When Tammy Donahugh and Sara Jerrell first asked me if I wanted to go to Switzerland to help coach at the Women’s Bike Summit the word “No” could not surface from my vocabulary …even though I am broke and live in a van. So “Yes” was my answer and then I had to find a way to make it happen. My 97 year-old world-traveled Aunt Sue gave me this advice, “Never miss an opportunity like this! Borrow the money if you have to.” My ancestors (paternal grandfather’s stem) hailed from Switzerland and my surname, the Swiss-German Oppliger, is very common there. I had visited Switzerland once before and feel a strong connection to the country due to my family’s heritage. So armed with advice and my heritage I was determined. Then, it actually came to be …
This blog is dedicated to those who supported me and allowed me to connect with some wonderful mountain bike women from all over the world.
Christine Young and Mike Young
Shawn and Doug Oppliger
And of course, my sponsors
I was off to St. Moritz, Switzerland to fill the big shoes of Tammy and Sara!! Leading workshops about suspension set up, mechanical maintenance and tuning, pumping, jumping, and cornering.
Ladies from all over the world gathered in this famous ski destination, but to tackle it the best way we know how… with mountain bikes. With the help of Laura Breitenmoser, Britta Wild, and Allegra Tourism mountain biking is an emerging attraction in St. Moritz.
Every one of us was there for a different reason; some to lead work shops, guide our adventures, take photos, make connections, build confidence in skills, and most of all to ride bikes and create friendships. Oh, and we shouldn’t forget everyone’s common goal of getting up-close and personal with the friendly Swiss bike trail cows.
One of my favorite topics to teach women about is bike component functionality and tuning. While getting my engineering degree, I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about bike wrenching. I feel that the biggest barrier for women in this sport is much like what I experienced at engineering school. Often, women feel intimidated because they have little experience with complex mechanical systems. I believe women should be made to feel welcome into the mechanical aspects of biking by talking and learning in a genuine and non-intimidating environment. So that’s what I try to do in my mechanical (and all other) clinics.
Although I had a great time teaching my workshops, my favorite times at the summit were when I was learning from the other leaders.
Tina Gerber, creator of OutsideIsFree, gave an incredible session on the ins and outs of social media. This was one of my favorite topics to learn about because the social media world is ever changing and evolving. Keeping up on this seems to be key to success on those platforms. Tina was my roommate and a better match was never made! As a result, I am now lucky to have her as a close friend, social media reference, and most of all a talented riding buddy!
Emily Horridge gave us the challenge of planning a long undiscovered adventure. We used topographic reading skills to create our own route for an epic unknown adventure. Emily is a long time mountain bike guide and retired downhill racer. This chick could be anyone’s MTB idle. She is always full of humor, excitement, adventure, and brings bike handling skills to the next level!
Anne-Marie Flammerfeld lead a workshop on mental training. As a gravity racer I was very intrigued by this topic since so much of the sport is really a fight against your mental self. Anne is a ultra-trail runner, meaning she races hundreds of miles over the most challenging terrains in the world… for fun! (For fun?) She explained that focus and relaxation are key aspects to training the mind. Little things in life, like brushing our teeth using the opposite of the usual hand, can train out minds to really focus on a specific task and how to complete it. I still have SO much to learn about this topic … but am continuing to brush my teeth with my left hand ever since her talk. Oh, I must mention that Anne-Marie just happened to break the record for the fastest ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro.
I wouldn’t want to rob you of all the cow moments I promised, so don’t worry; they will be dispersed throughout the blog 🙂
Sam Saskia Dugon led a workshop on photography and also helped capture the whole event with incredible photos. Em Horridge was also behind the lens and used Sam’s guidance to capture some banger photos as well. These ladies can snap some epic photos but also keep on shredding with the best of us … even while wearing their camera bags!
There were so many more moments over the week that I could write about, but for now I will sum it up with some great photos which captured the general vibe of the summit.
There are many more stories to tell about the summit and my new friends. Ask me about them when you see me! Thank you to Britta, Laura, and everyone else for the unforgettable experience.