Women Involved Series: Lindsey Watson

Despite growing up in Colorado, she didn’t consider herself an outdoorswoman until her mid-twenties, when she decided her soccer career was over but needed another outlet to satisfy her need for adrenaline. She first discovered the great outdoors through snowboarding but then jumped all-in when she took up a part-time job at REI. While at REI, she was exposed to almost every outdoor sport and finally realized what this great state has to offer and all she had been taking for granted before.

She then found a community of like-minded mountain bikers through the Women’s Mountain Biking Association which led her to pursue a job in the cycling industry. It felt most natural – where her passion and her profession could exist harmoniously. That was almost 10 years ago.

Currently, she works at SRAM/RockShox, one of the largest cycling component manufacturers in the world, as a Product and Marketing Data Coordinator. Besides her day job at SRAM, she also is the team mechanic for the Juliana Pro Team, a mountain bike skills coach for Grit Clinics, Ladies AllRide, and VIDA MTB Series, and last but not least, she gets to travel around for the SRAM Women’s Program teaching product education/suspension set-up clinics and lead mountain bike rides.

The best part of her job(s) is that she gets to ride her mountain bike for fun and work all over the world, but her real passion lies with getting more women into the outdoors (especially on bikes) and to experience that “ah-ha” moment just like she did.

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I fell in love with mountain biking through the Women’s Mountain Biking Association of Colorado Springs (WMBA). I had just finished grad school and was working some part-time jobs and lacking strong community in my life. I had a mountain bike and decided to show up to a Thursday evening WMBA group ride. It wasn’t necessarily the mountain biking that I fell in love with first but rather it was the community and social aspect. Immediately, I felt like I had found my people, or my tribe, and the bike was simply a commonality between us all. Sure, I loved the adrenaline rush, fear, speed, and challenge of mountain biking, but what I really loved was the ability to share that “high” with other like-minded ladies, many of whom would become some of my best friends and who I still ride with today, 8 years later.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Technical climbing has always intimidated me but I am so in awe of it. I would watch others (men and women) pedal their way up techy climbs with such finesse and control. I knew that to be a “good” mountain biker didn’t just mean you were fast on the downhills or had the guts to huck big drops, but rather, it was a balance between being able to climb as well as you could descend, if not better. So, I’ve really worked hard on my balance, timing, and power to get good at techy climbs. But, this came with a lot of bloody crashes. It’s the worst when you’re trying to get up a techy section and you just fall over or backwards, ha! Working on track stands, slow speed bike maneuvers, balance, power strokes, and repetition has been key for me. Sometimes my friends and I would go out to ride and JUST work on techy climbing. We would maybe ride one mile in two hours but we would practice, practice, practice. Mountain biking is so much more than just being able to ride fast. I’ve always wanted skill over speed, knowing that the speed will come when the skills get dialed in.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Absolutely! Cornering has always been tricky and something I don’t think I will ever fully master. The bike/body separation and counter-balance make total sense in my head but I find it much harder to actually do. That is the most frustrating part when you know in your head what you need to do but that doesn’t translate into actually doing it. I try not to beat myself up about it, or any bad riding days, for that matter. As consistent as I try to ride, I know I will have good riding days and bad riding days. I’ve learned to take the bad with the good because it’s hard to measure success without failure. I also like to remind myself that any day on the bike is a better day than not on the bike. I just love being outside and having the freedom and life circumstances to ride my bike in beautiful places. I hope to never take that for granted.

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?
First and foremost, ride a “good” bike. I know the barrier to entry isn’t cheap for a sport that you may or may not love but I promise that having a good bike will set you up for success and only make your experience that much more enjoyable. So, invest some money in a bike that has decent suspension (RockShox of course) and a seat dropper. Second, find a riding community. Although mountain biking can be an individual sport, it’s always more enjoyable when shared with others. There are so many groups out there these days and can be easily found on the Internet. Join one! I promise there will be people just like you with your same hesitations, nerves, and riding ability.

