1 Mar 2018


WORDS x Sarah Sturm
PHOTOS x Patrick Russell, Joey Schusler

I clicked “end” on our two-hour Facetime call. I sat there for a few moments, going through all of the things that were floating in my mind, all of the points we touched on in one call. We talked about suicide, death, being busy, friendship, bikes and fear. You know, just a quick call. But that’s how it is talking with Sarah. No matter who you are, how you’re ranked, how fast, slow, sponsored, famous, amateur, whoever you are Sarah will make you feel valued, important and special. Perhaps that is why she has been able to build an empire of women on bikes, and we couldn’t be luckier.

Sarah Rawley should be the archetype of human and athlete we teach our children to strive for. She isn’t just a name in one category – she is not just the traveler or the bike racer or the “girlfriend”. She isn’t just a coach or the female face of Yeti. She is a hard worker, she thrives on productivity and can’t seem to have just one piece of the pie, she wants to bake it, serve it and eat it too, and damn it, she does! The thing about Sarah is that should she choose the path of professional athlete she could probably be racing on the pro EWS circuit. She could spend all hours of the day training, resting, racing and traveling but instead she has chosen a different path, and we should all thank her for it. Sarah has successfully built a community of bike riders, people who not only rip on bikes but also teaches all other types of riders how to enjoy the sport we love so much.

It started with Sarah’s vision to have a women’s only bike race. That turned into the Beti Bike Bash in 2010 and over the years has grown from a race into a whole community. Now, thanks to Sarah, we have the Vida Mountain Bike Series where women from beginners to advanced adrenaline seekers can learn a spectrum of skills. Women of all ages and abilities get to ride together. There is comradery between the attendees, coaches and ambassadors. It runs deeper than any race, and any one bike brand. This band of women that Sarah has brought together will keep the industry alive and the sport of mountain biking a little more diverse.

Beyond starting and running those events, Sarah also manages to rally one of the biggest gathering of dirt lovers called the Yeti Tribe Gathering. Held at a different location each year around the world, this gathering is a celebration of life, bikes, friendship (and maybe a little drinking) and Sarah somehow has perfected the art of herding cats and makes it all happen. Oh, and we’re far from done talking about all of the things Sarah has created and organized. Because along with growing multiple communities for us bike enthusiasts, Sarah has managed to work a full-time job, yep that means 40+ hours a week. And just in case you thought that was all, well, she is also a bike racer and a damn good one – I just don’t ask her how much sleep she averages a night.


I could easily write 1,000 words about all of athletic achievements (and of course some failures) that Sarah has had while racing bike both up and down mountains. Though I’ll focus on what I feel is more important than the speed at which you cross an imaginary line – who you are as a person. Sarah, above all of her notable achievements, is an incredibly kind person. During our call, we spoke of how busy we get, juggling athletics, jobs, events etc. It all stacks up, you can easily loose who you are among the ever-growing task list. Sometimes riding becomes yet another box to check off, along with sleeping and eating. Sarah knows a few things about being busy and yet has managed the precarious balancing act between health, kindness and bikes.

With the recent passing of a loved friend and passionate member of the tight-knit biking community, Sarah reflected on how she has processed tragedies before. We sat there, looking into our separate computers both in public spaces, and we talked about the deep and profound sadness that death brings to the living. Sarah is the driven, passionate person she is today because of what her mother instilled in her. And in 2011, Sarah lost her mom to a brain aneurism while they were skiing. The pain of losing someone you love is unlike anything else in this world. “There will always be a hole there”, Sarah explains about her loss. There is a hole that will never be fixed. Time eventually makes it so we can press on, we get to go back to the things we used to love, biking and skiing. She explains that a big piece of what keeps her going is knowing what her mom did for her and her family is now ingrained in who Sarah is today. So when it was time for Sarah help her friend, she listened when there were fewer ears, she helped when there was panic, and she was vulnerable when the love needed to be shared. There is often little we can do for someone who is suffering in the depths of depression, but kindness and compassion will always play a role even if it’s momentary ease.

As we all ride, as we race or coach, there is an underlying momentum that transcends the physical act of pedaling a bike. Sarah is a perfect example of that forward motion. She proves that even with blown corners, heavy breaks, pedal strikes and huge crashes, there will always still be a way forward. I guess there might be something to that saying about getting back on that horse, and thankfully our horses are actually bikes. Giddy up!”