For us, part of the lure of being a team is actually being a team. There are few team options so most professional women mountain bikers are privateers which means they represent themselves and seek individual sponsorship. This is a solo path and can be lonely as well as daunting to progress in the sport without mentorship and comradery. Before we founded KS Kenda Women’s Elite team, each of us looked longingly at social media posts of teams at training camps and pushed back pangs of jealousy when we heard tales of team riders working technical terrain together and getting to test new product. Envy no more. In our second year as a team we had a training camp!
We met in SoCal for a week of riding together and doing all things bike for a week. We did many of the things we dreamed of at training camp: rode challenging trails, got in some serious saddle time, dined with sponsors, experimented with new equipment, laughed so hard addressing a trail mechanical you would have thought it was intentional, had photo shoots, video, drank lots of coffee, ate super healthy (and gigantic) meals, got a bloody knee, cleaned the series of impossible switchbacks, napped, and just savored being immersed in bike time with like-minded women. Here are some of our favorite moments:
With the dates chosen back in early fall, I have been looking forward to this Bikecation for a long time! My task was to have an idea of where we would be staying throughout the week. With Emma and Jen coming in on seperate days and the roads to my home in Idyllwild closed due to flooding, Emma and I decided to get a cheap hotel on Friday night. We went to Eureka! in Redlands where we ordered a meal and tasty beverage. The woman next to us gave us a hard time about being asked for our id. We ended up chatting with her for a while and found out that she also was a cyclist! While looking at a Motel 6 nearby, we asked her if it would be an okay place to crash. “No, you can’t stay there! Stay with me. I have plenty of room!” Emma and I looked at each other and simultaneously answered, “okay!”. Auntie Candy is now a dear friend. We ended up staying with her for a total of 4 nights and talked about so many parts of life. One of the neatest things that happened? We got to join her for a bike ride AND gift her a KS Kenda jersey to rep in Redlands! It was a hilarious beginning to camp and a fortunate happenstance that we were ID’d at Eureka! on that fateful Friday evening.
The Arrival! I was so excited for camp that I forgot to take my wallet out when I used Curbside Check-in for my bag before boarding my first flight. This error left me sans a solid meal for 10 hours which, for an athlete, is the equivalent of 10 years. Nikki picked me up at the airport late in the evening and I was desperate for fooddddd. The best quick, late night vegetarian option was Del Taco. I asked if they had a rice and bean burrito with avocado. The speaker box guy responded that they had a “Chicken Avocado burrito that has rice and beans.” I asked if it could be made without chicken and then there was a long pause. When we said, “Hello, are you there?” the speaker box guy then asked if I had decided on my order. Too hungry to clarify the vegetarian-ness of the burrito, I just ordered it and hoped the chicken was omitted. Ze burrito was delivered and all was right with the world! I faintly remember Nikki asking me if I wanted to check for chicken but there was no time; hunger! I just took a big bite hoping for the best. My meatless choices were respected. Brain reengaged, it’s off to Candy’s (Nikki’s story) to reunite with the whole team. All the excites!
SoCal in winter means things in bloom, birds chirping, and citrus heavy on trees. Quite the sensory overload from the white of winter I live in. On day one of camp we were pedaling back to Candy’s on backroads after riding the flow trails at Grafton Hills in Yucaipa, and I simply could not resist stopping and picking up grapefruits that were all over the road. I started to peel one and looked up to see Nikki, who had just stuffed two grapefruits under her jersey. Bike Barbie! I fell over laughing so hard.
Part of our decision to have the team camp in SoCal was because a good majority of our sponsors are located there. We enjoy the relationship aspect of running a team so for us it is very valuable to spend time with the people who give us tools to chase our dreams. On Tuesday we were fortunate enough to hang out with our KS Suspension family. We even got to eat dinner at the Trabuco Steakhouse, which cooks their meals using hardwood smokers! The night consisted of funny stories and even funnier pictures before leaving the restaurant. The next day, on Wednesday, we moved towards San Diego. After a slightly rainy but very fun technical ride at Elfin Forest Preservative, we drove to Carlsbad to join our friends at Pizza Port for pizza and beer! TASCO (and Top Rope Media), Wend Wax, Gup, and VeloFix-San Diego North were all there to join the fun. It was awesome to see people who have joined our squad chat with each other and exchange stories. I specifically remember looking around and seeing every person at our table talking with a grin on their face. Moments like these are ones I cherish and hold close to my heart. Our team has created a family and we are so stoked to have so many rad people in our corner!
One day we were taken to Mecca Hills, by David Wood, our host in Palm Springs. This area features sand canyons, steep rock strewn hills, plenty of cactus, and choose your own adventure routes. Primitive riding is a rarity and there are few riders who would think several hours of this would be a good time. It was so cool that David wanted to show us around this gem of a riding area. Straight from the truck we ascended a slope with big step-ups and hairpin switchbacks. I am fit and pride myself on my technical trail skills, but David was gracefully linking the obstacles and pulling away from me while I was breathless and put a foot down on several features. I was beyond impressed with David’s riding and knew if I could just get on his wheel I would learn a lot, but that was a huge ask. He would patiently wait for us at the top of hills and I would catch his wheel for a bit but get blown off. We stopped for a snack and I really took a hard look at David’s long travel bike to try and figure out how it was an efficient climbing machine. Only then did I notice it was a machine! David was on an e-bike. I did learn a thing or two about technical climbing that day!
We didn’t let a rainy (aka torrential downpour) day ruin our chance to spend time on the bike and hang out! With trails too muddy to ride, we decided on a “Skills and Drills” day. We each coach mtb through NICA, regional teams, and private clients and thus each have different strengths as riders: Nikki is a master of riding technique, Emma sees lines where none should be found, and I excel at power and balance moves. We shared our drills and helped each other make changes or try something new. Yes, even professional cyclists need to strengthen the fundamentals. Sometimes I get self-conscious or frustrated with myself for not being able to do a “basic” skill and tend to shut down. This was not the case at all when riding with Emma and Nikki. When cornering on steep or technical terrain I am not as confident as I would like to be and tend to death grip the top tube with my knees. They were so supportive and helpful breaking down how to turn my bike before progressing the fundamentals to apply to challenging terrain. I walked away from the ride with the steps to turn my bike correctly and drills to practice, but most importantly all the “happy feels” and self confidence gained from being a part of a truly supportive and amazing team. Also, practicing controlled endos and bunny hopping was pretty freaking fun.
We had such an amazing time. It was hard to part at the airport. Instead of saying goodbye, we reminded each other we will be reunited at Sea Otter in just a few weeks! See you there.