride, be outside, kick back with a drink and a laughter-inducing story, and enjoy being in the company of like-minded people. The #ladyshred effect is just a byproduct.

Who do you partner with to make these awesome events possible?
Specialized, Industry Nine, SRAM, Liv Cycling, and Sierra Nevada Brewing have all been vital to the success of our events this year. We ask a lot of our partners, it isn’t just, “give us some support and set up a tent here please.” Our partners are actively involved in helping us achieve our goals and creating uniquely rad offerings at our events.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
The changes are already happening - it’s been incredible to witness over the past three or four years. I’ve seen a lot more active engagement with women as employees and customers across the board in the industry, and it is hard to find a mountain bike community that doesn’t already have a women’s ride group etc.

The only sore point from my perspective continues to be appropriate coverage of and support of professional female riders - still see a lot of “fluffy” or “sexy” advertisements, and the race coverage and athlete profiles leave a lot to be desired...don’t get me started on the pay gap (sponsorship payouts, not race payouts). It will continue to be hard to get more women involved at this level when the currently reality is that only 5-10 female athletes worldwide can afford to be full-time professionals.

Tell us about Nancy the Bus!
I’ve lived out of a Sprinter, a minivan, the back of a Tacoma, and finally...it was time to go big or go home - so we bought a bus this winter and named her Nancy! She’s a 2004 International school bus (about the same length as the extended Sprinter, but SO MUCH MORE space inside) and is a total beast. We spent a few weeks, well, two exactly, converting her to live out of full time and it’s been so much fun. She’s been the perfect addition to the business and our lives.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Seeing the positive impact riding has on so many of us. Not just on the trail, but the community and relationships we develop through riding. Its powerful and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.

Tell us a random fact about yourself! 
I always travel with a full quiver of battery operated power tools - seriously, like enough tools to build a house. You never know when you might need an angle grinder in the middle of the desert!

Any final words on Roam Events and how women can support you?

Come play bikes with us!

We have 17 events throughout the year in a dozen states - you can learn about all of them at our website www.thisisroam.com or follow us on Instagram @thisisroam

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