Women Involved Series: Cricket Butler

My name is Cricket Butler and I started permanently calling the Whitefish area home in the summer of 2012 with my 2 sons. I fell in love with this area 11 years prior to moving here and for more summers than I can count, I have passed through on my bike in one way or another. I knew in those early years this was the place for me and now would be the best place for me to raise my sons.

Being an enthusiastic cyclist, I had this vision to create a place where cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds could come together and enjoy the best Montana has to offer and have access to the information and support they needed to get the most out of their visit here.

This dream resulted in the opening of the Whitefish Bike Retreat in 2013 and sharing my love for Montana to all that visit here! Come fall in love with Montana!

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife-
Biking was not a part of my life when I was younger - I was into long-distance hiking mostly with some adventure racing, kayaking, climbing, and mountaineering thrown in there. Anything outside really. Long-distance hiking was what my world really revolved around though. I never knew anyone who mountain biked until later in life. But I was hooked on mountain biking from my first mountain bike ride, riding over rocks and roots in complete disbelief that I was not falling and enjoying every single moment. I then found a local women mountain bike club and that just continued to fuel my need to learn more. I surrounded myself with others with the same passions I had. That local club, the Dirt Divas, taught me to be a more confident rider on the trails. That's how it started and there is no end in sight ...

What about mountain biking made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
First, it was the challenge of trying something new and something that kind of terrified me. But I wanted to learn to be better, more efficient and do more with the bike. Then I learned about the Great Divide Route - I was a lost soul at that point. The Divide Route combined my love for long adventures and mountain biking. Bikepacking entered my life and now I make my living with bikes and bikepacking. "Back in the Day" when I learned about the Divide Route, there was not much information out there. Figuring out the ride and logistics and then racing it in those early years was just plain unbelievable. When I look back on my life - the path I took seems so random almost like it would lead nowhere - but here I am. HELL YES TO mountain biking!!

You came into mountain biking later in life, how do you feel this helped you with the journey?
I started biking in my late 30s. I am 50 now. I had traveled and hiked all over the world prior to making bikes a part of my life. It's funny but all those experiences prior to the bike led me to the bike and on the path I am on now. I believe my cycling experiences are richer now because it is more than just the bike for me - I ride with all my past experiences! I love how the journey unfolds.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Anyone who knows me knows I say I am not a super strong technical rider but I will give anything a go - at least once :)

Steep loose downhills always push me out of my comfort zone. When I first started riding, everything on a trail was an obstacle - no kidding. The more miles I put in the more comfortable I became with my bike and overcoming those obstacles. So every riding season, I start out very cautious and with each mile I pedal, I build my confidence back. It is a process every rider has gone through. I just focus on being patient, enjoying my rides and knowing it will get better if I keep pedaling.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I use clips except on my fat bike - I use flats in the winter so I can ride in my comfy winter boots. Clipping in gives me more power and confidence out on the trails.

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, understand that you are not alone - everyone has probably felt like that!

Go out and have fun and laugh with friends - riding has a way of bringing people together and closer and all those memories made out on the trail or road or where ever the bike takes you will be with you forever. And be open to learning and not expecting it to all come naturally and at once - you can learn the skills to become a better rider - simply enjoy riding and you will keep coming back for more and you will just get better :))

Tell us about your Tour Divide experience(s) and what you learned about yourself when you were on the route-
This is such a loaded question :) There is so much - so many experiences - way too many stories - so many miles - so much learned.

If I had to pin it down to one thing though - that race taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to and really push beyond what I thought I was capable of - physically and mentally.

For anyone considering the Tour Divide race, what tips/suggestions do you have?
First thing, if you are considering racing the Tour Divide - the most important thing is Peace Of Mind. Make sure you do all the planning and work to get to a place where you can physically complete the race with your goals in mind. Then make sure everything in your life is supporting your efforts and in line with what you are about to do. If any thoughts of being somewhere else or doing something else enters your mind at any point - your race is over. Your mind needs to be at peace with what you are doing - your focus will be stronger and that will make your body stronger out there.

Tell us about your adventure into starting The Whitefish Bike Retreat, did you face any challenges?

