Podcast: Aaron Gwin Talks Tough Seasons, Injury, Dealing With Speculation & More

Mar 10, 2021
by Downtime Podcast  
Photo - Nathan Hughes

Words Chris Hall : Photo Nathan Hughes

I think it’s fair to say that Aaron Gwin has had a rough couple of seasons. A steady stream of injuries and misfortune have kept him away from where he’d like to be, at the very top of the sport. We chat about how he deals with tough times. How he feels about people saying he’s no longer got what it takes and how his approach to racing has changed over time. Can Aaron still beat Greg Minnaar’s all time wins record and when will he retire from downhill? Give this episode a listen to hear the answers from the man himself. So hit play and have a listen to this episode with Aaron Gwin.

You can also listen by searching for ‘Downtime Podcast’ on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Podcasts, by asking Alexa, or over on our website www.downtimepodcast.com/aaron-gwin/ and you can follow us on Instagram @downtimepodcast.

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Member since Dec 5, 2017
183 articles

  • 18 2
 Arons mentality is well suited to Enduro imo, he's super focused and has the stamina I think but thats just me.
  • 21 12
 Thsts a cruel statement, he's still got some dh life in him.
  • 24 1
 @Jackson900: I didnt suggest he is done with DH and Enduro isnt a step down imo.
  • 5 1
 For sure, yeah ! But I think he still got the juice and the drive to delight us in DH for some time.
  • 14 23
flag russthedog FL (Mar 10, 2021 at 5:42) (Below Threshold)
 @Imabigboy82: enduro is a step down soz
  • 2 1
 @russthedog: no need to say sorry dude lol
  • 4 10
flag Wheeeliemann (Mar 10, 2021 at 6:39) (Below Threshold)
 Enduro is not very well suited to meticulous perfectionists but currently favors stable mentally strong allrounders, who are prepared to make errors and manage theirs race runs accordingly. Not his strongest talent IMO
  • 13 1
 @Wheeeliemann: Like breaking a chain and winning a world cup? Or maybe having multiple seasons with mechanical or body issues and continuing to come back and challenge the top spots? I agree with your thought on what makes a good enduro rider but hard to see any micro or macro data that suggests Gwin's traits don't line up, regardless of how you feel about him personally.
  • 7 1
 @Wheeeliemann: I mean this is the guy who won a dh race when his chain broke. I would call that managing an error in your race run.
  • 19 0
 @russthedog: I disagree. Having raced both DH world cups and currently racing in EWS I think they aren't actually as easily comparable as people seem to think. They are two distinctly different disciplines now. Also want to point out that Martin Maes partaking in a few DH WC's for the craic and winning one and then the following week narrowly missing out on the Gold in World Champs. He was born in Enduro, moulded by it (bane quote for the geeks haha) If he is capable of that and still doesn't win every single EWS I think its fair to say the level is incredibly high. Its not a step down, its a stride to the side!
  • 4 1
 @Wheeeliemann: And he recently competed in and won a local Enduro race (albeit the field was not super elite like EWS).

Gwin is a competitor and a versatile athlete. He definitely has the juice. I think he can have the longevity of Peaty or Minnaar if he’d like to.
  • 1 0
 @eurojuice: haha in Vail lake? I was tripping out when I saw him there and no surprises he took the win easily,
  • 3 0
 @mariomtblt: He laughingly talks about how he usually gets beat at his local races in the podcast. At one time, they were joking that he'd won more world cups than he had some specific local race.

He said it's because 1) California is more pedally than WC tracks which favors the locals who race them all the time and 2) though the field isn't deep like a WC, the pointy end is very, very competitive and fast (and it's their home tracks) and 3) he is usually doing a "shake up" on those races and trying to slowly climb back to WC shape and speed prior to the season, so he's not trying to peak early. It was a pretty good segment on the podcast.

So that explains that recent Bootleg Canyon 2nd place as well.
  • 3 1
 @thebigbadwolfe: good points made, although Mae's was actually born on DH as a junior then stepped into enduro.
  • 4 0
 @russthedog: Nope!! He started racing Enduro first. He came 4th in the very first EWS when he was only 15. Before that he raced European super enduros where he was scouted by Dan Atherton. He later went on to race the occasional DH WC but mostly just to represent Belgium in the DH World Champs as a junior. I've spent a good bit of time with the man over the years haha but I do enjoy how people started out
  • 3 2
 @russthedog: Dude you're getting called out by a pro now, I'd probably stop there.
  • 3 0
 @Imabigboy82: a pro is still a person.

