Welcome to Space Sand- an honest, authentic and sometimes funny, sometimes emotional blog where I (Ashley, nice to meet you) share bits and pieces of what makes this company, and myself, unique.
Allow me to introduce myself.
I’ve ridden bikes nearly my entire life. In fact, my dad worked at a bike shop when I was born. It started as a way to get around (and into trouble) as a kid growing up in Oregon, and progressed into a way to spend time between ski seasons when I was living in Central Oregon for community college. I moved to Bellingham in 2010, looking for bigger & steeper mountains… and I definitely found them. My first full suspension bike was a Transition Syren, and my first ride in Whatcom County was spent in tears, similar to the first time my dad tried to take me as a teen. Bikes (and skis, really) have always been an emotional balance for me. I grew up during a time where girls weren’t always pushed into sports, and that’s just how it was. There were no role models to show us differently, but I have so much hope for future generations of female riders. I always enjoyed riding, but mountain biking took a backseat to skiing, and that Syren was sold in favor of a seasons pass and new skis. I’ve always regretted that choice a little.
I spent several winters skiing 100+ days, but then my ass got too big for ski pants and that put a halt to things. Yep, you read that right. My pants didn’t fit so I stopped doing what I loved. I remember driving around town trying to find a pair of XXL mens pants, so that I could go on a trip to Whistler, and when they didn’t button, I was devastated. I felt like the world let me down. I was at the height of my ability on skis, and yet, the lack of gear told me I had to stop.
I fell into a period of depression, gained more weight, lost a lot of myself in the endless grind of work and no outside time, and found myself a miserable pile of human. I moved back to Bend, in search of the person I’d lost somewhere along the way. I’m not sure what prompted the choice, but at my utmost desperation, I found a cheap hard tail. My first ride on it was 2.4 miles and I cried, again. Like I said, sports have been emotional for me and this was no exception. I didn’t think I could do it, and I was devastated at the thought that I was in my late 20s and couldn’t do something so simple as ride 2 miles of trail with barely any elevation gain. I felt betrayed, by my body, by the world for telling me I had to stop participating in my chosen activities when I had been in such good shape just a few years prior.
A couple rides in, something clicks. I realized, everyone starts somewhere, and told myself: ‘bitch you better keep trying.’ I started shuttling trails to get more comfortable, and all of a sudden, there she was… my mountain loving, tree hugging self was starting to come back. Through mutual friends, I met Lindsey Richter of Ladies AllRide, and ended up trading dozens of hours of massage work (my profession at the time) for a full suspension bike, and a friendship that changed my life trajectory. Lindsey took me to Crankworx Whistler, and talked me into riding A-Line with 100 other women. We’ve talked more than once about how sometimes you have to just show up and be the only person like you, so that you can show people they can. She encouraged me to get out there, and get involved, and to ride as much as I wanted regardless of stereotypes. She taught me endless skills and I can still hear her yelling about boobs over the bars and smearing my butt on a berm while I’m riding, years later. On that day at Crankworx, on the most ridden trail in the world, I realized, this is what I want to do, all the time. This is how I feel free.
6 months later, my husband got a job that moved us back to Bellingham, and I spent a lot of time walking up, and down our local trail network. I was scared of roots, scared of rocks, scared of most of it, but I kept going, because it was still fun. Mind you, I spent this entire time riding in road biking shorts or leggings, and tee shirts, because that’s what I had, and there was no gear out there for me. When the pandemic hit, I took 6 months away from work, and spent the entire time riding my bike. I rode over 100 trails locally, and spent countless hours in the saddle every week, trying to find peace in the woods… and I did.
Mountain biking became a catalyst for positive mental health, physical health, and changed my relationship with myself. It transformed me from someone who wasn’t sure of who she was, to who I am today: very f*cking sure.
It took my decade of eating disorders and turned them on their face in the dirt, by teaching me that fueling my body appropriately was the only way for me to see an increase in my ability. It taught me to enjoy cookies at the top, and a beer at the bottom, in a way I’d never been able to prior.
It taught me that when I’m having a shit day, most of it can wait at least a couple hours… and that your life looks better when your legs are tired and your face is covered in sweaty dirt. Clearing my head on my bike has never steered me the wrong way.
It taught me that regardless of what anyone says, I am who I am, and I love what I love… even though marketing for the outdoor industry seems to tell me otherwise. I never saw someone like me in a magazine growing up. I was always told I didn’t have ‘the right body type for x’. Hell, I even had to start my own company to make myself mountain bike gear. But if there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that no one, no article, no Facebook comment, nothing, is ever taking my identity from me again.
I spent too long feeling like my physical body didn’t belong with where my mind wanted me to be. I still struggle with impostor syndrome every single day of my life. But, what has changed, is that I finally made the connection with who I want to be and how I stay in touch with her...
It’s action sports.
It’s pushing my body to it’s limit.
It’s hours and hours spent in the forest and on mountains, breathing fresh air, getting dirt under my fingertips, staring at peaks and valleys until I get emotional about the beauty of the earth.
There’s no substitute. To live this happy and full life, that’s what I will spend my time doing, regardless of who makes gear for people like me. Oh, and I got back on skis this week, because a handful of companies have finally caught up, to making gear that fits. Someone once said to me that it’s a “shouldn’t-be-revolutionary, revolutionary idea” to make bike and ski gear for bigger bodies. That’s it. Gear/clothing/access should never be a prohibitive factor to enjoying the outdoors and recreating the way you want. The world has a lot of work to do here, but it’s my hope that Cosmic Dirt can be a big part of showing the outdoor industry that people like me exist, and we want to play just as hard as the rest.
Throughout the last year, I’ve formed some amazing relationships with brands that support what I’m doIng and I’ve been fortunate to become a sponsored athlete. Something I never thought I would say. I’ve pushed my riding to a higher level than I ever was at even a decade ago, and can confidently ride trails that I used to be scared of. I’ve conquered so many demons, and even though I constantly battle, them… this retrospective moment shows me how far I’ve come. I’m finding that my vulnerability in sharing my story is met with so much support, and it just fuels the fire to do better, go further, and show more people that living the way they want is possible.
And a note, there’s a lot here I haven’t said. I wanted to introduce this blog in a way that shows you where it’s going to go… and to tell a piece of my story as it relates to the content I’ll share here. Thanks for being a part of my journey, and being willing to read about my struggles. Making it to the end of this post means that you care enough to help the world change, and I will never be able to express enough gratitude for all of you who are with me.
Thanks for being here.