What It's Like to Be a Professional Mountain Biker

Jill Kintner lets us in on making it in the world of a male-dominated competitive sport.

What It's Like to Be a Professional Mountain Biker
(Source: Red Bull, Sombrio)

Picture a professional mountain biker. We're going to guess a man came to mind, right? Although women are in the minority, there is a roster of impressive athletes blazing trails in the competitive sport. Case in point: Jill Kintner, who has an Olympic medal, world titles, US National championships and a gig as a Sombrio athlete to her name. We chatted with Kintner to get a glimpse into the sport of biking and why it's about time you got into it yourself.

To be a champion at anything, you have to have a clear mind and be able to resolve your fears

What inspired you to pursue mountain biking as a sport?
"I grew up riding BMX, and mountain biking is a nice progression to be out in nature and go anywhere. I love the lifestyle and was inspired by the athletes that were in it who had success from their BMX skills."

How is it different from other sports you’ve done? 
"I played soccer and tennis at a pretty high level as well as throughout high school, and liked them for different reasons. All sports have parallels to draw on as far as mental prep or dealing with challenges, but being the lone pilot on a bicycle appealed to me a lot more than team sports—less drama and more variety with all the weather variables, textures of the soil, type of trail or terrain."

Beijing 2008 Olympics, where Kintner won bronze.
(Source: Getty Images)

Why would you encourage more women to get into biking?
"It can be a really fun social activity as well as good exercise. There is something really empowering about being outside and mastering a trail with your friends. And it's free once you have a bike."

What It's Like to Be a Professional Mountain Biker
(Source: Jill Kintner)

How is biking an effective way to get fit?
"Biking seems like an obvious way to get fit; it's low-impact on the knees, you can go anywhere and go as easy or hard as you want. Add in a hill and get your heart pumping. I've seen the full spectrum of people enjoy the freedom and speed of riding bikes."

Do you need to live in a specific environment to try mountain biking?
"No, but it helps. All you need is some nature and a trail."

What kind of training would you suggest for those interested in biking—anything off the bike?
"Well, I do a lot in the gym for my own training. I start the year with a lot of physical therapy-based moves and balance to get my body equal before going to big strength moves. Coordination drills are good too. Hiking is fun. I think the beauty of biking is that being athletic will help anyone, so do what you enjoy. I think doing skill work at a BMX track or pumptrack, or even maneuvering through cones can help build confidence in a trail. Hop curbs, skids and wheelies."

What It's Like to Be a Professional Mountain Biker
(Source: Jill Kintner)

What tips do you have for beginners interested in mountain biking?
"Take a class, and also get your bike set up properly. This is the biggest improvement someone can make without doing that much. Fundamentals and a good setup will take you pretty far."

What has been the biggest lesson you've learned while biking?​
"Biking indirectly has taught me everything about life. I have been lucky to travel the world, manage my own business, do what I love and be successful at it. To be a champion at anything, you have to have a clear mind and be able to resolve your fears, so I think that is a good lesson to have discovered."

Former Associate Editor at StyleBistro. Willing to try any workout trend. Green beauty junkie. Fan of overdressing. Proud member of the cult of Beyoncé. Twitter/Insta: @kristinarodulfo Follow me: Google