Cam McCaul is hands down one of the most famous mountain bike riders around and catching up with him is no easy feat. Our forum boards compiled a bunch of questions for him and when he wasn't jet setting around the world this year, he was able to take the time to answer them all. Thanks for taking the time to answer all of these Cam!
Enjoy the words and pictures by Sterling Lorence inside,
You inspire so many riders of all ages and all abilities , BUT who inspires you?
When I first started riding, there wasn’t really a freeride scene like there is now and I was really into racing. There were two riders that inspired me big time and those guys were Aaron Chase and Kirt Voreis. When I’d watch those guys ride, it was obvious that there was so much more going on with them than the pursuit of the finish line. Every move their bikes made was interesting to me because there was creativity to their approach. You’d never take your eyes off Kirt during a race-run cuz he could chuck a 360 at any time without warning, and if there was any down-time in the pits, Chase would be riding backwards down some stairs or fuf’ing a fence. They were obviously more concerned with having fun on their bikes than anything else, so I started following them in videos and I haven’t stopped since. One bike, one location, one day. What, where and when?
I’d probably hit up Highland mountain bike park on a day that Smutok just finished buttering up a huge set of dirt jumps to be abused on a slopestyle bike. Who’s your favorite rider(s) to ride with?
My normal crew to ride with when I’m home is my brother, Ryan Howard, Alex Reveles, Greg Watts, and Jamie Goldman (but Jamie just moved to Bend-over Oregon). That’s the usual crew along with a ton of others who are getting better by the day. If you had to do anything other than mountain biking for a living, what would it be?
I’d be a Lion Whisperer, a weather man, or a fire truck. What was your first trick that you landed that really stoked you out and what trick stokes you out now?
Believe it or not, when I did my first no-footer, I was pretty damn amazed. It was crazy to look down at my pedals and not see any feet on them. I’ve come a long way since then, so it's tougher to get that same feeling. Now it's all about Frontflips, double-whips, and superflips… basically anything that ends in “ip.” Favorite food?
Mexican.. don’t get me wrong… I don’t eat Mexicans, I eat the food that they make. Would you ever appear in a spinoff of Jack Ass with Johnny Knoxville?
You know it. I think that dude’s amazing. He has to do crazy Sh$%t every day to feel normal. If getting kicked in the nuts is the only option around, then he’d probably pay you to kick him in the nuts. What was your first bike and what is your current go to bike?
First bike period was a rear-suspension only 20” bmx bike. It was from the seventies and it was pretty sick. I got made fun of for riding it because BMX kids thought it was lame to have a shock. Definitely not lame… in my opinion. That thing was cool, then I had a regular BMX bike for a while, but really started riding every day when I got my first MTB from Toys ‘R US. The Pacific 7500. It was sick but only lasted a couple weeks before the head tube snapped at the Post office jumps. We still have the headtube in my dad’s garage and we use it to install headset races. Now my go to bikes are way better. DH bike: Session 88, Slopestyle bike: Remedy, Ticket Hardtail.What's the latest trick you’ve been working on? Triple flip whips?
Definitely not triple flip whips. I’m not sure if that would be a triple flip with a whip, or a flip with 3 whips, but whatever it is, it's not on my list. I feel like if I tell you, I might spoil the surprise if I end up doing something cool. I just dialed in frontflips after 3 years of crashing
so I have some variations in mind… we’ll see what happens. What do you think about the rate of progression in our sport? Where do you see tricks going in the next few years? The progression of slope style has been pretty fast paced, and tricks are becoming more and more repetitive. Bigger or better, is the sky the limit? And what are your personal limitations
It's all about having creative obstacles on the course. It's true that tricks can get repetitive, but if people are applying them to new obstacles, it puts a new spin on things and keeps our sport interesting. When are you getting the wing tattoo on your forehead?
Already got it but it flew away. What advice would you give to riders that are trying to get noticed in the world of mountain biking, especially in slopestyle, DJs and freeride?
I’d say if you’re trying to get noticed, you should make some web videos. Grab the camera, be creative, and throw her up on Pinkbike. Filming it will be fun, editing is fun, and then if people watch it and get stoked, there ya go, ya got noticed. I got my first sponsor after doing the Race Face UFC video contest in 2003. The morning after it was announced that Matt Hunter won and I got second, I had a Fox Racing contract in my hand and I’ve been with them ever since. What would your dream slopestyle course be like?
