By all metrics, Fabio Wibmer had a pretty good 2019. He started the year with around 2 million subscribers on his YouTube channel and ended it with nearly 4 million, a mark he has since breezed past in 2020. On top of that, he released some of his biggest projects to date including Urban Freeride Lives III and Wibmer's Law. He also ended the year with his first feature-length film, To the Limit, a behind the scenes look at some of the carnage from Urban Freeride Lives III.
It was also a year of big changes for Wibmer as he said goodbye to his sponsor of the past five years, Specialized, to join Canyon. A new sponsor brings new opportunities and he has already begun work on a new trials bike as well as helping to develop the brand's trail bike range. We caught up with Fabio to discuss his most successful year to date and discover his plans for the future.
What stood out about Canyon for you?
I was actually very open to talk to anyone. We were talking about what we could do and they are super motivated and super focused on what they're doing. Their vision on what they want to do in the future is very inspiring and something I'm really interested in.
Then they also offered me the plan to make a custom build trials bike, which was super interesting to me. Working with a brand on a bike is very special and also a big point why I actually did the move from Specialized to Canyon, it was mostly for myself to bring in some fresh motivation.
We saw a bit of your new trials bike in the press release. Is that the finished product or is there more development to come?
No, no it's definitely not the finished product, that was the first prototype. They were building the new Stitched frame so we tried to use some leftover parts and made a trials bike out of that but that was actually just the first step with some of my thoughts. Right now we are way further along and we are also planning on using other materials in the bike which is really exciting. The whole process is taking a couple of months but we are getting there and I think the finished product will be very original and very good.
Is this just going to be a bike for you or will Canyon start selling it to the public?
Yeah, before Canyon ever sell it we are going to make sure it's a perfect set up and that there can't be any problems. The first step is just to make it good for me and then we will probably discuss it and see what makes sense and what doesn't make sense. It's still open, we're still not sure but it could be hopefully.
Is there room for innovation for trials bikes or is a trials bike a trials bike?
Yeah, I mean a trials bike is a trials bike but you can always have some little details that can make it look better or just make it easier or more comfortable to use. We're working on some things but it's hard, it's a process and it for sure takes some time. Some of the ideas are unique but we're not sure if they're going to work or not. Other than that, for sure, the frame is gonna be a good frame, a very stable frame, the shape will be unique and more like the Canyon style.
Danny MacAskill has his carbon trials bike now, is that something you're interested in?
Yeah, I mean for sure carbon in future is definitely the way to go. Danny has been on his carbon trials bike for a couple of months now and it looks good and I'm super excited and interested in using that as well. It could be that I'll be riding a carbon one soon.
In the press release it said you will be helping Canyon throughout their gravity range, are you helping Canyon with their downhill bike as well?
Not really the downhill bike but more like the Torque and Spectral, the ones I'm riding a lot. I can give a lot of input for the downhill bike but they're really focussing on racing and they've got other very good athletes who are fast and they probably know better in the downhill sphere. I definitely give a lot of input as well into a lot of the bikes that they are the best quality you can get and people don't have any problems and issues. Especially with my riding style, I think it’s a good one to test the bike and test the frames!
You have to be safe with the stuff you're doing, right?
Yeah, exactly, I mean that's one of the highest priorities for me. I don't want to ride stuff where I'm not fully sure that it's good quality or that it’s going to work when I jump.
How daunting was it to hit the legendary Lyon 25 spot?
Yeah, I mean that was really exciting. Jaws hit it on a skateboard, which is mindblowing and then I looked up if anyone had jumped down on a bike and I thought, well we could actually give it a try and that would be amazing.
I was actually looking for a spot where I could film my urban freeride lines video and somehow I found Lyon was a perfect playground, there are so many stairs, incredible.
Then we went there and we checked everything and there were fences and security and that made it really exciting. We didn't have time to get proper permission so we thought, “well, let's figure out a plan and let's try it”.
The stairs are on the limit where it's possible to send flat without breaking yourself to pieces. I didn’t really know how it was going to be, I’ve done a couple of big flat drops on the trials bike but sometimes it's better to not have suspension because suspension sometimes goes kind of weird with the rebound and everything so I wasn't really sure how it was going to work but on second go it did work so that was a very special moment for me.
The thing that struck me was how you couldn't really prepare due to the security. How much pressure did that add?
