The Drive to Ride
The Drive to Ride
Editor’s Note: To launch the BFGoodrich® Trail-Terrain T/A® tire, we featured real people pursuing real adventures to build meaningful lives, like mountain biker buds Samantha Soriano and Jazlyn Smith, who use their sport to get outdoors, conquer their fears, and grow as people every day. This is their story.
Around the world, learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage. It doesn’t matter where you live, what language you speak, or what your parents do. At a certain age, someone in your life talks you through the fear, lets go of the back of your seat before you know it, and lets you fly off. All on your own. It’s a triumphant and transformative life milestone; one that introduces a new level of freedom and mobility that, for most kids, was unimaginable before. It imparts a small but powerful life lesson: your own sheer will can take you pretty far.
You can only learn to ride a bike once, but the triumphs, gleeful moments of freedom, and the life-altering transformations don’t have to end there. Just ask Samantha Soriano and Jazlyn Smith — mountain biking enthusiasts, best friends, and masters in the art of swallowing fear, taking big leaps, and flying. All on their own.
Jaz and Sam met in Colorado as high school freshmen competing in a cross-country bike race. Word at the starting line was that Jaz was really fast, and would probably win. Sam’s competitive interest was piqued. Months later, they locked eyes at another starting line, this time farther from home in California. After the customary “don’t I know you from somewhere?” dance, someone broke the ice. They spent the rest of the trip together, riding and hanging. A friendship was born.
“Sam tells me all the time that I’m her twin flame. It’s like perfect opposites. Sam is super committed, she's really driven, and she's got a lot of awesome goals. I'm a little bit more laid back. I like to just hang out, go along on the ride, and try to do what she does. We push each other in different ways, on and off the bike.” – Jaz
“Jaz is the epitome of the carefree go-for-it attitude. Every adventure we've gone on, she has been so willing to put up with my controlling planner nature, no questions asked. She’s my personal ‘hype man,’ and I'd like to believe that I'm also her personal ‘hype man.’”
From Fear to Hype
That process of learning to ride a bike — the nerves, the hand on your back, the leap, and the thrilling, victorious freedom that follows — is reenacted every time Jaz and Sam hit the trail together. Sometimes, more than once. Every good trail ride includes something that scares a rider at least a bit. Certain features, like ramps and drops, are common culprits. But they’re no match for a good hype woman.
Individually, Jaz and Sam are inclined to approach these scary moments very differently. Jaz takes the bandage approach — rip it right away before your nerves get the best of you. Sam is a fan of the trial run, attempting and examining different speeds, angles, and approaches toward a feature until she feels she’s found “the right way” to go for it. What they both share in common is their approach to one another’s fear: that it can and will be obliterated by a bit of friendly hype. Hands at one another’s backs, their mutual determination to transform nerves into confidence is inspiring.
“This is one of our highlighting qualities as a best friend pair. When it comes to a feature that we're both scared of or one of us is scared of that the other has already done, we will do everything and anything in our power to hype each other up. It gets to a point where the hype woman is way more stoked than the person actually about to go to the feature.” – Sam
“I have a bit of PTSD from going off a drop and breaking my back. Patiently, she's helped me progress. It means a lot to have a friend who is able to push you like that and help you grow. When I go out with Sam, I definitely think in my head, I'm going to go do something really cool. Hit something really big that I didn't think I could.” – Jaz
“The feeling, once you jump off a cliff that you're way too scared to jump off of, that's totally worth it. Just to know that you're capable of things that you don't think you are capable of. You have to step out of your comfort zone to find that. But once you find the feeling, you’ll begin chasing it, setting new goals as you go.” – Jaz
“There is a saying: how can you be 1% better today? I take that to heart when it comes to my riding. Even if I don't learn a new trick, there are little nuances throughout the day that in the end, I feel like I can take away and say: OK, I was 1% better today in this area.” – Sam
As athletes, their passion for mountain biking enables Sam and Jaz to explore some of the most beautiful and rugged places on earth. Their personal quests to see more and do more take them on even more adventures outdoors. But the adventure on the outside pales in comparison to the adventure happening within. As they consistently hit the trail, face their fears, and cheer one another on along the way, Sam and Jaz “come of age” every day. They push themselves, 1% by 1%, growing their confidence and their relationship.
“Our friendship started on the bike, but as I got to know her, we grew closer. I know she always has my back and wants what's best for me. She gives great advice and is comfortable telling me things that I don't necessarily want to hear. I help Sam a lot off the bike, too. I'm always there to talk her through things, push her, and to let her know that it's okay if she's not number one.” – Jaz
“I think as humans, our greatest weakness is that we are afraid of what makes us uncomfortable. But why would you want to live your life comfortable all the time? The only way you're going to learn and progress as a human is if you push yourself out of your comfort zone. You might have the most chaotic failure, but you also might have the greatest success.” – Sam
Perched at the comfort zone’s edge, holding one another’s backs, they learn to ride a bike.