British Columbia, Canada, has never suffered from a shortage of talented mountain bikers, but for a while it seemed like majority of those riders seemed to be more focused on hucking cliffs or flipping and spinning over dirt jumps hidden in the forest rather than rolling up to the starting gate and pitting themselves against the clock. Over the last ten years that's begun to change, a shift that's due in part to the late Stevie Smith, who helped inspire a new generation of DH racers thanks to his easygoing personality, incredible bike handling skills, and his results on the World Cup circuit.
Magnus Manson is part of that new generation, and at 18-years-old he'll be making his entrance into the Elite category when the 2017 World Cup kicks off in Lourdes, France. Last year, as part of the Devinci Global Racing team, he ended up in second place at the World Championships, just behind Finn Illes, another wickedly fast Canadian.
When Devinci made the decision to step away from DH racing at the end of 2016, Magnus was left looking for another sponsor to help him pursue his racing dreams. As it turned out, the Steve Smith Legacy Foundation was created with that very goal—supporting young DH racers—in mind, and for 2017 Magnus will be racing the entire World Cup series thanks to that foundation, along with support from Kona Bikes, Fox Head, and others. We recently caught up with Magnus to find out a little more about this talented rider.
Who is Magnus Manson?
An 18-year-old from the Sunshine Coast, who loves to ride his downhill bike anywhere but uphill.
Where are you from and where do you live?
I am from the Sunshine Coast and I jump back and forth from the Coast to Vancouver Island; the weather has been pretty bad this year so I've been spending lots of time at home with my family.
Who do you ride for?
I'm stoked to ride for Kona, Fox Head, Steve Smith Foundation, SRAM, RockShox, Novatec, Maxxis, ODI, MRP, Kore Components, Maxima, Crankbrothers, Chris King, Five Ten, and Primal Performance. I couldn't do it this year without them!
I'm happiest on Mt Prevost with friends doing laps, having way to much fun and riding till our hands can't hold on. So many moments where you kinda of forget about time and real life and you're just following your friends going super fast and every lap having a bit more fun.
What’s been your favorite race/contest venue?
My favourite venue would have to be Crankworx Whistler, it's sort of like a circus with so much going on and the week is pretty jam-packed with events, so it's a fun challenge to race all the different tracks so close together. It takes some planning to figure out your practice, racing and resting schedule, though!
Where are your favorite trails?
Probably on Prevost or in Whistler, both have a huge range of DH riding and both are pretty flat out fast. Corners make me happy, as well as not touching the brakes for a long time!
What are your strengths?
I don't like to crash, so I generally keep it upright. I try and use my head when I race not just send it without thinking about it. Last year I made some big changes mentally to how I approached my races and I feel like it worked, so I'm trying my best to keep doing what is working and problem solve for what doesn't.
What are your weaknesses?
I was given a pair of big, yet very weak handlebar grippers so I tend to complain of aching hands on the gnarly tracks.
What’s been your worst crash over the years?
Well, it really wasn't a bad crash, but I fractured my wrist the practice before qualis at Leogang this year, but during that crash, I sacked myself pretty bad so I didn't even think about my wrist. I didn't have time to get it checked so we taped it up, got to the top and at the last minute decided to rip the tape off which created a quick wrestling match with Nigel cause he thought I was an idiot for pulling it all off. I did a decent quali run, but the next day I couldn't even move it was so swollen, let alone ride a bike. So that weekend just turned into an expensive trip to Austria to watch the World Cup.
What bikes are you riding right now?
Right now I just have a sweet Kona Operator and a beat up KX 250f that I'm hoping doesn't explode soon!
Who’s your favorite rider?
Stevie, when I watched Follow Me (the first mountain bike movie I watched). He really caught my eye as a super sick rider, and maybe because he was Canadian or from a small town like me, I always was rooting for him and when he won the overall it was just unbelievable. The times I got to ride with him when I was a little younger I was absolutely dropped (laughs), like he'd hit the first corner and disappear, and I still think that is something that has always made me wanna push myself to ride, that unreal, inhuman speed. I really wish I had more of those moments riding with Steve, I mean trying to ride with Steve.
