Women’s Cycling Interview: Bike Mechanic Sara Jarrell
The lead instructor at the SRAM Technical University, Sara Jarrell has wrenched for elite riders at world cups and the 2012 Paralympic Games. She is also a coach at mountain bike clinics, where she helps women develop the skills to fearlessly tackle the trail ahead.
Name: Sara Jarrell
Hometown: Cullowhee, North Carolina
Residence: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Work: SRAM - Technical Ambassador
What are some of your earliest memories about bikes? What brought you to the sport of cycling?
Some of my earliest memories about bikes are learning to ride two wheels on my older brother’s hammy down Schwinn banana seat cruiser! My Dad held the bike up as I got my balance and then let me go, and I cruised down the grassy knoll in my back yard. From that moment forward I cannot remember a time in my life that was bikeless.
What got me into cycling and many of the other sports I enjoy is a love of the outdoors and a desire to experience it in the most adventurous ways possible. Growing up in a one-stoplight town with very little to offer kids in the way of modern entertainment found me and many of my friends riding bikes for fun. We rode every style of bike in every place we could think of, we built trails, rode off shipping docs, and possibly a couple buildings… The bike became a fixture in my life, it was fun, it was a tool, it was transportation and that hasn’t ever changed.
What do you love about bike racing? What is it about bike racing that motivates you to put in all the hard work and endure the suffering that goes along with it?
I have competed in mountain, road, cyclo-cross, dirt jumping, and alley cats as an amateur with varying amounts of success, mostly in the gravity-oriented disciplines. But to be honest I have wrenched on more racers’ bikes than I have competed in bike races. I have a competitive spirit and drive to be the best that I can be and that translated into my career as a bike mechanic. This drive coupled with a bit of natural ability allowed me the opportunity to wrench on a couple World Cup circuits and eventually at the Paralympic Games in London in 2012! I love being involved in helping racers be their best by having flawless equipment to compete on. I put my hard work and suffering in on the other side of the racing tape.
Where do you enjoy riding your bike the most?
In the dirt. Any dirt. Point me to the trail.
What advice would you give an aspiring cyclist?
Learn your equipment. Even if you do not chose to do all your mechanical work, knowing your bike inside and out will only make you a more complete cyclist.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start racing? What advice do you give to women who are new to riding a bike?
Do it! My mom always told me if you want to do something bad enough you will figure out a way to make it happen. I have applied that to many areas of my life and it’s a philosophy I will pass on to my kids one day. I would say the same to a woman who was new to riding, too. I would also tell her to find a saddle that works for her; no amount of suffering ever makes saddle sores more tolerable.
What is your biggest cycling goal?
My biggest cycling goal is to ride my bike as many days as I can before I ride off into the sunset.
What cycling accomplishment are you most proud of?
The wrenching accomplishment that I am most proud of is being a mechanic on the U.S. Paracycling Team at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
The cycling accomplishment that I am most proud of is becoming an IMBA ICP certified coach and getting involved with mountain bike skills coaching for women through The SRAM Gold Rusch Tour (run by Rebecca Rusch) and the Beti AllRide Clinics.
Other than race results, what kind of impression do you want to leave on the world of cycling?
Since my race results haven’t left much of an impression yet I would say that my wrench has. I would like to be known as a woman who wrenched her way through a male dominated sport and industry to be the one teaching (all those male) wrenches how to wrench. (I currently am the lead instructor with SRAM Technical University – educating mechanics at dealers in the Americas.)
If you weren’t a cyclist, what would you be doing?I am a wrench, so if I wasn’t wrenching I would be a cyclist or a surfer or a world explorer or a… wait I am all those things, too. Why define yourself as one aspect of your life?
What is your favorite non-cycling activity?
Surfing, white water kayaking, rock climbing
What do you do in your downtime?
Cook, hang out with my wife and animal family, read, rock out
What kind of offseason vacations do you take?
Surfing and kayaking and cycling
What non-cycling athletes or teams do you root for?
Allison Jones will forever be my favorite athlete
Do you have a nickname?
What’s your favorite movie/book/song/dance move?
I love books. I love anything David Sedaris writes. Deep Survival is a good one. Rusch to Glory was also a page turner.
If you were on the Price Is Right, what would your dream Showcase Showdown be?
I have not and still do not watch lots of TV so this question is lost on me. If I had to choose my next dream vacation I would choose Alaska; skiing, biking, kayaking, climbing, and maybe even some frigid surfing!
- Get to Know the Women of American Cycling - Jun 13, 2014
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