Women on Bikes Series: Kayley Burdine

I am a 27 year old professional cross country mountain biker riding for Eastern Shore Cycles/Specialized, and I live in Mobile, AL. I love traveling all over the U.S racing my bike and tasting all the wonderful/different foods in every city!
Aside from all the traveling and racing I am a personal trainer. My fiancé, Dennis and I run a personal training studio in our hometown. I am also an ambassador for Strongher, a wonderful group of ladies passionate about motivating and introducing women to cycling!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started riding in Feb of 2014.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Racing! I love it and the feeling of winning/accomplishment after a race. I always want to be the best at what I do so that's what has been driving me to continue to ride. When you see yourself progress each and every time you ride it's so motivating to just keep going out there and putting that time in on the bike. That's what makes it fun to me, progress!

What inspired you to start competing? What made the final decision for you?
I have always been a very competitive person. I went on a group ride with a few friends of mine and one of the guys told me I was fast and should try a race. So I did, I jumped in my first race in the beginning of May. I only "trained" a week for it! It was the most miserable, fun time I've ever had in my life. I say it was miserable because I was dead after the first minute of the race, I went all out from the beginning and got the hole shot. I remember seeing mile marker 1 and thinking there is no way I'm going to make it another 8 miles like this. I did though and afterward I felt so amazing and like I had actually done something! Although I got 3rd, I found my passion that day, racing mountain bikes. It was the hardest thing I've ever done and I immediately wanted more!

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
That's a hard one....I guess I would have to say Bump N Grind at Oak Mountain State Park because it feels like home. Birmingham is close to where I live and I raced Bump N Grind my very first year of racing as a Cat 3 and did really well there; this is where I fell in love with short track racing. I did my first short track race in 2014 as a Cat 3, they grouped the girls and guys together and I ended up coming in 2nd overall, out-sprinting the 3rd place guy right at the end. It was intense! Then the very next year I did the short track race there as a Cat 1 and out sprinted a really fast pro chick for the overall win! They always have a great crowd that comes to watch the event and I feel like they've kind of watched me grow into the rider I've become from the beginning. If you have never been to Oak Mountain you should give it a go, the BUMP crew does an amazing job with those trails.

You started out on a $500 mountain bike, what was the deciding factor for you upgrading your ride?
The fact that I almost didn't survive my first race on that entry level bike. My home trails were nothing compared to the trails I raced on for the first time! That bike was beating me to death and it was a tank, but I knew instantly that racing mountain bikes was going to be my new passion and I knew I would enjoy it a lot more on a better bike.

From personal experience are you happy you started out with a more entry-level bike or if you could go back in time, would you tell yourself to get an upgraded bike right away?
If I knew then what I know now, that I was going to take mountain bike racing this far, I would definitely have bought a better bike to begin with. At the time I had no idea racing even existed, I just wanted something to ride to work for cardio and to take to the trails on weekends.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Oh yeah, I felt terrified and excited! There were some things on the trail that I would look at and say "I'll never ride that." It's funny because those small obstacles are nothing to me now; it's incredible what a little confidence can do.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I'm always nervous when I ride something new. I just tell myself, everyone else does it and you can too!

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?
Yes, I started using clipless pedals the week of my first race. I fell...a lot! I would recommend getting in a door frame and practicing clipping in and out. I didn't do that, instead I just clipped in and went out for a ride! I had a lot of unnecessary falls and crashes that could have been avoided had I practiced getting in and out of those pedals.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Oh my, way too many to even recall! I guess the one that I remember most is the hard time I had at Nationals. My training wasn't going well for me leading up to Nationals, I had a lot of bad luck many days in a row. Then when I got there the altitude affected me way more than I had anticipated, I had never been anywhere like that before. We were racing at 8,000ft above sea level! I took off and immediately knew I didn't have a chance; I was done before I got half way around the short track once. I wasn't recovering and it felt like I was pedaling through sand. I was so disappointed, short track was supposed to be my best chance and I completely bombed. Not only that, I still had a cross country race to do the next day. After the race I got to sit and chat with one of the coolest pro mountain bikers and the one that I look up to the most, Georgia Gould. One of the things she told me was that the gauge on my floor pump would be off at altitude, that I needed to get a digital gauge. Come to find out I had 12lbs of pressure in my front tire, I normally run 20 psi. Basically, I raced the whole race on flat tires. So there was a little more hope for the cross country race. Still, It was hard to forget the feeling I had felt during the short track when I went past my limit and couldn't recover. Basically I just had to go out there and race with the "I've got nothing to lose" mentality and I was able to get on the podium! I learned a lot of lessons that week.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I started riding, anything that had to do with handling challenged me. I hit trees all the time, crashed in numerous corners, I seriously couldn't go ride my bike without crashing! I didn't grow up riding dirt bikes, motorcycles, or anything like that, so the handling didn't really come naturally for me. I basically just went out and kept riding until I figured it out through trial and error. For the really tricky stuff that I couldn't figure out on my own I would go watch a YouTube video and that helped a lot. Where I live there isn't a whole lot of people you can ask about handling which is what inspired me to hold some beginners clinics here at my local trails! I don't want people making the same mistakes I made over and over and for that to discourage them to continue to ride.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Yes, it seems like every time I go to race at a new trail I encounter something tricky that I've never seen before and that I don't quite know how to do! Mainly rocks, we don't have any here so I don't get a lot of practice on them. Sometimes those tricky sections do get me down and I'll either go back and do it over and over until I get it or I'll go to a part of the trail that I love and forget about that stupid rock that made me fall, haha! It just depends if I'm racing at that trail or just riding for fun.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the feeling of progressing on my bike. It could be anything from conquering a tricky section to beating my times on certain trails. Progression means I'm getting more comfortable/confident on the bike and that's what I love. I want to come back and say "wow, that was an amazingly fun, fast ride."

