East Bound and Down: Lars Tribus' Jersey Soul

Oct 8, 2015
by Brice Shirbach  
East Bound and Down Header
East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul

At the end of a long gravel drive just outside of downtown Milford, New Jersey, you'll find the backyard to end all backyards. At the Tribus compound, there exists any number of features that would make most mountain bikers green with envy, including beautifully sculpted jump lines, flow trails, and a brilliantly built pump track. There's also a sparkling swimming pool ready to greet you once you've had your fill of pedaling, pumping and jumping. This sprawling collection of berms, jumps and rollers belongs to one of New Jersey's finest, Lars Tribus. As a father of two, son of a Norwegian au pair, and friend to countless more throughout the mountain bike community, Lars Tribus' passion for riding bikes is as encouraging as it is inspiring. The two-time Masters World Champion [and five-time runner up] has a career that spans two decades, and has seen him featured in some early and iconic freeride films, compete in the first two Red Bull Rampages, race among the world's fastest in the NORBA National Series, and even take on the role as President of the Hunterdon County BMX track.

A product of Baskin Ridge, a New Jersey town roughly 30 minutes from his current home in Milford, Lars' own property reflects the facets of his life that mean the most to him: family, bikes, friends and his Norwegian roots. He recently spent a weekend hosting several kids and families from the BMX track, in addition to some of his closest friends, including Aaron and Kara Chase, Mountain Creek's Clay and Jamie Harper and their respective families. We joined the fun and took the opportunity to spend some time with Lars and his two earnest and good-natured kids, Finn [8] and Leif [9], along with their Rottweiler Rex, to ride bikes and discuss his career and unique perspective on the industry.


East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
From left to right: Leif, Finn and Lars Tribus.

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul




Back in the Day



"The start of it all was that I always wanted to ride moto as a kid. But, I had rheumatoid arthritis and I was pretty messed up for six or seven years. My brother raced motocross, and I always wanted to but was never allowed. I always had a BMX bike that I rode everywhere and loved it. I started just coming to the realization that I would probably never get to race moto, so I just got a job as a bike mechanic in the 6th grade, and just started riding a ton. I never raced anything up until just a few days before college graduation. I got 9th in the beginner class of a local XC race and I was hooked. So between 1994 and 1995, I raced a handful of cross country events. In 1996, I bought a GT LTS-1; three inches of full suspension and I was like, 'This is going to be my downhill bike!'. I was just at a different level on a downhill track compared to XC. I think it may have come from years of motocross and BMX. I was just addicted and went all in. By the end of my second year of downhill, I had won three nationals and had gotten my upgrade to semi-pro. By 1998, I was racing professionally. I did every race I could get my hands on. There were a bunch of sick riders on the east coast too, people like Chase, Ebbett and Bosh, but when it came to downhill I wanted to win everything all of the time. Riding became my life and I’ve been doing it ever since."

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
Lars skies it out, high above his backyard. His property stretches out across over twenty acres, and a bevy of jumps, trails and forested singletrack.




Turning Heads



"Pretty early on, I was just super focused on racing. I was putting all of my time and energy into that. There was an expert class racer from central Pennsylvania who went down to Jamaica and did a video called Jamaican Soul Ride. He ended up being a pretty legit producer, named Don Hampton, and we met and began to discuss making a video together. Chain Smoke had just come out and was awesome, but we felt like the east coast wasn’t getting any attention. Our race scene was super strong and the community was super strong. I was good friends with Aaron Chase and Kyle Ebbett, and I told them to come to NYC with Don and I, and that was the birth of the Chain Reaction video series. It was fast, loose, a lot of fun, low-fi and we weren’t taking ourselves seriously. The soundtrack was hard too, just like the scene here: some east coast hardcore flavor. We began to see a bit more credibility coming to the east coast around that time as well. Aaron was picked up by Cannondale, Kyle was getting a factory ride and we were just a part of a really cool community."

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
There are some proper booters at the Tribus compound. Here, Lars is showing us some proper style.

