Women on Bikes Series: Kim Andera

Hey there, I'm Kim. Wife. Mom. Sushi eating beer lover. Photographer. Bride pleasing, baby squeezing, lover of all things pretty.

Your boys were your main reason for learning to ride off-road, tell us why you felt encouraging them to mountain bike was a positive thing for them.
Honestly, it was more about me, I told you I'd be honest. In the beginning, it was this badass manly thing they could do. They didn't believe that their wimpy, out of shape, mom could possibly do it...let alone be good at. At the time they were 5 & 6 years old.

I couldn't even keep up while walking and jogging the trail, so, I didn't actually see them ride parts of the trail until they'd ridden a few times. They'd ride something over and over just waiting for me to catch up. They also went on rides with my sister. They had ridden trails that I didn't know existed in Decorah. After I got my bike it became more clear that this would be something that we could do together that was healthy and a positive use of that unattainable little boy energy that is always in abundance. It was also a way for me to show them that this old wimpy mom could and would smoke them at every chance. :)

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what made you say "Yes! This is for me!" 
Well technically, my first or so ride(s) was in the dead heat of the summer with my sister Steph. I was a big baby and hated it. It was too hot for me. For me, riding with my sister, whom I love, adore, and admire, wasn't the best thing for me because I'm a bit competitive. Seeing how good she was and how confident and comfortable she was was my own mental shortcomings. At that point, instead of saying "Maybe I should try this with some riders who share my skill level", I just gave up. Side note: this feeling is a real thing. Which is why it is very difficult to learn from a spouse, close friend, or family member. The FWD rides became a game changer for me. It wasn't until things with my boys had progressed to the point that it was unsafe, then I decided that I HAD to be able to keep up to them. Parts of the trail that they would ride over and over waiting for me became less appealing and on one ride they road out of the trail and sat at that four-way intersection known for heavy truck traffic. When I caught up to them they were talking with a total stranger (a very kind Iowa-nice type of stranger, but, a stranger nonetheless.) The next day I walked into the bike shop. I knew this was something that was good for the boys and I needed to find a way to keep up.

Decorah Bicycles hooked me up with a few new bikes to test ride. I left the shop, with the new bike, rental helmet, and off I went. Riding as fast as I could because I had a haircut scheduled with Steph and I wanted her opinion. On the first test run, I caught my toe on a log that was buried into a punch little hill. This sent my front end into the front of the bike known as the handlebars. I stopped, looked around to make sure there were no witnesses and returned to Decorah Bicycles huffing and puffing and as red as a lobster. "So, how did it go?" they asked. "Oh it was awesome, I loved it" I replied. "I'm still feeling like a brown bear riding a unicycle", I replied. "Do, you guys have anything bigger?" On the 2nd test bike, I slammed on the front brake trying to ride down a section of the trail that I shouldn't have pushed my bike up in the first place. Once again, this sent me into the handlebars. I rode another bike after that one and dashed off to my haircut. I remember talking it over with Steph. At one point she mentioned that she had also ridden the purple Stache 7, and loved it! So, that was it. I went back to Decorah Bicycles, freshly plucked eyebrows and a new haircut & color, and I told them I wanted the purple Stache 7 because that's what my sister wanted. Josie hooked me up with pretty pedals, a helmet, and a bike rack to haul 4 bikes.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I use flats because that's what the girls I ride with use.

