The Woodsman: At Home with Amir Kabbani

Nov 27, 2017
by Nathan Hughes  




On the steep banks of the Rhine, somewhere in between the crenelated walls of gothic hilltop fortifications and the steady flowing river, packed with ferry-loads of grape-intoxicated tourists, you'll find him... the woodsman. Deep in the forest. Probably with a flying mattock or roaring chainsaw in bandaged hands, or maybe he's mid-line, inverted, with the bike violently rotating overhead. His time is well split between the moving the bike and the earth. There aren't many people this guy can't out-dig, let alone out-ride.

Something of a pioneer in this part of Europe over a decade ago; proving that a German could make it to the very top of the MTB world along with fellow countrymen like Rasouli and Tschugg, Amir Kabbani has now split from competition. But he isn't done yet. The slopestyle rider who built his own bike park has a vision and it's one that few have the talent or determination to see through. Kabbani is a perfectionist with a mind to showing anyone watching the very best our sport can be.

Welcome to castle country....





At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesMy name’s Amir Kabbani. I live in a small town called Boppard in West Germany and for the last decade I have lived the dream of riding bikes professionallyAK


At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani



bigquotesOver the last ten years I’ve competed at pretty much all the major slopestyle and dirt-jump contests, even since before the days of the FMB. But as time's gone by I've become more and more hooked on the process of visualising photo and video ideas and seeing them through to a finished product I can be excited about. It’s a stoke that satisfies me like nothing else. Here I am at 28 – no idea where all those years wentAK



At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesMy own bike park here in Boppard came from... well, out of necessity I suppose you could say.

There was nothing to ride here. We built ramps and drops all over in the woods and the city knew that they would need to give us kids a platform to do it legally before it got too out of control, hehe. Thankfully after a couple years, they offered us a place to build an official spot. I’ve spent more than a few rainy days down here building stuff for my training and also to create a park that gives anyone an opportunity to try riding and have fun. That’s the only way to do it and get more people on bikes after all. It still stokes me if I can make those younger generations switch off their smartphones for a minute and ride their bikes, maybe even swing a shovel now and again, haha. I gotta say, there is absolutely no bigger reward than building a new jump and hitting it for the first time! - AK



At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotes2001 was when it all started for me... I was about 13 years old. I had a lot of issues sitting still in school, always super hyperactive and found my way to calm down a little through sports. I gave pretty much all of them a try until I got bored, but this one day I found some older kids riding interesting bikes in the woods with motocross helmets on. I followed them and yup, that was true love at first sightAK


At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesThe mystery of the woods, flying bikes off a jump you just built…. That was new and electric to me.

The New World Disorder and Kranked movies were a big inspiration, but my friends were definitely my biggest motivator at that time and the only thing that mattered was to do something bike related. At some point shortly after, I realised how comfy I feel on big jumps and started learning my first tricks. In 2005 I decided to compete for the first time at a German dirt jump contest, which were still rare in those days. I had my first experience riding in front of a crowd and got to see who else followed the passion for this kind of riding in Germany, which pushed me harder to progress - AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani



bigquotesThe slopestyle scene of today has changed a lot. Fresh talents came into the sport lately, they brought new tricks and directions which is super cool.

Back in the day everything felt a little more improvised and not so directed. If you look at the big events, you only see hard-working guys that train a ton to stay competitive, even managing to progress every time and deliver when it counts. From a preparation standpoint, there are way better and more professional options to practice and progress your skills right now, but you can’t argue that the risk and the level required these days, in general, is insane - AK



At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesAs you might have noticed my name doesn’t really sound that native. I don’t think I act very German either, talking stereotypes, but you’ll never see me be late for something. I hate that and I suppose that's pretty German, haha. My dad is from Syria and came here to study medicine where he met my mum, way before I was born. The town itself is real quiet; not much goes on except a lot of wine culture and castles, but somehow I do like it here and I’ve built myself a good base for bike riding.AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesI have a big family with two sisters and two brothers. They never paid much attention to my riding until things got serious and I told them I was moving 500km away to Munich to ride a giant indoor hall and make some big leaps forward. I didn't want to make a fuss until I knew I could really make it. It was 2006 and I had just won all of the amateur park and slopestyle events I went to so got bumped up to pro-class. In those days Cannondale had a huge Slopetslyle tour called ‘The Cut’ where I was riding against my heroes, but to my disbelief I somehow won those events as well. Cannondale signed me right after and this nervous little kid was suddenly travelling around Europe with the Cannondale Team. Soon after I qualified for the main District Ride in Nürnberg, where I finished 8th place, which helped to cement the start of my career.AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani



bigquotesWhen my biggest dream came true, I was happy to find out that’s really how it felt every day I woke up.

