Dirt Rag Magazine

The Roam Rydes Podcast


“Nobody reads anymore” goes the saying. Maybe that’s why podcasts are on the rise: one-third of Americans listened to one last year (according to the Pew Research Center). But search for cycling podcasts and you won’t find more than a handful.

One of them is Roam Rydes—a women’s cycling podcast created and produced by Ash Bocast, Liv Cycling’s west coast event specialist and demo driver. The show, which started out as simply a hobby, is up to about 3,000 listeners per episode. Bocast, who hunkers down in a hotel room and puts in about an hour of work per minute of each 30-minute episode, thinks she just might be onto something.

Ash Bocast and her dog, Ryder

Ash Bocast and her dog, Ryder. Photo: Jason Todd

“I couldn’t find anything that I wanted to listen to and I figured there has to be other women out there also looking for women cycling content that, to be blunt, isn’t crap,” said Bocast. “I realized I had the desire and the skillset to do it myself and a unique position with job flexibility.”

Roam Rydes focuses largely on everyday women. Bocast started out trying to do a #vanlife podcast, but that market was already saturated. She realized she was meeting “rad ladies” on a regular basis through her nomadic job and decided to share their bike-related stories on a broader scale. The most important thing to Bocast is being able to provide inspiration that is relatable, which means famous cyclists or bike industry women might not get top billing.

“Sure, Jill Kintner is an amazing rider, but reading about her doesn’t necessarily make me feel more confident about getting out on a trail,” said Bocast. “We need a collective effort across the board to help women feel they belong. It doesn’t matter how old you are, the color of your skin, your size or how broken you are, there’s a place for you on the trail. It might not be at an enduro race, but there’s a Sunday ride we’re going on and you can come, too, kind of thing … Biking is fun. Women need to hear that message over and over until they believe it.”

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Still, one of Bocast’s most memorable interviews was with Leigh Donovan, the most decorated female pro mountain biker in U.S. history. The episode is titled “Choose Bikes” and “the stoke level is at eleven for this episode.”

“[Donovan] has this amazingly gregarious and welcoming personality that I wanted to showcase—basically show that women can be both successful and wonderful in the bike world,” said Bocast. “I sat down and asked her for the ‘real’ Leigh story. I was not expecting to hear about drug rehab and her parents’ marriage falling apart [and how riding bikes fit in]. It was not stuff you can find on Wikipedia. It was an ‘a-ha’ moment that I have an opportunity to help share stories that are totally relatable to anyone who rides bikes or wants to ride bikes.”

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For Roam Rydes, Bocast has talked to women who operate mountain bike getaways, lead cycling tours all over the world, sail through the air with incredible skill, ride their bike solo across continents, survive horrific setbacks to rise again and young girls who simply love riding bikes. Each episode of Roam Rydes gives the listener a taste of each subject’s personality, their tips and their reality. Nothing is sugar-coated, and humanity is maintained.

For an amateur, Bocast (who attended a technology academy for high school and describes herself as a “closeted super-nerd”) has a seasoned radio voice, an ease about her interviewing and is clearly able to make her subjects comfortable enough to tell great stories. The shows are engaging, often featuring un-cut sections of very real conversations. Her goal is authenticity, and she turns away anyone that only wants to promote a product or service.

“At the end of the day, I’m so grateful. What I get paid to do [as a Liv demo driver] blows my mind,” said Bocast. “That goes for the Roam Rydes podcast, too. Being able to share these women’s stories is such an honor. I love the feedback I get from women about what hearing it means to them.”

Find Roam Rydes online and on iTunes and give it a listen.

 

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Bell Builds Community Through the Joy Ride Ambassador Program

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Photos: Josh Sawyer and Emily Walley

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A community is a village, a town or a city, but a sense of community is not defined by proximity. It’s the nurse and the lawyer, the photographer, designer and the park ranger; it’s the social media specialist, the bike shop salesperson and the mom all pursuing a common goal.

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A few years ago Jessica Klodnicki, Bell Helmet’s executive vice president and general manager, found herself standing alone at a bike shop. She’d expected to join a scheduled group mountain bike ride but no one else showed up. Ultimately, she made her connection, but the experience wasn’t what she’d hoped for. As a relatively new rider, she was looking for a group ride that was committed, organized and fun; she was seeking community.

