Women on Bikes Series: Kaytlin Melvin

I’m 14 years old and am in 9th grade, first year of high school :D.
I’ve been riding mountain bikes for about 4 years and racing for 2 soon to be 3 seasons.  While downhill is my first passion, I also enjoy competing in freestyle events and enduro races.  

This year I decided to move out of the junior women class to the women’s open where the level of competition is greater and I love racing with other women even though they’re older.
I am pleased with my continued progression in spite of a serious injury last winter. 

When I’m not study or riding I spend my spare time trail building, volunteering at mountain bike camps and snow skiing. 

Mountain biking will always be my passion no matter where my life takes me!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I was a late bloomer getting my training wheels- my little brother learned before me! What's ironic is the only non-biker in my family (my mom) taught me how to ride my bike without training wheels :D I first started mountain biking when I was 10 and then began participating in summer camps and events when I was 11.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
It's the love of the sport, the feelings, the emotions and the people. Through riding I find escape and love. Mountain biking isn't just a sport to me, it's more than a passion; it's a lifestyle, it's an art. No matter how old you are or how long you've been riding, the art takes years and years to come even close to "perfection". Even then, it's never perfect. You tune your technique and practice your craft. It's that constant improvement and tweaking and tuning of my life that inspires me to ride. It's more than a passion that drives me, but a need for improvement and customization.

Not only is it my personal desire, but it's the way riding makes me feel. It's like drawing, or singing, or dancing, writing for other people. It's a way to express myself and my emotions. If I'm mad or stressed I'll go for a long pedal to release steam and let myself forget about all the complications that comes with the aspects of a regular teenage girl’s life. When I’m happy or amped up I’ll go jump my bike or throw myself down a hill.  It may not be clean and safe, but I express myself through riding rather than an object. Forget about myself now and everything I feel; through riding I make most of my friends. They all have that certain something that allows us to click. We all have that passion for riding and it's something we can always talk about no matter the mood.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
Downhill prevails out of all the other biking disciplines because of its technicality and freedom. And there's no one there to watch and judge you. As a teenage girl, I'm usually expected to have a sensitivity of how I look. For me it’s not how my hair or makeup looks, but my riding form and speed. Downhill lets me be free of prying eyes and do what I want. It's not a race against someone’s opinion of you like jump competitions. You may be racing against 20 people, but in the end, in the moment, it just comes down to you, your bike, and the clock. Away from the prying eyes, you have freedom to decide where you ride. You get to pick and choose lines that fit your ability and speed. There's so much that goes into a single 4 minute race run. I’m a pretty analytical person, so the ability to choose lines and analyze tracks clicks like a lock and key for me.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
I don't remember specifically but I remember the gist and that it was memorable. It was a once in a life time experience even to this day. It was like a kid discovering their favorite candy or a reader discovering their favorite book, it hooked me. It was the beginning of something 10-year-old me didn't understand at the time; it sparked a dream and passion. It was the cliché father-daughter ride at local trails on my tiny pink hard tail with pedal brakes, a basket, and cherries along the frame.  After that ride, I begged my dad for a mountain bike like his.  The rest is history in the making.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
Being honest here, I'm a huge worry-wart, so naturally I get nervous ALL the time. But I also over think a lot of things. So all I do is take a step back, breath and think encouragements. I would tell myself, "I can do this" or "I've done it before" or "I've done something easier than this" or sometimes I make it as simple as possible and do what Nike says, "Just Do It". The more complicated I make it, the harder it becomes. 
For example, this past summer I competed in my first Canadian Open race at Crankworx. To say it was challenging mentally and physically is an understatement. I pushed myself so hard the week before that I over thought every section and doubted my abilities. I was nervous to disappoint people. In the end, with the help of my family and some amazing girls, I did it. I overcame my nervousness and just did it. I rolled in not doing two sections ever, and no complete practice runs. I overcame my nerves by just doing it. I stopped everything, I forgot everything and I went for it. So basically, I step back and stop. I just let it go, have faith in my abilities and have fun. I remember why I push myself to these extents; for the results, the passion, and continual improvement. 

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 use clipless pedals and some suggestions are don't ride trails right out of the gate. It'll be difficult and hard to learn. What I did was first lean on the side of my house, sitting on my bike. I just did something as simple as unclipping and clipping in one foot over and over, then I'd switch feet. After that I rode around on some flat grass in the yard while my having a yoga ball thrown in front of me. It helped my reflexes and getting used to unclipping suddenly. It takes time and patience. Just be prepared to fall over….a lot.  

