Strait Talk: Professional Life with Mountain Bike Power Couple Kyle and Rachel
Kyle and Rachel Strait grew up racing mountain bikes at many of the same venues. They knew each other for years, but not well. He was more of a downhiller, and she raced cross country - each doing their own thing. But that all changed when they reconnected in their 20s and started riding together and dating. We chatted with them both to find out what life is like as a couple balancing marriage and two pro careers.
SNT: Tell us more about how you met and got together.
Kyle Strait: Because she was into cross country and I was into downhill, we never talked much. Later, when we were older, she was working in Laguna Beach close to where I was living at the time, and we decided to go for a bike ride.
Rachel Strait: It wasn’t until I was 25 that we “met” via Facebook and reconnected. He sent me a direct message that said “‘S’up?” So we started talking in December 2012, and it went from there. We were married on November 5, 2015.
Stan’s NoTubes: Where were you both in your respective riding and racing careers when you finally connected?
KS: When we first started riding together and dating, I had just won the 2013 Redbull Rampage and was doing lots of Crankworx. She was just getting back into mountain biking. She had taken a big break after racing cross country World Cups and junior worlds to go to school. We met around the time she started racing again.
RS: I was working at Crank Brothers in their direct sales department, and I was racing the Fontana winter series, but I wasn’t that good because I had taken time off in college when I didn’t ride much. I had come from cross country and knew I liked enduro, but I didn’t have the skills.
Stan’s NoTubes: How has being with each other changed your training and competition?
KS: We started riding and talking, and it was awesome from the start. Now I have someone who encourages me, and I have someone to ride with. That’s important as I often have riding friends who work during the day thus aren’t free then. Rachel has a great work ethic, and it’s nice to have someone around who has a lot of passion to go out and ride all the time. We do a lot of the same things, but sometimes, she might go to the gym, and I go digging. Travel is also easier now because we’ve both been through it. We know what it’s like for the other person.
RS: When I started dating Kyle, we would ride together, and he helped me so much with my skills. I learned to corner, bunny hop, etc. I had missed learning a lot of basic skills when I was riding cross country. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. He’s extremely mentally strong, that helps me a lot in gaining confidence. And I’ve never had an issue with endurance or motivation to train, so I’ve helped him a lot with those.
SNT: How often do you ride together?
KS: Quite often during the winter, but during the summer not much because of our different travel schedules. But two weeks ago, she was in Idaho, and I was in Colorado; then she came to Colorado and we rode together a bunch ahead of an event she was doing. Then this week, we’re riding together a lot at a camp we’re coaching.
RS: During the winter, we ride together three times per week. At Keystone Big Mountain Enduro (BME), he came and we rode every course together, and he helped me pick out my lines. It was rare that he could come to an enduro race during the summer with me. Typically in the summer, we both travel so much and have such different disciplines that we don’t see each other much.
SNT: What does a typical ride together look like?
KS: It depends. I like doing all sorts of different riding. It’s a lot of trail riding during the winter and getting her to do jumps. She wants me to do three-hour rides with her, too, but she’s a super fast climber. However, now that I have an e-bike, I go with her more often.
RS: We have a fun trail by our house: Anderson Truck Trail. The climb up is 45 minutes to one hour long. He doesn’t mind it, and the downhill is really fun. If we’re riding together, he has to feel that the downhill is worth the climb. But now that he has an e-bike, he’ll go with me almost anywhere - whereas before our rides had to be under two hours. Sometimes he’ll even tag along on his e-bike and keep me company when I have to do intervals.
SNT: How has being in a relationship with another serious cyclist been a challenge?
KS: It’s not often that it’s a challenge, but there are few things. If I’m at a Rampage, I have my own routine that I have to do. She doesn’t always understand that I don’t need to be practicing more, and I have to remind her to let me do my own thing. I have to say, “Trust me, I’ve been doing it awhile.”
RS: One challenge is that he gets frustrated when he knows that I can do something but I’m afraid to do it. And sometimes when I do something while afraid, I half ass it. He hates when I do that because he knows how hurt I could get if I were to mess it up. I also get frustrated with myself. Also sometimes, I want to trail ride, and he wants to do tricks. We come from such different worlds, it can be hard to comprehend each other, but at the end of the day, we both know and respect the backgrounds we come from.
SNT: How did you end up in Alpine, California?
KS: We moved to Alpine in 2014 because we’d go there every year before Rampage, and then we decided to just move there. I had thought maybe when we got old, we could move there, and she was like “Let’s just do it.” Now we have a place with tons of jumps.
SNT: How do you take care of your relationship with all the travel?
KS: We try to talk as much as possible. It’s hard when I’m in Europe because I’m riding all day and going to bed before she’s just getting up for the day. It helps knowing that she does events, too, and that she knows how those schedules work with riding practice and competing. You get used to it, though, and it’s easier than being in a relationship that includes someone who doesn’t compete.
RS: We just do what we have to do when we travel and are apart, and I think it’s worth it to live the life we live. I get into my mode, and I know that when I have to travel, I have to do it. It’s not easy being apart, but I know that it will be fine. It’s funny because everyone thinks that the girl is always the needier one, but in our relationship, Kyle is. Sometimes he gets upset if I don’t call him, but Facetime has been wonderful for us. We try to Facetime each other as much as we can. Fortunately, we do get to spend a lot of time together in the winter, and when we’re both home, we’re really home together.
SNT: What Stan’s wheels are you both currently riding?
KS: Flow MK3s (27.5”)
RS: Arch MK3s (27.5”)
SNT: Do you have the same sponsors?
KS & RS: We’re both privateers on our own program, and we both ride for Oakley, Stan’s, Kenda, SRAM and Rockshox, and Rynopower.
SNT: What advice would you give to help other riding/racing couples based on your experience?
KS: Know that your significant other won’t always listen to you. It’s funny how I’ll teach her something sometime and she won’t listen. Then someone else will say it, and she’ll get it. You have to not get frustrated and be patient.
RS: I see a lot of couples get in fights. Typically, it’s because the husband or boyfriend gives advice to the girlfriend or wife. If your man is a good rider, you have to swallow your pride and go with what he says. If he’s a good rider, admit that he knows what he’s doing. Nothing pisses off a husband or boyfriend more than to hear that you just learned from someone else what they were trying to teach you previously. It’s also important to make your riding together not too competitive. After all, it’s just riding bikes!
All photos used courtesy of Kenny Wehn and Rachel Strait