Whether you have been riding for 20 years or 2 months, you know the name Brian Lopes. With a scorching 19 World Titles under his belt, Brian has won across genres, wheel sizes, and decades. And he's not one to just sit back and live off his past victories, Brian still continues to compete, and beat, guys half his age. Recently, he has embarked on a different kind of journey with a new addition to his family. Brian is the proud father of his son Maverick. Let's check in with BL 55 and get his thoughts on fatherhood, racing, and what it's like to live the dream:
So, how does it feel being a dad?
Feels pretty cool so far. It's definitely an experience, all the different stages your wife goes through that lead up to the big day. Then that day comes and that is when for me it was like, "Ok, here we go... game on." The entire birth was crazy, like nothing I have ever experienced emotionally. Maverick is now seven weeks old and it's amazing how much babies change in such a short period of time. Everyone tells me it only gets better, so I'm looking forward to the future with him. Do you feel like you're starting a new chapter in your life?
I guess you could say that. I think as he gets a bit older the chapter of a new life will feel more like a chapter. Right now my life is for the most part continuing almost unchanged. I'm spending more time around home right now vs. normally I'd be hitting a few more events and my sleep isn't as consistent through the night. I find myself going to bed a bit earlier, but like I said, I'm still going about my days nearly the same. We are lucky to have both sets of parents near by who have been a huge help. What are the chances of Maverick following in your foot steps?
Ha ha, who knows? I guess we will see how that little brain develops and what interests he latches on to. Obviously that is not my choice, I'll just do my best to guide him and support him in the path he chooses. How did you get into biking and when did you start racing BMX?
I started racing BMX in 1975. My dad took me to the track and I guess I must have liked it as we kept going back. I honestly don't remember much from very early days as I was only 4 1/2 years old. Did you have the drive to win in the early days, or did the competitive nature build over time?
I'm pretty sure I had the drive right from the start. I do remember being very young and getting very upset when I didn't win. To the point where my dad would get mad at me for throwing fits. That was a good lesson as I had to learn to accept the good and the bad or my dad made it clear we wouldn't be coming back to race. Do you feel like you still have something to prove or goals you'd like to accomplish at this stage in your life?
Well I don't feel like I have anything to prove to myself, but I do still feel that a lot of people expect results out of me. I'm getting older for sure and I know I can't always compete with the young kids, but I still like to give it my all and see how I stack up. I feel its a win-win situation for me when I'm racing these young kids. If I beat them, they have to be pissed as I know I would be pissed if a 41 year old beat me when I was 21, but if they beat me, well shit, I'm twice their age. They should be beating me right? Haha... Do I still have goals, of course. I think you always need to set goals for yourself in life. In racing I try to set realistic goals. Like Sea Otter this year I wanted to be top 10. For me I thought that would be a good result, so to be 9th and only 1.9 seconds off the baddest current DH racers in the world right now, I felt that was pretty good. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? What role do you think will suit you?
I'm not really sure where I will be 10 years from now, but I hope that I am still involved with bicycles because they have been my entire life and I love everything that biking has given me. I think there could be a variety of roles that I would be good at, we'll just have to see how the cards unfold. For the past eight months I have been training the TLD motocross team and I'm really enjoying helping some younger guys try and achieve great results. Learning each of the riders strengths and weaknesses and trying to use my experiences to help them is rewarding. You've managed to maintain an extremely high level of fitness. Is training in the gym still a major factor, or is it just riding as much as possible?
My gym training has changed over the years, but I still get in there. Now with the motocross kids we usually go into the gym twice a week and I believe it's good, it's still important for keeping a high level of well-rounded fitness. Of course I am spending more time riding my bike than I am in the gym, but as I get older I find it more important to get enough rest and to not overdo it. How does road biking fit into the equation?
I love road biking. Longer rides, recovery rides, leg speed, the road bike helps for certain things that the mtb may not be the best for. It's also nice around where I live to get in some of these group training rides where there are 100 plus riders as they will push you often harder than when you are alone. Being paid as a sponsored rider comes with a big responsibility. What is your obligation to the brands who support you?
I try and do whatever I can to help the companies that support me. Whether that means testing new product and giving detailed feedback, doing photo shoots, competing in events, doing interviews, shooting video, visiting shops, magazines, importers, etc. etc. I will do whatever it is my sponsors feel is important to drive sales. I think most riders don't think about this enough, that products need to sell or the companies can't survive and marketing/sponsorship is often the first thing to be cut when sales are lacking. How much work is involved?
