Checking In With Tyler Jacobs – SA’s Rising Star

15 september 2023. cape town, south africa | interview with mountain bike racer tyler jacobs as published on bike network by myles kelsey

Back in 2021, I did some skills coaching with a family of four mountain bikers who were from Kenya and in Cape Town on holiday. It was Tyler, her two brothers and Dad. After the session, I remembered telling her Dad that the boys had good basic skills and just needed to ride their bikes often to continue to progress. I also remember watching Tyler as she sent the trails with full commitment and speed which had me both scared and impressed. I said: “I think Tyler could be really good at this.” As it happened, after just a few years of riding, Tyler Jacobs has a growing collection of wins and then there’s those Top 20 results at the highest level, – the World Cup circuit. Having been around this sport since the 80s, I can tell you this rapid upward trajectory from a South African athlete, is extremely rare. Needless to say, I am very excited to follow her progress. Here’s Tyler.

15 september 2023. cape town, south africa | interview with mountain bike racer tyler jacobs as published on bike network by myles kelsey
Checking out the World Cup XCO track in Leogang, Austria in June.

Who is Tyler Jacobs?

A 19-year-old mountain bike racer.

Where are you from and where do you live?

I’m originally from South Africa but lived in Kenya for eight years and I now live in Salt Rock.

What hobbies do you have outside of biking?

Painting and coffee.

How did you get into riding?

Me and my brothers have always ridden as kids, but just little jumps in the garden and going around the block. I started riding with my dad and brothers during lockdown, did one or two stage races with my dad, and then started training for the first time at the beginning of last year.

Who or what inspires you?

A lot of people inspire me, from family and friends to pro athletes, as well as the desire to be up there with the best of the best. Getting the chance to race World Cups this year and race against the best in the world inspires me on its own, and not being able to race World Champs has only fueled my fire.

15 september 2023. cape town, south africa | interview with mountain bike racer tyler jacobs as published on bike network by myles kelsey
Sighting laps in Scotland at the U23 World Championships.

Onto racing now, you had a big crash in Scotland in August which put you out of the World Champs. What do you remember about the crash itself?

The rock roll was wet on course practice that morning. My tire slipped on a rock on the entry and I went off-line. Then I was being loaded into the ambulance.

How has your physical recovery come along and have you incorporated more skills work into your training routine or made any other changes to your preparation since that off?

My recovery has been good, I actually didn’t feel too bad after the crash. Thankfully there was nothing broken and the bruises and scratches healed very quickly. I still wanted to race but the medical team and well everyone actually advised against it. I’ve been riding since I’ve been back, doing longer rides to build my fitness. Incorporating more dedicated skills work is something I’m keen to do – I’ve seen I’m much faster when I’m not lying in the dirt.

15 september 2023. cape town, south africa | interview with mountain bike racer tyler jacobs as published on bike network by myles kelsey
Bike racing can be so cruel!

As a South African racing internationally, what have you found to be the hardest part of adapting to World Cup XCC and XCO in Europe?

The depth of talent in Europe is huge, on arriving in Europe I had high expectations but was treated to an eye opener of a first experience. Everyone seems capable of winning and the field is so much bigger, it is like being in a road peloton but everyone trying to jostle for position for single track or obstacles. The racing is a lot more attacking. That being said, it really is a privilege to be amongst it all and learning and improving along the way.

You are not the tallest rider on the start line. Are there any special setup tweaks you’ve made to the bike?

It’s true, I’m not known for my height, but no I haven’t had to make any special tweaks.

I’ve ridden with you, albeit a few years back now, and I recall you definitely don’t hold back on the descents or technical aspects of a trail. Where does this aggressive riding style come from and was it intentional or is it more a case of ‘it’s how you’ve always ridden?’

I’d say from wanting to keep up with my brothers, I’ve never liked them beating me no matter what we’re doing. But I wouldn’t say it’s intentional, it’s almost like a reflex, that my brain says I have to be faster and then my body goes with it, which as we know, doesn’t always end well.

In an average week of pre-season training, how much time do you spend on the bike Vs. doing other fitness-related activities and can you share what kind of off-the-bike training you do?

During base training, I spend about 25 hours a week on the bike, with a few gym sessions a week. And I’m wanting to add some running to this too.

You’ve got three more seasons as an U23 – that’s a lot of time left to learn and make a name for yourself on the international circuit. What do you think are the keys to making a successful transition to international XC racing?

Yes, three more seasons so plenty of time to learn. I think the main thing is to keep it fun, I’m still relatively new to the sport and a number of the people in my support system have told me to keep it fun and not rush the process. I think it’s important not to take everything too seriously, and just enjoy every experience.

Locally and internationally, more and more women are taking up mountain biking. What do you think some of the barriers to entry are and why do you think there are more and more women riding and racing?

I think some of the barriers are the technical aspects that scare some people away. Also, you don’t see very many women racing, at least in South Africa. But I think the more women there are racing the more women will be inspired to give it a go.

What is your favorite local trail?

Holla trails – pink.

What are your hopes for the rest of this season and beyond?

I don’t have any more overseas races so I’m going to use these next months to train hard for next year. Otherwise, I’m very excited to be racing Wines 2 Whales this year with an amazing partner!

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