GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -When Sarah Mah Withers became a Grand Valley transplant almost 20 years ago, the area's world-class mountain biking trails were definitely a draw for the athletic mother."I started mountain biking six weeks after I had my first child," Withers, 43, said, laughing a little at the timing. It was 1992 and she still lived on the Front Range, where she grew up. Mountain biking was a sport that simply felt natural to Withers, she noted, especially since she already had experience with trail running and rock climbing.When she moved to the Grand Valley - a place known for its numerous bike trails - it solidified her interest in the sport. And Withers' connection to Grand Junction's cycling scene, both professionally and personally, grew exponentially over the years. She's a huge supporter of local trail building and maintenance, Fruita's Fat Tire Festival, as well as drawing women into the sport.The Grand Valley's female mountain bike community "has grown a lot," Withers said, also noting that the area has always had "a strong contingent of female cyclists.""I feel fortunate to live in a place where I don't have to seek out other women to ride with," she added. "There's already so many women on the trails, and more women will go out on the trails because it's not as intimidating."Taking that message to heart, Withers started Grand Junction's first women-only mountain bike group in 1995 - it was called the "Glitter Girls." And though it's now defunct, it paved the way for the now very popular local group, "Singletrack Sisters," which is run by Withers' friend and has close to 350 Facebook fans. Withers said she likes to ride with the Sisters as much as she can.According to Withers, the variety of mountain bike terrain in the Grand Valley has definitely drawn a number of world-class female athletes into the valley, and "it's neat to see the incredible endurance athletes and downhill riders."Withers describes herself as a "masochist" on her bike - she likes technical trails, uphill climbing, and she's spent a decade on a rigid, single-speed bike - her preference for races.Her 20-year-old son, Jordan, and 14-year-old daughter Danielle are athletes, too. Both are great cyclists, Withers said, and Danielle loves to dance - she recently began to train in toe-shoes for ballet.
Withers' professional life is pretty busy, too. Originally a co-founder of Over the Edge Sports in Fruita with Rondo Buecheler and former husband, Troy Rarick, Withers now runs Desert Rat Tours with her husband, David Withers. Together, they guide biking trips throughout the Grand Valley and Moab, Utah."We take cyclists out and show off the Grand Valley," she said, noting that they cater to both national and international visitors. "Our last two clients were from Canada and Switzerland."Withers added that she'd like to see Desert Rat Tours grow in conjunction with destination events in the Grand Valley, like Palisade's Peach Festival and WineFest, as a way to combine cycling with other activities.Both Withers are involved with the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association (COPMOBA) Colorado Canyons Chapter, and participate in trail work days to maintain area gems for fun and safety. COPMOBA is a nonprofit group of mountain bikers who are dedicated to building, maintaining and advocating for singletrack trails on the Colorado plateau."I really like being outside and the process of trail maintenance," Withers said. "It's a process with lots of planning - from beginning to end - and then I get to ride it."
When Withers isn't busy being a mom, wife, cyclist and businesswoman, she enjoys painting, photography and food. In fact, a lot of her photos incorporate culinary subjects.Withers grew up around lots of art - her mom was an artist - and she continues to incorporate creativity into her life as much as she can. There's a corner in the garage at her Redlands home where she likes to paint, and some of her work can currently be viewed at Aspen Street Coffee Co. in Fruita.To view some of Withers' art on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/artbysarahmah.For more information about Desert Rat Tours, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 970-261-8101 and 970-260-4842.