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 totally! In the beginning, We were fearless, and still are, just a bit more skilled. One of the very first times I remember having a mental set back and a regression in my riding was on a FWD ride. I was riding with Josie and another riding buddy. It was her birthday and she had just gotten a brand spanking new bike. This was her very first ride on it. Welp, we were riding up a hill and I heard branches breaking behind me. I stopped and turned around to see her rolling down the side of the hill backward. I stopped and made my way down the hillside to help her out of the thick brush. She was fine, the bike had a brand new birthday scratch. I remember feeling really shaken up. That was the very first time I remember feeling that mental setback. Ya know, that voice in your head that says "Oh, shit that could have been me" or "You're too old for this" or "That was really scary". Not even 30 minutes later, I went superman over the handlebars and my bike rode me down a part of the trail I'd ridden a hundred times. What I did to overcome those setbacks was to keep riding. After another big ol' wipeout, I was so nervous to get back on single track that I rode gravels for weeks afterward. I'd go to the MTB trail and my brain just wouldn't have it. I was making mistakes I hadn't made before. It was as if I'd never been on the bike before. I was fearful of things that I hadn't thought of as scary or dangerous, but I knew I had to get through it. I kept riding gravels, I'd ride beginner sections of the trail that we had gotten bored of. I'd ride with other beginner riders. I'd ride by myself so I didn't feel pressured by my boys to ride more challenging trails. I talked about it, a lot. I basically started over and slowly regained confidence. At the end of the summer, I took one of Casey Sheppard's skills workshops. That really helped me to feel confident in myself and I learned so much from her about the basic fundamental skills. For me, that workshop was the missing piece to overcome my mental setback.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I think all of them challenged me! I had no clue about moving my weight around or having level pedals or covering the brakes. Going on the FWD rides helped me immensely with cornering, braking, and getting out of the saddle. I remember one ride specifically with the boys and my sister leading. She would tell them stuff that I had no idea I was supposed to be doing. She'd say stuff like "Look 10 feet ahead of you" "Scan the trail" "Keep your head up". She would stop at the top of a descent and basically walk them through a more challenging part of the trail and give them reminders to get out of the saddle and push their butt back over the rear tire. I soaked that stuff up like a sponge and so did they. During the work week, I'd ride alone and do the exact same thing we did on the rides with Steph or the FWD Sunday rides. I just kept practicing. I would say hands down the FWD rides with those women who shared the same skill level as me.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Some of the things that attracted me to mountain biking are many of the same challenges that attracted me to photography. There is an endless wealth of information. You never stop learning new things. I don't believe there is such a thing "reaching one's full potential". I'm constantly making mistakes, doing things I'd wished I hadn't done and because of that, I'm still learning. There are a million ideas in my head for my riding goals. Trails I want to ride, places I want to ride with my boys, places I want to ride with just my girls.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I really just like bombing down hills. :)

You were chosen as a Fearless Women of Dirt Ambassador this year, tell us how you learned about Fearless Women of Dirt and why you wanted to be part of the community-
I learned about it through my sister. FWD was a huge part in helping me be a confident rider. I want to pay that forward and hopefully help other women become confident riders.

What do you enjoy most about helping women become more confident with mountain biking?
I love seeing women riders. I love riding with other women whether it's just showing them the local trail system or riding most basic trails. It's fun to be with women who share your passion.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Honestly, when I first bought my bike I bought it based on Travis's recommendation. I wanted a nice bike that would help me be a successful rider and be a solid choice that would give me room to grow without having to upgrade too soon. I feel like I got everything I was looking for and then some.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think the main reason more women don't get involved is fear. There is this unrealistic idea that mountain biking is bombing big descents and jumping over obstacles. A lot of what we see on YouTube in regards to mountain biking is downhill bike parks. They are awesome and I LOVE watching that stuff, but, that's not what we're doing in Decorah. All those things are very possible IF you want them to be. But, it doesn't have to be. The majority of the riders we see are mom's and grandmas who just want to try something new. They quickly find out that it's just a nice ride in the woods. Sure, sometimes we ride over obstacles. Some folks just get off and walk their bike, some folks try to ride it. Decorah really has SO many trails to accommodate every rider. I'd suggest watching some clips from the FWD YouTube channel. Some beginner trails like the pines, fire road, and the prairie are some great examples of beginner trails. It's a more realistic representation of how chill our rides are.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?

Hmmm, that's a tough one (in my most sarcastic voice ever). I'll start by saying that Decorah Bicycles has been incredibly helpful with special ordering sizes directly from the manufacture and with finding things and keeping larger sizes available in store. Being a small business owner myself, it is very important for me to buy as much as I can locally. As far as the biking industry as a whole goes, it's not friendly to big (bad ass) lady riders. I know this is vain and superficial, but, it really blows goats that women's jerseys fit like a sausage casing and all the sized run super duper small. I special order my 4x from the manufacturer. I wear men's bike shorts because the super cute and stylish pearl zummie ones don't come in anything bigger than an XL and the XL fits more like a medium. TMI ~ My buns are larger than an XL, but that doesn't mean I hate them. That doesn't mean I should have to look like a lumberjack of a lady on the bike trail. That doesn't mean that I'm not interested in wearing cute lady bike shorts. My bike gloves? Both men's size XL and neon green. My size 12 foot has a pair of super masculine men's Five Ten bike shoes that serve the purpose and do the job if their job is to make me look like one butch bike lady. My winter riding pants are also a men's. Not because I'm 6'7 but because they only make pants that fit me for men who are over 6 feet tall. Now, I'm sure there will be those folks who say BS like "Well, maybe you shouldn't weigh 200+ lbs at 5'6 in the first dang place". Valid point, I hadn't thought about that, I'll just stop riding my bike now until I drop 100 pounds said no one ever! So industry wide the lack of feminine riding gear is discouraging in the specific area of clothing. :) Jumping off the soapbox now, sorry I blew up :)

Locally, I'm blown away by Josie's commitment and endless ambition in the area of women
empowerment and inclusion.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Welp, seeing other women riders is inspiring. I want to see women be successful and I will continue to help out any way I can.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I still listen to Garth Brooks' live album from time to time.