Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Flat Shoe Review: Specialized 2FO 1.0

In 2018 I wrote a review of 3 different brands of flat pedal shoes that I have utilized for mountain biking and daily wear.

After some deliberation, I decided that I should try out the Specialized 2FO 1.0 shoe again, especially since it had come out in a color combo that I loved and would be far more work-appropriate than the Dynamite Panther colorway of the pair I currently had.

While the 2FO 1.0 shoes are similar, I feel there has been a slight change in the sizing due to Specialized making that particular shoe model unisex. When I purchased the Dynamite Panther shoes, I ended up in a size 38.

The new 2FO 1.0 shoes I've purchased in the Black/Purple/Blue fade are a size 39. I originally ordered size 38 and found that they were smaller compared to the 38 I got last year. With the older shoes, I had a little space for my big toe to move and not feel mostly slammed- and I could see a slight difference with how large the 38 from last year as compared to the 38 from this year. So be aware that if you are banking on being the exact same size in the 2FO 1.0 shoe, you might find it slightly smaller.

When I got the size 39, it was an instant "Yes, this is the right size!" when it came to the fit and comfort level. I did keep the slightly too small-sized shoe for a riding shoe and opted to make the size 39 shoe my daily driver along with riding shoe.

The reason for going back in for a deeper look was due to the Dynamite Pather color being super fun, but not something I could see myself wearing at work on a regular basis due to the color. I was really curious to try another brand out as a daily shoe. How durable would it be? How would my feet feel after wearing it during a workday? Will regular riding eat at the sole quickly? I was super sold on my Five Ten Freerider Pro shoes until I saw that with minimal use/wear that the soles could get beaten up/worn very quickly. I felt that for the money spent, they wouldn't be the shoe to go to for multi-purpose use, and that's something I prefer as often as possible.

Since having the shoes, I've worn them regularly around 5 months (daily), utilizing the smaller pair for mountain biking and the larger pair for work. At this point, I would say their durability is great. Nothing looks beaten up from my pedal pins from my commute, nor do the heels show dramatic wear from lots of walking.

The Pros and Cons
The elastic loop to hold my laces is a huge plus! I get tired of jamming my shoelaces under themselves only to find they pop out later. The loop is so handy and gives a cleaner look.

The built-in "sock" is awesome. I wear socks all the time, but the soft material they use instead of a traditional shoe "tongue" is very nice, and it makes it super easy to slip the shoe on or off. I think that was one of the features about this shoe I didn't take advantage of to the fullest the first time around, but am totally loving it this time! I know that when it comes to traveling and flying- these will be the shoes I grab for that easy on/off.

The rubberized outer shell that covers the top of your foot looks "plastic" but I have found that it's been a great asset for my commutes, especially if it's raining. It won't help if I go through puddles since water can get through the fabric portion, but it can keep my feet drier in light rain than other shoes. I would say after several months of wear, it's still looking pretty alright, but the abrasion-resistant material on the front of the toebox is starting to develop a lip on one side of both shoes. With as much walking and bending/flexing of my foot at the bike shop, the pair I've used for daily wear has held up great. Nothing has cracked or flexed apart that could negatively impact the structural integrity of the shoe.

I feel the arch support is comfortable enough, but for some, it might not be supportive enough. For general workday use and riding use, the stock insert is fine, but it probably wasn't enough for the walking I did at Disney. I have experimented with the Blue inserts from Specialized and felt that they were supportive, but they can feel a bit stiff. Great for riding, but I wasn't 100% sold on wearing them on vacation. I ended up taking the Blue inserts out after I had a mishap and strained a tendon that ran along the arch of my foot. The insert put too much pressure on my arch making it painful to walk, but going back to the stock insert helped.

In general, the shoe isn't going to be super stiff so it's very walkable- great for those who want a good pedal feel but if you are looking for support, it might not be enough. The design of the 2FO is a lot better than it was when it first came out, but the rubber is not going to have the same "stick" as the Five Tens I've used. For some who do not like to feel "stuck" to the pedals, they would be a nice option, but if you are looking for a lot of grip, then these shoes might not be the ultimate choice. (However, keep in mind some pedals have longer pins and will work well with these shoes, which I found to be the case with my HNS10 Supreme pedals on my Stumpjumper.)
All in all, if you are spending the money on a shoe that you are wanting to be multi-use, I would recommend exploring the Specialized 2FO 1.0 as a viable option. Price-wise it's in the same ballpark for most of the flat shoes I'm familiar with or have worn and is in the top tier for being a great multi-use shoe comfort that is durable.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Women Involved Series: Susan Preiss

Who I am – I am a fifty-year-old woman who lives in Boulder, CO. I spend much of my free time adventuring in the great outdoors. I love naughty dogs, get inspired by nature’s beauty, and crave homemade lemon meringue pie.

