Riding with a team means shared pain and triumph, laughs and camaraderie. It’s support that’s always there; a tailwind that greets you every ride. And no one exemplifies always being there for their teammates better than Billie Knowles. The “Grandmaster of SAG”, Billie knows how to motivate and support her team both on and off the bike, and does so endlessly. Genuine and true, it’s not just the help that she provides us, but the heart that comes with it.
Rolling: How long have you been riding? Not “hanging onto the front of a shopping cart” riding. I mean “We’ve gone how far???” riding.
Billie Knowles: I rode my first 5 mile ride in July 2003. It was a training ride for the MS150 as it was called then. This was a very brave step for me as Mike (my husband) was working at church on Sunday mornings and I’m not great at trying new things on my own. Doug Waldman (my boss, and Team Superior’s sponsor) rode his bike from his home in Bixby to ride with me and the group. I thought then that I couldn’t imagine ever riding that far in one day. By the way, without trying I “shamed” Mike into riding that first MS ride – he wasn’t going to be the guy sitting on the couch while I did 150 miles.
Rolling: How often do you ride and what types of rides do you do?
BK: I try to ride three times a week with our team. Weeknights I ride about 20 miles, and Saturday for me is usually 20-40 miles.
Rolling: What got you into this easily-all-consuming world of cycling in the first place?
BK: In 2002 our original Team Superior consisted of Doug Waldman and David Griggs. They would get to the end of the MS ride early in the day and have nothing to do because they were so fast. Mike and I said we would come and set up a tent with a TV, grill and food. I guess you could say that was my first SAG. When you see all the cyclists coming in and telling their stories it just makes you want to participate!
Rolling: What goals did you start out with, and did you meet them?
BK: My first goals were just to survive and get over a 10mph average! I did survive and eventually met the average goal! I’m closing in on making 14mph my average now.
Rolling: Any goals for this riding season?
BK: I would like to ride a thousand miles this season. I would also like to do my first century this year at Hotter N Hell. But my training time has been limited this year, so I think that will need to be my goal for next year.
Rolling: What’s your preferred riding fuels (liquid and solid) and why?
BK: Lots of water and I seem to do well with shot blocks and a pay day (the miniature ones – not full size!).
Rolling: Best post-ride meal?
BK: Probably a good cheeseburger!
Rolling: What’s your favorite tour ride, and why?
BK: That would be Hotter N Hell. It’s a great course for those of us who are not hill fans! There’s also a lot of fun with friends. The team has the weekend planned down to every meal. It’s a wonderful tradition for me no matter how far I actually ride.
Rolling: We’ve all had some hard days in the saddle. What’s the toughest ride you’ve ever done?
BK: My toughest would be the Saturday MS Bike ride a few years ago. For the first time I completed the first day with no sagging or walking of hills. I rode 78 miles which is still my longest one day ride. I was one of the last one of the team that completed the ride to get in. My happiest and hardest ride ever!
Rolling: You provide some of the best SAG (Support And Gear) in the business. What do you need in order to provide great SAG?
BK: I think to be a good SAG you need to be part rider, part mom. And of course you need lots of water, ice, Gatorade and snacks! Encouragement helps a lot too. I’m always so excited to see the team come rolling into a rest stop. And a little “cowbell” at the finish line helps.
Rolling: Of the sayings found in the video @#$% Cyclists Say, about what percentage have you said?
BK: Probably about 10% – the stuff about “is my tire flat”, or “are my brakes rubbing” immediately come to mind.
Rolling: If you could go back to when you started riding, what advice would you give yourself?
BK: Don’t give up and lose weight sooner.
Rolling: What do you think the best piece of advice would be for a rider starting out?
BK: Hang in there. I was told a lot that no matter how slow or how frustrated you get you are still ahead of everyone who doesn’t even try. I still encourage myself with that.
Rolling: What things in fellow riders inspire you to be better?
BK: I’m inspired by how much people encourage me. I’m very comfortable riding the trails by myself, but when we’re on the road and Mike and the other team members stay with me – not concerned about their average – and give me instruction, that’s the best.
BK: I will do both this year. Pump Back Hill will have to wait for another year.
Rolling: Bonus round – Now’s your chance to make an impression on all eight of my readers. Anything you’d like to add?
I would say that the best thing that has come from cycling is after an EKG my doctor told me I had an athletic heart. After seeing on my chart years ago that I was considered “morbidly obese” that’s a big difference. Cycling has allowed me to make friends and do things that would never have been possible.