Women on Bikes Series: Kiatonda Oslin

My name is Kit and I have been riding/racing since 2009 and I'm a Bianchi addict.  I currently own a
Bianchi San Jose Single Speed (fun commuter bike), Infinito CV (endurance and racing) and a Zurigo (gravel & snow)

My daughter went away to college and I needed to find something new to occupy my time. So I was introduced to the Beginner Race Program and St. Paul Bicycle Racing club with the intentions of taking my new road bike and meeting some new friends to ride with. After the 1st class, I knew I wanted to try racing.

My first year I did 47 races, from Crits, to Time Trials and Road Races, as I was not sure what my favorite would be. I came to learn Crits were my favorite.

However, with racing, I also did a lot of 100 miles events with friends and loved the long distance riding as well. After about 4 years of racing, a friend of mine introduced me to Randonneuring (self-supported, long distanced, timed riding) I immediately fell in love and Super Randonneured my first year. (this is doing a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K within a season) My 3rd year of Radonneuring I wanted to try gravel, so purchased a gravel bike and hit the dirt and found another way to ride bikes that took a different skill set and again found a way to add onto my passion. Last year I continued to increase what I was doing with Randonneuring by completing a Super Randonneur Series, earning my 2nd R12 (this is doing a 200K every month of the year consecutively) doing a 1000K and a week after that a 1200K. I also found gravel was getting longer too, so I did some 100mi events and then finished 3rd woman in DaMN (day across MN on gravel- 240mi). The things I love about biking are the amazing people you meet and the friendships you develop. Biking always gives you an opportunity to explore and see just how far you can push yourself and what you can overcome. No matter what happens in my life (good or bad) I have found a bike ride with friends or alone seems to bring things back into perspective. If you need to think through an issue, have some catch-up time and good conversation or just laugh and enjoy the day... This is always my go-to outlet.

Many people think I do not have a job, that all I do is bike. However, I do have a full-time job managing a sales support team for an envelope manufacturer that has plants in Iowa, Minnesota, and Portland, OR. I also work for Lifetime Fitness leading outdoor rides and I also lead women's rides for NOW bikes and fitness in Arden Hills. I am an empty nester with my daughter being 28. So, other than work, I do spend most of my time on a bike, and quite honestly would not have it any other way.

kiatonda (Kit) oslin - facebook
kito1968 - instagram
@kiatonda - twitter

Biking became a central part of your life in adulthood vs. childhood, how would you say that has benefited you?
I honestly feel it gave me a renewed spirit and love for life and what more is out there to explore and experience. I was a young mother and I was not sure what my future would look like after my daughter would go away to college. I’m so grateful for the introduction to cycling and the cycling community, it feels like PT 2 of life, and I love every second.

Take us back to when you first started participating in cycling events, what made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
Mostly it was the learning and the amazing encouraging women (and men) in the sport when I started. We used to have a W Cat4 – 40+ field that had some amazing lady racers that would teach you as you raced. I love learning and I wanted to just take it all in. It was so fun, exciting and the community is like family.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for folks who are nervous to participate in their first cycling event?
Find a mentor and listen to their stories and practice what they are telling you. On your own, with them, and just get in and race. No matter how much you play it over in your head and what you think you will do and not too, the race hardly ever plays out exactly as you imagined, but when it does… OMG that’s a rush! If you are not sure what type of riding or racing you want to do, give them all a shot. If you love biking you will find a place (or places) that you fit and feel energized by.

For those who are unfamiliar with crits, can you explain what they are and why you enjoy them?
Crits or Criteriums are a timed lap race. Typically races are from 25-45 min, with a less than a mile lap that you do over and over for the amount of time. They are quick and lots of strategy and can involve teamwork. They are a fun race to do as well as watch.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I clip in. It gives you a more efficient pedal stroke as you can use your entire leg muscles. However I do ride speed plays, so if I’m just riding a few blocks to the store or to grab a bite with friends, I will just hop on the bike with flip-flops and treat the speed play as if it were a flat pedal. However, if I’m riding 5 miles or more, I definitely clip in, mostly because that is how all my bikes are set up.

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 have had 2 that come to mind.

My first 600K, it was raining steady all morning, I felt a little nervous but excited. I am not really a fan of starting events in the rain. If it starts raining after I start, it seemed like just another obstacle to overcome, but starting used to seem just mentally more challenging. Anyway, I had committed to doing this and once I say I’m going to do something, as long as I’m physically able, I’m all in. 30 miles into this 373-mile event I was riding in a pace line with about 14 guys and the guy's wheel I was on, skimmed a pothole filled with water as we were crossing a bridge deck. I’m not sure if he didn’t see it, but he didn’t point it out either and I saw it too late and went into it. I tried to pull my bike up to get out of the hole and thought for a second I had recovered, but then hydroplaned across the bridge deck. I ran and grabbed my bike out of the road, everything was working fine (probably thank goodness to the wet surface) and I had nothing broken it seemed but lots of road rash with gravel. The 1st control stop was just about 3-5 miles away so I road to the control, cleaned up my wounds and pedaled on. When we got about 400K into the ride, we have our “sleep stop” I opted to shower, change kits, eat food and then wait for the 1st person that was ready to roll out. I was afraid if I laid still for too long I would stiffen up from my crash and my mind was just set on accomplishing this goal. I had two guys that were ready and rolled out with me. We finished the event in a really good place with no other issues. The finish was the most exciting finish for me at that time, to turn your last corner, see the finish, and know what you had been through the past 33 hours on the bike, especially when you have to overcome is one of the most amazing feelings.

