Patty V Photography - Family Photo Journalism & Portraits - NW Arkansas & SW Missouri


Meet Debi

Zelda Tibbens

71 year old Debi Phelps has been mountain biking since she was 37 years old.  If you do the math that puts her on the trails in 1985, only 7 years after the very first purpose built mountain bikes were manufactured.  She lived in the beautiful town of Crested Butte, known for its stellar ski resorts but also home to one of the longest running Mountain bike festivals in the country.  It all started when some college kids from the bike shop took Debi on her first ride up Single Peek. She had to push her bike up most of the way but after riding down the other side, she was hooked.  She went straight home and told her husband he had to get himself a mountain bike too.

Zelda Tibbens

Debi started riding all the time.  She would ride with friends and with her husband.  Through the 80’s and 90’s they were shredding across the country from the Monarch Crest trail to Moab’s porcupine rim.  She loves biking because “it has changed so much” over the years. At first she road rigid bikes with narrow bars and as bikes changed the riding got easier but the challenges to harder.  Debi believes in taking clinics to constantly improve her riding skills.

Debi had a bad crash in 2013.  She lost a lot of her confidence on the trail so she went to a clinic.  They suggested she get a more modern bike with bigger wheels and wider handlebars.  She got a new 29er and headed out to another clinic in Crested Butte. At the clinic she “felt like she had a coach on her shoulder” and she was able  to regain a lot of her confidence on the bike. She even took a class to get Ride Leader Certified, so she can lead local rides.

Zelda Tibbens

After 34 years of riding the trails, Debi mostly rides on her own these days.  She finds it is hard to keep up with the younger riders, especially on the uphills, but she enjoys this time.  She likes riding with the freedom to ride at her own pace and stop to session a section of trail whenever she wants.  Even after so many years, Debi still loves solving the problems of riding. She wants to continue to grow and learn with every ride.  This is why she really enjoys joining clinics to ride with other women and hone her skills for a weekend.

Debi has gone to riding weekends all over the world.  She recently joined a Roam Retreat in Bentonville Arkansas for a weekend. Women’s clinics like Roam are great because the women are supportive and just have fun encouraging each other.  In past years, she has gone all over the world and ridden with my different groups. She has ridden in the Yukon, British Columbia, Iceland, Scotland and Switzerland.  

Debi still enjoys traveling the world with her bike, this year she will head over to Croatia for another cycling adventure.  Right now Debi is “dumping out her bucket list”. She knows she won’t always be physically able to enjoy adventures like these but right now she is strong and healthy so she’s doing it.  There are several lessons we can all learn from Debi Phelps; always keep learning, go at your own pace, and do it today because we don’t know how long we have in this world.

patricia valencia