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Ride With Purpose Featuring Saboo

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Many riders push themselves to be better athletes, to climb harder and descend faster. However, there are some riders out there that athletic performance is only the beginning of their journey. These athletes have a purpose beyond their own pedals to push the cycling industry to be a better place for everyone. Meet our riders and ambassadors that are making it a point to drive the cycling industry towards inclusivity.

Welcome to WTB's Ride With Purpose.

 

Name?

Saboo Takaki

Where’s your local riding spot?

I live in San Francisco, California and I mostly ride in the Marin headlands/ Mount Tam area. We have a vast network of trails of all levels and most are rideable on a gravel bike. The incredible coastal views and immersing in the redwoods are just a quick bike ride via the iconic Golden Gate Bridge from the city.
Day job?
I dedicate my time to my well-being and personal projects that allow me to explore my passion for bicycling. 
Favorite WTB product?
Front - Venture 50 x 700, Rear - Riddler 45 x 700. I currently ride a gravel bike, but I'm a mountain biker at heart. I really enjoy fast corners and technical descents. Venture 50 out front provides an impressive amount of cornering grip and allows you to push hard into the corners and is predictable when approaching the limit. Riddler is an all-rounder on dirt, with plenty of traction for uphills and corners. 
One thing you never leave on a ride without?
A mini-pump and plug-kit. One time, in the beginning, I had to walk more than an hour because I didn’t have a pump or plug. It would not have been a big deal for a regular person because it was only about a mile but because I have difficulty walking, it was very stressful and made a simple flat tire experience the biggest defeat of my recent years. Also, bring plenty of food and water!

Favorite biking partner?

Chris Cosentino, he was my old teammate back in the days, rides fast and is fun to ride with. Also, he reminds me how to be more kind to others on the trails and how it's important to have fun even when we're pushing the limit.  

What's a perfect day of biking look like to you?

The day I am one with my bike, haha but honestly, I like to engage with fast riders and follow/chase them. I get really excited when I come across riders that are faster than me. I love it when we get to the bottom of the hill and share a huge smile. I guess challenging and racing will never fade away from my mind.  :) 

How did you get into biking?

It was the pictures of John Tomac skidding around corners on his bike with the Tioga disc wheel in the early 90’s. I thought mountain biking was the coolest thing in the world.
Going back even further, my parents gave me a bicycle when I was 3 or 4 yrs old and I still remember the first time I came down a hill without the training wheels. I was hooked on the thrills and freedom! I rode my bike everywhere within the village at first, and started challenging the boundaries outside of my comfort zone. My first real bike was a neon yellow Bridgestone rigid MTB (26" wheels, of course!) and it had matching neon yellow grips. That’s when I really started loving everything about the bicycle and appreciating the simple joy I can get from riding a bicycle. The way my bike gave me expansive opportunities to experience my inner strength and to fulfill the hunger to seek beyond the boundaries were massively satisfying as a young Japanese kid. Because, from a young age, metaphorically we’re told to stay within the boundaries and follow the path that has already been established. As a teenager, I did downhill skiing, road bike racing, Keirin (track bike racing) and XC mountain bike racing.
 
Fast forward to 1997, I had already been living in San Francisco and my first mountain bike I bought was a bright red Specialized hardtail mountain bike. I was heavily influenced by Shaun Palmer at the time, so it pretty much looked like his bike. In 1999, I met a bike mechanic named “Charlie” at a local bike shop and he took me to a local trail called Skeggs Point and I was completely hooked on mountain biking! I started riding local trails in the Bay Area with him and started to gravitate more towards the extreme side of bicycling and in 2000. It was a local race in Hollister, California where I won my first downhill race on the same hardtail bike and gradually moved up to a full suspension bike and started racing in downhill mountain bike races all over the US as an amateur racer. I became friends with many awesome human beings and met many mountain bike legends like Mark Weir along the way. 
 

 

Why do you ride?

This is going to be kinda long but without knowing how I got here, I feel like you’re missing a lot of who I am today. So here I am today. But as I mentioned above, I was diving head first into downhill mountain bike racing from the start. And as any extreme athlete will tell you, “If you’re not risking, you’re not winning”. In my earlier years, I was a pretty good rider but definitely needed coaching on how to manage my excitement (impulse), understanding my limits, etc. Like any young mountain bikers with above average skills, I thought I was invincible and overconfident on a bike. Nothing much stopped me from trying the faster and better line, except the double jumps. I came off an accomplishing season in 2002, climbing on the podium at pretty much all the races.  
In 2003, everything changed. I was in Big Bear, California for a national race. This race course was not my favourite. The course had a bunch of man-made jumps and jumping was not one of my best skills. I took off with very low confidence, took a risky jump and crashed. At that time, my big ego and belief that I needed to become a pro racer, and the pressure to win the races was what drove me. I sustained a spinal cord injury and my whole life changed.
I was diagnosed as an incomplete paraplegic. Pretty much paralyzed from the waist down. I couldn’t feel or move my legs for a while and had to spend a few years in a wheelchair. I eventually regained some movements and learned to walk again with crutches. 
 
