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.