Kelli's Trip To Santa Cruz

March 11 — 2015 | Santa Cruz, CA

Kelli meets her new teammates and rides in our backyard

Welcome to Juliana!

While flying to the San Francisco airport, I was a little nervous about being on an all-women team.  For the past 8 years, I’ve been the only woman on a men’s mountain bike team. I had become accustomed to talking about cars, bikes, and motorcycles, and trying to keep up with the boys. This “dude talk” was something that I was familiar with, considering I spent most of my childhood following and idolizing my brother. I worried a bit as to whether I would feel as comfortable with these girls as I had become with the guys. They were like big brothers –always looking out for me, and making sure to laugh with me whenever I crashed. However, I was ready to make a change. I had a great run with my old team but new opportunities are always good to explore. Nevertheless, I experienced an array of emotions – nervousness, hesitation, curiosity, and excitement during my flight to California.

Sarah Leishman, my new teammate, and I both arrived in SFO where we met up with Katie Zaffke –the woman behind Juliana –who I had gotten to know via phone chats over the last few months. Katie has this very fun, light way about her that makes you instantly want to be around her. She reminded me of my best friend from high school, and my nerves began to ease. We grabbed our bags as Allan Cooke, the “do-er of things” and retired BMX star, drove laps around the airport waiting for us to make our way to passenger pick-up. We loaded our bags and headed off to Santa Cruz.

As Allan drove us to our beach hotel in an unmarked Econoline Van, we all chatted about how we had met our significant others, the status of our relationships and how we each wanted to be a part of the Juliana team. Sarah and I had very different approaches –I wanted to continue racing at the Enduro World Series, and Sarah wanted to write more and get involved in the local racing scene in Whistler and British Columbia. Racing enduro has been an amazing experience the past couple of years and I still feel that I have some unfinished business.

Talking openly about my goals and desires for the season with Sarah, Katie and Allan were refreshing –it was an inspiring conversation centered on women’s success and female empowerment in the male-dominated mountain biking race scene.

As we pulled up to our beautiful hotel on the beach, Allan mentioned he had stopped by our rooms to drop off our new Juliana clothes, some of his favorite snack foods, and wine. This Allan guy seemed pretty awesome. I’ve been on several teams over the past 15 years, and having great teammates that can work together is so important and not always easy to find. This team was going to be great!

That night at dinner we went to this quaint little restaurant with the team and a few other employees from Santa Cruz.  We talked about the busy week ahead: riding, photos, Christmas Party, more photos, filming, and more photos. I was excited about working with some of the photographers Katie had lined up. I’ve always appreciated the great photography from Juliana Bicycles, and how they continually capture female riders shredding in beautiful places throughout the world. I was inspired and couldn’t wait to be a part of it.

The next morning we headed to the factory and received our new bikes, gear and Lululemon –mental fist pump! –clothing. The bikes were beautiful and, unlike many women’s bikes, they were built to be just as fast, light, and agile as the best men’s bike on the market. Without a doubt, this is every girl bike racer’s dream

Some of the sponsors had not been finalized, and Katie opened the floor to get our opinions on which companies we might like to be sponsored by – this sincere desire for rider input is not commonplace on any bike team, and I was completely amazed and excited to get to participate in such a conversation.

We laughed and made jokes through the long days of photo shoots in the beautiful Santa Cruz forest, and we supported each other during some tiresome riding in the rain when it’s impossible not to grow at least a little cranky. The long days didn’t seem so long, and I became 100% confident that joining Juilana Bicycles was the best decision for me. Being on a team that pushes for true empowerment and female success in mountain biking is a dream come true, and I couldn’t be more excited to start traveling the world with these ladies knowing that there will always be laughs and support no matter the situation.

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