Your involvement with the Women's Mountain Biking Association led you to pursue a job in the cycling industry, how did that come about?
I guess I would say that the stars aligned and I stumbled right into the industry. My educational background is in Biology with a Master’s degree in Philosophy. I always thought I’d grow up to be a teacher and coach, get married, have a couple kids, and settle into the traditional female role that I learned of growing up in a conservative, middle-class town (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that at all; I just didn’t know there were any other options). Working in the cycling industry or even the outdoor industry never even crossed my mind as a “career path.” So, when I met a girl at a WMBA group ride who worked in the cycling industry for a company called “SRM PowerMeters,” I was in awe. And, she liked her job. I had just finished grad school at 25 and knew it was time to get a “real 9-5 job” and start adulthood. I later saw this same girl out at a local restaurant and she introduced me to her boss, the owner of SRM. I thought nothing of it but my friends who I was at dinner with insisted I ask him if he was hiring at SRM. Peer pressure and a couple drinks can definitely inspire me to put myself out there, haha! He said they needed someone who was good on the phones and that I should email him to come in for a tour. I left the conversation thinking, “No, I don’t want to be on the phone all day talking to customers.” So, I left it at that. But then when my friends and I asked for our bill, the server told us that the gentleman at the bar took care of the whole tab. Now, this was something I couldn’t ignore. I emailed him the next day and we set up a tour. I brought my resume and had an interview on the spot. A week later I was offered my first full-time, salaried position. I did customer service, sales, and marketing at SRM for 5 years. My time at SRM was awesome and I really fell in love with mountain biking and the industry even more. But, after 5 years I felt the desire to “do more” and “be more” in the cycling industry which led me to pursue a job at SRAM. I’ve now been at SRAM for almost 5 years and know that I’m exactly where I need to be at this point in my life.

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 actually haven’t had too many (knock on wood). I deal with some pretty intense lower back issues from time to time but I feel like those are manageable if I can stay on top of my core workouts and stretching. I’m scared to death to get hurt since so much of my job requires me to be able-bodied. This definitely gets into my head sometimes when I chicken out on riding sections that I know I can ride or have ridden before. This is one of the reasons that I don’t race enduro anymore. I just scare myself out of racing fast out of fear of getting hurt and then I get last place and beat myself up about it. The mental and emotional stress of racing just isn’t for me.
What do you love about riding your bike?
Oh gosh, there’s nothing better. The high, the adrenaline rush, the freedom, the failures, the successes, the places my bike takes me, the people I’ve met, the people I get to ride with, and the comradery. It’s a tool that gives me life, a sense of purpose. And now, it has given me a career that I am very passionate about.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
-I have a Juliana Roubion. It’s a 150/160 enduro bike and I absolutely love it. I have given up on my desire to be a fast climber and consider myself more gravity focused. I want something that can pedal but really excels on the downhills. The Roubion is my favorite bike that I’ve ridden so far due to its responsiveness and the ability to really throw it around but feel in total control. It makes me a better rider!

What do you enjoy most about working for SRAM/RockShox?
The culture, and what SRAM/RockShox stands for and who we stand for. There’s so much passion for bikes, but more than that, there’s a deeply rooted passion to get more people outside on bikes because we all know what it’s like to find that freedom you can only get from being on a bike. I get to work with some of my best friends so we get to do work and life together. Also, I love that my job has so much variety in it. I do a little bit of product data coordination, a little bit of marketing for RockShox, a little bit of teaching tech clinics and skills clinics for the SRAM Women’s Program, and a little bit of wrenching on bikes. I’m learning so much, constantly growing, and continuing to meet people who can help me along in my journey.

You have a full-time job at SRAM as a Product and Marketing Data Coordinator, but you also do A LOT of other things. What do those entail?
I like to stay busy. Ever since I was young, I just couldn’t sit still. I always like having about four different “jobs” going on at the same time. My day job is at SRAM as a Product and Marketing Data Coordinator. Basically, I work between Product Management and Product Marketing and make sure the data and content between the two are consistent. It’s fun, challenging, and engaging. One thing I’ve learned over the past four years at SRAM is how important and exciting it is for me to see how and where my job affects the world outside the four walls of SRAM. So, I satisfy this fix by helping out the SRAM Women’s Program. We travel to events and lead women’s rides, teach women how to set up their suspension and make tuning adjustments, and coach skills clinics. Our mission is to grow the women’s cycling community by educating women about SRAM products and technologies through technical presentations, ride clinics, and events. Additionally, I do some MTB skills coaching for Ladies AllRide, Grit Clinics, and VIDA MTB Series. This year I’ll coach at Ladies AllRide Sedona and Big Sky and at VIDA Valmont and Beti Bike Bash. I also do private coaching through Grit Clinics. Another more recent endeavor of mine is learning how to be a bike mechanic which has led me to wrench on bikes for the Juliana Pro Team and teach a few women’s mechanic clinics at Evo Denver for VIDA/COMBA (Colorado Mountain Biking Association). Oh, and last by not least, I watch my friends and co-workers dogs as another side gig…you know when I’m not traveling to all these other events, ha!

