Racing Mountain at 16: Abigail Carter
We’re excited to kick off a new series on our blog, in which we introduce you to some of our favorite riders. We start with the stories of three women. First up is Abigail Carter! This summer, she joined some of our River Road rides on borrowed bikes. She just got her first road bike, a Liv Avail. We know she’ll crush it on the road just like she does in the mountains on her Jamis Trail X3.
Words by Rebecca Bratburd
Photos by Sam Polcer
Abigail Carter, sixteen, races mountain bikes. She also runs cross-country, bangs on drums, and loves studying history, but get her on the topic of bikes, and her eyes light up with excitement.
“I really like to share mountain biking with people,” she said. “It’s such a fun sport, how could you not share it?”
Abby earned a spot on the podium at the Windham Mountain Bike World Cup Festival in August. So did her father, a former high school cross-country and swim coach who’s also taken up mountain biking recently.
“We’ve been getting better together,” she said.
Besides winning, Abby loves watching her progression into the sport.
“Getting a better time on the same course is the best feeling,” she said.
She shaved 22 minutes off her time, compared to her effort on the same course last year, which, for an hour to an hour-and-a-half race, is significant.
Abby is part of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association–NICA–and her school had five girls and about twenty boys on its team this season.
“Sometimes I’d be the only girl to show up to practice. I would think, ‘Oh no, the boys are going to beat the crap out of me,’” she said. “If I don’t want to lose sight of them, I have to ride over things I wouldn’t normally want to ride over if they weren’t in front of or behind me.”
As so many new racers quickly discover, racing has a major psychological component. Abby learns tricks from her father along the way.
“Follow the leader, and psyche them out. If you don’t do it, somebody else is going to do it to you,” she said. “Follow somebody to scare them a little bit, and eventually they’ll get tired and you’ll be able to pass them. I’ve seen people win races that way. It’s so cool!”
Another tip: Apparently, if you pass somebody two times, they’ll back off. “It’ll psyche them out. I haven’t tried it yet, but people have done it to me,” Abby said.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, “Sometimes it really, really hurts and you just have to keep going,” she said with a smile.
For beginners, or anything looking to improve their game, Abby offered straightforward advice.
“The thing I wish I did more: just do it. If you see a log, don’t be afraid. Go faster and go over it, because you can probably do it. Try to let go of that little bit of fear inside,” she said. “You’ll feel great once you can do that.
“What’s the worst that’ll happen? You fall over. It’s not the end of the world.”
Rebecca Bratburd is an NYC based journalist. She writes the cycling blog Demystifying Women’s Cycling.
Sam Polcer is an NYC based photographer. He is the author and photographer of the Preferred Mode blog.