Give me a slopestyle version of Rampage. Take a place that already has tons of terrain potential and carve lips, smooth out landings, and wheel in some ramps. Rampage is really “where it's at” because it's so raw and real. There would never be a replacement for that format, but it would be cool to ride a smaller version as well where you could ride a slopestyle bike and really get the tricks flowing off some big stuff. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would they be?
1. Water, lots of it, because some times I feel like I couldn’t live without that stuff.
2. A fishing pole
3. Toilet paper (white gold)Where do you see yourself 10 years from now in regards to biking and your everyday life?
10 years. Holy cow. I’d be 33. I wonder if I’ll still be shredding really hard by then. There are a lot of sick riders right now who are older than that and they still shred. It would be awesome to be like them. As far as everyday life, I hope to still be living in Santa Cruz and surfing a lot. That’s ten years to get better at surfing.. Maybe by then I’ll be shredding hard. People surf till they’re real old, so I’ll probably just be getting warmed up by 33. Would you rather ride big mountain terrain or slopestlye type terrain, and why?
I wouldn’t pick one over the other. When you’re flowing good in either atmosphere, it can’t be beat so whatever is flowing good at the time. What color of socks are you wearing?
Always black. If you’re in the dirt a lot it doesn’t make any sense to wear white socks. What goes through your mind when you see yourself in movies like Seasons and NWD?
Well if it's at the premiere, then there's usually a bit of alcohol going through my mind. After that, it's usually just cool to reminisce about good days on the bike and enjoy the finished product. How did you get to where you are today?
Lots of riding, followed by lots of burritos. When I was younger, I didn’t really have any other interests besides riding. Once I got into it, it's all I really thought about. I didn’t even have a drivers license ‘till I was 19. Once I graduated high school I was already getting paid to do it, so it was still all I did. I really really enjoy what I do, and I’ve had a lot of time to devote to it, so that’s how I got here today. Do you like apples?
Yeah, but I’m currently eating watermelon. I should be eating an apple… less likely to drip on my keyboard. What motivates you to ride every day?
Some days I’m not motivated to ride so I have to do something else. I’ve spent so much time doing this that I’m at the point now where I have to make sure I don’t get burnt out. I picked up some other hobbies like surfing and guitar so I can do that for a while ‘till I start itching to ride my bike. Once the itch hits, it’s the best time to go ride. What’s been your greatest accomplishment in life so far?
Probably just getting to the point where I have a lifestyle that I’m really comfortable with. I have an outlet for creativity, a lot of cool friends, a place to live, and a lot of good stories. What’s your favorite contest that you have competed in?
Probably Crankworx 2006. A lot of energy in the air. What role have your parents played in the development of your career as a professional mountain biker?
My Parents are pretty rad. I think they’ve always looked at the stuff that I do as “good clean fun” It definitely helped having them understand. My Dad used to race Flat-track for a living so he’s into crazy stuff, and my mom married him, so she’s down too. It was probably easier for me to talk them into building a ramp into the pool than it would have been if they were a bio-chemist and a librarian. You are known for your "energetic and enthusiastic" personality, and your seemingly tireless participation in the sport. History has shown many great athletes were or would have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, and have difficulties dealing with a less dynamic environment such as the classroom. Have you always been as effusive as you present yourself in the mountain bike world? And did this present any difficulties for you in school or outside of your sports? Do you have any opinions/ advice about this for others?
Well I’ve never had a formal diagnosis of ADD or ADHD but every friend I’ve ever had has accused me of being afflicted. I don’t really get it, but maybe it's just something that you can’t see for yourself. As far as school… I did spend a lot of time outside the classroom in the hallways because I would get kicked out. I got kicked outta class a LOT. It's taken me 2 months to sit down long enough to finish this Pinkbike interview, so maybe that’s a sign. I was never bad at school, I got a 4.0 once in Jr. High, but that was the year before I started riding bikes. After that, my goal wasn’t to get good grades and go to college, I just thought about riding my bike all day. I went to class, goofed around for a few hours and did just enough work to get by. I never got another 4.0, but I was voted Class Clown my senior year… I don’t think that goes on your transcript though. You use a gear shift lever on your down tube for your slope style bike- likely for easier bar spins. What else have you added on to your bike to help with tricks?
