Monday, February 8, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Kimberly Mrozinski

About 6 years ago, I decided to "try" out mountain biking. After a bit of research, I decided if I was going to learn I'd "GO BIG" and signed up for a women's weekend clinic in Utah. What I found there was a game changer. Mountain biking has enriched my life on pretty much every level.

From the obvious physical rewards, the mental challenge and stimulation, amazing places and even more amazing people I've encountered. I can no longer picture my life without it and wonder WHY I didn't start sooner!? After coming back from out west it inspired me to help support and further the MN women's MTB community, thus TC Ladies Trailblazers was born.

Through this experience I've met some amazing women from all different backgrounds and walks of life who share the common bond of wanting to throw down two-wheels, get dirty (sometimes bloody) and have FUN!!!

My focus for 2016 continues to be finding ways to give back. Locally - by way of helping with trail advocacy/work, racing (with Team Muddbunnies) to support local programs and the MTB community, and continuing to network within our growing women's recreational MTB groups in the Twin Cities (strength in numbers)!! Outside of MN - am also planning to race/train on the Enduro scene, start obtaining my IMBA certification and possibly start working/invest in a small MTB start-up business!!! All of this.. is just the tip of the iceberg for a sport that knows no boundaries/limits and is fast becoming an "IT" sport for women.

When I'm not riding, you can usually find me at my day job at Accenture (to bankroll my bike problem), doing something else active (inside or out) spending an obscene amount of time with my dog or cooking and enjoying a craft beer. Hope to see you all sometime out-on-the-trail or just outside period.

When did you first start riding a bike?
"Officially".. I didn't really start riding bikes again in my adult life until 6 years ago. It suddenly dawned me on how fun riding bikes seemed as a kid and something was pulling at me to try it again. After venturing out on my "train wreck" of a first local ride (wrong pedals, wrong shoes, wrong everything.. but still FUN!) I decided to learn how to do it again the right way and signed up for a women's MTB camp out west. The rest is dirty, sweaty, history!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Simple. The places and the people.. MTB has helped me to experience some amazing places and meet some incredible people and vice-versa. I remember a time when I first rode in Park City Utah.. there's this trail called mid-mountain that goes on forever and all of a sudden, you feel like the only person in the world and you are a surrounded by a sea of beautiful, green aspen. I remember this overwhelming sense of pure happiness and I started tearing up a bit. It was just an ordinary day, on a typical out west trail but I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland. As for the people, the sense of shared adventure and comraderie that is forged in this sport is amazing. It creates bonds of friendship that I think become a lifelong gift.

For '16 you have joined Team Muddbunnies, tell us your reasons for joining the Muddbunnies and what you hope to achieve.
The Muddbunnie organization has a strong core philosophy of getting more women on bikes. Nothing wrong with that!! But it is also about providing a community to support this sport (through the Club Chapter Membership, Race Team) and being responsible members of the community by giving back with volunteer work and trail advocacy. If we don't all work to maintain and protect what we do have (resources and rights) it won't last forever. As part of the MB team in 2016 I look to continue to support the women's MTB community and to also (of course) race and have FUN!!

Why should women look into joining the Muddbunnies?
If you're looking for a community of strong, passionate, and supportive female bikers Muddbunnies Ride Club is it!! And if you're interested in perhaps pushing a bit outside your current comfort level and setting goals, starting to race, etc. the Race Team might also be for you. It's NOT about ability or winning.. it's about representing the sport and supporting the community of women who love this sport and encouraging those who might be new to it! It's a sport where women can lift each other up positively!!

Tell us about TC Ladies Trailblazers, what is the group about and how can people join?
Starting TC been one of the best experiences ever! Our group is all about providing a community and outlet for women to get together to ride in a supportive environment and definitely have fun along the way. When we first started out... it was amazing to hear so many of the women echo the same sentiments. That they were "tired of riding with all guys" or "wanted to try MTB but felt intimated" in what can sometimes feel like a male-dominated sport. Although the face of that landscape is changing vastly and the growth of our group and others like us prove that. For anyone interested, just find us on Facebook and ask to join the group :)

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
It was very fish-out-of-water but exhilarating at the same time. It's amazing as you ride more and progress.. how trails that once seemed so intimidating become straight-up FUNNNN!

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I think a lot of mountain biking is about trusting in yourself. The physical skills and stamina don't hurt either. But it's interesting and powerful to see women overcome something they were capable of all along just by making a mental adjustment.

