Spreading Her Love of Bikes
Teacher, bike racer and SRAM Ambassador Anja Kallenbach hopes to motivate more women to ride
Anja Kallenback shares our passion for cycling, and cycling technology. As a committed cyclist and an advocate for women’s cycling, we’re proud to have her riding SRAM, Zipp and Quarq this year. The 33-year-old math teacher lives in Germany’s Black Forest and specializes in mountainous races across Europe (though she especially loves the Dolomites). She’s a frequent blogger who speaks German, French and English. Anja uses her extensive communication skills to help encourage women to take up cycling through her More Women on Bikes project. You can follow her adventures at www.anja-kallenbach.com and learn more about her in the interview below:
How did you get into cycling?
I had to stop running because of some knee problems and didn´t really know what to do. A friend took me to some guided tours, but riding my trekking bike between all the race bikes was very frustrating. Then I read a newspaper article on the "T-mobile Jedermann team". T-mobile wanted to create a team of non-professional cyclists and everybody could apply, so I did. And I was chosen! So I got into cycling in Mallorca at a 10-day-training camp, where we cycled more than 100km every day. It was only my third time on a racing bike and I had never cycled in a huge group and never for so long. So that was quite a challenging start, but I learned so much and the bike virus infected me deeply.
What do you like best about cycling?
I love beautiful landscapes and getting to know other countries. A bike is the perfect vehicle for this. Cycling also has taught me a lot about myself. It is my meditation exercise (whenever I have problems I go out on my bike). You get to know your physical limits and you get to know that your will can overtake them. That gave me a lot of strength for normal life, too. And I love the technical side of this sport: the bike itself. I love setting my bikes up myself and thus getting to know how everything exactly works. I am fascinated by all the technical aspects in a bike from the building of a carbon frame up to how a wider rim changes the aerodynamics. There is so much to learn.
Besides being a cyclist, you are also a full-time teacher? How do you balance work and cycling?
Colleagues often ask me how I manage that. I always say, ‘Make a week’s list of the time you spend on watching TV, hanging around, surfing on the web for no reason.’ This is my training time. My television is only running two times a year: Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. I come home, I go out for training and then I work in the evening up to 11 or 12 p.m., and then I sleep. Of course the next question is: 'Don't you miss anything?' No, I don't. Cycling gives me so much, and I meet most of my friends on the bike. Of course I also try to spend time with my non-cycling friends as often as possible.
How does your job as a teacher influence you as an athlete?
Of course I have the advantage that half of my working time is at home, so I can work in the evening and can go out on the bike or in winter on the skis before it gets dark. School holidays give me more time than others to travel with my bike. But it has disadvantages too: I can't take a free day when I need it. One of my favorite races, the TOUR Transalp, is not during the school holidays, so I can never participate. During the race season I am in France every weekend, racing 6-7 hours on Sundays, then I come home late. But on Monday morning I have to be at school with full concentration because in a class of 30 students you need your full attention to help everybody as individually as possible.
Tell us more about your project More Women on Bikes.
You still see many more men cycling than women. Also in professional cycling, women don't get much attention. I learned a lot about that when I worked as a cycling guide in Mallorca. All the men I rode with had sporty women with them, but they went running or did yoga and didn't want to go biking. This has two reasons: They don't want to go alone, because they are afraid of technical problems like a flat tire, and together with their partners they tried once, but didn't like it because the men are always going too fast for them. So it was in Mallorca where I started this project. In my free time I persuaded them to come for a lovely ride, gave courses how to change a tire and how to fix the gears and they all got the same virus like me and are still cycling. Since then I have tried to show all women I meet the beauty of cycling. I organize courses like fixing problems on my bike, how to go downhill, how to ride in a group... I am proud to have even motivated women in India to start to learn cycling.
What are the highlights of your time in cycling?
It’s difficult to make a choice. But the first highlight was when I was standing on top of the Stelvio for the first time, which is still my favorite mountain. Standing there for the first time with the view of all those beautiful curves I had climbed on my own was unforgettable. I had started cycling only four months before, so going to the Stelvio and back, a 180km ride, was a big challenge for me. Of course my first victory in a bike race, which was the Time-Megeve-Mont Blanc, was unforgettable too. I will never forget hearing the voice of the speaker: "Here comes the first female finishing the long parcours..." and I simply couldn´t believe he was talking about me. But the most important highlight was, for sure, my crossing of the Alps in three weeks. I crossed the Alps riding from Vienna to Nice, that means 2,276km and 47 mountains! But the biggest challenge was the weather. The first two weeks it rained and snowed almost all the time and at other times the temperature rose up to 42 degrees C. And as I did this to raise funds for "Doctors Without Borders," I wrote my blog every evening in three languages. Without SRAM WiFLi this would never have been possible as I had to carry my belongings with me in the first week. Mentally and physically this was the hardest thing I did on the bike. You can read everything about this adventure here: www.anja-kallenbach.com
Tell us about your 2015 schedule.