For me it's still stressful because there was the double stair set before it, it was actually quite big and I couldn't do a few run-ups to it. Usually, when I'm doing those stair sets I do a lot of run-ups to see how the speed is going to be and if everything feels right but in that case, I couldn't really do a run-up. It's kind of stressful going through when everyone tells you it should be good because the security is here and we can't do it anymore but I'm a very ambitious person so I really want to do it.
What's the appeal to urban freeride to you. It seemed like it had sort of died out but you are trying to bring it back. What attracts you to it?
I think it was three years ago I was trying to mix trials biking and downhill together and I felt like urban downhill/freeriding is something that is like a mixture of that but nobody really did it anymore.
Also, people like really can relate to this stuff. They are walking in the street every day so they know how big stairs are and they can get proportions for it. When it comes to making videos, that’s really important if you really want to reach people who are not also super interested in biking.
It comes with a lot of added risk too, like you've got unpredictable pedestrians and cars. How do you try and lower those risks?
Yeah for sure, urban freeriding definitely has danger because also a lot of things that are in the way, like blocks and stairs so it's actually very risky. I always make 100% sure that there are no people getting in danger when I'm doing the stunts, even for myself if I'm crashing into someone it's going to end pretty badly. Also, my crew are super used to it and it’s still the same crew as when we filmed the first one so we really know what to look for to make everything safe. There are always some risks left but we try to make it as safe as possible.
Do you always feel pressure to go bigger and more dangerous?
Not really. I mean I kind of feel some pressure from myself because every video I want to make better and better. I've got a big list of spots and ideas that I want to do in the future so that gets me excited and anything that gets me excited is cool. I don't really think too much about the pressure, I think it's more about the feeling I get when I'm doing those stunts. If you do a dangerous stunt and then you do it a second time, it isn't the same feeling anymore so that's why I want to go further and go bigger each time.
Was being a YouTuber something you always wanted to do?
Definitely not, no. It was always a passion and YouTube was there as the biggest platform and when I started in 2008. I always had a passion for making videos and putting them together and then pretty much mixed riding bikes and making videos and then everything got more professional, my riding skills got better and we got a better camera, stuff like that. So it was never a goal I just did it for fun. It's still fun, I really enjoy making videos but it's never been a big goal and I would say that I'm really thankful it's never been a goal otherwise I think I wouldn't be where I am right now.
Do you think there's room for more YouTubers or is it saturated right now?
I feel like if you can come up with something unique and your own style then you can always stand out and be successful on YouTube but for sure it's getting harder. There's a lot of people on YouTube starting to make videos and edits and stuff like that so sure it's harder but if you're still creative and do your own thing in your own style then I think you can still get big and get people to watch your videos.
What are some of the difficulties people might not realise about being a YouTuber?
First of all, it's a lot of work. Whenever we make a video, especially bigger projects, there is so much time and effort which goes into a video and people don't really feel it, they just see the final result, it doesn't look that much work anymore.
It's hard to show people that it's also sometimes hard and with my team and my editor, he's spending so much time in front of the computer and I spend so much time together with him just figuring out how we are going to do this and that, then we have to re-watch it a thousand times before it's ready and it's a lot of work and it's not always super fun but that's what makes it exciting sometimes. It's not super easy as it looks on videos.
We're always filming something and then uploading it and it's done. It's pretty much a job, a cool job and an amazing job but still a lot of work and a lot to do.
You seem to post fewer videos now and focus on bigger projects. Is there a reason behind it?
Yeah, really right now my passion is making good, high-quality projects with amazing riding. That's what I'm really interested in at the moment. To be honest, making weekly videos is quite hard and I lost a little bit of the main reason why I did it. Sometimes we were making a video just because we had to do it and it was not as much fun as it should be. That's why I decided to take a break out of those weekly videos and focus on the bigger projects which are a lot of fun to produce and it's good when they work so well and you bring everything together and people are stoked on watching it. It gives me a better feeling.
Would you ever consider riding Rampage?
It's definitely something I'm interested in and I really enjoy watching and I really look up to all the riders doing it. I've been there this year and to be honest standing there in person and seeing everything is something else. I feel like if I ever want to do it I could but it's not something I would rush and put pressure on myself to do. If I feel ready for it and I get the right motivation to do it, I might try it. It's not easy to even get there but I'm not 100% sure if I will ever do it but I would be stoked to be there one day.