Why mountain biking? (vs. road/gravel/etc.)
Ah yes, the age-old debate - mountain vs. road. Something about mountain biking just appealed to me.. I'm not sure if it was the draw of getting dirty, the initial sense of almost borderline danger or the thrill of just letting it all go and cruising down a trail. All of those things have collided in my love affair with mountain biking. I think part of it is just inherent in who you are.. you either love this sport or you think it's one of the most insane things out there.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I do.. but definitely not right away. We have all joked you can tell what stage of clipping in someone is in by the scars from the knee down. My simplest advice is be prepared to fall, period. It's inevitable when you first start clipping in unless you're gifted with amazing cat-like reflexes.
The serious advise would be that clipping in successfully and learning to ride that way is kind of about learning to fall properly.. which was also some key beginners advice I received. When you start clipping in you have to think about how you will fall (if you do) and separating yourself from the bike. Let the bike fall away and worry about the rest of you. As for the riding part it's really about the comfort level and improving your sense of balance, etc. through practice which really equates to time. So, be prepared to fall but be patient with yourself as well.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I think endurance races as a whole are again a mental challenge. At that juncture you've probably trained enough, etc. to the point where your body is capable but if your mind fails you're pretty much done. An example is a century race where I got lost (around the 80 mile mark) and as soon as we realized we would be DQ'd it was hard to even finish the 15-20 miles back to camp. Until that point though I was feeling pretty good physically which really means my mind gave up and my body soon followed. We all have different physical limitations but realizing what motivates you and drives you can be an invaluable tool to finish that race, or just finish a lap alone.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them? Are there skills that still challenge you?
All the basics.. things that you should never stop reinforcing. Correct body placement, weight distribution, braking, climbing, etc. It never hurts to take a refresher or spend time alone just doing drill sessions. Eventually, I think it pays off when something eventually clicks and translates into your riding effortlessly. When it happens you will just know - you'll feel it. Since there is so much to riding I also think it's good to have a list of things to work through. Spend time on something for a little while or most of a season and if you put in the time/effort you'll eventually see it pay off. Right now I'm still working on a lot of things but specifically the technical finesse aspects: cornering smoother/faster, maintaining speed, taking bigger drops, and climbing more efficiently.
The biggest payoff is when you do see the progression in your riding because then it "instantly" becomes that much more fun!

Soon after getting involved with mountain biking you went to a women's clinic- what inspired you to go to a clinic let alone one in a different area/state?
I think a big part of learning anything new (and especially as a women) is giving yourself the right opportunity. You will never really know if you truly like something unless you have the chance to learn it the right way, from the right person. I think women communicate differently, which means in a learning situation women seem to connect better with other women. There is also a comfort level factor of not feeling judged or stupid if you're in a male-dominated group. So, I wanted to try it in the right environment and figured only then could I decide to love it or hate it - but fortunately I loved it!!

Do you have tips or suggestions for women looking to go to their first women's ride clinic?
DO it!! I don't think you'll regret it and even if you decide MTB isn't for you, I think it will still be a valuable learning experience about yourself either way.

You plan to get your IMBA certification- how do you feel this will benefit you and what are your long-term plans?
For me, I think getting my IMBA will be a two-fold benefit. First, I think you can always learn by learning to teach others. Second, I'm excited to be able to constructively coach and be able to share this sport with others. So, really.. there's no downside. It's all about making women more rad on bikes!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I could say everything but that would be generic. As previously stated, it's the life experiences of travel and people that it's brought into my life. But on a smaller scale.. it's the simple joy I sometimes find just riding alone. How it can be such and intense physical and yet zen mental experience on a bike.. something I've not found anywhere else, in any other sport.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Currently, I'm a bit of a purist.. as I only rock one 26" FSR (Trek Fuel EX8 WSD). But recently, a new love has come into my life.. I've been seduced by the call of Carbon and 650B. So, this winter I'll be making a pilgrimage to get my new Norco C7.2 Sight!!!! But what I always tell people about buying a bike is pretty straightforward. Try out MTB first (in the right environment) and see if you even like it. Then think about the type of riding you want to do short-term and near future. Then decide on budget and research like you would any other purchasing decision. And try them.. you will be amazed at how different bikes can feel once you've been riding for a little while.

You also help out with trail workdays- why should women consider joining their local trail workdays?
All people should.. if you've ever picked up any MTB magazine you will quickly learn and realize how much effort it has taken to get the sport to the place it is today and the work it takes and will take to maintain it. If people don't keep maintaining, giving back, advocating and putting a positive political spin on the sport we are very much in danger of loosing what we have. Whether by legal, financial, environmental and other repercussions.. we have to keep the wheels turning!!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think for most women it's themselves. For whatever reason they just think they can't. Once you start this sport and learn to love it you realize a lot of things. You will have good days and bad days but they will all add up to a lump sum of positive. So, have a little bit of faith and get on a bike, I guarantee you'll be surprised in good way. And if you're not.. it's not because you're not doing it right it may just be because the right fit (teacher/riding companion, bike) hasn't arrived yet. So, keep trying!!

What do you feel could change locally/industry-wise to encourage more women to be involved with cycling/bike industry?
I think it's already changing.. the industry as a whole is seeing a tremendous shift in the sport and they are working to keep up. Women want it all - options, performance, the best of the best. As long as we keep showing our strength in numbers the industry will keep working to support us and fuel the growth of this sport for women.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

To see them achieve something they never have and experience the pure joy it can provide!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Maybe not so random.. but I love to cook! Biking and cooking are probably not a symbiotic relationship but I love to make a fun meal almost as much as I love riding and of course eating it!!

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