“I’m not your typical cyclist,” Kelly Krause states, sun-kissed and wind burned after completing a 104-kilometre ride in the Texas sun.
With sunglass tan lines forming on her face and clad from head to toe in Rapha, the 33-year-old SXSW publicist could have fooled me.
But just a short few years ago she wouldn’t have dreamt of owning a road bike let alone completing a 104-kilometre ride with a dozen or so “fit athletes” and trying to inspire other women to do the same.
In the early 2013, Kelly was far from being an athlete. Weighing over 136kg, she couldn’t sit in airline seats, struggled to walk up a flight of stairs and found herself out of breath all the time.
“I was making excuses to not do things,” Krause recalled. “Life just wasn’t fun. At the end of every day I knew I wasn’t being true to myself and living life like I knew it could be lived.”
The breaking point came on Easter Sunday.
“My sister and I were sitting down before a pretty indulgent spread, and I just looked around and I was so disgusted by everything I was seeing,” she said.
The very next day, on Monday, April 1, she decided to take control and turn things around.
“I started doing spin classes and lost weight quickly,” she said. “When you’re that much overweight, it comes off quickly. I lost around 10kg in the first month, another 11 the second, five the next. After month three I was down like 25kg. I just kept up with that momentum and excitement. But by then it became less about the number and more about the new things I would try and do.”
Among those new experiences was cycling.
“A friend of mine used to do this bike ride called the MS 150 from Houston to Austin as a charity ride for her cousin who had MS. She encouraged me to try a different type of cycling –the outdoor kind—and asked me to do it with her,” Krause said. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into!”
“I took $500 USD from my savings with me to my local bike shop and thought it would buy me a bike, my ‘kit’ –which at the time, I didn’t know was called a kit –and everything all in one stop,” she added. “I quickly learned that wasn’t the case.”
But after test riding some bikes, she found one that fit just right.
“I clipped in, got the chills and I haven’t really looked back since,” she said.
What started as a weight-management tool turned into a passion.
“I did the MS 150 and loved it. It was so freeing being on the open road. Cycling gave me a level of confidence and excitement that I had never felt before,” she said. “It became more to me than working out to lose weight. It became my therapy.”
Living kindly and embracing the struggle
No other weight-loss attempt had stuck before, but this change was bigger than scales, diets and dress sizes. This change was about discovering and embracing a new way of living.
“It came down to the theory of living kindly, doing good things for yourself and never looking back on what I was,” she said. “In the beginning, every day was a struggle, and I’d have to remind myself to not beat myself up over things. It’s okay to not be 100 percent every day. That’s life. It ebbs and flows”
“I didn’t tell many people about it at first [about what I was doing]. I was so overweight and I didn’t think my friends would believe me,” she said. “I also didn’t want tell them because I was afraid of failure.”
But by embracing the struggle and being a beginner, Krause succeeded and was welcomed by a community she didn’t even know existed.
To date, she has lost more than 58kg and is proudly leading rides and repping Rapha as one of their brand ambassadors.
“Cycling can be a bit exclusive, but it can also be beautiful. You get to meet so many people who will teach you and want to help you and just want to see you have a good time,” she said. “The kindness that has been shown to me brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.”
“No, I’m not a typical cyclist,” she reiterated. “All the other Rapha ambassadors are super fit and look amazing in their kits, and sure I see an obvious difference between them and me. But it’s less discouraging to me than it is exciting. I know that sounds very odd but I’m just excited that I can wear clothes that a brand makes a size for rather than having to go to a specialty retailer.”
Today, she’s keen to share her experiences, hoping it will inspire other women to give cycling a chance. And while she used to shy away from photos, today Krause is popping up in pictures everywhere with a smile that radiates off the page.
“Once you get on the bike, it can become anything to you whether you want to do a triathlon or bike to work. It’s just so freeing and fun,” she said. “There is no one size fits all. If I can come from this place and do it, than you can, too. All you need is a little curiosity.”
Krause says she still has a ways to go but knows no matter where life takes her next, the bike will play an integral part.
“Being on the bike is everything,” she said. “Being on a bike to me is a struggle, is happiness, it’s a confidence building, it’s a friendship maker, it’s a teacher, it’s inspiration. I have never left a ride saying ‘that was a bad idea’. There is something to be learnt every time I’m on it.”