Meet Can­dace Shadley:

Founder of Trek Dirt Se­ries

Mountain Bike for Her - - Front Page - Words & Pho­tos by Justa Jeskova

Can­dace Shadley, founder of the Trek Dirt Se­ries, is not your av­er­age moun­tain bike coach. She’s also a fre­quent world trav­eller, ex­pert kite surfer, and amaz­ing skier. I met her dur­ing the pho­to­shoot for an out­door sport com­pany, she was one of the mod­els for moun­tain bike cloth­ing. What made her stood out from the crowd was her friend­li­ness and sup­port dur­ing the photo shoot. I re­mem­ber we went for din­ner to­gether af­ter the shoot and talked about life in gen­eral and sports. Shortly af­ter that, I got an in­vi­ta­tion to her Dirt Se­ries Camp. It was the best thing that could hap­pen to me when it comes to bik­ing. I can’t be­lieve how much I learned in one week­end and how much con­fi­dence I gained.

A few months later, we end up go­ing out to do a bike shoot and while we waited for the per­fect light, she taught me how to get over ob­sta­cles and sug­gests that she’ll in­tro­duce me to her spon­sors for pos­si­ble photo sales. That’s Can­dace, I know. Ready to help and help you to suc­ceed. That’s why I think she is the best moun­tain bike coach out there. She sim­ply doesn’t give up on you, she en­cour­ages you the whole time. Even when we go for a few laps in the bike park to catch up, I get a free les­son with it. Af­ter our girly chat, she would ask me what I am work­ing on and how my bik­ing is pro­gress­ing. We would then go to a fea­ture that I am work­ing on and she would not leave un­til I get it done.

What is your back­ground?

I’ve been teach­ing sports -- pri­mar­ily ski­ing, wind­surf­ing, and moun­tain bik­ing -- for the past 20 years. In that time I’ve also com­pleted a de­gree in In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, worked for sev­eral dif­fer­ent out­door sports man­u­fac­tur­ers, spent six years in pro­vin­cial level sports ad­min­is­tra­tion, and de­vel­oped the Dirt Se­ries Moun­tain Bike Camps. We’ve now run 200 camps, taught 11,000 par­tic­i­pants, and are en­ter­ing our fif­teenth year of op­er­a­tions. But it’s so fun it al­most feels new to me ev­ery day.

How did you first start moun­tain bik­ing?

I got started like most girls: I had a boyfriend who loved to moun­tain bike. But a rac­ing fo­cused guy who is try­ing his best to be pa­tient isn’t much fun to chase down the trail. I’d feel bad that I was so much slower or that I found so many sec­tions so scary. That was in high school, now that boyfriend is an ex, but we’re still re­ally great friends, and we rip around to­gether in the Whistler Bike Park when­ever we can.

A few years ago we fin­ished a set of con­sec­u­tive jumps, he turned around, smirked and said, “you’ve come a long way since cry­ing on the trail”.

My start was in high school, but I re­ally got into it af­ter uni­ver­sity, when I was living and work­ing in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and got in­vited along on an is­land moun­tain bike tour. The rid­ing was scenic and tech­ni­cally mild, the guides were su­per en­cour­ag­ing, and there was an­other girl along who was at a sim­i­lar skill level to me. Some­times you just need to be in the right sit­u­a­tion. Boyfriends are amaz­ing for so many things. But some­times it’s nice to be plucked from that sit­u­a­tion and learn in a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment.

How long have you been coach­ing?

My first proper job ever was teach­ing ski­ing for Whistler Moun­tain, so I’ve been in­struct­ing and coach­ing sports in gen­eral since I was 16. It’s been over 15 years that I’ve been do­ing this in moun­tain bik­ing though.

What’s a typ­i­cal camp like?

