The Pinkbike Podcast: Episode 68 - Who Are Mountain Biking's Unsung Heroes?

Jun 18, 2021
by Mike Levy  
Pinkbike Podcast
Art by Taj Mihelich

Two podcasts in one week? The Story of Mountain Biking's Most Interesting Man: Richard Cunningham - A Pinkbike Podcast Special went up yesterday, but that doesn't mean we get to skip the usual banter and shit-talking. From trail builders to youth coaches and even some racers, mountain biking isn't short of shining examples of human beings who've done good things for our sport. But what about those people - and maybe some products and places - that have made a positive impact on mountain biking but haven’t quite received the kudos they deserve? Episode 68 is all about the unsung heroes of our sport, from the pioneers in the early days, under the radar ultra-distance racers, talented photographers, underappreciated event organizers, and even a brilliant freerider-turned-rocket scientist who wheelie dropped the Large Hadron Collider while interning at CERN. Yes, that's a true story.

June 18th, 2021

Sure, but why didn't the person who invented tire plugs win a Nobel prize?

So, how does one qualify as an unsung hero? I'd argue that half of the equation is the need to have made an outsized contribution to mountain biking in some way, whether that's Uli Stanciu's pioneering Transalp routes and founding the German Bike magazine, Jefe Branham pedaling his bike farther in a single ride than some of us do in an entire year, or the rider who's out there every day on their decade-old bike without a care for the latest and so-called greatest gear. And while they didn't do it for the kudos, they also certainly deserve more than they've received so far. Our picks are below, but who's on your unsung hero shortlist?

Mike Levy
• Riders who don't get caught up in the trends and know they don't need the latest gear to enjoy riding
• Event organizers, and especially the volunteers who make things happen (shoutout to long-time PB contributor, Si Paton)
• Whoever invented tire plugs

Brian Park
Ryder Kasprick - An early freerider from Vancouver Island who tailwhipped the 25-foot finishing drop at Crankworx back in 2006
Ian Moult - Appearances in early freeride films as an 11-year-old, a number of world's first tricks landed, and an actual rocket scientist
Pippen Osborne - Early innovator, designer, founder of Syncros, Banshee
Uli Stanciu - A pioneer of Transalp riding and racing, magazine founder, and pillar of the European mountain bike scene

Mike Kazimer
Jefe Branham - An under the radar endurance badass that not many riders know about
• Ben Walker - A gifted product developer and living his best life
• Gary Perkin - One of the sport's legendary photographers

Matt Wragg
• Roberto Vernassa - He built the San Romolo downhill track, trained young racers, and helped shape enduro racing
• Franco Monchiero - A European enduro innovator
• George Edwards - Mountain bike innovator, organized the first downhill race in France, founded the Megavalanche and other events

Featuring a rotating cast of the editorial team and other guests, the Pinkbike podcast is a weekly update on all the latest stories from around the world of mountain biking, as well as some frank discussion about tech, racing, and everything in between.

This week's Pinkbike Podcast is presented by deuter.

With over 120 years of experience in combining German engineering with passion for mountain sports, deuter is launching a new lineup of back protector packs.

The brand new FLYT series offers rowdy mountain bikers lightweight, comfortable and extra ventilated back with protection and organized storage capacity for longer rides.

The FLYT, other new bike packs, and more are now available at your local bike shop or online at

