Women Involved Series: Cortney Knudson

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do off the bike!
My real job is a Cosmetologist. I have owned my own Salon for about 15 years. I trained with Vidal Sassoon in LA. Sassoon gave me a very solid technical background with all aspects of the hair world, cutting, coloring and styling. I work 4 days a week in my Salon and then Travel on site for wedding hair most weekends in the summer.

When I am not working and not riding my bike...where do I start! I will first and foremost do another sport I enjoy. Living in Tahoe we have every opportunity at our fingertips! You will find me skiing, climbing, and hiking if I'm not biking. I am also one of 4 all volunteer group that has built the Truckee Bike Park. 5 Phases total covering 10 acres of land. We started this project 38 months ago and are done with 3 phases. Fundraising, writing grants, coaching biking and picking up a shovel is what I do with the other hours of the day that I am not recreating or cutting and styling hair. 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I started riding a bike at age 3. In my 20's I got really into cross country riding. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I had my 2nd ACL surgery when I was 36. My rehab was riding a road bike then I finally graduated to being able to ride cross country again. I found that I could ride strong for 40 miles, but had limitations with fear and I felt I was on a plateau with my riding. It was a great way to rehab my knee, face my demons and be with all my favorite girlfriends in Tahoe. I loved the social part as well as the comradery. The support and encouragement when you wanted to try something new, but you were scared, the girls would offer to spot, ride with you, and be by your side!

What specifically got you into mountain biking and why is it so important to you?
I think when I realized that I was limited by my fears, and lack of skills, I wanted to get better! I took a skills class with Chris Duncan and that was the spark. I realized how much I rode, but had no idea of the skills involved that could help you to become a better rider, have confidence and get rid of fear. This is when I started to branch out to other types of riding. I started downhilling and I loved it!  The bike was cushier and full of suspension and would roll over anything with my eyes closed! Your feet were so close to the ground and I was on flat pedals! No clipping out? Then there were jumps! I had no idea how to jump so I rolled everything and started slow. I was hooked! I bought a downhill bike and the new life on wheels started...I was hungry again to learn this new sport! I was taught and dragged around by the boys. I started BMXing and Dirt Jumping. I was now 41.

Are there any specific mountain bike styles that you enjoy? Why?
As long as it has 2 wheels...I love it all. I do love to be on a bike with my wheels in the air! Whether it's on a suspension bike, hardtail, or a dirt jumper. I love to jump because you have to be calculated and the more you do it the better you get. I love to learn and go to different places; there are different styles of jumps, different dirt. It always humbles you at first. I guess I love the challenge and the accomplishment when you clear a jump. When you land perfectly and then set up for the next jump! It's as if you won the race!!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? Did you have any nervousness? If so-how did you overcome?
I think my first mtn bike ride was just exhaustion. Like any sport when it's new-you are tense and use up a lot of energy. I overcame it by doing it over and over. Taking a skills class is really helped. I have to say I still get nervous when I go to a new DH park or new dirt jumps. It usually goes away once I familiarize myself with the area.

Tell us about LittleBig and why it got started?
Little Big is a ridestyle event for women. Hence the name little girls, big girls, little jumps, big jumps, little progression, big progression! It's one day of instruction and one day of competition. The atmosphere is a fun supportive environment for women to progress in. The coaches are all women pro riders with years of pumping and jumping experience from all over the world! I have been coaching other events in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Coaching at these events I have had the opportunity to work with other amazing women coaches who are certified level 2 ICP with IMBA also. We all decided we needed to have a event and skills class to help grow the women in sisterhood of shred in our Northern CA area . I also decided to do it as a fundraiser to balance out the numbers at the Truckee bike park and get more women comfortable on bikes. Get women on bikes, not watching!

What has been one of the most surprising things to happen since the Little Big was created?
Last year one of the little girls from the pumptrack jam said she wanted to ride with the big girls! So she did! Her name-Hahna she was 11. She wrote me a thank you note after the event was over. I was so caught up in organizing event stuff on Sunday I was unaware of what happened until she wrote her note a week after the event. When I read it I realized that it really was the "LITTLE BIG!" This year she is signing up for the skills class and I am so excited to have little girls taking the skills class with the big girls!!! I wish I had that opportunity when I was 11.  

What is your most enjoyable part of Little Big?
I think my favorite part is being on the developmental side of the park and now we get to share and ride it with amazing women from all over the world! If you build it they will come?

