Real Rider Stories: Kate Switches Gears


If you don’t know this rider, then you should probably start doing your research because she is quickly becoming a household name and an inspiration for female riders everywhere. Kate Courtney grew up in Marin County, California at the base of Mount Tamalpais, the birthplace of mountain biking. Kate started cycling at a young age, and it wasn’t before long that her interest in mountain biking began to accelerate when she joined the Branson High School mountain bike team as a Freshman. Her love of mountain biking grew to the point that she is now focused on the sport as a full-time career.

While attending Stanford University in 2013 to get her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Biology, Kate signed her first professional cycling contract with Specialized Bicycles. Kate had a thriving career with Specialized, and in 2018 she took home the Elite XC World Championship that took place in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Kate pulled from behind in that race to become the first American in 17 years to win an Elite MTB World Championship and only the fourth American woman to do so.


For 2019, Kate decided to switch gears (pun intended?) and took an opportunity to join the Scott-SRAM racing team so that she could continue to grow her already thriving career. Kate has some major goals this year, which includes focusing on the World Cups and World Championships with an eye towards 2020 Olympic qualification.

With a change in sponsorship naturally comes new bikes and new gear, which means getting her position dialed on the bike was top priority. It wasn’t before long when Kate, her coach Jim Miller and the USA Cycling Mountain bike Director Mark Gullickson reached out to Dr. Andy Pruitt to get her scheduled for a fit at the Retül studios in Boulder. It was important to help get Kate’s previous position (which obviously worked for her in the past) transferred to the new equipment. Retül USA Fit Instructor, Julie Bates, had worked with Kate during her career with Specialized so the team had previous Retül fit data to work with as a baseline. “Being in the optimal position on the bike is a huge part of being efficient in training and racing as well as avoiding injuries throughout a long season.” Stated Courtney.


Kate came rolling into the Retül fit studio this past December with her new Scott Spark Contessa RC 900 race bike (unbranded), as well as new riding gear and support crew in tow. Kate had some history of knee pain during this past season, so our Retül Fitter and Sports Scientist, Jason Williams, along with Dr. Andy Pruitt, took proactive steps to make sure her knees were happy as she ramped up training in the early season. “We worked on several sets of shoes for her, and she was testing different pedal and cleat options,” Explains Williams, “So we were able to get several pairs of shoes set up to work well with her new sponsored pedal.”


Kate was very perceptive to the changes and could verbalize when it felt like something improved in the fit. Rider perception is extremely valuable to track along with the fit data in order to get a good result. “The Retül data allowed us to see in real-time how she responded to various changes. If we saw an improvement in the data and she felt better in that position we knew we were on a good path.” Informs Williams.


Various saddle shapes and widths were also tested during her bike fit. “Her position is very stable so we were working with the contact points of shoes, saddle and stem length.” Stated Williams. Everything on the bike changed this year as a result of Kate’s team transition. “With Retül, we were able to address any concerns with the new equipment and find a position that was even more optimal than what I have been running in past seasons.” Explains Kate.


Kate went to her first training camp with her new team, and new bike fit, ready to start the season fresh. Kate had left the Retül fit with a saddle that was not part of her sponsorship, so as a result she had to change saddles mid-training. During camp she encountered some knee and saddle related issues as a result. “She was training very hard on the new saddle, which meant that her position needed to be slightly adjusted because of this.” Stated Pruitt.

Kate quickly made a follow-up appointment to see Dr. Pruitt and Julie Bates at the Retül fit studio in Morgan Hill, CA, to address the issues she was experiencing. The team got together and made adjustments in order to make sure her sponsored saddle was keeping her in the optimal position on the bike. “We helped Kate choose the right saddle and made some custom shape suggestions to her and her mechanic to really get everything dialed.” Explains Pruitt. “Without consulting our December data until we finished, she ended up in the exact same position. The accuracy of our system allows us to compare between locations and fitters and we made some saddle modification suggestions to prevent further issues.” Stated Pruitt.

Kate left the follow-up appointment feeling great on the bike. “I am a big believer that a bike fit is a process. After our first meeting, we had to do some adjustments and actually discovered that I was on the wrong saddle. We made a few tweaks and when I returned to see Andy a month later - I was actually in the exact position he wanted me in and feeling more powerful than ever on the bike. It’s been a huge change and has resulted in me feeling comfortable and confident on my new bikes!”


We are so excited to follow Kate this season as she continues to crush it in 2019, and look forward to seeing watch the future is in store for this real rider.