Inside the Pro’s Bikes – Kate Courtney

National champion: Kate powered to the Pro Women’s cross-country win in this year’s Sea Otter, beating Olympic gold medalist Jenny Rissveds (visible under Kate’s arm) in the process. Kate raced her hardtail this day. Photo: Johan Badenhorst

When Kate Courtney won America’s 2017 Cross-Country National Championship, she did it in commanding fashion. She beat the next fastest racer in the women’s pro class by more than four minutes. That is a huge margin!

Earlier this year, at the Sea Otter Classic, Kate Courtney raced against some of the top women racers in
the world, and she beat all of them, including two-time UCI world champion Catharine Pendrel of Canada. What’s more, Kate also beat Olympic gold medalist Jenny Rissveds of Sweden, the most celebrated women’s mountain biker in the world in 2016.

Who is Kate Courtney? Where did she come from, and what kind of super-fast bike is she riding? Read on to find out.

The MBA Q&A: Kate Courtney tells all

MBA: Where did you grow up?
Kate: Kentfield, California.
MBA: What kind of work do (did) your parents do?
Kate: Lawyer and stock analyst.
MBA: When did you first learn to ride a bike?
Kate: I learned to ride at a very young age from my dad, but didn’t learn to ride a mountain bike until age 6. I rode trails for the first time on the back of a tandem with my dad.
MBA: Who taught you?
Kate: My dad!

MBA: If you competed on other bikes before mountain bikes, what kind of bikes? When did you do it, and how well did you do?
Kate: I never raced bikes before my freshman year in high school when I competed in my first mountain bike race as part of the NorCal high school league.
MBA: When did you get your first mountain bike?
Kate: My first mountain bike was a red and white Specialized Rockhopper, which I still have, that I got when I was 6.
MBA: When did you start competing on mountain bikes?
Kate: I started competing when I was a freshman in high school as part of the Branson High School mountain bike team. My first race was in Fort Ord as part of the NorCal League.
MBA: How did you finish in your first competition?
Kate: I won!
MBA: Did you win any titles as an amateur?
Kate: I was a 10-time Cat. 1 and colle- giate national champion in STXC and XC, two-time Pan American champion, two-time Junior World Cup winner and three-time U23 World Cup winner.
MBA: What have been your best results as a pro?
Kate: National champion! Sea Otter Classic win and four-time U23 World Cup winner.
MBA: Where did you go to college and what was your major?
Kate: Stanford University, human biology.
MBA: What other sports have you done?
Kate: Cross-country running, ski racing, horse jumping.
MBA: Can you tell us something interesting or unusual about yourself or your family?
Kate: It has been slightly unusual to be both a full-time student and professional athlete for the past four years. Now that I have graduated, I am really looking forward to focusing full-time on my athletic pursuits.
MBA: Is there some other interesting fact or trivia that people might like to know about you?
Kate: My spirit animal is a shark. They are generally pretty easygoing, never stop moving, eat constantly and know when to attack.

Determination: Kate Courtney is widely recognized as one of the most promising young female cross-country racers America has ever produced. Photo: Johan Badenhorst


Name: Kate Courtney
Age: 21
Birthdate: October 29, 1995
Birthplace: San Francisco, CA
Height: 5-foot-4
Weight: 112 pounds
Shoe size: 39
Helmet size: Small
Marital status: Single
Current home: Palo Alto, California House or apartment: Apartment Cars: Subaru Crosstrek
Started racing: 2009
Turned pro: 2014
Racing specialty: XCO and STXC Favorite course (North America): World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada Favorite course (Europe): World Cup in Nove Mesto Na Morave, Czech Republic Favorite foods: Sweet potato, avocado and dark chocolate
Goals: National championships, World Cup overall, Olympics
Heroes: Lindsey Vonn, Kristin Armstrong Favorite recording artist: Beyonce Favorite movie: Depends on my mood— Shawshank Redemption, Bridesmaids and Stepbrothers
Favorite hobbies: Yoga, hiking, skiing, surfing
Jobs held (other than racer): Finally graduated from Stanford and now just a bike racer!
Always takes on a trip: Headphones and melatonin
What you would be if you were not
a racer: My degree is in human biology with a concentration in global health and technology innovation. Most likely I would be working in the field of healthcare technology, but not exactly sure—and I don’t want to find out!


S-Works Epic Carbon

Bike weight: 20.4 lbs

Estimated value: Priceless

1. Frame: 2018 Specialized S-Works Epic, carbon material, 100mm travel front and rear.

“I first had the chance to ride the new Epic at the World Cup in Andorra. One of the most striking aspects of the new bike is its weight, which makes it noticeably faster on climbs. I also felt a significant difference in handling capability. With a longer top tube and changes to the geometry of the frame, I am able to run a much shorter stem and benefit from a more stable, trail-oriented design.”

