Monday, December 7, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Kristin Clark

I am a meteorologist and mountain biker in the Twin Cities. I volunteer for the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC) by providing a weekly weather blog known as the "CycleCast" highlighting weather that will be impacting cyclists across our metro trails and Midwest. My business, 2WheelWeather, is a resource for information about weather and its impacts on cycling. 2WheelWeather also provides accurate, highly detailed and hyperlocal weather forecasts for events and races across the country.

I also volunteer with MORC as the Gala Committee Director.

I grew up in Pennsylvania, the only daughter of two meteorologists. (Yes, weather is in my blood!) While an interest in weather was a given, I also had a strong desire for cycling. I vividly remember when my Dad let go of my bike and I rode without training wheels for the first time. That same feeling of Zen you get from simply riding a bike has stuck with me over the years.

When it came time to choose a career I attended and graduated from Penn State University with a BS in Meteorology. While in college I was a member of the PSU Cycling Club and raced on the collegiate level.

After a brief year as an on-air meteorologist in Colorado I traded the mountains for the prairie lands of Minnesota and never looked back.

Currently, I’m an on-air meteorologist for Aeris Weather, a weather data company based in the Twin Cities.

My 2WheelWeather social media accounts are on Twitter, Facebook, & Google+.
2WheelWeather website:www.2wheelweather.com
2WheelWeather MORC Weather Blog: www.2wheelweather.com/morc-weather-blog


When did you first start riding a bike?
I vividly remember my father letting go of my seat as I went off riding without training wheels for the first time. That sense of freedom, that feeling of zen you get while riding a bike is like nothing else. The euphoria of it all is addictive and I can't get enough.

What types of bike riding do you enjoy?
Mountain biking is my bread and butter. Get me out in the quiet of the woods and you have one happy girl.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I love being outdoors. The solitude of nature, fresh air, wind in my hair...this is what really motivates me to get on the bike.

Tell us about your first mountain bike ride-
Growing up in rural Pennsylvania I would explore the forest for hours by bike. I loved getting lost in the woods, hiking a bike through swamps and riding home after dark. Those early rides of exploration hold a special place in my heart.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Flipping over the handlebars is the worst! I recently took a good nose dive after trying to clear a technical rocky section. I remember feeling terribly nervous the following time I rode up to that same rocky section. I knew I needed more speed, so I pedaled hard and tried my best to keep my head clean. I've cleared that section ever since. The key is to stay relaxed and keep your mind clear. If you think too hard, you will biff again.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
To this day I am working on getting my butt behind the saddle. This is a challenge for me on extreme downhill terrain. The technique that has helped me, however, is getting your heels down. Almost like you're trying to crack a nut with your heel. This will naturally get your body further back in the saddle.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I am terrible at getting both tires off the ground. I want to do fun jumps! I want to clear gigantic gaps! I haven't conquered that fear yet. I try and stay positive and know that the day will come. I've been practicing the timing and technique of getting air. I just have to trust in my technical riding abilities, something of which I feel has been getting better with age.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Riding a bike allows you to experience special places that you simply can't experience from a car and are too difficult and time consuming to reach by foot.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I feel fortunate that I have been able to build up my bike collection over the years. Each bike has its own personality in a way. From the clunky bar bike to the cadillac-like fatbike, each one is unique and different. I'm lucky that I have the option to choose which bike to ride. Many times it depends on my mood. Cyclocross? Mountain? Fatbike? Road? More time than not I end up choosing my mountain bike.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love my Garmin 510. I am a maps geek so being able to see your mapped out route with all your ride data is pretty cool. Can't live without my merino wool long sleeved shirt. Keeps you dry, not too warm not too cold, and never smells...even after several rides!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
I got into cycling when I was young and was able to throw all my fears, worries, and caution to the wind. While I didn't have a high school league, I was a member of the cycling club in college. I was able to build my skills and knowledge in that type of a social setting at a fairly young age. For adults, and especially for women, cycling can be an intimidating sport with a lot of different elements. Where to ride? What to wear? How long to ride? What if I get lost? What if I get a flat tire? All these factors can deter women from getting into cycling. In addition, cycling is an individualistic, expensive sport and not something that everyone grew up on. This is not a sport you can just pick up and do in the comforts of your own basement. Soccer, for example, is a sport where you can show up to a group of 30 some people and play as a team. With cycling you need the gear and the group. And finding the right group for you is not easy.

