Women on Bikes Series: Kim Kurle

I just turned 29 and I work for Time Inc. as a Principal Program Manager in Technology & Product Engineering. I'm an outdoor enthusiast and avid weekend warrior, typically doing something fun outdoors. 

Whether it's whitewater kayaking/rafting, camping, skiing, or mountain biking, you can typically find me in the mountains with my husband and two dogs, Oreo and Ozzy.

Seattle has proven to be an excellent hub for mountainous recreation, and discovering all of the great mountain biking opportunities in the area has been quite an adventure!

You can find my 1st year video on my PinkBike profile and I’m on Instagram!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I learned how to ride a bike really young; however I hadn't had much mountain biking experience until the Fall of 2013. The past year or so has really been a lot of trial and error trying to keep up with our friends who have been riding for years.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
What motivates me most, is my desire to go bigger, higher, and faster, and the only way to get there is to get out and do it. I also want to represent for the ladies; if a guy can do it, I can do it. I also love the adrenaline rush : ) 

What inspired you to start mountain biking?
My husband was sitting on the couch, recovering from ACL reconstruction and watching all of the Crankworks live feeds from Pinkbike. Feeling inspired, he sold off his ski gear and bought a bike, thinking it would be a fun way to rehab. So naturally, I tried it too.  Before long we were both in over our heads, and loving it. At this point in time, I can't see our love for riding bikes fading anytime soon.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Excited, apprehensive, maybe a little scared? My husband and I had a long weekend, and decided to do some exploring on the south side of Mt. St. Helens. We found out that there was a great MTB trail called Ape Canyon, and threw the bikes on the car and headed out. Making our way up the trail, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make it back down. The trail isn't really all that difficult, but it was way crazier than anything I had ever done. Making it to the top and seeing the amazing views was incredibly rewarding, and the decent back down was a blast. But I was still a total beginner, and at one point I ended up going over the bars in true tomahawk fashion. Luckily I made it out pretty clean, with only a few bumps and bruises. Overall I was glad that I accomplished something I didn't think I could do.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
When I see a jump, drop, or some other intimidating feature on a trail, I think; other people have ridden here, I can ride this too. It's important to understand your skill level though, and not go flying off of things you have no business being on. With kayaking or rafting, we call this "scouting," it's sort of a look before you leap mentality. Figure out the lines, practice hard moves on easy features and master those before you step up to the harder trail.

What do currently do to help yourself out when you feel nervous?
I try to visualize myself doing the jump or drop and think about how I want my body to be positioned when I hit it. The mental aspect of any extreme sport is a big thing to overcome, and visualizing success can really help with conquering your fears.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what do you like about them? If no, do you plan to try them out in the future? If not-why do you like flats?
I have never tried riding with clips, but I do think they have their place. Most of the riding I do is freeride and downhill, and being a beginner, the ability to ditch the bike in a split second can be a life saver. With flats, I feel like I have a great amount of control over where my feet are placed, and feel plenty connected to my bike. Though my shins are looking a little battered these days...

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Yes. Recently I had two significant beater sessions back to back. The first, I was riding really high on a wooden berm, it had rained recently and the berm was pretty slick. I pumped out of the berm, slid out, and landed hard on my left side. The day after that, I slipped a pedal dodging someone in the trail coming around a blind corner and ended up with my first set of stitches. After that weekend, I thought a lot about how I was riding, and what I had done wrong in those circumstances. For me, it’s best to visualize what I would have done differently and then go try it again, and again, and again. :) 

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Well, pretty much everything challenged me at first. But wheel lifts up and down curbs were something I made sure to master early on. Jumps and drops are also what I have the most fun on, and I'm always trying to go higher! Repetition and continually pushing yourself to ride trails that you know you will have to use that skill on forced me to put my practice in to action. If I can't make it to a trail, ripping around the neighborhood can provide some really valuable practice sessions. 

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Yes, of course! I am working on wheelies and JHops right now, also cornering faster. When I get frustrated, I try and remind myself that I have only been riding legitimate mountain bike since March 2014, so I can't expect miracles to happen overnight.   

What do you love about riding your bike?
The main reasons I LOVE mountain biking are 1) The feeling of flying down a trail and 2) That weightlessness you get when floating through the air off a jump or drop.  It's scary, but exhilarating at the same time.  

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have two bikes. I have a 2007 Giant Reign x1, which was the first full suspension bike I have ever owned, purchased that one last year. In February, I picked up the 2015 Kona Process 134 SE, which is my go to bike now. It is by far the BEST bike I have ever ridden. It is an XS, which gives me great stand over height, it has a shorter chain stay, so it’s easier to manual, and it has a much lighter frame than my Reign (probably 10lbs lighter). I chose these for the fact that they were some of the only bikes I could find that were "smallish" enough for me. I'm petite, and it was really difficult to find anything that gave me enough stand over.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I ride in Dakine Jerseys and shorts. I highly recommend this gear as it has been super durable for me and fits well. Dakine makes shorts in smaller sizes than most brands, and I find that they fit the best and they are a bit longer than some other ones I've tried. I also love my POC elbow and knee pads. They fit great and keep me protected in those OTB (over the bars) moments.

With what you have currently experienced with mountain biking, why should other women give it a go?
Because it’s fun!  It is a great way to explore the outdoors, challenge yourself and have new exciting experiences. 

What has helped you, overall, with your confidence with biking off-road?
I think the fact that I have continually pushed myself to go harder and bigger, and seen myself succeed has given me the most confidence. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think it is because you have to be OK with crashing once in a while. I tend to be more risk averse than my husband when it comes to sports and trying new things. Once I had crashed a few times and realized it wasn't that bad, I got over my fears and tried things that I never thought I could do. I also think that mountain biking has traditionally been a man's sport, and the fact that there are not a lot of options for women creates some barriers for entry. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
There needs to be more readily available options (Smaller more affordable bikes) for women, and more female riders. I also think that women in the sport need more exposure for people to realize that ladies can shred too! 

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Women who are badass. :)  I get so inspired by seeing pro women crushing trails with big jumps and drops. I can't help but show my friends how awesome these women are!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I spent about a month living in a van and traveling around. My husband and I converted a Cargo van this last summer and went on a long road trip hitting bike parks and trails in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah; ending at Redbull Rampage in Virgin Utah. We hit all of the big parks in Utah and road at Moab. It was my first time ever riding outside of Washington; it was an amazing experience. I look forward to future adventures!