Bike Life Adventures: Roam Bike Fest Sedona

I had seen pictures and read posts from folks on Instagram and Facebook for a few years now about Roam Bike Fest in Sedona, Arizona. Folks from all around, individuals in the industry, coming together in what was said to be a magical place. This would be my first experience attending the fest, and I was a mixture of nervous and excited. For someone who has interviewed many folks in the mountain bike scene, this is the equivalent of going to an event in Hollywood, like the Oscars or something. The cool part is that Roam Bike Fest is an event for women, by women, to bring everyone together to ride bikes and have fun!

You won't find skills clinics at Roam Fest and Sedona, AZ does not have the easiest riding for those new to mountain biking. Knee and elbow pads may be a good thing to have on hand for those new to riding in the area. It will at least make it more comfortable if you fall because unlike the riding I enjoy in Iowa, Sedona has a lot more rock to fall on. Plus they make me feel more inclined to try riding stuff that I might otherwise avoid. (Wee!)

For those who are curious about attending a Roam Fest in Sedona, it's good to have some mountain biking under your belt first. You will find group rides plentiful, but there are many who choose to go out on their own for whatever riding they like solo or with friends. You can choose your own adventure and step into it however you like. Roam is very good at giving you an idea of what level of ride to choose for your first one if you're not sure what your level would be at. It's recommended to start with an easier ride and work your way into more challenging rides once you get your feet wet with the area, which is a great idea if you have not ridden in an area similar to Sedona before. Tess aka Dusty Betty also came out with some trail preview videos that were super helpful! 
Coming from Decorah, the climbing wasn't too terribly bad. There are punchy sections- you may have some bigger rocks to roll around or over along with roots. Keep an eye out for the pokey plants! Thankfully, I came away with a single cactus spine in my calf, and I'm not sure how it got there. Admittedly, the first day of riding my breathing was challenged, but I found out later in the day it was due to smoke in the air. Whew! I was worried at first my fitness must have found a way to escape me, and thankfully that wasn't the case.

Hugs are given out in plentiful amounts at Roam, and you are sure to get one when you register. Registration was quick and easy, plus there was a fun swag bag and not to mention, a booth full of awesome Roam merch. I came away with a very full backpack due to FOMO and my not sure when I would be attending another Roam Fest again, so I wanted to make the most of it. I absolutely love hoodies/sweatshirts, so of course, it only makes sense to get one amIright?

If you attend your first Roam Fest, be prepared to feel a bit overwhelmed. There will be a lot of things you can potentially do it's a good idea to have multiple plans at the ready in case options A, B, or C don't work out.

I learned that when it comes to group rides, you'll likely want to get yourself signed up for them as soon as you feel like you can make decisions on them.

I signed up for one group ride with Specialized that was a photoshoot ride, but slacked on the other rides, thus finding out I would be putting my name down on a waitlist. If you are banking on group rides, sign up for them quick!

Another tip would be to get the VIP demo pass if you are traveling without a bike. My way around not having a VIP demo pass was to rent a bike from Absolute Bikes. That way I was guaranteed something to ride whenever I wanted. Now, renting a bike months ahead of time might put you in the same category that Travis was in where the bike he had requested wasn't available. So long as you are open to going with the flow with rentals OR demos, then you should be fine.

I found with the bike I rented that I absolutely have saddle and grip preferences, and in which case I plan to bring some lock-on grips next year that are more comfortable. I brought my own pedals so I would feel confident with how fresh the traction pins were. I made do with the dropper post being too big, which meant in order to have my seat height comfortable for pedaling I would have to lower the dropper post to what felt like a comfortable height. Thankfully I find myself pretty adaptable and otherwise had no issues with the bike itself. Granted, it gave me further reason to appreciate my S-Works Stumpjumper with how it's built and how comfortable it is!
Friday morning we fueled up on a hearty breakfast from Red Rock Cafe and I can say it was extremely delicious. The portions were hearty and I couldn't finish my plate even tho I tried!
When it comes to supper on Friday, get yo' self to the fest early to take advantage of some yummy food and appetizers! Unfortunately, Mary and I were a little late for food, but it worked out for me in the end because I got to have a couple slices of pizza and a beer at Famous Pizza and Beer after we watched the No Man's Land film screening.
The films shown were so inspiring and it made me appreciate everything that my body can do. The women featured were absolutely amazing and I was grateful that they shared their stories so that other folks could find inspiration and hope.
The second day of the fest as just as fun as the first day! Mary and I went for a ride to the overlook on Slim Shady so I could get some video/photos, and then we explored some of the trails around. After we got back to the fest we hung out with Tess (Dusty Betty) for a bit, and then made our way to the pool to sit and chill (and snack!) I had the smart idea to send a text to Steph, one of the co-leads of Midwest Dirt Legion so we could meet.

