Before we decided to move away from Oregon to escape the harsh winters (for our warm South African born blood), Santa Cruz was one of the locations on the top of our short list of places to move. It has it all – the weather, waves, the laid back beach culture, the California dreaming attitude, no snow and pretty darn epic, loamy hero dirt, techy trails, and plenty of sunshine to top it all off. We ended up choosing Nelson, New Zealand: fewer people, more trails, and bigger mountains won us over, but Santa Cruz is still high on our list of favorite places to visit and ride and it’s pretty cool that it’s also home to the Santa Cruz & Juliana Bicycles headquarters.
Since emigrating in 2011, we haven’t had the opportunity to spend much time back in the US, so when the opportunity popped up to head Stateside for a little Christmas soirée, it was a no brainer to head back there for a wee visit, a catch up with old friends, and of course some bike riding and “work”. With all the traveling we do each year, it is very seldom that we get to go somewhere away from home not to race – so this was fantastic. There was no stress, no drama; no gnawing nervousness in the back of your head, no overweight fees and no funny looks at all our excess luggage. It felt pretty liberating leaving the house with my day pack, and boarding the plane not completely drenched in sweat & smelly from slogging heavy luggage and bike bags around from one counter to the next.
The reason for this light bike free traveling was that it was also to be an early Christmas for me, heading to the Santa Cruz and Juliana Bicycles headquarters to pick up my new race bike for the 2015 season, drink a few beers (ok, and some wine and champagne) at their annual Christmas party and for another reason --I was heading to Santa Cruz to ride & hang out with my new teammates. Yep, you read right, I have teamies. How exciting is that? It wasn’t all play though, we had a pretty full on, hectic, busy work week planned for us, and there was to be no lounging around in the hotel room dressing gown painting our nails or stretching our legs relaxing in the heated pool. We were on the schedule from hell, but it was made much more enjoyable by our food angel – Allan, arriving every morning with our preferred coffee of choice and breaky options to keep us fuelled for another day filled with photos, videos, interviews, product testing, press launch stuff and such. Getting everything dialed for the launch of our new Juliana Race Team. We were out at 7am each morning and only wrapping up our shoots after sunset each evening, making sure we captured those perfectly backlit Santa Cruz evenings with plenty of high fives, hash tags, and hollering. It was hard graft, but I absolutely loved every single minute of it, and us girls had a blast. We know how to work hard, no whinging, no complaining, just laughing, riding – and eating A LOT (Tip: that’s how you keep active ladies happy guys!)
Santa Cruz Bicycles and I go way back –we have some history together when it comes to bicycles, my racing career, and passion for adventures. My first proper downhill bike was a 2001 Bullit that we modified a bit and turned into a badass little downhill bike.
My first proper XC bike in 2002 was a silver anodized Superlight built up with all custom components and pink grips (before pink grips were cool!). It was the bike that instilled confidence in my ability to ride more techy trails and to take a few more risks off the downhill tracks. Then there was my gold Heckler called Frida, who took my confidence to the next level. I had visions of entering the Red Bull Rampage on Frida. Thank God I got over that phase. Next up was my black Nomad called Heather; she was the beginning of my backcountry love affair on bikes, which started on the Isle of Skye, in Scotland. After many nomadic (pun fully intended) adventures, I upgraded to the new white carbon Nomad.
The adventures and discovery continued with travel to new and far-away places. She experienced new cultures, explored islands, mountains, and shaped my passion and thirst for enduro racing events and my love of blind racing. She helped me get on the podium of the Megavalanche – a long time dream of mine and still one of my proudest moments. I was addicted and she was my enabler, heading from one enduro race to the next, learning how all the different formats worked and figuring out this new enduro business in the all the different European countries with their different formats.
My Superlight was traded for a Blur XC, which helped me through hours upon hours of suffering, sunburn and sore bums during the four Cape Epic multi day marathon races that I’ve done, nevermind the endless hours of training done for them in 90-100 degree South Africa or below freezing the snowy winters of Oregon. I’m surprised all the sweat didn’t eat through the top tube paint. We also rode amongst elephants and antelopes, under African skies, Northern & Southern hemispheres, and all sorts of conditions.
My Blur TRc was the bike I tackled my first Trans Provence on – too many memories and experiences to start listing or talking about, but that race on that bike made such a huge impact on me and the direction and meaning of where I wanted to take my riding. My V-10 downhill bike helped me conquer numerous obstacles and road gaps, hucking myself around a few world cup races and a few World Champs, won a National title or two and also saved me from many a case and panicked moment. It was the Whistler dream machine.
Finally, my green carbon Nomad. I LOVED this bike and everything about it. This was the period when my riding started progressing again, when I moved to NZ and fell in love with riding all over again. It was my adventure machine, my forest finder, my passion re-ignited. These “girls” have seen the best and the worst of me. Been there through all the highs and the lows, the good times and the bad times, and they have been my number-one-go-to companions for everything. For some reason all my bikes from the past ended up with odd girls’ names. I bonded with them and they were my buddies. I guess I always wished that I had a women-specific bike with a girl’s name, but I didn’t have to wish anymore, because at the end of 2012 that became a reality.
That was the end of an era for me with the rise of the Juliana Bicycles brand towards the end of 2012. Santa Cruz has always offered a women-specific bike in their line-up, but in 2013, they decided to launch a proper line of women’s bikes. Of course I was somewhat sad but also anxious and excited to see how this new all women’s line would turn out. I was deathly afraid of butterflies and skorts, but with faith I jumped into this new sister brand with 100% commitment, and focused all my energy into promoting this new strong brand for women. Juliana. It was a powerful and very liberating opportunity to be a spokeswoman for such a brand, I felt honored; it was a no-brainer, good quality bikes, with great geometry; just with our own cool colors, stylish typeface & our own identity. I was adamant that it could be just as cool as it’s big brother - Santa Cruz, so I embraced my new “roarange” colored Juliana and set out to spread the word.
Two years down the line, racing & representing Juliana Bicycles, has resulted in some of the most memorable experiences, adventures, and learning periods of my entire cycling career. I’ve done more riding, progressing, traveling, exploring, racing and connecting with other like-minded people than ever before ,and I never want it to stop. Women want to be associated with the brand, and, more than ever, women are excited and passionate about bikes and about mountain biking.
This year, I get to look forward to sharing all these adventures with my two new teammates, along with loads of other inspirational, adventurous women around the world who will be ambassadors for Juliana Bicycles. Santa Cruz and Juliana Bicycles aren’t just another bike company to me, they have been a part of the best years of my life and I see them as my family. I no longer have to come up with silly girls’ names for my bikes, they already have their own names. What a year it’s going to be!