What I do – By trade, I am a marketing copywriter. For the past 15 years I have had my own company, now called Word Strategy, which helps organizations initiate and complete pivotal marketing projects. It’s great to work for myself – and it makes it possible to have a flexible schedule and get those bike rides in! I’m also the content strategist for the Women’s Off-Road Cycling Congress.

Bikelife – Mountain biking has brought me much of what I cherish. From meeting my husband on an after-work ride to uniting me with fellow women of dirt in friendship to being a great business networking tool – the call of the bike is strong. My bike has taken me to places of unspeakable beauty – and it has also tested my physical and mental strength. Some of my best and happiest moments in life have happened because of my bike. It’s a love affair 26 years old and going strong.

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
When I moved to San Diego after having spent my whole life in Buffalo, NY, I really wanted to take up a sport that took advantage of my new location. I was more scared of sharks than rattlesnakes – so mountain biking won out over surfing. I bought my first bike (a rigid GT Timberline) before I had ever even tried the sport – and my first ride, I remember think it was so hard. But I had bought the bike, so I stuck with it, and am so glad I did!

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 was a runner before I started biking, and the endurance and fitness certainly helped get me started on the bike. Navigating over obstacles, especially steep curbs, was a particular challenge early on. And I learned the hard way that speed wasn’t the only necessary ingredient to getting a front wheel over things. Gradually, I would study and walk through how my bike felt and how it handled and figure it out from there. I also was a bad gymnast growing up, and that helped me fall off my bike.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
My current challenges involve going up and down rocky, twisty, technical singletrack. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that in some ways I take fewer risks, because I take longer to heal from falls. Bottom line is, biking is my fun time, I like to challenge myself, but beating myself up if I can’t do something doesn’t make sense.

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?
Go out with a friend who knows how to bike and who you trust to show you a good experience on the trail. I’ve found women’s rides to also be a really great place for new riders to learn skills and gain confidence in an encouraging, empowering atmosphere.

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’ve had a few really bad tumbles – and one endo where I couldn’t feel below my neck for a few seconds. After any of those particularly bad falls, it can be tough to get back up. Each time, I’ve sat down, collected my thoughts, cleared my head, and gotten back on my bike. After the worst falls, I wanted to make sure that I immediately got back on my bike. And I do realize that I’m fortunate to have always been able to pedal out after an injury.

What do you love about riding your bike?
There is so much I love about this sport! I love the way it pushes my mental and physical boundaries. I also love the places you can get to on a mountain bike and the gorgeous vistas that unfold from life in the saddle. And the mountain biking community is awesome – from the fellow biker you meet on the trail to the great friends I’ve made who share a love of the sport to the fact that I met my husband mountain biking.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Ahhh, my bikes. Right now, I have two bikes that I ride. My city bike is a three-speed bike with a back rack and paniers to get me to meetings and the farmer’s market. My mountain bike is a Pivot Mach 429 Trail, which I got a year and a half ago and am absolutely in love with. This bike climbs with a vengeance and descends like nobody’s business – and is a heck of a lot of fun. It’s really helped me take my riding to the next level.

Tell us about your involvement with the Women's Off-Road Cycling Congress.
I met Elorie Slater, owner of Sports Garage Cycling in Boulder, CO, when I was buying my new mountain bike. We got to talking about women and mountain biking and she mentioned this initiative she was launching. I handed her my card and told her to call me when she needed copy and content help. And now two years later, we've held events in three cities and have received our 501 (c) (3) status.
What is the Women's Offroad Cycling Congress?
The Women’s Off-Road Cycling Congress is a nonprofit organization that it holds events in markets across the US, collecting valuable data from women of dirt, and synthesizing our findings into a report for the off-road cycling industry. We:

Support the female consumer by soliciting feedback from this growing market segment, analyzing the data, and delivering a report to industry leaders.

Uncover industry opportunities and provide substantiated data on how to market to this growing audience.

Deliver insight to manufacturers and other industry stakeholders on how to reach and capitalize on the potential of this market segment.

WORCC had several events earlier this year which had communities come together and host discussions about various topics pertaining to the cycling industry. How do you feel those events went over?
It was really exciting to see the excitement at our WORCC events this year! With the three locations bringing in a combined total of over 300 women off-road cyclists, the energy at the events was electric! Women flew in from other locations to participate – and QBP in Minneapolis and Pivot Cycles in Phoenix were superstar hosts.

