Mountain biking as a sport has been around for a bit more than three decades, and Mark Weir has been racing cross country, downhill and enduro for twenty two of those years. Along the way, Weir has earned a half dozen aliases - many of them publishable - some, not so much. Stories recounting Weir's iron-man riding and mountain-man lifestyle have become the stuff of legends and while his sensational side is the oft' told tale, the power of Mark Weir emanates from deeper source. He commits to his goals. His honesty is rarely filtered and his casual phrasing often masks keen observations and deliberate answers. Twenty two years of pedaling a mountain bike through the woods have given him plenty of time to be alone with his thoughts. Ask Mark a question and he is going to speak his mind. There is no small talk and, if there is an elephant in the room, Mark probably rode in on it.
Straight-up honesty, zero tolerance for mediocrity, and enviable bike-handling skills are attributes that also make Mark one of Wilderness Trail Bike's most valuable test riders - a position he has held for most of his career. Weir's livelihood as a professional mountain bike rider, however, almost came to an end after a freak trail-side accident. He was crushed by a dead oak tree that fell on him as he and some others were attempting to move it. After spending six months in a wheelchair and on crutches, the WTB/Cannondale rider fought his way back and is killing it on the bike again. We caught up with Mark for a few questions about lessons learned and what's ahead.
|Put me on an XC bike and I would be|
meaner than mud.
How long have you been racing mountain bikes?
Seems like most my life. I think 1992 or '93 was when I did my first race. You seem like the nicest guy in the world, but your house burned to the ground. You were hospitalized by a falling tree. You have never won the overall title at Downieville. What did you do wrong as a youth to have been punished in so many ways?
I think it’s from having way to many good family and friends. My life has been moments of complete focus and moments of pure distraction. I can’t honestly tell you which part I like best. Why I hit trees and get hit by them? I don’t know. Why did my house burn down? Because of distraction. Why did I not win a Downieville overall? Mostly, I just did not care as much about the cross-country. But, you want to know something? With the new way of scoring, I would have won once or twice. But really, who cares? The one time I was really happy that I got second place was Single Speed Worlds in Napa, California. My wife Suzie did not want me to get that tattoo. Happy wife - happy life. When you were recovering from being chased down by the oak tree, did it cross your mind that you may never ride again?
Never! I knew I would ride again the second after it hit me. I just did not want to bleed out. Unluckily, lucky. How did you get to make a personal trail network on a giant private ranch?
It's my buddy Bart’s place. I think I was three the first time I went out there. My sisters and his where good friends at the time. I was just a tag-along and Bart and I where the same age. Forced friendship? Who knows? But, as time went by, moto’s and bikes were introduced. Now it’s a place where I spend most my time. There, you can hold as much speed as you want and know that the only one around the corner is maybe Bambi. It's people like Bart that have helped guys like Marco, Ben, Jason and I. Without this place, it would much more difficult in Marin to find your speed. What are the best and worst aspects of enduro today?
It is hard for me to really find fault in the new enduro, since its popularity has given me extended life in the sport. But, it is not anything like what I felt in love with many years ago in France at Fred Glo’s races. I guess that is mostly the progression of the sport and me seeing it from real grassroots view. I think at some point, sometimes people forget enduro (trail riding)
is supposed to be fun while you are doing it - not just when you are happy that you made it to the end. I don’t really think the tracks should be only loved by the guys with the highest skill level or biggest nuts, if that makes any sense. The good thing is that you can find an enduro race almost any weekend of the year, or you can just go on a trail ride. In all of your travels as a racer and a mountain bike ambassador, where did your most magical ride take place and who was with you at the time?
The Day La in Marin: 97 miles of dirt; 18 thousand feet of climbing on an Ellsworth Dare with a low seat (before droppers); and a 40 tooth chainring - it was 18 hours long. Our group was 15 guys and it ended with five. The stories along the way are interviews in their own right. Guys like Kevin Franks, Ben Capron, and Mike Cushionbury all failed to finish. Hahaha! Maybe Franks' pants were too tight, I’m not sure. Or, maybe because they are were on Specialized, that could be it. It was one of the most epic days of my life, no pun intended.
