Interview: Rob Warner on Travelling the World & Rediscovering his Love for Mountain Biking

Dec 8, 2019
by James Smurthwaite  
Rob Warner and Matt Jones Rob Warner are seen during the filming of Rob Warner s Wild Rides in Lesotho on April 15 2019 Tyrone Bradley Red Bull Content Pool AP-225YKW4SS1W11 Usage for editorial use only

At the start of last year, Rob Warner embarked on his most ambitious project to date. He spent four months travelling to six countries in four continents trying to find some of the best and remote riding on the planet. He did so accompanied by some of the world's fastest riders, taking them away from the competition courses and back onto real, raw mountains.

On the trip, he discovered some world-beating trails, met and rode with locals and reignited a love for riding he had lost since he quit racing in 2006. We sat down with Rob to discover more about the trip and how it changed his outlook on mountain biking.

What inspired this trip around the world?

Well, it was definitely the opportunity of a lifetime. I'd never been to any of those places before, the only place I'd been to weirdly was Lesotho. I didn't think it would be quite what it was to be honest, it was a bit weirder and wilder than I expected, but I was going to get to do stuff I’d never get to do again. That's the sad thing is that I'll never get to go back to any of those places really. It would be nice to go back and see all those people.

What made you pick those places?

A lot of it would have been for the riding really, for the trails. I had a list of where I wanted to go and [Red Bull] used their expertise to take us to those places and experience those things.

Matt Jones perform during the filming of Rob Warner s Wild Rides in Seddonville New Zealand on March 29 2019. Miles Holden Red Bull Content Pool AP-225YKVA6S2111 Usage for editorial use only

What was the most alien place?

Probably Africa. I'd say that the African continent is definitely the rawest place left on Earth from what I've seen of it.

We went with the Basotho tribe, in one of their mud huts and there were about 11 people in one of these huts, and that's where they sleep. The mud hut is pitch black so they have a fire, not for heat because it's quite warm there, but for light, so there's a smoky atmosphere. The bloke had a wooden step about 6 inches high and that was his pillow, they're hard as. It was a culture shock, they live completely different lives to what we do but I'd say they're just as happy it seems. Mad lifestyle. 47 kids he had, and 14 wives.

We were the first outsiders that had ever stayed there. It was miles and miles off the beaten track but they danced and took us up to the top of the village where the pub was and we got on the local drink. It was quite nice actually.

Rob Warner and Matt Jones perform during the filming of Rob Warner s Wild Rides in Lesotho on April 14 2019 Tyrone Bradley Red Bull Content Pool AP-225YKW4SN1W11 Usage for editorial use only

I bet they hadn't seen mountain bikes before either.

No, they were fascinated by the mountain bikes. It's a nice thing in Africa actually that even the equipment had a much bigger impact than anywhere else in the world. When we went to the pump track, me and Matt were there until well after dark, the kids were just riding me and Matt's bikes around, they loved them.

What was the moment you felt most scared?

The most scared was definitely the bloody abseil, without a doubt. I was fairly scared there, but I did just turn on the tears you know, like any actor would.

There was a lot of it that was uncomfortable. We were really in the middle of nowhere and some of the riding was quite gnarly because of that. The altitude was quite scary for me because I got it early on in Ecuador then three days later we went out to Cotopaxi and we slept higher than where I'd got altitude sickness so for me that was quite gnarly.

Rob Warner and Matt Jones are seen during the filming of Rob Warner s Wild Rides in Kenya on April 4 2019. Craig Kolesky Red Bull Content Pool AP-225YKTKZ12111 Usage for editorial use only

Even higher than that was Mount Kenya, the altitude was harder to deal with than I ever thought it would be. When we got dropped off on Mount Kenya we had three helicopters but only one of them was rated to go above 3,500m. We had to ditch two and then only one took us to the top. We landed on this ridge, just below the summit of Mt Kenya and I instantly felt pretty drunk, like really giddy and weird. He's like, "I can't land, I can't come back to get you because it's too steep, you're on your own." It was fully exposed and it was so steep that even with the back brake locked up you'd be picking up speed and then your head's light so I just basically skidded down it. It's alright when you're feeling sharp but when you're feeling a bit dozey and dopey like that, you've definitely got to take care.

I guess all the trails we ride back home are made for mountain bikes and all the corners are bermed and the jumps work, you know it can't be too bad. I guess they're like hiking trails out there which aren't really built for it?