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul

"For me, my first year turning pro, I was a top 30 NORBA dude. They were big then too. 180 people in the pro class, 30,000 people showing up to these events. They were bigger than Windham was this year. I remember racing Plattekill back in 1999, the week before NORBA at Mount Snow, with a massive pro field. All of the factory teams were there and I ended up winning by over 3 seconds. Initially, everyone’s reaction was that I must’ve cut the course somewhere. But, a week later I finished 9th overall at Mount Snow, and suddenly people thought that maybe I was just a fast dude. Maybe this guy actually can ride. I pleaded my way into the X Games later that January, which took place in Vermont. They didn’t have any east coast guys at that event, and I’m a salesman by career, so I basically wore them down until they let me in. So I went and qualified first at the Snow Bike downhill. So everyone wanted to chalk that up to me be an east coast mud rider. The next day, the course was a sheet of ice and I ended up winning gold".

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
Chase and Lars go quite a way back. Aaron knows the Tribus compound well, and here he's going quite a ways up above friends and family.



Breaking Away



"I eventually cut my hours down at the pharmaceutical company I worked for and spent more time pursuing a career as a professional rider. I was doing well as a pharmaceutical sales rep and convinced my boss to let me chase world cups. I didn’t want to live my life wondering what if, and I didn’t want to quit my job either. For two years, I worked part time and went for it. The season after the X Games victory I was picked up by Ironhorse and ran into a bunch of injuries right away. I broke every toe once, and a few twice. I pulled three ribs out of my sternum, broke my C3, separated and dislocated both shoulders, broke my arm and opposite hand and turned my pinky finger to dust. After I was relatively healed up, I received my first invite to Rampage. After my first run, I was sitting in 8th overall, and the top 12 went to the finals. But I wasn’t content just sitting there and not doing a second run, because the talent was absurd there and I could've been bumped out of the finals. The last drop of my run wasn’t huge, it was maybe 20 feet. But it was windy. And it was nothing like it is today, with huge crews digging for the riders and everything being lipped up. It was all untouched and you didn’t really know what you were in for. It was a different event. It was so hard to throw tricks, other than throwing whips and showing style. So, last drop and last run, I blew up and tore my ACL, MCL and PCL. I ended my first year with a surgery."

Lars gets super low dragging knee and bars and I try not to get destroyed in the process. His backyard is dreamy by the way.
Lars swinging low on his sweet chariot

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul

"One thing that I can say about the Redbull Rampage is that it was always very progressive. Over a decade ago it made a huge mark and created another genre to compete in. It gave another avenue to highlight the strengths of the most well-rounded bike riders. When the event first came to fruition, the course was much more natural. There was little shaping and sculpting compared to today. The addition of man-made features complement an already unbelievable landscape and have enabled riders to bring tricks to the Rampage that never would have been possible before. A decade ago it was groundbreaking to launch a bike 40 feet off of a cliff. Now, if you’re not tricking 40-foot drops, and doing it stylishly, you won't even earn the right to get invited. It's amazing to see the level of riding that this event produces. Having had the opportunity to compete in the first two Rampages was a true privilege. I think that all of us "walked" away from those first few events, and I'm just thankful to have been a part of it because we knew it was going to change the sport. One thing that has not changed over time is that everyone invited is willing to lay it all on the line to go for gold. That event is true grit."

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
One of Lars' closest friends and Mountain Creek employee, Clay Harper catching some last light laps at the Tribus Compound.



The Masters Key



"In 2003, I decided to take a shot at Masters World Champs in Bromont, Quebec. It was a really technical course; about 5 minutes from start to finish and was loaded with gnarly challenges. I think I finished 25th in the NORBA series the year prior and was running in the teens during the season leading up to the World Champs. At that time, there were probably 40 world cup riders showing up to those NORBA Nationals. There was almost more media at NORBAs compared to World Cups. The talent wasn’t quite the same, but they were a big deal. For about 7 years, I was inside of the top 20 at NORBA Nationals and was somewhere around 6th or 7th for Americans. I kept missing the US team every year by 1 or 2 spots. When I turned 33, I decided I was going to try and get a Masters title. That was the first year I won. I was so pumped. I remember beating Tim Ponting by something like 3 seconds back when he, Peaty and Warner were the big dudes coming out of the UK. I was really proud of that result. The next year I lost by .3 of a second. I have had to skip 2 or 3 since that first one, but I genuinely want to win every single time I enter. I’ve finished 2nd on 5 different occasions and won once more in Brazil. I really want another title. I feel like being able to say that you’re a 3-time world champion is pretty cool. I’m tired of finishing 2nd. It starts to hurt after a while. Next year it’s going to be at Val De Sol, which is a place that I’ve never been, so I’m going."