A typ­i­cal camp is two days long and in­cludes skill ses­sions, in­struc­tional rides, main­te­nance clin­ics, gear in­tro­duc­tions, bike set up op­por­tu­ni­ties and so­cial time. Camps are limited on av­er­age to 45 par­tic­i­pants, to give ev­ery par­tic­i­pant the chance to in­ter­act with ev­ery coach. We have in­cred­i­ble coaches and as­sis­tants and al­ways main­tain a staff to par­tic­i­pant ra­tio of at least 1:6. Par­tic­i­pants are di­vided into groups ac­cord­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence, in­ter­est, and abil­ity, so that ev­ery­one re­ally gets to work at the level they’d like.

Given the wide range of rid­ers who come to camps, a cor­re­spond­ingly wide range of skills is of­fered. We cover be­gin­ner through ad­vanced cross­coun­try and down­hill skills, from the ba­sics of rider po­si­tion­ing, brak­ing and steer­ing all the wait to jumps and drops.

What types/skill lev­els of rid­ers usu­ally come out?

The women who come out to th­ese camps range from novice moun­tain bik­ers urged along by their ded­i­cated cy­cling friends to full on en­thu­si­asts want­ing to mas­ter the big­ger air, cleaner drop, or smoother ride over any ob­sta­cle in their path.

We’re also get a fair num­ber of XC, en­durance and adventure rac­ers, those who have heaps of strength and over­all fit­ness but want to shed time in

the tech­ni­cal sec­tions.

If I had to put per­cent­ages to it, I’d say that about 25% have spent fewer than five days rid­ing off-road, about 20% could be clas­si­fied as hav­ing ad­vanced skills, and ev­ery­one else falls some­where in be­tween.

How would you en­cour­age women who-for one rea­son or an­other-have not tried moun­tain bik­ing yet?

Moun­tain bik­ing is such an amaz­ing sport as it com­bines and of­fers so much -- the op­por­tu­nity to im­prove car­dio, strength, tech­ni­cal skill and men­tal tenac­ity, all while en­joy­ing the out­doors and spend­ing time with friends. With the right in­tro­duc­tion, which could be as sim­ple as sign­ing up for lessons or go­ing with pa­tient rid­ers will­ing to ride trails suited to your level, it can also be im­me­di­ately safe, fun, and em­pow­er­ing.

What do most women take away from the week­end?

New found con­fi­dence with their rid­ing and all that spills over from that into ev­ery­day life – the knowl­edge that you can learn some­thing new, the sure­ness that you can con­quer your fears, and the ex­cite­ment at hav­ing done some­thing that you didn’t think you would have been able to be­fore­hand.

And, of course, im­proved tech­ni­cal moun­tain bike skills. There was a girl at one of our North Van­cou­ver camps whose first day on a moun­tain bike was the first day of the clinic. By the end she could ride along a 6” wide plank, go down 1 1/2’ drop, clean a loose climb, ride a right switch­back and do tons of other things. Some of th­ese peo­ple just pick up so much. I wish I could learn things that quickly.

Name your favourite teach­ing tool or tech­nique.

I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to de­velop skills stepby-step, with as­sess­ment and en­cour­age­ment along the way. I re­ally love teach­ing with the va­ri­ety of stunts we set up at Trek Dirt Se­ries camps, as they help us cre­ate so many of the sce­nar­ios we need for each par­tic­i­pant’s per­sonal devel­op­ment. And, be­ing that it’s my home, I love teach­ing on the trails in the Whistler val­ley and in the Whistler Bike Park too.

Which tech­ni­cal skills are most im­por­tant for women to learn?

There are so many great tech­ni­cal skills to learn, as

each one makes rid­ing that much more amaz­ing, but if I had to pick one I would go to the most ba­sic of all and that’s look­ing ahead. At all lev­els this takes a rider’s eyes off her front tire and out on the trail so that she’s bet­ter able to an­tic­i­pate what’s com­ing up and have more flow and con­trol over­all.

This ap­plies whether we’re go­ing over our first log (and need­ing to look past it once we’ve ini­ti­ated our front wheel lift), rid­ing along a skinny log ride (and need­ing to fo­cus on where we want to go, rather than where we don’t), or air­ing off a drop (and look­ing ahead to where we’re go­ing to end up once we’ve landed suc­cess­fully). It’s some­thing that comes nat­u­rally some­times and some­thing that we need to re­mind our­selves of other times. And it’s key.