How do you feel WORCC will encourage more women to participate in cycling and discussion?
WORCC is really about building the case to the bicycling industry that meeting the needs of women cyclists just makes sense – for their business and for overall industry. Making the whole experience more inclusive and accessible will open opportunities and remove barriers for women to join the cycling community – from being able to shop for gear that fits, to participating in events that are inclusive, to being comfortable asking questions at a bike shop.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think a lot of women are intimidated by the portrayal of the extremeness of mountain biking. When you first start out, you’re not shredding a downhill, at least not on purpose. It can also be hard, especially as a woman mountain biker, to find your tribe. Living in Colorado now, I’m fortunate that there are so many women on the trail. When I loved in a small town in MA, I joked that I was the unicorn in the woods as I was the only female mountain biker in town. So finding your community can be a challenge – but once you do, it’s a sport that bonds folks.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
A change of mindset and a willingness to serve all market segments – from newbies to women to enduro dudes and dudettes to weekend warriors to riders who need pedal assist. Women need to get out on the trail, ride, share stories, and encourage each other. We need to be sure we’re telling the industry what we need and how we need it.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
My life on the bike has been so full – and this sport has given me so much. I want other women to gain the confidence and community I have.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love naughty dogs.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Review on Adventure Gear!

Prior to our trip to Florida I made a mad dash to purchase a few new adventure items that I could use for biking as well as our trip. I knew from our last Disney trip I would need to keep as much weight off of my bad shoulder as possible, so I spent a good amount of time looking at hip packs. Who knew that "fanny packs" aka bum bags (and whatever else you'd like to call 'em) would become popular! An item I pretty much sore I'd be caught dead wearing has become one of my favorite accessories.

Three packs were brought to Florida:
Dakine Hot Laps 2L Pack
Travis used my Dakine pack, which since my purchasing it, had been my most favorite pack. This one had ample storage room, you also had a soft-lined pocket for your phone, and it had the ability to hold a water bottle. It was apparent early on that we needed to use packs with the most room so we could store essentials- emergency ponchos, sunscreen stick, lip balm, and money. This pack had plenty of room for Travis' needs about 99% of the time. There was maybe a 1% where we wished we had a bag with us instead due to needing an extra shirt or keeping a hat with us.

Pinch Flat Designs Enduro Pack
This pack became the clear winner for me during the tip. Not only was it roomy enough for me to carry my emergency poncho, sunblock stick, travel-size deodorant, lip balm, and eye drops- it also had room for me to put in a kleenex pouch and my sunglasses! Bonus storage, I used the bungee on top to hold a long sleeve shirt in case I would get cold at sit-down meals or in AC. I used this pack 99% of the trip and really liked it. Plus it was perfect on water rides due to its water-resistant properties. It doesn't have a soft pouch for phone, but it came with a zipper pack that I used to store my phone in and it works slick! (I'm no longer using a ziploc baggie, haha!) I even used the pouch as a clutch when we had dinner at California Grill to keep it classy.

Silver Rider Stitch Works Marine Biologist Pack 
Because of how much stuff we had to be able to carry with us, I wasn't able to use this pack as much during the park days as I had hoped. During the day we had to be prepared for everything, and there wasn't enough room in the pack for me to hold everything and a shirt. However, I did use it a couple times when we went in the evening hours when I knew for sure that I wouldn't have to carry sunblock or an extra shirt. It is a very comfortable pack with a good amount of room if I didn't need to carry the kitchen sink with me. (At Disney, you need to be prepared for any/everything.) I like that it's not flashy and the pink color is a fun contrast to the black, so it can go with a lot of outfits! It's water repellent as well which makes it handy for use on rides or other adventures. I will use this pack more for home and rides, but knowing what I know now about Disney in the summer months, I need more storage.

All in all, they were excellent investment pieces and were totally worth the money spent. It was surprising to see how many folks were using hip packs on our trip- there were a lot!

Clothing choices were all aiming towards comfort in hot weather, as a person who wears jeans 99% of the time, I knew I needed to up my shorts game. For reference for Shredly gear in terms of sizing:
I wear a size 0 in the Shredly shorts.
I wear a size Small in most Shredly tops
I'm 5'2" with a short torso/long wingspan and roughly 30" inseam.
Weight- honestly I don't know, but the last time I was weighed I was 116 and some ounces.

