One Fast Mother

One Fast Mother
The legend of Kathy Sessler, INTENSE’s first ever Pro rider

Anyone who is into the downhill race scene will know the name Kathy Sessler. Kathy is of course Team Manager to the SC Syndicate, but did you know that she was the first ever Pro racer at INTENSE?

Kathy was there at the very beginning of the sport, the birth of it. A time when motocross was inspiring young Californian kids (and kids everywhere) to get on their pedal bikes to try to emulate the throttle twisting stars of the day. Back in the early 1970s there were no BMX or mountain bikes, people rode around on whatever they had – Schwinn Stingrays, racing bikes with cow horn handlebars, shopping bikes… anything really. There was zero suspension, very few (if any) gears and usually one back pedal coaster brake.

Photo: Malcolm Fearon/Bliss Images

I was lucky enough to be sitting in Kathy’s house with (then) INTENSE team rider Nigel Page, it must have been around 1999. Kathy said she had some old 8mm films from something she had shot way back in 1971/72. We weren’t getting too excited, but when Kathy showed it to us it was absolute gold. She had basically built a small track on a dirt lot, invited all the local kids around and put on some races, but most importantly of all, she filmed it. This film has gone on to become legendary, appearing as a bonus section of Sprung 5, and it is loved all over the world. It shows us a bygone era, a time when it was all about goofing around and having a good time. It’s innocent, pure and beautiful.

Kathy of course wanted to be an MX racer, but that never really materialised and she began to gravitate towards bikes. She started racing in 1989 and carried on for the next seven years, including numerous World Championships, one of which she won (unfortunately this wasn’t recognised because there wasn’t enough entrants in her category). When I saw this image (above) of Malcom Fearon’s of her I was blown away. It is from the Mammoth Mountain (California) Grundig World Cup from back in 1994 and it is such a great snapshot of a time gone by. Kathy had known Jeff Steber (INTENSE owner and CEO) “for ever”, and Jeff made this M1 in a week on his kitchen table.

“In 1994 I was racing for Action-Tec on INTENSE Cycles. I had raced many NORBA Nationals on my INTENSE Spyder (the purple bike above) leading up to the World Cup at Mammoth. I remember getting the M1 upon arriving at the race. I hadn't even ridden the bike until practice and it was insanely great! It was instantly better than the Spyder in feeling, stability and speed. The monocoque frame had such a nice feel to it and sound. It was resonating with a vibration of innovation that translated into more speed. The torsional feel was solid and transferred my body movements to the ground. I instantly went 20 to 30 seconds faster at every race thereafter than when I was on the Spyder, even with a whopping 2 1/4” of travel from the Action-Tec fork!”

“As it was a World Cup the best racers in the world were there. Keep in mind that I was 37 years old racing the likes of 18 year old Missy Giove, Kim Sonier, Leigh Donovan, Anne-Caroline Chausson, and Giovanna Bonazzi! I always loved the speed aspect of downhill racing and Mammoth was the best track for speed. I had a 56 tooth Action-Tec chainring on and once you spun that thing out you just tucked! I think my speed trap was around 52 or 53 mph… and you'll remember we wore skinsuits back then.”

“So I was very excited to finish the race in 10th place in this field of legends. It was my best professional result of my career in the senior class. I went on to race the M1 at World Championships in Vail, CO. where I received a bronze medal in the Veteran's category – my seat broke off in the race so that's my excuse for not earning gold.”

Kathy was the first ever pro to race for INTENSE Cycles and the first pro to race the M1, she even had her own Troy Lee Designs sticker, “One fast mother” – that’s almost as good as winning the World Championships! After retiring from racing she would go on to become a stunt woman on the US TV series Pacific Blue, she then managed the INTENSE race team for a time, then co-managed the INTENSE Tire Systems team with Derin Stockton (that was rather oddly riding on SC bikes). This team would morph to become the SC Syndicate, where Kathy still is to this day. Legend.