Ryan Steers is a professional bike racer living in the hills around Malibu. Like so many guys and girls racing bikes, his talents and interests go well beyond two wheels turning round and around. He is a guy we have known for quite a few years now, have hiked the tallest peak in the continental US with, and someone we are proud to have associated with Field Work Nutrition. Continue reading to learn a little bit more about Ryan, what makes him tick, and why riding dirt takes precedent over asphalt in his world. And if you ride bikes in SoCal, hopefully you'll be lucky enough to ride next to this very understated beast of a bike rider.
Where are you from, and a little about your background (whatever you'd like to share about how you grew up etc).
I grew up in Charlottesville VA enjoying the great outdoors and moved to LA to attend USC. After graduation I thought I’d end up back east after a few years but as I discovered all the outdoor activities that LA had to offer, the Santa Monica Mountains combined with the weather, I knew that I’d never leave.
Can you talk a bit about your athletic background, going as far back as you'd like to where you are now?
I grew up a runner. I ran cross country and track all through high school and at USC I was on the track team and the crew team. I loved riding my mountain bike when I was a kid and built trails all around my house in the woods but it wasn’t until 2009 that I rediscovered cycling. I had a brief fascination with road racing but after a year or two it was full time MTB.
What is the appeal for you of riding dirt over any other type of cycling?
There’s a meditative quality to riding on the dirt. You’re not thinking about cars or traffic or the road ahead, you’re focused on every rock, every turn, every line. You’re in the moment on the trail and not ten miles down the road. Also, I find the races more fun: I’m very competitive but I’m not willing to sacrifice my safety or that of those around me for a win, which makes me a terrible road racer. On the dirt you’re often alone for miles and it’s more about survival than tactics.
When it comes to riding on dirt, what is your favorite style for racing? For fun?
I love rocky, rooted, wooded single track, it’s what I grew up with and it will always be my favorite. We don’t have a lot of that around here. There are a few sections of backbone trail in Malibu that remind me of home. When I moved to LA I stopped riding mountain bikes because I hated climbing fire roads, now I can’t get enough of them! I’m addicted to gravel riding. I take the TCX out and ride the fire roads for hours, the bigger the climb the better! I like the endurance MTB scene, the people are cool, the courses are usually beautiful and it’s fun to spend 6-8 hours on the trails. Lately I’ve gotten hooked on gravel racing because I’m not a great technical rider and I hate going around a park in circles. I’m not the speediest guy, the best climber, the greatest handler, or the one with the most endurance but to be a good gravel racer you can be pretty mediocre at everything: that about sums me up.
Where is your hands down favorite place to ride?
I’ll always have a fondness for riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s home and the trails are great. Some of my other favorites are, the Mark Twain National forest in Missouri, any aspen forest in Colorado, and the SoCal fire roads around my house in Chesebro, Malibu and up into the Los Padres area between Santa Barbara and Ojai. Hands down the best adventure riding I’ve done though was in the Copper Canyon in Mexico. It’s deeper and larger than the Grand Canyon, super remote, and you can bike everywhere. It’s beyond spectacular.
What is your favorite race?
That’s a hard one. Depends on the day! Leadville is always love/hate relationship. I’ve been out there 4 times and I’m taking a break for a while. For gravel I really love the Crusher in the Tushars. It’s a great distance and Burke does such an incredible job putting it on. For MTB it’s hard to beat the Shenandoah 100, that race has everything.
What is your most hated race and / or most brutal race experience?
Any XCO race. I strongly dislike sprinting until I’m crosseyed and then going around in a circle for an hour. It’s frustrating to start 120th and finish 70th and although it’s cool to line up with Nino and the big boys, at the end of the day I have no business being in that mix.
Aside from riding your bike, what do you like to do in your spare time?
When I’m not riding I’m chasing around my two year old and four year old. First and foremost I’m a professional dad. It takes way more endurance and stamina than riding a bike all day.
Are you still into wine?
Yes, I’m very much a huge wine nerd. I grew up on a vineyard and helped plant the vines so it’s in my blood. I just moved to a new house and along with room for my bikes there’s a great spot to put in a cellar. I love to cook and I’m kind of a foodie as well. A glass of wine with a great meal is the most amazing pleasure after a day of riding. After Ride and Pint at Pedalers Fork on Thursdays I’ll opt for for a glass of Pinot over an IPA. I take a little flack from the guys but I’m not really a beer person (shh don’t tell anyone).
You put your kids on bikes early, how have they taken to it?
My kids love to ride! It’s something I try not to push but when they see you doing something they want to do the same thing. Rex was on a two wheeler before his 3rd birthday and Reese is taking to her little push bike. It’s funny to see people’s reaction when the see such a tiny person zooming around park like they own the place. Last year Rex crashed and broke his collarbone a week after I did. He was pretty proud to have the same injury as dad but my wife wasn’t super thrilled. She’s extremely patient.
Goals for 2018?
My main goals this year are the Belgian Waffle Ride, Crusher in the Tushars, and Dirty Kanza. Kanza is the big one, I’m super excited to get out there. Giant has been amazing and is excited for fun adventures and the gravel scene and Topical Edge is making Kanza possible. It’s the world's premier gravel event and it’s an honor just to line up. I may throw in a few more endurance MTB races and would like to hit Marathon MTB Nationals in Arkansas this spring.
Anything else you'd like to share?
I’m so lucky to have such amazing sponsors support. My wife has really made everything possible by being so understating and supportive and I’m fortunate to have brands behind me that I truly love. It’s really fun to be an ambassador for products you love. I think people can sense genuine enthusiasm when you’re explaining your gear; whether it’s your bike, glasses, tires, or nutritional products. You ride alone but it’s a sport you can’t do alone.