#BikeLife - Interview with Josie

Josie is tiny. At just 5 ‘ 2” with wide green eyes, you probably wouldn’t guess that this delicate young woman in Decorah, Iowa is shaking things up in the cycling world. But she is.

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When Josie discovered biking, it completely upended her life. Cycling gave her the strength, courage, and peace of mind to end an unhappy marriage and strike out on her own, finding true love (and a cycling partner) in her new husband, Travis. Her website, Josie’s Bike Life, is her confessional and personal platform for getting more women interested in cycling. Here, Josie provides an exclusive interview about her life's journey. 

What does #bikelife mean to you?

Everything. My life literally is surrounded by #bikelife. Riding, commuting, working at my husband Travis’s bike shop, being on the DHPT: Decorah Human Powered Trails board, founding Fearless Women of Dirt, and so much more. It’s the fact that biking can encompass your life- it’s more than simply turning wheels, it’s changing lives.

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"Biking can encompass your life- it’s more than simply turning wheels, it’s changing lives."

What’s your story of overcoming fear in order to lead an adventurous life?

In 2012, I bought a bicycle. I’d been married for almost 6 years to a man I had known for about 10. I considered him a friend, but we weren’t really partners in life. I had literally grown up. (We had started dating when I was 18 and had gotten married when I was 22. A classic “got married too young, didn’t know who I was” scenario.)

Change needed to happen, but I had never experienced living on my own financially. I was terrified. I knew we weren’t benefitting ourselves by staying in the marriage, even for convenience sake.

That first bike was truly my therapy for a while. During all of the questioning and self-doubt, I found peace when I rode. I could escape all of the doubts and quiet my mind, and that would help me feel in control and strong. I never expected a bicycle to have the power of changing my life, but it certainly did, and I am forever grateful.

How did cycling change your life?

It helped me find confidence, love, friendship, and strength. Cycling has given me motivation to make a difference in my community as well as create a camaraderie among other women mountain bikers.

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What kind of bike(s) do you ride? What kinds of riding do you do?

I am a mountain bike rider and commuter. When it comes to bikes that I ride, I have too many! You can read about them here. Full disclosure, we are working on minimizing my fleet by 4, so that makes me feel a tiny bit better.

Where do you live and what’s it like to ride there?

My home is Decorah, Iowa. Decorah is located in Northeast Iowa, which is  included in the “Driftless Region.” It’s a term for land that glaciers didn’t flatten. So, unlike many parts of Iowa, Decorah is not flat. Everything from the paved trail, gravel/paved roads, and off-road singletrack trails have climbing involved. You really earn your downhills!

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"Decorah is located in the “Driftless Region”:  land that the glaciers didn’t flatten. So, unlike many parts of Iowa, Decorah isn't flat."

What’s special about mountain biking in Decorah?

Our singletrack trails are considered “old school” as they are man-made and not “flowy” like you would find in other areas where they may use machines to assist. Not a lot of berms, punchy climbs, fun downhills that seem too short- you get a lot of flavor on our trails. There are trees that are close together, too. Folks with wide handlebars may find it challenging at times to carry on with speed. Hardpack dirt with some limestone rock and roots makes up a majority of our trails.

It sounds like a tough ride!

Yes, it’s absolutely beautiful though, and I’m extremely grateful to have these awesome trails minutes away from home. They’re notorious for being challenging, which makes my mission to introduce more women and kids difficult. However, the City of Decorah was gifted land for a new park, and our trail group: DHPT: Decorah Human Powered Trails, is currently working on a fantastic plan that will finally introduce some all-rider-friendly trails to our system.

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What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done that involved a bicycle?

I think for me, the bravest thing has been participating at bike races. Full disclosure, I don’t see myself as a competitive person within a group more as- I compete against myself. I also have anxiety prior to most cycling events that has not improved much with attending multiple events. I participate because I want to add another female to the #’s...I want to represent. It’s difficult for me because I question my fitness and abilities, even though I have proven myself to be a capable rider. It really puts me to the test on my “fearless” mentality!

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"I have anxiety prior to most cycling events, but I participate because I want to add another female to the numbers... I want to represent."

Once I’m riding, my focus is on the ride- not the anxiety. I’ve only had positive experiences at the events I’ve participated in: I get to ride my bike, test myself, and meet new friends!

What's one of your favorite cycling/travel memories?

I have so many. I would say any travel memory is sweeter if Travis was there, mainly because I had wanted to share this kind of activity with a partner for so long. Granted, sometimes traveling equates to stress- especially if it’s a race or new trails (learning to read the maps, etc.), yet I’m always happy to simply have the day together!

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"Any travel memory is sweeter if Travis was there... I wanted to share this kind of activity with a partner for so long."

One of my favorite memories is the first time I rode the IPT trail (Iowa Public Television) dabless for the first time. It was my stepping stone to feeling confident with mountain biking...the joy I felt afterwards was overwhelming.

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"It was my stepping stone to feeling confident with mountain biking...the joy I felt afterwards was overwhelming."

 Learn more about Josie and #BikeLife on her website: www.josiebikelife.com

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