I put my cross county skis away in February to fly to Mallorca and start the bike season there. This is a really beautiful place to cycle, especially in spring. With 1000km there, it was a good start. When there is still a lot of snow, I train on a hill area not far from my home, where you find short, but very steep climbs up to 20 percent to gain strength in my legs. I am always happy when it is possible to cycle in the Black Forest again. Climbing up all huge Black Forest mountains in one day is a traditional tour we do once a year. Of course I can´t wait to go back to the Alps and when the huge climbs are open I go training in the French or Swiss Alps all the weekends. When the holidays start at the beginning of June I always travel to my favorite area, a little village called Riffian near the Dolomites and near such epic climbs as the Stelvio and the Timmelsjoch. This is always the hardest, but most beautiful week of the year. June and July, I spend all weekends racing in France. This summer I will spend some time in the French Alps with my boyfriend. We want to become members of the "club du fou du Mont Ventoux". For this you have to climb up all three sides in one day. And we want to climb of course: Izoard, Galibier, Bonnette, Col d´Agnel – as many mountains as our power and the weather allow. This summer I will also visit my parents, but where they live it is flat, I don´t know how I did all my training there before. But it is a good training area for my first triathlon, which I will do at the end of August. It’s just a sprint one because I am really not good at swimming. In September the time trial season begins in France. Of course as a climber I am really bad on a time trial bike, but it is so much fun! I write about all my activities on my blog: www.anjakallenbach.jimdo.com
What do you like best about riding SRAM's Force 22 group set?
Force 22 is an improvement on the performance of the Force group set I rode before. Especially the Yaw technology for the front derailleur brings about a big change in speed and precision. For me a really great feature is the integrated chain spotter. With SRAM WiFLi I can tell you with an 11-32 cassette you even don´t get afraid of the Zoncolan!
For the first time you are training and racing with hydraulic disc brakes? What do you like about disc brakes?
When disc brakes came out I was not very convinced that they are a useful and necessary feature for a road bike. Luckily, SRAM gave me the chance to test them. Disc brakes make you faster, because they are stronger and more precise. You don't believe me that strong brakes make you faster? As the braking distance is shorter you can start braking much later before a curve, in rain this effect is even stronger of course. I am really impressed! I was still a little bit worried, because such a strong brake power can lock your wheels and this is dangerous. After the first hard race I can say, it is the opposite. The precision with which you can modulate these brakes is so finely graduated, I am absolutely impressed and don't want to ride without them again.
You train with Quarq power meter. What is the advantage?
Your pulse rate is different every day, but a power meter doesn't lie. Once you know your normal power, it tells you exactly where in your training you are. It helps to motivate during interval training, but it also tells you when your body is really tired and it’s better to take a rest. I am a bit like a diesel engine. I am not really fast, but I can keep up a certain level for hours. On the first mountain of the race all the girls pass me. This is not very easy, so I put the focus on my power meter and go on close to my limit. Then after 100km I start to pass all the others.
What do you like about Zipp?
I ride the 30 Course Clincher now. The wheels are super stiff and for sure contribute a lot to the super precise handling of the bike, and to the look of the bike, too! I especially like the hubsets with the silver stripes and the wider rims are beautiful too. I mostly thought of Zipp as mainly a wheel maker. That was a big mistake. For this reason the biggest surprise about my bike was this precious combination of bar, stem and seatpost from Zipp, absolutely beautiful. The Service Course SL-70 Ergo has all the features I like – contoured top section for a natural ergonomic grip, compact reach and drop dimensions and a scale to set your shifters to the same level. What else could you wish for?
What would you say to convince somebody to ride?
Well, come with me on a ride of course. When you feel the wind on your face, how the circular movement of your legs relaxes your mind, and see the sun in the spokes, and the beautiful landscape passing by, I can't imagine that you will go on searching for the perfect sport afterwards.
Anja Kallenbach rides SRAM Force 22, Zipp 30 Course wheels and uses Quarq power measurement. Follow her on Twitter @anjakallenbach and on www.anjakallenbach.jimdo.com