“I’ve traveled by bike through wild landscapes, raced 24 hours straight, ridden faster than the boys, broke a few bones, nursed dislocations, peed in the woods, slept on the ground, drank really good beer, ate really nasty energy bars, met life-long friends (including my fiance), cried, laughed and scared my mother half to death. Mountain biking truly has come to define me. Nothing fulfills me more. It combines fitness and fun with the great outdoors.” – An excerpt from Feagan’s essay for Trek’s Women Who Bike
If you talk to Roxy for a few minutes, you’ll start to understand one thing: She lives for bikes. She works full-time as the vice president of graphic services at Clark Creative Group in Omaha, but I get the feeling that biking isn’t far from her thoughts at any time.
What makes this woman rock is that she’s a competitive mountain biker (and she’s a cancer survivor, but that’s not even a part of this story). She travels around the region and the country racing – and winning – in these events at the expert level. She also helps organize the local racing scene with her husband, Ryan.
Around the region, you’re not going to find too many women like her.
“Locally, there are two or three (women) at the expert level,” said Feagan. “There are a dozen at the sport level and there are some beginners.”
Feagan got her start into biking like most people: She bought a bike to ride on a paved trail (a mountain bike that she got because she liked the color). From there, an work associate took her out to try mountain biking, an experience she likened to being a human pingpong ball, crashing so many times, flying head over heels, “but it didn’t hurt.” It was along a trail near the Platte River, not a beginner course, she said, but she survived and was hooked.
She got into racing in 1999. Over the years, she’s competed in the major Midwest states with a mountain bike following – Wisconsin (“really good scene”), Colorado, and onward to California. Feagan and her husband plan, promote and live the Psycowpath Racing Series in Nebraska and Iowa.
Her work with Psycowpath is what she is most proud of. She loves that she and her husband have met so many cool people through the racing series.
The season, by the way, starts April 2.
“The sport has taken me to a lot of places,” said Feagan, including winning a chance to write for Trek Women Who Bike (check it out). What made her stand out was her evolution in biking and the passion she has developed for it.
“I went from (being) nobody to an enthusiast to a racer then to a promoter.”
For those interested in getting into mountain biking, Feagan offered some advice. She’s no stranger, after all, to introducing people to the sport (in her essay to Trek, she wrote: “I want to show others that they too can find out what defines them, on and off the bike. I hope to empower and inspire others to get out and see the world from the saddle, to challenge themselves and to bridge that gap between life’s demands and staying true to yourself. And to always live each moment fully and with great appreciation.”)
* Get a mountain bike. Seems obvious enough, but not just any bike will cut it on bumpy terrain. Look for bikes with the thick, knobby tires. You also must get a helmet. Feagan also said getting bike shoes made for mountain biking is helpful. As for pedals, she said beginners shouldn’t get the clip pedals just yet.
“There are many things you have to practice, what to do when you come across a log,” she said. “You won’t think to unclip.”
Start off with flat pedals so when you do start practicing things like hitting a log, you won’t have the added hassle of learning how to unclip. She suggested going to a bike shop and asking an employee there for help selecting what you need to get started.
* Start off riding on flat terrain like grass. When you’re ready for a trail, she suggests not trying to tackle a whole trail at first.
“Find flat sections of a trail and find a trail feature like a dip or a log to do a few times to get the hang of it.”
* If you come across a beginner’s clinic for mountain biking, take it. Feagan hopes to put on a women’s clinic this summer.
* Know that it’s a very independent sport, she said. Get used to it – you have to train yourself in this sport. Feagan does weekly group rides but A) The guys she rides with have a different pace, and B) Everyone has their own training agenda.
“When I train, it’ll be solo,” said Feagan while recovering from surgery. “I have specific things I have to do (heart rate, interval training).
* Develop fearlessness if you want to make mountain biking more of a hobby. There will be falls, there will be injuries. Feagan has had her fair share of injuries: Fractured wrist, broken scapula, ripped open knee caps.
“As I’ve gotten better, they’re few and far between, but more intense.”
It doesn’t stop her from hopping back on the bike as soon as she gets the go-ahead from her doctor.
* What you consume has to become a 24/7 thing for a competitive cyclist.
“You always have to be thinking ahead, you know,” said Feagan.
Which means, planning your day so that you eat enough before your workout, bringing something to consume while you work out and then having the right kind of calories to consume in the recovery hours.
The slender racer admitted that in season, she probably wasn’t consuming enough calories in a day to compete up with all of the calories she burned biking. She said it’s not uncommon for a cyclist to under-nourish (you don’t realize just how many calories biking burns).
That should change soon. She and Ryan have switched to the Paleo Diet in an effort to improve her performance in races. When I talked with her, she hadn’t had a chance to see how it affected her riding as she as still off her bike recovering from over-use injuries (“it comes with the territory”). Eating right and eating enough is hard, she said.
“You learn the hard way.”
Rox’s Top Rides:
– Western Colorado
– South Dakota
Feagan is an outdoors enthusiast with a love for open terrain. The west, particularly the desert, is where she says her heart is.
“You get to a height and all you see is horizon and big open sky … it’s beautiful.”