We looked around the fest some more at the different booths and once we felt rested up we went back to ride some over at the Bell Rock/Big Park loop area. It was fun to re-ride some of what I had ridden on Friday, and I felt my confidence growing as I maneuvered over rocks and around roots. At one point I stopped in front of a large red rock formation and felt completely small. The scenery in Arizona is nothing like Iowa. I remember looking up the hillside at my dad's thinking it was a mountain. This was 10x that. The colors. The contrast. Everything is magical. The riding is challenging. There are things on the side of the trail that can poke you. It's completely opposite of Iowa and it's just as beautiful in its own way.
We made our way back to the Fest and then to our hotel room to clean up for the evening festivities. On Saturday you have supper provided for you, and I don't know what it was about that chili, but it was like a warm hug for the soul. I have never felt so happy eating chili and I probably could have eaten 3 more bowls of it. Powerful restraint right there.
Saturday night had a cool feature that Roam called ShredTalks, where there was a keynote speaker and a panel of women to talk after. Wheelie Creative founder Lisa Slagle was the keynote speaker and the panel following featured: Hot Tomato owner Jen Zuener, reigning Queen of Crankworx Vaea Verbeeck and World Champion Anneke Beerten.
#1. It was so cool to listen to Lisa talk knowing that I had featured her on Josie's Bike Life!
#2. Lisa's talk was really inspiring and something that helped me come up with a few goals after I had come back from Roam Fest.
#3. The whole panel was awesome to listen to. Granted I didn't get to meet the women and give hugs (I was on a ride with Anneke, tho!) it was great to get their take on mountain biking/life, and everything else.

After the talks there was the "Really Fast Raffle That Doesn't Suck!" and tho I didn't come away with any bonus prizes, I'm super stoked for the woman who won a frame AND Industry Nine wheelset! How exciting for her! I think the best part of the raffle was seeing her reaction of pure joy. I have a year in which to perfect the Floss dance move (but I'm sure by next year some other dance move will take over and I'll be late to the game, haha!)
There was a dance party, but due to Travis and me getting picked up at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning to fly back home, I skipped out. I still had to pack up my bags and knew that the longer I waited to tackle that puzzle, the more stressed out I'd become. I had also had terrible sleep for two nights and was starting to feel tired. The guys, tho, hadn't had a proper supper, so we went to one last pizza spot for the weekend: Rotten Johnny's

We were the last ones seated for the evening (so lucky!) and I actually helped Travis eat his pizza. Two pizzas in one weekend, man, how lucky can I get? I can't tell you which one I preferred as I liked both places for various reasons. However, I will say that the dessert we had at Rotten Johnny's was very good. Warm and gooey chocolate cake?
I kept it at a couple of spoonfuls but I would have liked to take an extra one back to the hotel with me. Ha!
Packing went off without a hitch and I felt pretty damn accomplished with how I was able to situate things. The reality was that two days went by very quickly and was feeling uncertain of how I felt. I had accomplished a lot, but it didn't feel like enough. I had stepped out of my comfort zone, talked to folks, and rode terrain unlike anything I've ridden before. I kept going back and forth on whether or not it was something I wanted to do again.

Morning came and Groome came to pick us up to take us back to the Phoenix airport. The adventure was coming to an end and we would be heading back home to winter temps and grey colors. While sitting in the airport, I started to look back on some of the video Mary had taken of me sessioning tricky uphills or riding down chunky downhills.

On the way home, I kept thinking about how Sedona was so different. Maybe it's not the riding I'm 100% seeking, but there is something else to it that I can't describe. I couldn't fall asleep easily on Sunday night, because I kept thinking about what I should do to go back. Maybe a Roam Retreat if the dates worked? Would I want to go back to the fest again? Decisions.

The next day I laid out all of my mental cards. If I flew out of Rochester, MN to Minneapolis that would make taking a trip a lot easier travel-wise. I could easily get myself to the Rochester airport or have someone drop me off.

Phoenix airport was SO pleasant. The least intimidating airport I've been to yet.

Wildflower Inn is SO close to the fest AND the bike shop- it was easy to walk to both places without issue or worry.

Groome Transportation made things very easy, and if I had a morning flight then I knew I'd be getting picked up in the early morning, which makes transportation before rush hour traffic easy.
So, what am I trying to say?
I'm 100% for sure, without a doubt, going back to Roam Fest Sedona in 2020!
I feel that I have unfinished business. I also think that this is the perfect opportunity to take my first ever solo flying trip. I successfully scheduled up and planned this trip with a travel companion- so I know for certain I can get myself to and from another Roam Fest without question.

My plan would be to Fest for the full three days and possibly have Monday to do some solo riding and maybe laundry and travel back on a Tuesday. I have time to figure out exactly how long I want to be away, which is very exciting and also a little scary. Wait, I'll say exhilarating!

Maybe Sedona got to me or perhaps it's because I found it easier than anticipated to connect with other women riders. Something magical happened to me at Roam Fest, and maybe it took a few days for me to realize it, but once I did I ran with it. My first Roam Fest was like pre-riding a trail meaning, you're going in blind and riding carefully. You're not sure what's around this corner or down that hill.

My second Roam Fest will be the ride after the pre-ride, where you know what's coming and you can get a little sendy within your comfort zone. It's another stage in my growth as a human being and in the pursuit of my Happyness Life. I mean, my fortune cookie did say: "Find release from your cares, have a good time."