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
Bikes just wouldn't mean much to Lars without family and friends to share them with.

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul



An East Coast State of Mind



"I’m super proud to say that I’m an east coast mountain biker. Outside of riding, who really cares? But as a rider, it’s very important to identify as being an east coaster. I’ve noticed that over the years, riders from England really identify with us. We’re cut from a similar cloth in that if you want any kind of exposure, you have to work especially hard for it. They developed what would become the coolest magazine on the planet in Dirt. They don’t have a lot of chairlifts, but they still produce some ridiculous riders. I take a ton of pride in it. For a long time, I would get really embarrassed when people would call me the godfather of Eastcoast downhill. I wasn’t the first dude here to do this stuff. You had ‘Tattoo Lou’, Lee Jones, and some other dudes that people didn’t really know. But, I think that because I made a point to really bring about some awareness to our area through Chain Reaction, people looked at me that way. Now I take a ton of pride in it. When you think of Colorado and California, you think mountain biking. But the race scenes are nothing compared to what we have. It’s not even close. You can race any discipline you want to every single weekend during the season here."

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
Lars is proud to call the land of the green tunnel home.

"I still think that the east coast is a bit under exposed. But from a credibility standpoint, as far as race courses and terrain go, the east coast is super respected. We had the Windham World Cup, Mont Saint Anne; people know that the east coast of the States and Canada are legit. It’s produced some big names too: Jeff Lenosky, Aaron Chase, Richie Rude, Neko Mulally, the Shaw brothers, Susan Haywood, Jeremiah Bishop, Georgia Gould. It’s produced some top tier riders. What I have learned is that the amount of exposure and support you get from the industry is largely due to who you know, and who you have relationships with. Eric and Sadie of Deity are perfect examples. No matter what I call and ask for, they always send me way more than I need. They’ve told me that no matter what, I could stop riding for 25 years, and if one day I call them and tell them I’m riding again, then they’ll take care of me in any way that they can. I’m a Deity rider for life. I say that because well, for starters those two are amazing. But also because there’s a relationship there, and there are east coast kids today who can ride way better than I can and don’t get anything. There just aren’t as many opportunities for them to interact with decision makers and influencers from the mountain bike industry because so much of it is based out west. Most of the trigger pullers just aren’t here. That sets us up at a geographical disadvantage. That’s probably why our community means so much to so many of us."

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
Rex might be one of the biggest trail dogs you'll ever see, but he certainly seems to keep Lars moving quickly.

East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul
East Bound and Down Lars Tribus NJ Soul



Family First



"Having kids has a huge impact on how often you can ride your bike. They’re finally getting to a place where they can go out and have a good time on their bikes, and manufacturers are finally making good bikes for kids. But you have to be strategic with your ride time. That was hard. This has never been my primary job, so riding was de-prioritized. I have a pretty demanding career, so when you couple that with being a parent, there’s just not a lot of time left to do other things. Now I’m a single parent, which can mean less time on the bike. But it's been so awesome bringing these guys into the world of mountain biking. They don’t really understand how sick it is to be able to go to Travis Pastrana’s and ride his ramps, or hang out with Josh Sheehan and Aaron Chase. They aren’t starstruck by these guys. For a lot of years, Needles, Bryn and some others would stay here for a few weeks between World Cup events and the US Open at Mountain Creek. Those athletes have seen my kids grow up, so my sons just see these riders for the people they are, and not through the filter of mountain biking. I’m sure that some day they’ll realize it and probably think it’s pretty cool."

Lars and Chase gapping some super stoked kids on his backyard jumpline
It might take some time for the Tribus kids to realize how cool their dad's friends are, but it only takes a weekend with the family to see that they already know how cool their dad is.


