We caught up with Matt during this weekend's final North American Enduro World Series stop in Maine, USA. The now 18 year old, has made his way to North America and was sitting 5th in the Under 21 EWS overall rankings.... and yes, still bike-packing between all the rounds. Well, with some aviation assistance.
When we last did a Q&A mate - you'd ridden 250k a day for over a week and were about to race two EWS rounds. What happened at those races?
That seems like a while ago now. Well in Austria I dislocated my pinky on the second stage and self-taped it and finished in 10th. I was really happy with that considering how far I'd pedalled. I kind of came in with no expectations - well expectations that I was going to do crap but it actually went really good.
You then started pedalling that night right after the race, what was it ~350km to Italy?
Yep I teamed up with Dan Perl, Eric Olsen, and Lucas Walch. I have to admit it wasn't quite the same pace, but possibly a better pace. It was a bit hard mentally for me as there was a bit of stopping, a bit more faffing, but good having some company at the same time. Quite a bit of food stops, I'd always eat food on the move, I'd never stop and eat. It took us 4 days, but if I was by myself I would've left Sunday night, and aimed to get a good chunk done and finished it on Monday. And had few more days to chill before the race in Italy.
You made it to Canazei for the last European round of that block, how did it go?
The biggest blowout of my life - didn't go to plan at all that weekend. Everything caught up on me. I wasn't really functioning. I think the hardest bit was back in Austria I was physically gone. But in Italy I was physically and mentally gone. I didn't have the mental power to push past that limit. In Petzen I could still push hard in race stages, but in Italy I just had no mental power to get to my limit, even though the limit was definitely lower by that point anyway.
When we last spoke your plan was to ride back to the UK and settle down until the next European EWS rounds in September. Tell us what happened instead?
Deviate set up a GoFundMe
that took off. Deviate themselves paid for my flights to North America and the GoFundMe gave me the money to live. Wyn also awarded me the Privateer Award in Austria. It was insane - I'm mind blown with the support I got.
Mate people love your mission - you even got a 18th birthday present here in Canada?
Yep, Deviate came out with a new bike in early July and wanted me to get on it. Hard to say no to that. It all came together on my birthday, a mint birthday.
Still sticking to the tried and true high pivot bike packing drivetrain?
Yep still sticking to the high pivot - not as many cobbles over here but still eats anything up.
You arrive in Canada, when we hung out you said you were good for about 30 minutes... how were the energy levels leading into the week of Whistler EWS?
Not good at all. I also made a mistake doing quite a few park laps. The first day in Whistler I rode 9000m of descending, of that 4000m was of climbing. You know when you go out solo I just kept bumping into people and couldn't say no to biking. It was like 5.30am until 8pm, and I wasn't even on the tour.
How many Dirt Merchant - A-Line laps do you think you did?
Well in the week and a half before the race, pushing maybe 35.
Ok Whistler race weekend, talk us through the race itself?
I felt good. I was able to push. Maybe a bit too hard. I blew up the (rear) wheel on stage 2, instant flat tyre. But when you're like a kiwi there only one thing to do - get out the cable ties and duct tape and just like that it was fixed.
Ha and when you say fixed you mean CushCore for the rest of the day?
Well yea it held air up the hill but as soon as I lent into a corner my patch job didn't hold air. So yea the 35 foot step down on the last stage was mint, plenty of compliance. I thought I was going to be pulling out after stage 2 but to finish it and finish in 10th place (in U21) I was pretty happy with that.
So then the day after race day you start pedalling again to the next round in Vermont? According to Google that's 4,889km (3,037 miles) in 5 days, that's a push even for you - what did you do instead?
Yep the plan was to bike from Whistler to Vancouver Monday morning, catch a flight to Montreal that night, then bike the remaining 250km to Burke, Vermont in time for practice.
But it was a bit of a nightmare right away as I picked up a bike box in North Vancouver (~110km into ride) from Steed Cycles - but it was a 32km pedal still to the airport. All I had was duct tape and a couple of inner tubes so I turned the bike box into a backpack and rode through downtown Vancouver to YVR.
Then there was another dilemma once I got to the airport - I thought I had a 8mm allen key - turns it was a 10mm. So I couldn't take off my pedals. I had two allen keys, made an 8mm by adding two allen keys together - but snapped both of them in half. And then I was in a big panic because time was counting down. I messaged so many people, luckily Dan Selfe was coming to the airpot that evening with an 8mm and I was saved.
Quickly whacked the bike in the box - but they made me deflate my tires. So my tyres were flat which is normally fine but the security thought my pump that was strapped to my bike was a vape. I didn't have enough time to argue as I was so late, so they took it. I had no idea how I was going to pump my tyres on the other side in Montreal.
The flight was at 1.40am, arrived in Montreal around 8am, found a pump and then started biking. So hadn't really slept on the 5 hour plane.
So perfect set-up for your first ever US Border Crossing?
Yea so turns I didn't have any data when I landed in Montreal so there was quite a bit of getting lost. I couldn't ask for directions because no locals helped me out - I didn't realise it was all French, I was speaking English so got ignored by everybody.
How was the crossing into America once you finally got there?
Another moment I was quite scared. They weren't that nice to me at first. I was in a big panic. They just chucked heaps of questions at me - many I didn't have answers to. Like where am I going? Where am I staying? They didn't like it when I said I was going camping. I don't know yet. They weren't keen on that answer. I had a place to stay in the weekend but I had no details or data. So I couldn't pull it up. They wanted to know how much money I had. I couldn't pull it up as they didn't let me use the wifi. They asked for what cash I had. So I pulled $5 US dollars and $20 Canadian.