Shredly Multi-Sport Shorts were excellent to wear in the Florida heat. I wore my Shredly shorts the entire time we were in Florida minus our dinner at California Grill. I really liked the size pocket with the snap closure, which is where I kept my small wallet. It made it simple to grab and I knew it was there all the time because of the weight. The snap was secure, which made me feel confident that I wouldn't lose my money.
I did have first-gen pair of Multi-Sport shorts that did not have a waist adjustment, and that was okay. They were still comfortable and withstood rides and snacks without me feeling like "Gosh, I wish I could let these shorts out!"

I loved how the shorts I purchased worked with pretty much every top I wore, and they brought some fun and pizazz to the daily outfits without looking quite as loud as I typically do on the mountain bike trails.

Shredly has a lot of patterns and colors, in my opinion, something for everyone- colorful, flowers, patterns, you name it!

For tops, most of what I wore were Shredly Honeycomb tanks, and they were absolutely amazing. They were lightweight, comfortable, and had a flattering fit. Not to mention they felt silky soft, too! I loved how they had a lightweight material back to them that really allowed for breathability. I also liked the fact that if I did go on a water ride or got sweaty, they would dry out rather quickly. I'll admit, I did wear a couple multiple times, but usually split the wears between half-days.

I also have to say that I was super impressed with how anti-stain the shirts are, and maybe I just had incredible luck. I was wearing a lighter, mint-colored shirt and ended up getting a little colored soda splatter on it. I dabbed the spots with a wet wipe and it totally disappeared! Then during dinner at Be Our Guest I unknowingly splattered some sauce on my shirt. Again I wet wiped, and there may have been the slightest hint of discoloration, but the heathering of the fabric made it hardly noticeable. I did pre-treat when I got it home, and it looks as good as new. Amazing!!!

I also loved the Wheelie Tank from Shredly! I bought two of the same color, one in size Small and XS. I like how long the tank is, and the design on the back is super cute.

Long sleeve shirts that were brought were the Shredly Explorer shirt and my Outdoor Research Reflection LS shirt.

I won't link to the OR shirt because they have since re-designed it or changed the name and I can't find a "current" style/name for it.

So, the Explorer shirt I feel I will have great luck with it back home or if we go to Flordia in the winter again at some point. It was a PERFECT airplane shirt as it ended up being very cool on our flight out. Our first night in Magic Kingdom it was useful, but I found that after that evening that the lighter weight OR shirt worked better and was slightly smaller to pack on top of my hip pack from Pinch Flat.

The Explorer shirt is going to be a casual-fitting shirt, but it does have a feminine fit. It's going to be roomy enough for all of your layering needs. Travis felt the shirt looked too big on me, however, due to my wingspan and shoulders, the size small is what I feel to be the appropriate size. Otherwise, if it were a smaller size it would be tight in the shoulders if I snapped it shut or the sleeves would hit above my wrists.

The OR shirt worked like a charm for many days/nights, and what I love most about it is that it is water repellent to a degree. It's very quick to dry out, which is super handy. I really loved that ALL of my tops had that ability, and really nothing shirt-wise ended up smelling stinky! (Which I thought was an awesome thing.)
I had 2 pairs of Teva sandals and my trusty pair of Specialized 2FO 1.0 shoes...I nixed bringing my running shoes because I feel like they are a half-size too small OR I'm just not used to my big toe feeling like it'll blow out of the top of my shoe. For long hours of walking, I didn't feel like I would be comfortable, so I went with the everyday shoes that I'm used to. They also made it quick to take off in the airport. For biking shoes, I've really enjoyed using these shoes daily for work as well as for biking.

Now, another thing I'll talk about randomly is that since the winter I transitioned over to natural deodorant. I feel I'm still in the process of finding what I like the best, but I do know that the kind I use the most can cause some discoloration on my shirts due to the oils.

At this point, my go-to deodorant is Schmidt's Charcoal + Magnesium as it (imo) really helps neutralize odor and goes on fairly easily. I've found that their rose-scented one really needed to be warmed up a lot before it could be applied, and if it wasn't soft enough I rashed my pits.

For reapplying during the day, I got travel-sized deodorants from Native in the Coconut & Vanilla scent. I tried this deodorant for a few weeks prior to our trip and after a day at work, I felt like I could smell a little...smell. So I figured that this wouldn't be my go-to to start the day, but I could reapply with it if my original application failed.

For traveling, I used my Dakine carry on roller bag and used my new Supacaz Swag Bag for my additional carry on. I packed the backpack fairly light, primarily only using it for fluid storage so I could bring back items from our vacation rather than shipping them. It worked super slick, and I really liked that I could buckle it across my chest and waist. There was plenty of storage as well, which was awesome. I unfortunately found it covered in someone's lunch remnants after it was under the seat on the airplane, but it was super easy to clean by tossing in the washer. Good as new!