Every day is a challenge! From that very first day when the thought of the WBR entered my mind to today. But challenges are there to be overcome and I just take every day in and learn lessons and continue to move forward. The WBR has been a different kind of endurance event for me - I have learned a ton about myself during the process of building the WBR - most importantly that I crave these types of challenges and when racing was no longer on my radar, creating the WBR became my new focus. The biggest challenge was my almost complete lack of "business" knowledge. I know bikes and cyclists - that part was easy for me - but the business part of building the WBR was and still is an ongoing learning experience. I just wake up every day and take it step by step and follow my heart. Each step leads me further down my path to growing my business.
The Whitefish Bike Retreat sounds like it has something for everyone, why was it important to you to make sure everyone (those riding to those visiting to ride)?
Anyone that has visited the WBR knows there is something for everyone here even their four-legged friends. I wanted to create a place where there was something for everyone in a group or family. Everyone has different riding abilities and goals and my staff and I here to help our guests find that perfect ride or adventure for you. Northwestern Montana has abundant outdoor recreation and it helps to have information from locals on where to ride and how to ride certain trails - that is why we are here. Don't ride - No Worries - want to hike or climb or raft or whatever you have in mind to get out and enjoy NW Montana, WBR staff is here to help you find that adventure in all seasons.

That's right the WBR is open in the winter with groomed Winter Trails for fat biking. We are located close to World Class downhill skiing and Glacier National Park and our Winter Trails stretch from our Lodge and around the Beaver Lake Area for all to enjoy. WBR maintains the Winter Trails and they are FREE for all users thanks to all the local support from trail users, businesses and the Whitefish Visitor and Convention Bureau donations. We even have fat bike rentals trailside in the winter to make it very easy to give fat biking a try. Fat biking has become an increasingly popular winter outdoor recreation activity - I love sharing the winter Montana landscape with our visitors.

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?
Way too many to mention :) I ride and things happen. The one common thread with all my injuries is that it is hard to take time off from what I love to heal and recover. It is the toughest mental game of any race I ever did. Also, asking for help from others has always been difficult for me. I take care of everything and everyone around me so for me to be in that place where I have to ask for help from others so I can heal and recover from injuries is tough. But everything happens for a reason right - now I am pretty comfortable asking others to help so watch out :)) I love how the universe works :)

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love where my bike can take me and the people I meet when I am riding my bike. I have seen and experienced some amazing things on my bike and met some of my best friends while out riding. I love how I bike can bring people together on a common ground - we are all different and come from different places in life and throughout the world but yet our bikes can unite us to laugh and share stories - this I love!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I admit I am an emotional gear hoarder :)

My kids made me count them a few years back because I had no idea how many I had - I just have memories attached to every single bike and that was what is important to me. My bikes have taken me to some pretty amazing places on the planet and I have met some of my best friends out there on the trails. I have never sold a personal bike. Each bike has its own story of how I chose it and it was quite dependent on where I was in my life and what those goals were at that time. My life has evolved and so has my bike choices - from Carbon Single Speed Rigid Hardtail 29er to Ti Rigid Hardtail Geared 29er to now Geared Full Suspension (yes I crossed over and loving it). My favorite bikes currently though are my 29+ bikes - I ride a Rigid Geared 29+ Trek Stache for bikepacking and cross country trails and also my Borealis Carbon Yampa Fat Bike gets a makeover every summer with a 29+ Wheelset for some bikepacking trips - I love them both and can never decide so I use them both. I do ride all my bikes still some more than others but they all get a few outings every year. I still have my first ever mountain bike hanging over my garage at the WBR - it is a Ti Titus HCR 26er Hardtail - if it was not for that bike I would not be where I am today! See? Emotional Gear Hoarder :)

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
I feel like it was a male-dominated sport for so long and women had a hard time breaking into it initially- the resources to support women in cycling are beginning to develop more rapidly now and attract more women to the sport. I hear it all the time that women are intimidated by riding with their husbands or boyfriends for the first time. Women learn differently and yearn for a supportive environment. Once women have that first "bad" experience, it is difficult to try it again. This is changing though with more Women Specific Clinics, Retreats, and Workshops. Women ARE getting more involved and that just encourages and excites more women to give it a try :)

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Definitely more women events, rides and such. This is happening now and this momentum and support needs to keep growing and empowering women to get involved!!!

It is inspiring to me and gets me excited to see women out pushing the boundaries and beyond - so I know it affects others and that excitement will keep encouraging new women into the sport. More women have already entered the industry and this will continue to increase and set role models in place for others to follow.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love this question! Seeing women gain the confidence and skills to get out by themselves and be self-reliant to ride and explore our world on a mountain bike inspires me! Seeing more women get excited about riding and just want to soak up all the knowledge they can find. If I can help anyone find the love for riding, for bikepacking, for spending time out on a bike - well that is what feeds my soul!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I can not pass up finding a "heart" rock - sometimes I come back from a ride with a load of rocks :) They are all over my home and the WBR.