If you mountain bike, you’ve likely heard a friend say, “I really want to start mountain biking, but…”

Fill in the blank: I don’t have a bike; I can’t afford a bike; my bike doesn’t fit; I don’t know what to look for in a bike; I don’t know the trails; I don’t have anyone at my level to ride with; I’m afraid to join a ride. And so on. These are huge hurdles associated with mountain biking. Whether the reason is social, economic or psychological, the barriers seem to be just a little bit bigger for women.

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To mitigate some of these challenges and grow the sport of mountain biking among women, Bell Helmets has implemented the Joy Ride Ambassador Program. Historically, Bell has been perceived as a masculine company, but Joy Ride aims to open doors to the female consumer.

The program is motivated by and modeled after Girls Rock, a Santa Cruz all-women’s mountain bike group founded by Klodnicki not long after that lonely morning at the bike shop. With her tireless dedication and passion for the sport, an eager following of burgeoning and advanced female riders, and the support of the ever-present Santa Cruz bike industry, Girls Rock has grown from merely four women to 400 since the spring of 2014.

“It showed us that there was a real need for women of all levels, everything from beginner to advanced to come together and have the opportunity to ride,” said Klodnicki.

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I spent this past weekend observing the Joy Ride kickoff with Bell’s Ambassadors and had the pleasure of meeting many of the Girls Rock members at social events. There was a unanimous wave of excited chatter about what has developed from four ladies in a parking lot.

As an outsider, I could see and hear the joy throughout the room. Girls Rock was certainly born out of desire and drive. Perhaps Klodnicki’s personal hurdles are what gives this program its energy. She wanted someone to ride with; she assumed other women did as well and she made it happen.

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The Joy Ride Ambassador Program

With the support of Bell, eight women from Nashville, Tennessee, to Edmonton, Alberta, will build a community of female mountain bikers within their respective locations. Each ambassador is expected to offer a regular all-women’s mountain bike ride every month for one year. Bell wants to expand this program in the future, but it wanted to “start small.”

Inevitably, challenges will present themselves for each of these women and limiting the group size allows the company to be connected, involved and supportive throughout the ambassador process, seeing that each of these women succeed in their programs.

Bell received over 200 applications for the Joy Ride Ambassador Program, many hailing from epic ride destinations, but opted to move forward with some less-traveled locations. “We really wanted to find spots where there was opportunity,” said Klodnicki.

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While Bell had several bike companies offer to sponsor the Joy Ride program, it declined, wanting to be flexible and keep doors open to all of the bike industry. Essentially, Bell chose not to team up with anyone so it could team up with everyone. Each of the Joy Ride Ambassadors is encouraged to do the same in her own community.

Ibis, Blackburn, Camelbak, Giro and Luna Bar all provided generous support for the kickoff weekend. While Bell certainly wants strong brand recognition at each Joy Ride event—the ambassadors have all received Joy Ride helmets, apparel and pop-up tents—the ladies were encouraged to seek support from everyone they know, including friends involved in other ambassador programs. It’s important to Bell that the Joy Ride program is all-encompassing.

The name “Joy Ride” and the associated apparel is the result of surveying 750 women about why they ride, their style preferences, wants and needs. Bell heard the word “joy” repeatedly throughout the process. You’ll notice that while the apparel has a feminine quality, it tastefully stands out from much of what you see for women. With the Joy Ride gear, Bell was striving for “purpose built while being aesthetically beautiful.”

The Joy Ride program is focused on the four following pillars:

1. Obsessed with dirt
2. Welcoming and inclusive
3. Fun! (and sometimes educational)
4. Organized, but flexible

Bell is providing a “prescriptive tool kit” for the ambassadors which included a vast array of suggestions for building a community: pre- and post-ride activities; educational programs; partnering with local shops, brands and businesses; giveaways; social media accounts; trail etiquette; volunteers and role assignments; ride levels and more.