Yeah, it's mountain biking, of course it is, but it's real mountain biking. You know, I only ever go to Bike Park Wales and it's a fairly nice environment down there, you know what's coming. I did have some near misses where I was going too quick.

Olly Wilkins and Rob Warner are seen during the filming of Rob Warner s Wild Rides in Nepal on February 17 2019. Bartek Wolinski Red Bull Content Pool AP-225YKSPSS1W11 Usage for editorial use only

You talk about the series reigniting your passion for mountain biking, why did that go in the first place?

Well, because of mountain bike racing. When I was about 15 I was doing motorbike trials but I got a Raleigh Maverick, the first commercial one after the Muddy Foxes that came into the UK. Me and my mate rode the Ridgeway for charity for school, so I started to get into mountain biking and then we'd just f*ck off on the mountain bikes all day every day, that's how it was.

It was a fun thing for me and the trials was my sport. Then the mountain biking got bigger and bigger and I was better at it than I was at trials and I got paid so then it changed. I did enjoy it for the first five years, probably from about ‘93 up to about '99 but then the crowds went and from then to quitting in about 2006 I f*cking hated mountain biking. I didn't train, I'd go to the races and not ride. I was over it, I was awkward, I was a twat, I just didn't want to be there. I was turning up because I wanted the money and then doing badly so it was a pretty shit cycle to be in really. After that, I got into commentary and I've enjoyed it more again just training a few times a week, nothing spectacular.

The discovery part was what mountain biking was for me in the first place, going on a mini adventure if you like. Well, this was that but for adults like on a much grander scale involving helicopters and film cameras. On the days of the ride it would just be me, the rider and the Parkins and we would just piss off, we'd have a nice day's ride, some of those trails were 30km long so obviously were under pressure to film a bit but there were big sections where we'd just f*cking ride and enjoy it.

I like going to a bike park as well but this was actual mountain biking. To me originally it was about adventures and discovery and being in nature and all those things came back to me on this trip so it was nice.

Where would you go if you could do a season 2?

I want to go to Iceland for some reason, it's a pretty wild place out there. I'd like to go to the Galapagos, I don't know what it's like for mountain biking there but our fixer crew did all the David Attenborough stuff and it blew my mind.

Olly Wilkins and Rob Warner perform during the filming of Rob Warner s Wild Rides in Nepal on February 21 2019. Bartek Wolinski Red Bull Content Pool AP-225YKSPBD1W11 Usage for editorial use only

Obviously, to go back to Nepal would be incredible. I'd love to go back to the Himalayas. Our base for a week was at the foothills of Annapurna, one of the biggest mountains in the world. We were surrounded by the biggest peaks on earth with no heating, no hot water and a freezing hotel all week. It was rough, it was basically an army camp up there because it's right on the Chinese border but it was probably some of the best times of my life. I'll never forget being in Nepal.

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Member since Nov 14, 2018
1,770 articles

  • 38 3
 Done right, this series has the potential to bring MTB to the masses way more successfully than, say the UCI Downhill series or the 25 mins once every 4 years Olympic Games airing. C'mon Rod Warmer, its time for you to shine!
  • 10 0
 Agree 100%. I read this earlier today and something struck me as very familiar. Then it came to me, it reminds me Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown series, which was such a fantastic and authentic approach to discovering traditions in the context of humanity and food. Rob's series strikes similar notes, where there is a real connection with the locals and their way of life. Keep 'em coming!
  • 4 1
 @deadflat: I wouldn't say it is authentic. The nepal video had so much editing to suit the narrative. Some of the trails were not where they said it was. Footage of different trails were mixed together to make it look like one. When they got off the rickshaw to go to the monkey temple they got off in a completely unrelated place. Yet it was made to look like it was right there. I know this because I live in nepal. I cant speak for the other videos but iam sure it's the same stuff there.
  • 16 0
 If you come to Amsterdam I can show you around. We don't have any trails, but you'll be higher than you were in the Andes.
  • 10 0
 Probably the best thing I’ve watched all year! If only I could win the lottery to spend the rest of my days doing the same! Please make a season two!
  • 6 0
 Rob if you want to come to Galapagos let me know and I can show you the local trails!
  • 3 0
 Thank you red bull and Rob! This is why I will occasionally buy your sugar free product! Just let Rob say more funny things like the freecaster days! Good on ya! And 3 helicopters? Geeze try 2 and donate the extra fuel to buy those kids some bikes! Cheers!
  • 3 1
 I am a guide and often do more than 90 % of my riding with clients on the same trails.. During the season and especially after it, i'll feel fed up. Then i make up some small adventure alone or with friends.. It can be a dusk till dawn, an epic on new terrain or trails, a build- beer- shred day with friends. Random, more or less stupid adventures, always brings me back to what got me into love with mountain biking.
  • 4 0
 Waiting for the interview in which Rob shares what reignited his passion for bold manscaping.
  • 2 0
 I've been wondering what bet he lost to have to rock that 'tache all season.
  • 2 0
 Just discovered this series on the red bull app. It's a bit liks topgear with the amazing scenery and culture immersion stuff, with a bit of riding thrown in. Can't wait for season 2!
  • 6 4
 Top gear was no cultural immersion. Just a few British blokes driving cars and having contests.
  • 3 0
 Trying to reignite my love for the MTB over here, for various reasons. Anyone else lost their MTB mojo in the last couple of years?
  • 12 2
 I haven't lost my mojo, it's completely intact, but life has made it extremely difficult. I used to go out everyday after work and get 10-15 miles in at various trail networks, and weekends I'd bang out 25-30 miles on a Saturday. Now with wife/kid(s) house etc I'm lucky to get out once a month. I commute to work, but this time a year that's sort of sh*t due to the weather (-5c in the morning and it's not even cold yet) I enjoy my commute more on a bike than in a car, but it still has it's challenges.
If I could have only stayed 30 and unattached forever.
  • 1 0

