Photos // Rupert Fowler

Full time job = having fun & shredding! The Veronique Sandler Interview

During the past few years Veronique has been raising the bar of female freeriding into the stratosphere. Quite simply put, she is an absolute shredder!

If you haven’t seen Veronique’s insane riding talent then I’d encourage you to check out her social media channels or search for her on the ‘ol internet, either way be prepared to have your mind blown. Veronique is a Kiwi girl, born and raised in New Zealand before moving to the UK a few years ago to pursue her riding goals and become a full time pro rider. If there is one thing that really stands out about Veronique though it’s her insanely awesome style. When she rides she looks so fluid and everything looks so natural. She makes everything look super easy even though everything she does is super technical. We recently caught up for a chat and discovered a whole other side to the super talented young lady…

What a journey you’ve been on the last couple of years. How does a young Kiwi end up relocating to the other side of the world and become a pro rider!?

People think I’m crazy all the time, but I love it over here! I was racing World Cups between 2012-2016 and I used to come over here every Summer to race and return to NZ in the Winter (NZ Summer), work a lot to gain funds to come back over, and so on. It was an expensive task as a privateer so in 2015 I decided to stay in the UK for the Winter to save some money. I’ve been here ever since!

The riding in New Zealand is pretty amazing obviously. Have you spent much time back there since you moved to the UK?

Since moving here permanently I’ve actually only been back to NZ once, in Feb last year. I’ve just been loving exploring the UK and Europe since moving over here and it’s pretty expensive going back and forth.. I definitely would like to go more often though as NZ is rad!

“I go riding as much as I possibly can, but it varies every week! I’m incredibly lucky to now call this my job which allows me to ride most days, but aside from riding I’ll often go out digging or go to the gym to switch it up too. But whatever it is, it almost always involves bikes in some way or another.. living the dream!”

What is the local riding scene like where you live now?

It’s massive! The sickest thing about South Wales (aside from the awesome riding) is that there are always people who are hyped to go and shred with no matter what the day or weather. There are people building trails on almost every hill too, so there’s no shortage of fresh trails!

It goes without saying that you’re an inspiration that a lot of riders, a lot of girls in particular, really look up to. Who are some of the riders that motivate you to keep pushing the envelope as hard as you do? 

To be honest, the people I ride with most are the ones who inspire me the most as well. My brother, my boyfriend and a sick crew of mates who are all ridiculously good riders. We all push each other when we ride together and It’s crazy how much progression I see when I ride with people who are super stoked on seeing each other reach their goals. There’s no better feeling!

How would you describe your own riding style?

Ahh.. I just have as much fun as possible on all different types of bikes! I’ve become quite a fan of hitting jumps and learning tricks as well lately 🙂

You recently starred in your own episode of RedBull’s acclaimed Sound Of Speed series. What was that experience like? Were you pretty stoked when the ‘Bull got in touch asking if you’d like to do it? 

Man, I can’t even tell you how stoked I am to have had the opportunity! Obviously it’s a dream come true, and I really pushed myself in that video so I am super proud of how it came out. I couldn’t have had a better team to shoot with for those few days too, they were awesome!

That opening clip where you’re standing on the extended arm of an earth moving machine, holding onto your bike with one hand on the bars and the other holding the seat, then you jump off and land back on your bike and ride away… That was pretty bloody awesome! Did it take long to psych yourself up for that one?

Thank you! I’ve always wanted to do a bomb drop so when the opportunity arose to do a RedBull video I had to get it done! I’d never done a proper one, dropping from a decent height before, and it sure did look a lot higher off the ground once I was up there! Luckily we had the digger bucket at a few different heights to start off with so I felt confident with the final height. All the videographers were super skilled BMX riders so they had the encouragement on lock. Still had some serious nerves rolling though!

How did you build up to hitting all those massive jumps you ride, and taking your hands off the bars mid-flight, etc?

Black Mountains Cycle Centre, which is where we shot the video, is one of my most local and favourite spots to ride, so I had ridden those jumps a load of times before the video. We are very fortunate to have some insanely well built jumps around here which helps the progression of hitting bigger jumps a lot. The no handers etc just take time and practise too.. I’ve recently noticed that I now find them easier on bigger jumps as I have more time to get my hands back on before landing!

You’ve got nearly 70,000 Instagram followers. Does the social media side play a big roll with you staying in touch with your fans and I guess stoke out your sponsors with constant coverage?

Yeah I think so! It’s just awesome to have a platform where I can share my antics and videos which I would be shooting regardless of social media because I love it so much! Sponsors and followers seem to be stoked on it too, so I’m definitely a fan of Instagram for those reasons. I know there are obviously negative aspects of social media, but it allows me to do a big part of my job so I’m very stoked on that!

Speaking of sponsors, tell us a bit about your deal with Marin bikes?

Marin picked me up at the start of last year and I haven’t looked back since! I’ve had a massive amount of jobs over the last 8 years which allowed me just enough money to live and a bit of time to ride, but I always made riding a priority and was super skint most of the time. Marin are legends as they took me on board as a professional rider, basically allowing me to capitalise on my dreams. All the people working at the company are super passionate about the company and we all get along really well, so big ups to them!

Who else do you have onboard supporting you this year?

I’m really lucky to have the support of a lot of great brands. This year I’m on Adidas, Terrex, Giro, Five Ten, Raceface, Marzocchi, Hope and WTB.

A lot of the riding clips and photos that you post on your social are pretty playful, showing you doing tricks and some really random creative things with your bike such as spinning it around on one wheel and trying to catch it before it falls over. Tell us a bit about that side of you?

After I stopped racing in 2016, I decided to have a year to chill and just ride my bike for fun. These are the things I found myself enjoying the most whilst out riding and I love watching videos of people doing new tricks, it hypes me up to have a go! The feeling of progression when learning these tricks and little jibs is just the best thing ever to me, so it’s what I now do the most!

What does a typical day in your life look like?

It varies so much, but a normal day at home is waking up, cooking a mean breakfast, doing a few hours of admin/emails.. then usually cleaning up my housemates messes haha, heading out for a big dig/riding session with some of the local guys, sometimes a little off roading session on the way back home in my Jimny, then back home to some more emails, dinner, a bit of drawing/doodling and a few episodes of Brooklyn 99.. I can’t complain at all!

Do you enjoy all of the whole ‘traveling’ side of being a pro MTB rider or do you hate living out of a suitcase?

I absolutely love it! I know a lot of riders prefer having time at home to chill, but I’ll take as many trips as I can get! I have a small suitcase which pretty much always stays packed, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I raced World Cups for 6 years, training hard and having a race mentality all the time and I got to a stage where I just didn’t seem to progress at all. It’s pretty frustrating when you put so much into something for so long with not much reward. As I mentioned before, I decided to take a break in 2016 and just started riding for fun, and that’s when I feel the real progress in my riding took off. No stressing about the clock and just enjoying riding was the biggest recipe for success!”

Do you spend much time digging jumps or building fresh trails? 

Since moving to South Wales I’ve spent a lot of time out digging for sure! There are so many hillsides that we are allowed to build on, and so many prime spots that I can’t not! It’s such a great feeling cutting a fresh section of trail in and riding it for the first time!

So, what’s next for Veronique?

Hopefully more adventures, more videos, more progression in all areas of riding and I will be stoked if I inspire some people to have fun shredding along the way!

Photos // Rupert Fowler