Words by: Bronwyn Fache
Photos by: Paris Gore
Katie Holden’s introduction to biking happened purely by happenstance. After her high school trip was cancelled due to 9/11, Katie found herself stuck with plan b — a bike trip near her home in Seattle.
“I had no interest in bikes prior to that point but it blew my mind,” she recalls. Further proof that setbacks often make for the greatest silver linings.
With an insatiable desire to learn, Katie threw herself into the sport, spending numerous years travelling to any and every bike event possible, with the goal of immersing herself in this new world.
Katie wears the New Atom LT Hoody in Kingfisher
As Katie’s passion and skill level developed, she became a fixture on the race circuit for nearly 10 years, where she competed on both local and national levels. After racing came freeride, and while she may no longer be competing, Katie is a steadfast pillar within the mountain bike community — an activist, mentor, and disruptor who’s passionate about seeing others succeed.
“Rebecca Rusch always uses a quote ‘lift as you rise.’ I’ve had a lot of incredible opportunities so now it’s absolutely my job to pull up this next generation, make space, and help our community continue to grow into a better place — whatever that looks like,” she explains.
This desire to lift others is most evident through Katie’s work with both Red Bull Formation and Grow Cycling Foundation.
Formation, a week-long freeride bike camp, kicked off in 2019 as a means to equip female freeriders with the tools they need to excel in their sport. The chosen location was that of the 2014 and 2015 Red Bull Rampages, and gave the women an opportunity to dig, study the routes, and push their boundaries on Utah’s elusively challenging terrain.
While the event has been put on hold for 2020, she’s excited to see it continue to develop in 2021.
“My goal [for future years] is to mix in a group of accomplished freeriders with the up and comers. That contrast of the experienced with the less experienced is a magic combo, in my opinion.”
In addition to her brainchild Formation, Katie joined forces with World Cup Downhill Mountain Bike Racer, Eliot Jackson, to launch Grow Cycling Foundation. Grow’s mission is to promote education, access and opportunities that increase diversity and inclusion in cycling.
By partnering with local non-profits, organization, and athletes, their goal is to create new avenues for inclusive community building and career development within the cycling industry.
They’re kicking things off with the development of a pumptrack in Los Angeles, and by 2022 have plans to host the Pumptrack World Championships. This initiative helps shine a spotlight on new athletes and young professionals, ultimately feeding talent out into the world that will benefit back to these local communities. This model can then be replicated in in other places; be it a velodrome, another pumptrack or a trail network.
While these projects have kept Katie occupied during an unusual year of no travel, she’s the first to admit it’s been tough to hunker down for so long.
“A typical day in the life for me right now is to wake up, drink my coffee, spend a lot of times in meetings, go for a ride, a hike, or a paddle. I’m such a social creature so this year has been a bit of a challenge. It feels a lot like Groundhog Day,” she adds with a laugh.
Katie’s inquisitive nature and passion for others is clear in everything she touches. An accomplished athlete, yes, but her legacy goes beyond titles and trophies.
“My [career] highs don’t have any association with performance, it’s all people. Bikes have really been a vehicle to see the world and transcend cultural barriers. It’s really about just getting out there and exploring. Obviously I’ve ridden in some beautiful, epic places, but at the end of the day it all comes down to the people I’ve met along the way.”