Tell us what it is like being a family man who makes his living riding bikes.
| I don't really think the tracks should be only loved by the guys with the highest skill level or biggest nuts, if that makes any sense. The good thing is that you can find an enduro race almost any weekend of the year, or you can just go on a trail ride.|
A dream mostly. Travel can sometimes bring me down, especially now that I want to be near them all the time. But, the bike and my sponsors have given me something that I knew I would never take for granted. Looking into my son Gus’s eyes when he does something that scares him on the bike is like nothing else. He makes me see the purity of the bike and what it felt like to really ride free. This year was so different because of the accident. After I got crushed, I heard the words I have been waiting for: Cannondale and WTB said, "No worries. Take the year off from racing and most of the travel. Get back on your feet and do what you feel in love with - go ride your bike."
As soon as I could get out of that wheelchair, that’s what I have been doing for the last four months. It's the most fun I have had in years. No bullshit, no Strava, no racing, just big rides, good friends and lots of alone time on the bike - like the old days. I can’t remember the last time I really felt this way on a bike. I have been always riding for reason: a race, a trip, a picture, or a video. I’m riding every day for nothing else but the ride. Well, maybe also the fact that I like beer and good food - just looking to break even these days. I'm thankful I have the support crew that I have. I could not of done it without them.
|I feel the WTB tire line is the best|
it's ever been for the riding we love
to do. I don't carry a tube anymore.
What is your job title with WTB and how does that work out day to day?
My last WTB business card that was made by the old Marketing manger Dain Zaffke said: “Tough Guy.” I don’t really beat people up, at least physically anymore, and it never came with a job description. But, I know "tough" and "stupid," at some point intersect - and let me tell you, it hurts. I guess being really up front about products and company direction has been something I’m good at. If something sucks, I never hold back. But, if you really want to know my job title, you should ask Jason Moeschler, then let me know. Maybe I’ll take Steve Blick’s job title: “Greatest Job Ever.” I have been with WTB for almost 20 years. Done just about everything I can from sales and marketing, to racer, and R&D, but now I just do what I’m told. They don’t ask too much - it’s my second family. Now, their toughest job is to not make everything that is cool. Sometimes the market is just not ready. The people that work at WTB truly are the most passionate people I know. Which WTB product that you have co-developed has brought you the most satisfaction?
The new tire line has given me most satisfaction. With the new test team led by Jason Moeschler, the feedback really is apparent in the new treads. I feel the WTB tire line is the best it’s ever been for the riding we love to do. I don’t carry a tube anymore - just some AKA RC car tire glue. My extra tube is in the casing. Tell us about the bike you are riding now and how you are getting along with it.
On the Cannondale Jekyll mostly. Yep it has a Super Max (Lefty) 650b - and I would have to say it’s the best setup I have had. I guess it's one of those things you would have to ride to believe. It’s different and, to a lot of people, it will always be a struggle for them to understand. But, if they ever get a chance to watch Marco Osborne or Ben Cruz ride it, I think it could help them. Yeah, they could be fast on anything, right? The bike is very versatile. Adjustable travel from 95mm to 160mm on the fly makes it a trail rider's best friend.
I build my bikes to last. Never with the lightest stuff I can get, and always with tires that weigh at least 1000 grams. Nothing worse then a breakdown because of a flimsy parts or tires. Bikes these days can really let you get out your aggression. That’s what I’m banking on. Without that, I would be a different person. Put me on an XC bike and I would be meaner than mud. You have participated in the sport as it underwent many profound changes. What period of the past did you find most enjoyable and how do you see mountain biking evolving in the future?
I have always said: “You don’t have a past if you don’t build the future.” Watching Ben and Marco forge a path for themselves in the sport I love has been one of the most satisfying things in my life - on or off the bike. Kids I have known since they were just little guys knocking on my door to ride the pump track - to guys that are my good friends, and not only part of my life, but of my family's. To have that happen, and to have all of us living in the same town on the same team makes me smile every time I think of it. Now, with the new bike park coming in right down the street, life around here is going to change. After the years of hard work, fighting for bikes in this up-tight Marin County community. I can’t wait to be there and to be part of it.
|Waylon Jennings had some great words. One thing he said really rang out to me:|
'Each tomorrow will depend on the love you give today.'
I think this is a great way to think of life. It would be impossible to do this thing alone.
View additional and high-res images in the gallery
@WTB-Marketing @Royal-Racing @SmithOptics