Feature Q&A with mountain bike legend Jill Kintner
Star of sweet new Red Bull The Sound of Speed video on the pandemic, the best of Bellingham and what's next
Like her bio states so eloquently, Jill Kinter has “owned all things gravity.” Kintner is one of the most decorated mountain bike athletes in the history of the sport. She’s done it all, and she’s done it in six cycling disciplines from BMX to pump track to downhill mountain bike.
She won a BMX bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, three consecutive UCI 4X Mountain Bike World Championships, five Crankworx World titles, oh and 25 US National Championships.
Recently, Kintner dropped a sweet new video on her home trails around Bellingham Washington by the fine folks at Red Bull as part of their The Sound of Speed series. So we decided to check in with her to ask her about shooting the video, navigating the pandemic, and her favourite spots around Bellingham, which is apparently a hidden gem when it comes to shredding.
Jill Kintner on the Bellingham trails during The Sound of Speed (Bryn Atkinson/Red Bull Content Pool)
Just how fast were you going?
Pretty fast I guess, not really sure. I‘ll look on my Garmin for you, hold on... It said 37.9 mph max, haha.
How have you been managing during this whole pandemic thing?
Yeah, it’s a little bit weird, scary, and unusual. It feels like we have had a lot of things stacked on us this year. At first, I just used the space to figure out what I was feeling, and also kind of dig deep to be more creative. I still rode bikes, got a home gym figured out, and also put a lot more energy into drawing and coaching for the junior riders in my town. I felt a strong drive to help people and just tried to make meaningful connections with the people close by in my neighbourhood.
Is there World Cup competition happening?
There was a limited World Cup season yeah. The tour that I mainly compete in, Crankworx, got through the first world stop in NZ in March and then shut down shortly after. The organizers were able to change the game a bit and did a summer series for Canadians, and a European round in Austria, but it was all a bit out of reach as an American. I felt conflicted about events happening anyway while it wasn’t really safe for people to travel, and so much was happening in the world, but it’s been fun to try new things like virtual events and really get to know my local zones.
Jill Kintner, Crankworx tour stop in New Zealand (Boris Beyer / Red Bull Content Pool)
What piqued your interest in bikes, BMX, mountain bike early on?
Probably just the fun factor. Places to ride, things to do, hills to bomb down. :)
And when did you realize you were better than everyone and could do this for a living?
Well, that’s a tough question to not sound too cocky, haha. I turned pro when I was 14 and didn’t really have a lot of life expenses yet, so I just kept going. Making a living is sorta relative to overhead, but I got by and was able to get a sweet used Toyota Camry car when I was 15. From there I had to win more to cover gas and stuff.
What is it about mountain biking that you love so much?
Everything I guess. The better I get, the more obsessed I am with the finer details. The perfectionist in me has a hard time giving up, and there are so many changing variables in MTB with terrain, weather, or equipment, that you have to adapt quite a lot. The pursuit of reaching my full potential is pretty strong I guess, and I still find things to improve upon.
Jill Kintner, bombing in Bellingham (Bryn Atkinson/Red Bull Content Pool)
What would you consider the highlight of your career so far?
I think getting an Olympic medal in Beijing was the most insane thing I have ever accomplished. I had a blown ACL at the time as well and had my meniscus cleaned up, so that whole process, from being low when I was pretty hurt to getting to be on stage with Oprah and wearing a medal around my neck still feels surreal. Lots of highs and lows, but mostly it was a relief to come out with the goods, very proud of that.
What goals have you set for yourself for the coming year?
I have some pretty fun challenges and creative projects for next year. My athletic goals are going to swing back to enduro, I think. I have some massive media projects and activations, another round of art contests, and a lot of coaching for the youth. I find having four pillars; Race/media/community/art all take on different levels, but hold the house up when one collapses like how events did this year. I’m planning out my year now, but am pretty jazzed on all the little projects and outreach.
You're a role model for young women and girls who are looking to get into a sport that often is dominated by boys at the early stages. How important is that role to inspire young women to you?
It’s really important to me, and I think you can see that more and more girls are getting into the sport, which thrills me!! There are clubs here in Bellingham where the girls ride together every week and are progressing together so quickly. Power in numbers is real, and with the internet, everyone can learn so fast without barriers.
Jill Kintner (Bryn Atkinson/Red Bull Content Pool)
Let me ask you a few quick questions about Bellingham. Here we go:
Double black: Double Down
Galbraith Trail: Devilcross or Oriental express
Bike shop? Fanatik
Cafe? Anamly Cafe
Pizza? Ovn in Fairhaven
Swimming/ Paddleboard? Whatcom Falls Lake
Pumptrack: Whatcom Falls Park
Fav bike: Norco Sight 29
Check out The Sound of Speed starring Jill Kintner at the link below: