As we draw closer to the exciting reality of being able to ride together again, we begin our ramp up of communications for all four Belgian Waffle Rides, the first of which is 81 days away, GULP. Over the coming weeks we will be sharing with you specific information about the events, their routes, their idiosyncrasies and the special people who make up the fabric of the BWR peloton, which has grown dramatically over the last year.
First up, we have a regularly committed Waffle performer... one who inspires many to not only get out there and reach for more but to also do so in style. Her athletic, artistic and ambitious ways provide a colorful dynamic on the roads and trails around San Diego and amongst the legion of other riders attempting to complete the most unique cycling event in the country.
Kristin Mayer: Founder/CEO, Designer, Mom, Triathlete, Cyclist, Badass
MMX: Growing up you were a Tomboy. How has your childhood informed what you do now as an athlete, designer, business owner, mother and partner?
KM: I need to give credit where credit is due. There was something inside but a lot of that came from my dad. He saw my love of sports + cultivated it. He told me I could do anything I set my mind to with hard work + to “be tough.” I loved to try to beat the boys and I still do.
The thing with being a Tomboy is that it is not easy. You are always trying to beat someone or something and since you don’t have any boyfriends you have more time to practice, work, worrying about winning.
All of that translated into whatever success I had (and will hopefully continue to have as an) endurance athlete. There is no better expression of grinding, putting in the work, and trying to win than endurance sports. Little did I know that being a tomboy, working at endurance sports for 20 years, was really just training for owning and managing a business. Endurance sports are pretty much the same as running a business minus the sweat and Saturday afternoons on the couch smashed from training. Every woman ex-Tomboy business owner will tell you the secret to business success is setting a goal + working hard + stumbling + falling + failing+ getting back up + repeat = if you are good at what you do eventually you win.
There is, however, a yin and yang with the whole Tomboy thing. There is a duality there that is a pain in the ass to deal with and it took me years to overcome. I have an inner tomboy drive offset by a propensity to second guess my self. For years, sports were the only time where I could say screw the second guessing and let out the demons. With business and relationships, unfortunately, I didn’t really find my voice until I took a leap with Betty Designs and I was forced to be in charge of everything with nobody to fall back on. Until Betty, I was alway a bit “too nice” and sacrificed my needs because it was easier that way. It took a while but these days, I’m not afraid to disagree in conversation but that kind of makes me a tough partner and in some ways. I wouldn’t say I am “easy”, but I am honest. It takes a special person to keep up with my energy level, drive to stay fit, and strong opinions. Thankfully I found someone who finally “gets me.”
While my parenting style doesn’t necessarily have to literally with my dad pushing me in sports—well maybe it does because my upbringing and relationship with my parents is pretty awesome—I learned how to parent from my parents. They were always open, honest, loving and I could talk to them about absolutely ANYTHING which made it awkward at times. They pushed me to be the best version of me and to work hard. As a mom I do exactly that. My perseverance from being a tomboy definitely helps. I don’t give up when parenting gets hard. I am willing to talk about anything my son brings my way even if it’s the hard stuff. I lead by example with my work ethic. I talk to him about how satisfying it is to work hard and make things happen for yourself.
MMX: What’s the hardest race you’ve ever done?
KM: BWR 2016.
You would think 20 years in triathlon the answer would be some Kona something or other right? Wrong. In 2016, I showed up for the Waffle and, along with my Trek Madone and rim brakes, I had NO business being there. The roadies make fun of triathlete bike handling skills and I let's just say sometimes stereotypes are there for a reason. Anyway, despite my bike handling and irrational fear of the dirt the tomboy thing was taking over and I was hell bent on doing the Waffle because very few women even dared toe the start line. I was out there for over 12 hours. My mind was broken. My entire body was in agony for a week afterwards but the stoke was all time.
For the record, that route with Lusardi was miserable. People were cutting the course left and right. I don’t miss the old BWR route.
MMX: What inspired you to create Betty Designs? What’s next for you as you continue to grow the brand?
KM: Betty Designs was built out of necessity and love of being a mom. Going through a divorce forced me figure out my next move professionally. When that happened in 2010, I was working as a freelance graphic designer. The money wasn’t enough to pay the mortgage. I didn’t want to take a corporate job with strict hours and a long commute. I wanted to be at home and have the flexibility I needed to raise my son. I met Matt (my current husband) and I was a complete tomboy shit-show at the time. Not kidding. He had just sold his business and as was giving me free business advice which I wasn’t taking. I am not sure what he saw in my puddle of humanity at the time but he pushed me to launch my own brand. Eventually, I succumbed (I really had no other choice) and the rest is history.
The Betty mission has always been the same. Create endurance sports apparel that isn’t for everyone, but catches your eye and makes you take notice. I want my designs to empower the women who pull them on. Make them a bit more self-confident, stand a little taler, then push themselves a bit harder in training and racing. I’ve been in my best creative space in the last 6 months and have so many things I want to do to expand into apparel that I can wear doing all the sports I love (cycling, running, swimming, surfing, skiing, XC skiing, skimo + backcountry skiing). All with a HUGE element of style + attitude.
