Women Involved Series: Kristen Phillips

Kristen Phillips and Lisa Mazzola live in New York City and are involved in the cycling and coaching communities. Kristen and Lisa are both long time cyclists with strong background in art and yoga, and their coaching business, Art of Cycling NYC, blends these concepts together in a unique way that emphasizes total enjoyment in the moment.

Their goal is to turn cycling into an art form and are on a mission to use bikes as a way to improve quality of life in the urban jungle.

They are also part of the leadership team for Bicycle habitat Women's Cycling – a bike shop driven program that leads bi-weekly rides and provides coaching, clinics, and other instructional programs throughout the season.

Tell us what introduced you to discovering your #bikelife and how it has influenced your world-
I discovered #bikelife as a freshman in college. A friend from drawing class invited me on a mountain bike ride (story below) and that was the turning point for me. Everything changed after that. I had a new group of friends, a healthy outlet for stress, and was introduced to the world of racing which effectively used up all of my free time, in a good way. Everything awesome in my adult life has come some way or another through bikes. I met my husband riding bikes. It just keeps getting better!

You are the co-creator of Art of Cycling NYC- what inspired the development of your group?
In 2015 I co-founded Bicycle Habitat Women’s Cycling as a way to serve the growing NYC women’s cycling community. BHWC hosts rides, clinics, and other (mostly educational) events. Art of Cycling was inspired by the success of that program, and based on a shared vision between Lisa Mazzola and myself. We learned on many long rides together that our personal philosophies were aligned, and shaped heavily by our backgrounds in art and yoga. I’m an artist and Lisa works in art education at the MoMA. We are both yoga teachers. We both love long rides with lots of climbing. Art of Cycling was created to blend traditional coaching methodology with the philosophy and wellness aspects of art and yoga. It’s basically our way of using bikes to improve every aspect of our lives by introducing creative and spiritual components in a practical way.

What would you like women to know about Art of Cycling NYC and how can they get involved?
Art of Cycling is a coaching program for people looking to take the guesswork out of reaching their goals. We work with clients individually and in small group settings. The easiest way for women to get involved is to keep an eye on our class schedule by visiting our website and following us on Instagram: @artofcyclingnyc.

What do you feel has been the greatest achievement since creating Art of Cycling?
We launched Art of Cycling on December 1, 2016 and are still getting started, but our winter indoor group coaching class is sold out and our yoga for cyclists class is filling up fast. It’s so exciting to feel like the community wants and needs what we’re doing.
When did you decide to make the move to become a coach? What was the best thing you've gained from it?
The opportunity to teach mountain biking for college credit at Northern Arizona University fell into my lap in 2004 and that’s where it all started. My husband and I taught this class together for three years. So many good things came out of it, and I learned a lot about how to be a good skills instructor. Then a few years later, I had the opportunity to be the head bike coach for a large triathlon training program in Hawaii. These experiences taught me I love coaching, and helped me grow as a leader. The personal growth aspect has been incredible. Coaching has brought me full circle in love for cycling and provides the opportunity to share it with others.

Can you take us back to your first mountain bike ride? What did you learn from it?
My first mountain bike ride is still fresh in my mind. It was in September 1999 in Flagstaff, Arizona. I was taking a drawing class, and my classmate brought her mountain bike as a still life prop. She was from Colorado and invited me to explore some local trails with her. We were both new to town and got a little lost, and decided to turn around as the sun was setting. It was the first time I had ever ridden singletrack. Down the trail I went, bike chattering, no clue what I was doing, but wow-- what a feeling! Something in me had completely let go into this unknown experience, and it was like nothing I had ever felt before. I was high on nature, beauty, pine trees, and sunset. My heart was beating; my adrenaline flowing. I WAS ALIVE and I felt it for the first time in my life that day.

For those nervous about off-road riding, do you have tips or suggestions that may help them cope?
Mountain biking is as much mental as it is physical. Deciding that you want to do it is the biggest asset you have. I wrote a blog post for BHWC recently called “Advice for New Mountain Bikers” based on the things I find myself saying the most. Hope it helps!