Workloads go in waves and are larger with some deals than others. It really just depends, but I feel there is always something to keep me busy. What advice would you give to someone who wants to succeed as a professional mountain bike racer? Anything you wish someone would have told you?
Do it because you love it, work hard at it, do more than the rest, and never give up until you have achieved your goals. You recently competed in the first Enduro World Series event. How was that experience?
For the most part it was a good experience. Like all new organizations and events there will be some issues. I think there are still a number of rules and guidelines that need to be worked out, but hopefully in a couple of years these events will be a bit more fair and the vision of what enduro racing is will be more clear to everyone. Was it easier or tougher than you expected?
I would say in some ways it was easier than I expected and in some ways it was tougher. The competition was very high. The rain made some of the tracks very tough. And the fact that people got to practice for a month and use shuttles to get a large number of runs in prior to the event, made it tough to dial in courses to the degree that some had them memorized. What was easier than I expected was the amount of time you had to transfer from stage to stage. When you've got riders walking up hills and still being able to make it to their start times with plenty of spare time, this seems a bit excessive. How crucial is bike and gear selection? What made you go with the 29er?
The reason I went with the Ripley was because I watched some video prior to leaving and didn't think it looked that rough and looked like it had a fare amount of fast sections and pedaling sections. The mud definitely changed things up a bit and maybe riding the HD could have been better in some parts, but without ever riding in Punta Ala I made the choice to ride the Ripley based on my research. I think the bike choice is important for sure and the more you know about the courses, the more choices you have, the better chance you have to succeed. But when you are flying across the world it's pretty difficult to have all the wheel sizes and all the spares. Different tires, wheels, shocks, forks, frames, it's just too difficult. So you pick the one you think you will do the best with, based on your experience and strengths, and go with it. Do you plan on racing the whole series or just select events?
No, I don't do any entire series anymore. The 2007 World Cup was the last year I did an entire series of races. I plan to do just a few. What other events can we expect to see you at this year?
Crankworx, maybe Finale Italy for that last World Enduro event, some US enduro races, possibly the World Enduro in Colorado, but think I may be missing that one to do some filming in Chile with the GoPro guys. Also planning to attend the Kamakazi games in Mammoth. Ibis recently released their first 650B bike (Mojo HDR). What are your first impressions? Do you see yourself favoring this wheel size more in the future?
Like the Ripley, this bike exceeded my expectations. I didn't think I would notice any difference with the wheel only being minimally larger, but I really like it. I feel like it has the responsiveness of my 26" wheel bike, yet it has a bit more traction. It doesn't roll like the 29'er wheel size, but it's more responsive and quicker out of slow speed sections, so yes, I do feel like it could be a wheel size I favor more in the future for certain types of riding. The brands you represent are often looking for you to test out prototype products before they hit the market. What are some of the pros and cons of this responsibility?
Well the pros are if everything works out according to plan you are usually one step ahead of your competition. You hopefully have something that works better than the previous version and that is giving you some sort of advantage. Another pro is that you are one of the few and first to give YOUR feedback, which means hopefully this product is going to be made how you think and feel it should be most beneficial. The cons are that prototype equipment is just that, PROTOTYPE. This means it often isn't going to be perfect, things will go wrong or not work right. Rides may get cut short or be full of a lot of stopping to makes changes and adjustments. Sometimes you wish you just had your standard "over the counter" products on so you could just ride with no interruptions. The average person usually thinks we are lucky to have this PROTOTYPE equipment, but a lot of times this isn't the case. Any horror stories from the past (that you can share)?
I can't share any of those... haha. I'd be a bad sponsored rider to do that. You have a pretty cool and unique pet. How did you end up with "Lightning" the turtle?
I have an African Spur Thighed Tortoise that I got from a friend about 10 years ago. I used to have a small box tortoise when I was little, so when my buddy who sells exotic reptiles for a living had a bunch, I took one. He's pretty damn fast, that's why I named him Lightning. All the kids around the neighborhood love him. They feed him and the smaller kids can even ride him now. He's about 75lbs now and should live to be about 150 years old. When you're at home (in Laguna, California), who do you usually ride with, and what is your favorite area to ride?
I'd say most of the time I ride alone, but I ride with the kids I train, sometimes with Hans Rey or Richie Schley. I also ride with my Dr. Sten Kramer and sometimes ride the road with my friend Michael Johnson. Those are probably my more regular partners when I do hook up to ride with people. Is it safe to say that you're "living the dream?''
Pretty damn close... haha.
Photography/Interview: Dan Severson