Women Involved Series: Tina Brubaker

I fell in love with riding the first time I went out for a mountain bike ride with some friends. They invited me to a downhill race at Mt Hood Ski Bowl, and I won the beginner class. That was all it took - I started racing cross country and downhill and I loved the people and the vibe at the races. I started racing cyclocross and mountain bikes in the mid 90's for the Fat Tire Farm in Portland, Oregon, and eventually started road and track racing. I loved anything two-wheeled and have toured (now called bike-packing) all over Europe and spent time touring in New Zealand. I even helped UPS with their bike delivery test program.

After 20+ years of racing, I started to dedicate less time to training and more time to passing my love for the bike on to the next generation. I have coached for the Bend Endurance Academy and worked as one of the coaches for the women-specific SRAM Gold Rusch Tour. I now dedicate most of my summers to the Ladies AllRide program traveling the nation to coach at their weekend camps, and also teach private lessons with Grit Clinics, Ladies AllRide's sister company.

And while I do fewer events now that have a start gun, I continue to race cyclocross with my Speedvagen family, because 'cross is the best!

I have spent my life racing and riding because it has brought so many amazing people into my life, and riding gives me so much joy. I hope to continue coaching and help women gain the confidence and independence that the bike has given me.

Check out the Ladies AllRide Camp schedule and if you have questions, check out the FAQs! The first camp is in Sedona, AZ in April!

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I was hooked the first time I went to a race, it was a downhill event at Mt Hood Ski Bowl. I was an absolute beginner and a few guys I had been riding with encouraged me to race. I won the beginner category and was hooked. But it was more than just the win, it was the people and the excitement and the energy at the event. It was the first time I'd been around a group of people that were all as crazy about mountain biking as I was. I distinctly remember thinking "these are my people". And 20+ years later, I still love it and the colorful people it attracts.

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 actually started out racing after about my third or fourth ride ever on a mountain bike. After that first downhill race, someone told me there was a "cross country" race the following day. I decided to give that a try and realized there was this whole "fitness" component that was absolutely necessary, and my soccer-playing wasn't quite enough prep to be competitive. So I would say the biggest skill that challenged me initially was building a fitness base. And that takes time.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?

I've gotten over the fear of my wheels leaving the ground (jumps) - but that took time. And now I enjoy/fear jumping in equal measure. My current struggle is bunny-hopping, not a level-lift hop, but an actual bunny hop. I'm a work in progress and I have good coaches that are very patient with me! ;) haha 

I try to keep my inner dialogue positive when the edges start to fray. Changing the voice to "I'm not there YET" instead of "I can't do it". I've learned over the years that some days are a struggle and others it all seems to come together, so I try to step out of that moment of frustration and look at the bigger picture. Which is pretty alright, because I really do love my bike, even on the tough days.
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?
It's so important to start slow. A typical first foray in the dirt is trying to keep up with someone more experienced - which often leads to frustration for the newer rider. I coach, so there is some bias here, but I can't stress enough how important taking a lesson is. Learning the fundamentals of bike body positioning, and building a solid foundation can eliminate a lot of unnecessary struggle. Also, no matter how well-intentioned a partner might be, taking a lesson from a neutral third party will minimize 'chaffing' in a relationship.

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 raced enduro for a few seasons and had back to back crashes at the Post Canyon race in Hood River. It was all soft tissue damage to both of my quads, and left me limping for a week. It definitely made me pause long enough to realize that the timed downhill style events were not really in my wheelhouse. I only did a few more before I pulled the plug on that style of racing. It took some time to rethink my racing strategy after that, but what I learned was I needed to better manage my FOMO and that it's OK to not do all the things.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything. I get something different from the bike every time I ride. If I'm in a bummer mood a ride helps blow off steam, other times it provides a place for quiet reflection in the woods, but most of the time it's just fun playing around with friends. The thing I love most though, no matter the scenario, I always feel so much better after I ride. Happier, calmer, stronger. Physically and mentally.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them? --(*this maybe doesn't answer the "why")??
With 20+ years of riding and racing, I've amassed quite a fleet. I have a couple old bikes set up for commuting, a 29er mountain bike and an old Spot single speed. I also have a beautiful carbon Liv Langma road bike, and many cross bikes. All of them get ridden with equal amounts of love, but my cross bikes hold a special place in my heart. I have a little white Vanilla that Sacha White made for me in 2006, and two gold Speedvagen cross bikes. These bikes changed the way I raced. Having been made for me, they fit my body perfectly, like soft leather gloves worn perfectly to your hands. When I got my Vanilla in 2006, it changed how I raced. I felt fast and smooth and for the first time, I experienced what it was like when a bike is an extension of your body. Same when I started racing the Speedvagens, with just a touch more sassy aggressiveness, that I loved. I felt like I rose to their occasion. I cannot say enough, because I can never find the words to fit the emotion I feel when I'm racing my cross bikes, but joy is one of them. My best attempt would be: an intergalactic zen formula 1 bike race experience. I don't think there's a word for that. Yet.