You are also a mechanic for the Juliana Pro Team, have you ever found it challenging or stressful being a mechanic during events? How do you keep cool?

At certain times, for sure. But, it helps that all of the girls are super kind and understanding. It’s a real “team” atmosphere where I don’t feel an immense amount of pressure from them.

How did you get the job as the Juliana Bike mechanic?
Kelli Emmett (Team Manager) and I went for a MTB ride one day over lunch (in early March) and she was explaining how she needed to find a mechanic for each of the team’s races. She mentioned the first race was Sea Otter (mid-April). I asked what it meant to be the “Team Mechanic.” She listed out the roles and responsibilities and I piped up, “Oh, I can do all that.” The truth is that I couldn’t do all that. I had basic bike mechanic knowledge (how to change tubeless tires, change brake pads, clean a bike, and set up suspension), but I wasn’t comfortable adjusting shifting, bleeding brakes/seatposts, servicing suspension, or diagnosing and fixing issues. But, it sounded like a great opportunity and I wanted to go to Sea Otter. So, I didn’t really lie, okay, maybe I did a little. But, I said, “Yes, I’m in. I can do it.” Later one of my co-workers broke the news to her and said, “Oh, Lindsey is a bike mechanic?” Haha, my secret was out. But, hear me out here…sure, I didn’t know exactly everything when I committed but I knew that I could learn it and I was determined to not let Kelli or the team down. I spent the next 5 weeks learning as much as I could. I watched YouTube videos on shifting adjustments, wheel truing, suspension servicing, brake and seatpost bleeding, brake adjustments, and common mechanical/hydraulic problems and how to fix them. I also asked questions of my co-workers and volunteered to fix and/or build my friend’s bikes. I even had to borrow a tool roll and all the bike tools; total amateur! But, I went for it! Gosh, I still remember flying into San Jose and Kelli picking me up. I kept telling myself, “I’ve got this. I can do this.” I was so nervous to meet all the girls, who would trust me to look after their bike needs all week. I didn’t want to let any of them down and knew that this was my “big test.” If it went well, maybe Kelli would invite me back for more. I had no idea what to expect or what I was getting myself into. But, in hindsight, I’m soooooooo glad that I jumped on the opportunity because I have been invited back to more races and I’ve developed a strong friendship with all the girls. I care a lot about them, both in racing and in their personal lives. It’s a real “team” feeling and they are like family to me. Also, working with Kelli has been amazing and I’m forever grateful she gave me a chance. We work super well together and are always one step ahead of each other.

What has been the most challenging mechanical thing you've learned that makes you go "Damn, this is awesome!" because you understand what it is you need to do-
Drivetrain adjustments (limit screws and barrel adjustments). It just never really made sense to me…tightening the cable, loosening the cable, B-bolt, limit screws, etc. But, once I took the time to learn not just how but when and why it is actually very intuitive.

Tell us more about your mechanic skills... Have you always been able to work on your own bikes? How did you learn? Did you take classes or watch youtube videos?

