Up next in our series of interviews is Sarah White.
Located in Montana, USA Sarah is an outdoor evangelist and has been for many years. She is an avid cyclist and has miles and miles of off-road riding experience and is a highly skilled bike mechanic. As an ambassador for encouraging and empowering more women to get out and ride, she believes that you should ride with what you have or what you can borrow and is truly passionate about making the sport more inclusive, especially to women.
We caught up with her to hear about what makes her tick, what she’s been up to lately and as another snack aficionado, what are her go to fuel must haves.
What’s your name, and where are you from?
Sarah White, I currently live in Northwest Montana, Whitefish, USA, in the Rocky Mountains. However, I grew up in the Seattle, Washington area.
Everyone has their own unique story about why they first started spending time outdoors and/or got into a specific activity or community. How did this go for you?
I moved to Montana after college in search of the wilderness and to escape the city. Once I arrived I quickly realised going into the backcountry by yourself with no knowledge isn’t the best idea. I slowly started finding other women who had backcountry experience and found I wasn’t alone in my search for knowledge or other people to explore the wilderness with.
In 2014 (long after I graduated college) I started a community for women, Outsiety. This was a society for women who love the outdoors and became a resource for women to make friends, learn new skills and sports and get into the wilderness together. In 2018 when I moved to California I transitioned Outsiety over to a dear friend and she’s kept the community thriving. My husband and I are currently back in Montana and loving every second of being in the vast wilderness again.
Where do you spend most of your time outdoors, and why?
Lately I’ve been spending most of my outdoor time on gravel roads exploring Montana in ways I’ve never seen before via bike.
What is the best thing that a closer relationship to the outdoors has given you?
Peace. Confidence. Joy.
5. Any downsides?
Fear of wild animals…bears mostly.
Now, we know you (amongst other things) for your love of bikes, so we’d like to hear a little more about your experience with and passion for off road riding.
What’s your background? Favourite discipline, how did you get into it?
I started with downhill mountain biking when I first moved to Montana and over the years it has morphed into Enduro riding, XC riding, road riding and now gravel riding.
What’s more satisfying for you, “full face helmet and gnar” or “aero and casquette exploration”? Adrenaline or Adventure? Can you have the best of both worlds?
These days the full face helmet and gnar make less and less of an appearance. There’s an incredible gravel scene developing in my area and I find myself on my gravel bike way more often than I would have expected. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s wisdom or maybe I’m just enjoying the challenge of endurance and fitness vs. hucking myself down a mountain.
Interesting, what’s your definition of ‘gravel’ riding? Must we be cautious about angering the ‘Spirit of Gravel’?
For me, gravel riding is yet to be clearly defined. It’s ever changing and evolving. Some days it’s race focused, some days it exploration focused and some days it’s all about enjoying the outdoors without a care in the world. But one thing is consistent, you can’t do gravel ‘wrong’ and I love that about this emerging sport. As long as you strive for a good attitude you’re doing it right.
Do you think that the merging of disciplines is making it easier for people to get into the sports (less rigid rules and expectations) or more barriers (more equipment, more niches, more costs).
“Gravel” doesn’t give a fuck, and that’s one of the reasons people are drawn to it. You can show up in jean shorts and a bike that barely works or you can be in a brand new kit with the most expensive bike and no one cares. Everyone is just stoked to ride!
With any sport, nicer equipment can make your ride more comfortable but it’s not necessary to have a good time. Less rules and expectations are the heart of gravel and I hope that doesn’t change. But yes, of course, cost is usually the biggest barrier for people. Understandably.
Do you have any plan or events you really want to complete?
I just raced in the Dusty Bandita last weekend and had a blast!
This was my first all women’s gravel race and much like the early days of Enduro racing the vibe was uber-supportive and just plain fun. I raced the short course but hoping to race the long course next year.
Jess Cerra is the reason I started gravel riding. Her commitment to inclusion in gravel sucked me right in. Along with The Last Best Ride, Jess puts on a gravel clinic series focused on educating women about gravel riding, bike mechanics, nutrition and skills. Basically everything you need to know to be empowered on your gravel bike. For the first two years of the clinics I volunteered to teach the mechanics portion of the series and I loved every minute of it. Teaching women how to work on their bikes allows them to adventure further into the backcountry with confidence. YES! It would be amiss to not mention Stella Hobbs for empowering women in this sport and building the community as well. Stella and her husband Willie own Great Northern Cycle and Ski and have partnered with Jess in supporting the gravel clinics and the race. Plus, having a bike shop owner that understands the needs of women riders has helped our community immensely. We’re lucky to have such wonderful people and resources in our small town.
As someone who not recreationally has a relationship with the outdoors, but also works in product creation for an outdoors brand we’re interested (as fellow gear heads) in your take on new trends in this space.
What’s your favourite outdoors related product (not just cycling)?
Ohhhh, I do love product so this is a hard one. Right now, I really love the Specialized Women’s Trail SWAT Jacket. It works for gravel and mountain biking brilliantly, packs up super small and is that perfect weight for when the wind is just a bit too brisk or the rain begins to lightly fall. It’s a life saver.
And your favourite social account, website, or print mag?
Right now I am really into sports nutrition. The content Skratch Labs is putting out really resonates with me. I’ve also been liking Find Food Freedom as they question societal norms around diet culture. Very informative!
We’re always thinking about food too. What trail side snack are you gutted if you leave behind?
I really love Justin’s almond butter packets. The Chocolate hazelnut is my favourite flavour.
Finally what’s the one piece of advice you wish you knew when starting out, or would like to share with those starting their outdoors adventure journey?
Just start and it’s ok if you suck at first.
Take the first step on the hike before you have all the gear. Take that first pedal even if you don’t have the latest and greatest bike. You don’t need fancy gear to have a good time.
Try to find people who have the same interest and goals as you. This makes learning so much easier and so much more fun! And remember, no one is good at anything on their first try.