What did they say to that?
They just looked at me. They weren't stoked. But then I think what saved me was the Pivot boys had passed the same border the day before - it's quite a small crossing. The guy finally asked what I was going to the US for. (When I told him) There's a bike event at Burke mountain he got excited because he was into mountain biking, and he had spoken to some riders the day before. In the middle of the pandemic he started biking and had just bought a 27.5 full suspension fat e-bike. He was stoked to see I was mountain biking. After that it was all chill. He just wanted to we my ESTA. And that was that it.
That's too good. I saw this photo of you under a bridge. What happened?
Yea after the border there was a cycleway that was like 30kms long it was quite good. Bit in the middle was the burnt down bridge, so either I got wet feet or turned around again. So made sense to just get my feet wet.
What have you been eating in America on your big ride days? We know you're a big lolly fan (Candy for the non-kiwi readers), now you're in the land of candy what's the pick?
Yep it's easy to find. I've just been having the same stuff. Lollies, coca-cola and chocolate milk. Oh and salty and vinegar chips over here.
Europe or American candy?
I'm not too sure, because most of the time I can't taste anything with my tongue. Because the salt and vinegar chips have wiped out my tongue so I don't know what anything taste likes here.
And you're doing all these k's on your DH casing race tyres right?
Yep, too much admin to source tyres and cutting it super fine with weight so it was easier to stick with the mountain bike tyres. DH casing, with CushCore and the soft compound.
Haha and the weight of the bike?
I weighed it at the airport and the bike is 34kg loaded. But I wore all my clothes at the airport and stuffed helmet with heavy stuff into my carry on so I can get under 32kg weight limit to fly. And this time I haven't bothered pumping up the suspension like I did in Europe. With the DH tyres there's probably not much to be gained from pumped up suspension. I've also added a Coca-cola bottle holder which is great too.
You made it in time for Burke, raced into 10th and now you're ranked 5th in the U21s, how does that feel?
It's quite cool! Stoked with that. It's only my first year and got a couple of years to go so hopefully can build on that even more.
After the Burke round, you start riding to Sugarloaf in Maine, it looked like one of your hardest legs this far, why?
It's just over 240km but in total there was about 25km of walking, 15km of that was bush whacking with a bike. I had downloaded the route properly this time but it must've been picking up super old paths - they were once something but definitely not anymore. Multiple times I got to these dead ends. You could tell something was there but it was just bushes. Each time I did it I thought surely it can't be for that long, but each time it was for quite long a lot of bush bashing. One of the moments for the emergency Coca-Cola.
Are you worried about bears, trespassing, getting shot?
I saw a couple of bears, and there are a lot of gnarly signs telling you to get out of property but once you're in that deep there's kind of no turning back. Yea it just wasn't that fun. Bush bashing with a bike sucks. Pedals, bars getting caught on stuff.
But I did see a moose. In the best possible situation on the highway rather than when bush bashing, stoked to tick that one off the list. They're big buggers. Oh and I got chased by some highway workers.
Ha chased by highway workers?
They were painting the white lines on the side of the highway. I must've missed the sign. I accidentally biked over the white lines and they were not stoked.
So you have white paint on your tyres now?
The white on the tyres has come off but there's some white paint on my downtube. What happened is one of the guys jumped in the work ute (truck for North Americans), chased after me and pushed me off the highway. I literally rode into the forest, he was super heated and I didn't want to deal with that so I just rode into the forest for a bit. And then came back onto the highway a little further down. And while escaping I got attacked by a Canadian geese. It just started squawking at me - I was pre-occupied by the road worker and the geese full-on charged and attacked me so I used my bike as a shield and gapped out of there. It wasn't fun but it was so sick experience.
Ha that's too good. Was that the hardest leg of the whole trip?
Maybe, it was 240km - combination of DH tyres, getting lost heaps, walking heaps and having to turn back heaps. 19 hours in total. Monday after the Burke race. Feeling not great for Sugarloaf race but not here to put socks on caterpillars, I'll give it my best shot.
So what next?
The plan is to pedal back to Montreal. That's about 440km the way I'm taking, back over the border which I'm excited about.... but I've only got two and half days to make it to my flight back to Europe for the final rounds. So we'll see.
You're a beauty - What about your plan for next year?
Not too sure what the plan is exactly yet. I'm still being cautious with my money, as might be doing this again next year but we'll come to that when we get there. Nothing's changed at all to the goal - "invest my money into learning - in this instance it isn't necessarily about getting quick in-between the tape, it's about learning life skills, travelling with the bike and seeing places. And also seeing where the adventure takes me, that's what it's all about." The plans have widened up and diversified for sure, mind blown and thanks to everyone for the support.
After Matt and I spoke, he finished 12th position at Sugarloaf EWS, even grabbing a top 5 stage before a huge crash. As he put it "Had the biggest stack of my life. Don't think I'll be riding to Montreal in the morning..." and then followed with "well I was planning on riding to the airport today. I thought it would be a good idea to cut the knobs off my tyres and turn them into slicks with a knife. I ended up slipping and stabbing my hand and cut through a vein. I'm taking that as a sign and am catching a ride with the Devinci team. So mad at myself but these things happen."
We wish Matt all the best for the crash recovery and all the best for the remaining two rounds in Switzerland and France next month. Which of course he is planning on pedalling... Crans Montana -> Loudenville 1300km, Loudenville -> Finale Ligure 1150km. Follow Matt on his journeys here and get taken along for the ride on his Youtube.