“She’s accomplished, she’s confident, she’s loud, she doesn’t just tell you what you want to hear, she’s consistent in her message, she’s funny, she never lets ego interfere with her mission, and in my opinion, her ability to encourage and inspire others is simply unmatched”. – Paula Evenson 

Experience

Leigh Donovan is the girl next door…however, given all the same chances that the boy’s next door were given. Leigh’s parent’s embraced Title IX, putting her in all the sports she could join. Once in middle school, she started fell in love with track and field, and looked like she could have a promising career (breaking county records in the 800m). However, Leigh found BMX racing during the same time and couldn’t resist her love for the bike. Her love for riding bikes, turned into racing them and she always found more satisfaction at competing with the boys rather than competing with her girl friends. Leigh has put it when asked why, “beating my girlfriends wasn’t fun, but beating the boys was empowering.” As Leigh developed her athletic skills through playing baseball, dance class, gymnastics, softball, roller-skating, running track and dabbling with soccer, she never felt totally connected to anything but the bike. At age 11, the lights at a local park peeked her interest and she asked her cousin to drive her over to check it out. It was her first time to see BMX racing and she fell in love immediately.  It took almost 9 months for Leigh to convince her dad to let her race, but he finally gave in, giving her the best gift she had ever had at that point in her life. This location would become Leigh’s hometown local track (YMCA in Orange, CA) and she would continue riding there for the next 33 years until the track would close in August of 2016. Her daughter Grace raced her first BMX race on the final day the track was open (placing 2nd against the boys). Leigh has always believed she was meant to be on a bike, and is so grateful that she found BMX during her youth. Leigh would spend 8 years racing on the BMX circuit.

Leigh’s next bike challenge came to her in 1992, when some BMX friends would invite her to a mountain bike race at Mammoth Mountain, CA. That invite not only changed her life, but all the opportunities that would come after. During her youth, BMX wasn’t a sport that had a future for females (at the time, but today women riders kick butt and are some of the greatest Olympic athletes in the world), but mountain biking seemed limitless to the female rider and Leigh decided to drop out of college to put all her energy into being the best mountain bike racer she could be. Mountain biking didn’t come as easy as BMX did. But Leigh wanted to find her best and began to study the riders, hire an Olympic level coach and learn how to properly weight train in the gym. Her biggest thing she learned over those years was the importance of recovery (which isn’t her strong suit…if you’ve ever met her, she’s got a lot of energy).  As a student of those with more experience and knowledge, Leigh was finding her best. After 3 full seasons on the circuit, Leigh joined the best in the world by winning the coveted UCI 1995 World Downhill Championships. That would be her breakout year, winning the world championships, and both the US National Championship titles in the dual slalom and downhill. They called it the Triple Crown, which had never been done by any american rider. Through out her racing years, Leigh learned that she never wanted to stop being a student, and tries to learn something new everyday. Today, Leigh loves teaching riders the skills to help them be safer on the bike, helping riders have more confidence and control. Her resume confirms her ability to know what she is talking about, but it’s her enthusiasm that will make learning from her fun. Happy trails!

Experience highlights and some human ones

  • 2014 – Mountain Bike Hall of Fame “athlete” inductee
  • 2013 – BMX Hall of Fame “athlete” inductee
  • 9X USA National Champion – Downhill and Dual Slalom
  • 1995 – UCI World Downhill Mountain Bike Champion (Last American women to win this event)
  • 1995 – X GAMES Gold medalist, Dual Slalom
  • 2001 – UCI World Cup Series winner, Dual World Cup Champion
  • 1993 to 2001 & 2010 USA National Downhill Team member
  • 2001 – Winner of Richard Long sportsmanship award, only female to win
  • 1997 – 2002 USA Cycling NORBA Board Member
  • 1998 – Featured in Sports Illustrated “Swimsuit Edition” in a full page advertisement
  • 2000 – Married longtime boyfriend, and still happily married today (-:
  • 2002 – 2011 Owned & Operated successful upscale retail-clothing boutique “Tangerine”
  • 2005 – Became a mother to a beautiful baby girl
  • 2011 – Consulted with Troy Lee Designs to open their Laguna Beach retail concept store
  • 2012 to 2013- Account Executive for the Interbike trade show
  • 2014 – Launched ichoosebikes.com (a skills clinic business focused on getting more riders on bikes safely)