Klodnicki emphasized the importance of the ambassadors dividing the women into self-identified ride levels. The ability to challenge yourself is present when you ride with others at a similar or slightly more advanced level than oneself. It’s the “if she can ride it, I can ride it” philosophy. I’ve personally found this beneficial to my own growth as a mountain biker.

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Ultimately, these eight women must tailor their programs to fit into their respective communities. Terrain, weather, personalities, riding level and personal preferences will all be factors of how these programs evolve.

From frigid cold to unbearable heat to moisture, the fourth pillar: “organized, but flexible,” may be the biggest challenge for some of the ambassadors. For instance, after three weeks of 70 degrees and sunshine, Bell hadn’t expected a weekend of heavy rain and high wind. We spent the first day in Santa Cruz having a blast on the new Ibis Mojo 3 in a steady drizzle, but riding on day two was out of the question.

Meet the Joy Ride Ambassadors

A 20-year age gap spans the youngest and eldest ambassador. Through their diverse careers and backgrounds, they represent a small cross-section of the U.S. and Canada. While they have some connections, most of these women do not have a background in the bike industry. Perhaps this makes them a better fit for the ambassador role. A few of the ambassadors have already held their first Joy Ride and they were stoked to share their successes.

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Isabelle Jacques, North Vancouver, BC: Isabelle raced mountain bikes as a kid, but was always training with boys. It wasn’t until a few years ago that she started riding with women and that’s when she saw her riding skills really progress. She’s a certified Professional Mountain Bike Instructor and enjoys sharing riding strengths with friends, i.e. swapping downhill techniques for cross country skills. “I find that this program is almost something I’ve been waiting for … let’s just get out there and have a good time.”

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Samantha Jones, Kansas City, MO: When returning to her hometown of Kansas City, Sam was the only woman at the Lawrence MTB Club weekly rides. She started a Thursday night women’s ride, and the ride grew to 16 people before winter.

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Nina Karpoff, Edmonton, AB: As a resident of Edmonton, Alberta, Nina’s mountain bike rides are currently challenged by cold temperatures and unfavorable trail conditions, but she left the Joy Ride weekend feeling prepared. In addition to being a skilled rider, she’s also a talented photographer. Be sure to follow her on Instagram.

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Amber Krueger, Madison, WI: Amber lives 15 minutes from singletrack, but she expressed that Madison needed the Joy Ride program to encourage women to explore the area’s trails. She completed her inaugural Joy Ride event in February with a seasonally appropriate fat bike ride. Seventy women gathered at the Quarry Ridge trailhead for coffee and doughnuts before hitting the trails on Surly demo bikes. The trail offered a short loop for all riding abilities. As a representative of the midwest, Amber is one of the ambassadors that will be challenged by cold and wet trail conditions. As a Wisconsin native, I can appreciate the brisk, negative-8 degree event but Amber thoughtfully combatted the cold with a heated tent and a bonfire.

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Karina Magrath, Coeur d’ Alene, ID: Karina is Professional Mountain Bike Instructor certified. She was accustomed to large women’s riding groups when she lived in Seattle, but the percentage of women on her Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, group rides was small. She’s looking forward to her August Joy Ride camping event at Farragut State Park, in Athel, Idaho. Women will ride from the campground to trails that offer opportunities for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders. She’s already received 100 RSVPs.

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Veronique Pardee, Tucson, AZ: It’s been over a year since Veronique and a fellow cyclist started the program In Session. The group was inspired by the Trek Dirt Series and developed from the realization that she hadn’t spent much time “sessioning” trail sections and features. She had up to 13 women at the rides and as they neared its anniversary, she wondered how it would grow. At Veronique’s first Joy Ride event, she gathered 55 women. She was really focused on the social aspect of this ride, so she shuttled people out and back from a local brewery where they were offered $1 post-ride beers.

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Missy Petty, Knoxville, TN: Missy is a sponsored racer. Her home city of Knoxville won the Bell Built grant in 2015, and the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club is using the funds to build a gravity trail at Urban Wilderness. The location already has up to 40 miles of trail and this challenging terrain will offer Missy’s Joy Ride group trail access for all skill levels only a few minutes from the city.

