Spotlight: Kara Bruce

BeatriceApril 16, 2019

How and when did you get your start in BMX?

Well, I was a skateboarder to begin with… but getting to skateparks in the UK (where I grew up) were quite far from the train stations, so some BMX dudes that would ride when my friend Natalie and I would skate sometimes, helped by giving me a $100 Walmart style BMX but battered and the brakes didn’t work (I remember because going down a hill I smashed into a wall because of this haha).

I was really reluctant to get into it. I met these guys Lee and Riley from USA who were stationed near Brandon UK. Lee and Riley would bring me to Adrenaline Alley with my skateboard and bike, and would try to get me to ride… Lee then gave me a frame and I tried to get into it but I was really anxious to not use my board and try something new with my health issues, but I tried here and there.

Kayley (Ashworth) would throw women’s events and I would go to some when I could. When it was her 20th birthday (around the same time as my 22nd) we had a joined party at Rampworx: but this time I didn’t bring my board so, this time I rode. I kind of liked it after that, to be honest, but still didn’t ride much more than a few times a year due to my health and fear of becoming sicker with activity. My health got better around age 25, did a trip to Spain with my friend Hazel and Toni and really started liking it.

Then… The winter of 2014 my boyfriend and I (we got together when I was 21) split and it was that year that things changed for me. Having Joyride150 nearby and riding with Kiera Bonifacio a few times: it really turned the tide and I was finally hooked! I also had a lot of health problems from 15-25 so physical activity wasn’t really a thing I could commit to (if curious, look up Myalgic Encephalomyelitis).

Basically, it was when I came to Canada that it became a time that I actually wanted to try tricks and learn things. So it took 5 years to butter me up, and here we are 4 years after that. Shoulda, woulda, coulda: but better late than never!

If someone was like… I think I’m too old to start something new like BMX, what’s your answer to that?

To be honest… If you think you’re too old for something, you may as well step in the coffin and close the door. I understand life gets in the way and maybe we don’t have time for things but, I’ve always believed we have time for things, it’s just about making time. Notice if you want something done, you ask a busy person? That’s because they have to really get prioritizing down to a T. I make sure I fit in riding time each week because I started as an adult and it can be tough as hell but, I make time because physical and mental health is a priority.

BMX and it’s physical benefits are obvious, but the sport is an active act of mindfulness so… why meditate when you could BMX!? Life is really short and as cliche, as it is, you regret things you don’t do, not as often do you regret the things you do do. Take it from someone who started late, just START. Motivation will never come, during action you will feel motivation so begrudgingly get a bike, and get on it! If you need help or advice, send me a message on insta!

You’ve been all over the world, could you list out your top 5 destinations and what made them stand out for bikes?

Unadilla, Nebraska, USA:  Go to The NoWear Compound for the Cornhuckit jam, you will never regret doing so. I can’t even begin to explain why you should go but… just do it!

Toronto/Joyride150: Ontario has so many outdoor parks, plus bikes can go on public transportation! I’ve traveled a lot but I’ve never found a place quite like Joyride150 – It’s got something for everyone on every level which is what a lot of places are lacking.

BLine in Calgary is pretty close to the city and hopefully, the scene will keep expanding out there!

Vancouver, Canada: End of Summer Jam (End of September at Richmond Skatepark) is almost like Canada’s mini Swamp Fest! I’m going to try to get out there in September as it’s such an amazing time!!! All the west coast guys are constantly putting on jams and being really inclusive to everyone in BMX. I felt so welcomed there I’m deeply considering moving out there for the vibes!

Malaga, Spain: Because Ruben’s bowl (and Ruben) is amazing!!! Malaga has such awesome vibes and is such a great place to be – the hook is fun to check out too (Barcelona is worth a trip too).

UK: Adrenaline Alley in Corby if you’re into indoor parks. Otherwise, the UK, in general, has an amazing girls scene and a great variety of indoor parks. Outdoor places are scattered too – London is one of my favorite destinations to ride outdoors.

Extra mentions: I do love some of the spots and people in Edmonton! It’s a shame winter is so fierce there haha.  Denver Colorado has some of the best people to ride with ever!!!

You also have had a number of really interesting cycling related jobs, could you list them out and what was memorable when you worked with them?

Street Velodrome: Athlete and freelance graphics and social media marketing for Street Velodrome was probably my favorite job! I hope to go back another summer!