But those few years while I was in a wheelchair were the darkest time of my life. Imagine going from being able to ride down the gnarliest trails and doing 60 mph manuals to depending on a wheelchair and can’t cross the street on my own because there’s a 5 inch curb. I lost all my independence and had to rely on other people to live my own life. Fortunately, I was surrounded by many kind friends and family and I survived without getting defeated by my mind. Because of that, I found some really interestingly simple and massively positive perspectives on life that help me get through my day-to-day in a very independent way. I even learned to ride a bike again.  
However, in 2020, everything got shut down including my swimming pool because of the pandemic, I was swimming daily a couple of years after the injury and that was no longer possible. That’s when I decided to get the electric-assisted gravel bike by Specialized. I was able to ride to destinations previously beyond my imagination. I truly love the feeling of wind on my face and the thrills I get from riding fast through the corners and challenging technical descends. It also brought back a sense of nostalgia and happiness from childhood and crazy adventures from the racing days. Most importantly, it provides me a sense of independence as I navigate through the different trails, routes and distance under my own free will. Riding my e-bike makes me smile and there is nothing else like it!
 

  

What changes are you advocating in the industry and how?

-Inclusivity: As a former racer myself, I understand the brands’ importance in recognizing top level racers and many of us have admiration for all the champions and the challengers on bikes. I for one cannot be more excited when I watch world cup races. If the bike industry want EVERYONE to participate, we need to be recognizing and addressing barriers that may prevent certain groups from participating in the bike industry. I believe we can highlight ordinary riders with many different backgrounds and with much wider age groups who are really passionate about riding bikes as much as the top level racers and the champs.
-Community engagement: Fostering community engagement and partnerships to support and promote biking initiatives. This can involve collaborating with local organizations, schools and government agencies to develop bike-friendly policies, events and advocacy campaigns. I believe most riders would follow and volunteer when we see the industry is doing the same. 
 

How can we create a bike industry that is accessible to everyone?

I understand that making everyone happy isn’t the easiest task but I believe there are a couple important things here:
- Affordability: Making bikes more affordable by offering a range of options at various price points. Offering alloy frames with high-end components versus high-end components being reserved only for carbon frames. Generally speaking, alloy frames don't always have high-end components options, thus leaving the cheaper alloy version undesirable. For example, it’d be awesome if we can have an option to pick different components depending on an individual's budget and needs. I think having more selectable options for both ways would make purchasing a new bike more accessible. I like how all WTB saddles are available with chromoly, stainless, titanium and carbon versions. 
- Education and training: Brands should use more energy to provide education and training programs that teach people how to ride, how to share trails with non-riders, and how to maintain and repair bikes. This empowers every rider with the knowledge and skills to feel confident and independent when riding bikes. Educating everyone, most importantly the younger and new riders, regarding etiquettes will create a more welcoming environment all around and hopefully that creates a more positive outcome for the bike industry. Plus, these programs can target diverse populations, including kids, seniors and individuals with disabilities.
 

If you had to pick one thing every rider and company needs to do today to create a more inclusive industry, what would it be? 

Be kind to others, it’ll come back to you sooner or later.

How can other people get more involved with shifting the industry towards more inclusivity?

-Network and collaboration: We should engage and build relationships with individuals and organizations that are passionate about inclusivity. Meet in person and feel the energy, it’s much more effective when you can FEEL the passion. Let’s get out there and start engaging!

 It's 10 years from today…. What is the bike industry like in your eyes?

-Electric bikes, some of you might not want to hear it but E-bikes are likely to become even more popular, with advancements in battery technology, lighter and much more efficient motors and extended range capabilities.

-Innovative lightweight materials, new composites or advanced alloys to keep the overall weight and hopefully the bikes are still affordable for many people.

-Use recycled or sustainable materials and manufacturing processes, we cannot ignore the environmental considerations and it will likely play a huge role. We will have no choice but to focus on producing and repurposing from what we already have.

Check Out More From Saboo on his Instagram! 

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