And the only thing I wanted was to make sure that I do it right. I was thankful that my parents gave me the freedom to live this life plan they never thought of. In the beginning, I didn’t really realise how it affected me, but it changed my personality a lot. I was young, always traveling and while my friends at contests were doing their rockstar kind of thing I had to find my role in this crazy life I was living. Over the years I had the chance to meet so many people, see so many places and figure out my career. I was 100% independent from the get-go and I’m glad of it. - AK



At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesWithout bikes I think I’d be somewhere still struggling with life and all those options you have when you finish school and you’re too young to know what’s good for you. I’d probably be a totally different person now; I can’t even tell you because this was the only path that worked in my mind.AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani



bigquotesI have a lot of folks come down to ride my spot quite often. Thomas Genon is usually down for a session. Other than that I am happy that my buddy Patrick Schweika moved close to my place. He rips too and I mean you can have the best spot in the world, but if nobody shares the sessions with you it all feels worthless. You always need a person who pushes you in certain ways!AK



At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani



bigquotesI know Pilli since our really early days of contests... I think our first was maybe the Nissan Qashqai Tour. We became friends and shared a lot of podiums back then. He is a typical funny English guy who does not care at all what other people think about him. Guess that's what inspires me the most, haha!AK



At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesTraining has always been a must, it’s only a question of how everyone gets in shape. I used to hit the gym and train on my bike for stamina. No one wants to get injured and building more muscles always helps to protect for the next impact. I also put a lot of extra time into perfecting my tricks; that will save you some hurt! Later I swapped the woods for the gym, which works way better for me. I spend more time there and this kind of workout always brings something new and sweet to ride. I just try to be on the bike as often as possible to keep that confidence.AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani


If kids ask me how to make it as a pro, I tell them I think you could cut it down to the most significant part being the training itself. Every trick needs to be perfected in a way you can throw them down on all the badly built courses out there, full commitment. With all the risk we take, you gotta want it 100%. I was always willing to give everything and beyond to achieve another result I was looking for. I mean you also need to look after yourself and you learn a lot about your body from all the big hits you take.

bigquotesI consider the top slopestyle guys these days as the toughest working guys there are.AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesIt’s certainly tough out there for slope and freeride guys to claim their worth for sure - I’d say it’s simply because it’s something not so many people are doing themselves. And fair enough, if you look at numbers this isn’t really something bike companies make money with in the direct sense of jump bike sales. What they too often don’t see, is how much value in terms of image and story that builds for a company. Even if watching a slopestyle contest is something not too many people can relate to from their own riding, it’s still having a huge, lasting impact on the audience and media in general.AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesJust think when someone outside the sport sees this sh*t - it blows the mind of any normal person in the street; it’s absolutely unbelievable to them.AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesThe image we athletes create means something, it’s worth something and I say it’s bullsh*t if that can’t be recognised by bike companies. All mountain bikers have a lot to thank freeride and slopestyle for in progressing our sport, I think there should be both ways more attention and financial reward for those pushing the limits. Just sayin'.AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesThe ‘In the Woods’ trilogy was my first attempt to get properly into the filming. I love to get hold of an idea and work on it until it’s done and you have that special shot or clip; it lasts forever. I spent so much time with my buddy Lukas Tielke in the forest to produce some unique stuff, having collected a ton of ideas over the year while I was competing. Each edit encouraged us on to the next and I am pretty happy we stomped those three over the years.AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesI think some people in the industry maybe think I am too serious or something, but that’s not the case at all. I love what I do to the fullest and just want to make sure I do things right. When I was competing I was always trying to be the best I could have been, but at a certain point I realised that wasn’t so fun for me anymore so that's why I decided to follow my natural interests, which is the love to create images and film. It hasn’t been plain-sailing, sometimes I struggle to find my role with this and to admit I am sure with my decision. Making your own free choices isn’t always as easy as it sounds.AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesI first built this creek gap back in 2013 for an edit. It took forever to make and ended up less than 2 seconds in the video, so I was pumped to rebuild it again and try a proper trick over it. The spot was too cool not to.AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesThe gap itself is super sketchy, with a super short landing to an up-slope. It took me more than a few tries dealing with the intense compression in the small take-off to get the feeling right and go for the trick. But yeah, if things were too easy everybody would be doing them, ha!AK


At Home with Amir Kabbani

At Home with Amir Kabbani
At Home with Amir Kabbani



No one can say the direction the sport is really taking, only that it seems to split into more and more factions as riders push in different directions. For me, who knows what’s to come after this intense period of life?
bigquotesI just hope there will be as many years on the bike as possible. That thing makes me smile everyday.

