The month of May just so happens to be National Bike Month and what do you know, we have a biking expert on our Wildway team to bring you all the deets. Geri Spinner, Wildway's Food Safety and Quality Manager, has years of experience on trails of all types. We managed to catch Geri for an interview to ask some questions about all things road cycling and mountain biking. If you've been looking into biking but aren't sure where to begin, then we hope this Q&A does the trick!
When did you start really getting into biking and why?
"I grew up riding bikes with my friends. It was a means of freedom for me. Even as a kid I rode long distances to go see friends that lived too far for walking when I couldn't get a ride from parents. I frequently made a 15 mile one way trip to see friends around the age of 13. I stopped riding around the age of 16 though. I didn't pick it back up till I was around 35. I started riding the "taco ride" on the wabash trace nature trail in Iowa. It's a lovely trail of crushed limestone and lots of trees for shade. The taco ride is a 10 mile (one way) night ride out to a small town, Mineola, in Iowa for some tacos and margaritas! About 6 miles into the journey there is a nice rest area with a beautiful view of the rolling hills in Iowa, known as margaritaville. During the summer months you can find music and huge crowds at this location, and you guessed it, margaritas. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you can catch the gummy bear guy! He takes gummy bears and soaks them in an alcohol of his choice, usually fireball or jack daniels and shares them with the crowd. It's a great time, and some don't make it past this point! Then onward to Mineola for the tacos and more margaritas. Around 9 pm you usually start your journey back in the dark (lights are mandatory) and pray you don't run into any skunks!! It was a blast, and I had some fantastic times on that trail with good friends. I was mostly a recreational rider then. When we moved to Texas in March of 2018, I started to take biking more seriously and also started mountain biking (MTB). I started training for the MS150 and completed my first century (100 miles in one day) ride in October of that year. After that ride I realized that winter was not going to be a factor like it was in Iowa, and kept up the training. In April of 2019 I completed the Houston to Austin MS150, roughly 160 miles over two days, and continued with many other charity bike rides like it. I was hooked! I also participated in a few MTB races, but only for fun. My competitiveness keeps me pushing myself, but I am not ready to really 'race'".
You both mountain bike and road cycle, do you prefer one over the other? What do you enjoy about each?
"I love mountain biking, and road cycling. It's hard to choose between the disciplines, I can tell you that mountain biking has caused me some pain, but that is to be expected since I just picked it up a short time ago, and really push myself to try things outside my comfort zone. I fall a lot. But I love it so much that I always keep at it! I enjoy all different styles of MTB, enduro, downhill and cross country. The downhill is probably my favorite, but it's the most dangerous! The exhilaration of 'I almost died on that run'!" is addictive!
Road cycling is about pushing yourself, how far can you go this time, and how fast can you do it! Climbing is challenging for me, I am not a great climber, but I work at it. Great friends to train with really help, and I am lucky to have them. Mountain biking can take you places you can't reach on your road bike. Great friends to help push you and encourage you to try new trails or features also help enormously, and again I am thankful that I have them too! I love them both, and it's hard to pick, and I don't think I could pick one to do and not the other. The upside to road riding is I can usually still do it while I am recovering from a MTB injury, at a slow pace to at least keep me pedaling."
What are your favorite trails both in and outside of TX?
"Here in San Antonio we are really lucky to have a great trail system! All along the Leon Creek Greenway are some really nice MTB trails that have a bit of everything, and a great place to learn. Macalister park is great too! I have also ridden in Burke VT, at Kingdom trails last year at NEMBA fest. That was great! My skill level has progressed considerably since then and I plan to go back (after the COVID mess is over) to explore more.
Road riding is great anywhere you go, but my most favorite was Bastrop park, part of the challenge route from the MS150 (Houston to Austin 2019). It had some awesome hills that made you feel like you were on a rollercoaster!
I am still pretty new to MTB and I am still discovering places to ride. I want my skill level to be higher before I really start journeying out further for mtb excursions, but a place I really want to go is Bentonville Arkansas. There are a plethora of trails that are extremely well maintained and it is a MTB wonderland. For now my favorite place to ride is Spider Mountain in Burnet TX. It is the only lift service MTB park in Texas and it is a great place to hone in skills."
How did you get involved in the biking community and what advice would you give to someone seeking the same where they live?
"I am currently part of several riding groups. For road I am part of the Ride Away Cycle Club (RACC), Team HEB, and a small group of friends that call themselves the Cranky Crankers. For MTB, I am part of STORM (South Texas Off Road MTB), Rebel Betties (an all girl group that is a subdivision of STORM), Texas Trail Ninjas, and South Texas Trail Demons. I started riding with the HEB road team when I first moved here. My husband who works for HEB, told me about the team and I showed up to a scheduled ride. The HEB team is a fantastic group of cycling folks that are very welcoming and encouraging! Meeting people from there was really the pivotal point of my cycling. They encouraged me to ride the MS150, and we all trained together! It was very laid back, and you get what you put in. So if you are active in the group and train hard, you will get great results. I recommend social media for groups in your area. You need to find a group you align with. As long as you are passionate about bikes, I am sure you will find those with like minds. I have found that most people who like bikes are pretty decent folks!"
What 5 essentials can you not leave the house without when going for a ride?
"There are several things you need to have on you at all times for safety reasons like your phone, water & food, and either an air pump or a CO2c cartridge and a spare tube, and tire levers, incase of a flat.My bag always has the items previously mentioned, but I can't live without my music. I have some really awesome bone conduction headphones that allow you to hear your surroundings as well as music.As far as food choices go, I always have Wildway granola in my bag and extra to share of course.If you're mountain biking, it's good to have a first aid kit with you as well, at least it is in my case!"
Do you have any tips for those just getting into mountain biking or road cycling?
"Social media. Get yourself some riding buddies! Honestly, the people are what make it great for me. Friends will show you the great places to ride and the hidden features of your trials, and it's always safer in groups! Learn the basics about your bike, changing flats, fixing breaks, that sort of thing. Have fun. Don't take it so seriously, we are not riding the tour de France, we are just out to enjoy each other's company and be healthy. If you keep this mindset, training is a lot more fun!"