How to become a pro mountain biker

How to become a pro mountain biker

Posted by: Shauna Farnell

Fruita’s Sparky Moir got a late start pedaling, but that didn’t stop her from going pro

Just because you are an adult, it doesn’t mean you’ve missed the boat to potentially become a pro athlete.

Sparky Moir did not grow up aiming to one day be a professional mountain biker. In fact, the 34-year-old didn’t even start pedaling on dirt until about eight years ago.

Moir moved with her family to Colorado and attended high school on the Western Slope. Although surrounded by fat tire utopia, as a teenager she was focused on other pursuits.

“I grew up practicing classical ballet and danced through college. After 20 years of doing it, I was ready to move on. I moved from ballet to yoga. When I met my husband, he was a biker, but I had no interest in it,” Moir says.

There finally came a time when Moir’s boyfriend (now husband, Noah Spears) was able to get her out on the trail.

“He came home from work one day and said, ‘Let’s go.’ A couple weeks after that, he got me a bike. It was a fully rigid bike – a single speed. He was like, if you can learn to ride without gears and suspension and you like it, we can get you a different bike,” she recalls.

Pedaling the world-class singletrack off of Fruita’s 18 Road and famed Loma area, Moir initially embraced the scenery more than the physicality of the sport.

“For me, biking has always been about getting out and exploring. Right away I was drawn to that aspect of it,” she says. “I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t say I was good at all. I didn’t have a lot of cardio or that strength to push over technical features. There were times I wanted to throw my bike down the cliff. It took a couple of years to get into the flow of it.”

Getting a bike with gears and suspension helped. Along with her growing comfort on the bike, the more she rode, the more speed came, too.

Sparky Moir biking
Sparky Moir, 34, will be competing at the 2021 GoPro Mountain Games. Moir has competed before in the TIAA Bank XC Mountain Bike race in Vail. Photo courtesy of Sparky Moir

“I started having fun going fast,” she says. “The next natural step when you start feeling good on the bike is to jump into some races.”

It was only about two years after Moir first got on a bike that she tried racing. And she didn’t start small. Her first ever mountain bike race was the Big Mountain Enduro in Crested Butte. She landed on the podium.

“I can so vividly remember the day. I had a lot of crashes and I was working really hard to make up time. I didn’t have the skills right away, but, I loved racing. It was the camaraderie and that pushing yourself that made me want to race more. It was great to get on the podium. I was like, ‘Wow, I did well, but I crashed a lot … what can I do the next race if I don’t crash so much?’ It encouraged me to go back to my trails and focus on technique and the basics,” she says.

Moir dialed in the basics. She learned that she not only had the skills, but also a healthy supply of endurance, so she began competing in endurance and marathon races. Then she decided it was time to make the move up to the pro level.

“Part of it was knowing that it was only fair or the right time to move up, but even more so, I believe that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone encourages growth. That chance to race with way faster women helped me progress so quickly,” she says.

What it takes to get sponsored

The whole money aspect of becoming pro was also something Moir had to work for, especially as she continued to hold down a full-time job.

“Self-promotion is something we have to do as athletes,” she says. “As a mountain biker, no one is going to come to you and be like, ‘You’re so talented. We’ll pay you to ride our bikes.’ I had to learn how to put together an athlete resume and understand why a sponsor might be interested in me.

In 2016, she landed sponsorship with Pivot Cycles.

Sparky Moir biking
Sparky Moir says that as a pro rider, enjoyment has been the key ingredient to success. Catch Moir competing at the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail. Photo courtesy of Sparky Moir

“I shared with them that I had a unique background, that I was a late starter to mountain biking. I had only competed in one pro race – the True Grit in St. George, Utah – but I was enthusiastic about where I saw myself going. I was excited about their bikes. I shared what races I would offer them and what impact I would make,” Moir says. “If I were to give advice to anyone looking for that first sponsorship, it would be to be yourself, be honest and don’t worry if you don’t have the results. What people are looking for is potential, not just in racing, but your whole character.”

After five years of racing with Pivot, including podiums in the True Grit in St. George, the Telluride 100 and a win in the grueling Gaspesia 100 in Quebec, Moir recently signed on with Fezzari bikes.

“I’ve had some pretty cool moments – podiums that were unexpected, challenges overcome,” she says. “I’ve always focused not just on doing one type of race, but a variety of things that will fill my cup. The Trans BC Enduro was one of the races where I discovered one of my strengths was endurance. The trails were so demanding and technical, but I was consistent. I didn’t have the fatigue that a lot of people were experiencing on the last day. I realized I have a good diesel engine in there. Doing distance becomes so much less about the competition, but that internal battle between your body and mind, those mental and emotional peaks and valleys.”

Look for her at the Mountain Games

Having recently worked her way out of a pretty serious valley, involving back-to-back injuries (breaking her hand in 2019 and leg in 2020), Moir is back in the saddle and has filled her spring and summer calendar with competitions, including the TIAA Bank XC Mountain Bike race in Vail. Moir has competed in the Mountain Games XC race before. She finished seventh among a stacked pro field when she first bumped up to the highest level in 2016.

“I loved it, but it was a lung burner for me with all of that climbing at high elevation,” she says. “I enjoyed the whole weekend. It’s a great event and so fun to be an athlete and a spectator.”

Moir says that as a pro rider, enjoyment has been the key ingredient to success.

“It’s easy to focus on training. What are you eating? What are your intervals like? It’s so important to remember that biking is supposed to be fun. Never lose sight of it being fun,” she says. “In terms of racing and being a pro rider, it’s about staying true to yourself, not feeling like you have to do events because other people are doing them. Some advice for a younger rider is that what you start doing isn’t necessarily what you end up doing in your career. You might try gravel racing and realize it’s your thing or an enduro and find that’s your thing. I try to be open-minded and encourage myself to try new things and never get stagnant or complacent with where I am on my bike. I see myself as a lifetime biker. I want to be riding my bike when I’m 80 years old and staying strong for the duration.”



Share this Story:

Share this Story: