PROFESSIONAL mountain biker Sonya Looney is the World 24 Hour Endurance Champion. From Boulder, Colorado, she is also an accomplished motivational speaker and writer. Follow her on Twitter @SonyaLooney, on Facebook and via her website

The Northern Echo:

Why do you cycle?

I mountain bike because it makes me feel most alive and takes me on the wildest outdoor adventures all over the world. Cycling teaches me so much about myself and about life. It makes me more confident in my life and creates unforgettable memories!

I've met incredible people, raced in more than 20 countries, and realised I'm more capable than I ever imagined simply by picking up a bike and starting to ride it! Most of my races are multi-day races across a region of a country so I get to see so much.

What do you ride?

I race both Endurance XC and Enduro. I love my Scott Spark 700RC (120mm 27.5) for XC - it's like a rocket on the uphill and the downs! I race the Scott Genius (150mm) for enduro. The Genius is a party on wheels and can handle the most challenging technical trails! Scott makes lightweight, efficient and fun bikes to ride.

Tell me about your favourite route?

My favourite route changes weekly. I am very focused on growth so I pick trails that challenge both my fitness and my technical ability. This week? My favourite routes are ones I just raced at the Trans BC Enduro in the Kootenays in Canada. The towns of Nelson and Rossland had so many trails with climbs lasting for hours taking you to some of the most majestic views. Pair that with the hairiest, steepest, most technical descents I've ever ridden that pump you full of adrenaline!

Tell me about your best cycling memory?

This is a tough one because I have so many! I'd have to say the most meaningful would be in Nepal the second time I hiked my bike up to the world's highest mountain pass - Thorong La at 17,769ft/5416m.

It was part of the highest mountain bike race in the world called the Yak Attack. The first time I had done it the year before was the hardest thing I had ever done and it wasn't pretty, but I was the first woman to ever finish this race.

The second time I did it was my favourite because the fear and strain were not nearly as intense so I could simply enjoy the sun coming up unveiling what looked like giant white 6700m Annapurna Peaks all around me, bright cheerful prayer flags around the sign showing I'd reached the top, and even a warm chai tea from the shack of a teahouse that is up there!

It symbolised that I was able to do far more than I thought and it opened up a new view of what my world and career could look like. It sent my life on a trajectory I never imagined and with hard work, I am actually living my dreams!

What do you consider your most important piece of cycling equipment?

I can't pick one, so here are my top five!

  • Topeak Digital D2 Tyre Pressure Gauge (tyre pressure is everything!),
  • Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth headphones
  • Kask Rex Helmet - protecting your noggin is pretty important 
  • Easton Haven Dropper Seatpost - turns up the fun 
  • Wahoo Fitness ELMENT Cycling Computer - it tells me where to go, what I did, and even shows me my text messages

If you could cycle anywhere where would that be?

Mountain biking in British Columbia where I am currently living is the best in the world! There are so many dynamic types of trails from fluorescent green rain forests to high alpine trails along the spine of a large mountain range. Other than BC? I have my eye on the singletrack in France, the Italian Dolomites and the Swiss Alps!