Clips or flats? What do you like and why?
Clips for pedaling efficiency and technical climbing :)

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 2005 I was preparing for MTB Nationals in Mammoth, CA and took a bad crash on one of my last training rides. I was riding well that day and feeling confident! Then, my front wheel washed out unexpectedly and I took a hard hit to the head. Thankfully I was with people who could call for help. Thankfully the damage was nothing the ER and a few trips to the dentist couldn’t fix, so I was pretty lucky. It was scary to get back on my bike though. I didn’t end up racing at Mammoth, but I did do the local hill climb on my road bike the following weekend. For me, getting back on the bike as soon as I could was the best remedy.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Handling skills came more naturally than fitness when I was starting out. In races, I would always gain time in technical sections. Climbing was the thing that took a lot of determination. I said before that mountain biking is as much (if not more) mental than physical. Anything you can do to be calm and in sync with your equipment will help bike handling. Practicing slow speed balance is one of the best things you can do. Everyone wants to go fast, but you have to learn to go slow first. Anytime you’re waiting for someone on the trail, practice riding slow and trackstanding. Practice hopping in place. Never waste a moment.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Staying positive is everything, and there is no shame in walking something you’re not comfortable riding. The thing I’ve been working on lately is riding skinny logs. There is a mountain biking area called Sprain Ridge just north of Manhattan that has a zillion obstacles to conquer. I start with logs low to the ground with zero consequence, and work my way to the higher ones. I have a mantra: “I am calm, I am centered, I am steady, and I can do this.
What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything… but mostly the connection to nature and having way to stay fit that never feels like work.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Living in NYC, it’s a luxury to have four bikes. My road bike is Trek Emonda SL8 Women’s, my mountain bike is a Trek Fuel EX 9.9, and I also have carbon hardtail and single speed cross bike. I chose the Emonda because I love to climb, the Fuel because I haven’t had a full-suspension bike in 4 years, the hardtail because it’s awesome, and the cross bike for commuting.

You work at Bicycle Habitat- tell us about your job and why you enjoy being in the industry:
The bike industry is a really great place to be. It’s not perfect, but no job is. I’m surrounded by people who feel like family, and my extended family of cycling friends gets bigger every year. My job at the shop is split between running Bicycle Habitat Women’s Cycling, and sales. The women’s program involves planning events, organizing rides, teaching clinics, and any/all marketing-related efforts like social media, website, and emails. It’s the best job in the world and there are a lot of perks.

Do you have any suggestions for women interested in being involved in the industry? Such as working at a bike shop?
I’ve worked in a lot of shops and every shop is different. They all have their own unique culture. It’s important to find one that fits with the type of cyclist you are, or want to be. For me, it’s all about quality of life and helping others improve their own lives through cycling. There are many times when I’m not sure if I’m working or not, since work and play are so connected. They flow together seamlessly. When I worked for other industries it was not that way. I guess you could say I tried the real world, and came back to bikes. I believe in them even more now.

You were chosen as a Trek Women's Advocate for 2017, what does being a Trek Women's Advocate mean to you?
My role as program manager for Bicycle Habitat Women’s Cycling and Trek Women’s Advocate are one in the same. It’s my job to create an environment that encourages and supports women’s cycling. This happens internally within the shop, and externally in the community. A welcoming shop environment is an incredible resource for women. The products and service we provide is so important to long term health of the cycling community. BHWC was created to provide a support system for present and future customers, and the Trek Advocate program is a wonderful extension of that.

What are your hopes for the future of the Trek Women's Advocate program? How do you see it helping with what you are currently doing?
My hope for the Advocate program is that it can have a huge impact with getting more women on bikes. Trek is the perfect company to make it happen. It’s been inspiring to be part of this effort because the mission is so positive. The other Advocates are amazing! We all share a common love for bikes and have already made a difference. It’s helpful to have a network that expands beyond NYC.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Mainly fear and lack of confidence. Women also tend to discount the importance of good equipment. Especially with mountain biking, good equipment and proper setup is everything. Good instruction is also important, because that helps with confidence. BHWC and the Trek Advocate program are here to help guide women through the learning process one-on-one and in positive group settings.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
This is a big question, but the short answer is women beget women. More women in shops means more women apply. More women on bikes means better products for women. The industry will adapt and change based on demand. We have come so far, but there is still much work to be done.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Cycling is an easy way to improve every aspect of life. It’s a fun way to get exercise, explore new places, and meet new friends. I encourage women to ride because I know what life was like before cycling. I also know how difficult the learning curve was for me. My goal is to help ease that transition by supporting every aspect of the cycling experience. With Bicycle Habitat, I can ensure a positive bike shopping experience and all related service-- including social aspects like group rides, clinics, etc. With Art of Cycling, I can provide a higher level of instruction and coaching. It’s the best of both worlds in all the right ways.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
PB&J is my favorite ride food.