The downtube shifter is just for when I’m running a hydraulic detangler for my rear brake. It gets the shift line off the handlebar, so there’s nothing left to get tangled. I also have a brass bolt threaded into the underside of my BB shell to slow down the cranks during tailwhips and stuff. At one point I had superflip hooks on my bars like the ones that moto dudes run, but I’ve since realized that you can get the same effect by putting pressure on the brake levers with your finger. Now I don’t have to run the antlers… but they’re fun sometimes to get really big superflips. Picture by obee1 to show the downtube shifter.Do you spend any time throughout the year at any form of job where you have to be somewhere for a set period of time doing a task? Describe a day in your work life.
A normal day at SGC
is pretty rad. Get up at 8, be at breakfast at 9, on the lifts at 10, ride till lunch, then ride some more. After that, probably go hit up the airdome and wrap up the day. Not too shabby. Another example of a day in my work life could be when I’m on a film trip. A lot of times we have to get up real early to catch the sunrise when the light is the best for shooting. Any down time is spent digging on our features and we don’t usually go home till dark. Those are long work days. It's 80% digging and 20% riding during a typical shoot out in Utah. Usually the only riding we do is what you see in the video, but we’re there for weeks on end. If you could chose between a hundred ducks following you for the rest of his life, or losing a finger - which would you choose?
I’ll take the ducks for sure…. What's wrong with ducks? That seems like an easy one. What is the scariest thing you have done on a bike?
This is constantly changing. Right now, probably this big step-down gap I did in Utah a few weeks ago. There was a kicker at the end of the cliff and the landing was blind so it was hard to judge speed. It felt like I was sending myself off a highway to hell, but I landed right on the landing. What hydro gyro set up are you running?
It’s a company called “Trickstuff” trickstuff.de
, but I’m not sure if he’s around anymore. He’s a German guy from the automobile industry. Apparently the technology has been in cars for ages and he just adapted it for use on a bike. Do you ever plan on revisiting the infamous canyon gap for round three and doing a different trick over it?
I was just there the other day actually. I was driving through that town on my way back from a cross-country roadtrip and we stopped by for a piss break and to reminisce. The world is full of potential for other big gaps. I think that gap has seen its lime-lite and it's time to find sicker ones. The lip is so short that it makes it hard to trick it. I just made it work because it looks so epic to jump over that huge gorge. There used to be a bridge there but it burnt down. They dumped loads of dirt on each side to block cars from driving off of it and we used the mounds to shape a lip and landing. If I ever sessioned it again, I’d want to bring a tractor in and build a proper take-off and landing that are more than one bike-length long. That’s what I’d need to do any better tricks off it. Instead, maybe I’ll just start re-visiting the river gap for new tricks. Our NWD 9 shoot on that thing was cut short because of time and I still planned to do a lot of stuff over it. The tailwhip was meant to be a warm up so I’d love to go back there sometime to finish the session. What bike/component innovations would you most like to see, or would be most beneficial to you?
I’ve started running my bikes really light recently and it's helped so much with tricks. Everything is more effortless and it's easier to carry speed. Right now I’m just really into light parts, and the cool thing is that the technology is good enough these days that we have light parts that are also strong. The new Fox Shox and Shimano stuff is making it easier to get away with a light bike. My frames are wicked light too so that doesn’t hurt. When you were the first person to hit the canyon gap at Rampage this year, what went through your head when you were in the air and realized you were going to come up short?
That was such a sketchy guinea pig… Mostly because it was such a pain in the ass to hike up the run-in and I only took a couple practice runs up to it. I was judging the speed as if I were on my slopestyle bike and didn’t account for the fact that my DH bike was going to eat up the speed. I had my suspension set up perfectly for everything else at that zone, but that lip was sooo short and quick. The wood ramp went out for a long time but the actual height of the transition was super short. It was like hitting a curb that bounced me over the canyon. I went 59 feet on the 60 foot gap, and now we know what happens when you do that. What is your opinion of the next batch of up and coming slopestyle riders? Who should we be keeping an eye on in the next few years?
A lot of people are getting real good. I was at Teva games and it was obvious that the average riding level is way higher than last year. Graham Agassiz wasn’t there but I noticed him riding real well last year so he’s probably someone to look out for. Ryan Howard has been riding real well lately. He usually doesn’t kill it in contests, but at Teva he was on fire so maybe he’s figured it out. If that’s that case, I’d keep an eye on him. How did it feel successfully doing your first super-flip?
Pretty awesome. That is my favorite feeling trick. I took baby-steps and slowly learned that one so the first one was on a pretty small wood kicker to mulch, but it really started feeling good when I got into doing them on big jumps and step-downs. Who was your first sponsor besides your mom and dad?
My first paying sponsor was Fox Racing. Did the Race Face UFC contest really catapult you into the main stream light?