Previous Pinkbike Podcasts
Episode 1 - Why Are Bikes So Expensive?
Episode 2 - Where the Hell is the Grim Donut?
Episode 3 - Pond Beaver Tech
Episode 4 - Why is Every Bike a Trail Bike?
Episode 5 - Can You Trust Bike Reviews?
Episode 6 - Over Biked Or Under Biked?
Episode 7 - Wild Project Bikes
Episode 8 - Do We Need an Even Larger Wheel Size?
Episode 9 - Why Are We Doing a Cross-Country Field Test?
Episode 10 - Getting Nerdy About Bike Setup
Episode 11 - Are We Going Racing This Year?
Episode 12 - What's the Future of Bike Shops?
Episode 13 - Are Bikes Too Regular Now?
Episode 14 - What Bikes Would Pinkbike Editors Buy?
Episode 15 - What's Holding Mountain Biking Back?
Episode 16 - Who's Your Mountain Biking Hero?
Episode 17 - XC Field Test Insider
Episode 18 - Electronics on your Mountain Bike: Good or Bad?
Episode 19 - The Hardtail Episode
Episode 20 - MTB Conspiracy Theories
Episode 21 - Stuff We Were Wrong About
Episode 22 - Does Your Riding Style Match Your Personality?
Episode 23 - Grim Donut 2 is Live!
Episode 24 - Why Even Buy a DH Bike?
Episode 25 - Fall Field Test Preview
Episode 26 - The Three Most Important Mountain Bikes
Episode 27 - The World Champs Special
Episode 28 - All About Women's Bikes
Episode 29 - Freeride or Die
Episode 30 - Would You Rather?
Episode 31 - Wet Weather Riding Tips & Tricks
Episode 32 - What Needs to Change in the Bike Industry?
Episode 33 - Behind the Scenes at Pinkbike Academy
Episode 34 - Grilling Levy About Field Test Trail Bikes (and His Bonspiel)
Episode 35 - Story Time - Stranger Than Fiction
Episode 36 - Grilling Kazimer about Field Test Enduro Bikes
Episode 37 - The 2020 Privateer Season with Ben Cathro
Episode 38 - Editors Defend Their 2020 Best-Of Picks
Episode 39 - Predicting the Future of Mountain Biking
Episode 40 - The Pinkbike Awards!
Episode 41 - Racing Rumours and Team Changes
Episode 42 - Mountain Biking's Guilty Pleasures
Episode 43 - Dangerholm's Wildest Custom Mountain Bikes
Episode 44 - Mountain Bike Suspension Decoded
Episode 45 - What Makes a Good Riding Buddy
Episode 46 - The RockShox Zeb vs Fox 38 Deep Dive
Episode 47 - High Pivot Bikes: The Good, The Bad, and The Why?
Episode 48 - Rides That Went Horribly Wrong... & Why That Made Them So Good
Episode 49 - What's the Best DH Bike?
Episode 50 - Are Bikes Actually Getting Less Expensive? (Value Bike Field Test Preview)
Episode 51 - Should MTB Media Post Spy Shots?
Episode 52 - Our Most Embarrassing MTB Moments
Episode 53 - Should Climbers Still Have the Right of Way?
Episode 54 - Best and Worst MTB Product Marketing
Episode 55 - Big Dumb Rides & Staying Motivated
Episode 56 - What Were the Most Important Inventions in Mountain Biking?
Episode 57 - What Were the Best (and Worst) Trends in Mountain Biking?
Episode 58 - Debunking Mountain Biking's Biggest Myths
Episode 59 - Value Bike Field Trip Surprises & Spoilers
Episode 60 - What Kind of Mountain Biker Do You Want to Be?
Episode 61 - Athlete Pay, Lycra, Equality and More from the State of the Sport Survey
Episode 62 - Editor Preferences and Why They Matter
Episode 63 - Our Best (And Worst) Bike Buying Advice
Episode 64 - Who's On Your MTB Mount Rushmore?
Episode 65 - The Hardtail Episode
Episode 66 - The Best and Worst of Repairing Bikes
Episode 67 - The Story of Mountain Biking's Most Interesting Man: Richard Cunningham

Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 58 3
 Pink bike commentators are the real unsung heroes. Selflessly taking time out of their busy lives to make dick pound jokes that bring a smile to literally dozens of people around the world. Thank you commenters, thank you.
  • 2 0
 You’re welcome
  • 12 0
 Thank you for your sacrifice.
  • 4 1
  • 13 0
 I am one of those dozens. Excellent work.
  • 2 1
 my work here is done
  • 37 1
  • 1 0
 Came here to say exactly that.
  • 4 0
 We all really, really appreciate trail builders. I hope.
  • 31 0
 The Taiwanese!!
  • 25 1
 Advocates that have all the brain damage from cutting through all of the red tape to get to the point of trail building. Trail Building is the easy part, getting permission is by far the hardest park. Even after permission comes funding, and funding is easier to come by when the permissions and planning is done... People who tirelessly attend insanely ridiculous government meetings...
  • 4 0
 This is a good one.
  • 4 0
 Yes! Also those who work to legalized excellent "user built" trails. Physically building a trail is hard work, but you get out what you put in. Whereas people who work with land owners and local government and deal with endless legal bs... Those people truly are the heros!
  • 4 0
 So much paperwork for a section 57 for a foot-wide piece of singletrack...
  • 2 5
 @mikelevy: 4ft wide Single track?! might as well stick to the side walk. those who get access to the land deserve the kudos, certainly not the people ruining the fun by making trails so wide and smooth.
  • 3 0
 Well said.
  • 4 1
 @blum585 I wouldn't compare one against the other "trailbuildung is the easy part".... but having done both advocacy and trailbuilding I would 100% agree that trailwork is quite a bit faster and, to me, more rewarding
  • 1 0
 @sleziak: Ha! Very relevant today
  • 14 1
  • 8 2
 The unsung heros are the down hill tandem racers that go out there and give 110% and still don't get the media or podcast coverage they deserve. July 15th is national tandem day and yet you never see it mentioned on pinkbike.
  • 6 0
 Shout out to @mikelevy for mentioning the event organizers. That side of the bike industry is risky enough as it is and I can only imagine how disruptive the ongoing global situation has been for the promoters.
  • 3 1
 Being a race director is the most stressful job I’ve ever had- paid and unpaid.
  • 5 0
 Engineers who build products that just work. Only the engineers that do the funky techno stuff get the credit. But the only thing that scales and the only thing that matters (in product world) is the stuff that shows up every day, no matter what.