So there you have it, a detailed list of some awesome products that I tried out for multi-use during our trip to Disney! I had a great time putting these items to the test during our busy days in the Disney Parks and know that they will work awesome for any future adventuring we will do.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Women Involved: Amanda Wais

The essence of my being is to help save the world -- one heart at a time. My son, Brady P., was born four years ago with Down syndrome. His wisdom, charm, love, and strength through adversity has inspired me to make love and fortitude a priority. I want to inspire others as he has inspired me.

Well, I'm raising him as a single mom up on Copper Harbor, Michigan which is literally at the end of the road. It's all Lake Superior and sweet trails from here! My main outlets for inspiration are writing books (I have three published so far), blogging weekly about my and Brady P's life, taking macro pictures of wildflowers, giving wildflower tours, coaching mountain biking and giving Brady P. the best life possible here in this scenic sanctuary. I don't spend as much time on my bike as I'd like to at this point in my life, but my time is coming again! And if someone calls me to coach, I am there.

Copper Harbor Vitality, LLC, A Fresh Air Inspired Life
The Brady P. Project, Promoting Love, Acceptance and Mother Nature

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
My intro was pretty brutal. I rode a rigid frame over rooty, rocky terrain with my then-boyfriend who had no good advice to calm my nerves except, “Just go. Just do it.” And then leave me in the dust. It wasn’t until I started riding with other women that I felt comradery emotionally and speed-wise. We would laugh and session the obstacles, building each other’s confidence and actually having fun! Then I felt it was something I could do for me – not just my boyfriend.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Roots and rocks about 3 inches high would stop me in my tracks -- because I looked down at them and stopped! Once I realized that my bike could naturally roll over them, I started to look past those minor obstacles at what was ahead and kept my momentum going right over and through. The lesson was to look at where I wanted to go instead of focusing on what was in the way.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I try to focus on where I want to go. If I don’t think I can make it over a boulder, I stop and find the best path, then execute the proper technique to make it over. If I’m scared to go down a feature, I watch a friend do it and think, “Man, if they can do it, I can too!” Where I ride, however, there are a lot of insane features that I have come to terms with the fact that I just will never attempt them. And that’s okay. I’m a mom!

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?
Go with somebody you like who knows what they are doing! Preferably a woman because they are often patient teachers. And do it for yourself. You don’t have to ride at anybody’s standards except your own. Be nice to yourself, and have fun!

What was your inspiration for becoming a mountain bike coach?
I took my first skills clinic in 2016. I improved sooooo much. And I actually went to college to be a teacher, so I really loved to teach. I thought I can do this! I can teach people how to a mountain bike! And the next year I helped coach the same clinic I took. I teach more clinics every year, and it just fills my heart to help build confidence in other people.

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, yes. One day I was riding with a girlfriend who was an awesome downhill rider. I was in front and I wanted to show off how good I was at some of the gnarly features. Well, with that mindset, I crashed on a rock bed. Something sharp went right into my knee and I could see inside my body. That night ended with stitches in the ER.

Then, three weeks later, after I finally healed from that crash enough to take my first ride, I crashed again. Why? Because I was trying to catch the fast girls ahead of me. Now, those girls were also the other coaches I was coaching with that weekend. And suddenly I had a nearly broken thumb. But I coached through it!

I can say that that biggest lesson I learned from those consecutive crashes was that riders should only ride for themselves. Once we get cocky about our skills or try to be something we’re not, we are shown instantly that that isn’t our path at the time. And we are humbled and broken. So I took a different approach after that and have remained safer ever since.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the freedom I feel in my soul, the fresh air I breathe, the challenges I need to overcome, the concentration it takes to do it right and the sweat that pours out of my body.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Right now I ride the Trek Lush. It’s a “women-specific” design that they don’t make anymore. The wheels are 27.5” (an upgrade from my 26-er) and the frame is carbon fiber. It climbs like a dream, but I do notice I might need a little more cush on some of the jumps I’ve been taking. I just might have to get another bike!
The outdoors is something very special to you and you've made sure to incorporate it into your son's life. Tell us more about the Brady P. Project-
When my son Brady P. was born, my whole outlook on life changed instantly. I never really wanted to be a mom, and suddenly I was a mother of a little person with Down syndrome. Not ever understanding people with different mental capacities before the moment I found out, I was suddenly forced to. I realized how important accepting people’s differences was going to be in order to be a kind person in this world. I watched love, strength, perseverance and great joy pour out of Braeden’s being. I realized that every person in this world is a gift worthy of love. Unconditional love. And one of the best places to practice feeling love in the moment and exploring curiosities is in Mother Nature. That’s why I make sure to get my son out to experience the wonders of the natural world, and it’s why I have created a non-profit organization that can facilitate getting other people out in that sacred space as well – promoting love, acceptance and Mother Nature. That’s the mission of the Brady P. Project!

