Women Involved 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!

What inspired you to move up into the women's open with competing? Did the transition have any challenges?
Basically I had no competition and wanted to challenge myself. Again, it goes back to that passion for improvement. With no competition my age, I didn't know if I would be able to handle the stress if it came down to it. 
So I moved into the women's open to challenge my mental capability and push myself to be better. I knew that most of the women were stronger than me, had more experience than me so I was not expecting to podium every race. I was prepared for good competition. I didn't find any challenges aside from myself. I'm naturally a shy person so at first I didn't really talk to any of the other women but eventually I did. They immediately accepted me in and taught me their ways. We all bonded really quickly and became close friends. They all supported me in everything I did and pushed me to do my best. 

Overall, do you feel accepted with moving up into women's open?
I immediately felt supported and excepted in the women’s open category! All the women took me under their wings and taught me their tricks. We take practice runs together, talk about the course, and laugh a lot. They all supported my endeavors and never saw me as an outsider but as a fellow lady rider and good competitor, not a like a kid or an outsider. We all help each other; we take practice runs together, talk about the course, and laugh a lot. They ask for my advice on lines and we tow each other into new trails. When it comes time to race, we all head to the starting line together and wish each other luck. By the end of the season I was on the podium and many of the women were more excited than I was!

What would be the most challenging aspect of your training?
Time. Surprisingly, the most challenging aspect of my training is having enough time for it all. I’m an honor student and academics are an extremely important thing in my family, which means school first. No grades = no ride. Most of the time I will be doing homework for hours on end. Staying up extremely late studying and doing homework leaves limited amounts of time of training during the week. I try and workout or ride the stationary bike a few days during the week. In the spring it stays light later, so I do get a few weeknight rides in.  I do most of my training on the weekends and during school breaks.

As a young woman, why do you feel it is important to be a good role model for the younger generation?
As a young woman, being a role model for the youngsters is one of my highest held values. I remember when I was like them, and I looked up to inspirational women riders like Jill Kintner, Kat Sweet, and Trish Bromley. They shaped who I am today and they are continuing to inspire me every day.  I use those thoughts as motivation to be a good role model so that I can inspire more and more girls to join the sport and keep our own legacy going. 

What has been the most inspiring moment (or moments) that you have had since competing?
As a woman in a male dominated sport, I have had PLENTY of inspirational moments along my journey of progression. One of the most inspirational was quite recent and had a huge impact on my riding and self-esteem. It was at the Sugar Showdown Seattle on the instruction day. My group had been working on the advanced trail and I started focusing on this one drop that I had struggled with a very long time. I ended up standing at looking at it and walking it for 20 minutes. Eventually, my coaches and all the girls in my group said you can do it, stop thinking and go for it. I was still nervous but the girls still kept saying I could do it and to stop doubting myself. After that, I went for it; and I cleared it. Nailing that drop and the encouragement of my coaches led me to move up a level and compete with the pros. It also showed me how much ALL the ladies supported not only me but everyone beside them; it showed me how large and supportive the women's mountain bike community is.  

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I feel like the largest thing that deters women mostly is intimidation. It's like any sport that male dominated- the boys are always showing off or going for extremely difficult features. This immediately makes women nervous because they've been told for so long by society that men are better at sports and dangerous things. These thoughts counteract what society has engraved into our minds. When people think of cycling and mountain biking, they immediately think male which then deters women because they are afraid of being alone, the only one, left behind, or worse – holding everyone else back. Women specific events aren't only made to help women improve but also to encourage to break out of their shells and have confidence in their ability.  This is key to feeling comfortable enough ride along side other guy, to go out on their own to events and try new riding spots. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Even now, they are SO many opportunities for women considering so many inspirational women creating their own women specific events and classes. The events are amazing and extremely helpful but it’s all women and then the women attending still don't have that single final push that allows them to ride where and whenever they want. As a girl with a father that rides, which then results in me being surrounded by guys quiet often, I've come to appreciate every compliment and encouragement guys give about women's events and women in the sport. When a guy says how cool they think women's events are or how cool it is that more women are riding, it actually encourages me and makes me proud to be a woman in a male-dominant sport. And men's support for women in the sport doesn't only occur at women specific events. Just at normal local races you can see how much men support the female racers and categories.  

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Everyone has that response that they want more people to ride with and those reasons are still true with me. My reason relates directly to young girls in the sport. If we can reach young girls and inspire the love of riding in them, they will grow up without the preconceived notion that it’s a man’s sport.  I want to make more role models that in turn will encourage more women. My reason is to not only expand the female community but to expand the entire mountain bike community. If the female community grows, in turn the entire community will grow which is good for everyone involved. I encourage women to ride because I love the sport and I want to allow other women to fall so deep in love with the sport as much as I have. 

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I’m a ginger!