I'm really inspired by the chance to one day be able to give back to my community and the people who have got me where I am and the ones who are helping me get to where I want to go. Right now it's really hard to give back as much as I want to because, unfortunately, high-level racing is a really selfish hobby, but at the end of it all it would be great to get more people riding their bikes and more people enjoying the amazing moments that continue to keep me coming back for more every day.
What do you enjoy doing away from bikes?
Not much (laughs), riding has really become my life, I start to go pretty crazy when I haven't been riding for a week or two. Filming and editing bike videos always seem to pass some time, though.
What are you listening to right now?
The drone of a plug-in heater cause it's too damn cold.
Magnus on course at the 2016 DH World Champs.
What’s your favorite movie/ TV show?
Talledaga Nights, or The Boondocks
What’s your favorite non-bike website?
Probably Facebook, as lame as that is, I seem to always find some a stupid amount of ridiculous videos that keep me occupied until real life pulls me back to reality
What’s your favorite motto or saying?
"A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand."
What grinds your gears?
Airports, and everyone in them.
Standing on the podium at Val di Sole.
What makes you happy?
The feeling of crossing the finish line at a World Cup, it's the biggest high for anyone who has felt it. At about 30 minutes of World Cup racing time in a year, that's like 525,565 minutes of thinking, training, sleeping, and doing everything you can to make those 35 minutes count. It's a rush to finish each race knowing you gave it everything you had and kept it upright.
If you weren’t a pro mountain biker, what would you be doing?
I would be going to university full time to become an engineer to make bikes go faster, and definitely still be riding my bike.
If you were in charge of the sport, what changes would you make?
I think it would be super cool to see a shift to something like a Supercross schedule, do however many weekends in a row but have them grouped smart, like four in Europe, three in Asia, four in NZ/Australia, four in North America, etc. I just feel like it would be more time efficient to spend a couple of weeks in each part of the world instead of continent hopping all summer. It would also bring more racing to more parts of the world who do not have the high level that the World Cups do, meaning more racers, more money in the sport etc…
What's your race schedule looking like this year? Will you be doing all of the stops on the World Cup circuit?
Yes! I will be doing all the stops on the World Cup series. The past two years racing Junior I have been able to ride all the courses except Cairns in Australia. Last year I was only able to compete in four of them so this will be a really great chance to give it a full go with great support.
Your sponsorship situation is a little different than many riders - how did you end up riding for the Steve Smith Foundation?
With Devinci stopping the team late after the season, I was caught in a hard place for a ride because at that time all the other teams were already set and ready to go for 2017. The Steve Smith Foundation and Fox Head offered to help me get to races, Kona already had their team set but offered to help me with bikes and support at the races they're going to. Couldn't be happier with how it panned out! Can't wait to get racing.
Do you have a manager or someone who helps you sort out the logistics of traveling around the world to races?
No one in particular! Luckily last year I was doing a similar deal with Devinci so I have found how to navigate everything pretty well. The most important thing is to check the flights before you book—last year I booked my flight to Toulouse for the Wednesday, and I was supposed to fly on Tuesday. Doesn't make anyone happy having to drive to the airport again.
You're moving up into the Elite ranks this year - how does that make you feel?
This will be my big step into the Elite ranks—it seems nerve-wracking sometimes, but I'm really trying to remind myself that at the end of the day, it's just a bike race, you against the clock sorta thing, I think that the step into Elite is a hard year for a lot of people mentally, so I'm just going to keep doing my best and fixing the problems as they appear.
When you hang up your racing/ riding shoes, how do you want to be remembered?
Hopefully as someone who inspired others to race and to push themselves to achieve things that they didn't think they could do, in and outside of racing.
What does the future hold for Magnus Manson?
No idea! All I know is I'm gonna race my bike till I can't anymore and enjoy every minute of it; one day reality will catch up.