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Kendall Ryan, Richmond, VA: Kendall learned to ride from Luna Chicks, an all-women’s team, and she’s convinced that’s why she’s had such a positive riding experience. Richmond was the recipient of a Bell Built grant in 2014 for the Richmond Regional Ride Center, and they’re continuing to expand on this trail network of beginner and intermediate friendly trails.

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Why do we need programs like Joy Ride?

The Joy Ride Ambassador program provides a sense of camaraderie and community. It fosters motivation, builds relationships and keeps people moving, but there’s more.

To get a little perspective on how the Joy Ride program would affect mountain bike advocacy at large, I spoke with Laurel Harkness, IMBA Region Director for Northern California. Laurel has been riding since 1987, but it was three years before she rode with another woman. For her, it’s inspiring to see a program like this and it’s a great gathering place for stories that she can retell at a later date. She also sees tremendous value in terms of hierarchy of engagement. It’s where beginners start.

“I see this demographic as being very important and untapped,” said Harkness. As a veteran mountain biker and a single mom of two kids who also ride, she represents a less-publicized demographic at land manager meetings and seeks to help change preconceived notions of who a mountain biker is. Her son rides to find the next best fishing spot and her daughter goes out seeking a great photo spot. Currently, IMBA memberships are 80-percent male and 20-percent female. Harkness would love to see that level out. A program like Joy Ride is the springboard.

Congratulations to this amazing group of women that will inspire, promote and grow women’s rides in their communities. These eight women are planting the seed for a future of ambassadors across the nation and, hopefully, across the world. Follow all these ladies on Instagram, check out their ride pages on Facebook, and be sure to attend a Joy Ride if you’re in their area.

Become an advocate for all women’s rides by helping Bell build a map. Drop a pin so you can connect with women across the U.S. and Canada; host a ride, find a leader, build a community.

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Feature: The Voice of Amanda Batty


Words by Chris “Bama” Milucky
Photos by John Shafer

ABatty-DR-CoverOriginally published in Issue #187

Amanda Batty gained a degree of notoriety [in 2015], not because of her race results as a professional downhill and enduro racer but because she abruptly resigned from a position as an online columnist due to sexism, double standards and misogyny often found within our industry and its media.

As a supporter of women’s rights and equality in a male-dominated sport, she was appalled by the disrespectful feedback, lack of respect and outright verbal attacks she received for standing up for herself and women in general. Amanda considers herself outspoken and opinionated, yet she’s also funny, clever and smart. While some may say she’s a man-hating feminist, she doesn’t want to wear that label: she considers herself the voice of equality for all individuals and a spokeswoman for mutual respect amongst everyone in our sport.

Shortly after her announcement, I took a trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, to unlock some of these misogynistic mysteries and see what Amanda had to say about her current situation and that of the bike industry in general when it comes to equality. Her heart was still black and blue from the breakup, and it showed during this candid and insightful interview where nothing was held back.

CHRIS MILUCKY: Are you a feminist?

AMANDA BATTY: A feminist? Sure, if you want to label it. I prefer “humanist” or even “sane,” but sure, let’s call me a feminist. But if I am, can we say that I’m probably the most liberal, wide-open feminist on earth? I don’t usually like to describe myself as a feminist because I don’t subscribe to a lot of the modern exclusions that mainstream feminism seems to be all about, and I also dislike compartmentalization.

CM: So what’s it like?

AB: It’s just like any other label. Troublemaker, bisexual, self-educated, felon, professional athlete, you name it, they’re all labels. I’ve fallen under a lot of labels, but I prefer to be seen as a human, as an individual. Being labeled as, or identifying as, a feminist is just one more way for people to sum me up in a word. But it’s not that easy. Just like “sexual violence survivor” doesn’t sum me up, I’m not branded by my history as an elementary math genius. Would I waltz around claiming to be a high school spelling bee champion? No, and “feminist” falls under that. It’s a manipulator for someone else’s perspective. That’s what being a feminist is like. It’s not really like anything, I guess. It’s just being of an opinion that everyone is equal.

CM: You don’t really hate men then?

AB: I don’t hate men even a little. In fact, I often prefer spending time with guys. Most of my friends (up until recently) are male, and I’m closest with my brothers out of all my siblings. I’m a humanist, and every individual is equal in my eyes.

