Artistic cycling is a niche form of competitive indoor cycling in which athletes perform tricks using customized fixed-geared bicycles.
The sport is a combination of cycling, gymnastics, dance and acrobatics. It is often referred as ‘Freestyle Cycling’ or ‘Cycling Ballet’ due to refined, elegance and creativity displayed by performers. In the competition, professional athletes perform before a panel of judges in five-minute rounds that includes 30 figures. (Stunts are called ‘figures’ in UCI competition). Each figure delivered by an athlete is evaluated on various parameters such as level of difficulty, balance, grace, form, strength, style and flawlessness.
Viola Brand is a 25 year old professional freestyle cyclist who was born and raised in Stuttgart, Germany. She started artistic cycling when she was 6 years old. Viola Brand is a two time Vice-World Champion with multiple European Championships under her name.
- 2nd place World championship 2017, 2016
- European champion 2018, 2012
- 2nd place European championship 2010
- 4th place World championship 2015
- 5th place World championship 2014
I got into a chat with Viola Brand to learn more about this form of cycling discipline and understand what it takes to compete at a professional level.
How did you get into artistic cycling?
My brother started as a kid and so I got to know about this sport since I was small. I often went with him and my mom for training. When my legs were long enough to reach the pedals of the smallest bike I began to train in artistic cycling.
Who mentored you in your initial days of struggle?
My mother is my coach so she plays a big role in all my artistic cycling career. She is there in the good days as well as in the bad days. I also have a mental coach who helps me a lot in my days of struggle.
As a offbeat career and your determination to succeed is simply a fairy tale. But like any fairy tale, what were the hardships you faced to get to where you are?
I think it’s in general that it takes so many years to learn a new trick. For example, to learn the handstand on the bike it took me 7 years of practice. That was really long time with lots of ups and downs but I always keep in mind what I want to achieve and that helps me to fight.
Was there a moment in your career when you thought of giving up?
In 2015, I had a really good competition season and I qualified for the world championship. I was confident that I will win at least the silver medal because of my level of tricks and performances I had developed over previous competitions. However, in the world championship I performed the worst routine of mine. I didn’t had such a bad result for many years. So I had to settle at 4th position and the year before was more or less the same. I had really good chances to win a medal but I finished at 5th rank. After these two really bad results at the world championships in 2015 and 2014 I thought about giving up. Because I was convinced that I could never deliver a good performance at a world championship.
What does your training and diet include?
I train about 20 hours per week. It is a lot of technique training on the bike but also strength and handstand training as well as flexibility. My diet includes a lot of protein and I always check that my calorie intake is not too much but still enough to have a good regeneration.
What makes your bicycle so special?
It’s a fixed gear bike with a 1:1 ratio and a belt instead of a chain. You can ride forward and backward with it. The saddle and the handlebar looks a little bit different of a normal bike.
Which figures you like to perform the most?
I really like when I stand on the handlebar and turn the handlebar with my feet. As well as I really like all kind of pirouettes.
You perform without wearing a helmet, why?
I am not wearing a helmet because artistic cycling is more like gymnastic or figure skating. They also don’t wear a helmet. In my opinion the dangerous thing about cycling is the contact with cars in traffic. They might not see you and then you get into an accident. In that situation a helmet might save you.
I do my stunts in controlled situations where there are no cars. I only do tricks I feel safe with. I’ve practiced them a thousand times and I am sure that I will not fall down. Whenever I train for a new trick I use something for safety like a safety rope with my coach around me. Further, I learn the tricks in many little steps and I know how to fall down in the right way so that I do not injure myself.
What is your opinion with regards to parents who hesitate in enrolling their children into niche sports?
The thing about niche sports is that you often don’t have a coach who trains with all the children. So as a parent you often have to be the coach by yourself for your kid but that also brings advantages like you spend a lot of time with your children and work together on the achievements.
You are a Role Model for many young girls looking to take on artistic cycling, what advice you have for them?
Be patient and practice in discipline. Success will follow.
Artistic Cycling is majorly popular in Germany, as an ambassador of this sport how do you plan to popularize it in other countries?
I think social media is a good way to make this sport more popular. Also when I am invited to do shows in other countries it’s really a good way to spread this beautiful sport all over the world.
Apart from cycling, what are your other areas of interest?
I am studying clinical nutrition which takes a lot of time of my weekly schedule. Unfortunately, I don’t have so much more time to focus on something else other than Competitive sports, Shows, University and Social media.
You are studying Masters of Science in Nutritional Medicine, what do you plan to achieve post graduation?
I don’t have that much plans about this to be honest. I am always positive and I believe that I will find my way then 😉
Given a choice in future, will Viola Brand opt to do business or become a trainer to create next generation of athletes. What will be your focus area as a coach?
I could imagine both. I would love to be a coach for artistic cycling or for fitness in general.
One word or phrase you want people to associate with your name?
Viola Loves Cycling 😉
Ways to connect with Viola:
Cover Photo: Alex Seegis