VIDA MTB Series- More Than a Clinic
Based in Golden, CO, Rachel Gottfried and Sarah Rawley are the women behind the VIDA MTB Series. With epic riding on the Front Range, and countless other spots sprinkled throughout Colorado, it’s no wonder they have a passion for cycling in this off-road mecca. We sat down with the duo to chat about what inspired them to start the VIDA MTB Series, how it’s impacted them, and where they see it going.
You two are the faces behind the VIDA MTB Community. Can you tell us a little bit about VIDA and how it came to life in 2013?
SARAH - The VIDA MTB Series is focused on inspiring a movement to promote cycling as a way of improving lives. Our fundamental goal is to encourage more women to ride bikes and support them in their endeavors through instruction, building communities, and breaking down barriers to participation. The first skills clinic at Keystone Bike Park in 2013 was instantly a hit! The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and we repeatedly heard that more events like this need to exist. As a result, we evolved into a series of 1- and 2-day clinics, added an Ambassador Program, got involved with our local trail advocacy groups, and partnered with like-minded industry sponsors and organizations. And the rest is history…
Why did you start this program? Why did you decide to focus on women specifically?
SARAH - We started VIDA out of a love and passion for mountain biking and experiencing first-hand how it can change the trajectory of your life. We know the positive impact that finding confidence on a mountain bike and a community to support you can have on reaching outside your comfort zone. We wanted to be able to share this with others in a very inclusive environment, where all women find their niche to identify with. As women running and promoting women-specific events and causes, we recognize that strong communities are held together by the glue of strong female influences. There is also a very special dynamic when women are learning from fellow female peers and mentors. Women lead by example and there is a strong argument for the “if she can do it, I can do it” mentality. We see greater progression in this environment and watch women walk away empowered to display and share their experiences with others.
How did the both of you get into riding? What were your experiences when learning?
SARAH - My first summer of mountain biking was in Hood River, Oregon in 2005. My parents were beginning to ride the trails behind our house, and I would secretly steal my mom’s brand new women-specific Stumpjumper when she wasn’t looking. Instead of getting upset with me, she helped me buy my own bike, signed up for our first mountain bike race, and encouraged me to join the mountain bike team at Colorado State University. I got the racing bug immediately and everything I learned was trial by fire. I rode clipless pedals for the first time ever while racing my second collegiate race. I learned how to change a flat by running to the pits at my third collegiate race, and by National Championships fall of 2005, I learned that fixing a chain is faster than trying to run out a race (once you know how to). Needless to say, it was not the easiest or progressive path to learning. This was part of my motivation to create VIDA – becoming a mountain biker didn’t have to be done the hard way. My perspective of becoming a better mountain biker changed when I met the ladies of Team Yeti Beti in 2008, the first year I entered the bike industry working at Yeti Cycles. They welcomed me on their group rides, taught me how to ride the rocky terrain on the Front Range, and pre-rode race courses together all over Colorado. I used to be the slowest on the downhills, and as my passion for enduro riding and racing blossomed, we were able to trade different skillsets.
RACHEL - I started mountain biking in 2016, the summer after I moved to Colorado. My first mountain bike experience ended in scrapes, bruises, and quite a bit of blood. Even with all of the challenges, I smiled through it all, and I was hooked. I wasn’t too thrilled by the idea of learning through falling, though, and found my way to the VIDA clinic at Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, CO. My true introduction to mountain biking was through the clinic series that I now am so passionate about –May 11th was a transformational day. I was taught to think about body position, skill progression, and mindset; lessons that I still work on today. I was also introduced to a community of thoughtful, patient, and amazing riders. I went through the same learning curve that all new riders go through. One of the most wonderful AND absolute hardest aspects of my dirt education is the fact that many of my VIDA colleagues are my riding buddies. Nearly all of them have been riding and racing for years, and I learn from their strength, commitment, and progression
What does this clinic series mean to you? Has it changed your perspective on riding at all?
SARAH - To say that the VIDA MTB Series means a lot is an understatement. It is the result of pouring years of passion, sweat, heart and soul into a living organism. VIDA has become a lifeforce of its own, and it’s incredible to see how some of our early participants have grown into our more established coaches and staff. Our Director of Operations, Rachel Gottfried entered VIDA as a participant at Valmont Bike Park in 2016 and is now responsible VIDA’s day-to-day operations and so much more! VIDA truly couldn’t run without her. The series has brought me closer to our community and created opportunities to meet so many incredible people.
