I was so excited when Amanda Batty agreed to be one of the Real Life Shred Girls. She’s one of the most honest, outspoken and rad women racing bikes right now, and since (hint, hint) book two of the Shred Girls series might just be hitting the dirt, having an enduro racer featured on here is perfect! When I asked her about hopping over here to give you all some great tips and share her story, she immediately wrote back, “There are so many life lessons to learn from bikes and anything I can do to help encourage young girls to try riding, I’ll do! It’s such an amazing thing—and scientific studies back up our love and stoke of this mission, so that also helps, ha ha!” (She’s 100% right here, of course!)
I also love Amanda because like me (and like Lindsay!), she’s an introverted extrovert, so we get along just fine. Anyway, I could go on and on, but I’d love for you all to meet Amanda!
When did you start riding?
I started riding bikes as a kid and began officially ‘mountain biking’ (although we didn’t call it that) in the mountains behind my parent’s home in central Utah, but got my first full-suspension mountain bike at 14 as part of a phenomenal school program called ‘4-Hour Science’ that was started by a really amazing guy who was passionate about the outdoors and getting kids out there — I give Mr. Willis almost full credit for my love of and fascination with the mountains. I really got back into riding in my early 20s, however, as an off-season alternative to snowboarding… And I fell in love.
When did you decide you wanted to start racing Downhill/Gravity?
I became interested in racing in 2011, but didn’t make my first move until May of 2012 when I went all in at a local Utah series as part of a dare from a good friend who called me on the carpet about not going after what I wanted. So I jumped in with both feet, signed up and raced — and I was hooked. That was sort of the beginning of the rest of my life, essentially.
Favorite part about riding?
That I can never get too good at it. No matter how skilled I am, I’ll always be challenged by it. It never gets boring. It’s always this form of forced adaptation; I can’t change the mountain, but I can change myself and what I do to adapt to the mountain or to the trail. It constantly teaches me about myself, about my ability to change and morph and find new solutions to problems or obstacles — riding has taught me that there’s no such thing as impossible. There’s also no bullshitting to riding — the mountain doesn’t care if you’re late or out of shape or unprepared: it’ll still eat you alive if you’re not careful. It keeps me on my toes and forces me to face my fears, even when I would rather ignore them or skirt the issue (like I used to do with jumping and gaps and being in the air). It’s forced discomfort and if I want to ride something well, I have to face my fears, pick them apart and then confront what I’m doing in order to move forward. Riding (and specifically racing) has really pushed me towards so many levels of progression as a racer, friend, human and ultimately, a leader.
Least favorite part about riding?
That it never gets easier. Haha! That I can never be too good — I’m always blown away at how easily a tiny obstacle or even a ‘basic’ or ‘beginner’ skill or problem can mess me up. It keeps me humble. It keeps me vigilant and as frustrating as those tiny mistakes can be (that ALWAYS are the ones that injure me), it’s a good reminder to not get lazy, to be constantly working on the small steps. It’s really a love/hate thing for me, because it’s my least favorite part but it’s also what’s best for me personally. It forces me away from my perfectionism and expectations and teaches me that nobody is ever too good. It keeps me fascinated by the sport, so is it really my ‘least favorite’? Haha. That discomfort is both my favorite and least favorite, I guess — whether it’s racing in the wet and unfamiliar conditions or pushing my limits, it’s what keeps me coming back. It’s all valuable.
Have you made friends through racing? (If so, any tips for talking to new people—especially as an introvert?)
I have, even though it was so, so, so hard. I’m an extroverted introvert and I tend to get pretty intense when I’m focused on a mission (like at a race or event), and it’s really intimidating to meet people because of the way my brain works. I dislike ‘distractions’, but the relationships I’ve made through racing and riding and getting out of my comfort zone have been the best part of my life. Seriously. My tips for talking to new people? Everyone is dealing with their own stuff and fighting their own battles. We have more in common with people than we imagine and when we take that first step to just say ‘hello’ or flash a fast smile, we can make friends. It’s taught me so much about the simple things — connecting with other people and loving them is so, so worth a moment of discomfort… And it gets easier. Maybe only a little bit (and I constantly have to remind myself that I’m okay, that “I got this”), but it does. Like anything challenging but ultimately worth doing, it takes practice. Just saying hello, asking how people are, truly engaging and connecting with people is really cool, and there are so many rad folks out there — I look at it like another adventure. I like to ask myself “What secrets does this person want to tell? What’s their story? What don’t they get asked a lot? What made them, them?” And it helps, because ultimately it’s about caring about that person as a human.
Coolest trick or accomplishment you’ve had with riding?