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CM: What’s the difference between viewing women as physically sexy versus strong and athletic? Aren’t they both judging the body?

AB: I think sexy is interpretive, even physically. If you get 10 people in a room, their description of physical sexiness is going to differ. I find athleticism sexy. I think physical, athletic prowess is powerful and confident and really sexually attractive. But do I want to be marketed a product with a guy in half shorts and sweat dripping down his 12-pack? No. A product should be able to stand on its own for me to buy it.

I think confidence is sexy. I like moustaches, strong arms and really work-hammered hands, and I despise beards, man-buns and loud, jerkish assholes. Is it all physical? No! Those physical and behavioral markers are signs of a human who appreciates hard work. I like women who are strong: emotionally, physically and mentally. I respect a girl who can kick my ass on a bike and who thinks for herself. That sexiness has nothing to do with physicality or visual stimulation. So, long-form answer? No. Athletic is definite: it’s muscular and it’s capable. Strong is also definite. Sexy can vary between body sizes, types, clothing, hair—you name it.

CM: Why did you leave your writing position within the bike industry?

AB: I left because of the larger issue of community sexism and overall censorship. If we truly aim to grow the sport (instead of allowing it to stagnate into a political mire of what can and cannot be said), [we] need to allow dissenting opinions. And it’s OK, honestly—I am unpredictable. But I don’t play by anyone’s script of what’s appropriate and I don’t respect authority. Authority is earned, not given, and if you want to earn authority, you treat everyone with respect. I don’t respect hierarchy or chain of command, either.

It came down to a decision for me: Do I maintain my integrity and speak up as honestly as I’m able to about the issues that really plague us as an industry, or do I gloss over what I’m really feeling and churn out worthless, mindless, commercially valuable content? And the decision wasn’t easy, but it was clear. I write best when I’m passionately involved, and I stopped caring and my writing suffered. The line “never push an honest person to the point where they no longer give a fuck” is one that I’ve come to identify intimately with.

At the end of this all, it doesn’t matter if my career crashes and burns inside of the bike industry. I’m not racing to pay the bills, and I have a good education, a whole slew of skills and a creative mind. I work my ass off; I’m passionate as hell. I have insight to offer the world, and there’s value in that. My experiences matter, and even if they help one person or they change one tiny thing that creates a ripple effect, then my life is worth something. My existence has value.

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Despite the effort made to include female perspectives, a lot of hate is directed at women. I can fight like nobody’s business, but at the end of the day, there has to be ground gained in the fight. For every inch of ground gained in the effort towards equality, we jump 10 miles in the opposite direction. Is the fight futile? Fuck no. I’m still getting messages from women who saw me as someone they knew would stand up for them, and that counts for something.

Women don’t need a champion, but we do need fearlessness, and whether it comes from stupidity, brain damage or pure rage at the status quo, my fearlessness was something they could count on. They still can. Is it always based in logic? Hell no. I’m human, but is it there? Yeah. It always will be, but it’s time for me to fight on a larger stage, and my role might be playing the outlier. I may be the borderline of behavior for women to fall within, but if I can push that boundary line or even blur it to where a woman is judged less harshly because she’s not quite as crazy as I am, then I’ve accomplished something. She now has more room to make change happen.

CM: Do you still care if men are misogynists?

AB: Well, I honestly don’t give two shits whether or not someone is a misogynist, to be honest. But the second a person’s actions (or inaction) affects my life, I’ll throw down. If a guy (or girl) wants to live in peace and secretly hate everyone or even a select group, that’s on them. But if someone’s hatred bleeds over into a sport I’m involved in and they’re given a platform to influence young minds about hatred and discrimination, that’s when I’ll step in. Why? Because those small influences, that tone, that undercurrent, it affects how I’m treated, even in small ways. It affects how we see sexual objectification, it affects how girls are promoted into leadership positions, into the jobs they’re offered and the ones they accept. It affects all of us that are compartmentalized into one box because of our gender.

