Spotlight: Stephanie Nychka
She’s real, raw and all inspiring. For some, it’s the fact that she’s a mom and a badass rider, for others like myself, I appreciate that she’s open and honest about her BMX journey. Stephanie is a part of a very small pool of female riders representing Canada in competitions like FISE and we took some time to learn about her, but we only broke the surface at best.
Age: Old enough to have 3 kids, a doctorate and a ton of student loans.
Location: Calgary, Alberta
When and how did you get into riding bikes and I mean before competing in BMX – what’s your bike history?
I started riding urban (hard tails) when I was around 20 and living in Edmonton, which quickly evolved into freeriding and racing downhill. After a few years of living in Whistler and Portland, my passion for slopestyle and dirt jumping emerged. There are so few women who do this style of riding, I’d always be seated with the guys. I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden in the Crankworx Slopestyle (the only woman to have ever done so), as well as the Red Bull Freezeride (one of two women to be invited). I started organizing SlopeSistair, a women’s freeride event that drew women from all over North America, because there really is no way for women in mountain biking to advance if they don’t race. I raced 4x for a year in the Jeep Series event for that reason, and even that was eventually disbanded.
What motivated the idea to give BMX a try and how did you find the transition?
I was continually looking for options to take my riding to the next level. Cory Coffey and Nikita Ducarroz assistant coached at a couple mtb clinics in Tahoe where they tried their hand at hard tails and dirt jumping, and they in turn encouraged me to give the 2017 Edmonton FISE a shot. I bought a bike off a 12-year old boy from kijiji (it was far too small) and drove to Edmonton the following week, never having ridden a bmx or skate park. FISE was an eye opener- I would have been much more comfortable competing in the mountain bike slopestyle! Once I started riding bmx at BLine (our indoor bike park), transitioning initially wasn’t that difficult but I’ve been finding that even after a year, riding a skatepark is still intimidating and not at all easy.
On a side note: I first met Ms Coffey when Specialized sent her to compete in SlopeSistair!
You did amazing at FISE, thank you for representing Canada! HOWEVER, I see you were kinda disappointed in yourself. Could you walk us through what Edmonton was like, what your expectations were leading up to the event, and how you’re feeling now looking back.
Oh, I don’t think I’d use the word ‘amazing’. I was definitely disappointed – I hoped that I would qualify for finals but once I started riding the course I realized I hadn’t properly prepared myself. I had spent so much time having fun learning tricks and bouncing back and forth between a hardtail and BMX, that I’d completely disregarded the other skills necessary to compete on a FISE course. I didn’t have the stamina or flow to throw any of my bigger tricks and that was difficult because I felt I had so much more to bring to my runs.
In addition to the above, what lessons did you learn that you could pass over to others?
I don’t know if I am the right person to ask for advice. 🙂 There are so many parts to freestyle BMX and most girls who compete have so much experience riding each of the different disciplines: street, park, vert and trail. You definitely can’t get away with being a one trick pony. An athlete really needs to focus on all elements of their riding in order to succeed on these courses.
In a nutshell, what’s the overall challenge with FISE?
The challenge of the FISE course is having an arsenal of tricks to take to quarters, big boxes and transfers, and flow between features in order to have the speed and amplitude to execute them.
Are you looking to compete in the Olympics? What’s your plan for Tokyo 2020?
To be honest I’m just focusing on improving my riding each time I get out, so that I can see tangible progress every event. I’ve always had a dream to go to the Olympics either as an athlete or a chiropractor- I’m open to either.
As of right now, BMX is very much on the bottom of the totem pole is terms of the support and funds provided. Unless it’s changed since I last checked, I don’t believe the women are provided anything right now. It’s easy to guess what you’d need in an ideal world (travel expense, training support, etc), but if you could ask Cycling Canada for a minimum level support that didn’t involve money upfront, what do you think the ladies would need?
It would be incredible to have coaches or mentors in order to create a competitive group of riders, and instill confidence in us. In dreamland, we would also have access to Sports Medicine facilities as well as Strength & Conditioning professionals, and have accommodations to train in different locations. I would also need a cute water boy/man.
Are you still a practicing chiropractor today and if you are, how are you balancing the competition, being a mom and the chiropractor life style?
I’m not currently working as a chiropractor as I have a 2, 4 and 6 year old at home, and am not licensed to work in Canada (I took my DC in the US). Instead I started a luxury concierge business for Calgary professionals that I can run from home. I wouldn’t be able to do much of what I do without my husband- if he was like me, we’d be a mess. He knows how important riding is to me and we’ve made it a priority for me to train as well as attend a few MTB and BMX events each year.
As a chiropractor, is there anything you’re noticing from other riders that bugs you? Like… when people don’t stretch enough, or omg look at that joint etc etc. Something that a professional would pick up.
Not specifically. I find the thing I notice right away are injuries, and I always do my best to diagnose them (based on what little information I know, or the crash itself) before they visit another professional. I find a lot of the higher level athletes are pretty serious when it comes to diet, exercise and appropriate recovery time from injuries.
Who inspires your riding?
I find the people who inspire me change as my riding evolves. Currently, there are a few riders at BLine who inspire me: Joel, 40 year old friend who picked up park last November, who has methodically taught himself (and me) how to do some very technical tricks because he loves the challenge; and Carson Donovan, a fearless 16 year old, addicted to the thrill of riding and attempting new things. My 6 year old daughter Maiken’s progression also amazes me and being able to share it with her brings so much joy to my riding. She reminds me why I’ve continued to try pushing the women’s side of mountain biking.
What do you want to say to the ladies who think they’re too “old” to start biking?
WTF! You’re calling me old, respect your elders! No one is too ‘old’ to start riding- many of the women who take up mountain biking in our clinics are over 30, and it makes them all smile more than they did on their wedding day.