No idea why you'd get a down vote for your comment. I absolutely relate, only I choose not to commute to work since it's 65 miles one way.
  • 3 0
 I don’t think I’ve lost my love for mtb but I’m no where infatuated with it. It used to occupy 90% of my daily thoughts. I started felling not right about 5 years ago. Everyone said “your just getting older” but I didn’t seem likemyself. I started getting depressed, not sure if it was from not riding as much or what illness I was fighting. Doctors couldn’t Diagnose what was going on, some kind auto immune disease, disorder? I went from a trim 185lbs to almost 130lbs in about 10 months. Loss of energy, joint, muscle pains kept me off the bike. I even loss about two inches in height 6’2” down to 5’11.5” in two years. I have a hard time keeping up with my wife on most rides which is no knock because she keeps getting stronger on the ups and downs(she’s QOM on most DH and around the top 33% for guys but we are bailing early on rides and she is drafting me back to the car. It’s really frustrating! And it’s hard not to just say “ screw it im not going out” I go most days just so she doesn’t have to ride solo.

To get your juices flowing I’d try riding for more of an explorative nature, do you have an area that you can ride to that you’ve never been or get off your bike and walk around. I like to wild forage. Find wood to carve into spoons or bowls, (kind of distracting while riding) have you gotten a new bike or major components on your bike lately? That can simulate the desire to get out and use it. I hope you can get pumped on riding again! You never know when you maybe unable to ride when ever you want for what ever reason.
  • 6 0
 I lost my mojo a few years ago when it was stolen.
  • 4 0
 I was all about mountain biking from 1991 to about 1998. I worked in a bike shop from 1995-1999 and it kind of killed my pig. I went to uni in Nottingham and it was flat. No one was bothered about bikes so I flirted with BMX and rugby. Totally gave up on MTB, almost forgot bikes existed for a few years until I tried surfing at about 25 years old. Went to the Philippines for a couple of months, surfing every day. Travelled up the whole west coast of the usa with my surfboard from Mexico to Vancouver Island surfing wherever possible in that frigid water. Caught about eight good waves in the whole period. One day me and another guy rented bikes in San Fran to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge as you do. It was on that day that I realised hey, I'm 27, I'm fit as a bull, I'm throwing my mental and physical efforts into surfing and I'm still shit at it. And I will never be any good. But hey look at this, I haven't been on a bike properly for about eight years and I've still got it. Wheelies, stoppies, sending stair gaps and shit. I had a right laugh and the realisation hit me that there is only one way to be good at sport and that's to put hours of practice in when you're a kid, and that is exactly what I did on mountain bikes. ON that day, I decided to buy a bike again when I eventually settled down somewhere and then the following year I did it. I bought a Giant STP and never looked back. Ten years and probably eight bikes later I'm loving life, thinking about mountain bikes and sex in equal measure - those two things occupying most of my free thoughts. All the other stuff I was interested in has fallen by the wayside. I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you fall out of love with bikes you might fall back in love with them at a later date. You might not but hey it's not the end of the world if you don't. All that matters is that you're happy doing whatever it is that you're doing. Just enjoy life!
  • 2 7
flag WAKIdesigns (Dec 8, 2019 at 8:48) (Below Threshold)
 @jaame: I lost love for pedaling up and down. I just dirt jump and ride park. Some road... I’ll try again this year, but I am afraid XC riding is dead for me...
  • 3 0
 @WAKIdesigns: one must follow the heart and do what one enjoys. Life’s too short to waste on stuff that doesn’t push your buttons.
  • 1 0
 @TheLocalSpokesman. I often can’t be bothered when I’m at home, same old trails just become boring. However going on trips to new places, good places to ride it’s totally different and I love it. Week ago got back from Sierra Nevada mountains in southern spain, all but about 10 minutes riding was natural rocky trails - it keeps you on your toes riding stuff that’s totally foreign to what you are used to. I noted the pink bike comment to Rob “all we ride is bike park”, that must get so boring. Riding stuff that wasn’t built to be ridden is what I like.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: once the dog ages out of trail riding I’m probably going to be the guy that only rides park, on a bike that’s way too nice, and not nearly often enough. Oldest kids starts kindergarten next fall which doesn’t help with the available free time.
  • 1 4
 @yzedf: i have the time for trail riding, I just prefer to fly... I thought DIrt will be just a side thing, but it sucked me in.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: It's the amplitude dude!
  • 1 0
 Sure helps if apparently you have 4 months of not having to go to work and have a paid / guided trip spent "travelling to six countries in four continents trying to find some of the best and remote riding on the planet."

