Women Involved: Jessica Combs

Hi, I am Jes Combs, a pretty okay mountain biker, mom of a toddler, wife of a trail builder and proud founder of the MsFit Mountain Bike Brigade-a WTF mountain bike advocacy nonprofit based out of the PNW.

Tell us about your introduction to #bikelife, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
Actually, #bikelife wasn’t necessarily something I was too open to exploring at first. It took almost 2 years of convincing from my husband and best friend before I finally gave it a try. The cost of mountain biking was always my excuse; it was hard to justify spending so much on something that I (at that time) considered to be a kid’s toy. Quite honestly, I had a rough introduction to the sport! After my 3rd ride, lots of curse words, tears & walking I was considering selling my bike and throwing in the towel. Luckily with some wise words and encouragement from my best friend Sarah, I created a network of women riders through social media and my passion for the sport started to flourish.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Mountain Biking did not come naturally to me, I struggled with bike body separation and the feeling of shifting weight into corners. Learning from women has been an instrumental catalyst for my progression. I credit Kat Sweet, Angi Weston and Emily Sablehaus for helping me find confidence on my bike, & highly recommend checking out their clinics. Sweetlines, Radical Roots, & Flying Squirrel.

Often women try to learn from a spouse or partner, which poses its own stress and challenges. I know personally, I cannot learn from my 6’2 husband that has been riding since age 4. Our bodies and thinking processes are night and day. He is more leap before you look… and I am more look before you leap. So, recognizing that you don’t have to just send it has also helped me with my mountain biking as well. It's OKAY TO WALK SISTER!

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Every day I wish I could just rail into corners. It’s a skill that I tend to hyper-focus on, and typically when I put too much thought into something, I tend to mess it up. My trick is to keep a chill vibe out on the trails, riding is not a competition for me. I may not be the fastest out there, but I can guarantee that I’m having a blast. And with that relaxed vibe, my riding seems to be at its best.
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?
Mountain biking is intimidating, especially if you are starting from ground zero. I recommend chatting with your local bike shop to inquiring about group rides & local bike organizations. Also, I can’t stress enough the importance of mastering fundamentals. Participating in a clinic within the first few weeks on your bike can make a world of difference and keep you from acquiring any bad habits.

You founded MsFit Mountain Bike Brigade, tell us about the group and why it was started-
The day after a miserable experience on my bike, I was sitting on my couch and I opened my computer. I was taking some words of wisdom that I had just received from my bestie whom lives out of state: She said, “before you give up, try and find other women to ride with.” So I took to Google. After realizing that there wasn’t much to offer locally for women’s groups, I decided to create my own social platform. Through the powers of social media; what started as a way for me to make some gal pal riding buddies, manifested into a way of life. I honestly never expected there to be such an overwhelmingly positive response to the creation of the Ms.Fits. Once we all started to ride together, there was a dramatic shift in our progression, and our fully stoked trail etiquette organically seemed to draw in more riders.

How can folks join MisFit Mountain Bike Brigade?

A great resource to connect with our brigade is the website www.msfitbike.com, from there you can find links to our social media, event details and awesome Bio’s on our Badassadors. It doesn’t take much to become a Ms.Fit! Just the desire to hit the trails, an open mind and heart, the willingness to try new (sometimes intimidating) things, and a desire to give back to our community.
Why do you feel mountain bike groups geared toward WTF are important for inclusiveness?
My own personal belief is that we are much more powerful as a tribe than an individual. The Ms.Fits are passionate about supporting the WTF community and providing a culture where everyone is supported and can thrive. And anyone who has a problem with our open-door policy is free to ride with another group.

How did you come up with the name of your non-profit?
I get this question a lot… Long story short, one of my favorite bands is the MisFits.. lol.

Now looking at our organization, the word Ms.Fit is so suiting of who we are. We are unapologetic & at times rebellious. We come from all walks of life and have created lasting memories while pushing the limits of our comfort levels. But most of all we laugh, cry, party, and shred together. No matter what your ability level, background or way of life the Ms.Fits offer a secure environment to be the best version of yourself, both on and off a bike.

Any plans for the 2019 year with MisFit Mountain Bike Brigade?
2019 is going to be HUGE for the Brigade. Our Board of directors has been investing countless hours into what’s to be our most productive year to date. We will be taking on more environmental contributions through trail building efforts, our race team is thriving and we have several events in the works; including a Ms.Fits Summit. Also, we will continue to work with bike companies to provide women with the resources necessary to explore the trails before committing to the purchase.
Many of us have gotten PMBIA Certified and in 2020 we will start hosting MsFits Shreducation clinics. Getting womxn comfortable with the basics before they take on the big stuff.

Have you had any biffs (accidents) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I CRASH ALL OF THE TIME! Lucky for me I haven’t sustained an injury that has sidelined me for too long. But a few weeks prior to the Sturdy Dirty Enduro a couple years back I did compound fracture my rear brake finger. And that’s where the power of support from fellow Ms.Fits came into play. Having my brigade there to encourage me through the healing process, had me back on my bike and ready to shred the Sturdy.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The athleticism and focus required for mountain biking work well for my busy mind. I also enjoy the outdoors, and I’ve explored places that I had never dreamed about seeing from the cockpit of my bike.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I am an ambassador for Specialized, and this year I am on a Rocket Red Stumpjumper Expert 27.5c. I chose a stumpy because it’s a great all-around trail bike that likes to get rowdy. Plus the bright red frame can be seen from outer space, so you can't miss me out on the trail.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with mountain biking?
I know for me it was the cost associated with getting into the sport, and that’s why the Ms.Fits focus so heavily on working with bike companies to get women in the saddle before shelling out their hard-earned money.

I also think there is a fear of failure or injury. Inherently, most recreational activities possess some type of risk factor, however, the thought of falling off a bike is scary. And that circles back to my recommendation of taking a clinic. Not only do clinics provide a foundation for learning proper bike skills, but you will also be introduced to riders that are feeling the same hesitations on their bike.

I have made some of my best friends during clinics!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I have noticed that some companies have finally got the memo… NOT ALL WOMEN LIKE PINK! Or purple, teal, or flowers. I have seen a shift in how brands market to women riders, and it’s refreshing. But I do think there is always room for improvement! I wish there were local shops that carried more women’s fit option. Especially pads! I realize that shopping online has taken away some of this option, but I often dream of a day where I can try on a pair of knee pads before buying them.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Because the women’s bike community is KICK-ASS (can I say that?)! I truly believe you can make some of your best memories and relationships while out on the trails. And I just want all the women to have all the bikes and all the fun!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
HMMM…. A random fact about myself…. I hate doing laundry… So much in fact that I have bought new clothes instead of washing my dirties. I typically will hide my growing pile in a basket tucked away in our guest shower until I literally have nothing left to wear.