ADAB Profile #2: Dena Kinate — This Wild Horse Just Wants to Roam Free (Part 2)

First, go to this link to read Part 1 of my profile of this interesting woman, strong bike rider and awesome massage therapist.

She’s Got Legs, and She Knows How to Use Them

ZZ Top didn’t write that song about her, but she can go on a long ride of 75 miles or more at will. Nowadays, she’ll go on a few rides here and there, sometimes with a group, but often just her. Mostly Dena just rides to stay thin and fit. She just turned 36 and is aware she’s not getting any younger. 

When asked about any hardships she has had on the bicycle, she said none really, but tapped her head. “It’s up here,” she said. For her, biking is a way to get out her aggression. Minnesota was fully of people who were fake nice, but here in Austin it’s the hipsters. Sort of joking, sort of not, she said she, “hates people but loves individuals.” Riding a bike makes her calm down and has a healing effect.

Dena loves to pick some rural mountain towns and just go explore. Last year she went on a solo bike trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee, Asheville, North Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina. “Today my name shall be Crown Collector, tomorrow I’ll be Dena again” was one of her Strava ride titles. (A crown is a Queen of the Mountain which means the best time anyone has ever done on a certain segment of road; she got eight of them just on one ride!) She also visited some friends but was happiest going out on her own on bike rides, until a yellow jacket stung her on her leg. It still bothered her knee so she ended up bingeing on some pizza and watching movies at her AirBnB. So, she’s human after all. I have come to think of Ms. Kinate like a wild mustang:  strong, proud and not really tameable.  Why would you even try? 

Asked to describe herself, she used words like Type A, recovering perfectionist, thinks too much, feels too deeply, and vain but self-aware.  She’s also incredibly confident, very direct, honest and not at all modest.  She can’t stand false modesty.  Dena wants her Prince Charming but is never satisfied, but it seems she may have finally met her man.  She keeps the Serenity Prayer on her key chain. 

Her favorite ride in Austin is Bee Caves and 360.  Coming down and seeing the canyons and views reminds her of why she moved here.  When pressed about what makes her tick, and go out on a bike, she “wants to stay sticking” – to be able to keep up her speed. She enjoys the competitive nature of it because it gives her a sense of accomplishment like her work. Biking has taken her away from other hobbies, though:  art, painting, video editing.  Dena didn’t ride last winter. While she has the innate energy to bike, there has to be the mental capacity. All it takes is for her focus to be 18” off and she could crash, which could mess up her biking and her business. She’s still searching for that elusive work-life balance.

Biking for Brains and Brawn

Dena rode a century 2/24/19. Notice the default title — no bragging.

In this Strava graphic above, she completed 100 miles at once. The little cup with the 38 by it means that’s how many achievements she got in — just one ride. Dena also rode most of the punishing, hilly Das Hugel and a century (see above graphic). Dena’s always been skinny but has to work at it to stay toned. She hates the gym and doesn’t do yoga. 

As for diet, she follows the no grains, no sugar approach. For the most part she avoids added sugars or things that turn into sugars like pasta, which many cyclists swear by. She made up her diet herself and eats real food like steak, avocado, and vegetables. It’s a pretty radical plan similar to what is espoused by celebrity trainer Vinnie Torterich. She’ll allow some treats like wine. It works well for her. I asked if she had any weaknesses, and she said not really, but just tapped her forehead again. Sometimes stress gets to her. Her treatment? Biking, of course.

When starting out on her new regimen, Dena didn’t bike for three weeks while not eating sugar. At first not even fruit was allowed. She says she never bonks, even without any hydration tablets or other bike snacks. “They’re all scams aimed to take money to get out of your bank account.  Drink lots of water and eat before and after!” She says she doesn’t sweat but has a poor cooling system so turns purple if overheated. When asked how all that works on a bike, she said one time she beat her team by two hours on 100-mile ride. All she had eaten was a hard-boiled egg and some watermelon. Pretty amazing. While at her house for the photo shoot and follow-up questions, she was grilling a huge steak. (A Dude was not invited to split it with her.)

Dena enjoys hiking, traveling, cooking and nutrition, but doesn’t have a lot of spare time due to her business. She’s happier without competitive-level biking in a way, because it takes so much time. But the biking she does gives her that mental advantage mentioned before. It gives her a sense of accomplishment like her work. Also, it gets her combativeness out, and that competitiveness gives her an edge both on and off the bike. 

Dena on her Fairdale, Little Boy Blue. Copyright 2018 Alan Pogue, Texas Center for Documentary Photography

These days she still loves Austin but says it has its problems.  “It’s like a boyfriend who’s not ‘The One’,” she said, “and Minneapolis is like an ex you kinda still like.”  On a recent 44-mile ride Dena did at 17 mph with 1,760 feet of elevation gain was titled “Solo rider so happy.”  This wild horse just wants to roam free, but she continues living and riding here. 

