Women Involved Series: Kat Sweet

Photo Credit: Jack Anderson

It was during the winter months of late '12 when Travis shared with me this video-

He hoped that the women in that video would inspire me and help me feel excited over learning to mountain bike later in '13. My mountain bike outings in '13 were minimal-however I had a goal: Learn!

In the early months of '14 when snow was still on the ground, I found the movie again and watched it. I was really inspired by the women in the video and that was essentially what hatched my idea of incorporating interviews of other women on my blog. 

Watching the movie again, I made the decision that I was going to be serious with mountain biking this year, and that it was something I really wanted to do and become better at it. I'm not a natural, frankly the only thing I'm a natural at is talking. However, I bring forth a massive amount of gumption and effort when I'm really vested in something. Kat inspired me and her wanting to help others become more confident really resonated with me.

Kat was one of the first non-local women I targeted. So for her to be willing and able to participate with this blog series really excited me! So check out the movie link if you haven't seen it, even if you may not be interested in trying the mountain bike trails-it's really awesome to see what other women can do.
Also, check out Kat's website: Sweetlines and find her on Twitter

When did you first start riding a bike?
I started riding a bike when I was 7 – a purple girls bike with a flower basket and flower banana seat. I started mountain biking when my dad got me a bright yellow, fully rigid 21” Rock Hopper in 1987. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Now that’s a good question. It used to be the obsession, the love of pain, the desire to be really good at something, the addiction to adrenalin. Now my motivation comes from the smiles on people’s faces when they get it, no matter what level they are or what they are trying to get, that moment when they push through barriers and do something they weren’t sure they could do and the look on their faces, that’s what motivates me. 

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain)
I definitely do all of my praying in the church of dirt! I love mountain biking and more specifically, gravity assisted riding like freeride, jumping and downhill. I also do cross country riding and the occasional road ride. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
You’re asking me to remember over 20 years ago! But yes, I remember riding part way up Mt Tam in Mill Valley, being afraid, and then loving the speed, laughing really hard and being amazed that I made it down unscathed. 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Fear is one of the best parts of mountain biking, it’s what keeps us safe and it’s what makes mountain biking so rewarding. First of all I listen to my instincts; if I’m not ready I wait. If I’m kinda ready and I’ve done my homework to get my skills to that level, I’m probably ready. What I like to do to overcome the fear is to focus on the task at hand. If I’m about to do a drop, I think about looking for my landing, preloading, punching over the edge. It’s all about keeping it positive and focusing on what to do vs. what not to do.  

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 ran clipless for my first 12 years of riding until I started learning to coach then I found the power of the flat pedal. I still run flat pedals most of the time unless I’m going for a long xc or road ride. For freeride and jumping it’s nice to be able to escape the bike quickly when needed. Plus your feet are in a much more balanced and powerful position on flat pedals which helps keep you in the cockpit of the bike vs teetering on tip toes.

Flat pedal tip: Be sure to get some real flat pedals like the Deity Decoys and skate style shoes with a flat bottom that’s slightly soft so you can feel the pedals. As for foot placement, your toes should hang over the front of the pedal and the arch of your foot should be over the back of the pedal.

Advice for learning clipless: spend your first year of riding on flats so you learn to use your feet correctly, When you are ready start off by visualizing unclipping before you actually try them for the first time, learn in the grass, wear knee pads, and expect to fall over a couple of times. 

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I made it 26 years in mountain biking with no surgeries until last year. So I had some time to make up, right? In January of 2013 I had a freaky mid-air collision with another lady which dislocated and fractured my elbow and shattered and displaced my wrist. Then 9 months later, I was crooked going into a jump line because of the arm, I panicked, tried to brake, put a foot down which bent it backwards snapping my ACL and fracturing my tibial plateau. I didn’t even crash! Yeah, fun times. I’m 6 months into recovery now. I’m trying to be patient and focus on what I can do, but I’m not really good at being grounded. The big thing for me is to focus on doing the steps necessary to get my strength back and to push but not too hard. When I’m feeling down I think about how lucky I am that my injuries are temporary and that I don’t have a disease and I’m so lucky that I can be a professional mountain bike coach. Some people don’t get to live their dreams. I might not be able to shred for a while but I get to create opportunities for other people to shred.  

Photo Credit: Paris Gore
What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the adrenalin zen of living and pushing limits in the moment, I love that it’s a tool for creating social change, I love that it makes me laugh and sometimes it makes me cry, and I love that it binds me to a unique and diverse global community of like minded individuals.

What motivated you to coach mountain biking?
I learned everything the hard way and had to re-learn how to ride when I started learning how to coach so part of my motivation has been to help people so they don't make the same mistakes I did. Plus it's super rewarding to help someone push their perceived limits and do something they didn't think they could do. 

What has been the best thing about teaching others to mountain bike?
The smiles on their faces when they learn something new!

What are the common challenges with teaching? Is there a particular skill that seems to be a challenge for most? What is the best way to overcome that "hump?"
There are tons of challenges in teaching. Everyone learns differently so it's fun for me to be sure to hit all the learning styles, (kinesthetic, cognitive, visual) and figuring out new ways to explain things so different people can understand. 

Our minds seem to be the biggest challenge for most of us. Learning to replace self doubt with techniques for doing the skill really helps to get over our heads. 

As for challenging skills, drops seem to intimidate people the most. A great way to get over "humps" is to take classes so you can learn techniques on how to do it correctly. 

For someone new to mountain biking, what would be a few tips or suggestions you would give them?
Take a class from a certified coach so you don't get bad habits like I did. Plus it's so much safer and more fun when you are doing things correctly! Come shred with me!

Special shout-out to Kat's sponsorsDiamondback Bikes, Deity, G-Form, Sombrio, Five Ten, Oakley, Clif Bar, Fox Suspension, AllSport Dynamics, Jme @ Vain