Chelsea Kimball can do it all. She races downhill, competes in slopestyle, and travels around the Western US and beyond in pursuit of adventure. She hits events like the 2019 Crankworx Speed and Style in Whistler (the first Speed and Style to include women), the infamous TDS Enduro, the International Chiang Mai Enduro in Thailand, and most recently Freeride Fiesta, where she threw down with the best of them.
Chelsea is also an arborist who once spent a week climbing a giant sequoia tree, a desert lover who spends her winters riding freeride lines in Virgin, UT, and someone who lives life about as fully as anyone can.
Who is Chelsea Kimball?
I'm a girl who thrives on adventure, and loves to travel and ride bikes!
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Mesa, AZ. These days you can find me in Virgin, UT in the winter and in some mountains near you in the summer.
How did you start mountain biking?
The first time I ever even heard the term "mountain bike" was in 2012 when I decided to hitchhike from Arizona to my grandparents' house in Kansas for Christmas. The first person to pick me up explained to me he was heading out to ride his bike on some trails in Gold Canyon. I was a bit mystified about the idea of riding a bike on a trail but didn't think much of it at the time. It was the following year that I actually tried it for the first time. My friend had recently moved to Big Bear, CA, for rock climbing but found herself a job at the local bike shop. She instantly fell in love with mountain biking and over a few months my climbing partner became a mountain biker. She was eager to introduce me to the sport and said she would let me use her old bike once her new one arrived. After explaining many times that I wasn't interested in pedaling a bike up a hill, her persistence paid off and I finally agreed to try. I remember the trail being so steep and full of turns with a few root sections, it was a blast! Back then I had some big goals in rock climbing so most of my time was spent clinging to cliffs but slowly I rode more and more.
Are there skills that you learned from rock climbing that have helped you in mountain biking?
Rock climbing promotes great core and upper body strength, I think that helped me a ton when I started riding. Even now I would much rather go to a rock climbing gym to work out, it's really fun and in my opinion, the best way to prevent arm pump on a bike!
Who are your sponsors?
I'm lucky to have support from Specialized, TRP, Five Ten, Reverse Components, Atomik Wheels, Loose Riders, Maxxis, DVO Suspension, TruckerCo, and Mynesweepers.
What bike(s) do you ride?
My favorite bike right now is my Specialized Demo, I love DH bikes so much! For trail riding I have a Specialized Enduro 29er and I also spend a bit of time on my dirt jumper and maybe a little less time on my road bike.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Around this time of year I may wake up and make some coffee then head outside and check the day's wind forecast. If the wind is good I'll generally find something to ride in Virgin and if it's a bit gusty I'll either go ride my trail bike or head to the bike park. The evening is when I like to get work done, it gets cold and dark pretty early so I take refuge in the local coffee shop.
What riding accomplishments are you most proud of?
Well, I'm sitting in a hotel in Mexico right now because of the most epic experience I have ever had on a bike. Freeride Fiesta was almost a week of hitting the biggest jumps of my life with amazing riders from all over the world. I feel so lucky to be a part of such an awesome event!
How was Freeride Fiesta?
Freeride Fiesta was awesome! I came down here to Guadalajara with my boyfriend Ryan Rodriguez and before the event started we went to check out the jumps. It is a line of 7 features: a step down, road gap, hip, another step down (Speedy Gonzales), ramp jump, drop, and step up. It was a bit nerve wracking before dropping in the first time. My bike felt like a hardtail with suspension that barely moved when I bounced on it and the only warm up to the jumps is the 40ft of roll-in before the first step down. For me the most difficult jump was the hip. With such a big lip it is pretty blind and quite easy to carve too much off the lip and land too far down the landing. There is definitely an art to boosting big hips. The drop was intimidating but after a few run-ins Peter Salido towed me in and it felt great! The line flowed very nicely with almost no need for braking or pedaling anywhere, quite the feat for the first year of a big jump line.
Peter Salido tows Chelsea into the big drop in the second slide.
What was it like to ride down King Kong? Some say you were the first known woman to ride that line.
I really can't claim that title, there are a few ladies that did it a while before I did. Just to ride down King Kong though? Once you get comfy on Kong it is a really fun line, each feature is pretty exciting and the more flat ridge sections in between are super flowy and fun!
What are your strengths?
I'd say drops, jumps and super techy riding are some of my strengths.
What are your weaknesses?
Flat corners, especially right handers.
What’s the best part of being a traveling freerider?
Riding new spots all the time is one of my favorite things, the people I get to meet and ride with make each spot really unique and fun.
What’s the hardest part of being a traveling freerider?
Especially in winter and during Covid finding a place to shower can prove to be difficult.
Where is your favorite place to ride?
What has been your worst crash over the years?
I'm not sure if it was actually the worst but at Big White Slopestyle in 2019 I looped out on a backflip on my second run. I tweaked my shoulder quite a bit but the funniest part was the impact to my butt. A week later I had to get a massive hematoma drained, the poor doctor took almost 500cc of liquid out of my butt cheek!
Who or what inspires you?
I'm pretty lucky to have a few girls that are really close friends that all love to freeride. Each of us has our own goals and it's so cool to see each other progress and take on challenges in our own ways.
What makes you happy?
Sunshine, friends and everyone is going to kill me for saying this but I LOVE Dr Pepper, it's so good!!!
What do you enjoy doing away from biking?
I really love rock climbing, hiking and camping.
What’s your favorite motto or saying?
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
What opportunities would you like to see for women in freeride in the future?
I would really love to see more competitions, and media opportunities. On a more grassroots level it would be awesome to see more programs like Kat Sweet's Sweetlines Racing up in Seattle, she has the best development program for girls in the whole country. More and more women are getting into freeride all the time and I think we all enjoy watching other ladies ride!
How do you want to be remembered?
There are lot more things I want to achieve on my bike so I think in a general sense I want to be remembered as a person that loves to ride bikes and always up for an adventure!
What does the future hold for you?
I'm excited to actually have some events happening this year, slopestyle, enduro, DH, and maybe even a trip to Europe! I'm also planning something exciting for 2022 but that announcement will have to wait for now!