Like an open wound, once it’s cut it bleeds into what’s available for women and girls, the opportunities we earn as athletes and the legacy of women in sport overall. If we accept that, suddenly, we’re accepting less than our best. And that’s not what mountain biking is about. So my message to the sexists and the misogynists is this: go ahead and be a hater—I don’t care. But the second it affects my life, or me, I will light you up. If I’ve done something wrong as a person, then let me know. Tell me so I can fix it, but if I’ve done something you feel is “inappropriate” for my gender, just go right ahead and fuck off.

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CM: Why not just live independently in apathy? Can’t you find your own happiness and hunt it ferociously as if you must kill and consume it for survival?

AB: In a sense, I’ve tried that. I tried to ignore the obvious, but I was born a fighter. Sitting back and watching the world burn is OK for some people, and that’s fine, but apathy isn’t for me. Passion is like nuclear energy: I can either bury it or release it, but either way it comes out. It can either manifest positively or negatively, but it’s my responsibility to decide which one it will be.

Personally, the whole happiness search is overrated. I don’t think happiness is something to be “gotten,” but rather it’s a state of mind that’s maintained through all sorts of storms. I’ve hunted happiness, and all I found was regret because I wasted so much goddamn time. But I found that, personally, freedom and passion makes me happy. The freedom to pursue my passion, be it bikes, traveling, art, knowledge, curiosity. And just like every other human, I want to share that with everyone I come across. Sometimes I really fuck it up, though. Despite being a writer and reader and talker, I’m a terrible communicator.

What I want is girls and women to dispel this bullshit myth of perfection, this expectation. Whether it’s clothes, behavior, body type, looks, education, life pattern, etc., I want to blow the doors wide-open. It’s OK to make choices that have negative impacts and still be a great human because that’s what we are: humans. My belief is that it’s OK to try and fail—fail a lot. You don’t get that drive to fail from apathy. It comes from passion and a desire to learn, this inherent curiosity. “What will happen?” is the question I want to know.

CM: What should we do? How can we respect women for their minds and hard work, yet still appreciate their beauty in the bike industry?

AB: For me, when I look at another person and find myself valuing them more for their appearance than for their humanity, that’s my sign that I’m too caught up. And it happens for different reasons. I’m not going to say that we aren’t physical creatures attracted to pretty things—that’s why sex sells so well. But humans aren’t objects; other people don’t exist for our satisfaction. If we stop behaving as though they do, maybe companies will stop selling that. Maybe companies will stop throwing their money at people who are willing to do “whatever it takes” to be famous and instead start supporting people who give back to the industry and have actually invested in a sustainable future for our sport.

When people stop buying because of objectification, companies will stop using it. But it takes people standing up, speaking out and saying, “Wait a minute, this isn’t right,” and it starts with recognizing our own humanity. I don’t want to be valued solely for my physicality, and if I feel that way, others feel that way, too. And that means there’s more beneath the surface to a lot of people who are just like me: human. Complex, interesting, smart, comical, and that creates a connection that stems from curiosity. Does it make them any less physically attractive? Of course not. I think we just have to remember that people are people; everyone is an individual.


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Save the dates: indoor MTB clinics for women


The Wheel Mill in Pittsburgh and Ray’s MTB Indoor Park in both Cleveland and Milwaukee are hosting women-only weekend clinics this winter and spring. Boost your mountain bike and BMX skills in a supportive, no-pressure environment even as the snow flies.

The Wheel Mill, Pittsburgh

Ride Like a Girl Weekend
Date: January 9-10, 2016

The weekend welcomes riders of all types and skill levels. There will be six instructors on hand to coach you on everything from freestyle BMX to cross-country mountain biking. Clinics will range from fundamental to advanced skills.

More info: The Wheel Mill

Ray’s MTB Indoor Park

Women’s Weekend
Cleveland date: February 5-7, 2016
Milwaukee date: March 4-6, 2016

Skills clinics are led by world champion Leigh Donovan and her coaching staff. Women’s Weekend is a no-barriers, inspirational gathering of female cyclists, friends, families and women of every background.

More info on both clinics: Ray’s MTB

 

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Bell Helmets working to get more women into mountain biking


PRESS RELEASE — Bell Helmets today announced an important extension to its new Joy Ride women’s program – the launch of six Joy Ride grassroots program cities, each with a dedicated female mountain bike ambassador. These ambassadors will help inspire and enable female mountain bikers with regular, structured, fun and social rides that appeal to all levels of riders where they can enjoy both challenge and camaraderie in a non-race oriented environment.