I like the idea to continue fully focussed on creating media; taking all this experience to make something rad by myself, but I am still wondering where the journey continues. You’ll see me at the Crankworx events for speed and style because it’s a super fun format, plus after all those years I definitely want to mix things up so there’s going to be a lot bigger bike action in the future. - AK



At Home with Amir Kabbani


bigquotesI'd like to thank all my sponsors that have helped to get me to where I am, my parents for letting me do my thing, my girl Julia and my friends who always encouraged me along the way and hey, also myself for sticking with a good thing; two wheels.Amir Kabbani


At Home with Amir Kabbani


Check Amir and Lukas Tielke's 'In the Woods' trilogy here:

In the Woods I
In the Woods II
In the Woods III


27 Comments

  • + 52
 I really like how this article was like a mix of a photo epic and an interview. Great work Amir and Nathan!!
  • + 14
 Omuuuurrr! The man himself! One of the hardest working but most fun guys out there.
  • + 12
 He's a total legend! GT Distortion and a shelf full of new-still-in-their-packaging tyres = score.
  • + 7
 That was BRILLIANT!!! I loved the interview/photo epic combo.... but, that fully stocked, bike workshop/man-cave just became my new ''happy-place''!!!!
  • + 5
 From first hand I know how much work goes into such a detailed and well thought piece ;-) You are super heroes Amir and Nathan!! Congrats on the story!
  • + 2
 Boppard held one of my favorite experiences traveling in the Rhineland 5 years ago. The hiking and exploring around and up to Restaurant GedeonsEck, which overlooks the Rhine, was incredible. I remember stopping while hiking up, thinking damn this would be incredible to bring my bike back next time. I now have a reason to do that specifically. Awesome article!
  • + 7
 great article
  • + 2
 Such great pictures and nice article - solid work ! We are pretty pleased to keep up supporting Amir with parts ! Keep your professional and good attitude ! Cheers Team ACROS
  • + 1
 Without bikes I think I’d be somewhere still struggling with life and all those options you have when you finish school and you’re too young to know what’s good for you. I’d probably be a totally different person now; I can’t even tell you because this was the only path that worked in my mind.

Well said!
  • + 5
 Amir rules ! On and off the bike .
  • + 1
 Great spot and Amir is a legend! Followed his steps from winning an amateur indoor contest to competing in Winterberg and Nuremberg against the pros. His films are great, hope to see more of him in the future!
  • + 3
 Nice ! maybe you should invest in some safety gear, while running your chainsaw ;-)
  • + 3
 One of the most amazing readings out there... thanks for this!
  • + 1
 Amazing rider and one of the best articles for a very long time... though one must be careful describing oneself as a "woodsman" Smile
  • + 1
 another vote for the "missing my distortion". Been looking out for another type of fun, fast and jumpy bike like this.
  • + 1
 " there is absolutely no bigger reward than building a new jump and hitting it for the first time! - AK" Amen to that
  • + 1
 "My dad [...] met my mum, way before I was born."
this made my smile a bit, though. Smile
  • + 2
 These photos are fantastic. Great article Nathan.
  • + 2
 Am I the only one that loves that appartment? So nice!
  • + 2
 Nice!! Can't wait to see the video with Amir am Sam.
  • + 1
 Amazing photo & great colors!
it so lovely!
  • + 1
 The bikepark he build is so much fun!
  • + 1
 Super nice story and pics Amir and Nathan! Well done!
  • + 1
 I love how this guys ride, he has so much style. Awesome article
  • + 1
 Any one noticed the wooden man in the middle of the wood pile?
With wood?
  • + 1
 makes me miss my old GT Distortion. That bike was a riot.
  • + 1
 Kriszti Szabó!!!!

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