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  and Leif , along with their Rottweiler Rex, to ride bikes and discuss his career and unique perspective on the industry.
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."
"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."
"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".
"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."
"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."
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."
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."
"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."
"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."