You've published three books so far, tell us a little about the books you've written-
My first book was published in 2012 called Little Slices of da Harbor – Copper Harbor, Michigan. It’s a collection of super-short stories where the people, places and things in the town tell you about their life during each season of the year. It’s great reading for bedtime, at the coffee table or on the john.

The second came out in 2014, and it’s a pocket-size tour guide book called Touring the Tip. It offers step-by-step directions for biking, hiking, skiing, and paddling while reaching the desired skill/activity level of the reader. It covers Copper Harbor and beyond and gives insights along the way like a real tour guide would.

My latest and greatest is an inspirational memoir published in 2017. It’s called Digging for Light. I love it because it’s the real, raw story of what I went through after my sweet little nugget, Brady P., was born. It showcases the tough situations we endured, yet uplifts the spirit because we made it through, and we are stronger. Most people read it straight through because they can’t put it down!

I now publish my books through my own company, Copper Harbor Vitality.

How did writing become an outlet for you?
I loved to write stories since I was a kid. In college, I took writing classes and even tutored other students’ writing. When I moved to Copper Harbor, I filled notebooks with inspirations from nature and this quirky little town. Then I put it all together and realized that I have to write, or I feel like a part of me is dead. To make sure I keep up, I post a weekly blog called “Downs by the Bay.” I’m also loosely working on my next book.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Mostly fear. Mountain biking can be a scary thing. I have thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to die!” many times on the trails – especially on advanced or poorly maintained ones. Also, a lot of women get introduced to the sport through their male significant other. I like men, but they often don’t take the time (or even know how) to teach a frightened person how to correctly perform the task of traversing the trail ahead while still keeping it light-hearted and fun. The dudes just want to send it, but they bring their girl with them! It’s not an effective way to learn, and I’ve seen many women stop riding because of it.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I see many women’s bike clinics rising up. Some focus locally and some take it around the world. I have found that once a woman enters the female bike scene, she is hooked. A truly open-minded, free-spirited mountain biker chic goes to those clinics and thinks, “Wow. These are my people!” And then they show up as often as possible. I think that the more these opportunities take place, the more women will get the chance to find this comradery. It truly is a beautiful thing.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
When I coach other women, I watch them transform during the hours I spend with them. I love to learn why they are there because then I can reach them from where they’re at. I want to know what already motivates them, so I can keep that momentum moving forward. And when I watch them relax, improve, find joy, let their true self shine and encourage the other ladies in the group, I know I did my job well. It’s the most rewarding part for me.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Here are two: I make homemade wine from local berries, and I am the singer in a classic rock band!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Women on Bikes Series: Emily Oppliger

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoorMy name is Emily Oppliger, and here is a little bit about me. I grew up in a world of adventure tucked away in the middle of Lake Superior, the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. My parents, both incredible athletes, opened my world to so many adventure sports, including cycling.

I started working at the local bike and ski shop Down Wind Sports and I would not be where I am today without that job. It didn’t take long to take my mountain biking passion to the next level. I was emerged in the sport and tried to learn as much as I could about the industry and mechanics of mountain bikes.

I raced cross country since I was a young girl but by the time I was in college I was intrigued to another side of the sport and never turned back.

Facebook Emily Oppliger
Instagram @emily_oppliger

Tell us about your mountain biking introduction? What made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
Well, I have been riding bikes since I was a young girl, but there definitely was a turning point in my riding. The tables turned when I working in a bike shop I started riding with the shop employees more and more. Our rides were mostly based around how much fun you could have, while hitting the most jumps, and drinking the most beer. This was a side of the sport I had never seen as I was previously only riding endurance cross country. I quickly got the craving for adrenaline from hitting features and fixating on downhill speed. That was it. The turning point.

