Endless Biking is celebrating 10 years of building riders, as part of their celebration they are sponsoring ten articles that revolve around the fundamentals of their business; bikes, community and learning.
The roots of Endless Biking push back beyond their inaugural camps in 2004 to the early 90’s and days of riding in hiking boots and chasing buffalo on borrowed bikes. Raised in non-mountain biking families, Kelli and Darren, owners and operators of Endless Biking, both still remember the moment that riding came into their lives and the profound change it brought with it.
In Nelson, British Columbia, Kelli remembers a purposeful adventure on borrowed bikes into the mountains that made her both want to puke – on the climb – and feel the spark of addiction – on the singletrack. Immediately she began to dream about the feeling of being a kid again and it was not long after that she got her very first bank loan and purchased her very first mountain bike.
My family thought I had a boyfriend who beat me because I would always come home with all these bruises everywhere. They did not understand mountain biking.
Making the transition from organized school sports to a ‘fringe’ sport that your parents can neither watch nor participate in can be a challenge and often the support and encouragement is lacking. With little main stream media attention available at the time Kelli’s conversations with her family often ended with “Oh. So, you’re crazy.”
Two years later, and unknown to Kelli at the time, Darren would suddenly and surprisingly give up his career towards a hockey scholarship and take off down a parallel path. Getting back to his family roots, Darren discovered riding in Waskesiu, Saskatchewan, chasing buffalo with friends.
If you look closely you will see some dreads under that helmet. Darren in his first ever mountain bike race.
Mountain biking gives us a chance to go be outside, be ourselves, go play, learn, and have fun while we overcome obstacles and have successes.
The freedom and creativity of mountain biking was a direct departure from the rigid world of organized hockey for Darren. After accidentally winning a cross-country race he found himself suddenly on his way to racing at a national level. He recognized the structure of scheduled training and committed race weekends, much like hockey had been, and this pulled him towards freeride instead. At the time he did not necessarily know what freeride was, “I was just trying to figure out if I could ride up something, down something or jump off of it.”
While Darren was finding something that had been missing in his life with riding, it was hard for his parents to embrace his lifestyle change with open arms. From their perspective he had abandoned a hockey scholarship and school to ride bikes. They were supportive as all parents are when they believe their children are making mistakes; they smiled and cheered him on while asking, “When are you going to get a real job?”
As an industry it has been a challenge to rebrand mountain biking as a sport that really can be for everyone.
It was not until Kelli and Darren’s families attended a race and saw the mountain bike community in action and specifically heard so many people cheering for them, that they realized they had something productive and healthy going on in this new world they had discovered. And around the same time on the same race circuit Kelli and Darren discovered - with much help from their friends - each other.
Kelli in her freeride and racing glory. Photo: Tyler Maine/Dave Silver/Jason Manchester
Through her career Kelli has been featured in many films including 100% Woman, Dirt Divas and Wheel Woman, as well as TV shows including Ride Guide and Drop In. Her personal career highlights include an impressive racing history, BC Cup Overall 4X champ, 5th place in Slope Sistair and the development, management and coaching of the EB Chickas women’s race team. Not the least of her accomplishments is winning the overall BC Bike Race Challenge Category. . . while pregnant!
The EB Chickas, Kelli's women's race team, at their first race in Kamloops in 2007.
After winning his first cross-country race Darren went on to hold an elite licence in 4X, cross-country, dual slalom, and downhill at the same time, before becoming the Norco Factory Team manager. Eventually he pursued free ride, started shooting with Ian Hylands and Dave Silver, starred in the first season of Drop-In, and appeared in some Ride Guide episodes, as well as, the movies Second Coming, Self Titled, Hidden Pleasures and the Kranked series. When he and Mike Kinrade were the first to show up at the Red Bull Rampage course back in 2001, Darren became the first rider to descend and says he will never forget the look on Todd Barber’s face when they all realized the event was actually doable.
Darren's passion for riding very quickly took him in the direction of freeride. Photo: Dave Silver
Both Kelli and Darren agree that despite all their strong biking resumes, it is instructing and guiding that are the career highlights for them personally. Kelli describes the first time she realized she was being paid to be a mountain bike instructor “I will never forget it, I was blown away by how amazing it was and how much I was learning and growing as a person. It was everything I could ever ask for in any job, ever.”
In 2002 Darren shattered both of his heels during a cliff drop attempt on an episode of Drop In.
When Darren shattered his heels filming an episode of Drop In in 2002 it effectively ended his riding career and pushed him to consider how his involvement with mountain biking would continue in a new phase of his life. “I still loved mountain biking, what it did for me, for the community and what I thought it could do for society.” The universe was conspiring, as it wasn’t long after that Kelli decided to go all in, quitting all her jobs and committing fully to her race season. Then she broke her elbow. Together with another business partner, Ken Maude, Kelli and Darren began to discuss business opportunities.
The idea behind Endless Biking was never about getting rich, it was something we could do that we loved and at the same time help make a difference in the world.
The idea of Endless Biking began to form as a business but also as a plan to ignite in others what mountain biking has ignited for them; to help get more people on bikes, to connect them with new opportunities, and community. Kelli and Darren believe that by putting people on mountain bikes they are discovering something in life that can teach them to overcome challenges and really become inspired, energetic and fun people. And that is really what mountain biking is all about.
The misperception of what this sport is unfortunately can make developing your own business challenging. For many “mountain biking” is the series of terrible 80’s images that are perpetually found on google, the news article about someone dying, the television coverage of Red Bull Rampage or that friend of a friend who broke their arm that time. The old adage ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ is true when you are proposing your mountain bike instruction based business plan to a bank manager. Even in 2004 Kelli and Darren still found themselves explaining that biking is not crazy, it is not extreme and it is not nuts, in order to try and secure financial backing for their new company.
This misunderstanding of mountain biking by the general public ignited a personal mission for Kelli and Darren to make it mainstream and to legitimize it as a sport. They describe the early days of starting Endless Biking, “neither of us had ever felt so much passion and drive for something."
Kelli and Darren are always all smiles when they are on their bikes, especially when they have the opportunity to share their knowledge with others. Photo: Sterling Lorence
Riding has had such a positive impact on us and on the people around us that we are all in, we want to continue growing the sport and make the pie bigger for all of us.
Now with Endless Biking in its tenth year of operation, Kelli and Darren skillfully balance raising their daughter and managing their business. They offer camps, classes and guided tours and have touched the lives of over 6500 people. As they have matured, their goal to get more people on bikes has not changed, but has become more dynamic. Their primary motivation still is to share that initial spark they both felt with others, but another important focus now is about involving more people in our industry, creating a bigger pie to allow more work within it and to retain integral people to grow it.
The words "Mountain Biking Feeds My Family" may never be more true.
In years past Kelli and Darren grew their own roots in the mountain bike industry but in the last ten, they have, as Endless Biking, become a pillar of our community and a force for change towards a future that will allow mountain biking to become more accepted, recognized and more easily accessed by everyone.
We honestly believe mountain biking will make the world a better place and to this day that is what drives us.