Why Pro Enduro Racer Syd Schulz Puts Bikes Before Likes

Syd Schulz is a professional enduro racer. She also writes for fun and really enjoys burritos.

Perhaps you’ve read her piece on how to stop saying “Sorry…” or seen the video of her absolutely shredding in the Chiléan Andes? Either way, we think she’s pretty awesome and thought you might like to know a little more about her.

Read on to learn how Syd became the tandem-riding, green chili-smothered burrito-eating, van down by the river-living shredder that she is today.

syd-hero

Favorites:

  • Beer: Santa Fe Brewing Happy Camper IPA
  • Food: I’m not very picky, but I love a good burrito.
  • Game of Thrones character: Uh oh, now I have to admit on the internet that I’m the last person on Earth who hasn’t watched Game of Thrones…
  • Industry buzzword: EndurBro! So appropriate.
  • Mediocre super-power: Insta-healing skin

This/That:

  • Sriracha or Tabasco? New Mexico green chile!!! 
  • Over easy or scrambled? Over easy
  • Tandem or unicycle? Tandem
  • Coffee or tea? Coffee
  • 29 or 27.5? I consider myself an equal opportunist when it comes to wheels, but all my current bikes are 27.5, so there’s that.

BS: Where are you from and where do you currently call home? 

SS: I grew up in Ohio and am now loosely based in Taos, New Mexico. I say loosely because my boyfriend and I spend eight to nine months of the year living out of our 1998 Ford E-250 cargo van and traveling around the U.S.

syd-van

#vanlife, through and through.

BS: How long have you been into bikes?

SS: I grew up riding bikes. I rode a tandem with my dad, starting when I was six. He had to put crank extenders on so I could reach the pedals. I looooved going fast downhill, but I don’t think I was very helpful on the climbs.

BS: Let’s talk favorite ride…What’s your favorite “backyard” ride?

SS: South Boundary Trail is the classic Taos ride and it’s amazing. The ride up to Fraser Mountain at Northside of Taos Ski Valley is also phenomenal, and the view is pretty unrivaled. And of course, Angel Fire Bike Park is the best for park riding.

In general, the riding in Northern New Mexico is pretty underrated – I think people assume it’s going to be hot and dry, but Taos is actually at almost 8,000 feet, so the weather is similar to Colorado high country.

 

BS: Favorite ride of all-time?

SS: This is a really, truly hard question. I’ve been lucky enough to ride in some really phenomenal places all over the world, so it’s impossible to choose just one.  I think the three places that really stand out to me are the Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, New Zealand, Zona Zero in Ainsa Spain, and all the riding around Peebles, Scotland.

These places are all super different from the American Southwest and all have really challenging terrain. They’re the kind of places where you start planning your return trip as soon as you leave.

BS: What makes these so special? The trails themselves, or some experiences you had there?

SS: I think it’s a combination of a few things: a really strong bike community, unique terrain, and super challenging trails. It’s kind of funny, but I’ve noticed this trend that a lot of my favorite trails make me cry the first time down.

Photo: Rodrigo Morales

Photo: Rodrigo Morales

BS: When you were a kid, what did you envision yourself doing at your current age? Doctor? Teacher? Underwater basket weaver? World traveler living the dream?

SS: I think I wanted to be an archeologist. That didn’t pan out.

BS: When did you start racing and what was your impetus?

SS: I raced a little bit of XC in college, but not very seriously. I started racing enduro in 2014 (I was 23) because my boyfriend was doing it and it looked like a lot more fun than XC. Also, I think I wanted to see how I stacked up. The answer, initially, was not very well, which then really inspired me to learn how to descend and actually get in shape. It’s been a process, but a pretty cool one.

BS: What was the best and/or worst race experience of your career?

SS: Best race experience was probably racing Andes-Pacifico earlier this year. Five days of racing in the Chilean Andes, with a really small, tight-knit group of international racers. Oh and it was fully catered with amazing food, which is a big priority for me.

Worst is a little harder to decide as I’ve had some whoppers. One that stands out is the EWS in Whistler in 2015 when I tore my hamstring in the first stage. I still finished but it was ugly. I probably crashed like 10,000 times, and it was pretty painful. I was dead last by about ten minutes, haha.

syd-3

Syd taking a digger during a race in Chile. Photo: Felipe Farias


BS:
You’ve got a pretty cool thing going with your blog and you seem to write about stuff that interests you, rather than the newest gear from your sponsors. Why is that? Do you have a background in writing?

SS: I don’t have any official background in writing other than that it’s just that thing that I’ve always done. As for what I choose to write about, I’m not much of a gear head, so writing gear reviews or anything techy like that doesn’t appeal to me. I guess the goal I have with my blog is to try to approach the pro bike racing life from an angle that hasn’t been totally worn out. Like, nobody cares about blow-by-blow race recaps or what tire levers you use. People want to see authenticity – like, what is it REALLY like to do what you do? So I try to deliver that and just be as transparent as possible.

BS: You’re a self-proclaimed anti-cliché, pro-burrito enduro racer who puts “bikes before likes.” That in mind, my question is two-fold:

1. How do you manage the expectations that come along with being a professional athlete, both from sponsors and fans, while staying true to yourself and your goals?

SS: It’s not always easy, but it comes down to working with the right sponsors. I’m really lucky to be able to have the opportunity to work with brands that I have a lot of faith in – both in the product and the people behind it. So if I say I’m really excited about something, I’m saying that because I’m really freaking excited about it.

People can tell if you’re forcing it, and you look like a billboard. Nobody likes advertisements. I think it’s important to cultivate relationships with your sponsors where they understand and appreciate that authenticity over, say, getting hashtagged in every single Instagram post.

2. What would you say to a young’n (girl or boy) who has their sights set on a pro bike racing career?

SS: First off, I think I’d say that there are a lot of ways to make a career riding or racing bikes. So don’t put yourself in a box. Be creative, stand out, do something that not everyone else is doing, don’t be afraid to fail or try new things. And keep in mind that you have to provide a return for the companies or brands that you work with. I think a lot of people assume that if they win x number of important races, sponsors will come to them.

It doesn’t really work that way – no matter what you’re winning, you don’t really “deserve” sponsorship unless you’re providing some sort of tangible value.  In fact, I think one piece of advice I would give is to stop using the word sponsorship altogether – I much prefer the idea of “partnership” because it implies a two-way arrangement right from the beginning.

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Follow all of Syd’s adventures…

sydchulz.com | facebook | instagram | twitter

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