To extend it further: anybody in the industry who does something for a bigger reason than just what serves their own interests in the moment.
  • 2 1
 Engineers make the world go round!
  • 7 0
 @mikelevy: they keep us from falling off the edge anyway.
  • 7 0
 Jay Hoots. He built a nice jump park in my little town, I think he did stuff like this all over BC/Alberta.
  • 7 0
 Bike shop techs, if you're still enduring your poverty tier salary and being asked everyday to do it now, kudos...
  • 3 0
 I guess of the playlists, I can relate to Levy’s the most. But Kaz has some stuff I can get into.

I recently built a playlist from Danny Macaskill videos. I don’t know if it’s because the riding inspires me so much, but he’s got some good stuff in there!
  • 2 0
 There's a "Dudes of Hazard and Hazard Racing" playlist on Spotify, that has all the songs from Joe Barnes' videos. That is one eclectic list of rad music.
  • 3 0
 Hey guys, seeing Mondraker including suspension data acquisition stock on some bikes, do you think there is a usecase for automated suspension setting recommendation. I am working with neural networks and I already have a concept, I just need more data... If you guys (especially Brian, love u) think that suspension manufactures would have an interest in this, I am willing to give this a go.
Seeing many people struggle with the amount of options their high end forks provide them with and not setting them at all/wrong I think that this could provide a benefit to most riders.
  • 3 0
 Sounds like Levy should host a granddad's ride w/ that playlist. Made my unit actually slurp up inside of my abdomen reading it. Heard all that stuff a billion times now so: nah, hard pass...can't get rad w/ that. But hey: we all like what we like. Kaz & Smurth lists for the win.
  • 2 0
 I feel like we should have talked about what we use our playlists for. I don't listen to music while descending or to get pumped up before a ride, but I always have the headphones in for long climbs. There's something about those older tunes that just work (for me) when you've been climbing forever on some massive ride Smile
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy: Good enough! I just wanted a reply from Levy himself so I could die in peace. Don't let me share my 70's playlist tho - full of 70's pop & schlock that even you'd turn a nose up at or even vomit to (maybe). Good to go...just had to instigate a little.
  • 4 2
 All those guys that spend hours uploading GPX tracks and curating content onto sites so others can use it to do their rides and explore new places. @trailforks ofc but any other app or website that hosts this information. Thanks to those unknown guys lot of us can enjoy terrific rides when visiting new places.
  • 5 0
 YouTubers, obviously.