You have several coaches that come from all over to help with Little Big-what is it like to work with such a diverse group of women?
I have to say in this group of amazing women pro riders I was the missing link. Everyone has been riding and competing in DH, dirt jumping and Cross country over the last 20 years. They all knew each other from racing and competing. I was a late bloomer I guess you could say. I met everyone when I started coaching for Kat Sweet in Seattle. They were all asking who the outcast was??? I think it took a total of about 10 minutes to be welcomed with open arms from the group. It was as if I knew them my whole life! We all have so much fun together and having the common interest of the wheels being off the ground....what more can you say? We all look forward to the next event and all of us getting together riding and pushing each other. 

What influenced you to become a mountain bike coach?
Other women riders. I was a late bloomer to the sport, but for some reason I took it up quickly. Other female riders at Northstar would see me ripping around trying to keep up with the boys. They would ask to ride with me and I would! I would give them tips and see how excited they would get when they conquered a new part of a trail. Then I was asked from Luna to asst. in a DH clinic with Marla Streb at Northstar. That same summer I then ran into Kat Sweet and Tammy Donahugh in Whistler. Kat told me if I got certified to teach she would use me as a coach! Kat and I then taught a clinic for Lindsay Currier at Northstar for Shine riders. That winter, Shaums March came to Northern CA and certified Lindsay and I!

What would you say is a common difficulty with coaching?
 Wishing you had the students for more than one day. I would love to do a 3 day clinic.

What has been your most influential moment in coaching?
It's always when the students get their wheels off the ground and they survived!!! Their excitement and smiles from their own accomplishments are pretty priceless. 

Why do you feel many women do not enter the mountain bike scene? What do you feel could change this?
I have heard many women have bad experiences their first few times. They usually are on the wrong equipment; bike is too small or big. Suspension isn't set up right. Usually they are being dragged around so they feel like they are in the back and they can't keep up so they get discouraged.
I think support and encouragement is the answer. Skills classes and being around women in the group that are at similar riding levels so no one feels out of their element. Good coaches are so important too. Coaches that can break it down, explain and demonstrate. Keep women in their skill level not pushing too hard and keeping it fun and a positive learning environment.

Why is it important that women become a presence in the off-road world?
Because it is fun! The confidence they get off road will apply in all levels of their personal life; self esteem and feeling good about themselves. Sense of accomplishment.

What would you like to see happen with women and mountain biking in the next 5 years?
See young women competing! More women on bikes all over in every discipline.

What would you like to see happen with Little Big in the next 5 years?
I would love to see it grow in numbers. More demo tents on site. Opportunities for up and coming athletes to progress in a fun and safe environment. See mentoring going on with girls and women digging, riding and teaching.

What advice would you like to give for anyone who is contemplating on trying out mountain biking for the first time?
Get the right equipment first and foremost-a bike that fits. Suspension that is properly set up. Taking a basic skills class. 

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Oh yes. Many. When I was learning to jump......8 crashes in one day! I had really no instruction but was going for it! If I were to do it all again-taking classes is the best safest way to progress. When you get back on the bike after an injury my advice is stay within your own boundaries,  physically as well as mentally. Don't compete with anyone else but yourself. Go slow and end with positive, always. Go to the smaller jumps, ride slower, and roll things to familiarize yourself with your bike and the terrain. Do a lot of the same laps over and over and have fun! Then you are ready to step it up slowly again to the next level. Set small goals and be good with that. Set realistic goals. Less is more. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
You make it whatever you want every day. You can ride for distance or height! 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Road bike-bike rehab for ACL-distance and fast!!! Cross Country-IBIS carbon- amazing! I don't ride this bike anymore like I used to ride cross country! It's like a mini downhill bike that climbs! S-works Specialized carbon light DH bike-beautiful well balanced bike. Love it in tech and jumping. Corsair slopestyle jumping 4"bike for slopestyle jumping. Deity Dirt Jumper. Steel frame...jumpie jumpie. Beach cruiser for trips to the market and the beach!! I chose them mostly from demoing and then reading. Setting up and switching parts to fit. 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love Race Face, Dakine, Sombrio for women's fits. My favorite t's for dirt jumping are Dude Girl they also make great road riding clothes. I am tall so sometimes I have a difficult time finding clothes that are not half shirts or daisy dukes! HA My favorite shoe??? 5tens...hands down!

Tell us something random about you that others may or may not know!
My dog is sponsored! Her name is Boon and she works at Squaw Valley as a certified CARTA search and rescue dog www.squawdogs.com