2. Fork: RockShox SID World Cup with Brain damper; 100mm travel, settings change based on course.

“My new size-small Epic has 10 millimeters more travel in the front and rear than the S-Works Era that I previously rode. On the more technical World Cup-style courses, every little bit helps.”

3. Tires: Specialized Gripton Renegade 29×2.1″ front and rear, 20 psi in the front and 21 psi in the rear

“The Gripton Renegade has been redesigned to have a more resilient sidewall, softer compound, more grip and less rolling resistance than the previous model. The 2.1 Renegade is also a bit wider than the previous version, which came in at 1.95. Overall, it has become much more versatile and suited to technical courses while main- taining some of the best features—namely being extremely fast-rolling—that made the Renegade popular in the past. I have run this tire setup at almost every event this season.”

4. Inner tubes or tubeless system: tubeless.

“We run Stan’s sealant.”

5. Rims: Roval Control SL.

“The new Control SL features a wider

rim, which allows the tire to sit wider than the previous version did. This reduces rolling resistance and enhances grip by offering a larger contact patch. Additionally, the tire is better supported, which makes it feel more stable when cornering hard.”

6. Spokes: DT Swiss Revolution, straight pull.

“They hold my hub to my rims, which I feel is important.”

7. Front hub: Roval Control SL.

“The Control SL hub is part of a light-weight wheel package that has the wider Boost spacing (110 millimeters), making it stiffer and more stable. Perhaps the best are the CeramicSpeed bearings that our race team uses, which virtually eliminate friction, making them very fast-rolling.”

8. Rear hub: Roval Control SL with DT Swiss star ratchet driver.

“Like the front, the rear hub on the new Epic has Boost spacing (148 millimeters), which again contributes to its stability and stiffness. I run CeramicSpeed bearings in the rear as well. The new wheels also use a DT Swiss star-ratchet engagement system with even more engagement points than the previous Control SL wheels, which makes the engagement feel virtually instant.”

9. Brakes: Magura MT8 Raceline.

“This season we have switched to Magura brakes, which are incredibly light-weight and give me the feeling of more control in modulating my braking power.”

10. Handlebar: Specialized Prowess XC flat, carbon 640mm.

“It’s a lightweight handlebar that I cut down to a narrow 640 millimeters because of my petite size and preference.”

11. Bottom bracket: CeramicSpeed BSA 30.

“The CeramicSpeed bottom bracket is the smoothest-spinning and longest-lasting bottom bracket available. Nothing like great equipment that gives you free watts!“

12. Grips: ESI Racers Edge 30mm.

“I prefer the size and feel of the ESI Racers Edge grips. Their small diameter makes me feel more in control but maintains comfort.”

13. Cranks: “Rotor REX1 power meter, 170mm.

“I recently started using a Rotor power meter, which is incredibly reliable and easy to use. The cranks on this system are also very lightweight and allow me to use a 30mm spindle on the new Epic, which is lighter and stiffer. Additionally, because it’s such a lightweight system, I am more comfortable running a power meter in races, which provides really valuable data.”

14. Chainring(s): Rotor NoQ 32-tooth.

“I use a Rotor NoQ chainring and typically run either a 32- or 34-tooth chainring depending on the course.”

15. Pedals: Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11s.

“I have always run Crankbrothers pedals and love them. They are incredibly light and can be clipped into from all four sides, which is particularly important for muddy races, which many of the World Cups are.”

16. Chain: CeramicSpeed UFO-treated SRAM Eagle, 12-speed.

“The CeramicSpeed UFO chain provides another few free watts by reducing friction through a special treatment process. Our team has exclusive use of this chain, which we feel gives us a big advantage on race day.”

17. Rear derailleur: SRAM XX1 Eagle 12 speed.

18. Front derailleur: None.

19. Shifters: SRAM XX1 Eagle 12-speed.

20. Brake levers: Magura MT8 Raceline, carbon.

21. Rear cassette: SRAM XX1 Eagle 12-speed 10-50t.

“I have been running SRAM Eagle for two years and love the gear range that it offers. It also enables me to run a larger chainring in the front, which gives me a more useful range of gears.

22. Saddle: Specialized S-Works Phenom, 155mm.

23. Seatpost: S-Works Carbon.

24. Cables and housings: SRAM.

25. Headset: CeramicSpeed.

26. Waterbottle cage: Specialized S-Works Zee cage.

27. Shock: RockShox Brain proprietary.

28. Stem: Syntace Megaforce 2, 60mm.

29. Special touches: Carbon/Ti seatpost collar, carbon/Ti headset top cap and alloy bolt.

“All of the special touches on this bike are the work of my mechanic, Brad Copeland. He pays incredible attention to detail and takes a lot of satisfaction out of my bikes being both incredibly dialed and flawlessly color coordinated.”

30. Extras: SRM PC8 head unit.

31. Head angle: 69.5 degrees.


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