MMX: What sort of training gets you ready for the BWR each year?
KM: I cannot be trusted to train without a coach. I’m like everyone else and always I think I’m doing too little + find myself getting into trouble over-training and comparing Strava segments + watts, which leads to complete exhaustion. Back in my triathlon days I had a coach whom I loved working with, so each year I hire him leading into BWR. He knows me better than I know myself when it comes down to what training volume I can handle. I believe in really hard efforts on the trainer, easy days, and those long days to prepare myself mentally for the challenge. I never ride over 7 hours in a single day leading into the race, but my build includes stacking back-to-back days on the bike that don’t tax the body as much as a single 10 hour riding day would do. Matt used to train with Arnie Baker, and we use his 12-week HIT program trainer workouts once per week to build our fitness from the ground up. It’s really helped my cycling. All in all, I’ve been able to build weekly riding volume over the years and dropped over 2 hours from my BWR finish time.
MMX: What is your bike set-up for the BWR? Has it changed over the years?
KM: As I mentioned, in my first BWR I was on an aero road bike with rim brakes. At the time they hadn’t coined the term “gravel bike” but we had touring and cyclocross bikes with disk brakes so I had one of those for three years. Finally, in 2020, I was blessed with an opportunity to work with OPEN and I got my Betty X Open Upper frame tricked out with everything from my sponsors including ENVE, Wahoo, IRC Tire, and ROKA. As we all know the 2020 BWR didn’t happen due to Ms. Rona but that is what I will be riding in 2021. Over the last 6 years, I would say my equipment has improved dramatically.
MMX: What’s the hardest thing about the BWR?
KM: There are two hard things. 1) the course 2) deciding what tires to ride.
As far as the course goes, it is hard because every year it is different. Some of the difference is because of the sand, heat, and whatever they do to the dang road in black canyon. Some years it is hard because of the stupid extra turns and little hills that are always thrown in at the end when you are like so close to the finish yet so far. That last hour, when you see a turn that you didn’t expect, will crush even the most determined tomboy.
As far as tires go, I still have no idea. Maybe nobody knows the right answer. We always ride 28mm smooth tires since there is so much road and I try to make up my biggest time gains in the road sections. I get the whole lower tire pressure, better in the dirt, comfort thing, but I still cant get past the speed gains I feel on the road. Queue the bike nerd who is going to DM me about rolling resistance 3…2….1…
MMX: What’s the best thing about the BWR?
KM: Nothing better than crossing that finish line! Definitely, doing it with friends. The camaraderie on the course in knowing we are suffering together, yet having the time of our lives. Sharing war stories over Lost Abbey beer. Celebrating that bond formed from suffering + laughing throughout the day on the course (mostly afterwards on the laugh part).
MMX: Do you make a special kit to race in for the BWR?
KM: Ummmmm……D-U-H. Back in my triathlon days, I always designed myself a special race kit and BWR is no different. The goal is to design something unique in my favorite BWR base color—white. Wearing white in BWR is really funny. Who wears a white kit? They are not flattering but look soooo sharp. The irony of riding in white on dirt with sweat + sunscreen is hysterical. The last few years I’ve done a custom white version of our Betty Squad kits.
This year I will be riding in a skin suit. Seriously.
MMX: Who most inspires you athletically? Artistically? Spiritually?
KM: Inspiration is tough. It comes when it comes and you can’t force it. Sometimes I come up with 2 collections in a weekend and sometimes it just isn’t flowing. Unfortunately I don’t get to choose when it comes or what inspires me. Last week I took an inspiration for a kit from the HD screensaver on the Apple TV. It is everywhere and it is nowhere.
So, artistically, there is no single who person that inspires me. In general, however, it is fashion. High fashion, couture, and streetwear. When it isn’t flowing, I dive into international editions of Vogue + my trend service and get lost for days. I’ve got bookcases of rad design and photography books.
Athletically, I am also all over the place chasing shiny things. It has to do with who is standing out in their particular sport in the moment, kicking ass, and having a presence that stands out from their competitors. Sometime it’s the current female World Cup Alpine points leader, the hottest guys in the Netflix Formula 1 Series, or one of my ambassadors that accomplishes something for the first time. There really isn’t a single who that inspires me athletically. It is everyone and it is no-one at the same time.
Spiritually, I grew up on the east coast, was baptized in the Greek Orthodox church, and was mandated to attend weekly Sunday school so that is in there as a baseline. I don’t practice any sort of formal religion but I do believe in what many now consider cliche like The Ten Commandments, basic principles of being a good human, and Karma. In a nutshell, try to be at the best I can be, improve on yesterday, and whatever guides me in that direction, I use for inspiration.