It all began with two young boys who loved to ride their bike up and down a small English road. Now, over a decade later and no longer having to share one bike between them, twenty-three-year-old twin brothers Matt and Jono Jones have solidified their positions in the international mountain biking scene, demonstrating their skills in not one, not two, but three different disciplines of freestyle, downhill and enduro riding.
Matt and Jono Jones are coming to the end of a very successful 2017. Jono’s triumphs this year have included gaining a first-class degree from the University of Nottingham; his third consecutive victory at the British Universities and Colleges Sport Downhill Mountain Biking Championships, breaking the all-time record; and a sponsorship deal from global cycling brand DMR. For Matt, 2017 has been the pinnacle of his career to date, after securing a sponsorship deal with Red Bull and then securing his place in the 2018 Red Bull Joy Ride. 2018 will see the brothers adding a sponsorship deal with Maxxis.
Taking time out of their busy schedules training in the UK and filming in Portugal, the twins sat down with us to discuss their career highlights, relationships with one another and their excitement for the future.
Let’s start with the basics, how did you get into riding?
Jono - Honestly it is really hard to pinpoint the exact moment because we’ve been riding for as long as we can remember. But the first memory I have is from when we used to share this bike between us and ride up and down the little row of houses we lived on. The bike was absolutely rubbish and we would try to do all of these ‘cool’ tricks. Well, tricks we thought were cool at the time.
Matt - Oh I remember that! It’s quite funny because we were both riding this awful bike trying so hard to out-do each other. Then one day our parents decided it was time for an upgrade and they bought us a BMX each. Our BMXs enabled us to do more than our first bike, so our Dad introduced us to the woods near our house. We were so lucky with the woods because they allowed us to get creative; we could do jumps, ride corners, race downhill, and from then on we were hooked.
Is learning to ride as brothers the reason you enjoyed riding so much?
Jono - One hundred percent! We were, and always have been each other’s motivation. It was great because we both enjoyed riding so much, but it was even better that we had someone to compete against that was the same age and ability. We became so competitive with one another, always trying to be the best.
It definitely helped having someone who loved to talk about everything bike related and who I could ride with every day. Then progressing as a pair, our competitive sides pushed us to become better riders. We were very lucky with how it all happened and the fact that we have each other.Why did you decide to pursue different disciplines? Jono -
For me, it really came down to what I enjoyed doing more. But to be the best at mountain biking, it is so important to be great in all areas of the sport, and just because we pursued different competitive strands of cycling doesn’t mean we focus solely on that. I don’t neglect freeride, nor does Matt neglect downhill or enduro. We still train together when we are both at home, and the competitive edge we have always had is still there pushing us to become better riders, even though we are competing in separate disciplines.Matt -
I agree, the decision came down to our personalities. When we look back to the other sports we tried to pursue, like wakeboarding and skateboarding, I was always more interested in doing tricks whereas Jono always wanted to go fast. Those attributes have definitely transferred into our riding.At what point did you realise this wasn’t just hobby and was something you wanted to pursue as a career? Matt -
I am sure there was probably a pivotal turning point, but I couldn’t tell you what that was. I guess because we always did it for the right reasons it all came so naturally. Whilst we were at school, we were doing pretty well in competitions, but had no idea that I could make a career out of riding; so, a big thing for us after we left school was learning that riding was actually something we could pursue as a career. The realisation that riding was something we could pursue professionally was a perk that came with doing something we loved.Jono -
Yeah, the whole process was so natural. When we were at school, we would come home and the first thing we’d do was ride our bikes. We were always thinking about riding, and like anything, the more you do something the more you naturally progress. It definitely helped that our parents were so supportive because without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. They would drive us up and down the country to all the different events, rain or shine, supporting us all the way.Are your parents still as supportive now that you don’t need them to drive you everywhere?Jono -
Absolutely! But it is definitely a little harder now we travel all over the world to compete. They come when they can; for example, they both came to New Zealand. But right now I am not too sure how much of a good luck charm they are because the last few events they have come to watch Matt, and I have both had pretty big accidents. [Laughs] No, I am joking!”Matt -
“I think when we know that our parents are there watching, we push ourselves so hard, simply because we want to impress them. It is all in our heads because they do nothing other than offer their support and want the best for us both.Both -
They have been our number one supporters from the beginning!Jono -
For me, if I had to pick one, it would definitely be Mum; she is our biggest supporter. She is always there for us, ringing to find out how a competition went and coming to watch when she can. She gets really disappointed for us if something doesn’t go as well as we hope, but she never gets frustrated with us, which I think is so important. Her support is just incredible and no matter what happens on the track, knowing she will be there for us is invaluable.Matt -
Having each other is also a huge support. We can relate to how the other feels better than anyone and unintentionally choosing different disciplines was probably a blessing in disguise because for one of us to win, the other would have to lose. So, yeah, having Jono as support rather than a competitor means a lot to me!Thinking back to the beginning, can you remember your first competition?Jono -
Wow! I can’t actually remember one BMX race we did. 4X racing, on the other hand, I remember one in particular. We were 11-years-old and we were both competing in the ‘Fun Category’, which was the category for everyone who didn’t have a race license, which meant that there were no age limitations. We were 11-years-old and ended up competing against all these 25-year-olds. It was so bizarre because we were these two tiny kids racing against these huge guys, and we actually beat most of them!Matt -
That is actually the moment I remember people started saying that we should pursue this as a career.Jono -
Yeah, everyone watching was so shocked; they couldn’t understand how these two little 11-year-olds could do so well. But it really didn’t mean that much to us at the time.Matt -
I am not really sure how I did so well in that race because I was so nervous beforehand, and my expectations of riding in a competition were so far off. But looking back now, I think getting into the competitive environment at such a young age was key to helping us get to where we are now.What has been the highlight for you both throughout your careers so far? Matt -
