Lean In: Find the Fearless Rider inside of You!

This Saturday (Jan. 28) at 10 a.m., join national cycling champion Sonia Ross for a lesson in how to ride better, smarter, and more fearlessly. The class/ride is geared toward safe recreational riding and will focus on things like cycling in a group, riding fast, maneuvering, and overcoming fears—individualized depending on participants’ desires. All are welcome. Just sign up here.

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Ross, born in the United Kingdom, moved to LA, where, as a teen, she fell in love with cycling—when she “discovered that the bike was a much more efficient way to get around town than a skateboard,” she explains.

This past month, she won the Norcal Cyclocross championship, a new racing modality for her that she much enjoyed. She holds the 2015 Tandem Time Trial state championship, as well as multiple national cycling championships, and has ridden Race Across America three times. She’s a record holder for that ultramarathon and is currently looking for teammates for a fourth race. (“No one’s picking up my calls,” she says.)

She’s been coaching and sharing her love of cycling for many years. Her former team, the Kalyra Women’s Race Team (which has now transitioned to team B4T9) put on cycling camps for women in Los Alamos. She’s long taught private one-on-one lessons. So it made sense for her to become a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor (LCI) and transition into cycling education in schools and for other youth programs. She’s currently coleading an eight-week cycling camp for Girls’ Inc. in Goleta with Jody Nelson.

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Warm and thoughtful, Ross reflected on her love of challenge and teamwork, her firm belief that we all have the ability to quickly improve our cycling skills, and what it takes to become fearless. Here’s part of that conversation.

HS: Many people believe bicycling is important to a society – socially, environmentally, healthwise. Which of these aspects figures into why bicycling is such a big part of your life and why you want to share your expertise with others?

Ross: Check all of the above, yes. Kids get bikes for Christmas or their birthdays and we send them out on the road and expect them to ride to school or their friends’ houses. We grew up with that – or our parents did. And the bike was considered a toy. What we can do is teach kids the skills to be safe – teach them what a big responsibility it is. They don’t have to figure it out on their own. That’s so much more fun. And it takes the fear out of it.

That’s true with adults as well. In a very short amount of time, we can show you how to get from point a to point b. We can show you how to shift efficiently, what to eat and drink.

Plus, there’s the social aspect. There’s this whole amazing community. All of these different types of people and interests come together. I just came back from a rolling camp [a 10-day Carmichael Training Systems ride from Santa Rosa to Venice Beach]. At the beginning, no one knew each other, and now they’re friends for life. It was fantastic.

HS: Do you have a favorite bike?

Ross: I could tell you what I’m riding now. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It’s this carbon Ridley. This thing is gorgeous. Carbon wheels. Fourteen pounds.

HS: Tell me a little about what’s behind your competitive drive and what keeps you going when the going gets tough and continually challenging yourself.

Ross: Every event I do—I do a lot of different types of races—I learn something new, and it’s really exciting. Each time, even when I win, I can see how I can do it even better. There’s so much that I learn, and then I want to do it again.

And it’s not just the competitive part. I’m very much into teams, so it’s never just about me. I enjoy us relying on each other and that we work for each other. If I win, it’s because my whole team took me there. If my teammate wins, it’s because we all worked for that. You do it for the love and respect of your teammates.

I could talk for hours about the excitement of racing.

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HS: So this ride on Saturday, what will it entail? What should participants expect?

Ross: A lot depends on who shows up and what their abilities are. The great thing is we can definitely teach skills for someone if it’s their first day on the bike or someone who’s been riding for 20 years. We’ll work on the safety aspects of how to stop and start, which sounds very basic but is very important on all levels. I still practice stopping and starting. We’ll learn how to ride single file and two-by-two. We can do some fun stuff, maybe some climbing. We can work on how to shift, how to use your body comfortably to go up and over a roller, how to be more comfortable with descending. We’ll bring in all kinds of skills – how to drink, how to eat, how to have fun. We’ll find out what each person wants to learn or if there’s anything they’re afraid of.

With any of these skills, you can definitely have improvement in one ride. It doesn’t have to be some yearlong event.

HS: What makes you or any rider fearless?

Ross: There’s got to be a really great answer for that. I’m not sure…

It’s just doing it, just acknowledging that, in life in general, where we grow is where we’re feeling stretched. If you think about it, with anything that we do, if we’re nervous, anxious, or afraid, what’s fantastic about that is that means that we care. Once we know that, we can grow and move through it. If we have someone who can support us and hold space to provide safety, just emotionally, we can move through the fear and embrace it by staying in it instead of being controlled by the fear. It’s really taking acceptance and looking at what it is for each of us and embracing it.

Just as we’re about to hang up, Ross glances at her computer and sees a quote a friend posted by Georgia O’Keefe. “I have been absolutely terrified in every moment of my life, and I’ve never let it keep me from doing anything I wanted to do.” We decide it’s serendipitous.

Join Ross this Saturday at 10 a.m. and learn to ride fearlessly. Don’t forget to sign up here.

Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition
P.O. Box 92047, Santa Barbara, CA 93190
506 E. Haley Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
805.845.8955