@thebigbadwolfe: you learn something new every day, i didn't know that. Thanks for the info!
  • 2 0
 @russthedog: Martin's father Patrick (an accomplished dual / 4x rider himself) is considered one of the founders of the enduro race format in Belgium. He organised his own enduro racing series in the second half of the 00's, long before ews ever existed. It was at the same time the french and italian enduro series became popular. I competed at the time and remember Martin and his brother being super fast 10-12 year old kids, riding top 3 overall.
I also remember their dad drove the van like it was a rally car (the Wallonian way).
They are rooted in enduro.
  • 15 3
 I sometimes wonder whether brands are scared to sponsor Aaron considering how much he's going to cost them in R&D and product development. I don't think I've ever seen a pro rider push so hard for the perfect bike set-up.
  • 13 10
 I think Bruni would give him a run for his money on that one - Bruni/Pure Agency literally got the UCI to change the rules to allow mullet bikes because Loic didn't like 29ers!
  • 10 37
flag betsie (Mar 10, 2021 at 6:32) (Below Threshold)
 @MasterOfStone: disprove him!

People who say source... trigger.

How about, source for the statement about Aaron being the largest burden on R&D and product development, did Gwin not jump on a pretty factory Trek and smash it (well others were injured or coming back from injury too).
I heard Gwin doesnt do as much testing as other maybe some other riders do (who are faster than Gwin).

Source... I put my ear to the ground and listened to the drums from far away (or maybe a WC racer told me).

I dont understand why the worlds best are not all out testing all of the time, test everything! diet, gym, bike setup, pre race routine etc etc. Thats not R&D, thats just personal development.
  • 6 0
 @betsie: In the interview, he talks about NOT being a bike "geek" for the majority of his career. He was very particular and sensitive to how the bike felt, but he didn't really know anything about kinemetics, geometry, an the actual numbers. He had no clue on his suspension set up and leverage curves and all of that. He said that it's been in recent years (specifically with Intense) that he's really started to geek out and be more interested in the actual numbers and such, in large part because Intense, as a brand, also likes to geek out on that stuff.
  • 1 0
 @MasterOfStone: Pretty sure its one of the 'Outspoken' podcast episodes that it's discussed in.
  • 8 0
 My brother used to work as an engineer for one of the companies that sponsored Greg Minaar and I heard anecdotally that he is super particular. Don’t see why a company should be scared of that though. Would we not expect the best riders in the world to push like crazy for the best products in the world? Isn’t that why you’d seek out and sponsor these riders in the first place?
  • 2 2
 No one is afraid of spending on R&D. They're afraid of proofing out their designs on the hill.

There might be a DH rig out there right now that is the fastest of all, but if your company can't put the guy that pulls that .01 second over the field, your R&D goes to waste.

There is a fantastic explanation of R&D and the ups and downs of it from Phil Sleeter on the Gypsy Tales podcast (can find it on YouTube) where you get to apply his experiences with KTM to what DH programs might try. The maddening part of DH R&D though is all courses are so much different than one another. In moto, you have to account for Supercross or Motocross layout as your base and then bust out laps that provide instant visual data to the trackside team.

In DH, no one sees you come down the course. I've stood trackside and could instantly tell a buddy how many clicks of rebound he needed to tweak. Trying to get everyone in R&D on one page in DH racing must be maddening.
  • 1 0
 @cuban-b-can-blow-me: Good point on courses being different. In this Pod Gwin talks about when he first started WC, he'd be on a bike that felt super great and fun and fast in California. Then he'd go to Europe and get smoked because the bike wasn't fast on that terrain, he needed something longer. He said it took him a while to get to where he could ride in California and translate the feel on his locals over to what it would feel like when he was on European tracks.

Terrain and conditions vary so much from track to track in DH (and MTB racing in general).
  • 5 0
 I think Minnaar is the king of the tinkerers. And it always seems to pay off with him. I'm sure SC has learned a lot from Minnaar's constant fiddling about.
  • 1 0
 Check out some of the Syndicate videos, particularly when they’re testing in San Romolo. Minnaar is painstaking in his set up. Every detail is considered. Heck, that’s why they showed up first to properly race World Cup level DH on a 29er (and that bike had adjustable chain stays, custom linkages, and those Buzzworks headset cups. That’s just one dude among an elite few that arepushing the state of the art.

