Women Involved Series: Katrina Strand

Photo Credit: Sven Martin
I’m complicated haha! I live in Whistler BC, and have been racing and riding bikes for close to 20 years now. World Cup DH, EWS, Trans Provence, BC Bike race . . . the list goes on.

I’ve also been coaching for just over 10 years, and now focus on high-performance conditioning as well as mountain bike programs and mentorship for youth.

I also do brand ambassador projects for my sponsors, with a focus on passing on my experience and knowledge to those that want to listen! There’s a lot going on!

Besides bikes though, I love skiing, ski touring, scrambling, yoga, eating healthy good food, my dog and fiancé Yoann.

Instagram: katrinastrand

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what made you want to come back for more?
My good friend Lisa Lefroy and I took her parent cruisers up the bike park one rainy muddy afternoon and slipped our way down the mountain, crashing and laughing. That day started it all. Soon after I bought my first bike. The challenge was the main attractor at first, but soon the social part, the fitness part, simply being in the woods part . . .It flipped to a passion quite quickly. The more you ride, the better you get and soon after I tried racing, I was on the National Team racing the World Champs. The traveling was a HUGE attractor too, going to all these cool places with my bike and friends – life couldn’t be better! I always loved adventure.

It evolved from Dh racing to Enduro and even XC racing . . . But the most enjoyment I’d ever get was from big adventure rides. That won’t change, I know it.

The other angle of progression comes from the coaching/mentorship. What started out as mostly instructional coaching, has shifted to high-performance coaching. Although my fire for personal competition has fizzled (at least for now), it is quite the opposite when it comes to helping others. That’s where my business ‘Strand Training’ comes in, which is constantly evolving as I find new ways to support mountain bikers and other athletes.
Photo Credit: Collin Dodd

Clips or flats? What do you prefer and why?
Clips. Then I don’t have to think about my feet! They just stay put as I’m bouncing around, and generally, I feel I have a more efficient pedal stroke. That being said, I learned on flats and have spent a lot of time on them since. You really can’t cheat with flats, and they teach you a lot about how to use your feet properly while riding your bike.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I’ve had a lot of big crashes, and really quite a few that have ended in injury ranging from a 1 month turn around to 9 months off the bike healing and rehabbing. Injuries are hard physically, mentally and emotionally . . . you are on your own, really, no one can put in a day or week for you. It’s your journey, and the journey can be taxing and sometimes boring!

If you only identify yourself as a mountain biker, then they will be much harder to overcome. If you identify yourself as more (writer, musician, etc. the list goes on), then you can turn your focus to other parts of your being and work on those areas instead.

I also believe that often it’s a sign that you need to take a break, that something ‘is not right’. It’s a hard idea to swallow, but for me, this has often been the case and so the injury gives me the space to stop, take a break and reflect on what I really need at the moment.

All this being said, it is important to use all possible resources to heal properly. If that means therapy (hands-on or mental) or gym work, you do it. It’s always a lot harder to come back from injury physically, mentally and emotionally if you don’t put the effort in. I’ve often come back from my injuries stronger than when I went in . . . that gives me the confidence to ride how I was before the injury.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
All the skills challenged me! But that is one of the main aspects that attracted me to mountain biking, it is super challenging and always will be. For me back then it was time on the bike with the right people that would push me to learn. I simply spent A LOT of time on my bike. But now, there are all these instructional coaching camps and clinics that give you the tools to learn. Of course, you need to use these tools in order for it all to work, but it does save a lot of time when you work with a coach.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Well, of course, I am a normal person who has fear sometimes! I won’t do something unless I am 100 percent confident that I can do it. There can be adrenalin attached to that, but I am SURE it will work out. I am never ‘oh ya mayyyyybe I’ll make that 40 foot gap jump, let’s find out!’. I have to know it. And this can change day to day, week to week and even depend on who I am riding with . . so if I’m not feeling it, I don’t do it and know I can come back another day when it suits. If it drags me down, it’s my ego getting in the way ☺

What do you love about riding your bike?
Loaded question! I guess at the end of the day, I love the challenge, the exercise, the adventure, the places it has brought me and the people I have met through bikes. I LOVE being in the mountains, in the woods, in nature, and bikes bring me there every day.
Photo Credit: Collin Dodd
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a few for different reasons. I have my Commencal Supreme DH, Commencal Meta AM, Commencal TR, road bike and cruiser. Since I ride up, down and all around from bike parks to epic 10-hour adventures to cruises to the lake, I have a choice for whatever type of riding I am doing that day.

What was your inspiration to become involved with coaching?
I was instructional coaching really right from the beginning, and even had my own business going for kids and youth. I decided that in order to make it all bigger and better, my best bet was to go back to school for human kinetics and add strength and conditioning coaching to the mix. I finished my degree at the University of BC, got my Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach certificate and continued to move forward with both instruction, training, and coaching. ‘Strand Training’ now incorporates all sorts of projects from high-performance conditioning to a youth development team.

The inspiration really stemmed from the success I would see in my clients, and the gratification I would get that I helped them get there.

Tell us about one of your most inspirational moments with coaching-
Much like what inspired me to become involved in coaching has kept me there. My most inspirational moments are seeing the young athletes that I train and coach learn how to be better mountain bikers, athletes, and people. Their successes, and knowing I’ve been a part of it, are my biggest career highlights, much more than any win of my own.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
My guess is that the concept can be intimidating and overwhelming – riding bikes on uneven terrain and surrounded by obstacles that are not forgiving?! The truth is, is that there are so many levels of mountain biking, from crushed gravel to gnarly descents and if you take it one step at a time, with the right guidance and equipment, chances are you will be just fine.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Locally, here in Whistler, I feel we have a lot of programs for the girls. Mentorship programs, coaching, ladies rides . . . the list goes on. A community has been created, a supportive environment exists, and the possibilities are attainable.

It seems to me that this trend is filtering to other parts of the world too. There is room for loads of improvement of course, but I do feel that the industry is finally realizing the impact of women riders and helping to support projects that not only encourage women to get involved but encourage them to stay! I know Fox Head, who supports me, is VERY keen on these concepts in an authentic way.
Photo Credit: Derrick Busch

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Well, I know the positive impact it has had on my life so of course, I’m going to encourage women (and men) to bring bikes into their lives!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Baby arrives end of November! New adventure!