Specialized’s newest racing reporter isn’t hard to pick out of the crowd of journalists and riders at the Amgen Tour of California—Phenom look for the Tips pigtails.
Nine-year-old Ruby Isaac, from Kettering, UK, is reporting daily for the brand via Facebook Live. Isaac has been hanging out with the Boels-Dolman women’s pro team in South Lake Tahoe while preparing for today’s start of the women’s Tour of California.
Isaac was just seven years old when she first got on a bike, but she jumped into her first cyclocross race a mere month later. Since then, she has started racing road and track and is winning the cycling internet’s heart via her YouTube videos (username: Pocket Rocket Cycling), which show her crushing the rollers, teaching other kids how to shift gears, and performing bike maintenance. (Become your best cycling self with Maximum Overload, our game-changing interval- and weight-training plan that gets you fitter and faster in no time.)
Cyclist Ruby Isaac at Amgen Tour of California
Cyclist Ruby Isaac at the Amgen Tour of California. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SPECIALIZED
This pint-sized rider’s love for bikes is so immense, Isaac caught the eye of not only Specialized’s marketing team (“She rides rollers better than most adults I’ve seen,” says Specialized PR Manager Katie Sue Gruener), but also World Champion Peter Sagan: Isaac is one of only 67 people he follows on Twitter.
Check out some of Isaac’s skills:
Want to be this good at bikes? We got insider tips from Isaac and her father, Nick, via Skype.
1. Try hard.
Isaac started racing at age 7 in the U10 category and only just turned 9, so she’s still one of the youngest (and smallest) kids out there. When asked how she deals with the nerves that come with racing bigger kids, she says, “Just focus on doing your best and trying your hardest.” Then, in the race, “I just go fast, and right when I get near them [her competitors], I shout and take over.”
2. … And then try again.
In her first cyclocross race, Isaac came in last place and got lapped. She said, “I felt happy that I did it but sad that I wasn’t near the front.” She had a positive attitude, though: “It was still fun that I did have a go.
Nick says, “We were proud of her finishing and just made a big deal of that fact. From then on, she caught the bug and wanted to race more.”
The following year, she went back, raced the same course—and won! Now, she consistently finishes within the top five in her U10 races. “If it were up to her,” says Nick, “she’d race every day.”
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3. Invest in gear that won’t hold you back.
Isaac’s road bike is set up with Di2 electronic shifting because it’s easier for her to hit the shifters with her tiny hands.
After watching Isaac struggle to throw the levers on her bike in a race, Nick went home to Google solutions. He bought Di2 parts secondhand to keep costs down and hooked them up to a 1x drivetrain on her 24-inch kids’ bike (the front shifter is just disconnected) so that she only has to think about shifting on one side.
“She just has so much more confidence changing gears now, which is a big issue with a lot of kids when they start,” he says. Her bike has other child-friendly parts, too, like 135mm cranks (relative to adult crankarms, which run between 165- and 180mm).
Isaac hits the trainer and offers gear analysis:
4. When it comes to skills, it’s all about progression.
Isaac learned to ride rollers with help from her dad and her brother. “First, she would just ride the rollers, and I would just hold the back of her seat,” says Nick. “When she was pedaling quite smooth, I’d just let go of the seat for a little bit, then grab it again. And then it was kind of about letting go of the seat for longer each time.” It took about 45 minutes the first time for Isaac to get the hang of it.
Her number-one advice for riding rollers? “Go really fast and don’t stop pedaling. That’s when you fall off.”