Coach: Recently I volunteered as an assistant coach at Rays MTB (it’s on my list of top 3 indoor parks 😉 ) for this year’s Women’s Weekend and it was amazing! I’ve also coached at Joyrides Women’s Weekend for the past few years now and love it! Of course, I coached with Street Velodrome, VeloRefined and at various women’s events – before that though I coached skateboarding a lot in the UK too.

Freelance Remote Bicycle Mechanic: I did bicycle mechanics over the summer for some large tech company and I hope to reintroduce this into my life at some point because it was super fun and probably one of my favorite mechanic jobs!

Freelance Digital Marketing: I’ve been on and off the freelance game for things such as Graphic Design, Marketing Consultant and Social Media Marketing. These were generally for cycling related brands. One was data collection I did for a company where the Sales guy is a BMX rider so was a nice common interest to get my foot in the door! I’m now studying UX/UI Design and like the learning curve with coding. Did I say like? I meant hate. No, I love studying this, it’s super hard but really rewarding when you get something!

Lead hand at Joyride 150: Where it all began! I worked there for a season where I was basically a type of manager, party coordinator, coach, painter, cleaner… if you like a variety that’s where it’s at! Unfortunately, I had to leave as I decided to pursue my familial responsibilities for a few months out west. Things were very hard at the time for my family at that time. Great job, great people, amazing park, owners are fabulous and just, fantastic. Go there!

Bicycle Mechanic and Marketing at VeloRefined: It was in a bike park near London called Cyclopark. I got to be a MTB Coach at Women’s events with the rep from Scott Bikes and test ride the bikes there. I also held a Bike Repair Workshop there a few times (mixed genders) for the store which was awesome! The dudes really listened intently and had great questions without batting an eye that a chick was telling them how to fix their bikes if anything they got a kick out of it. The marketing aspect was updating the website, other boring computer stuff, stock systems and merchandising.

I did some volunteer digging on Vancouver Island with Dylan King. Amazing trails builder, I learned a lot from him!

For several months you lived in a van, you got to ride bikes and see more of North America, could you run through the logistics of how you made that happen and what single advice you wish you had known before your adventure started?

I wish I had done it sooner.

I set myself a deadline – by age xyz I need to do abc. I’m still living to this now. The breaking of my ankle and recurrent surgeries really made competing difficult, as it also damaged my self-confidence a lot. The timing of that break was probably the worst ever! I had the job for Street Velodrome lined up in the UK (which I still did, just started later) and I didn’t start riding BMX at any reasonable capacity for 5/6 months. I could ride a bike but, standing was the issue.

I bring up the ankle because I wish I knew that’d happen haha… I set up my deadline to be 30 to do the van thing. I managed, but it was on a much tighter budget than anticipated due to a lot of jobs being missed out on due to exhaustion of healing after such an injury while still going through the motions of bereavement. I also wanted to start studying again if I hadn’t secured a steady remote job by that age (I have managed so far, but I wanted something more consistent). So now, I am studying and putting that first. The van living has been on pause since December and I plan to resume once school is over. My family lives all over and this is the most realistic way of saving money I can think of to be able to actually see my family members more than once every 5 years.

Set deadlines and stick to them!

Where did you park your van when it came time to sleep, what’s a safe spot and what was the sketchiest spot you parked for the night?

When doing it in Markham, ON I would park at GO stations (transit parking) as you can park up to 2 nights so I would alternate. Contrary to popular belief, not all Walmarts allow overnight parking! My friends got towed in the USA and I researched this a few years ago when I traveled with my ex for 3 months in a Dodge Caravan. There is a bylaw of no street parking between 2-6am (all year round) in a lot of Ontario cities so that made it tough sometimes. Be sure to read about bylaws if you choose to embark on such a quest! During my road trip, I would wing it and find places with street parking and save them on my google maps for the future.

There was a huge truck stop in Iowa and I had a mini adventure with a dude on a Harley. He was trying to help me find something to wedge my battery clamps together as the previous owner overtightened them and they were scarily loose.

Did you have any creative meals while on the road?

Not particularly, I like most food. Oatmeal at breakfast with dried fruit and nuts if I could. I got a 12v water heating contraption at a truck stop so I can just pop it in water and it’ll heat the water right quick! Lunch often was cottage cheese and fruit or a sandwich of crunchy peanut butter and banana.

Dinner would vary so often as I was frequently visiting with friends so we’d often cook together. I couldn’t even say. I often would meal prep things like tortellini pasta with vegetables in pots for a few days or vegetarian chili with rice.

