They say it takes a spark to light a fire and it could be argued that a certain Aaron Gwin did exactly that, sparking a resurgence of fast and increasingly hungry downhill racers coming out of the United States right now. One such rider that we've had our eyes on recently is young Californian, Charlie Harrison, who certainly has the speed, determination, and focus needed to make things happen on the world stage. And after taking the US national title in his category last year, not to mention two World Cup podiums, Charlie 'Chuck' Harrison is now in the Elite category. A daunting prospect for some young racers, but for Chuck it's a challenge he's more than ready for...
Photo: Called to Creation.
Who is Charlie Harrison? Just an 18-year old kid who loves to ride his bike and is lucky enough to be able to travel the world because of it. It really puts things into perspective, when I sit back and think of how blessed I am to be able to do what I do. I’ve learned so many life lessons, shared great experiences with best friends, and gotten to see some absolutely beautiful places, all because I fell in love with bikes, and that’s so cool to me.
Where are you from and where do you live? I’m from Mission Viejo, CA and I’m now living in Trabuco Canyon, CA. It’s a really nice spot for training, since it’s sunny probably 350-days out of the year here, which makes things easy. I’m about 25-minutes from Laguna Beach, which is not only my favorite place to hangout, but also has some of the best trail riding around. I spend almost all of my time on my trail bike there. We’ve got some good DH trails between Laguna, San Diego, and some other spots in the mountains, they’re just not real relatable to World Cup tracks with the dirt and terrain, but we make it work.
Who do you ride for? I ride for the Trek Test Team. Basically, our main purpose is helping Trek and Bontrager develop new technologies and products before they go out to the public, which I really enjoy. It’s quite interesting to me helping test new products and ideas because I get to not only try new things but also learn quite a bit about how bikes work along the way. Jose Gonzales runs Trek’s R&D Suspension shop in Santa Clarita, which is about an hour and a half from me, so I work with him quite a bit trying out new things. He’s not only extremely helpful to Trek but to me as well.
Where are you happiest? Traveling with my buddies from racing, riding new spots, and seeing some of the coolest places ever. Don’t get me wrong, flying to Europe, adjusting to the time change, food, and climate results in quite a
bit of complaining from me, but man, experiencing new places with your best friends is just something you can not beat. I always get home from my trips and just think about how lucky I am to be able to do what I do. I try and take nothing for granted. It’s been almost 10-months since I was at World Champs, and Fort William is the first World Cup I’m doing this year, so I’m going stir crazy waiting for June to roll around.
What’s been your favourite race/contest venue? That’s hard to say. There’s a few Nationals here in the U.S. which I usually do really well at, such as Port Angeles and Mountain Creek, which are always really fun trips, but if I had to pick one race last year, it would probably be the Lenzerheide World Cup. We flew in a few days early and rode in Morzine, which I had never ridden before and was unreal, and we also got to spend a day in Geneva, Switzerland, which was the coolest city I had ever been to. It was also my first top 10 finish in Juniors after qualifying 3rd, which is where I began to gain momentum and confidence with World Cup racing.
Where are your favourite trails? I would say Morzine for sure. It’s super rad thanks to the way it’s set up there, you can basically buy one lift ticket, and use it for any of the mountains nearby, such as Les Gets and Chatel, which are all accessible by lift.
What are your strengths? Physical pedally tracks. I usually do pretty well on tracks with a lot of turns, and tracks that are rough and fast. Obviously, coming from So Cal, dry, loose tracks are the perfect set up for me.
What are your weaknesses? Roots man. Coming from So Cal, that’s just something that we never see here, and even if there are roots, they’re never wet haha. I remember last year at Leogang with that fresh cut section they put in, I crashed almost every lap in it. I would like to say I’m getting better, though, I just need to get some more World Cups under my belt.
What’s been your worst crash over the years? I washed the front end at the Angelfire Pro GRT in a really fast high-speed turn and rang my bell pretty good. I sprained both my thumbs, scraped up almost my whole body, and had a slight concussion. I know it’s not that bad in terms of injuries, but to do all that in one crash was pretty bad. I think I got pretty lucky with how hard I hit.
I always get home from my trips and just think about how lucky I am to be able to do what I do. I try and take nothing for granted- Charlie Harrison
What’s been your luckiest escape? Bromont 2014 after Mont Saint Anne. I was blind sending it down one of the jump trails and pulled up for what I thought was a double, realizing that there was a whole other double after the lip I pulled off of. Luckily, I was able to make it over the landing to ride away, just messed up my wheel pretty good.
