SAN ANTONIO — A trailblazer in the world of BMX racing spent the weekend in San Antonio encouraging young women of color to follow her down the path she continues to ride.
Perched atop a custom built, 26-inch Jayhawk at Lone Star BMX Saturday, Kittie Weston-Knauer yelled out: “All right, I’m good to go!” before the metal platform dropped out and sent her careening down the track.
Weston-Knauer, also known as "Miss Kittie" in BMX circles, has put a lot of track under her wheels over the years, but her focus is still on the road ahead.
“For me, understand that every time I get on my bike, I win,” she said. “Because I started, and I finished."
At 74, she is the oldest female competitive BMX racer in the United States.
"It is fun, it is a very healthy sport." Weston-Knauer said. "And I get to meet and see people all from all over our nation,"
Weston-Knauer said she discovered a love for cycling while growing up in the segregated south in the 1950’s/
“I had to be very careful, even in my community in Durham, North Carolina, of where I was riding,” she said. “Because you never knew if someone was going to want to do something to you.”
When her parent’s got her a bike at 10, she says it became an escape from the stress of segregated schools and water-fountains.
“Cycling was freedom,” she said. “Cycling allowed me to explore my neighborhood.”
But it was not until she had kids of her own that she found her interest in BMX. She recounted giving some unsolicited advice to her eleven-year-old son while he was trying to race.
“Mother's Day of 1988. I had not yet turned 40 I was 39 going on 40 When my son said to me, ‘you know, Mom, you think this is so easy. Why don't you try it?’” Weston-Knauer said. “And I've been doing it ever since.”
But when she started to compete, she discovered another problem.
“I wanted to ride in the cruiser class, and there was no women's cruiser class. So, I had to ride with the men,” she said. “And there were men who really didn't want me to because I rode better than my husband did.”
Fortunately, when she started to compete, other women started to take notice.
“When they saw me out there, they said, Oh, you're right. Yeah, I would love to do that,” Weston-Knauer said. “Well, honey, get you a bike and come on down.”
She has been encouraging women to take up the sport ever since. In fact, when she traveled from Duluth, Iowa to spend the weekend riding with the San Antonio chapter of "Black Girls Do Bike," some of the members she met with were riding BMX for the very first time.
Weston-Knauer said it’s important to get more women of color involved in BMX racing.
“We do basketball. We do football. Okay. But we don't take the time to have the conversations with people of color about, oh, there are the sports that you need to shoot get involved in.” she said. “It's a sport, that if that is something you would like to do, let me make sure that I can help you get involved."
The retired educator said when it comes to BMX, she doesn't see herself slowing down anytime soon.
“I always told my students in any way you can challenge yourself for new learning. I tell you; I'm still learning and why?” she asked, before gesturing to the track behind her.
“This track is new to me,” she said. “I'm learning. I'm continuing to learn.”