My 2nd crash was this past year, last gravel event of the season at Green Acres. It was a great day and we were about 13 miles out when my front wheel was taken out, I went down, My bike was scraped and I only had a few gears I could get into, but it was only 13 more miles, and we were doing so great. My left hand hurt, but I thought it was just bruised and bad road rash on it. I got back on the bike, and me and two of my team mates road together the rest of the way back. It hurt to keep my left hand on the bars, so I road most of the way back with just my right hand. Got to the finish, loaded up my bike, changed, grabbed some food and visited with friends with ice on my hand. Decided I should take my bike into the shop as I knew it needed some love. On my way home my hand just kept getting more and more swollen, so went into urgent care and it was broken in two places. After being casted up, went home to figure out what training was going to look like with a broken hand. It’s doable! ☺

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
For me, it was just learning to ride in a group, how to hold a wheel, how to ride predictable and be sure to communicate (signals or verbal) to others in the group as to keep the group together and smooth. I was very fortunate to have some great cyclist that took me in to teach me these things. I did take the Beginner Race Program was introduced me to many of these people. And then I decided I wanted to pay it forward, so I coached BRP women’s group for a few years and now lead and teach group riding in the NE Region for LifeTime Fitness as well as for NOW Bikes Ladies Ride in Arden Hills.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I guess I would say mountain biking (big rocks and logs) and riding through thick mud or snow are probably areas that I continue to work on. I don’t really let it drag me down, I try to stay confident, remind myself to keep pedaling and if I get stuck, I just pick up and get through it. It’s just like most things in life, just keep working it. If you don’t give up you will get better. And what fun would it all be if there weren’t some challenges to overcome.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Every single thing. The freedom to just kit up and roll out of my house and go where I want, when I want for as long as I want. Exploring different towns, states, etc. The people you meet and it’s good for your body.

Tell us more about Randonneuring and why you enjoy the longer-distance rides/events-
I enjoy Randonneuring as it is an entirely different mindset of trying to keep yourself balanced, physically, mentally, nutritionally, and to take care of your bike and your body. Also when you have to check into control stops and then start up again, about 30 times in a 1200K event, it can be quite challenging to keep going no matter what and learning how to break things down was how I found my way. I remember saying to myself over and over on my 1st 1000K event; This is only 20, 50 mile rides. I can do that. And now that is how I approach all of them, from 200K to 1200K, I break them down into 30 or 50 mile rides. And it seems to work for me. I love checking things off a list, so if I can mentally keep telling myself only 19 more, only 18 more, only 17 more…. It keep me motived like “just keep pedaling” or “just one foot in front of the other.

Do you have any tips or suggestions that would be beneficial for folks to think about while they are planning their first long distance event/ride? (100+ miles)
This was said to me when I first started Randonneuring, and for some reason, I believed it with all my heart, and it has not failed me yet. “If you can ride 100 miles, you can do any distance you want.” And before I was told that I was told, if you can ride 75-80 miles, you can do 100. If I get something in my head like this, I then make it a challenge to see if these things are true.

What do you enjoy most about helping women become more confident with cycling?
This is one of my most favorite things to have women come to our ladies rides and tell me they want to learn to ride in a group, as they are tired of riding alone. And secondly, they don’t ride very far, because what if they have a flat? So I like to start there… I show them how easy it is to change a flat and what to be prepared for, new tube, patches, boots, food wrappers, dollar bills. ☺ Once they get that down, their confidence builds and then we start working group riding skills. I have been doing this for a few years now, and I think the things that lights me up most, is when our season if over and a group of the girls want to keep riding and start organizing group rides on their own and invite me. My heart swells!

Tell us more about the women's rides that you lead and how women can join-
The ladies ride I help lead in NOW Bikes in Arden Hills on Tuesday nights starting in May. We will have a ladies night on Tues April 24th at 6PM to learn more information and to get to know all the ladies wanting to ride. We have 3 ride leads and many women that return year after year. So we typically break up into 2 groups. A/B group avg – 17-20MPH and a B/C group avg 15-17MPH. This gives ladies an opportunity to get the ride they are looking for. We typically have had about 12-18 ladies on an evening. But all are welcome as long as they can ride these paces. We keep the groups together and talk through and lead by example, pace line riding, signaling, communicating, taking pulls, etc. We just require you have a bike in good working condition and a helmet.
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I am a Bianchi fan. I have had other bikes in the past, but I kept finding myself coming back to Bianchi. It just fits my body and feels like an extension of me. And I believe if you find a bike that you feel one with and you ride it and enjoy it every single time, then that’s YOUR bike!

I have a Bianchi Infinito CV that I race on and Randonneur on

I have a Bianchi Zurigo that I gravel and ride in the snow/ice with (with studded tires in the snow)

I have a Bianchi San Jose single speed that I just adore riding around town and commuting

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think from the outside, it just seems like it takes up a lot of time, and if women have children and families they need to take care of, it does take some work to see how it will fit into your life and you do need to have a supportive group (significant other, friends, etc) or it can become a hard thing to manage. But if you try it, love it, just like with all things, you find a way to make it a priority and fit it in.

Mountain biking, I can speak from experience of being intimidated, but I just went and bought a bike and decided I was going to try it. I started out on gravel, and then went to single track at some different parks with friends. It was a blast and one of the best ways I have ever experienced to improve your handling skills.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think we just need to keep doing what we are doing, by organizing and leading events specifically for women. Lead by example and be open to talk and teach.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I just love seeing them get to experience all the things I love about biking. When I have one of the girls that have riding with me, get into racing, or try a long distance ride and to see them light up… I love that, and I know exactly how it feels, so it makes me excited for them.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I’m pretty much an open book, so not sure there is any random fact that I could share that people probably don’t already know. However, I have been working for the last 3 years towards my ultimate Randonneur goal of doing Paris Brest Paris in 2019, this is coming up next year and I’m super stoked to be part of it! Also, I’m thinking after PBP, I might try to get involved in track racing as my next goal.