Why women’s-only clin­ics?

Women’s clin­ics of­fer a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment than co-ed camps. The in­struc­tion is su­per sup­port­ive and step-by-step, there’s lots of pos­i­tive feed­back at ev­ery pro­gres­sion, and es­sen­tially ev­ery­one is en­cour­aged to give her best and push her lim­its in a re­spon­si­ble way.

The sup­port be­tween par­tic­i­pants at th­ese women’s spe­cific camps is also more in­cred­i­ble than any­thing you’d ever imag­ine, and there are great role mod­els no mat­ter what your rid­ing level. There’s some­thing about see­ing an­other girl get over an ob­sta­cle, clean a climb, or man­ual off a drop that is easy to iden­tify with and fully mo­ti­vat­ing.

That said, we also of­fer co-ed camps within the Trek Dirt Se­ries pro­gram. Those are won­der­ful in their own right as well.

Your teach­ing phi­los­o­phy?

I think that learn­ing new skills is one of the most amaz­ing feel­ings ever and that, in turn, teach­ing is one of the most re­ward­ing things to do. It’s im­por­tant to me that a rider clears a log or masters a drop, or checks what­ever chal­lenge it might be off their list, but less for the sim­ple fact of ac­com­plish­ing the task than for the ex­cite­ment and con­fi­dence that comes with that ac­com­plish­ment. Plus, I think those feel­ings spill over into ev­ery­day life, so in a sense this is my small way of mak­ing peo­ple’s lives more fun and inspiring and bet­ter all around.

As for specifics on teach­ing, I be­lieve in a stepby-step ap­proach, with per­sonal and con­struc­tive feed­back along the way. I think that we learn best when we tackle a chal­lenge just be­yond, rather than far be­yond, some­thing we can al­ready do, and when we get pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment through the process.

I also en­joy work­ing with groups of like-minded rid­ers, as I find that they iden­tify with, sup­port, and mo­ti­vate one an­other. Peo­ple say that I’m a su­per pa­tient and en­thu­si­as­tic teacher. It comes easy to me be­cause I love it so much.

Do you or did you ever run into chal­lenges based on fact that you are woman?

I think that we all run into chal­lenges for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, but over­all I think I’m re­ally for­tu­nate to be a woman in this in­dus­try. I feel like bike com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly in­ter­ested in our part of the mar­ket, ded­i­cated to de­vel­op­ing and re­fin­ing prod­ucts to meet our needs, and open to ideas as to what we think might work best. I also feel like women want to see more women in the sport, and men want to see more women in the sport, and well, how great is that.

You are very suc­cess­ful woman in male dom­i­nated in­dus­try. What is the key to your suc­cess?

I think that I love what I do and I work re­ally hard at it. I en­joy the out­side part, es­pe­cially when it comes to beau­ti­ful sin­gle­track and im­prov­ing skills, and I also en­joy the in­side part, us­ing my brain and work­ing on what­ever re­sponse or re­port is needed that day. Of course the bal­ance isn’t al­ways ideal, and ev­ery­thing isn’t per­fect ev­ery day, but I am su­per grate­ful for the po­si­tion I’m in, and ded­i­cated to do­ing the best with it that I pos­si­bly can.

Any­thing new planned for 2015?

In 2015 we’ll run our largest num­ber of camps and travel the fur­thest we’ve ever been. We’ve got 22 in­di­vid­ual camps through­out West­ern North Amer­ica on our regular sched­ule, and then we’ve added in a spe­cial cor­po­rate camp for our ti­tle spon­sor, Trek, out at their head­quar­ters in Water­loo, WI.

This year I’m also work­ing closely on all the pro­gram­ming with two amaz­ing women – Sylvi Fae and Emily Neu­man – so I feel re­ally lucky there. I also love all the coaches we have in­volved, and the fan­tas­tic spon­sors that sup­port all of us, too. So es­sen­tially, there’s lots to look for­ward to in 2015 and, as is so of­ten the case, I bet it’ll be our best yet.

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