I’ve always had the desire to work on my own bikes but didn’t fully commit to learning until the Juliana team mechanic opportunity arose. I was always so intimidated by drivetrain set-up/adjustments, bleeding brakes/seatposts, and wheel truing. I can’t even tell you how many SRAM and Park Tool YouTube videos I watched learning about how and when to loosen the cable vs. tighten the cable, how to set limit screws, how to replace a cable, how to bleed brakes, how to service suspension, and how to true a wheel. I also learned more than I ever had before about SRAM/RockShox products and finally felt confident when talking to others about the technologies, features, benefits, and servicing. It led me to asking more and more questions to really understand our products. For example, I could always rattle off the various offset options that our forks come in but, until last year, I couldn’t tell you what the practical, on-the-trail difference is between them all. My personal journey of “I want to be the Juliana team mechanic at Sea Otter” has opened my mind to much more. Even though I am constantly learning more and more, I am now able to work on my own bikes, build my own bikes (and my friend’s bikes), and even teach other women how to work on bikes. I also get to test my knowledge at events with RockShox and the SRAM Women’s Program by educating consumers. The details can be intimidating but, once you dive in, it all starts to make sense and you start to feel empowered to start turning knobs and making adjustments.
You have helped coach at Ladies AllRide events, Grit Clinics, and Vida MTB Series events- what have you enjoyed most about those experiences?
This is really where my passion lies. I thought after grad school I would go into teaching and coaching soccer. I am most fulfilled when I can give back and help people navigate this messy thing called “life.” I had no idea that I could experience this fulfillment in the cycling industry and in a sense “find myself” through it. I love seeing women overcome obstacles on the trail and then have that translate to life obstacles. Mountain biking teaches you about strength, perseverance, grit, success, failure, insecurities, fear, confidence, and so much more and I love how those lessons translate directly to “life” as well.

Tell us about the SRAM Women's Program and what it entails-

The SRAM Women’s Program was started a couple years when SRAM saw a need to reach more women. We weren’t necessarily ignoring women but we were directly speaking to and influencing women. The SRAM Women’s Program is dedicated to getting more women on bikes through education, riding clinics, and a general demystifying of bikes and bike culture. We put on events at various venues around the world. It’s an amazing program and it’s great to see SRAM investing in women. For 2019, there are 16 female road ambassadors and 36 MTB ambassadors around the world helping us spread the message that SRAM cares about women. Recently, the program has grown to include diversity and inclusion efforts and this is super exciting not only for SRAM but for the cycling industry as a whole.

SRAM Women’s Program. All-inclusive, never exclusive. A community-built to help cultivate women to be their best selves. Inspiring female cyclists through experience, education and social connectivity while supporting them on their purpose-filled journey with innovative product.

How do stay motivated to do keep up with everything? Do you do any other activities away from the bike?
Variety is key. I stay busy with lots of different things. I am constantly bouncing around from sitting at a desk knee-deep in product and marketing data to working on bikes to coaching MTB skills to dog-sitting. Oh, and believe it or not, I do find time to ride my bike or go for a run as my outlet. Exercise keeps me sane so I make sure to work that into my schedule. And, if I’m honest, I do get pretty burnt out by November. Winter is a time for me to reset, get back into a routine, and spend time at home. I also took up a new sport this past winter, splitboarding, and dove right into the deep end. I was shocked by how much I love it, despite how difficult it is and how much I struggle. I even went on two “snow-only” vacations. That’s right: no bikes! I seriously couldn’t recall the last trip I went on that didn’t involve a bike, or work of some sort. Those two trips and all my additional weekend splitboard missions have been so amazing and rejuvenated my mind. I’m ready for winter to be over and for summer to start.

Besides variety, another key motivation for me comes from others. I’ve had so many people give me a chance and then come alongside to push me, encourage me, and support me. When I’m tired, worn down, and lacking motivation, it’s those friends and mentors that I lean on. I’m lucky to be surrounded by such amazing role models to watch, learn from, and follow.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Intimidation, fear, not having a safe space to learn or friends to ride with. Not feeling good enough. Personal insecurities.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
More marketing activities featuring women and all kinds of women…short, tall, big, small, white, POC, gay, straight, transgender, etc. We are all more likely to do something when we see others “like us” doing it.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The sport helped me in a sense “find myself” and once I realized the power the sport has, I want everyone I know to jump on board.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

My nickname or alter ego is Pam from SRAM. This name came about at the Ladies AllRide clinic in Grand Targhee when Katie Sox and Emily Ford found it difficult to survive the weekend with two Lindseys (Lindsey Richter and myself). Katie made an off-the-cuff statement, “I just really want to call her Pam from SRAM.” I then walked into the condo and Emily said, “Hey, Pam from SRAM!” Well, it stuck, and the rest is history.