RACHEL - Oh, VIDA. I’ve been involved in day-to-day operations since 2016 and have met countless women through our programming. It fills my evenings, weekends, and workdays when I let it. VIDA allows me the space to contribute to a community who does so much for me – I see the transformation I went through in our participants and I am constantly learning from our coaches and staff. Our community has a profound positive impact on my personal and professional life – they have become my family!
Last year you launched the Rider to Racer program. Can you talk about what inspired this and what women can expect and what the goal of the sub program is?
SARAH - Racing has always been a passion and guiding force in my life. I pursued a career in the bike industry because I loved racing my bike so much and couldn’t imagine a life where I wasn’t challenging myself physically and mentally. Similar to the Beti Bike Bash inspiring the first VIDA clinic, we began to hear the rumblings from women at VIDA clinics that they wanted to challenge themselves through enduro racing. By partnering with local bike shops, race promoters, nutritionists, trainers and coaches, we built a comprehensive program to progress women from their favorite trail to the start line of their first enduro race. We partner with the Big Mountain Enduro Series to provide the platform for a first enduro race experience in Aspen/Snowmass which includes a clinic day and race day. In preparation for this, ladies attend weekly group rides, coached sessions, shop nights focused on bike maintenance, gear, nutrition and strength training.
Out of the eight clinics you’re offering in 2019, what’s your favorite and why?
SARAH - Picking a favorite clinic is like picking your favorite ice cream flavor – you crave them all for their unique attributes and time of year. Sedona, Ariz. holds a soft place in my heart because it is one of my favorite locations to ride, and VIDA has been a part of the Sedona MTB Festival since the inaugural event in 2015. There is something transcendental about kicking off the season riding on unique red rock formations, soaking in the energy from the vortexes, and getting to see all of your bike and industry friends in the same place.
RACHEL - Sedona! Without a doubt. The energy that comes with the first clinic of the year is something that I look forward to time and time again. I can feel the start-of-the-season excitement from our coaches, staff, and participants. The trails there are also spectacular and the diverse features and terrain lend themselves to learning. Our clinic has worked with the Sedona MTB Festival and has grown two-fold over the last few years. The generous support of the Festival keeps things easy and offers clinic participants the chance to extend their weekend into a three-day event.
What is your hope for the women who participate in the clinics and series?
SARAH - My hope is that women who cross paths with VIDA will take their positive experiences and spread it within their own communities. We want women to feel empowered by what they learn from VIDA and realize and activate their own potential to move the needle. I also want women to know that they aren’t alone – there are women everywhere who desire to connect and elevate each other. Together, we are stronger.
RACHEL - I want them to be able to own their ride. Our participants end their day(s) with VIDA with a checklist of accomplishments and successes- I would like them to remember these moments and grow from them. Hopefully, this growth will also include a return to their community as they encourage others to join them in their challenges and growth. As Sarah said, we are stronger together.
VIDA MTB Series has grown exponentially from its founding events in 2013. How do you see it maturing moving forward? Are there new locations or goals you’d like to hit?
RACHEL - I would like to see VIDA deepen its relationships with local organizations. Recently, we have worked with the Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA) to host a series of women’s events. Doing so has allowed us to reach more women and offer varied opportunities to learn – hands on shop nights, dig nights, social rides, etc. These programs exist in the Front Range of Colorado and beyond, and I would like to see VIDA invest in them to expand mountain biking opportunities to more women.
SARAH - Since day one, I’ve wanted VIDA to grow organically and be led by the community who supports it. As VIDA matures, I envision it going where it serves its purpose best. We’ve had a lot of requests to bring VIDA clinics to new destinations – all over the country and to other countries. While we want to share what we do with as many women as possible, we also want VIDA to grow sustainably and leave a positive footprint on the communities who welcome us to their home trails. We will always put community first and make sure we allocate time and energy beyond clinic operations to further causes and goals unique to wherever we go.
If you’re interested in joining the VIDA community, please check out their event calendar here