Sure eating the same thing for a few days can be a little dull so I would usually add something or change it up the odd time. I had a cooler and would freeze water bottles here and there so I couldn’t be too inventive. The idea was cost saving, not wasting. I snacked on fruit and veg a lot more – those mixed salad bags were a great option (superfood 8 went on sale certain days so that was rad)!

Switching gears, now that the UCI has invaded freestyle BMX, and you’ve lived through the competitions, do you like this new partnership? 

I mean, I agree there are a lot of pros and cons. The main pro I can see developing from this is that it almost forces competitions to have a girls class which spreads awareness and gives women a goal that wasn’t there before! I foresee a lot more girls coming out of the woodwork – maybe not all to compete, but just with the idea that the sport is accessible to them as before, they would have to look for women riders, now it’s presented to them a little more.

I think the con is also around competition and the nature of competing. It’s not “Freestyle” as much as it was. I mean this in terms of the types of tricks and how things are judged which naturally, creates some restrictions – if there wasn’t it wouldn’t be something we could tally! But there is likely going to be a resurgence of more jams and more “fun” local BMX events, in a way to rebel to exclaim what “real” BMX is, or because there is more interest in the sport, thus, get it while it’s hot!

If you had to ballpark the cost of competing in a season, how much would you say you spent if you could break it down?

Too much ahaha.
At the top of my head…

  • UCI license $100+
  • Insurance to compete at $45 I think?
  • Places to stay… For France, I had to hotel it and shared with Sarah and Trista which I think was 3-400 each for the week?
  • In Edmonton, I was gonna stay in my van and pay to park but some girls had hotel space so I bunked with them.
  • Food is an unknown amount but France would have cost more for sure. Think how much you spend on vacation, probably the same?
  • Plane tickets cost a fortune (look them up online right now for the dates of any FISE/UCI events and they’ll cost a bundle) and then fees for a bike, travel insurance if you want it, and all that fun stuff.  I feel like they were $7-900? I can’t recall at the top of my head.

So, if you want to compete, pray that you don’t need extra bike parts, medical help or have to rent a hotel room on your own! Not to mention the costs of riding places where you can actually practice anything as entry fees and gas add up!

In the chance that there may be a young Canadian girl reading this, what does she need to do/ work on, who does she need to talk to, to compete in the 2024 Olympics one day?

Reach out to one of us (Steph or Sarah or all of us!) and let us know where you’re at! We can go from there! It’s a case by case basis right, so it’s hard to give general advice but I mean… save money is my biggest tip. Save, save, save.

Congrats on joining the Nowear team, how did you guys meet and in case someone doesn’t know, what or who is Nowear?

I entered a video competition via Women Of Freestyle after staying in Malaga and my video was my “edit” of that trip:

I won! With that came flight tickets to the Bike Like a Girl event at the NoWear compound through Reklamation Bikes. It was honestly one of the best things to happen as the NoWear Compound, the riders there and everyone involved have had a huge impact on my life. I fit in naturally with them all and we share a sense of humor and just all get along so great, it was a natural progression I suppose. I felt like part of the family as it was, but this just made me feel like they appreciate me too, ya know?

Sponsorship to me means spreading the word about a brand you really believe in. These guys are more than a brand, they are a family, a group of friends, a place of refuge and acceptance to many. How many brands do that for people? I’ve made the trip to the last couple of Cornhuckit Jams (July 13th, 2019), even though it is a 16hr drive (or 2 plane trips). I really love the NoWear Compound!
Many thanks to WOF and Reklamation Bikes for changing my life!

What’s the game plan for 2019, any competitions or BMX trips coming up?
(I likely won’t be able to do them all, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try!)

  • Woodward PA adult weekend May 3-5th
  • Canadian BMX Day at Richmond Hill skatepark (weekend of Canada Day which is July 1st)
  • I’m going to try to make some Harvester BMX street jams this summer! Always a rad time
  • Cornhuckit with NoWear BMX July 13th
  • Vancouver in September maybe for EOS and to visit family.
  • Posh and Catty Woods Womens Weekend Sept 28/29 if it doesn’t clash too much with EOS!
  • November or October I plan to visit my Mom and friends the UK if possible – depends on how school goes.

Prev Post

Video : Jesse Gregory

Next Post

FISE Hiroshima 2019 Schedule