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it influenced you-
Although it all started with jumping around on my home trails, my bikelife accelerated fast. I dove into downhill racing and dedicated my time to it. I raced professional downhill and enduro around North America, gaining incredible riding experience and building a network within the outdoor industry. I always thought my passion was racing but the tables quickly took another turn. I started working with Lindsey Richter and coaching for Liv Ladies AllRide. My racing ego was suddenly ripped from my soul and my passion shifted. Lindsey took me under her wing and my career as a ladies mountain bike coach began. I could not get enough of it. Being surrounded and included by the leading women in the industry was eye-opening. My perception of the sport was changed again… into the bikelife I know today. I pour my enthusiasm into my coaching and encourage women to overcome obstacles and build self-confidence in riding and life!

Tell us about your favorite mountain biking event?
The riding event that means the most to me is the Copper Harbor Women’s Weekend. This women’s event takes place at the tip the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan in one of the most special and unknown mountain biking meccas, and sold out in 6 minutes this year. Every year in a town with a population of 100 people, we double the population with the women on mountain bikes. This is a mountain bike skills clinic that is driven by the incredible Lindsey Ritcher herself and the dedicated Copper Harbor Trails Club. We have an amazing team of coaches from across the country and bike industry who travel to coach this special event. Copper Harbor is a Disney World of all varieties of trail and your face will always be sore from smiling when you ride there. The energy of this event is truly unique and the people and location make it so. Honestly, I will never be able to give the spark by words, so you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!

What do you love about coaching/teaching mtb skills?
Honestly, what I love about coaching/teaching mtb skills is showing people there is an actual technique to a sport that many people jump into without much advice, support, or confidence. I am fascinated by how everyone learns differently and problem-solving to flick that switch of a lightbulb, usually followed by a huge smile.
What has been one of your favorite skill-teaching moments?
This is so hard to choose but there is one that comes to mind. I was coaching for SRAM MTB at CrankWorx for their women’s program. I had a beginner group on a green trail - which I don’t usually have because most the time I am working with advanced riders. But I love to teach beginners just as much because I get to go back into looking at the sport from a new perspective. AND this story is great because it just supports how important the more basic skills are. So I am on this green trail with my beginner group and we are working on looking ahead on the trail. I am leading the group down a kitty litter, wide and flat trail, so I decide to reach down and set the compression on my shock. I gaze down at the switch for just a moment and BAM I am hit the ground HARD.

Which proves the point, everybody falls! This is one of the best lessons you can burn in a new rider's brain, and really just for general life. Even though I had to take stitches in the knee and not race the Garbo DH, I think the lesson is still worth it.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Both!! I think both pedals have their place. I use my flats for dirt jumping and my first couple seasons of DH racing, to make bailing easier. Now almost all my bikes are clips even my DH bike, although for dirt jumping and BMX I will still go flats. Flats are GREAT because they can teach you so much about the importance of your footing on the pedals and pressure points to keep traction at all times - especially in the air!

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Unfortunately, I have a pretty bad track record with crashing my body into dirt, trees, rocks, and about any other features on a downhill/enduro track. There isn’t really a specific crash that really broke me down but the accumulation of them definitely has… in different ways. Physically, my body has been strung out over these injuries which has led to some tough realizations as a 26-year-old. After multiple surgeries, concussions, and broken bones you can really see the impact on the body. This past year, I had a considerable crash that led to some internal bleeding and a very extensive concussion. My confidence in my riding and myself has been pretty broken since, but I am slowly training myself and working on building my confidence again.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
It's hard to say with handling skills when I started because that was so long ago but I would say the biggest challenge for me was the mental obstacles. Getting myself to try features I had never done before and scared me. I use to ride up to things a million times and psych myself out on the feature. Then I started subconsciously closing my eyes when I would hit features…. This had about a 50% success rating by the way (not recommended). I knew there had to be a better way so I started to train mentally and get myself to think through the process/skills and try to visualize myself riding it correctly. I think one of the crucial skills, often overlooked (no pun intended) is just looking ahead.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Mental blocks have always been and since my crash, have been very active in my riding. It makes riding tricky because it makes features and trails I have hit in the past, scary again and sometimes I feel like I have taken this huge step back. But, like I said I am practicing my confidence and reminding myself that I know the technique and have the skills. This is a huge part of cycling (and life) but confidence really is the key, and it might not go well every time but also remember the other key, everyone falls!

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?

It always seems like a good idea at first, and don’t worry you’ll be able to ride together for sure farther down the way. but learning can be very stressful, competitive and high tension when learning from a significant other. This isn’t always the case but for a good experience as a beginner, I would definitely suggest looking into a clinic or a local group of friends or peers. I know that joining a new group or clinic can be intimidating but the energy there is so welcoming! These groups are always excited to have gained a new rider.

