I had first met Jen online in the USA Bike Trials Riders group, where she is a frequent contributor. Then I had a fun surprise when I met her and her husband Jason at the Arrowhead Bike Farm’s first trials competition in 2022. That was a really fun experience, because I had only interacted with her online previously. I quickly discovered that Jen exudes an infectious enthusiasm for bike trials – the sport and the community – which is just fun to be around (and part of what’s so inspiring about her).

Tell us a little about yourself (brief background, your profession, etc.)

I’m an avid cyclist who has done almost all kinds of bike racing and volunteer-coaches MTB skills. I live in Northern Virginia (Metro DC) and have lived in the Seattle, Boulder and NYC areas. I work for patent and trademark attorneys, currently as a database manager.

How long have you been riding bike trials? What is your riding level (beginner, intermediate, expert, elite)?

Four years, still a beginner. Let’s say beginner++.

How did you discover bike trials and how did you get started? What age were you when you started?

Coronavirus lockdown meant no more commute. My husband Jason and I have both got really into skills practice, and gave each other Ryan Leach’s Online MTB Coaching for Christmas. Then I noticed the new Bentonville Bike Fest was having a trials comp on my milestone birthday! I thought that would be the perfect 60th birthday to add to the treat of riding their trails.

How would you define/describe “bike trials” in your own words to someone who never heard of it?

There is street trials, riding up and down stuff, doing skinnies, some tricks like a fakie, and gapping obstacles if you can. And there are competitions, which are like timed obstacle courses. It’s like a puzzle, figuring out how to ride through gated features, and you get penalized if you put your foot down, etc.

Your husband Jason also rides trials. How do you support each other in learning, practicing, and competing in trials events? What are the challenges and opportunities that you’ve both encountered that are unique to learning and riding trials as a couple?

It’s fantastic to have someone to practice with who is equally engaged in it, good at coaching, and who knows I am hard on myself. His quicker learning curve amazes me and makes me smile. I prefer to practice what I’m good at, since you can get frustrated practicing stuff you aren’t getting. So, at times he has pushed me to prioritize what I will most need for an upcoming comp.

What type of bike trials riding do you prefer (style, obstacle types, moves, solo/group, etc.) and where do you like to ride?

I practice on my street bike around my neighborhood or at parks, on my own or with Jason. In our hood, besides side streets, ball courts or grass, we use a bocce ball court surround or rail ties around playground mulch for skinny practice, have a few spots with great rocks, and prefer mulch or the cork surfaced playgrounds for rear wheel skills drills. We got pallets late last spring, but our backyard is small.

Why do you ride bike trials and what keeps you motivated to keep riding?

I’m just not done yet! I have goals, playing on strengths, improving on weaknesses, doing better at comps! I need better skills to have more fun street riding with others and make it clean through sections. I want to be advanced at balance line. I am on the cusp of getting multiple pedal kicks and rear wheel hops, I tell you! (I can pedal kick, just not two in a row while on the rear wheel. I can rear wheel hop, but I don’t get back far enough yet.) I have to get it figured out and advance from there.

What other styles of cycling do you do? How has trials helped you improve your skills in those other biking disciplines (and vice versa)?

Mountain biking, gravel, and road including on an indoor trainer. I love dirt jumping, pump track, and do a few enduro races a year. I’ve always been very brakes focused, from downhilling and having my brakes moto for cyclocross, so that’s helped my trials riding. Trials has started to help me move my weight fore and aft more, use drivetrain moves to improve lifts, bail safely, and brake to Be Trick! Being pretty good at track stands and skinnies, trials should help me take balance lines to an advanced level.

How often do you ride trials? What sort of routine do you have for practice versus riding for fun versus making edits, etc. – how much time is dedicated to each?

Due to bugs, humidity and prioritizing mountain biking, trials riding is more of a late fall through Memorial Day thing. I go for 30-60 minutes 2-3 times a week, as I am time constrained by needing to also train my aerobic systems. We only shoot videos for coaching ourselves and an occasional goofy share on the socials.

You’re active in the online trials community as well as in in-person trials events and competitions in various locations throughout the US. What role has the trials community played for you and your desire to learn and progress as a trials rider?

No better way to stay stoked about it, it has helped my determination to improve. I’m fascinated by people’s ability to do trials. I learn a lot by watching: Seeing is believing that somebody can do it. Sometimes I hope that one of them will give me some pointers. Being able to trade info is super helpful, too.

What’s the bike trials scene like near you? How many other riders are there? Do you have regular group rides? Comps?

