“Ride smooth, not fast”
I first met Kennedy Adams when she was around 13 years old and I was helping host a small CX clinic in her area in Ohio. Since then, the now-college-freshman has been absolutely crushing it on the cross bike—and occasionally, on the road—with her collegiate team. She’s one of my favorite riders, and definitely one of my cycling inspirations! So, let’s get to know Kennedy:
Why did you start riding bikes?
My dad has been racing bikes since before I was born. I grew up going to mountain bike races and triathlons with family friends who would watch me while he would race. The moment I could talk, I pestered my parents to race my bike every chance I got. (Even when I was so young I had no clue how to ride one.) Around the age of 12, I rode my first mountain bike race at a local park. The same day, my dad surprised me with a Cyclocross bike to race on later that afternoon. You could say that I “sent it”. I had no clue what I was doing. I only knew that I loved it. After that one cyclocross race, I was hooked.
What was your favorite part?
That feeling of freedom you get on a bike. Cycling is my DIY meditation. Whenever I need to think, to destress, feel like a badass, or just go on an adventure I can always count on my bike. The rush of racing is one of the most freeing feelings for me. Being able to push myself past my limits is almost therapeutic for me.
What was the hardest part?
Getting used to facing adversity on the bike is hands down the hardest part. Learning how to become comfortable with the uncomfortable in racing has been an ongoing goal for me. Injuries, mechanicals, and crashes have definitely gotten me down more than once. It’s surprisingly challenging to learn that no race is a perfect race. Even though there may be a sting after a race does not go to plan, it will pass. Things go wrong, and it is a part of racing.
What’s your favorite discipline/ why?
Cyclocross! It has pushed me past my comfort zone more times than I can count. I love the tight-knit community, the sound of cowbells, challenging myself to ride lines smoother each lap, mud (lots of mud), and pushing myself to ride difficult parts of courses. My favorite thing about cross is that you fall (sometimes a lot), and you have to get back up to stay in the race. It teaches you a lot about resiliency. I think cross is a sport that keeps us humble. It reminds us that things can go wrong, but we have the ability to bounce back and keep going.
What was the best tip or trick you’ve ever been told?
“Ride smooth, not fast”. My old coach drilled this one into my head before every race and training ride. Learning that staying calm with good technique can lead to a better race helps to keep me centered while I’m in the red zone. Taking smooth consistent lines, or staying relaxed can work wonders, especially at the end of a race.
2017/18 U23 Cyclocross Nationals. After an early season, full of mechanicals that left me running entire races, I ended up having two back to back concussions. The second one, taking place during the last day of the Cincy CX weekend left me struggling in my classes at Marian University and unable to ride for almost two months. Cycling and academics are a big part of my identity, and overtime I had to learn how to focus on my mental health in order to stay hopeful that I would recover in time for nationals. It was the first time I had experienced an injury that took me out from racing for a while. After failing my concussion clearance test two times, I finally passed in early December. Pulling up as a first year U23 rider in the fourth row at nationals was definitely intimidating, but in the end, I fought to 7th place in my category. It wasn’t a win, but after one of the most mentally taxing seasons I’ve had yet, it was the most rewarding feeling to have been competitive in a field stacked with such talented women. It really showed me that I can trust myself as a person and as a rider to do what I need to do.
Goals in cycling?
One goal that I will always have is to learn more. Cycling is great because you can never know it all. In order to get anywhere in this sport, you have to be open to learning new things. Another goal I have is to become more competitive in the domestic UCI cyclocross field. For the next season, I really want to throw myself out there in the UCI field, and test my limits. I would also like to make the selection for U23 cyclocross worlds in the next two or three years. Setting long term goals helps to keep me focused on the long run, and challenges me to make each training, race, and even recovery day count. It all adds up. For me, keeping consistent and putting solid work in is always something I’m trying to improve on.
Advice for younger girls interested in riding?
Be a student of the sport. You will always learn something new in the sport of cycling. Be open to it, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if something is scary or confusing! I was very shy when I first started riding. I realized as I met more people, that they are a great resource. Learn from others’ experiences. There will always be someone willing to ride an obstacle with you or explain something that you’re curious about. Always be open to advice and constructive criticism, it helps you too see yourself from a different perspective. Most importantly, make sure you are having fun! Enjoying riding your bike is always the goal.
The Shred Girls series starts with a couple of really shy girls starting to make friends in a bike park— any stories about friends you’ve met through riding?
My first cyclocross state championships, I raced against one other girl in the 13-14 category. She was really fast and wore mismatched crazy neon socks. After the race, I complemented her socks and to this day we are still friends! I can be a very quiet person, but opening up in the cycling community has lead me to some of my best friends, even my boyfriend! Don’t be afraid to open up, especially to other girls and women in the cycling community. They are usually more than happy to talk about cycling with someone with similar interests.
For all you Shred Girls out there: Have tips you want to pass on or a great story to share? Nominate yourself as a Real Life Shred Girl here!