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Specialized Epic pro World Cup (FS) and a Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon World Cup (HT). I chose the Stumpjumper because of its beautiful orange color, how light weight it is, and the wheel size. This was my first 29'er and I immediately fell in love. After racing it in various parts of the U.S. Last year I realized I needed a full suspension, too! The great thing about the Specialized Epic is the brain in the fork and rear shock. You set it stiff and it doesn't bob when you pedal. It only opens up when you hit a rock or root. It's so amazing.

Tell us what inspired you to become a Strongher ambassador-
I've gotten to travel to so many places over the past year and see all the different mountain bike communities in each place. It really made me think about the mountain biking community in my hometown and how much I wanted to grow it, specifically the women's community! I started doing some beginner clinics and girls rides and then I found STRONGHER. I thought it was an amazing group of women from around the world trying to promote women's cycling and I immediately wanted to be involved!

Why is Strongher a great organization to be involved with?
They truly are an amazing and impressive group of women that work really hard to build women's cycling! It's like an international family to me, I've gotten to meet and talk to so many inspirational women through this group.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
This one is a tricky one because I have not found any specific brand of clothing that I am 100% happy with as of yet, especially for my body type! I think that is a major way that the major brands could improve, to get more women involved. A little more investment into the women's market could go a long way. Until then, I'll keep searching.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Honestly, I think men do, but I don't think they do it on purpose at all. I think they mean well and they truly want women out on bikes, mainly because it's something they can do together as a couple. I just feel like they go about it the wrong way. They expect that because they picked it up so easily that we will too and that's not always the case (sometimes we do, but not always.) I've seen and heard many times where a guy will put his girl on a heavy, cheap bike and send her out on a MTB trail without any instruction at all. In that case she'll either learn the hard way or crash and burn and never look at another bike again. Men and women learn and understand things differently, for the most part, that's why I think it's great to have someone who is willing to patiently help you and answer questions, whether it's male or female...patience and a little instruction is key!

What do you feel could happen locally and/or industry wise to encourage more women to become involved with cycling and/or the industry?
I think holding women's group rides/clinics regularly is a great start. I also think getting the guys involved in some group rides is a great way to get their women out on the bike more. I know a lot of women that started riding because their significant other introduced it to them. I like riding with my fiancé, so I know some other women have to feel the same way. We shouldn't always exclude men from our rides.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Riding has really helped me be a happier person in my everyday life. Before I started mountain biking I felt like I didn't have a purpose besides going to work, don't get me wrong I love my job, but it is work! I didn't have anything that I would just do for fun, until I started biking. I fell in love immediately. I just want other women to have that same feeling that I got when I first started riding. I also want them to have confidence on the bike, which is why I enjoy holding the clinics. Not everyone is out there because they want to race and that's ok!
It's all about enjoying yourself on the bike and if you're crashing in every corner or have to get off for every obstacle you encounter then you're not having fun.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am a very shy person. When people first meet me, they sometimes get the wrong idea because I don't say much. The truth is that I'm usually a nervous wreck around people I don't know. I'm also a very focused person on race day, I like keeping to myself and my thoughts until the race is over. I will say focusing more on building our cycling community locally and holding more group rides/clinics has definitely helped me come out of my shell and has made me much more outgoing!