The ‘Oprah of Mountain Biking’
Ladies AllRide Coach
By Suzanne Myhre Johnson
Photo at right: Lindsey Voreis. Photo by Kirt Voreis
“Boobs to the bar!” called out our coach, Lindsey Voreis. What may have sounded like a call to Ladies Night Happy Hour was actually instruction for hill climbing on a mountain bike.
Two friends and I were well into our three-hour clinic, and catching on to Lindsey’s unique way of teaching mountain biking skills. In this case, the bar is the handlebars, and boobs to the bar is an easy way to remember the correct body position while climbing: moving the upper body forward and positioning low over the handlebars.
We’re riding just outside Bend, Ore., in a mountain meadow where Lindsey has developed a skills course with a short pump track, rock ledges, wooden trials and grassy knolls. It’s the ideal scenario to introduce her students to techniques used to get up, over and past obstacles they’ll face out on the trails.
Before our afternoon ends, we’ll have learned to tame these hurdles that seemed intimidating just a few hours ago: bank up around curves without braking, and pop wheelies that would make my kids’ jaws hang open.
Lindsey’s clinic is called the Ladies AllRide, and her mission is to bring more women into the sport she loves.
Athlete, Survivor, Coach
Lindsey knows a few things about facing obstacles and challenges, as well as about finding herself through biking.
She grew up an athlete, but like many women lost that part of her identity during college and while building a career. Her dad inspired her to reclaim her athletic side by taking her trail riding along the fire roads in Portland’s Forest Park.
“It helped me remember how much I loved biking,” she recalls. “Pretty soon I was chasing teams of mountain bikers up the hills, and because I’ve always been a goal-setter, riding for fitness evolved into racing.”
Even as her racing career accelerated, the dot-com crash of 2000 left Lindsey out of a job and in need of a change. She was selected as a competitor on 2001 Survivor: Africa and was billed as the pro-mountain biker with an attitude, known for throwing class-A tantrums.
“I became a celebrity but I lost myself again, and turned into a person I didn’t like so much.” Again, Lindsey returned to her bike, channeling her temper and energy into mountain biking and racing.
The inspiration for creating her clinics came when Lindsey joined her husband, pro-biker Kirt Voreis, on his AllRide promotional tour. The tour featured all kinds of riding from BMX to trail to downhill, but Lindsey noticed one thing missing…there were no women.
Spurred on by the positive aspects that mountain biking brought to her own life, Lindsey worked to become certified as a coach through the PMBIA (Professional Mountain Bike Instructors Association). She developed her own version of the AllRide tour—the Ladies AllRide—designed to draw more women into the sport and help them build skills without intimidation.
These days, in between her own races and doing photo shoots for sponsors, Lindsey travels the country sharing her approach to trail riding with as many women as possible, through the Ladies AllRide clinics.
Her students range from middle school to middle-aged, and from beginners to experienced. Each clinic begins with a review of the basics.
“It’s all about body position on the bike, moving forward and back to stay centered as the angle of the hill changes,” says Lindsey. She coaches riders through a progression of balance techniques, all revolving around one theme: the rider is in charge; the rider gives the bike life.
“Women forget that they are the ones in control of the bike,” she says. “The bike doesn’t have a brain; it only goes where you tell it to go.”
To reinforce this message, riders practice moving the bike beneath them, angling the frame side to side to maneuver around rocks. As my friends and I worked on this technique during our clinic in Bend, the frowns of concentration turned to smiles.
Melanie Fisher, co-owner of Cog Wild Bicycle Tours in Bend, has coordinated clinics in Bend and has seen the impact of Lindsey’s coaching.
“Women connect with her style because she’s all heart, no ego,” says Fisher. “It’s all about ride bikes, be happy, not ride bikes, keep up with the guys.”
In between the skills and the techniques, the clinics pack in what Lindsey considers the most important aspects of biking for women: a good dose of confidence-building, a little Zen, and a whole lot of fun.
“I want to inspire women to challenge themselves and teach them how to do it,” says Lindsey. “I want to be the Oprah of mountain biking.”
To find a Ladies AllRide clinic near you, check www.ladiesallride.com
Lindsey’s Tips for Mountain Bikers
Keep only one finger on each brake lever. The goal is to keep the wheels rolling. Hesitation equals devastation.
Look ahead of you, down the road, not just below you.
Stay loose in the arms. If you’re too stiff, you can’t adapt your position.
Stay light on the bike and off the seat in order to move the bike beneath you.
Get forward on climbing; shift weight back on the downhill.
Suzanne Myhre Johnson lives, writes and plays in the mountains of Central Oregon. When not writing, she can be found practicing wheelies on the trail.