Crystal Kovacs
Crystal Kovacs

Crystal Kovacs

BLOOMINGTON, WISCONSIN

I came to cycling in my 40s. Like most people I think I spent my 20s and 30s growing my career as a photographer and being a parent. Somewhere along the way the inner adventurer and athlete in me was put on the back burner. As my children grew, we were trying to find ways to connect with them and be able to participate with them, not from the sidelines. We purchased bikes in 2015. My first bike since I was 10 years old was a hybrid, but I had no idea what to even answer when they asked the stock questions in the bike shop: ”Where did I want to ride? What kind of surface would I be on? How long would I ride?” Upon trying it out we quickly figured out that the hybrid bike was not the bike for me. I saw a Mukluk in our local bike shop and said, “I want to try that fat tire bike”. That turned out to be the best decision, and most expensive words spoken to date. Literally, a permagrin emerged and our family hobby was born!

Crystal's Kit

My bicycles have given me the ability to redefine and find myself. Since I began cycling three years ago, I’ve lost 70 pounds. But it’s about more than the physical part of it. Cycling has also given me the ability to spend time with my family in an environment that is just us. There are no outside distractions, which all of us love. My bike adventure has truly opened my eyes to the beauty that exists in our National Forests and BLM land if you are simply willing to go find it. As our cycling has grown so have our friends within the cycling world. We are looking forward to seeing our “gravel family” again soon at gravel events. The bike has given me that opportunity.

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If life as a traveling photographer for 40 weeks a year taught me nothing else it was to be adaptable, quick to make decisions and able to pick a course and stay to it. I’ve pretty much always lived my life by taking chances and “just going”. I’ve never had a corporate job, time clock or upper management meetings. I’ve had customers, adventures, broken down vehicles when I needed that the least, and rice, sometimes lots of rice. Little did I know all of these would be traits that I would use in cycling.

I grew up with quarter horses. My family took 30 days every summer, loaded up the truck and trailer and headed west. We packed horses into the Bighorn and Teton mountains. I had no idea at the time what a powerful gift my parents were giving me and what a seed they were planting inside my head. How many people can say they’ve eaten fresh trout from the stream they are camped by and watched 200 elk drink from a mountain stream? I can, and I am thankful for that adventuresome spirit.

I came to bicycling in my 40s. Like most people I think I spent my 20s and 30s growing my career as a photographer and being a parent. Somewhere along the way the inner adventurer and athlete in me was put on the back burner. As my children grew, we were trying to find ways to connect with them and be able to participate with them, not from the sidelines. We purchased bikes in 2015. My first bike since I was 10 years old was a hybrid, but I had no idea what to even answer when they asked the stock questions in the bike shop: ”Where did I want to ride? What kind of surface would I be on? How long would I ride?” Upon trying it out we quickly figured out that the hybrid bike was not the bike for me. I saw a Mukluk in our local bike shop and said, “I want to try that fat tire bike”. That turned out to be the best decision, and most expensive words spoken to date. Literally, a permagrin emerged and our family hobby was born! If we could pedal, our fatties would go, and go we did. Our family tries to do two to three events together each year and take a two-week long vacation with our bikes.

I think everyone has an inner voice that says, “I need to have adventure in my life”. Cycling was how I was able to find that voice and embrace the course it has taken me on. Cycling has taught me humility, grace, endurance and the ability to push myself further than I ever thought was possible. Cycling has also taught me that there is a pride that comes when you finish what you once thought was impossible. It’s an adrenaline rush unlike no other. I can’t imagine my life without bikes in it.

What is the cycling accomplishment you are most proud of?

Two accomplishments for entirely different reasons.

1) Maah Daah Hey 150: I had never tackled 150 miles of singletrack labeled the raddest race in the baddest place before. YIKES! We took six days completing it as a stage race. My legs hurt so bad at night that my sleeping bag literally hurt me. The course temperature was 113-degrees on the starting day for a high and 47-degrees on the last day. We crossed the Little Missouri River, laughed, cried and I was hooked. The best part? We finished it!

2) Dirty Kanza 100: I was WAY outside of my comfort zone. Yes, I had rode the MDH 150 but not all in one day. I was not prepared for the exposure and the wind, and eventually dehydration lead to my DNF. Why would it be one of my biggest accomplishment? This was a race that prompted me to say that I can’t go on living status quo.

What kind of cyclist are you?

I would say I’m an adventurer. I love the adventure that I’ve found on the bike and the ability to “unhook” myself from technology of daily life.

How long has cycling been a part of your life? When did it become more than just “riding a bike”?

I’ve been cycling for three short years. It quickly became my way of getting away. Singletrack was my first love. I grew up packing horses into the mountains of Wyoming. Biking allowed me to do that again with my family within the first year of cycling. Every year since then we have taken two weeks each summer and gone bikepacking.

What’s your favorite place you’ve been on a bike so far?

That’s hard to say but the top two are the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming and the Maah Daah Hey Trail in North Dakota. Moab, Utah is special also!


What’s your favorite place to daydream about that you haven’t yet ridden?

I want to cycle in Mongolia. That however is subject to change based on the day and climate outside…lol

How do you describe what the bicycle means to you?

My bicycles have given me the ability to redefine and find myself. Since I began cycling three years ago, I’ve lost 70 pounds. But it’s about more than the physical part of it. Cycling has also given me the ability to spend time with my family in an environment that is just us. There are no outside distractions, which all of us love. My bike adventure has truly opened my eyes to the beauty that exists in our National Forests and BLM land if you are simply willing to go find it.

As our cycling has grown so have our friends within the cycling world. We are looking forward to seeing our “gravel family” again soon at gravel events. The bike has given me that opportunity.

How do you see your future as a cyclist unfolding?

I hope to continue to develop my skillsets and explore new places. I will be completing 100 to 150-mile length races in 2019. (Back to being way outside my comfort zone.)

One of my main goals with the upcoming year is to help inspire other novice cyclists. If I can do this so can anyone else. I want everyone that wants to try bicycling to step up and do so. When I was racing the MDH25 my first year, a friend walked down the finish line and high-fived me. I want to be that person that inspires others to dig deeper and find their new limits, but when they do I want to be the one to watch them shine and throw them a high five!


Who inspires you and your riding?

My family inspires my riding. My husband rides with me almost daily. He is a retired Marine and tough! We also have two teenage boys that are great athletes. Keeping up with them is impossible, but I try! Every time I want to quit, I think to myself “They don’t quit when the odds are against them. Neither will you!”


What is your favorite Salsa bike model and why?

This question is easy! It’s the Cutthroat. My Cutthroat has allowed me to explore places I would have never went with ease and a permanent grin on my face. It’s nimble, versatile and ready for any job that I am taking on. I hold the Cutthroat back, but it never holds me back.


What are your favorite pre, during, and post ride/race food and bevvies?

I love peanut butter in any form. Our race day favorite food is Allen’s rice cakes from the Portable Feed Zone book.

What are you doing when you’re not cycling?

When I’m not bicycling, I have the best jobs in the world: 1. Raising two teenage boys, which has been the hardest and most rewarding job in the world. 2. Nick and I also own a portrait studio which specializes in newborns, children and families.


What don’t you leave home without on a ride?

I don’t leave home without an optimistic attitude, a smile, and knowing that today is going to be great on my ride no matter what happens.