(Birthday Miles) x 10

by Beth Donovan


Kitsbow Ambassador Ana Pimsler, currently in her 11th year as a high school math teacher, is learning how to adapt to distance teaching. 

But that's not all she is learning. Ana recently celebrated another year around the sun and chose to celebrate with an adventure, let's see how the adventure went.

Most people choose to relax on their birthday, but you chose to celebrate in a most unusual way: riding 387 miles and 41,494 ft elevation gain. Tell us more about that. 

Yeah, I've never been very good at relaxing. A beach vacation sounds like torture to me. Some people ride "birthday miles," so I figured why not birthday miles x 10! (For the math geeks out there that's just an exclamation mark, not 10 factorial. Now THAT would be insane).

We had also been looking at a couple different 400 mile routes at the beginning of the year, so I think that goal of riding 400 miles was already set in my mind. This just seemed like the perfect excuse. I'm coming to terms with having to round up from 387 - the original route was almost exactly 400 - but with some on-route detours, we cut off a few miles.

What wisdom would you impart to riders who, by choice or by accident, bite off a bit more than one should chew? 

If by choice, then I hope they're loving every miserable second of it! If by accident, my favorite question to ask myself is, "are you going to die?" And so far the answer has always been no, to which I reply to myself, "deal with it later." "It" being pain, exhaustion, hunger, fear...usually it's hunger. Carrying enough snacks on rides is key to success.

I think often that feeling of being in over your head comes from fear, not ability, and the more prepared you are the less there is to worry about. Whether it's knowing the route, first aid, emergency bail-out plans, basic mechanical skills, all of that will help you to answer, "no, no I'm not going to die so I should just enjoy the adventure."

How has the relationship with your bike evolved over the last year?

A hardtail do-it-all mountain bike, that I could bikepack on but also enjoy as a regular bike, had been on my wish list for a while. Last year my dreams came true when I purchased a custom steel frame built right here in Santa Rosa by Jeremy Sycip.

This bike has really changed my appreciation for mountain biking. While I love racing bikes with my Hella Mello Racing teammates, it's mostly for the camaraderie and fun routes in new places; I've never been serious about training or really that competitive.

What I am good at is riding my bike all day long (and I mean ALL day long). The Sycip is exactly the bike I want to spend all day on. I still enjoy chasing my friends downhill and trying to go fast, but mostly I just look forward to long, meandering routes that include stopping to look at flowers and cool bugs.

Right now, more than ever, the ability to ride from our house up into Annadel State Park has been a pandemic miracle. I think we've all come to appreciate our bikes for far more simpler reasons in the past 6 months.


What's on your bikepacking bucket list?

We had planned to do the Stagecoach 400 in Southern California in early March over my spring break, but the rains were ridiculous, so we rerouted to Utah at the last minute, just before everything closed down due to COVID-19. So I definitely want to get to the Stagecoach route one of these days. It's been hard to dream of big, far away adventures because we don't really know when those will be able to happen again, but I would definitely love to explore places farther north, like Idaho and Montana. Something like the Tour Divide is a very, very, very far away dream. Maybe. That'll take a lot of snacks.