For More Women Than You'd Think - Kyleen
"For mountain biking in particular, I hear a lot of women say its too hard or too scary," writes Kyleen, who's completing her medical residency in Klamath Falls, Oregon. "Sure, it’s not for everyone, but I would argue its for more women than you’d think!" Since falling in love with cycling in college, Kyleen has ridden mountain bikes all over the American West. She continues to inspire women to try off-road riding, as she joins her partner Josh on weekend group rides.
"In college I could focus better and was more emotionally balanced when I was regularly getting outdoors and exercising."
What’s your love story with bicycling?
I started mountain biking my first year of college in Denver, Colorado. It was scary and hard but I stuck with it. The accomplishment of making it up the mountain and the joy of flying back downhill is addictive! And being an Alaska girl, it was a hobby that allowed me to get out of the city and into nature, which feeds my soul.
Plus it was a social activity and exercise rolled into one - I had a good group of girlfriends that would meet up early in the morning in nearby Golden to fit in a ride before going to class at 10 or noon. I figured out in college that I could focus better and was more emotionally balanced when I was regularly getting outdoors and exercising. This was important to discover before going on to medical school, and now residency!
How does riding bikes with women compare to riding with men?
There is something special about women’s rides. I think we tend to be more evenly matched as far as speed and skill (although I do know some badass women who outride a lot of the guys) which makes for a relaxed, supportive environment. I usually come away from these rides having learned something new or feeling more confident.
I like to pay it forward, organizing all-women’s rides and spending time teaching new riders basic techniques - even a little bit of skills training goes a long way towards having more fun on the trails! I’ve definitely been inspired by the lady bikers I’ve met, especially the ladies who are riding hard in their 40’s, 50’s, and yes, 60’s! I like to think I inspire other women to get out and ride too.
"I like to pay it forward, organizing all-women’s rides and spending time teaching new riders..."
What attracts you to mountain biking specifically (rather than pavement riding)?
Easy - I like trails better than pavement! Part of the joy of mountain biking is the places where you do it. Some of my favorite past destinations include Moab, UT; Squamish, BC; and most recently Oakridge, OR. From alpine mountains to old growth rainforests to red rock canyons, mountain bike trails are just so epic!
"Mountain bike trails are just so epic!"
What kind of bike do you ride?
I have four bikes! My mountain bike is a Trek fuel-ex 8. It’s full suspension (front and rear shocks) with 26” wheels. I bought it used, so it’s a lot of bike for my money, which is a strategy I always recommend to aspiring bikers on a budget. I got a road bike in medical school, a Specialized Allez, which was actually a hand-me-down from my sister. I was living in Seattle at the time, and I swear my commutes were always uphill both ways so having a light-weight road bike really empowered me to transition into full-time bike commuter. Life-changing!
Most recently I bought myself a winter commuter - a Specialized Fuse Six Fattie, which is technically a mountain bike but I wanted the plus-sized tires to handle the snow and ice of southern Oregon. It’s beautiful, and blast to ride! I love getting off a night shift and biking home at dawn on fresh snow. Finally, my grandmother gifted me her 80’s Schwinn touring bike, which I cherish and ride mostly on special occasions. It’s got that classic cruiser look, and someday when I have more time and/or money I plan to give it a fresh coat of paint.
"Many women are surprised how much they can do if they just try."
Are women are more hesitant to try mountain biking?
For mountain biking in particular, I hear a lot of women say its too hard or too scary. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but I would argue its for more women than you’d think! Many women are surprised how much they can do if they just try - the bike really does so much of the work when it comes to rolling downhill over rocks and branches!
Many women just need access to a bike, a good beginner trail, and a supportive group of people to take them out and introduce them to the sport. Group rides, especially women’s group rides, are so great for this. A lot of bike shops will have free demo bikes for these types of events. Whenever I bring people out, I usually have an extra pair of gloves, shorts, helmet, camelback - the basics to make the ride more comfortable and enjoyable!
"Many women just need access to a bike, a good beginner trail, and a supportive group of people."
What activity, besides cycling, helps you be a better cyclist?
Yoga! Also skiing, especially in the backcountry. There are so many parallels - working your butt off to get uphill, an element of technical mastery, and the reward of flying downhill at the end.
What are some comforts or techniques you’d recommend to other cyclists?
I’ve seen this come up a few times on the blog, and can’t agree more - a women’s specific saddle! Plus padded bike shorts. I went more years than not with the generic seat that came on my bike. When I finally got measured (yes, measured!) and got a seat MY size made for women, it was a game-changer.
For mountain biking specifically, I highly recommend getting a pair mountain biking shoes - my favorites are 5-ten freeriders. They have a flat sole with sticky rubber. Pair them with platform pedals with decent spikes, and you have so much more control and power on the bike.
"When I finally got measured, and got a seat MY size made for women, it was a game-changer."
Any exciting plans for the future?
In the next couple years I hope to do some bike-packing on the Timber Trail, a single-track trail that goes across the entire state of Oregon.