Careerwise, it would be making my recent video with Red Bull
. The time we have invested into planning, building and producing the video has been incredible, and then receiving such good responses to it just shows that all of the hard work paid off. Competitively, securing a wild card to next year’s Red Bull Joy Ride in Whistler, Canada was awesome. It is such a prestigious event, where all the best freestyle riders compete in the world, and it has been a dream of mine to compete in the Red Bull Joyride, and achieving that is just incredible.Jono -
For me, it was my first World Championships in Italy. I didn’t do as well as I hoped because I was so nervous and my head killed me. I actually ended up crashing. But I was a Junior at the World Championships and the whole experience of competing at such a high level was incredible, and the experience gave me the determination I needed for the following year where I did very well.How do you overcome those moments of disappointment?Jono -
You have to remember that it is a part of competing and then you have to learn from it. It is so annoying when you know you have done better before, but you can’t let it take over your head. I have found myself in really bad mental ruts where I continually kept crashing and the nerves just kept taking over. It took a long time for me to overcome these, and for me it is the mental ruts that are the biggest challenges and can really get you down.Matt -
What I find the most frustrating is that, if you do mess up or something doesn’t go to plan, you don’t have the opportunity to give it another go until the following year. But I like to reframe things and remind myself that it could have been worse. Disappointment is part of high-level sport, so it is important to keep yourself motivated and improve from your mistakes.Matt have you ever had to overcome any mental ruts?Matt -
I wouldn’t say I have had any mental ruts so far, but there have been times where I have become complacent and lacked motivation. For example, learning new tricks and continually crashing or failing to make the trick is frustrating and definitely adds a challenge to the sport.Has there ever been a moment when your head has got the better of you, and you have thought this wasn’t for you? Matt -
Never! Even when I have faced setbacks due to injury, like at the start of this year when I shattered my wrist, that thought has never crossed my mind. It is actually more of motivation to keep going, rather than a deterrent. There have been times where I have considered taking different routes in cycling, like focusing on making videos and embracing the more visual aspects. But I have come to realise that with good time management and motivation, I can do it all. I like the variety and it keeps me motivated.Jono -
I’m the same as Matt. There has never been a moment where that thought has crossed my mind. I think if we ever have the thought that we want to stop, then that is the sign that we shouldn’t be doing it anymore. The nature of the sport is challenging- ask an athlete from any sport. We compete at such a high level, and with that, there are so many ups and downs that you can never predict. Yes, it is very disheartening when you don’t get the result you wanted, but it is also one of the best feelings when you do better than you expect. We have to take it all as it comes. The love of the sport comes above everything and I strongly believe that if we weren’t riding competitively we would still be riding for fun.What is your training regime like?Matt -
My training regime consist of a lot of variety. I train in my local indoor skateparks, my own compound which I have built, and the woods near our house. Then I go to the gym to ensure the physical aspects of my training are as good as they need to be, to avoid crashing and injury.Jono -
I train twice a day: once in the morning and once in the evening to fit around whatever I am doing during the day. I train with a guy called Rob Smash PT, who I do circuit training with every morning, then in the evenings I go out on the bike. Training for me right now is very mellow because it is the off-season, so the focus is really on physical training.Do you feel that riding professionally has impacted your ability to be normal 23-year-olds? Jono -
Not at all. I took a step back from my riding career to study a Mechanical Engineering Degree at the University of Nottingham. Going to university really slowed things down for me because I wasn’t completely focused on racing, and I actually had to start thinking about real life and what career I want to pursue in my future in case competitive cycling doesn’t last forever. Honestly, I am really pleased I made that decision. I enjoy having other focuses, and for me cycling isn’t the be all and end all, so when it does come to an end, I will have other things to focus on.
That is the big difference between Matt and I because riding is his be all and end all, and because of that he is doing absolutely amazing. But he also gets a lot more stressed. I do think he has missed out on some key experiences, like university, which I know he would love, but then again I think he is very happy with where he is. I just hope for him that it continues for the rest of his life.
It is quite funny actually; he also got a place at the University of Nottingham, at the same time I did, for the same course. We both chose to defer our entries for two years, then I decided I wanted to go to university. Matt still has his place deferred, so he does have the option if he wants too, but right now cycling is his full-time career and he loves it.Matt -
I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything at all, and I really don’t regret not going to university. The only difference between me and any of my friends is that they have a lot more spare time!Looking forward, what is next for you? Jono -
Next year, for me, is focusing on enduro, which means I need to focus on longer based fitness. I need to focus on my fitness and strength so I can do my best and hopefully win. In terms of set-up, everything is perfect; it is just me I need to focus on.Matt -
I really want to get involved with creating more video productions, and the creative style of riding, like I have been doing with Red Bull this year. Competitively, I am focusing on solidifying my place in the world rankings, with the hope that I can secure some of the top podium places.What would your advice be to budding riders that look up to you and your brother?Jono -
My biggest piece of advice would be to keep it fun, because as soon as you stop enjoying it, then you need to find something else to do. Also, without enjoyment, it is so hard to keep yourself motivated and progress. My technical advice would be to try a variety of disciplines because variety helps so much. Exploring and training in all areas of mountain biking will help to solidify your skill-base and the cross-over between each discipline will help you improve so much more.Matt -
I think Jono said it pretty well, but adding to his advice, I would say don’t worry too much and remember the reason you started. If you are doing what you enjoy, then it will come naturally and you will be able to achieve more than you ever expected!Anything else you want to add?Matt -
From the both of us, we just want thank everyone for all the support, especially Maxxis, DMR, Red Bull and our family!