Interview: CJ Selig on Being the Only Woman at DarkFest

Mar 12, 2020
by Samantha Saskia Dugon  
CJ Selig

Most of us here at Pinkbike know CJ best for her role as the FiveTen Global Team Manager but there's more to her than a corporate job title and a desk job. In February she made the trip down to South Africa to join in with the DarkFest event with the sole goal of hitting the huge step up that forms the centerpiece of the course.

She isn't the first woman to ride a Fest event, that honour goes to Casey Brown who rode at HoffFest in 2016, but she's certainly turned a few heads with her appearance. We caught up with CJ just after the event to talk about her experience riding the course, how she's helping female freeride on and off the track and what her plans are for the future.

First of all, could you introduce yourself?

My name is CJ Selig, I’m from the US, most recently California. These days I live in Germany where I work for Five Ten.

When did you start riding and what got you into it, and most importantly, what kept you hooked?

I was 24 when I got a job at a bike shop; I knew nothing about mountain biking. My first ride was enough to get me hooked, though, and I will never forget how fun it was. I instantly decided mountain biking was the most badass sport ever and what I needed in my life. I don’t have a moto or BMX background, so I was really starting from zero, but I think that just made me love it more.

Where did you learn to ride?

Big Bear Lake, California. It’s a beautiful place and there are tons of trails to explore. I would bring a paper map into the forest with me and highlight trails as I rode them until I knew the area by heart.

Where is your favourite place to ride?

That’s such a difficult question to answer! Rampage is my favorite time of the year when everyone heads out to the original site and camps out. I’ve gone the last five years and it keeps getting better. It’s like a straight week of bikes, bonfires and beer- what more could you want?

What is your job role with Five Ten?

I’m the Global Team Manager. I look after a pretty large team of riders, but it’s a very sweet gig. I end up traveling a lot, which I love, and my riders are great people to work with. I’m basically the interface between the riders and the company, making sure their feedback goes into the shoes and making sure the ad campaigns use the right rider, stuff like that.

How did your role with Five Ten evolve into what you do now?

I was working for Five Ten on product until we moved to Adidas HQ in Germany. I was surprised to be offered the team manager position because I didn’t have any experience in marketing. They weren’t looking for someone with a marketing degree, however, they wanted someone who knew the sport inside and out; that was me. I’ve always been a huge fan, I buy every bike film that comes out, I watch every World Cup, I even watch the live timing. Now it’s my job to be at all these events, and even though it gets hectic at times it’s worth it when I get sent to rad events like DarkFest.

Did you think about hitting the step up before you came to DarkFest?

I dreamt about it! I talked to Sam a bit at Audi Nines so I knew that he would be open to letting me ride if I felt confident in myself. But I also knew just how much bigger it was gonna be in real life, so I tried to keep my expectations realistic.

Hitting the DarkFest step up

What was the biggest jump you’d hit prior to DarkFest?

Hmmm, nothing that compares. Besides being big, the lip is so steep it’s like riding into a massive wall and trying to convince yourself everything is going to work out.

How did you build yourself up to it?

I spent two days doing run-ins. I was worried about going fast enough. I’d heard of people not making it to the top and hitting the face of the landing, which - no thanks. On my run-ins, I’d follow one of the guys down the road gap and once I matched speed with them on the straight, I would slam the brakes. At some point I realized I was reaching that courage moment where my speed wasn’t the issue, my fear was the thing holding me back and it was time to go for it; luckily the vibe from riding with freeriders is awesome because you can feel how badly they want it. The conditions are never perfect, there’s no race clock, it’s easy to make up excuses not to ride so when you see how much they’re pushing themselves; you know it’s all coming from within. It’s a great environment to hype yourself up in.

What did it feel like when you did it for the first time?

It was bigger than I was expecting! Tom Van Steenbergen towed me in on my first go and I was so worried about going fast enough that it came as a bit of a shock when it worked. Suddenly I was so high up in the air! The guys are so talented they make it look easy and smooth because it’s a step up, but it took a lot of physical strength to control the bike through the lip and the landing was a lot rougher than I expected. I landed heavy and slid out into the next berm, but once the shock wore off and the adrenaline kicked in, I was screaming and hugging people and just wanted to go again.

Do you prefer hitting big jumps or bombing down steep techy stuff?

Can’t I have both? I’m better at riding steep and technical terrain, jumps scare me a lot more but I absolutely love them. This whole sport is addicting.

Hitting the Darkfest Step-up

What is your experience of the women’s community in the sport?

I don’t think you can make a blanket statement about women in mountain biking anymore and that alone is a sign of how much the sport has thrived.