Scaring myself almost every weekend, evolving as a rider, doing the stuff I thought impossible at one point. Pushing my limits on my own and dictating my own growth. It’s been a long road (5 years in 2018), but there are so many things I never imagined I’d do, in places and situations I never thought I could do them. Whether it’s finishing (and winning!) a race with a broken back or showing up to Nationals this year and taking second place on a wet course that had eaten me for lunch all week… It’s never about the podium as much as it has been proving that I can do stuff. And yeah — I still question that. But I’m learning that my trajectory is only limited by my imagination and what I’m willing to work for, so a lot of that has changed what comes for me. Accomplishments have become more about the journey and less about the outcome, and that’s ultimately rewarding because there’s always a silver lining… There’s always a lesson (or twenty), and it means that no matter what happens or who ends up on the podium, personally, I’ve won. It means that I’ve succeeded and gained something for being there and setting personal goals, and that’s what’s the coolest thing for me.
What does a week of training/riding look like for you?
It tends to differ between summer and winter (race season vs off-season) as I spend a lot more time in the gym during the winter and trying to build a good base for my race season, and this fall and winter have been/will be more intense than any other year for me — I’ve been hitting the gym super hard and getting on the bike 4-5 days a week and really pumping air into my preparation so that I can meet my goals for 2018.
Best tip for someone younger who’d love to get started riding/racing, but doesn’t know anyone else to ride with?
Go ride anyway. Go ride everything you can find. Push your limits in a safe way and enjoy the ride… And then sign up for a race. You’ll make friends. Jump in with both feet, have fun, make mistakes and keep doing it. If you don’t know any of the trails in your area or how to get started with the basics of MTB-ing and you have questions, email me. Yes, seriously. email@example.com — I got you.
Best tip for tackling a scary section in a bike park? Downhill can be super intimidating!
My advice to everyone who rides bikes (from beginners to pros) is always chin up, eyes forward, elbows out. You can’t ride what you can’t see. I’ve modified a quote from Ayrton Senna that I live by: the bike goes where your eyes go. Yes, it really is that simple. Relax, remember to breathe and always look at the end of an obstacle — whether that’s a rock garden, a corner or the landing of a jump. The bike goes where your eyes go and if your eyes are pointed at the exit, you’ll generally be okay. Also: when it comes to really steep technical stuff, get your butt off the seat and over the back tire. Chin up, eyes forward, elbows out. Then have some fun. 😉
Absolute favorite piece of gear?
My race kit. I feel like a superhero in it because a few years ago I found that I really liked rocking red and it shows up well in photographs, so I snagged an entirely red race outfit… And I adore it. It’s the superhero costume of my childhood dreams because it makes me feel like I can do anything and go as fast as I want. Every single time I suit up for a race, I smile. It makes me that happy.
OK, this one is important: any tips for not screwing up using the lift at a bike park? I am legit terrified about that!
Breathe. Know that the lift is going slow enough that you’ll have time. The key is putting your front tire in the tray/on the rack first and then guiding your back tire on behind it. Focus on where the front tire goes on the rack and the rest usually takes care of itself (both on the rack and on the trail)… And practice. It just takes time to figure out and honestly, I still worry about messing up. It’s embarrassing! But just remember: everyone has been there. Nobody’s making fun of you, there’s someone there to help, and you have plenty of time.
You don’t just race bikes, you’re very vocal about equality for female racers and calling out companies for sexist practices. Any advice for young girls on using their voices and not being afraid to stand up for themselves?
Well, my motto is ‘Do no harm, take no $hit.’ I never actively want to do damage to another person or company, but I’m also not going to stand by and allow myself (or anyone else) to be treated wrongly or in a way that would hurt them. I’m not perfect and I don’t always go about standing up for myself in the best way, but the key is to keep trying — we’re all works in progress. I also think that having a moral code to live by helps my confidence — at the end of the day, is what I’m doing making the world a better place? Did what I do today/this week/last year improve lives somehow? Was it more important to speak out in order to protect others than to potentially protect myself? I think being an advocate goes beyond just standing up for ourselves, but also doing our best to help other people and give them the space and ability to stand up for themselves as well. But the key is just standing up, standing for something. What’s important? What matters most? What changes would we like to see in the world, as a community, as individual people? It’s a fine balance of constant self-examination, compassion, and caring. We have to care enough to take the steps to make a better tomorrow for those who come after us — and if we don’t, who will? Ultimately, that was my impetus for speaking out and becoming so vocal about so many issues, from sexism to concussions. If I don’t speak up, who will? If I don’t tackle this problem, will it get solved? Ultimately, that’s the key to having courage. If I spend my life hoping that someone will take care of an issue, I’ll wait forever. Hope without action just leads to disappointment — if I can’t accept the way something happens or what the status quo is, it’s my job to change it. I feel like that sort of personal accountability has led to really amazing things for me… It’s not someone else’s job to fix the things that are broken that I can’t accept. If I have a problem, it’s mine to solve. That’s my responsibility.
Huge thanks to Amanda for sharing this and for everything she does to get more girls and women shredding!
Know another Shred Girl in your life? Nominate her to be featured in this series!