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
In this sport, I've had many biffs - both physical and mental.  As I mentioned earlier, the Canadian Open was a big stepping stone for my confidence. It was a challenge of my self-esteem and ability. I doubted my ability to ride and conquer. Self-doubt is and woman's worst enemy. It will eat us alive until we can no longer see the worth in ourselves. That's what happened there, I lost so much hope and confidence in myself that I pretty much gave up before the race started. I thought I couldn't do it, then or ever. But I did it. It all comes from support and people you love telling you can. I raced alongside two other girls that day; they both had done it multiple times. I came to the start crying and shaking. But they made me stop and think about it logically, not emotionally. They were willingly to pretty much give up their run for me. They offered to stop and WAIT and tow me in. That offer alone got me going; I pulled myself together and went for it.  That day helped me with my confidence on and off the bike.

Before that mental biff, I had a major injury that had an opposite result of what you would originally think.  December 8, 2013- I broke both my wrists, straight through. I had pins, rods, surgeries; the whole shebang. The doctor said 4 months till I could even think of touching a bike. In December, an injury that prolonging can be dangerous to anyone’s athletic career. That timeline ran straight into the race season. That thought alone didn't bring me down like you would think, it motivated me. The consequences didn't scare me anymore, I now knew that I could get hurt and keep going. So I did everything to heal faster.  I ate right, did what the doctor said, avoided carbonated beverages and planned my return to the bike.   I prevailed – 2 1/2 months later I was out of casts, in the gym and on a stationary bike. I built everything back up and probably became stronger physically and mentally. Hurting myself didn't scare me anymore, it fueled me. I knew that eventually I'd be back and better than ever.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Everyone had struggles in the beginning including me, I still have them today. Out of the gate my body position was great but the ability to fluidly manipulate the bike underneath me gave a major struggle. To understand my wrongdoings I constantly had someone videotaping me on the simple things. I pointed out every flaw of mine and worked hard on ONE small thing at a time. I constantly would do the same drill for one technique over and over videotaping every trial. I would tweak the drill to help with one aspect of position and just repeat and repeat and repeat. I would do it until I had it burned into my mind. Overall it's the focus on one thing at a time over and over again. 

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Of course there are still technicalities that I find tricky, but doesn't everyone?  That’s one thing I love about the sport – there’s always room for improvement.  Manipulation of the bike is probably my biggest struggle. I don't let it drag me down mentally or physically. I’m encouraged by every minor improvement and remind myself that if I stick with it eventually I'm going to get it down pat. Sometimes I find little cheater ways to get by until I figure it out. I just keep on trying even in the longest of runs, I just try little bits that I know won't affect my speed. It's all about body awareness. Just be aware of how your difficulties hold you back and be aware of your weaknesses and understand how much effort it takes to fix. Nothing comes easy. 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My bikes are the epitome of perfect for ME because I’ve never had a thing for flashy bikes and gear.  I love my Evil bikes – I ride the Undead; Uprising and Faction. To make my Undead DH bike even better, it's equipped with carbon components making it extra light and easy for me to ride. As women we all know it's REALLY hard trying to find a bike that fits well and rides well. But for me, Evil + carbon = perfection. My bikes fit great and are easy to maneuver and ride. I don't feel like I'm forcing my bike around to do things, we’re a good team. 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I have a lot of favorites – 100% goggles; Maxxis Tires; Lizard Skin grips; Crank Brothers pedals and more!  I love RaceFace components and Sombrio clothing. RaceFace also makes amazing protective gear like knee pads. RaceFace components are extremely light and the geometry works amazingly well for smaller people. Even though their light and petite, their components hold up through the roughest courses and trails. Sombrio has an amazing collection of women's riding clothes. All their gear is tailored perfectly for any woman's body shape. Also, they have so many styles and designs to choose from. Not your typical pink paisley spandex jerseys! Speaking of pink – Muck Off is my absolute favorite bike cleaner!  

What do you love about riding your bike?
It's similar to what inspires me to ride as often as I do- the passion and personal drive. But words like passion and drive don't come close to explain what I love. It's a piece of art, riding my bike is. It's abstract and personal. I can ride however I want and no one can change or stop me. I create my one sculpture every second of every ride. Riding gives me freedom. Freedom of speech, expression, movement, and mind. When I ride, I forget. I forget all the bad thing and good things and it's replaced with nothing. It leaves my mind blank, like a blank canvas ready for art; my riding and form. Riding my bike allows me to live life to the fullest and to discover. Riding my bike takes me to places I never would have dreamed of without my trusty steed. It allows me to look through the fog of my mind and just let it all go and forget. No matter how much I say will be able to express the deep emotions and reasons that make me love riding my bike.