How To Ride Like A Pro: Sonya Looney
Sonya is a 24-hour world champion, a three-time 24-hour national champion, a two-time Yak Attack winner and winner of the Trans Andes race in Chile among many other accomplishments. She also coached basketball legend Reggie Miller (right) into becoming a serious mountain bike racer.
1. Equipment: Make sure you get your fork, rear shock, and tire pressure set up properly. It can make all the difference in how your ride experience goes. The right setup also makes technical riding easier. With too much tire pressure, you’ll bounce off rocks. With too much shock pressure, you won’t get as much squish as you need. The rebound of the suspension is also important. As a beginner, you’ll want to get someone to help you with setup, looking at sag, rebound and compression. Tubeless tires are also a game-changer. Tire pressure and shock pressure set you up for optimal traction and fun!
2. Mindset: Be patient. It takes time to develop technical ability, just as with any other skill-based sport. A couple of great general rules of thumb for descending: brake before you get to a corner and look through the corner, not at the apex. Look where you want to go in technical sections. Make sure you are breathing, and keep your upper body relaxed. Practice bike/body separation on easy trails so you can start learning how to move your bike underneath you. Also, take baby steps when learning new things. Ride sections where you are barely uncomfortable and work from there. Progression is important. Before you know it, you’ll be riding sections you never imagined. It also helps to go ride with people who are better than you so you can see their lines.
3. Training: Most newbies make the mistake of going as hard as they can on every ride. It’s important to vary your pacing if you want to get faster and aim for consistency. Most of your rides should be at an endurance pace or a 5–6/10 in terms of perceived effort. Choose one or two key workouts per week where you do interval training or ride hard. And, make sure you take at least one rest day per week.
Reggie and Sonya: Sonya lives in Canada, while Reggie lives in Malibu, California. This was the only time they’ve actually ridden together. Sonya and her husband flew down to Southern California so they could all go riding together. Photo courtesy: Reggie Miller
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