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If you’re a member of the New England biking scene, chances are you know Kim Quinlan. With her positive attitude and a smile just about always on her face, she makes a warm impression on you from your very first encounter. We’re not quite sure how she manages a full summer race schedule, including winning the overall title at the 2019 Eastern States Cup Enduro series, a 9-5 design job, and having a personal life, but we recently had a chance to chat with her and find out how she keeps it all in check.
1. Where are you originally from and where are you currently residing?
I grew up in Middlebury, VT, and currently live in an old farmhouse in Winooski, VT with my husband and cat.
2. When did you start biking and how did you get into the sport?
I started trail riding around 2006 on a local mountain that was way too technical for a newbie on a Giant Iguana hardtail. There wasn’t much structure to my learning process when I started mountain biking — kind of did the jump right in approach. After getting some basic pointers, I just tried to stay on the bike while struggling to keep up with the crew on our weekly Sunday rides. This is how my husband, Josh (boyfriend at the time), and his buddies got me into riding. After many cuts and bruises from my lack of skill but “no fear” mentality, it finally clicked and I fell in the love with the sport. All I wanted to do was play on my bike!
Photo: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
3. How did you get into racing?
In 2011, Susan Clifford talked me into doing an Eastern States Cup DH race at Killington after a day of freeriding. I jumped into the Cat 2/3 class the next day on my Specialized Enduro trail bike and it went really well, minus an OTB on The Beast. That was my one and only DH race, but it lit a spark to start competing and become more involved in the mountain bike community. In 2012, I started racing local EFTA and Root66 XC series races with the Mountain Moxie all-women’s team, then tried out Enduro with the Triple Crown series that started in 2013, which was an awesome way to push the comfort zone and gain technical skills. I joined Team Bicycle Express in 2014, and this talented and fun group lured me back into the XC scene, and after earning some stars and stripes in my Expert category at Nationals that year I moved up the Elite UCI level to race with the big girls! That level of racing took a lot of time, training, and focus in addition to working full time, and I got a bit burned out and needed to change things up. In 2018, I went back to competing in the local Enduro scene as an Outdoor Gear Exchange athlete, racing with friends and having fun on the squishy bike again! So yeah, I’m pretty much a racing dabbler — from XC and Endurance to Stage racing and Enduro – I love it all! It’s provided amazing opportunities with wonderful people on and off the bike!
Photo: Andrew Santoro
4. What do you find most challenging about cycling and how do you overcome those challenges?
The mental push to train versus ride for fun is a constant challenge during the season. The love of the sport can get lost sometimes during training blocks, so I have to remember to take a break if that starts happening, and go for a ride with friends or even a solo ride with no agenda. Pushing myself to hit larger features this year has also been a challenge. As I’ve gotten older, self-preservation mode seems to kick in more and makes it harder for me to “just send it”! So practicing with people I trust and have fun with helps me work through the fear factor and overcome those scary obstacles so I can be more confident hitting things in race runs or freeriding. But the big one is self-judgement and expectations, especially with racing. It’s tough to let go of expectations — my own, or what I think others expect of me. But when it comes down to it, I just want to feel good about my efforts regardless of the results. I’m trying to focus on pushing myself to grow as a rider, but also be a bit more gentle and realistic with expectations and goals so I can focus on having more fun!
5. How do you balance your biking, training, work, and everything else?
I’m not sure I’ll ever be balanced with this stuff! I love to do it all, but I’ve had to start getting more comfortable with saying “no” to things, even if it’s something that I really want to do. I’m gradually bringing a bit more self care into the picture, because with training, a 9-5 graphic design job, and a husband, friends, and family that I want to spend time with, there’s not much down time. I’ve tried to settle into this as a lifestyle rather than trying to fit things into my life, because things probably won’t change any time soon. And riding has become an important part of work-life balance for me. It’s a way to calm the anxious energy that I struggle to keep in check most days. It’s definitely fun, but it also keeps my body and mind happy and healthy so I can be more present for those around me. And I feel lucky to have an amazing support system that makes it possible to maintain this lifestyle.
6. What advice would you have for a female rider who is new to cycling or wants to take her riding to the next level?
It’s been awesome to see so many women getting into biking the past few years! The local women’s rides have more than doubled in numbers, and I think that says something for how to start with this sport. Find people (maybe just women, maybe not) that you’re really comfortable with to show you the ropes — go over the basics first! Feeling safe, confident, and having fun with it is key. Find your crew and start pedaling (or walking) things in a less technical trail system to get used to the feeling of being on trail and the functionality of your bike, especially braking and shifting. There are a lot of great clinics out there for learning in a more structured environment, so don’t be afraid to sign up for one (or many) — they really help! And remember that there will probably be frustrating moments when starting off, but with time things will start to flow, more confidence will build, and things will start to click. That’s the most amazing feeling!