Gulo Brand Manager John Murphy Interviews Gulo Ambassador Nina ‘Machina’

As a female in the sport, how do you see the sport progressing as far as support for female cyclists?

Now at almost all of the races that I attend, whether they are mountain bike marathons or gravel grinders, they have equal payout for men and women. This is a basic but great step in the right direction to encourage more women to race. At the Gravel Battle of Sumter Forest just yesterday, the pro women’s field was almost as big as that of the pro men’s. Bike companies like Pivot Cycles are increasing their support for female cyclists by putting together equally as strong women’s teams. Pivot also recently launched their collaboration with Wild Rye: a mountain bike apparel brand that is designed for all women-identifying riders. I see support for female cyclists progressing in a great way.

Do you train with other women? Or men? Or alone? What’s your preference?

Growing up back at home I would train by myself during the week, and my dad and I would drive to parks to ride on the weekend. I never really had other women with whom I could regularly train with until I came to Brevard. Once I came to school, I met my roommate, Carmen Chirino Hulsund, who was recruited for the Brevard College cycling team all the way from the Canary Islands, Spain. She and I were great training partners from the get-go. It was also awesome to have someone that I could explore the vast network of trails with that Pisgah National Forest has to offer.

female cyclist standing in front of bicycle wheels with mask on

Have you ever raced gravel before?

My first gravel race was The Dirt Diggler Gravel Grinder at REEB Ranch last September. As it was both our first gravel race, Carmen and I decided to race it together. Our fitness and skills matched up really well and we pushed each other to keep pedaling. It was really motivating to have her by my side and we crossed the finish line holding our hands up in the air! I’m looking forward to doing more gravel races this season!

How do you see gravel as a growing discipline in the sport?

A relatively new sport that combines the thrilling speed that road cycling has to offer with the adventurous nature of mountain biking, gravel riding is winning the hearts of more and more cyclists, as it did mine, and it is here to stay. Brevard is such an ideal location for gravel riding, being nestled in between the Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Forest which offer premier training on hundreds of miles of gravel, dirt, single-track and maintenance roads.

How did you discover bike riding?

Coming from a family that always prioritized time spent outdoors and in the woods, it wasn’t long until I took off the training wheels and took to the trails. My dad began participating in our regional H2H cross-country series, in which I would sign up for the kids’ races. Soon enough, I wanted to race with the adults and the rest is history.

Tell us about a crazy riding experience.

My craziest riding experience would have to be at the USA Cycling Marathon MTB National Championships in Palo Duro, Texas. The actual race went well; I found the clay, martian-like terrain to suit me well, and I earned me 3rd place in my category. I didn’t think this trip could get any better or any more exciting. But it did.

The following day I was already itching to ride again and explore more of Texas while I was there so my dad and I decided to ride at another canyon, Caprock Canyon. We noticed some hoofprints in the mud and figured that there were some people riding horses up ahead. If I come across any horses, I’ll just make sure to yield because they have the right of way, I thought. I continued riding, pumping around turns and taking in the beauty of the canyon. Suddenly I grabbed my brakes as hard as possible, my bike coming to a skidding halt. There it was, head lowered and about to charge. That was no horse. It was a buffalo. My heart began racing as I started backing away slowly. We gradually moved over to the brambles on the side of the trail, but there was a gully and I couldn’t go any further. I placed my bicycle in front of me like a shield, and sure enough, the buffalo went charging past on the trail. I was stuck in a panic. I needed to get back. We retraced our steps back to the car, more cautiously this time around.

That’s when I realized that Caprock Canyon was a protected area for the restoration of the Texas bison herd, and that there are a total of about 250 bison living there. I would never have discovered this if I didn’t go out for a second ride. But because I stepped outside of my comfort zone and explored the unknown, I discovered what riding is truly about: freedom and exploration. That the best way to explore a place is via bike.

What made you decide to focus on marathon endurance cycling events?

I tried my first “marathon” mountain bike race, the Stewart 45 in Montgomery NY when I was 13. Since then I have gravitated towards the 100k and 100-mile formats that encompass my love for hours of riding backcountry trails and the endurance training process.

What’s your favorite bike you ride and why?

How can you ever make me choose between my rocket of a cross-country bike, the Pivot Mach 4 SL and my gravel bike, Vinnie the Vault?!? I suppose the fact that I named my gravel bike Vinnie speaks for itself. Being from Jersey, Vinnie enjoys going down the shoa’ and he can definitely bench more than you with those big shiny guns of his! In all seriousness though, I’ve truly fallen in love with the gravel format and my Pivot Vault is just the tool for that.

Favorite wheels and why?

My favorite wheels are the Gulo GMD-27s. As someone who primarily races the ultra-endurance mountain bike format and trains in Pisgah National Forest on trails that can be quite unforgiving, the 27s are the perfect cross between a lightweight cross-country race wheel and a burlier enduro rim.

What’s your favorite local trail?

My favorite local trail is Brushy Creek in Bracken Mountain Preserve! I love that it’s a blast to climb or descend! I’ve always been a fan of steep switchbacks that require good bike handling skills.

What inspires you to ride?

While I particularly thrive for competition and have a thirst to achieve, that’s not what riding is all about to me. I ride because it gives me the ultimate sense of freedom and independence, while also being a part of a team and a community. It allows me to activate my senses and rid myself of mental clutter. Push myself to my limits, and learn what those limits are. I ride because I live for the cyclist lifestyle.

Who got you into cycling?

I would have to give this credit to my parents. Since I was young they always took me out to parks and to ride our local trails. My dad inspired me to start racing and training!

What brought you to Brevard College?

I always knew that if I were to pursue a post-secondary education, I would want to go somewhere warmer, more mountainous, and overall better for riding year-round. My options were all over the map. Southern California? Colorado? Arizona? I started to narrow down my choices to schools that had cycling teams. That’s when my finger landed on this small liberal arts school in Western North Carolina, Brevard College. I got in contact with the team’s coach, Bradford Perley, who was eager to have me come visit and meet the team. During my stay I had the opportunity to go cheer them on at a local cyclo-cross race, where I truly saw what it meant to be a part of a team. There was no doubt I wanted to be a part of it. Before I knew it I signed to join this family that is the Brevard College Cycling Team.

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