Absolutely, it was an awesome way to get my name out there. Back then, web videos weren’t so prominent and you needed a format like that to show your stuff. I shipped my video snail mail on VHS back then. Now it's so easy to upload your stuff online for the world to see, no sick web vids go unnoticed. That contest is how I got my name out there and got hooked up with Fox as my first sponsor. How did you feel before dropping into the river gap in NWD 9 or other items that are that large? Do you feel comfortable or is there added pressure from the cameras rolling to get it done?
It's always tough hitting those things for the first time, but It gets easier if I remind myself that its going to be really fun to fly that far in the air. If I’m doing it for the camera and my heart’s not in it, then it's dangerous. If I’m doing it because I really want to, then I’m doing it for the right reasons and I’m more likely to calculate everything rightDoing something because you love it, and doing that same something for a living can sometimes change the way you feel about things. Has your relationship with riding changed at all as the pressures and responsibilities (that come with success) have grown?
For sure. It's like if you told someone you really like eating burritos and they started paying you money to eat burritos all day. You’d love the first burrito, but then your stomach would get full and they’d start shoving another burrito down your throat. Sometimes I feel like that when I’ve been on the road for too long. That usually doesn’t happen until I’ve been pinning it for weeks on end with no day to rest, but when it does happen it's really important that I give myself a change of pace for a while so I can digest all the shredding and get hungry again. When I come back from a little break (could just be a day at the beach), I ride way better because I’m doing it for fun again. We all know that riding for fun as opposed to riding for profit can change your view on the sport over time, and given the relative volatility of the sport as a profession, do you have any other fall-back or "alternative career paths" outside of mountain biking, or even any other immediate career interests outside of the industry? Going into a PR or R&D role in the industry is pretty much a given considering your achievements thus far in the sport, but we're curious what you think you'd be doing if you hadn't become a pro rider?
I don't look too ridiculously far ahead. I just try to enjoy every day and go with the flow. I love what I'm doing right now and I figure the more I have fun with it, the longer it'll last. Right now I'm trying to buy this big chunk of land to build a huge slopestyle training park. I hope it works out because it'll be a killer place to actually ride slopestyle. Everybody in the scene filters through Aptos in the off season so having a good spot like that will elevate everyone's game. The dream is to have all the obstacles you can think of and a huge foam pit. If it works out, I'd like to someday run camps, clinics and stuff like that for up n' comers. I just wanna build the sport as much as I can while I'm in it. Slopestyle is rad and has so much potential, I want to see how crazy we can make it. When I'm too old or whatever, we'll take it from there.
The relative advantages of your "practice pool" aside, when trying something new how much mental preparation do you do before actually firing it off for the first time? Or are you more of an instinctive, feel-your-way-into-it kind of rider?
It's all about visualizing what you wanna do. When I’m practicing stuff in the pool, I’m pretending that I’m on dirt and when I’m on dirt, I’m pretending I’m in the pool. Once I can see something working in my head, and I have the muscle memory dialed, it's time to go for it. What is a typical day in California like for you?
If I'm home, it's usually in the winter time cuz that's the off-season. Here's a typical day
: If I feel like surfing, I check the waves in the morning and paddle out it it looks good/not crowded/not big enough to drown me. Then get some e-mails and stuff outta the way and see where the crew is riding. Usually we all go out to a spot and dig 'till late afternoon, then ride 'till dark. There's a big "no dig, no ride" movement here these days so all the spots stay pretty dialed in the winter. That's cool, but sometimes I'd rather ride crappy jumps than spend all day digging. If I end up getting that land and building the park, the jumps will be HUGE with wood kickers, so less maintenance and more riding. Maybe a sign that says "no dig, just ride." If it's raining, then a typical day for me is hanging at home listening to some tunes and trying to play them on guitar and drums. I've been playing the guitar for a long time but I just got my drums so that's the new rainy day challenge. Best advice you were ever given?
“Under-promise and Over-deliver” I forget who I heard that from, but I like it. Who do you look up to?
Anybody who’s taller than 5’10”.How many different bird calls do you know?
7Shout outs and thank yous?
Trek Bikes, Fox Racing, Rockstar Energy Drink, Fox Shox, Shimano, Nike 6.0, Maxxis Tires, Smith Optics, TSG helmets, JBL audio and all y’alls for coming up with these wacky questions.Video that Cam made on his point and shoot camera, enjoy:
This video is password protected.
All photos courtesy of Sterling Lorence
unless otherwise noted.