The Power of Bicycles

You may have seen Rachel in quite a bit of event coverage over the last few years. From riding enduro and gravity events all over California, to Colorado, Oregon and Whistler, she is making the rounds and loving the race life. But, even with support from her sponsors, Rachel still puts in the work to make her dream a reality.

Last year she left her 9-5 job in the bike industry to race full-time, and she now holds a job bar-tending in between races just to keep things comfortable. Let’s check in with this working class racer and learn about her past, and see what the future holds.

Age: 26
Home: Costa Mesa, California
Sponsors: SRAM, GT bicycles, Troy Lee Designs, Kenda Tire, Sensus, Oakley, RynoPower, Five Ten, Crankbrothers and Fi’zi:k

So, I understand you have been riding mountain bikes for quite a long time. Tell us about how you got started?

I started riding mountain bikes when I was 7 years old. My dad was a big supporter in keeping his kids outdoors as much as possible and away from the TV. So on the weekends when my brother, sister, and I were not in school we would be riding. And we loved it.

At what age did you start racing? What type of races were you competing in?
I did my first race in 1999 at Snow Summit Resort in Big Bear, CA. I was 10 years old. It was a Shimano kids race and I clearly remember seeing Gary Fisher there helping push my little brother up a climb he couldn’t make. I didn’t know who Gary Fisher was until later in life, I just remember this eccentric looking guy with tiny spectacles and a cool blonde goatee. I won the race that day and beat all the boys in my age group. The next day I asked my dad if I could race in the junior women’s XC race 12-14 category. Well, I won that one too.

Was your family supportive?
They were all very supportive. We all raced XC and traveled together as a family. Even my grandparents were supportive and they would come to as many races as they could.

What were some of the highlights early in your career?
The biggest highlight in my early career was when I won my National title in 2006 in the Junior Expert XC class. It got me a 100% funded trip to race in the World Championships in Rotorua, NZ. My whole family came to cheer me on, which was amazing.

There is a bit of a gap between your XC days and current race schedule. What were you doing during that time?
I decided to take a break from racing for a bit and focus on obtaining my global marketing degree. I ran college cross country for two years and continued riding my bike throughout college and raced a few random road races for fun. A week after I graduated I was offered a job at Crankbrothers in Laguna Beach. It wasn’t long after working there that I found myself riding my bike on some of the steep, technical trails in Laguna and absolutely loving it. My passion for cycling sparked back up again, but in a new way. A gravity way.

So, what made you make the transition from XC to enduro and gravity events?
I think I owe a lot of it to moving to Laguna Beach and learning how to ride more technical trails. One thing my dad did not support was me racing gravity style events. I think it was his fear of me really hurting myself while I was still growing. But now I’m 26 and there’s not a lot he can do to stop me, haha. I have the fitness discipline from my XC days and with the helpful coaching I receive from Kyle (Strait) and the abundance of technical trails around here and the newly developed bikes that can pedal and handle technical trails, the transition just happened naturally.

What events and series do you plan on competing in next year?
Next year I want to focus on the Big Mountain Enduro events, 3 EWS events and the California Enduro Series.

What goals have you set for yourself at this stage in your career? What will it take to meet them?
My main goal is to continue to become faster and more fluid on my bike each year. Results will come if you always keep that in mind. It would also be amazing to get a magazine cover one day!

A lot of the current enduro tracks are extremely demanding, how do you train for these type of events?
Well, I ride my bike, and ride my bike some more, and then ride my bike again. I don’t have a strict training schedule. I just make sure to ride a lot and keep things fun. If I am feeling uninspired by the trails around home I’ll go ride the pump track or the BMX track for a day. When I know I am going to have a long race day coming up, I will ramp up my training days to mirror that and then taper it down before the race so that my legs are rested. I also incorporate strength training and yoga to help cross train.

What is the toughest race you entered this year? How did it go?
The EWS Whistler Enduro was by far the toughest race this year. The tracks actually scared me. In practice I crashed really hard on my right knee and ruptured my bursa sac and sprained my LCL tendon. I didn’t want to drop out of the race without trying so I rode stages 1 and 2 but unfortunately crashed really hard on my right knee again and was unable to continue. Races don’t always go as planned. You just have to remember it’s only a race and use the frustration to drive you to succeed in the next race.

Which female rider, past or present, inspires you the most and why?
When I was younger my biggest inspirations were Alison Dunlap and Katrina Nash. They were both so fast, but so approachable. Alison was actually my coach the year I won National Champs. Nowadays I am mostly inspired by the women I ride with. This year I had the opportunity to ride with many women who are much faster than me, including Anneke Beerten, Margaret Gregory, Katrina Strand, Vaea Verbeeck, Anka Martin, and many more. I was so inspired I hit jumps and drops I never imagined myself hitting.

Outside of racing, do you prefer riding with the ladies or guys?
I don’t discriminate. I like riding with everybody.
Describe your idea of “the perfect trail”.
To me the perfect trail is one that encompasses it all. I want fast, open, flowy sections to tight, slower technical sections to maybe a drop or some jumps. I don’t mind climbing some distance to get to it either.

Do you prefer riding with headphones or the sound of nature?
Really depends on what I am doing that day. If I’m doing a hard, solo, then definitely 100% headphones. But if I’m not going to suffer, the sound of nature is preferred.

When you’re not riding, how do you spend your “leisure” time? Any other sports or hobbies that you enjoy?
I still work part time to finance my travels, so in the winter and spring I bartend at a restaurant in Laguna Beach and make as much money as I can. But when I’m not working or riding I like hanging out on the boat when Kyle’s fishing, Pilates and yoga, dirt bike riding, and crocheting beanies and beer koozies.

One thing that most people don’t know about you?
My last name is actually pronounced Troop. The “H” is silent.

Last good bit of advice someone told you?
“Think training’s tough, try losing.” I got that quote from Tahnee Seagrave’s Instagram. I’ve thought about it almost everyday since.