**Stands with eye closed and arms open wide to accept volley of downvote arrows.**
  • 2 0
 @brianpark Obviously not a competition, but I think your playlist wins. Thanks for posting, really enjoyed it while riding today. Burial, Mura Masa, Four Tet, Nosaj Thing, Jon Hopkins - lots of artists in there I like to listen to.
  • 2 0
 Love that the sword made a few of your playlists. Those guys rip. Question for the podcast. Have any of you thrown a leg over the raaw jibb? Just built one up, and I’m loving it. I’m putting a 160mm 38 up front, and it’s a 135mm frame. Do any of you enjoy overbuilt short travel bikes? Thanks!
  • 3 2
 Did not listen, but if the 90's era MTB racers do not get a huge nod, this episode could be a fail. Why? these racers (and the mechanics to some extent) risked life and limb to test and develop SO much garbage product that failed and was super dangerous to give to you today products that are far superior today than then. Things todays modern athlete wouldnt even attempt to install on a bike.
90's racers laid the groundwork for solid components and frames, without them, you'd all still be dicking around with cantilevers, springs on your seat post dropper, cobbly ass welds, suspension with no damping, snapping head tubes every weekend, fork legs snapping, brakes that couldnt be bled, tires that are rock hard rubber etc etc.
  • 1 0
 And so would you. We'd still be having fun though.
  • 4 0
 not really unsung but always worth mentioning Dangerous Dan / Digger, without them the shore wouldn't be the shore.
  • 3 0
 Digger, Danger, J-rig, GMG, Fred, alot of that influence reaches beyond the Shore! Those techniques and inspiration from the Y2K era builders has spread coast to coast USA. Some people call them ladder bridges, other people refer to these features as just “north shore”. This style integrates the challenges/obstacles of the terrain, whereas before we went around.
  • 3 0
 Brian Parks playlist. Anyone who puts Opeth - Serenity Painted Death on their playlist wins. Isis - So Did We is a nice touch too.
  • 1 0
 The rider that spends their money at the local shop. Surly Bikes. Never afraid to be weird and adopt early.

In defense of the Spark vs the 111; there is always the debate on who gets credit in this situation. The “before it’s time” or the “trend setter”. I have always been of the opinion that timing of the product is just as relevant for this discussion as the product itself. The introduction of the Spark is a lot more in line with the trend start, still in production, and as Brian said they’ve sold metric tons of em.
  • 2 0
 Hey @brianpark, @mikelevy, @mikekazimer, how about an podcast episode featuring 'where are they now' of riders from the past? I loved hearing some of the names I'd completely forgotten about in this episode.
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy @brianpark This could be fun!
  • 2 0
 For sure, they'll be some interviews like that in the future.
  • 2 0
 My local bike shop mechanic who when I dropped by unannounced will even when swamped with a 2 week backlog of work will try to get my bike working so I can ride the next day.
  • 1 0
 Question for the podcast: (I think this topic has been mentioned in passing before, but not specifically discussed)

What things should we be focussing on when looking for a new bike, if a test ride is not possible?

As you ride so many bikes, what do you find makes the difference to how it feels? Geometry/suspension system etc? Or can numbers be misleading, can they come together to be greater than the sum of their parts?

For example, I moved from a 2016 enduro (loved it), then a 2018 genius (more modern numbers, better for me on paper but I never got on with it). Currently looking at a 153, remedy or status (only bikes in my size currently in stock near me) but I can't test ride any of them and reviews of current models are sparse. The remedy is confusing me especially, it looks like the most refined and modern frame yet the geometry in particular looks odd - it'd be shorter, higher and steeper than my current ride, surely there must be more to it than this? Or are all modern bikes basically fine so it doesn't matter, and the rider can adapt to the bike's specific traits? It seems like the PB staff can make any bike work regardless of it's nuances (maybe my skill is the issue!).