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“I’m thrilled to have these six ladies representing our brand and helping us bring more women in to mountain biking. They are all involved in their local communities, incredibly passionate about mountain biking and empowering women to enjoy the sport,” said Jessica Klodnicki, Executive Vice President and
General Manager of Bell.

Bell received almost 200 applications for five coveted riding locations in the U.S. Bell selected six towns that have a growing mountain bike scene and a need for a women’s program. The Joy Ride Ambassadors for 2016 are:

  • Karina Magrath, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – Recipient of a PMBI (Professional Mountain Bike Instructor) Level 1 coaching certification who has recently starting hosting local women’s rides
  • Veronique Pardee, Tucson, Arizona – Coaches a youth cycling program called El Grupo and started the women’s InSession riding program
  • Samantha Jones , Kansas City, Missouri – Park ranger and newly-elected president of the Lawrence Mountain Bike Club
  • Amber Krueger, Madison, Wisconsin – Member of Revolution Cycles Cycling Club and founder of a women’s mountain bike forum and bi-weekly ride in conjunction with IMBA and its local chapter, CORP
  • Missy Petty, Knoxville, Tennessee – Women’s ride leader for the Easy Rider MTB Ride with TN Valley Bikes and no-drop women’s MTB rides with Harper’s Bike Shop; active member of AMBC (Appalachian Mountain Bike Club)
  • Kendell Ryan, Richmond, Virginia – Member of River City Women’s Racing (RCWR) that has strong connections in the community for bike advocacy and former member of local Team LUNA Chix

Bell will bring the six ambassadors to Santa Cruz, California, in March to Joy Ride Camp. When the ambassadors go back to their local markets, they will be charged with starting monthly women’s mountain bike riding programs. Bell will provide field support including a guidebook, digital tool kits, promotional gear and budget to quickly cultivate these riding programs in their local areas.

Because Bell received so many applications from women who are already building or running women’s programs in their local area, the company was inspired to try to build the most comprehensive map that will connect existing women’s riding groups in America. Bell welcomes all women’s groups that want to be listed on the map and encourages their participation to be included. See the map and add your group here.

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Finding new limits at the VIDA MTB women’s skills clinic series


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Photos by Emily Walley and Justin Steiner.

The VIDA MTB Series is a multi-city women’s clinic tour spearheaded by Sarah Rawley and Elena Forchielli that evolved out of the Beti Bike Clinics of 2013 and 2014. The Sedona MTB Festival was the debut of the VIDA MTB Series and the first of five stops for 2015. Participants had the option to sign up for a one- or two-day clinic for $180 and $310 respectively. Clinic registration also included entry to the Sedona MTB Fest’s bike demos, shuttles, bands, and beer tickets.

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In addition to professional mountain bike skills instruction, VIDA clinics promote cycling as an holistic lifestyle activity. Each of the coaches and ambassadors shared their successes within the sport and they were unified in their passion and excitement about expanding women’s mountain biking. Listening to the tales of coaches, ambassadors and participants, one quickly realizes cycling can have a ton of positive influence in women’s lives in terms of community, relationships, environment, emotional and physical fitness and fun.

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The VIDA clinics are supported by Yeti, and VIDA aims to reflect the signature Yeti “tribe” mentality at its events. One way that they’re achieving this goal is by building a network of ambassadors throughout the country. VIDA ambassadors connect with the women in their area, growing the mountain bike community.

“These are the women getting people stoked and motivated to get after it, organizing trail days, advocating for bikers, and volunteering in their communities.” according to the VIDA website. Ambassadors also play supporting roles at VIDA Clinics by demonstrating skills, sweeping rides, and more. Think you’d make a great VIDA ambassador? Apply here.

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Day One

A total of 6 coaches, 14 ambassadors, and 35 participants from Maine to California gathered at the Sedona Posse Grounds Park. In pre-clinic surveys each individual detailed her riding history, perceived skill level and what she hoped to learn. We then split into groups of six that varied from novice to advanced. The small group size allowed time for the coaches to critique each individual rider and hone in on areas to improve, while still large enough to provide some necessary peer pressure. VIDA VP and Marketing Director Elena Forchielli emphasized that the groups would remain small even as the clinic scaled up; it would simply mean employing more coaches.

