Father, Sailor, Gravel Bike Racer

by Katherine Ehrlichman

We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Kiel Reijnen, a father, sailor, and Gravel Bike Racer. 

Kiel shares many values with Kitsbow, including a deep appreciation for intentional and purposed-designed elements in life.  

Kiel spent years racing road bikes, most recently in Europe for the Trek-Segafredo team. Since then he's adjusted his priorities to gravel riding and racing, and several other loves. He told us about a few of them in this wide-ranging discussion:


Kitsbow: Kiel, tell us about the intentional and purposed designed elements in your life. 

Kiel: Starting about 6 years ago we began construction of our family home on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, just down the street from the home I grew up in.

It took over three years for us to complete it, with my ability to work on the house limited to breaks in the racing calendar. With two daughters to raise I knew I wanted them to be close to the woods and water, just as I was as a child.

We intentionally designed our home to be as small a footprint as possible, to preserve the woods surrounding us and to prioritize an orchard and garden.

The house is only 16 feet wide and sided with vertical cedar boards of varying widths and depths that were milled by a friend on the Island. Thick, oversized fir beams cut from a tree that was taken down on the property serve as floor joists between the first and second story. Massive, western red cedar, Douglas fir and big leaf maple trees stand tall around the house, dwarfing the structure.

The heart of our house is our Jotul wood fired stove. All winter long we buck, split and stack firewood so that it can cure in time for the next burning season. The fire heats every corner of our house, from the bedroom my daughters share to the all-important under-the-stairs food pantry.

If the fireplace is the heart of our house, its soul is the kitchen (located a few feet from the wood stove). We cook both on the fireplace and the kitchen stove. The kitchen is outsized for the square footage of the house. Food is how we show our love to one another.

Even in the winter months we still live most of our lives outside. Our large back porch is outfitted with a sauna and a warm outdoor shower where the kids can warm up, after a cold winter day, playing on the beach down the trail from our back door.

We are never far from the water, we keep our family boat on the other side of the harbor. Out on the water we drop pots and lines in the water and the Salish sea provides crab, shrimp, salmon, clams and oysters.


Kitsbow: Tell us about some of your community involvement: 

Kiel: There are two big ones: this year I am volunteering as a coach through the Washington Student Cycling League, for our local Island high school and middle school MTB teams. This opportunity allows me to meet weekly for practice with our local youth and share what I have learned after many years in the sport. Our mission is to empower teenagers and young adults and provide the tools they need to create happy and healthy lives through cycling.

And the other effort is a Community Bike Park. Bainbridge Island is in the process of getting approval and funding for a 10-acre bike park central on the island. This will give our local youth a safe place to ride, meet friends and practice skills. I am assisting the Parks and Trails foundation with their fundraising efforts.


Kitsbow: You're also a sailor... what are you involved in with the sailing community?

Kiel: I am a volunteer on the Port Madison Yacht Club Social Committee helping create inclusive social events for the communities young sailors and get more kids out on the water!


Kitsbow: Tell us how your daily life has changed since retiring from full-time professional cycling in Europe? 

Kiel: I am the father of two amazing daughters, ages 2 and 6. My oldest daughter started kindergarten this year. I am at the school most Tuesdays volunteering in the classroom and lunchroom.

Getting the chance to see the effort that our local educators put into our school system has been nothing short of inspirational, and I hope to continue to be part of their amazing learning environment.


Kitsbow: What are some of the things that are most important to you: 

Kiel: I have four aspects of my life that take the highest priority.

Community involvement. A close community is a healthy community. The more we are connected, the more we take care of each other.

Family. I am lucky to live in the community that I grew up in, and the place much of my extended family calls home. Nothing is better than a day out on the water with family, sailing, crabbing or beach combing, our family gets to enjoy those activities with four generations!

The Environment. Teaching my daughters how to be stewards for the environment has made me a better caretaker of mother earth. From the small things we can do every day to waste less, to the bigger picture issues that affect our way of life, there is urgency to evoke change now.

Our Cowlitz heritage. My daughters and I often travel down to our ancestral lands just south of our home to take part in cultural events and social gatherings. This involvement helps keep us rooted and connected to our history and more conscious of how we conduct our selves in the present.


Kitsbow: What do you find interesting or intriguing about your partnership with Kitsbow?

Kiel: I first learned about the brand through my friend and colleague @BrentBookwalter, and then my wife and I got some gear during our visit in Old Fort, NC for the Bookwalter Binge. I quickly realized that I hardly ever took mine off, it was so comfortable. As I learned more about the brand, I realized our values were aligned around sustainability, community, as well as durability and functionality.


Kitsbow: How do people learn more about you, and track what you're doing with family and where you're racing your gravel bike?
Kiel: I'm pretty active on Instagram, so you can follow me at @kielreijnen