I’ve had the most amazing experiences with the mountain biking community as a whole; male and female mountain bikers tend to be an easy bunch to get along with and are a big part of why my enthusiasm for the sport is so strong.

When I look specifically at what women are accomplishing, I see a lot of positivity, a lot of steps in the right direction, and a lot more potential for growth. When it comes to freeride, I think the level of riding is improving very rapidly. As it once happened with the men, there are a few women right now knocking off new tricks and opening the floodgates for everyone else.

I also think when you look at trail riding, just classic mountain biking, female participation is very strong. What’s especially encouraging to me is how many co-ed groups you see at trailheads around the world. I think most mountain bikers are looking for friends at a similar level, who prefer the same style of riding or even people who have a good sense of humor to ride with. These are the important pillars to a good riding companion in my book, male or female.

The big question for me, then, is why don’t more women compete? I get asked this a lot by event directors who want to support and grow women’s biking but who struggle to get women’s entries over 5%. I don’t have an answer. I’ve always loved racing, even if I’m not going home with a gold medal I’m having a great time and enjoy the experience. I wish I knew how to turn those figures around because it bums me out, but I only have ideas, no answers.

You have been involved in helping out on numerous recent film productions within the MTB industry, most noticeably Vision movie, what was that like to be a part of?

Yeah, so while hitting the DarkFest step up has been a huge personal accomplishment, some of the things I’ve achieved through work with Five Ten have meant the world to me, and the top of that list is Vision. I spent months working with Vero Sandler and the production team to get the concept of Vision realized. It was a long process, especially since we (Five Ten) fully funded the film and it was unknown terrain for the whole team. In the end, I think Vero successfully told her story, the story of a freeride athlete, and I think we knocked down a few more barriers in the process.

What would you be doing in the future? (I.e would you like to ride full time, still work in the industry, have a change of job role?)

I would love to ride full time, sign me up!

Until I sign those big-money contracts, though, my love of riding isn’t going anywhere; I’m gonna keep working in the bike industry, traveling everywhere and riding everything.


  • 232 0
 This is SO SICK! Best time ever with the Dark Fest crew!

Thanks for the interview! Smile
  • 47 60
flag WAKIdesigns (Mar 12, 2020 at 7:28) (Below Threshold)
 It is still too soon to use the word “Sick” in MTB world...
  • 16 0
 Props, that's a huge jump. Well done.
  • 11 0
 So, you went out and hit something that would make most of us cringe in fear... Freaking awesome! Way to get it done!
  • 2 0
 Great to have seen your progression over the years. Wonderful to have you out there repping the sport and helping athletes.
  • 2 1
 The civic kids replaced it by “ill ”@WAKIdesigns:
  • 1 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Showing your age brother :-/ I LOVE IT
  • 5 3
 @WAKIdesigns: that went over everyone's head apparently...I am surprised.

I think your comment would have been properly recieved as a corona virus joke when following a well deserved positive remark about her achievements.

Such as...
Awesome job CJ! You are an inspiration to the entire freeride community! But do you think it's too soon to use the work sick in the MTB world?
  • 1 0
 We always have a good mix of men and women on rides. Its just better that way Smile Good luck with your awesome career.
  • 1 0
 Awsome riding, awesome attitude
  • 1 0
 In terms of why more women don't compete, I think it's got to be down to population size. Just fewer women are riding MTB in general, so fewer women are competing. You don't expect every male rider to show up at a race, and neither would an equivalent female rider. That said, I'd love to compete against a broader field too. I wish more women did show up at races. It's sad when there's only one woman in a category Frown
I saw one survey that found only 12% of riders are female so it makes sense that you'll see equivalent numbers in competition.
So the real question is, how do we get more women to get into mountain biking! I think part of the problem is that mountain biking often has a very over-the-top masculine vibe ("HECK YA BRO" culture is kind of a turn-off for me, and I avoid riding with people like that), so we need to improve MTB's public image. Also, just look at the toxicity that happens whenever anyone talks about women in sport on Pinkbike, it's so sad Frown
I also think local governments have a large hand to play in getting more women into traditionally male-dominated fields. Cultural lines are so heavily entrenched that it's hard to cross them. More MTB infrastructure (particularly high-quality skills parks in visible locations that cater to all skill levels), more tourism advertising featuring women and families, more club funding to help clubs expand/grow/advertise their existence so they can run more women's events at said infrastructure to promote the visibility of female riders (who wants to do something where you see nobody there that you have anything in common with?). The more people see it, the more they think "hey, that might be the thing for me!".
  • 28 0
 "I would bring a paper map into the forest with me and highlight trails as I rode them until I knew the area by heart." - More badass than me for sure.
  • 21 0
 "I think most mountain bikers are looking for friends at a similar level, who prefer the same style of riding or even people who have a good sense of humor to ride with. These are the important pillars to a good riding companion in my book, male or female."