MENTIONS: @briceshirbach / @deityusa



Posted In:
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29 Comments

  • 26 0
 Lars is a great guy, great rider, great father/family man and a positive embassador for the sport and east coast scene. Thanks PB for acknowledging!!
  • 8 0
 I've lined up next to him, Chase and Lenowsky (not by choice) in a snow races at Blue Mountain, PA. I also remember racing DH along side Lars at Spring Mountain and Bear Creek (or Doe Mountain as it used to be called) back in the day on our XC bikes. It's crazy to reflect on how far the sport has progressed—in large part because of rad ambassadors to the sport like Lars.
  • 6 0
 wow being a newer east coast rider I was never aware of this guy living right across the Delaware from me! awesome article. being a new father, i can really relate to what he said about finding the time to ride. maybe ill see him at the races soon.
  • 4 0
 As an Ex Industry nobody, I can say that Lars is one of the racers that I always respected and appreciated for his great attitude and passion for the people in the sport.

Mtb/DH, It's a passion... That we share with other people. Lars lives that love.

Rock on Lars
  • 6 0
 I used to see Lars often at Plattekill in the late 90's sending it huge. Real sick rider and a real humble, cool dude.
  • 5 0
 I remember when he was racing for chumba wumba, seeing him at platty in the early to mid 2000's
  • 2 0
 Great article. East coast riding is definitely legit. We got your gnar! Lot of truth in the family theme too. Takes a lot of dedication to make time for it all. I'm putting a pump track in my back yard. It's not that easy to sculpt dirt. Any help or advice is welcome. I've got two little ones that love to ride, a 6 yo girl who wants to learn slope style, and a 9 yo who loves to shred! Kids are awesome.
  • 6 0
 BeastCoast
  • 2 1
 Awesome story! These are by far the best features on Pinkbike.

As a dad who formerly "shreds", now with a family/kids and a demanding career, it's awesome to hear a similar perspective, from a legend in the sport, on how awesome it is when your kids get a little older and you can ride right along side them. I truly can't wait for the day I can share biking with my little rippers.
  • 2 0
 I got to spend a day with Lars doing a photo shoot for Fly. He is such an awesome guy! Super down to earth and an absolute shredder! He made a long day of shooting, fun and lighthearted!
  • 1 0
 Lars is an absolute legend, racing with him and chase and the big guys on the east coast was the high light of my childhood. They are absolute super heros as a kid growing up on the east coast. Such a good community of riding out here! Thanks for everything Lars!
  • 4 0
 living legend ! love him on Chain Reaction 3
  • 3 0
 Always loved his video parts, great to see him getting some coverage again!
  • 3 0
 I remember seeing some video on Extreme Channel (google it) ages ago with him drifting a muddy corner while he kept pedalling. Does anyone know what video that could have been?
  • 1 0
 I think it might've been here we go again
  • 2 0
 Sick piece Bryce. Great work.

Lars....you cannot mention the great East Coast riders our region has produced without mentioning Chris Eatough and Marla Streb!! : ))
  • 3 0
 Awesome read! Thanks PB for bring one of my childhood heroes back to life!
  • 2 0
 Great article, loved watching Lars in the old VHS's - keep doing what your doing!
  • 2 0
 I saw him win one of his world championships, very fast and amazing riding. Cheers
  • 2 0
 proud to be a east coast rider! gonna go home and watch the chain reaction series again.
  • 2 0
 Yeah Lars Dog.......been a pleasure knowing you all these years...we need to ride in Jah together again....epic dayz
  • 1 0
 Just want to thank Lars for the great memories at the white castle trails, unfortunately they are gone now. Never met him but heard a lot of good about him!
  • 3 0
 Much respect for Lars!
  • 2 0
 Yah Lars... Nice East Coast Represent son - IF brothas
  • 2 0
 Great story, great pics, RAD DUDE!
  • 2 0
 #Cool
  • 2 0
 Life goals.
  • 2 0
 Lars = The Man!
  • 1 0
 This just got me so stoked. Unreal. Much thanks!!!!!

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