Not hating but comparing this to the average person having to go to work every day trying to reignite their love of MTB is a bit ingenuous.
  • 5 0
 @kwcpinkbike: It’s a whole another can of worms. Like these articles with folks “working hard” to put together “training and racing” and a job. “Balance”. Throw the kid in and we can start talking “Balance” because the reality is there is no balance, the reality which one you sacrifice and readers of this naive article expect you to put emphasis on riding. They kind of don’t but they kind of do. For some rather sad reasons the big portion of readership of sport relates sites, especially those about “extreme sports” treat job as some pathetic thing and it is the athletes eho are the heroes who cheated the system and live the life to the fullest. Basically if you have an office job you are a failure. I will say it with 100% confidence, no mate/girl it is you who who have it quite wrong, you are a tormented little soul who needs to love himself/themselves more and appreciate what you have and the value of what you do, then maybe consider that life of top athletes is not riding lifts, living in hotels drinking latte in the morning and beer with pals in the evening, then sow instagram likes and online love. #inspired friendly emoticons and all the other bullsht.
  • 1 0
 I'm absolutely loving the Wild Rides series. Sat feeling sorry for myself this morning with a massive cider hangover post work xmas do and watched the Nepal episode. Had me laughing out loud with the shaman woman smoking a cigar, drinking and spitting alcohol and rubbing eggs and a gerbil over Rob and Finn Iles (yes that did actually happen). Bit of culture bit of bikes and more than a few laughs, brilliant. Rob, hope you do another season of this pal!
  • 3 0
 Obviously still drunk. The Ecuador episode with Finn Iles.
  • 1 0
 I have to say at 43, what re-ignited the spark, was my 11yr old son, and my buddies sons, who are all around the same age. they are so fearless. They just want to go ride with us all the time and now really want to go on riding trips. We get so much stoke riding with them.
  • 1 0
 I really enjoyed the few episodes I've watched so far. The beauty is these are places most are not likely to ever go yet there's riding. Then the beginnings are always something interesting. Lots packed into these short windows into mtb in exotic places. I did see a bit of a parallel to business travel tho. When you start out traveling for work, you tell yourself you're gonna see and do cool things while you're there. Once in a great while, you do that but rarely. It's easy to see how riders traveling for races fly in, race, and fly home without seeing anything. I'd love to see a season 2.
  • 1 0
 All great vids! Having just finished watching Ep. 6, I'm all caught up!

Here's a link that will get you to all 6 episodes in one place
  • 1 0
 Top stuff Redbull and Rob. Some of my best rides have been in mountains that have just old hiking trails, no man made features and no help just around the corner, proper gnarly stuff.
  • 1 0
 Need to come back to Nepal. Went all the way to mustang and didnt even ride the lubra pass. They could also go to the Everest region as there as some sick trails there.
  • 1 0
 Rob, get yourself to BPW on the 3rd Jan and me and boys will buy you a beer afterwards... I'd love to meet you and share some stories Smile

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