May 20, 2024 - News

Meet the nation's oldest BMX racer

Kittke Weston Knauer on a bike and a nice headshot of her wearing wristbands

Photos: Courtesy of Kittie Weston-Knauer

At 75 years old — trust us when we say, "Miss Kittie" knows how to ride a bike.

  • Under her saddle, she's got 31 RAGBRAIs and thousands of miles across road and single-track trails.

Driving the news: DSM resident and grandmother Kittie Weston-Knauer's latest passion would make even a younger person nervous — BMX bike racing.

Why it matters: Weston-Knauer is the oldest female BMX racer in the country and is focused on helping younger, underprivileged kids get into the sport.

How it started: She had biked RAGBRAI for years before her first foray into BMX racing started with a dare from her 11-year-old son in 1988.

  • As an educator at DMPS, Weston-Knauer couldn't resist — "I used to tell my students, 'Don't tell me you're not gonna do something. Let's try it. Let's see. And let's find out.'"
  • That's how she found herself going down a dirt track on her kid's bike on Mother's Day that year.

The latest: Decades later, she's regularly racing at Ewing Park and traveling to other states to compete in BMX races.

The big picture: Everyone wants to age well. And study after study has proven social and physical activities offer a wealth of benefits, ranging from lower dementia risk to improved mobility to happier perspectives on life.

State of play: Weston-Knauer's knees and hips have been replaced. Her hands ache. She's undergone four foot surgeries for severe osteoarthritis.

  • "But I'm not giving up the sport," she tells Axios.

What they're saying: There's no lamenting her age.

  • Growing up African American in the South in the '40s and '50s, "folks were good at telling me what you couldn't do and what you weren't going to do."
  • "I got news for you — I'm gonna be out there engaging and enjoying."

What's next: Weston-Knauer will speak during the Iowa Bicycle Coalition's Big Bike Give fundraiser Wednesday to raise money for the construction of an Olympic-level indoor BMX Park in the Des Moines metro.

  • At xBk Live starting at 5pm; tickets: $25-$50.
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