Women on Bikes Series: Kayla Turner

My name is Kayla Turner, I live in Knoxville, TN and #bikelife is pretty much my whole life :-) I have been riding bikes for as long as I can remember.

As a kid, I did gymnastics, played soccer, and ran track but it was cycling and specifically mountain biking that really clicked for me. I loved being in the woods and the thrill and challenge of riding singletrack.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have grown up in an active family that did everything together. I have so many great memories of traveling together in our big van to races every weekend.

I started racing XC when I was 11 and raced every summer until I started college. At that point, I was a little burnt out on racing and took about a 5-year break. During that time I started working at a local bike shop and met my husband.

I graduated from The University of Tennessee with a B.S. in Food Science and Technology but decided I didn't want to leave the bike industry and have been working at The Bike Zoo for 10 years now. I love being surrounded by bikes and people who love them just as much as I do. I also get to help people start cycling and share my love of the sport with them. 

Over the past couple years I have really gotten into endurance/marathon distance mountain bike races. I love the extra physical and mental challenge of being on the bike for 4+ hours and getting to see so many beautiful places by bike. I love cycling because no matter how long you've been doing it there is always a new challenge or obstacle to conquer.

Instagram: @kaylasue001

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
My dad switched from road racing to mountain biking when I was young and my family would all go to the trails on the weekend. I really loved the feeling of freedom when flying downhill and the feeling of accomplishment when I was able to ride over an obstacle or make it up a climb for the first time.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Riding over technical rooty and rock sections was a challenge at first but I learned that staying loose, keeping momentum up, and letting the bike "float" over stuff makes it much easier to handle the terrain. Technical trails are now my favorite ones 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?
I still struggle with very steep trails and drop-offs. Getting a dropper post has helped a lot with confidence on steep stuff. I look at everything as a challenge to try but if I'm not feeling like riding something I'm still comfortable with getting off and walking it.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I almost exclusively use clips, I started using them because they are more efficient for the racing I do and I've used them for so long now that I'm more comfortable with them than I am with flats.

For folks who are nervous about giving mountain biking a shot, do you have any suggestions on how they can go about creating a positive experience?
I think finding encouraging people to ride with is very important. I have participated in the local Bell Joy Rides and they are a phenomenal way to meet and find other women to ride with. Also remember that everyone starts as a beginner and there is nothing wrong with not being able to ride everything right away, focus on small progressions and you'll be amazed at what you can ride after a while.

What was your inspiration to start participating in mountain bike events?
I had watched my dad do lots of races and it looked exciting so I decided to try it, I enjoyed pushing myself in a way I wouldn't have done on a normal ride.

Tell us about your favorite event!
That's a tough one :-) My favorite event is probably the Lula Lake Landtrust 5 points 50 in Chattanooga, TN. It's 50 miles of fast, fun singletrack with a few rock gardens thrown in to keep it interesting.

Why should folks participate in at least one event?
Racing is fun! Even if you're not the fastest person out there it's fun to line up with other like-minded people and ride in a different environment than you normally would. You also might find yourself riding things you wouldn't normally attempt or riding farther than you ever have before. I like to do some of the same events every year so that I can see how I've progressed.

What do you love most about working in the cycling industry?
I think cycling is an awesome sport and I get to share that with people every day and see how it affects their lives in a positive way.

Tell us about your job at The Bike Zoo-
I do sales, all the merchandising for the store, and minor repairs.

Why do you feel women should not shy away from seeking employment at bike shops-
I think with more women getting into the sport we need more women in shops. It might be intimidating to think about working with mostly men but I've found that most guys in the cycling industry are pretty cool and it's a very fun work environment.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Riding my bike gives me confidence that transfers to every aspect of my life. If I can ride my bike over mountains, I can do anything! It's also a great outlet when you're focused on flying down a trail it's hard to think about all the things in life that might be stressing you out.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Specialized Stumpjumper (full suspension mtb), Chisel (hardtail mtb), and Diverge (road). I do most of my mountain bike races on the Stumpjumper, this bike makes me smile! It will climb up anything and goes downhill even better :-) I use the Chisel for gravel rides and races, I like the stability of the flat bar and bigger tires for the type of gravel roads I usually ride. The Diverge is my road bike even though it is technically meant for gravel, to me, it feels like a mountain bike with drop bars so I'm right at home on it.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think it can be an intimidating sport because it seems like there is a lot of equipment needed to get started and if things aren't set up right the bike may be uncomfortable. I think it's also a very hard sport to get into if you don't have the right people to ride with. Mountain biking especially since you might be out in the woods by yourself on trails you aren't familiar with.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think the best thing that can happen is more women's group rides. The number of women riding bikes in this area has grown dramatically since the Bell Joy rides started last year, the last ride had 140 women on it!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I know what a positive impact cycling has had in my life and want everyone to be able to experience that!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
My other passion is food :-) I went through the culinary program at UT and if I weren't so into cycling I would probably be doing something in the food industry.