Meet Tyler Jacobs – The Next Big Name In South African Cycling

by | Jan 30, 2024 | Cycling Athlete Profiles, Bike, Bike Events & Racing, Featured, Sports

Read on to know one of the biggest up and coming talents in the South African mountain biking scene. Tyler Jacobs is on a trajectory of note.

While the name Tyler Jacobs might not quite have household status yet, it is only a matter of years (or months even) until it is up there with the likes of Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss.

The 19-year-old KwaZulu-Natal racer is known for her bold riding on the most technical XCO courses of the world. Kicking off her international career in 2022 at the UCI MTB World Champs in Les Gets as a junior rider (claiming 20th on the day) she has since been back to race her first year in U23, visiting four rounds of the MTB World Cup in 2023. Her best results to date at a World Cup level were 14th in the Short Track and 26th in the XCO, both at Leogang.

Tyler has undergone some big changes in support for 2024, now being backed by Trek SA and several other notable brands through the work of One Movement Athlete Management. In her second year out of the junior category, Tyler will be racing a full season of World Cup XCO, gaining valuable experience and refining her race craft in search of the podium. We wanted to find out about the roots of this young talent and see where she is going in the years to come. This is what she had to say.

Cover Image Credit: Flight Film Production

Tyler you’ve just got back from team camp in Namibia with some of the international Trek Future Racing athletes? How are you feeling on the new bike and what was it like to hang out and ride with those riders?

I’m loving the feel of the new bike and I can’t wait to race it! It was a great opportunity to be able to do that and meet everyone, and really cool to see how their team works outside of racing as well. I got to see a lot of how they prepare and fuel for their rides. Riding with the team was really great and we also got to visit a children’s home there which was awesome.

Tyler Jacobs Is South Africa'S Next Big Name In Mountain Biking And Cycling
From a young age, Tyler was ready to send it!

Tell us a bit about where you’re from and how you got involved with bicycles?

I’m originally from SA but moved to Kenya when I was nine. I lived in Kenya for eight years and this is where I started going for rides with my dad and brothers. I did lots of school sports but only started going for rides with them every now and then when I was about 13.

What about where you grew up do you think has made you a better rider?

I think living in Kenya did help as we were at 2000 metres above sea level. But I think what mostly made me a better rider was having two younger brothers to chase! It was tough. I never beat them and that’s what made it tough, haha. They were always up for a challenge, and just keeping up with them was a challenge for me. I did like to ride technical sections with them and give the jumps that they made a go but there actually wasn’t much of that in Kenya.

When did the racing bug bite? Did you love racing right away and did the results start coming quickly?

I’ve always been competitive, having grown up with brothers, we always wanted to better each other, so I do like to race…and win ;). I’d say the bug really bit when I was stuck in SA during lockdown, tried my first SA cup, and realized I might have some potential.

2023 was your first year out of the Juniors category. How would you describe that experience?

Eye opening. It was my first experience racing World Cups, and the races are unlike anything in SA or Africa for that matter. I really had to adapt how I went into the races and learn to control myself and calm down.

You’ve been fortunate enough to start getting some World Cup experience at a young age. How did that opportunity come about and what are some of the big lessons learned so far from the world stage?

I was hoping to get some World Cup experience and fortunately I got picked up by Computer Mania who took me to a few of them and gave me much needed support. A big lesson was just learning to take it easy, and not just gunning it like a headless chicken from the start, which often landed me on the ground.

Tyler Jacobs Is South Africa'S Next Champion Cyclist And Mountain Biker
Sharing the track with world class riders, Tyler Jacobs is unflustered and keen to prove herself. (c) Flight Film Production

Speaking of, you seem to be pretty good at crashing and bouncing back fast! How would you describe your relationship with crashing?

Haha, that’s a very original question. I’d say I’m not as weary of it as I probably should be. I often don’t think of the consequences before going faster than I should down a technical section. I’ve been lucky enough never to have broken anything. But I would like to work on my relationship with ‘slow is smooth and smooth is fast’.

Who are the people and brands behind Tyler Jacobs?

I’m lucky to have so much support from family, friends and sponsors. I have some incredible sponsors this year; Trek, Biogen, CIOVITA, Garmin, Sigeyi and DriveTrain Academy – they are an immense help, also the team at On-Track Cycles have really helped to keep my bikes running smoothly. I couldn’t do any of this without them, as well as the people close to me behind the scenes who are always there for me.

Meet Tyler Jacobs - The Next Big Name In South African Cycling
Supported by Trek SA for 2024, it is a new bike and a more tailored program for Tyler this year.

What was racing Wines2Whales with Candice Lill like? Have you two become quite close? Would you consider her a mentor?

I would definitely consider Candice a mentor. Getting to race with someone you look up to not just as a racer but a person as well is an amazing opportunity. Candice and Darren have helped me a lot with my racing journey. They have allowed me to travel with them to World Cups this year which will help me a lot with having some people I know.

Fnb Wines2Whales
Tyler Jacobs and Candice Lill take the stage and overall win on stage 3 at the FNB Wines 2 Whales Chardonnay. (c) Dom Barnardt / Wines2Whales

You’re undergoing some big changes to your support structure for 2024 moving onto Trek SA. How did this come about and what does support look like for you in 2024?

Trek offered me a really good deal that allowed me to continue racing overseas as well as invite some big sponsors to the table. I won’t have a structured team but a lot of individuals that will support me, Trek, CIOVITA, Biogen, Garmin, DriveTrain Academy and Sigeyi I’ve mentioned and I’ll be getting support from Candice and Darren as well as Trek Future Racing when at the World Cups.

What are your big goals for the 2024 season (and beyond) and what motivates you to push for these?

My goals for the upcoming season are to improve my racing and learn how to race smarter. Obviously I’d like to do better than I did last year, and I’m motivated by the training I’ve put in and how much I’ve enjoyed preparing for 2024. I would really like a top ten finish this year at the World Cups and I’m hoping to do all the World Cup races, but it depends on how far the budget takes me. As for South African races, mainly just the SA XCO Cup series and Marathon Champs as of yet.

If you want to follow Tyler and keep up with her racing endeavors (which we highly recommend that you do), you can find her Instagram account here @tylercjacobs. There is no doubt that she is going places in 2024 and beyond with her fearless approach to racing and some serious grit, not to mention the raw talent and skill she’s got on the bike.

We’re going to be on the edge of our seats for this World Cup season to see how Tyler does in her second year racing U23. The first race is 12 April in Brazil, get it in your calendar.

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