Cy­cling Fast Talk with Jes­sica Klod­nicki of BRG Sports

Words by Karen Ke­fau­ver

Mountain Bike for Her - - Contents - Words by Karen Ke­fau­ver

Iad­mit it took many years be­fore I got down and dirty on the sin­gle­track trails – mean build­ing them, not just rid­ing them. I al­ways found a way to avoid lo­cal trail work out­ings with my moun­tain bike club. I be­lieved I was giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity in other ways, like writ­ing about bi­cy­cling! Fi­nally, the time was right: I had to help build a trail in or­der to give back to the sport I love.

On a sunny Satur­day morn­ing in Santa Cruz, Cal­i­for­nia, I put on a hard­hat and gloves, raked de­bris and shov­elled dirt for a new trail. Guess what? It was fun! I got a great work­out, pizza lunch, and strong sense of com­mu­nity.

Best of all, I made a new cy­cling gal pal, Jes­sica Klod­nicki. When we met, Jes­sica was push­ing a big wheel­bar­row of dirt up a steep hill.

“Don’t tell my hus­band I can do this kind of hard labour,” she grinned. She had re­cruited a group of fel­low rid­ers from her of­fice to vol­un­teer that day. Only later did I dis­cover that Jes­sica is the Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent and Gen­eral Manager of Bell and Black­burn brands (for­merly Easton Bell).

In fall 2014, Jes­sica was in­vited to be key­note speaker at the Out­door In­dus­tries Women’s Coali­tion an­nual awards pre­sen­ta­tion held at In­ter­bike in Las Ve­gas.

I in­ter­viewed Jes­sica and learned about her role as an ex­ec­u­tive in the bi­cy­cling in­dus­try and her pas­sion for bi­cy­cling. Here’s an ex­cerpt from our talk.

KK:

You were in­vited to speak at In­ter­bike. What did you talk about?

JK:

My talk was called, “The Chicken or the Egg: Hatch­ing a Plan to Grow the Cy­cling In­dus­try.” It’s about the need to build women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in cy­cling… I also pointed out that ef­fec­tive ways to do that in­clude things as seem­ingly sim­ple as mak­ing women feel wel­come in bike shops. I also chal­lenged our in­dus­try to keep a more open mind about who and how we hire to en­sure that we get a more di­verse pool of can­di­dates.

KK: You are a woman ex­ec­u­tive in a male­dom­i­nated in­dus­try. How’s that for you?

JK: I can bring a new per­spec­tive to the in­dus­try. Not just be­cause I am a woman, but also be­cause I came from out­side the bike in­dus­try. Prior to BRG, I worked at Mizuno on golf, run­ning, base­ball, soft­ball and vol­ley­ball. Be­fore that, I worked in con­sumer prod­ucts out­side the sport­ing goods in­dus­try en­tirely.

KK: Com­ment on any changes you have ob­served in the bike in­dus­try for women.

JK: I am see­ing more brands make big com­mit­ments to women’s bi­cy­cling. I love what Santa Cruz Bi­cy­cles is do­ing with the Ju­liana brand — they are of­fer­ing amaz­ing, high-end prod­uct specif­i­cally for women. And, they are us­ing strong fe­male role mod­els and im­agery in their mar­ket­ing. In the past, I think there was a per­cep­tion that women didn’t need or want top-end prod­uct, but I think there is a stronger de­mand from women for prod­uct that is not just ‘shrink and pink.’ We want prod­uct that is just as good as what the guys get.

KK: What chal­lenges do you face at the job?

JK: My team mem­bers and I all face chal­lenges in de­sign, re­search and devel­op­ment, prod­uct man­age­ment, mar­ket­ing, dig­i­tal and sales — no dif­fer­ent than in any other busi­ness. We just have to stay on top of the pace of in­no­va­tion all the time and I think we do a good job.

KK: How was it to at­tend In­ter­bike this year?

JK: I am im­pressed by what I saw. It was fun to rep­re­sent Santa Cruz. When peo­ple hear we are from Santa Cruz, they get a smile on their face. Many peo­ple have had the op­por­tu­nity to ride or visit Santa Cruz and love what we have to of­fer from a cy­cling stand­point.

KK: Let’s talk about your back­ground.

JK: I moved here from At­lanta with my hus­band Dave. I’ve been at BRG — for­merly known as Easton-Bell Sports — two-and-a-half years ago. It has been a lot of fun to work on Bell, which is a 60-year-old brand this year, and Black­burn, which will turn 40 next year. I love un­cov­er­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to bring

ex­cit­ing new prod­ucts to con­sumers.

KK: Where did you grow up?

JK: I have a com­pli­cated an­swer for where I grew up. I was born just out­side Philadel­phia then moved to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia as an in­fant. My dad was in the Navy and I moved all over as a mil­i­tary brat... Mary­land, Guam, back to Mary­land, Spain, Florida. I had a short stint as an in­tern for the US Olympic Bob­sled team in Lake Placid, NY. Then I got my first real job out of col­lege in At­lanta. I was there for 15 years. My two years in Paris, France were su­per fun – I used to ride my moun­tain bike rogue in the Bois de Boulogne, which is like the French equiv­a­lent of Cen­tral Park and then back to Ge­or­gia. My hus­band and I moved here in Fe­bru­ary 2012 and hope to stay for­ever!

KK: You said you moun­tain bike ev­ery week­end, and ride your road bike, cargo bike and com­mute to work and ride with the women’s group you launched. What do you love about cy­cling?

JK: I feel like a kid again when I ride my bike. It is re­ju­ve­nat­ing for me. When I ride my bike to the of­fice in the morn­ings, my day is bet­ter — breath­ing in the air and get­ting my blood pump­ing be­fore I start my day. I love the grind and the work­out of climb­ing, but es­pe­cially love the pay­off rid­ing down­hill.

GIRLS’ RIDE! KAREN KEVAUVER (RIGHT, WEAR­ING HER HEL­MET) AND JES­SICA KLOD­NICKI (CEN­TER, IN TURQUOISE) PRE-RIDE AT EPI­CEN­TER CY­CLING.

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