By Karen Kefauver
September 26, 2014
Link to Sentinel Article
I met Jessica Klodnicki two years ago when she was pushing a big wheelbarrow filled with dirt. She was trudging uphill, on a narrow path, in a ring of redwood trees. I was trying to heft a heavy shovel and keep my balance on sloping ground.
We grinned at each other in silent understanding: We could have been out doing something else on that sunny Saturday afternoon, like riding our bikes on trails that someone else had built. But instead, we were giving back to the mountain biking community, helping to construct the trails that we all love to ride.
The jumble of rocks, dirt and roots that dozens of us volunteered to clear that day would later become a gently swooping part of the Emma McCrary Trail.
During our trail-building adventure (nothing helps you bond like sweat and laughter), I learned Klodnicki was a bicycle industry executive and that she had gathered some of her co-workers to help with the dirty work.
Earlier this month, as the general manager and executive vice president of the Bell and Blackburn brands, Klodnicki attended Interbike in Las Vegas. Interbike is the largest bicycle industry trade show in North America, and Klodnicki was invited by Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition to speak about women and cycling. Here’s what I unearthed through interviews and emails while she was on the road:
In her talk at Interbike, “The Chicken or the Egg: Hatching a Plan to Grow the Cycling Industry,” Klodnicki highlighted the need to build women’s participation in cycling and 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,” she said.
(Karen Kefauver — Contributed)
When it comes to being a woman executive in the male-dominated cycling industry, Klodnicki doesn’t dwell on gender, though she does
applaud changes she sees that make biking more appealing to women.
“I can bring 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.”
Klodnicki, who moved from Atlanta to Santa Cruz with husband Dave Klodnicki, noted some big strides major companies have been making lately.
(Karen Kefauver — Contributed)
“I am seeing more brands make big commitments to women’s bicycling,” she said. “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 the 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.”
The Santa Cruz resident joined 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,” she said.
“I love uncovering opportunities to bring exciting new products to consumers.”
Klodnicki says on-the-job challenges she faces along with her team members in design, research and development, product management, marketing, digital and sales are no different than in any other business.
“We just have to stay on top of the pace of innovation all the time,” she said.
At Interbike, Klodnicki was impressed by products that were unveiled and new cycling trends (see sidebar). In Las Vegas, she said, 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,” she said.
When she’s not attending worldwide cycling events or working in the office, Klodnicki jumps on one of her bikes. She mountain bikes every weekend, rides her road bike, her cargo bike and commutes to work. She also launched an informal women’s monthly ride.
“I feel like a kid again when I ride my bike,” she said. “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.”
Karen Kefauver (www.karenkefauver.com) is a freelance writer who covers sports and travel.
Three trends at Interbike
Jessica Klodnicki attended North America’s biggest bicycle industry trade show earlier this month. Here’s what she spotted as three top trends:
Enduro racing: “I know the word seems overused, but it really reflects the type of riding that most of us get to do in Santa Cruz, even if we aren’t racing. There are more and more great bikes and equipment that are perfectly suited for the type of all-mountain riding that we get to enjoy here every day.”
Bike packing or bike overnights: “We see a lot of energy around combining biking and camping or off-road adventures. There are tons of ‘gravel grinder’ bikes (basically road bikes that can take you off road) and gear to accommodate packing your own gear for a self-supported trip.”
Commuting: “As more and more cities build bike-friendly infrastructures, it is making commuting by bike more accessible for more people. So, there is a lot of great product to support this — such as fantastic bags and crossover apparel that can live on and off the bike.”
— Karen Kefauver