Kim McNett

Homer,Alaska

I like to cover a lot of ground, but racing and finishing routes quickly is not usually a primary goal of mine. In the winter, I ride snow machine/dog sled trails, which can stretch for hundreds of miles across the frozen Alaskan landscape. In the summer, a combination of beach riding, pack rafting, trail riding, and 'bike-whacking' allows for innovative and explorative routes.

In the winter of 2014, Bjorn and I fat biked from Knik (near Anchorage) to Kotzebue, 1,100 miles through roadless Alaska. We were riding the trail and camping in subzero temperatures for 5 weeks, though it felt like a lifetime. The biggest accomplishment about this trip is how healthy, happy, and comfortable we were the whole time. We had figured out how to maintain this lifestyle sustainably and enjoyably. To me, that was the biggest triumph.

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What kind of cyclist are you?
I’m mostly a Wilderness fatbiker and Commuter. My favorite type of cycling is off road and often off-trail wilderness riding, which is best facilitated by a fatbike. I like to be in remote locations, and the fat bike allows me to cover long distances for days on end. I also like to be outside, meet people along the way, watch wildlife, and take advantage of unique opportunities that arise. I like to cover a lot of ground, but racing and finishing routes quickly is not usually a primary goal of mine. In the winter, I ride snow machine/dog sled trails, which can stretch for hundreds of miles across the frozen Alaskan landscape. In the summer, a combination of beach riding, pack rafting, trail riding, and ‘bike-whacking’ allows for innovative and explorative routes. Almost always I am accompanied by my partner-in-crime, Bjorn Olson. I also bike commute as my primary transportation, and sometimes ride a rough terrain unicycle.  

How long has cycling been a part of your life? When did it become more than just “riding a bike”?
I started biking in college as a means to get around. I soon realized that biking made me happy, kept me physically fit, and decreased my dependence on fossil fuels. It wasn’t until I moved to Alaska and got my first fat bike in 2009, that biking became a way for me to connect with remote and wild places.

The cycling accomplishment you’re proudest of to date?
In the winter of 2014, Bjorn and I fat biked from Knik (near Anchorage) to Kotzebue, 1,100 miles through roadless Alaska. We were riding the trail and camping in subzero temperatures for 5 weeks, though it felt like a lifetime. The biggest accomplishment about this trip is how healthy, happy, and comfortable we were the whole time. We had figured out how to maintain this lifestyle sustainably and enjoyably. To me, that was the biggest triumph.  

Favorite place you’ve been on a bike so far?
There is a historical indigenous portage between the Yukon River and the Norton Sound in Northwest Alaska that seemed to resonate with magic as we pedaled through. We transcended into a completely different landscape geographically and culturally. Once on the Norton Sound, near Unalakleet, the realization that we might actually achieve our goal started to elate us. The locals let us help them fish for tomcod through the ice, the beach was free of snow and we built a driftwood bonfire. The setting sun illuminated the sea ice pack and pressure ridges with brilliant colors. We spent several nights sleeping under the stars and the northern lights, listening for the voices of an ancient past. 

Favorite place to daydream about that you haven’t yet ridden?
Bjorn and I are spending a large amount of time lately daydreaming about and preparing for our 2015 summer ride: The Ring of Fire: Juneau to Homer. Along this route, we plan on riding on top of the Malaspina Glacier, a broad piedmont glacier on the Yakutat Coast that has yet to feel a fat tire on its back. 

How do you describe what the bicycle means to you?
A bicycle is a tool for empowerment and independence. Though bicycles would not exist without fossil fuels, at least they aren’t part of the wasteful overuse that’s so commonplace in our world. Riding a bicycle is a simple way to improve physical, mental, and environmental health.  

How will your future as a cyclist unfold?
The Ring of Fire will be the longest, most ambitions summer biking/rafting route that I have ever attempted. It will likely be extremely challenging and rewarding. I hope to find a similar sustainable pace in this summer biking/rafting route as we did in our long winter trip. I also suspect that we will see a lot of really neat wildlife, curious beach-combings, and interesting landscape features.

Who inspires you and your riding?
My greatest inspiration is my partner Bjorn Olson. Bjorn was riding the first fat bike that I ever saw and it was love at first sight (both man and bike). Through sharing his knowledge and encouragement, Bjorn has informed and empowered me to become a wilderness cyclist. Bjorn’s ideas are creative and ingenious when it comes to route finding, gear selection, and story telling. Bjorn and I have been through the woods together, and we have figured out what it means to be a team. We don’t argue (well, maybe occasionally a little bit), we encourage each other, tell stories, play games, and have each other clenching our sides with laughter over extremely immature jokes. Our cooperation goes hand in hand with our wilderness accomplishments.

Favorite Salsa model and why?
My favorite Salsa bike is the carbon fiber Beargrease. It’s super light, which matters a lot when you have to carry it over a mountain to link up rideable routes. It weighs hardly anything. Seriously, sometimes it feels like it’s going to float away if I don’t hold on.

Favorite pre, during, and post ride/race food and bevies?
I will eat damn near anything and everything while on a trip, with fat as a priority. One of the beauties of wilderness cycling is that it offers opportunities for unexpected delicacies. Bjorn and I often find, forage, and are given wild and unusual foods. We supplement our meals with fish, mussels, wild greens, berries, and edible mushrooms. One time I ate about a 1/2 pound of muktuk (bowhead whale fat) in one sitting. Another time I stole a halibut from a pair of bald eagles (probably not legal). On another occasion, a friend coming home from a hunt give us a fresh caribou tongue that we seared on a rock lapped in campfire flames. A particularly memorable meal was when Bjorn skewered a grouse through the neck with his ski pole, and we stuffed it with morel mushrooms and wild chives that we found nearby. I’ve found a Capri Sun, tin of sardines, and even a full can of beer washed up in the tideline. Fishermen have handed us spot prawns, yellow eye rockfish, and so many red salmon we had to start turning them down. At community potlucks in native villages, we’ve been served everything from swan stew to pickled beluga, Eskimo ice cream (made from dried white fish, caribou fat and berries) and cranberry juice so strong it’d curl your toenails. Aside from these oddities, my favorite trip dinner is polenta with dried tomatoes, butter, wild mushrooms, chicken bouillon, fajita seasoning, and copious amounts of cheese. While on cold, winter rides my favorite fat sources include smoked salmon, moose tallow, pemmican, ice cream sandwiches (you can do this if it’s cold enough!), and homemade power bars. Finely ground coffee is an essential staple as well. M&Ms, mixed nuts, dried fruit, cheese, cookies, and jerky fill my feedbags so that I don’t have to stop pedaling to eat. When I arrive in a town, the Holy Grail is a cheeseburger, fries, and a beer. I appreciate food more than ever while on a bike trip, so I don’t ruin it by eating laboratory-engineered crap (unless I find it in a shelter cabin, then I might). 

When you’re not cycling…
The other wilderness pursuit that I am very passionate about is sea kayaking. Like the fat bike, a sea kayak is an incredible tool for visiting remote wilderness and making connections with places and the creatures that live there. It’s also very fun on a technical level and I enjoy using it to surf, brace, roll and play in the rock gardens. 
My other pursuits are numerous, but relevant here is that I am the president of the Homer Cycling Club non-profit. We work to encourage ridership and improve cycling conditions on a local level. We also host the Big Fat Bike Festival every winter.

What don’t you leave home without on a ride?
It may sound corny, but a positive attitude is a must-bring for me, especially when trying to do something challenging or long. Laughter is the cure for hardship. You can still accomplish a lot of things with a bad attitude, but there really isn’t a point.