There are some riders here in the Mid-Atlantic, it’d be great to get a group ride going. Matt Gilman and I have talked about it. It helps that Jason and I can ride together and travel to comps (WV 3x, CT 1x, Bentonville 3x). We lead “techy ride” groups at our weekly MTB meetup rides. This year at the MTB Summer Picnic, we set up three MTB friendly trials sections. Fun to do but needed more visibility / promotion.

How do you manage fear when doing new/bigger moves or lines?

I’ll let you know (LOL). Fear of looping out holds me back from getting back like I need to! I feel like you can get really hurt doing trials, so I am pretty cautious. I wish I could overcome that. One thing that’s helped is practicing bailing.

What are your personal goals with respect to trials (near-term and long-term)?

Do more than one pedal kick at a time, be able to rear wheel hop, improve at manuals and 3-pedal ups, and build related skills from there. I hope to do well at comps this year, especially Bentonville (Jason has goals for me there). If I keep at it, maybe I can move up to Sport.

Who are your bike trials ‘heroes’ and/or influences? Favorite trials video(s)?

Aaron Lutze’s Super Rider channel. Jeff Lenosky for technical riding. I like the videos on your channel of you and your riding crew! Every woman rider’s posts!

What are your perspectives on the trials biking scene in general and in North America in particular?

I’m impressed and I love to watch it, especially now that I’ve tried it more. I do feel like it’s growing in the US and that there is some excitement about what’s to come.

What would you like to see happening in North America with respect to bike trials?

An academy like they have in the U.K. We don’t have any indoor places to ride in the winter near here. I’ve wished there were clinics at Bentonville Bike Fest, the perfect opportunity to do so since they offer so many other clinics. Also there, a separate beginners’ practice area because the main one can be intimidating for newbs. A few more comps around the country. Pinned resources on our Facebook page.

Trials tends to be a largely male-dominated sport, particularly here in the US. Are there women trials riders who stand out as exceptional role models? Any ideas on how to attract more women of all ages to trials?

It is motivating to see Women (“W”) doing trials on Instagram and YT. You could say Vera Baron (@veratrial), Debi Studer (@xfighter51), Nina Reichenbach (@ninareichenbach), and Daisy Craig (@daisyridesbikes) are role models. (It is exciting to see how much encouraging support Daisy is getting–well earned.) I feel fortunate to have seen Vera and Debi compete in Bentonville, so strong and into it! I am always so happy to see another woman at a comp, like a mom bringing their kid but also signing up. The Bentonville Bike Fest has grown from 1 to 5 in 3 years (I’m an OG). Mike Friddell of NA Trials advises me that if we have three WTNBF+ (“W+”) amateurs, he could run a separate category, but I think more would make a better comp.

I have also experienced competing in small categories in MTB racing and working to grow them. Maybe W+ of Trials could band together on social media to potentially encourage each other, like with a separate chat group in the Facebook group. Take group photos at comps, like I’ve seen done at a skateboard event. Other ideas for me are to talk about trials during my coaching introduction, post about trials to MTB groups, and repeat our MTB friendly trials course at the annual MTB gathering.

Photo credit: John Bradford

Any interesting / funny / crazy bike trials stories or experiences you can share?

My ex is a trials rider. We used to race XC and DH mountain biking in the Rocky Mountains. At one event, I did a NORBA Trials comp (in Gunnison, around 2001)! Also, I really enjoyed helping with timing for qualifying day at the UCI C1 last year in Bentonville. That was a cool experience.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start bike trials or has just started?

Try a used bike first, but make sure it has good brakes. Watch videos and join the Facebook group. Lift weights, especially plyometrics as explosive strength is needed. Find an experienced person or a group to ride with if you can. Try a comp!

Like me, you started riding trials later in life, which presents unique challenges compared to learning as a kid. What do you see as your biggest challenges in learning trials? What advice do you have for people in their 50s and 60s who are considering taking up trials?

Overcoming fear of looping out or of bailing poorly from a high place is my biggest challenge. I think that is partially due to age. I seem to be a slow learner when it comes to trials and MTB maneuvers. That means I have to work hard to stay motivated. Also, I haven’t been as regular about strength training the last few years, and that’s hurt me when it comes to trials.

How do people find you online? (i.e., YouTube, web, social media, etc.)


Who is the one North American bike trials rider (any skills level) that you think I should interview?

Robbie Pfunder. We met him at the CT comp, bought a bike from him, and now read how he mentored Grant Memmott a little. So now I’m curious to learn more!


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