What could change in the industry (or in general areas) to encourage more women to ride?
More women's specific bikes, clothing, accessories and support networks! 

You have a business- 2WheelWeather: what made you come up with the idea for having cycling-related weather updates for individuals?
I am a mountain biker and meteorologist so it was a no brainer to share my weather background with my knowledge of cycling. 2WheelWeather is a national cycling community about weather and its impacts on cycling. In order to preserve Midwest singletrack, off-road cycling trails are typically closed when conditions are wet. The 2WheelWeather "CycleCast" provides past, present, and future weather data to help determine the best days to ride. We also provide custom weather forecasts that are hyper-local to events and races. Unlike other forecast websites that generalize the weather conditions, 2WheelWeather goes even further. We can provide a forecast specifically for the race course... right down to trail level. So whether it be a leisurely Saturday afternoon group ride or a competitive long distance endurance race, 2WheelWeather takes the guess work out of the cycling weather.

Tell us about MORC and why you enjoy being involved-
The Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC) is "a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to safeguarding the future of mountain biking in Minnesota through the promotion of responsible riding, establishment and maintenance of mountain biking trails, and preservation of Minnesota's natural resources." Minnesotans are fortunate in that we can ride off-road cycling trails free of charge. But it takes an incredible amount of volunteer time and manpower to build and maintain these free trails. I volunteer by leading the MORC Gala Committee as my way of giving back to the organization. Because without groups like MORC, organized and maintained off-road cycling trails would not be possible. Also, trail sustainability is important to MORC which is why 2WheelWeather provides the MORC Weather Blog to relay important weather information to Twin Cities cyclists.

Tell us how the 2015 MORC Masquerade ball went-
We had a blast! Everyone embraced the masquerade theme and came out in masks to support of the trails we all love to ride. The Masquerade Ball will be MORC's annual fundraising event to raise funds for the 13 off-road mountain bike trails in the Twin Cities metro. Our goal is to become one of the first metropolitan areas to secure 100 miles of dedicated, off-road cycling trail. The event is also an opportunity to network with fellow cyclists and connect with a community that shares the same interests in mountain biking. The 2016 MORC Masquerade Ball will be held on October 29 at the Surly Brewing Company in Minneapolis. Mark your calendar!

Any suggestions or tips for those who want to commute by bike?
The weather is never too hot or too cold to ride, it's all about the gear. Don't layer too much in winter. If you sweat, you get wet, and you get cold. My rule of thumb in winter is to start out the ride feeling cold because 5 minutes into the ride you're already warmed up.

Tell us about Ride Like A Girl Cycling and how you became involved-
Ride Like a Girl Cycling is a support network for women looking to seamlessly transition into the sport of cycling. Superficially, cycling is a very male dominated sport but the numbers show otherwise. There is a huge female influence in the cycling industry. Women's groups, like Ride Like a Girl Cycling, fulfill a need and help ease the discrepancy between the number of women compared to the number of support groups for women within the cycling community. 2WheelWeather supports companies, groups, and individuals who we truly believe in from a personal standpoint. We are proud partners of Ride Like a Girl Cycling and share their message of empowering women to ride their best.

Why do you feel women’s groups are a benefit and/or necessity?
Cycling is a very individualistic sport and finding the right group is key. Women's groups, like Ride Like a Girl Cycling, provide an outlet for ladies looking for some camaraderie on the saddle.

Any suggestions on how a woman can find a group to join? What are some key points for people to consider before joining?
Social media has made it easier than ever to connect with fellow female riders. Bike shops and women's specific groups often post rides, tips, and events for ladies looking to become more involved with their cycling community.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Cycling has been a very therapeutic force in my life. If cycling can have that same positive impact on other women, then I'm all for more women on bikes! 

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have an obsession with Gwen Stefani!

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