Getting that kind of precise and meticulous feedback is invaluable to creating a superior product. While Gwin is claimed to be quite expensive, he’s shaped a lot of products that now out there and available to us as consumers. I suspect he earns his keep in that respect alone.
  • 1 0
 @eurojuice: I'm not talking about little bike tweaks. Aaron has literally gotten his sponsors to make him.
- An entire range of brakes
- A new tyre from Onza and Kenda
- TRP made him an entire drivetrain because shimano wasn't good enough
- Intense had to create a custom prototype bike for him when he joined the team.

These things aren't cheap.
  • 14 1
 Gave it a listen this morning and would definitely recommend it to others.
  • 4 0
 Thanks @murfio I'm glad you enjoyed it.
  • 10 0
 @downtimepodcast: Yep. Good job on this one, Chris.

I'm not sure if Gwin has described his break with YT elsewhere, but that part was very interesting. I respect the way that Gwin was able to talk about it in a matter-of-fact manner without any real bitterness or evident animosity toward the brand. I mean, you can hear that he was definitely angry when it happened and that he doesn't agree with the way things went down, but understands that it's YT's business and they can run it as they see fit.
  • 9 1
 Good luck this year Gwinner!
  • 2 0
 Always interesting to hear the behind the scenes negotiation and reality of contracts/renewals. Surprises even for one of the most successful riders in DH history. Why do I get the sense that the re-org at YT and there recent roster change over still has a few untold stories ? Interesting times for this brand. An enjoyable podcast. I'd love to see some additional non-north american site testing for the intense team early season. I get the base line testing and why that is important for normalized performance testing, but at this level I would expect the scope & affordance to be a more inclusive in establishing those settings. Go get it Aaron ! I want to see you hit 25 w's before you start racing desert dirt bikes !!
  • 1 0
 Hey Gwin, I keep my hot tub hot(on a timer for evening and morning) all winter and cost is maybe $100 a month gets cheaper as it gets warmer months. But trying to heat it to use costs $200 or more and I only heated it a couple of times. Good luck and US is rooting for you.
  • 1 0
 It was a great podcast as most Downtimes are. I was expecting more robotic sounds from Gwin but was pleasantly surprised by how human he is now, I think 2020 was a good year for him, a relaxed Gwin could be a dangerous Gwinner?

Also Chris the Women's day Pod was a great listen even if you didnt get a word in very often LOL
  • 2 0
 Thanks @VWsurfbum I'm glad you enjoyed it. I certainly enjoyed having the chat! I agree, I think he's in a good place and should never be overlooked as a potential winner.

Stoked you liked the International Women's Day episode too, the episodes where I don't have to talk are the best ones, ha ha - see also Gary Fisher, Nigel Page etc.
  • 1 0
 @downtimepodcast: Gary fisher one was fantastic, total Leg End!
I agree, when they talk naturally and not have to be coaxed out are the best ones.
  • 2 0
 @VWsurfbum: Totally agree. It's also generally better when I've had the guest on before, as they know who I am and they are often more relaxed the second time around.
  • 2 0
 AG is an amazing rider, we are very lucky to have him and Greg still at the top. Can't wait to see them both this year, could be amazing.
  • 1 0
 Based on their conversation Gwin is/will be testing a high-pivot bike before the season starts. Maybe everyone but the Syndicate will be on a high-pivot!
  • 2 0
 I enjoy listening to how people at the top deal w adversity, looking forward to this. Thanks.
  • 1 0
 I hope you enjoy it @nvranka
  • 3 1
 Happy Aaron Gwin day. Timeless episode just got dropped too.
  • 1 0
 What is true to size if no shoe is true to size? Anyone else have my confusion?
  • 2 0
 Ha, fair comment @Tamerw I'd say 'true' size is the size I'm told I am when I go to a shoe shop and they actually measure my feet. In my experience I've had to size both up and down from that in riding shoes over the last few years to get them to fit, but these ones actually fit in my 'true' size.
  • 2 0
 The real question is: " When will Greg Minnaar stop winning world cups? "
  • 1 0
 that podcast will save my homeoffice day tomorrow Wink
  • 1 1
 I guess you would say it’s time to ramp up the Intensity.
  • 2 4
 One word. Done.
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