Dena can be pretty blunt, which is refreshing but could be off-putting to some. At one point during the photo shoot she said I should take more control. I was in more of a collaborative mode with the professional photographer, the excellent Alan Pogue of the Texas Center for Documentary Photography, since he knows his stuff. But I did speak up when I thought it was necessary:  “Yes, Dena, I really do want you to put your kit on now, please!” But she also has a very sweet caring side, too.  One time I wasn’t feeling great and she texted to say, “Oh no, I’ll say a prayer for you tonight.” Tough on the outside, with a gooey, chewy soft center.

Dena and Her Bikes

Dena has three bikes:  a Fairdale Daytripper she named Little Boy Blue. Her Scott Spark 700 called White Knight is the mountain bike, the Giant TCR Advanced Pro SL LE is her road bike, named Black Stallion.  (There’s that horse image again.) If she couldn’t bike anymore, she would do more hiking, art and other hobbies she gave up for her business and for biking. She took piano lessons as a kid for seven years and still plays, but only alone and declined a demonstration for this interviewer. She doesn’t get involved in any charity rides because she is focused on her business.

The most embarrassing thing she’s had happen was on her town bike. Dena was flying down Lamar at 6th Street without a helmet on a hybrid, just before she got into road biking. She was going to get in the bike lane and expected a car to make a right turn. A girl in a cute dress on distracted her.  Dena looked at the dress, her chain fell off, and she crashed into the back of the car and ended up on the trunk. Luckily, she wasn’t hurt badly, just a few bruises. The bike was ok. She didn’t get to find out where to get the dress.

Dena had experienced crashes and falls before. As a young girl she was on a 10-mile ride on a gravel road visiting a friend and simply wiped out. She still has the scar on her left knee and used to be embarrassed, but now she’s proud of it. More recently she was on a road ride taking a corner and didn’t see a gravel patch; it took a chunk out of her hip like a cheese grater. She was bleeding down her leg, her thumb was painful and broken – but she still finished another 50 miles. She didn’t want to ruin it for the others. Damn!

There’s still a scar below her right buttock from that wreck. Dena is completely at home in her own body and from working on others as a massage therapist, and had no reservations showing me the mark. They’re like battle wounds to cyclists – a source of pride. She has a way of remembering the good things more. The occasional wrecks hurt but don’t take away from the good times. Her philosophy about riding is like her approach to life:  be fun-loving, trusting and believing the best in people or situation. “Biking is freedom,” she said. I think most riders would agree.

A Dude & A Dena. Copyright 2018 Alan Pogue, Texas Center for Documentary Photography

I asked Dena for her advice for people new to biking, especially women. She thinks everyone needs to learn to become confident riding alone and to consider it as a form of meditation. She had this to say to women especially, “Biking should be a lot more than just a way to spend time with your boyfriend,” she said. “Do it because it will make your life amazing.”  Things like that reveal more about her fiercely independent personality.

Another question for Dena that had been bugging me for a while: “What’s up with your Strava photo?  It looks like you’re wearing an animal on your head.” Turns out, it was feathered hat. In her typically frank manner, she said, “It’s just like a guy to not notice my unique fashion sense.” Like I said, tough and sweet. Although she’s since changed it to be her on her mountain bike. There’s not just one thing I can tell you about Dena, but if there were, it would be a quote from Dirty Dancing: “Nobody puts Dena in a corner.”

Whether she continues to bike 20 miles a week or 100, Dena is a gifted bike rider, a successful business owner and a strong, fascinating woman. If you’re in Austin and want to get what I hear is a pretty amazing, intense and possibly a little painful but healing massage session, go to  (A Dude was offered one but had a back issue at the time; now that’s passed, maybe it will happen someday soon.)  Here’s her Instagram feed and her athlete profile on Strava

Now go be like Dena, get on your bike and go freaking attack the hell out of some big hills, get those personal records and Queen of the Mountains cups, and fearlessly confront whatever obstacles life throws your way.

Thanks to Dena for being very generous with her time and letting A Dude Abikes profile her. Big kudos go to Alan Pogue for donating his amazing professional photography services.

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7 thoughts on “ADAB Profile #2: Dena Kinate — This Wild Horse Just Wants to Roam Free (Part 2)

  1. “hates people but loves individuals.” . . . . I totally relate to that idea.

    As for getting my hip reshaped by a gravelly road? And then biking another fifty miles so she wouldn’t let the team down? THAT is a warrior right there. What a spirit this woman has!

    You’re a great interviewer Dude. Loved this.

    Liked by 1 person

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