Which bike from over the years, conjures up the best memories? My parents got me an Intense M9 for my first legit DH bike. I would probably say I had the best memories from that bike, just because that’s what really gave me my love for downhill. Waiting for school to get out so you can go do push runs with your buddies is just something that never leaves your mind. I had some amazing results last year on my Session like two top 5 World Cup finishes as well as a national championship so that bike was pretty special.
What bikes are you riding right now? I’ve got a race bike Session 9.9 and a practice bike session 9.9, a Trek Emondá SL 8 for the roadie, and a Trek Fuel EX Carbon 29 and Remedy Carbon 29 for my trail bikes.
Who’s your favourite rider? Greg Williamson without a doubt. He came and lived with me this winter for a month, and I’m trying to get him to move out here full-time next year. We had an awesome time together, and it’s so cool to not only have him be a friend, but also an inspiration to me with my racing. He’s absolutely killing it this year on the new team, and I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s a real good lad.
Who or what inspires you? Man, that’s a tough one. Obviously, Greg (Minnaar) inspires me, but there're a few other people as well. Trey Canard is really inspiring especially with all that he’s had to overcome and the way he uses his talents to express his faith. J. Cole is very inspirational, almost all of his music has a positive message, Logic, and Big Sean are the same. Reading my bible inspires me a lot as well. Jose Gonzales inspires me to try and be selfless and do the right thing. Getting good results really inspires me to train even harder, and my parents inspire me to be grateful for everything that I have because they work so hard to support my dreams.
What do you enjoy doing away from bikes? I raced moto for eight years growing up, so I do that quite a bit. I also really enjoy riding BMX and surfing as well.
What are you listening to right now? Alright by Logic. It’s a straight banger.
What’s your favourite movie/ TV show? Step Brothers. That movie never gets old.
What’s your favourite non-bike website? I really enjoy going on youtube and just finding stuff to watch, but I almost always end up watching DH stuff or BMX haha. Billy Perry is a pro-BMX rider who rides in NYC and uploads awesome Vlogs and POV videos of him ripping through the streets, so I’ve been watching all of his stuff lately. He actually inspired me to start making Vlogs, so go on my Youtube channel, if you want to see extremely amateur Vlogs edited on iMovie haha. I’m going to try and make them throughout the whole year with my adventures, so there should be some cool stuff on there eventually.
What’s your favourite motto or saying? “Keep grinding boy, your life can change in one year” - J. Cole
What grinds your gears? Seeing people drive recklessly with no consideration for the safety of the people around them. I also get extremely irritated when people don’t respond to my emails.
What makes you happy? I’m almost always happy, I’ve got an amazing family, girlfriend, and group of friends. However, there’s nothing comparable to that post-race high after knowing you gave it absolutely everything mixed with the release of all the nerves and anxiety built up before your finals run. That feeling can keep you hungry until the next race and hopefully, you get that same feeling again.
If you weren’t a pro mountain biker, what would you be doing? I’d probably be doing almost all of the same things. I’d definitely surf more often, and I’d probably be a lifeguard at the beach.
If you were in charge of the sport, what changes would you make? I would make sure there wasn’t practice before 10 o’clock in the morning, and make sure practices are long enough for adequate runs. I’d definitely add another day of practice before qualies as well.
When you hang up your racing shoes, how do you want to be remembered? There’s a ton of things I would like to be remembered for. Hopefully, I will have had a successful World Cup career with some really solid results in there. I would like to be remembered as someone who really loved racing, and was always genuine to everyone. I definitely want to be remembered as someone who gave 100% all the time, but most importantly, someone who gave back to the sport and helped the younger generation come up. There’s such a huge scene of really fast groms racing Fontana right now such as Nate Luna and Ryan McGarrity, those kids are my homies and I love hanging out with them at the races. I can’t wait to see what they can do at the World Cups in five years.
What does the future hold for Charlie Harrison? Well, it’s my first year in Elite, so that will be exciting. I know it’s going to be very challenging, but I’m really looking forward to a fresh start, and hopefully, I can really make a name for myself. Last year, I had a lot of pressure to perform, and it was really mentally taxing. It’s nice this year, with not too many expectations, I can just race and see how it goes. I’ve really been enjoying racing lately, just with how refreshing it is to be in the elite category. I’m doing all of the Pro GRT’s, three World Cups, and World Champs if everything goes to plan.