Katherine Johnson Wins a JAM Grant

Katherine Johnson, 14, of Kittery, Maine tootled around on a bicycle as a little kid, but it wasn’t until a year ago that she really fell in love with cycling. She started riding mountain bikes in May 2015 and by last October she competed in her first cyclocross race at Orchard Cross in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire.

“It’s super cool and they put on such a great race,” she said. “There were so many people. The race goes through the apple orchard and the apples fall on you and good friends throw apples at you. It’s so much fun.”

Although she’s new to cyclocross, Johnson was selected this summer for a JAM Fund Grant. She is one of thirteen grant award winners who will receive financial or equipment assistance from the non-profit cycling development program.

“I’m over-the-moon-so-crazy thankful,” she said. “The JAM Fund is so cool that they recognize the younger generation’s passion for cycling and believe in us and are willing to help us out, because it’s certainly not easy to afford everything.”

Katherine Johnson jumps the barriers on a borrowed bike at Orchard Cross on Oct. 25, 2015.

Katherine Johnson jumps the barriers on a borrowed bike at Orchard Cross on Oct. 25, 2015.

This fall, Johnson will enter her sophomore year at Traip Academy, where classes start at 7:30 a.m.

“I get off school at 2:15, so I grab something to eat at the grocery store and head to work until 7,” she said. “I do homework before dinner, then ride the trainer for about an hour and take a shower. On a good day, I’d get to bed around 10:30, if I didn’t have too much homework.”

During the summer, Johnson is working four days a week as a sales associate at the Colonial Bicycle Company.

“Right now trying to learn more mechanics about bikes,” she said. “It’s not really my strong suit but I’m trying to learn more.”

Johnson is becoming more structured with her training and even got a coach.

“I’m working with Ellen Noble,” Johnson said. “She is really kind and so supportive, and I always looked up to her. She reached out one day and a few weeks later we met for coffee and a few weeks later she was my coach. We started working together about a month ago. It started slow, just getting base miles, and now we’re focusing on nutrition.”

Noble, the U23 National Cyclocross Champion and JAM Fund graduate, shares some similarities with Johnson. They’re both from Maine, worked with the same mechanic and are passionate about cross.

“I saw her race at my very first mountain bike race at Weeping Willow Kenda Cup,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know who she was at the time, but I thought, wow, she’s riding really fast. And then I saw her again at Bear Brook. We talked and she said we should meet up and she was really generous and gave me a lot of equipment. I told her I was looking for a coach and a couple of weeks later she offered, and I couldn’t say no.”

Johnson was in serious need of some guidance after breaking her femur in an April skiing accident at Cannon Mountain in Franconia—part of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

“I was skiing down with my friend and I caught an edge and that was that,” she said. “It was the last day and the last five minutes of ski season. But I am great now and back to normal. I’ve pretty much forgotten about it.”

Johnson had surgery the day after breaking her left femur. Doctors repaired the bone with a four-inch titanium plate and 12 screws. After a month of complete rest, she started riding the trainer.

“The first two weeks back on my bike, my leg was really swollen and I had to break up the scar tissue by riding the trainer outside,” she said. “I pedaled one side at a time and get the motion going. After a while I was able to clip in, and right now I’m working on rebuilding that muscle.”

Johnson is riding and doing well. She says she’ll be racing a full cross schedule this fall, with some mountain biking during the week.

“I’ll do the high school mountain bike league for a bit of fun and some cross training,” she said. “That’s about six mountain bike races and 20 cross races including nationals. I’m focused on getting my A-game back.”

Johnson turns 15 at the end of July. She hopes to get her Cat 3 upgrade this fall and finish strong at Cyclocross National Championships in Hartford, Connecticut in January.

“I would like to continue pursuing cycling and working hard and see where that takes me,” she said. “I want to go to college and fulfill my dream of living in the Vermont mountains. That’s my ideal place to live, where I can go skiing and riding all the time.”

The grant that Johnson received is largely funded by supporters and the JAM Fund’s biggest fundraiser, the Grand Fundo, a one-day scenic ride in Western Massachusetts. This year’s ride is on July 16, where grant recipients will find out details of their award. The public is invited to join the Grand Fundo ride and barbecue by registering at bikereg.com


For media inquiries, email JAM Fund Media Coordinator Vicky Sama at jamcycling@gmail.com.