My Path of Progression, Community, and Women’s Empowerment Through Mountain Biking
By Joanna Yates
“I’m moving to Sedona to ride my bike full time.” This is what I told my then boss at Snowshoe Mountain upon quitting my job in 2017. My husband and I were done working our normal 50+ hours workweeks and wanted to find a lifestyle that was more relaxed so we could spend time together and ride our bikes year-round. Plus, we were over dealing with West Virginia’s winter.
Progressing From Passionate To Professional
Moving to Sedona, Arizona was a huge lifestyle change... in the best way! When we moved we knew no one. Now, four years later we are a part of an awesome mountain bike community and live in the heart of the “city”. Riding every day in Sedona has evolved my skills making me a stronger rider, especially on technical features.
If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be living in Sedona, Arizona riding mountain bikes for a living, I would have laughed at you. I had this same thought about a month ago when I was riding Hi Line trail. Hi Line is a double black diamond trail and one of the most epic mountain biking experiences in the Sedona area. My first time on Hi Line was about 7 years ago and I walked 95 percent of it. Today, people hire me as a guide and coach to lead them on this iconic trail. Talk about progression on the bike!
A lot has happened since I started my mountain bike career, I’ve coached and guided for several different companies and developed so much as a rider and person over the years. However, one thing remains the same: my willingness to always be learning and growing in this ever changing sport. I believe lack of learning is regression and you simply cannot become a better rider unless you are willing to learn. I am constantly trying to help people transform themselves into better riders with practice and reminding them that hard work on the bike pays off.
A Big Community In A Small Town
Focusing on becoming a better rider and my own riding progression the past four years has opened many doors for me in the mountain bike community. As a Sedona local there isn’t a ton to do unless you are a mountain biker or hiker. There isn’t any “night life” and I’m always surprised to meet another person that is under the age of 40. Reason number 150+ why I’m thankful for my mountain bike. I swear, riding bikes in Sedona is like cheating for making friends!
I feel lucky to have landed a job working with Thunder Mountain Bikes and getting involved with their group rides has been really rewarding because of all the relationships I have developed. I also work for the Sedona Mountain Bike Academy, a company that matches my values for progression and community. I lead several of their weekend clinics for , coach multiple clients each week, and take part in growing their “Grom Squad”. My favorite thing is to see parents take up mountain biking because their child has fallen so in love with it. Bikes really do bring people, families, and communities together!
Empowering Women Through MTB
But my most rewarding work involves leading and motivating women in the mountain bike community. Did you know that women are 80% more likely to NOT hit a feature on their bike the first time than men? (This is my own statistic gleaned from 6 years of coaching.) Not surprising considering women tend to be more cautious on the bike than men. That’s okay. This isn’t a “bad” thing, but this hesitancy holds a lot of female riders back from their full potential on the bike. Through coaching and _____ I empower female riders to build confidence and take charge on the bike. I want the notion that women don’t shred as hard as men to be absurd. I am on a mission to empower more female leaders in the mountain bike space as I build my own brand and grow this community.
A more subtle but lasting way I empower women in the mountain bike industry is with my jewelry company - MTB Vibes. After working at Thunder Mountain Bikes I noticed that they get rid of a lot of bike parts that I could use to upcycle and make cool jewelry. I recycle used chains, tubes, and spokes to make jewelry that doesn’t look like it came from a dirty mountain bike. My theme with my jewelry line is extremely female PROUD. I have one set of earrings named “An Ode to Lady Shred” and the description reads:
“These are for the babes on bikes. These are for the professional fun haver and bright color wearer who doesn't give a fuck about QOMs or what people will say. These are for more smiles on the bike, instead of miles.These are for women and girls who support each other on, and off the bike.These are for Lady Shredder!”
My aim is to inspire a feeling of badassery when wearing MTB Vibes Jewelry and, when you wear my earrings, it’s a subtle reminder that you can do anything. It’s also a reminder that women lead differently than men and that we can find success leading with love, not ego.
I am forever grateful to have landed in Sedona, Arizona and to call this amazing place home. I feel as though the work I’m doing in this small town is meaningful and essential for both myself and the community. I love how mountain biking has pushed my limits personally and professionally and has opened so many doors for me within the community. It’s not often that a person gets to ride their bike for work. However, I hope to make this a new norm in society. I want people and communities to see the power of bikes and invest in having fun and enjoying life.