Enduro racer speeds past riders, lands sponsorships

The gates open and the clock begins to tick. Legs pumping, sophomore enduro racer Paul Serra pedals to gain momentum on the downhill slope of dirt and gravel. He charges through the corners, fearlessly guiding his bike around obstacles. He overtakes a competitor, explodes around the hill’s final bend and crosses the finish line with a first place time.

“I am an adrenaline and speed freak. I love putting myself on the line,” Serra said. “When racing, we are very close to serious injury or even death, and that’s what I like about it. You are putting yourself out there. I just like the danger and the speed of it and being able to know that I control every move.”

Serra’s dedication to enduro racing has led to this moment: a strict routine of waking up to train at 5 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, riding 8 to 10 hours on the weekends and working out in the gym with a personal coach.

Enduro is a form of mountain bike racing which includes downhill, incline and cross country sections. Riders use their technical skills as well as overall strength and endurance to end up with the best overall time of the race.

“Although people are very competitive during the race, at the end of the race, it doesn’t matter who won,” Serra said. “This is really specific to enduro racing since we are a really big community that just wants to have fun. This has let me establish some really great connections and meet some amazing people.”

Serra was introduced to riding bikes at the young age of three by his uncle, who was the 2001 Supercross World Champion, and his father, who raced dirt bikes during his high school years. Serra started mountain biking and racing during sixth grade. Ambition and determination as well as a great deal of support from his family has allowed Serra to pursue his cycling hobby.

“My parents are the best sponsor I have. They have put so much time and effort into my racing from taking me to places and putting in huge investments to buying me replacement parts and paying for my entrance fees into races,” Serra said. “They are really putting 110 percent into whatever they can to help me succeed.”

Serra placed first in the the USA Cycling 2014 Sea Otter Classic 13-1‑4 division in Monterey, the 2015 Fontana Winter #2 U-18 division and the USAC 2015 Sea Otter Classic 15-16 division in Monterey. This year in August, Serra competed with adults that were up to six years older than him in the 2015 Enduro World Series #6 U-21 division in Whistler, Canada. A long racing season of hard work paid off in September when Serra was crowned 2015 California Enduro champion.

Serra’s racing success has led to sponsorships with multiple companies. Soon after winning the 2014 Sea Otter Classic, Serra was contacted and eventually sponsored by Specialized, a multi-million dollar bicycle corporation as well as well as a smaller bicycle repair and retail shop in Mountain View called Cognition Cyclery (Team Newton).
As a sponsored rider, Serra needed to put out content in order to represent the companies that he rides for. This ultimately led to Serra’s friendship with photographer and videographer Josh Woodward, also a Sequoia sophomore.

“I saw that Paul’s Instagram page was bike-related and I had never seen a person who was so good at riding from this area. We planned on getting together and doing a shoot and ever since then, we have loved going back to work together more and more,” Woodward said. “Being able to work with someone who has similar interests and is very passionate is really something special.”
Serra finds that it is easy to perform knowing that he is working with not only a professional, but also a friend.

“I know that with Josh, I am going to get a really high-quality product. I’m not second guessing myself that the video is going to be shaky or that the editing will not look right,” Serra said. “Knowing that the quality is going to be there is a huge advantage.”

Although Serra has come a long way since he first became interested with bikes, he feels that his perspective on riding has not changed one bit.

“Riding a bike is my getaway,” Serra said. “Life is hard. School is hard. And being able to go on your bike for five hours and be out in the middle of nowhere, alone with yourself is amazing. Just being able to discover new places, taking time off and completely letting your brain relax is an incredible experience.”