Women on Bikes Series: Samantha Schmidt
I love how mountain biking allows me to venture to places and see things I may not see if I was just hiking, and I love how it allows me to challenge myself in ways I could never imagine otherwise.
This year, I was inspired to share my experiences with others, and I started publishing videos on my YouTube channel: "XC Sam". I hope my videos can help inspire and encourage other women to join the mountain biking community, as well. Too often, we as women can feel intimidated by so many things! What I have discovered through mountain biking is this: overcoming those things which intimidate us can truly be as simple as taking a deep breath, staring our problem dead in the face, and then taking action to overcome it!
You can also follow me on Instagram
Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
First of all, when I was first introduced to mountain biking I actually said "No! That is definitely NOT for me!" My husband, Brandon, and I learned about mountain biking through mutual friends. They would tell us about the trails in Kansas City and how much fun it was. At the time, I had a hybrid bike that I loved just taking out on paved trails (I was too scared to even ride on the road), but when our friends talked about mountain biking I just immediately assumed I wouldn't be cut out for something like that. A part of me knew I would probably enjoy it... I mean, I did love riding my other bike, and I loved being outside and active, but another part of me was just so worried that I would be too clumsy and get hurt. It certainly didn't help when I saw the scrapes and bruises our friends would sport after a ride. That didn't scare Brandon any though, and he was always really intrigued by mountain biking.
Fast forward two years - Brandon had a coworker offer to take him mountain biking one night and let him borrow a bike. I stayed home and didn't give it much thought. Well, when he came home (in one piece and unharmed) he was so excited to tell me how much fun it was. Let's just say... his enthusiasm was contagious and I decided I would just "give it a try." Our first ride out, I remember feeling so anxious. However, my anxiety was quickly overtaken by joy as I felt like a kid again zooming down the dirt, and I felt invincible rolling over rocks and roots for the first time. THOSE feelings of joy and childlike confidence are what made me say "Yes! This IS for me!"
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 don't know if you'd consider this a handing skill, but speed while riding downhill has always been a challenge for me. I get really scared if I pick up speed while going downhill. Previous to mountain biking, I was in a bad wreck going downhill on a paved trail so I used to have a lot of fear and anxiety from that. Slowly, but surely, I am now able to practice more downhill trails and gain confidence with speed. A lot of my improvement has come from giving it time and allowing myself to go at MY own pace every time. Riding with a good mix of people is a huge help too - some days I ride with others who are just as slow, if not slower than me, while other times I ride with super fast big senders. I've also recently had some coaching lessons, and that was a huge help!
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Bunny hops! I feel like I can handle tech, and hit jumps with ease, but for some reason, I can't, for the life of me, do a bunny hop. I don't really let it drag me down though. I practice when I am at home, and even out on the trails, but if I don't get it right then I just keep coasting. Sure, I can feel frustrated some times, but I keep telling myself I'll get it one of these days!
Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Flats! This goes back to my assumptions about me being too clumsy. If I fall over, I'd rather not have the added concern of being stuck to the bike.
Absolutely! Find at least one person to share your experience with - a friend, significant other, or just join a group ride! We've all been there - new, nervous, and clueless. I would suggest looking for a Bell Joy Ride or Ladies All Ride in your area if you want a women's group to join; otherwise, Facebook often has group rides advertised. Look for a group ride that breaks up into skill level, and is labeled as a "no drop" ride.
What inspired you to create your Youtube channel?
For me, I enjoy watching mountain biking videos on YouTube, and when I find a video that features a woman rider, I feel like the content in the video is so much more relate-able, entertaining, and inspiring. Last year, I was surprised at how few women mountain bikers were sharing content on YouTube, so I decided I would start! My goal is for other women to find my videos relatable and inspiring, too!
Learning how to create and edit quality videos is the most challenging part! The most interesting, and unexpected benefit of editing my own videos, though, is that I get to relive each experience! Along with that, I get to see myself, from an audience's perspective. At the moment, I don't always realize how amazing some of these rides are until I watch the video and I get to see myself doing these awesome things, and I think "Ya girl - you rock!"
Do you have any suggestions for those who may want to start up a channel of their own?
If it's something you want to do - then just do it! Borrow or buy a camera, and just give it a try. There are plenty of free editing software programs out there, too. For me, I just learned as I went along - finding out what camera and editing tools work best for me and what things I actually enjoy filming more. Also, don't be shy to reach out to other content creators and just get connected. The mountain biking community is full of great people, on the trail and online too!
That is a tough one! We have traveled to so many places this year. I'd have to say my favorite trail was Dragon's Back at White Mesa Trails near Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is literally like riding on the back of a dragon high above everything else - so cool! The most challenging trail was Cease and Desist in Bentonville, Arkansas, which, in the end, was only challenging trying to work up the courage to even ride it, but once I did I found out I was able to roll over most of the obstacles and just ride past the obstacles I wasn't comfortable with.
What do you love about riding your bike?
So many things! Mainly, though, like I said before - it makes me feel like a kid again.
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Currently, I have a 2017 DiamondBack Clutch 2. It is a women's full suspension, all-mountain type of bike. My first bike ever was a cheap hardtail, so when I got my DB it was a big upgrade. I love the durability of my bike and the suspension is really helpful for rough trails and jumps I put it through. Just last week, I also purchased a 2018 Cannondale Cujo 1 with plus tires. I am excited to try riding a hardtail again and see how the plus tires handle under various conditions.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think a lot of women probably feel the same way I did at first about mountain biking - intimidated and quick to assume all the reasons not to try it.
I also feel like there are so many available resources out there that women may not know about. For example, where and how to rent a bike and how to meet other bikers and join a group ride.
What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I feel like it takes a community as a whole. Take Bentonville, Arkansas as an example - the entire area has embraced mountain biking. This brings more awareness to the sport, which brings in more riders. Though the percentage of women riders there may have been small to start, it is not small anymore! I see so many ladies shredding the trails there! There are so many beginner-friendly and family-friendly mountain bike trails in that city, and that also encourages women who may be just starting out, and it also encourages the whole family to get out and ride.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
In general, I just enjoy being encouraging no matter what it is - that's just my personality. Even more so, when it comes to encouraging other women riders because I just feel like I'm part of this awesome club and I am inviting others to come in and join the party!
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am a licensed pilot and used to work as a flight instructor teaching students how to fly. Nowadays, I have more of a 'desk flying' job where I get to play around with flight simulators all day!