Basic bike/body separation, body position, cornering, looking ahead, lifting the front and rear wheel independently, and drops were all on the agenda. The coaches demonstrated each skill and then we practiced several times while critiqued. For me, skills out of context will forever feel awkward, but I think that’s what makes it so important; when it’s the only thing I have to think about it I’m aware of what I’m doing wrong.

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After the morning skills session, lunch was provided at the Posse Grounds Park and then we set out for on-trail instruction. My coach was downhill-slalom-enduro-extraordinaire Wendy Palmer of Moab. Wendy has coached me in the past and I admire her expert instruction and welcoming personality. She has the unique ability to connect with each rider on a personal level, evaluate her skills and push her in a constructive manner. We spent much of the afternoon on Sedona’s Jordan and Anthill Trails, stopping at locations en route to work on line selection, steep descents and drops. After the on-trail instruction ride, there was an optional yoga session in the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, the MTB festival’s home base.

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Raffles from awesome sponsors like Smith Optics, Yeti Cycles, Skratch Labs, Stan’s NoTubes, and a free two-day VIDA clinic took place each day. Everyone that stuck around walked away with a prize.

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Saturday closed with tech talk from FOX. Even the guys gathered ’round for this informative information session where Jeff Menown, of Outside Technical Services, disassembled a fork, explained the inner workings, and detailed proper suspension setup.

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Day Two

On Sunday we grabbed prepared lunches at the VIDA tent and went straight to the Mystic trailhead to ride Pigtail, Hogwash, and Broken Arrow up to the view at Chicken Point for more on-trail instruction. All of these trails were challenging, offering excellent opportunities to challenge the skills we had practiced the day prior. We rode Pigtail a few times which offered technical descents into switchbacks, drops, and a jump.

Personally, our discussions about downhill brake modulation on technical descents and proper body position in switchbacks were invaluable lessons for me; from Friday to Monday my confidence descending increased dramatically and I think this speaks volumes about the instruction.

I wasn’t the only one that pedaled away with a success story, here’s what some other participants had to say.

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“I rode things that I would instinctually avoid if I were riding by myself. I learned to be confident and smart in my riding. I learned how to do a jump. I learned that riding with a group of girls is super fun and inspiring. Having already ridden back on my home trails, I feel like they are brand new and I tried a couple new lines today that I’ve never done before.” – Taylor of Tucson, Arizona.

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“I found out with the clinic that I have a lot of bad habits but now I know the correct way to do things and also that I am very capable of doing things that I didn’t think I could previously do. I cannot wait to practice more and get rid of the bad habits. I really wish that I had taken this clinic years ago and I will definitely go next year to continue learning new things.” – Becky of Guaymas, Mexico.

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“The day after I got home, I met up with a girl I met at the clinic and we rode one of my favorite trails in Phoenix. When we came up to my usual “I’ll just walk this” section, I felt equipped to try it, analyze my approach and conquer the former obstacle. Overall I left the experience empowered and more confident in riding a bike. A success story for me!” – Heather of Phoenix, Arizona.

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Prior to the clinic I’d found myself idling as an intermediate rider; feeling like I’d hit a physical and mental plateau. But after a couple days out of my element with VIDA instruction I experienced noticeable growth as a rider, and I realized that I hadn’t been pushing myself to improve. After the clinic I had visions of conquering specific sections on my home trails that I’ve never ridden in the past.

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The VIDA MTB Series really is for ALL skill levels; even the most skilled rider has a place with VIDA. The advanced group tackled one of Sedona’s most challenging trails, Hangover. This steep and exposed trail lives up to its name and is not for the faint of heart.

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There are five VIDA Clinics on the roster for 2015! Next up is the Core one-day Clinic in Boulder, CO. Start planning your weekend to better riding and new friends!

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VIDA MTB Series Founders, Elena Forchielli and Sarah Rawley.

Read a full report of the Sedona MTB Festival here.

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