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Ella Skalwold is one of the nicest people we know in the mountain bike world. With a smile constantly on her face, she’s always encouraging others and maintaining a positive attitude. We recently chatted with her about how she got into biking and what her biggest challenges are. Read on to learn more about Ella.
Where are you originally from and where are you residing currently?
I grew up in Ithaca, NY and am now living in East Burke, VT.
When did you start biking and how did you get into the sport?
I moved to California in 2009 and spent a year trying to figure out how to live in the endless summer. I found mountain biking the summer of 2010 and was HOOKED instantly. My ex had a chance to try one of his friends bikes and so his (way too big for me) bike was available to use. He looked at me and said, “you can come, but I’m just going to ride the trails that I want so I can test this bike.” The only instruction he gave that day was, “walk the parts you don’t want to do, I’ll see you down there.” We pointed our bikes down the infamous T&A trail in Laguna. Staring down at the first rock garden that seemed like it would destroy anybody who ventured that direction, I decided to walk. I hacked my way down the rest of the trail and by the time I got to the bottom, I asked him how much he thought one of these things cost and had my credit card out!
How did you get into racing?
I did my first race in 2013 at Mammoth Mountain in California. It was horrible! I ended up being about 15 miles in the wrong direction on the other side of the mountain after taking a wrong turn. I tried a couple more races and decided that it was not for me. I wanted to enjoy riding my bike and the stress of racing was not fun for me. Fast forward to 2015 and living in VT. My friend Jen Ide asked me if I would race the Enduro at Attitash with her. Not wanting to race, but wanting to support a friend, I said yes. I went into the race with the singular goal of not panicking and breathing the whole time. As simple as that sounds, it was something that up until that point, I had not been able to do. I made it through the race with a smile on my face and a bronze metal! Since I was already planning on going to the races to support my boyfriend, Alex, that summer, I started signing up for them and was quickly able to move up from Cat 2 in Downhill to Pro!
What do you find most challenging about cycling and how do you overcome those challenges?
Self doubt is the biggest challenge. Whether it be not believing you will be able to make it to the top of the hill, or if you will be able to hit that jump. Sorting through your fears and understanding the balance between fear and skills.
You’re pretty active in the mountain biking world, can you tell us a little about your guiding and coaching work?
I have yet to find anything in this life that gives back to me in the way that mountain biking does! A huge part of that is the people who participate in this sport. From your average rider to people at the very top of the sport, humility, kindness and fun prevail. I get a ton of joy in sharing what I love through my coaching & guiding. Knight Ide passed over the guiding element of IdeRide to Alex and I, which is now called Vermont Mountain Bike Tours. We also coach the IdeRide Jr Enduro and Downhill team.
How do you balance your biking with everything else you’ve got going on?
What do you love most about cycling?
The people and the oxygen! As I mentioned before, the community is so special in this sport! Also, being outside and enjoying/appreciating nature in the way we do is invaluable!
What advice would you have for a female rider who is new to cycling or wants to take her riding to the next level?
PLAY and make mistakes! As women we have been taught our whole lives to not try something unless we know we can do it perfectly. LET GO OF THAT! When I’m coaching kids, I watch how they learn. They are not embarrassed to try a wheelie and fail a thousand times. They are also constantly moving! Don’t hold still when you’re waiting for your friends to get ready…play around, pop wheelies, practice cutties, see if you can get a manual, or just move your bike around under your body while rolling in the parking lot!