What do you love about riding your bike?
What I really love about riding, is the places it brings me and the vast network of friends I have created from it. I have been able to travel all over the world for riding and just being outside breathing fresh mountain air in some of the most picturesque places in the world is what I cherish most.
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Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Building a bicycle quiver for your riding style is important and exciting! I have many bikes in the quiver but let me tell you about some of my favorite steeds.

Number one all-around steed - Stumpjumper 27.5 - this bike is the most playful but stable bike I have ever ridden. Its responsiveness on the trail is incredible and it jumps just as well.

Number one Downhill Steed - Demo - talk about a nimble, quick, blaster DH ride.

Number one adventure bike - Diverge - This bike has a special place in my heart - this gravel/adventure bike has brought me to exciting places with the best adventure groups!

What do you do at Specialized?
I am a service representative at Specialized providing mechanical and informational responses to our riders. Most of my time is spent conversing, troubleshooting, and giving information on bicycles and gear. It keeps things interesting every day, and there is never a dull moment.

Why do you feel it is important for women to be involved in the cycling industry?
Like a bicycle - balance is essential to the ride. Having women in the industry keeps or at least starts a balance of thoughts, ideas, processes, and most of all perspective to be successful.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Well it is often jumped to that women do not have as much interest in cycling but a study by People for Bikes shows that the gap is not actually so large. ⅓ of the population over the period of the year rode a bicycle with 45 million (43%) women 59 million (57%) men. So essentially, I think many women are interested in cycling I just think that keeping them interested and them actually having good experiences is what deters many. And that is why I think women's activity in the industry is so important and most of all it's why I pour my soul into coaching, because those good experiences with the sport are everything!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think industry-wide many brands (not all) spend focus and money on elite athletes and racing which is incredible, and as a previous racer, I appreciate this support. I just believe that the women that need the industry the most to encourage them in the sport cannot relate to those athletes and elitist focus. I think brands that can relate to this general community of ladies who ride or want to ride will succeed most with women riders. I believe the key is creating content that women can make personal connections to and feel like they fit into the brand at any level.
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What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
There are so many reasons to be inspired to give ladies more confidence on bikes. I would say the biggest inspiration for me would be every time that light bulb goes off in a ladies mind and they conquer a skill or a feature for the first time. This is a contagious high from the riders happiness and confidence and those moments are what drive me in my coaching for sure.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
One time I got to be a double for Micayla Gatto and I am a twin!! (not with Micayla lol)

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Mountain Bike Gear at Disney? You Bet!

This year Travis and are doing something we've never done before, and that would be going on a (literal) summer vacation! We might be going to the happiest place on earth, however, we will not be entering a land that is any cooler than Iowa in the summertime. Frankly, it'll likely be worse.

When we last went to Disney I found myself wearing tank tops and overshirts most of the time, paired with a skirt or my favorite Outdoor Research Ferossi shorts. I utilized my Outdoor Research sling bag a lot, and wore either Teva sandals or some running shoes.

Overall those items were fantastic, but this time I knew I would have to make some changes in order to stay comfortable as much as possible in the Florida heat as well as keeping my shoulders and neck happy.

#1. More tank tops and some of those will be from Shredly. I know wicking is important in hot weather, and I have a tendency of overheating fast, so I figured that "mountain bike" clothes would work great! I'll be trying out the Honeycomb tank in a couple different colors and am absolutely stoked over the mesh back on them. Plus, the fabric feels amazingly soft.

#2. More shorts! I'll be taking down a couple pairs of Shredly Multi-Sport shorts in addition to the Outdoor Research shorts for additional color. Not too heavy, wick away moisture, and won't look too wet if I go on a water ride!

#3. My Outdoor Research overshirt and the Shredly Explorer shirt. I know it will be hot, but I also know if we go into a restaurant for a sit-down meal I will likely be chilly. I'm always one that likes to travel prepared for some arm coverage, especially if we're out at night.

#4. I will (gasp) likely not be taking my sling bag because after wearing it for hours on end in the parks, my neck and right shoulder were super sore. HIP PACKS to the rescue! I'll be utilizing one from Silver Rider Stitch Works and one from Pinch Flat Designs (and possibly my favorite Dakine hip pack), depending on the day/what I need to carry/what we might be riding (lots of water rides or not.)

I figured this vacation would be a fun way of trying out some items that are for mountain biking (or outdoor-sport-advertised) and show that there are items out there that are truly able to multi-task from the sporting world to the casual vacation scene. Also, I feel my happiest when I'm in bike clothes, which works out well that I'll be taking some on the trip with me!

After the trip, I'll write a review of the gear options I took with me and let you know what worked well and what didn't. Stay tuned!