You've enjoyed strapping up a number plate over the years, what have you enjoyed most about participating at events?
I love the race experience because I push my physical and mental limits much harder in a "ready, set, GO" situation. I'm not someone who can crush a workout on my own. I guess I just need that start gun to get out of my head. Another reason I've loved racing has been to see how or if I've improved. Using people I regard as fast to see if I was 'there yet' with my fitness was always a good measuring stick.
There is also the community and contagious energy at race events, which is part of what attracted me to racing from the beginning. I love the pre-race nerves and excitement as everyone is heading to the start line. And the sense of accomplishment and stoke when a race is over.

For those on the fence about event participation, do you have any suggestions on how they might create a positive experience?

Try to just be with the experience. Know there are usually nerves and expectations with the first few events. Both of those are good to a certain extent because they help push you out of your comfort zone. Going into a race with no expectation of your performance is difficult, but focusing on your personal performance as opposed to where you stack up in the results is really key. It's possible you have a perfect race and give 100% and that puts you in say, 9th place, even though for you it may have felt like a first place race effort. On those days I feel just as excited as if I would have gotten on the podium. As long as you give it everything and get to the finish line totally physically depleted, I think that is what success looks like. If you feel like you had a great race, that's a win, podium or not.

What helped you make the decision to becoming a mountain bike skills coach?
Coaching sort of came to me through cyclocross. I started doing cross skills clinics at Alpenrose Dairy in Portland and really enjoyed it. Then I worked for a summer coaching kids at Bend Endurance Academy for their mountain bike program, and that's when I thought maybe I wanted to get more serious about it. As I started racing less, coaching seemed to provide a feeling of personal fulfillment that racing had previously given me. As doors to more coaching opportunities opened, I kept saying yes and things have evolved naturally from there.
You spend a lot of time with Ladies All Ride and the GRIT clinics, tell us about your experience helping out at these two venues.
Lindsey Richter and Meredith Brandt are two women who had created successful platforms to coach, support and encourage women at all levels of riding. We all have our strengths as humans, and aside from them both being amazing coaches, they each have their own skillset they bring to their business. Lindsey's strength is inspiring and getting women pumped about riding. Meredith's strength is having the ability to run an extremely tight ship on the organizational level. When these two forces came together, it was clear magic would happen. There was absolutely no question they would change the world. When I'm coaching, I'm giving so much of myself to the organization and the participants that it's an absolute must for me to believe in the women I'm working for. Ladies AllRide and Grit Clinics are doing it right. And the proof is the success of the camps.

What has been one of your best/favorite coaching moments?
Ha! I have literally hundreds of favorite coaching moments. True story. Every single time I get to watch someone move from a place of absolute fear, to 100% success, it's special. It is always a magic moment and it never gets old. No matter how small that success might seem, getting to witness that is always a 'favorite moment'.

Ok - I'll give you one specific incident that was pretty much one of my 'favorites'. We were coaching at a Ladies AllRide camp in Bentonville, Arkansas, where I had another rad group of lady shredders. I was teaching pedal wheelies and one of the girls got it immediately (yeah, that's you Katy!) and rode the wheelie for about 10 pedal strokes! It was crazy! She threw her bike down and was jumping up and down with excitement and proclaimed "Omg that's it! I'm quitting my job, my new job is going to be riding wheelies full time!!!!"

Needless to say, fun hilarious things like that stick with you :)

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
In regards to mountain biking, I think most women, and men, have an idea in their head that they can just go out on the trail and do a mountain bike ride - it's as easy as riding a bike, right? People who've never mountain biked before often don't realize there is some actual technique necessary to enjoy it while you're learning. And then they crash or get discouraged and decide that maybe mountain biking isn't for them. In reality, there are a few key things that can weight the first experience more to the fun side of the scale, and lessen the frustration and struggle.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?

Wow, that's a big one. There is still a long way to go, but it's important to acknowledge that we are making progress. It is also essential we acknowledge companies that have always backed women's cycling financially. Support those companies, buy from them, tell them thanks. Liv Cycling, the title sponsor of Ladies AllRide has done an awesome job supporting women, as has SRAM. Additionally, CLIF bar has set an example for the industry since the early 2000's when they sponsored the all-women's LUNA mountain bike team. They have always had, and continue to sponsor, fast, smart, dynamic women. I have a huge amount of respect for the brand because of what they do to give back.

It would be useful if the industry catered to all of us, not just to men. We as riders want/need more female representation. Diverse representation. All the colors and shapes and ages that actually represent all bike riders. Please industry influencers, show more women doing rad stuff, racing, riding, wrenching, announcing, all of it. And I would personally love to see a female Red Bull announcer for the women's DH races.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I know how much cycling has given me, and how much it keeps giving me, because of how supportive and empowering my cycling family has been. My hope is for more women to tap into the beautiful sense of independence and belonging that the cycling community provides.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

I used to vault. On horseback! -------------->