The Road to Kanza: Into the Unknown with Kristin Taylor

“I just go out and try stuff. No pressure. Just learn.”

That quote may sum up Kristin Taylor, a Niner team member, who has embraced gravel biking and significantly progressed her mountain biking skills since coming to work for Niner just over a year ago.

Hailing from Emporia, Kansas, Kristin learned of Dirty Kanza and decided she’d register. Who wouldn’t want to show their hometown some love and join the biggest gravel race in the country? Besides, it was a great excuse to  visit some family while she was at it.

The kicker? Kristin had just recently participated in her first organized ride, ever. The  50k Old Man Winter Rally took place in early February in Northern Colorado, a far cry from the 200 miles of rolling hills and gravel roads that the Dirty Kanza would throw at her. No doubt, this would be not only a training adventure for Kristin, but also a one-day endurance monster. A test of her physical ability, for sure, as well as a test of her Midwest mettle.

Over beers after work one day, we had a chance to pick Kristin’s brain about all things biking and Kanza.

NINER: Why did you pick Dirty Kanza?

Kristin trains for the Dirty Kanza

KRISTIN: It’s in my hometown. I still have family there. I thought I’d ask my brother to be my support for the day. And I needed a goal. I figured doing the 100 mile version of the Dirty Kanza would be perfect. But during the registration process things got messed up and I couldn’t add the 100 to my cart. So I decided to sign up for whatever was left and give it a crack. So, I ended up in the 200. Now, I’ll just make 200 my goal and just do whatever I can do.

NINER: What’s the longest ride you’ve ever done?

KRISTIN: Since Old Man Winter? 62 miles on the Cinnamon Roller a few weekends ago.

NINER: In terms of experience, where would you classify yourself?

KRISTIN: On a gravel bike? I’m a novice. I only bought my RLT last February and that was mainly so I’d have a faster commuter bike.  But one day I packed up a bag with food and headed out. I wanted to see if I could ride all day which is kinda just what I do. I just go try stuff.

On a mountain bike, I have more experience, I’d say I’m more of an intermediate rider.

NINER: Are you worried about anything?

KRISTIN: I’ve been having some knee pain on longer rides. I don’t know if it’s bike fit, or what. But the pain’s been pretty intense sometimes. I don’t think I’ll be able to finish if I can’t get this figured out.

NINER: What’s your training plan?

KRISTIN: I don’t really have a plan other than riding a lot.

NINER: What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done on a bike?

KRISTIN: There are a couple of hike-a-bike sections on some trails near Horesetooth. I go out and try to ride them. When I don’t make it, I get pretty mad. But I usually ride by myself. It’s easier and there’s no pressure from anyone else.

NINER: What’s your biggest achievement on the bike?

KRISTIN: I was out on a ride one day on the Blue Sky Trail and I heard someone come up behind me. He was pushing pretty hard. I could hear him breathing heavy. It pushed me to stay ahead of him. When we got to the trail junction, he pulled up behind me and told me he’d been trying to catch me. Then he thanked me for the workout.

NINER: What’s your mental approach going to be for the Dirty Kanza?

KRISTIN: A good friend told me, “You just gotta go do it. You can’t have “No” in your heart. So, that’s my approach. I can’t have “No” in my heart.

Part 2 of the Road to Kanza Series follows two-time champion, Amanda Nauman, as she prepares for her third. Follow her story.

A beautiful day on gravel.