Once a passionate skier and indifferent biker, Carrie Tomczyk fell in love with mountain biking after the birth of her first child, when some female friends took her under their wing. She’s returning the favor by offering a series of Wednesday night women’s rides on the Kingdom Trails and by offering Kingdom Tours to visiting cyclists.
VS: Why do you love mountain biking?
CT: I love the bike and I love the trails we have here, and the challenge and the adrenaline. I think mostly I love the simplicity and complexity of the machine and the fact that I get to power it myself.
VS: Can you explain “the simplicity and complexity?”
CT: The simplicity comes from the fact that it’s just two wheels and a small light skeletal machine, but there is complexity in the way the gears and the suspension work together and how much engineering is put into it so it can be something that does so much and goes so fast and far and balances over rocks and roots with just human power. It amazes me.
VS: How long have you been riding?
CT: I would go out once in a while in my late teens and 20s, but I was always with a boyfriend and it was always frustrating and I never really enjoyed it. When I was 30, after I had just given birth to Avery, a group of local women riders who are good friends of mine invited me to go with them. They understood my time constraints and how much work it was to have a baby but they assured me they would go at my pace and get me back in time to nurse my daughter. I was so appreciative of being with other women who knew what it was like to be a mom, and I totally fell in love with the sport. We started going regularly and I started getting better and then I started going out with my husband and keeping up with him. Now I want to pay it forward.
VS: Can you explain that?
CT: I want to encourage other women to get out on the trails. I started a weekly women’s ride on Wednesday night four or five years ago. It’s a free group ride for women for all abilities. It’s a great way for women to get out on the trails with a supportive group of their peers. Everyone comes back and says they had so much fun. Most women return at least a couple of times throughout the summer. There are lots of women who come to be ride leaders and volunteer their support and trail knowledge. There is a true beginner group, a slower intermediate group, a faster intermediate group and a fast group for women who want to come out and rip with other women. It gives me such joy every week. It feels so good to see them have success.
VS: Tell us about Kingdom Tours?
CT: Kingdom Tours is something we started in May. It’s a mountain bike tour company where we take people individually or in groups of six or less and give them a nice tour on the Kingdom Trails. We try to make it as effortless for them as possible. People who are here on vacation or for a conference or wedding can get out and ride without having to think about where to go, where to eat, etc. We’ve got local tour guides to make sure the ride is flow-y and the ability level is appropriate.
VS: When did you start working at Village Sport Shop?
CT: My father started it in 1978 and he passed away about six years ago, so my brother and I took it over. We always knew we would, but it happened faster than we thought.
VS: You must be thrilled with how the sport of mountain biking is growing?
CT: It’s great for business. The numbers are growing every year for sure and we’ve been able to offer higher-end bikes than we have in the past because we have more knowledgeable clientele, and it’s helped us sharpen our focus on bikes. We were able to eliminate some categories that were just fillers to give more room. It’s great that it’s something we are so passionate about.
VS: Is it painful to be in the shop, outfitting someone who is getting the chance to go outside while you’re doing the books?
CT: Something that I’ve built into my life is time to ride. That’s what it’s all about—balancing the important parts of life and one of those, after children and home, is self and part of self is health and fitness and enjoyment and passion, and biking is where that comes from for me. My husband is equally passionate. I understand his need to get out and he understands my need to get out. When I’m grumpy, the kids will tell me I need to go out for a ride.
VS: What changes have you made in the business since you took the reins?
CT: It’s more organized and we’ve opened up the building and made it brighter and painted it to add color and warmth to the inside. We’ve honed in our focus on the areas that we know work and the areas where we have passion and knowledge. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy golf and soccer and camping equipment but nowadays you have to be so knowledgeable about your product. We’ve got the most incredible staff we’ve ever had and everyone has their area or areas of expertise so they can really focus. We still like to have some knowledge of the other departments but we have specialists, as well. That allows us to offer the customer a better experience.
VS: What other sports do you do?
CT: I hike and I ski. Skiing used to be my favorite activity growing up. I dreamed of being an Olympic skier and I knew I wanted to live near a ski resort, but eight years ago biking became number one. I still ski, though, and Alpine touring has been a growing focus of mine and the store. I love Burke Mountain and I’ll always love skiing there, but biking is now a year-round sport for me. I have a Surly Necromancer. It’s the perfect addition to the winter quiver because when the skiing is scratchy, icy, and lousy, the biking is usually really good.