Amen, woman!!
  • 7 0
 agree. This observation is 100% IMHO
  • 1 0
 CJ should ride with our local ripper Casey
  • 13 0
 Sick CJ! I've ridden with her at Big Bear and other local trails a few times and watched her on the podium at Southridge races. Nice to see her stepping it up(pun intended)! Such a rad person.
  • 2 0
 For sure and do miss seeing her at Southridge
  • 13 0
 That jump is no joke, for anyone. Congratulations CJ for stepping up
  • 10 0
 Jumps scare her a lot. Hits the biggest jump possible. You need a lot of courage to hit even the smallest of these jumps. Congrats to her. I will probably never be able to do this
  • 7 0
 Like hearing the psych up process, interesting stuff CJ thanks. I just could not imagine wanting to hit these monsters. Stuff like this is mind bendingly large in person. Walked the Rampage course one year, we were just like "Whaaaaat".
  • 3 0
 Honestly any doubles basically scare me, so anything bigger than a small tabletop is more or less out
  • 9 0
 Yessss CJ! Such a good perspective and outlook for the sport from such a rad rider!!
  • 10 0
 What about a video of her run?
  • 10 0
 CJi is da bomb
  • 6 0
 So awesome to read. Thank you Pinkbike for highlighting her and THANK YOU CJ for pushing limits and showing the world how rad you are. So stoked to continue to see where you go.
  • 5 0
 I was sitting next to her when the gamble premiered at that tiny cinema in Losinj. Surrounded by all that wc-racers... I will never forget this evening.
  • 3 0
 YES. That was my first World Cup! I didn't know anyone, but wanted to see the premiere, next thing I know someone from SRAM is getting me a ride with Rob Warner and there you go! So many nice people on the WC circuit.
  • 1 0
 @SeligCJ: warner vanished mysteriously that night ;-) so that peaty had to bring me home. crazy night
  • 6 0
 im hoping this has a snowball effect . sick
  • 2 0
 Ha, CJ is a true brand ambassador. I met her at the International Chiang Mai Enduro where we were both resting before starting special stage 3. She took one look at my non-biking specific runners and ripped me a new one. She loves to ride and loves her job and digs her 5-tens.
  • 1 0
 Haha, yepp, sorry about that! But I couldn't believe you were doing an enduro race in running shoes! That's like- deciding to race one stage with a flat tire! I hope you got some good bike shoes Smile
  • 6 0
  • 5 0
 Thanks @SaskiaD !!!!! CJ, you are a bada$$ !!!!!
  • 5 0
 yewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww - Go CJ - ripping
  • 5 0
 commenting because it doesn't show views on the main page. Cool article.
  • 3 0
 Sounds like a perfect candidate for pro contract contest.
I SAID , Sounds like a perfect candidate for the pro contract contest. Right everybody?
  • 4 0
 Dannng CJ! Stepping it up big time!!! Literally
  • 3 0
 Started riding at 24, with no prior moto/bmx experience, and is hitting Fest jumps. Now THAT's progression. Nice going CJ!
  • 3 0
 That’s how you do an interview.
  • 3 0
 Sick! More epic Ladies please!
  • 2 0
 she's a great ambassador for the brand....might consider that brand next time I need to replace my filters
  • 2 0
 My palms are sweating just thinking about hitting jumps that big. I'd die just getting myself pumped up enough to send them.
  • 2 0
 Awesome story! Crazy to go from zero experience to global team manager and darkfest jumps!
  • 2 0
 @CJSelig thank you for being an inspiration to my daughter @mtbedison.and that was SICK! Can't wait to see more.
  • 2 0
 So sick! Thanks for sharing Pinkbike!
  • 2 0
 This is awesome, on all fronts.
  • 2 0
  • 2 0
 Woah!! Ripper!!
  • 2 0
  • 2 0
 This is so sick!!!
  • 1 0
 Sweet CJ. You rock ????????
  • 1 0
 Life goal to hit a jump like this. \m/ Living the dream.
  • 1 0
 I was looking for video ..,,
  • 1 0
 Great interview!
  • 1 0
 you beast
  • 1 1
 whoops, wrong post.
  • 2 5
 @constantly-broken - finally grim donut updates!
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