I guess the TL;DR is what advice would you give to someone who is buying a new bike but can't test ride them, and has to go solely off numbers and sitting on it in the store?
  • 1 0
 Coaches, especially at the junior level. The ones who introduce kids to mountain bike and give them that opportunity to discover not just the sport but themselves in the process. Coaches that not only teach kids all the necessary skills but in some case give them a chance to discover a social group that provides a place to belong to.
At our local bike park, there is a couple who have been running mountain biking clinics and programs for kids and adults. You get to see young kids learning and growing up in the sport and then becoming instructors themselves for the next group of young ones coming through. I am sure (I hope) there are coaches like them around the world that dedicate themselves to their community and make a difference for many young riders both on and off the bike.
  • 1 0
 Just listen this épisode and discovery Pip Osborne passée away
I have some mémories of him when he presented his scream back in Eurobike
The guy was on his own with a bike and only a table We kept in touch for some times been riding a Banshee Scream thanks to him in 2003 probably one of the first in France
This is a sad news for me i always liked discussed with him about riding bikes and crazy stories
  • 4 0
 Kazimer wins best playlist
  • 2 0
 Thanks, glad you liked it.
  • 1 0
 Yea i was stoked to see deafheaven on there
  • 1 0
 Tig Cross and the rest of the crew behind Hornby Island Bikefest. Hugely influential in the development and culture of BC mountain biking and riding styles in the mid to late 90s.
  • 1 0
 Hey @brianpark, @mikelevy took my my comment gold nomination with the curated dirt comment. Should i expect my job offer in the mail? I already have the clapped out 70’s car
  • 2 0
 Trail Patrol at bike parks. Hopefully you never gain a full appreciation them. But if you've ever had a VIP seat on a gator, you will sing their praises.
  • 2 0
 Excellent suggestion.
  • 1 0
 holy shit, DOCTOR ian moult has serious credentials. wondered what happened to him. "while not dabbling in theoretical particle research, i like to ride bikes."
  • 2 0
 I like knowing he’s out there studying effective field theories and dark matter while we debate about head angles and chainstay length.
  • 1 0
 Hobbies "biking" photo of a clicked turndown over a 20 foot double hahaha
  • 1 0
 Guys from Ellsworth... Majority know that they are making expensive bikes, but their patents improved gear a lot in recent years! Behind that, all those nice guys pedalling everywhere working on our good name!
  • 2 0
 Marcus Burns! And all the other trail builders, giving to the sport. Respect where respect is due.
  • 4 0
 no diggers, no trails.
  • 1 0
 - no deer , horses or run off / dry creek bed = no trails as well
  • 2 0
 If anyone on the Pinkbike podcast was gonna have Burial on their list, it was definitely going to be Brian.
  • 4 0
 Your username makes me happy.
  • 1 1
 Husquvarna ( Pierer Mobility/ KTM ) has entered the E-Bike market. As a result consumers can purchase a high quality product without getting gouged by the price fixing bicycle industry.
  • 1 0
 I'm fairly certain every band member of every band on Levy's playlist would make fun of Levy's Mini... - But I do like Levy's list the best.
  • 2 0
 Anyone who does a how to fix stuff on your bike YouTube video
  • 3 1
 WYN masters. Gettin those privateer names out
  • 2 0
 Roberto had Wyn on his team a few years ago.
  • 2 0
 I wouldn't say Wyn is an unsung hero, maybe undersung. Definitely a hero tho. His privateer award was a genius idea. It promotes unknown racers, helps them financially, makes Wyn tv a little more entertaining drives up views, makes fans who donate feel good about helping, and brings light to just how much privateers struggle. It's all positives! Wyn's ixs test session (not a race thing) was a dam smart idea too.
  • 1 1
 + The person of the future who leaves the board room at CSG, having just convinced Cannondale executives to abandon the Lefty forever.
  • 2 0
 I hope that never happens. There's plenty of room for something different, especially if it works.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: I guess I could change that to the person who leaves the board room at CSG and convinces the executives to make service parts, tools, and procedures available and accessible for the lefty. Absent of that, please see the aforementioned hero.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy Your crush on RC is steadily transitioning from cute to concerning... Should we be concerned?
  • 1 1
 Maybe he should be...
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer Been blasting Hum all day.
  • 1 0
 Levy and Kazimer's playlists are more consistently decent. The other two dudes have some good ones here and there.
  • 2 0
 No female unsung heroes.....
  • 1 0
 George Edwards created all the « mega » races (mega-valanche). So it s definitely a guy on that list.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy Can we get your buddy Wayne on as a special guest? He sounds like a pretty rad dude?
  • 2 0
 Oh man, I'd love to get him on. He's seen me do some of the dumbest shit (and vice versa), crash harder than anyone should ever crash, and is the ideal road trip or death march partner. But if My Buddy Wayne came on, I'm afraid it'd just be really embarrassing stories of me... so maybe not.
  • 1 0
 Thanks so much for answering my question on the pod guys. Really appreciate you taking the time.
  • 1 0
 Unsung heroes: Formula, for starting hydraulic disc brakes for mountain bikes.
  • 1 0
 Definitely bike mechanics, trail builders and crazy endurance riders/racers lol
  • 1 0
 levys got the best playlist by far
  • 2 0
 All anyone needs is Seger.
  • 1 0
 All those race organizers and volunteers
  • 1 0
 all the trailbuilders they deserve more credit and deal on bike
  • 1 0
 Love to see KGLW on Kaz's playlist. I love that band so much.
  • 1 0
 Specialized Enduro is a 4-bar design with additional linkage, not a 6-bar.
  • 1 0
 Customers who buy bikes.
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