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Joy Ride ambassadors meet, tour Bell, set to launch MTB riding groups

Published March 7, 2016
A group of Bell's Joy Ride ambassadors during a Friday ride in Santa Cruz

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (BRAIN) — Six U.S. women and two Canadians spent this past weekend in this beachside community, riding bikes, getting to know one another and the Bell helmet brand, and learning about Bell’s new Joy Ride ambassador program. These women were selected to start and run mountain bike riding groups in their communities, and Bell flew them in to coach them on how to start and run a successful ride program.

As part of the Thursday-through-Sunday launch, the eight ambassadors toured the Bell offices and R&D facility in Scotts Valley; met the women behind Girls Rock, a Santa Cruz ride that was the inspiration for the new program; rode epic trails in Santa Cruz; and were provided with a toolkit to replicate the multi-level, social mountain bike women’s rides in their respective communities.

“We opted for quality over quantity,” said Jessica Klodnicki, executive vice president and general manager of Bell, Blackburn and C-Preme. “We’re starting small with our program to make sure it’s successful. The pros are representing Bell on the podium, but you’re representing us on the home front,” she told the ambassadors. “You’re just as important as the athletes that represent us at the races.”

Klodnicki also said she wanted to make sure the women came from cities that were unexpected — that didn’t have an established mountain biking community.

Bell received more than 200 applicants to its callout for female ambassadors last year. From these, it winnowed down the list to eight, ranging in ages and backgrounds from early 20s to late 40s. The ambassadors are: Karina Magrath of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Veronique Pardee of Tucson, Arizona; Samantha Jones of Kansas City, Missouri; Amber Krueger of Madison, Wisconsin; Missy Petty of Knoxville, Tennessee; Kendell Ryan of Richmond, Virginia; Isabel Jacques of North Vancouver, British Columbia; and Nina Karpoff of Edmonton, Alberta.

The women have varied personal and career backgrounds, from a worker’s comp lawyer to a nurse, endangered species biologist, park ranger, map creator for the federal government, social media expert for Canadian tourism, a photographer and cytogenetics technologist, and a buyer at a bike shop. Some of them have MTB skills coaching certifications and experience, while others are taking a first run at leading women’s rides. 

These women will be leading rides once a month in their communities as volunteers. Bell has provided them with Joy Ride jerseys and helmets, Blackburn accessories, Giro shoes and gloves and CamelBak hydration packs. It also set them up with social media and Eventbrite accounts to organize rides and invite women, and to promote the rides online.

“They’ve done such an awesome job, I want them to feel they made a good choice. I want to meet their expectations,” said Ryan, who flew in from Richmond, Virginia, and is a former member of the local Luna Chix team. “I’m really impressed that they’re so organized and are giving us enough information to set us up to be successful. I’m excited, but nervous.”

Klodnicki started the Girls Rock ride and mountain bike group when looking for other women to ride on dirt. The group has ballooned from four women to 400 in 18 months. On average 80 women show up to ride once a month. “Late 30s to early 50s is the sweet spot for people showing up,” she said about their ages. “And women look at Facebook photos before showing up to see who’s going. Seeing diversity is important.”

Klodnicki works with local bike shops, industry brands, and other businesses to host and offer clinics and product raffles. The ride always starts with coffee and ends with beer or wine.

“Our goal is to create a comprehensive map of fun and social women’s mountain bike riding programs, where any group can be part of it,” Klodnicki said. “It doesn’t have to be Joy Ride. We love to see women progress from beginner to racing events such as Sea Otter. We believe there are more barriers for women to start mountain biking. 

“We would love for more of this to happen,” Klodnicki said, adding that Bell is sharing its Ambassador Toolkit with others interested in starting similar programs.

The Joy Ride program encourages rides to be social and fun. Leaders are encouraged to divvy up the group into smaller riding groups by skill level — up to seven levels are assigned from basic beginner to intermediate and advanced. Ambassadors often work with their local bike shops.

The Joy Ride Ambassador launch was set to end with a Girls Rock ride Saturday, but due to strong winds and rain, it was canceled. Instead, Ibis Cycles opened up its warehouse and hosted more than 80 women who showed up to learn about First Aid preparedness, bike fitting, how to get started in enduro racing, tour the Ibis museum of bikes, and learn about CamelBak and Blackburn products.

Among the women who showed was Kamille, 36, who has been coming out for the Girls Rock ride for about one year after finding out about it through Facebook events. Originally from Jamaica, she has been living in Santa Cruz for three years and works in analytics for PayPal.  

“The energy when you ride with women — it’s a lot of fun,” she said, adding that she’s a beginner-plus rider. “You can see the group progressing in their skills as a whole. Some girls come from as far as Sacramento for these rides.” 

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