The Pinkbike Podcast: Episode 16 - Who's Your Mountain Biking Hero?

Jul 27, 2020 at 13:31
by Mike Levy  
Art by Taj Mihelich


The word 'hero' carries a lot of weight, but you certainly don't need to be cradling half a dozen newborn babies as you emerge from the flames of a burning building to be deemed worthy. I mean, that'd do it, of course, but today's chat is a bit more cycling-centric. Specifically, is there anyone in the cycling universe that you'd call a hero? What about someone you looked up to and took inspiration from? Racers who've defeated the odds, or maybe just done things their own way, surely make many of our lists. For a lot of riders, Jenny Rissveds' remarkable comeback story is a special example, and there are countless others who've inspired.

Closer to home, I'm betting some of us are lucky enough to know local legends who've built endless miles of singletrack that wouldn't exist otherwise; those behind-the-scenes types pushing the necessary paperwork required to make legal trails happen; and people who take the time to introduce others to the sport. Heck, maybe that's how you ended up here years later?

Number sixteen sees Kazimer, Brian, James, and myself talk about who we look up to. Give it a listen and let us know who's on your list.

Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever else you get your podcasts.




THE PINKBIKE PODCAST // EPISODE 16 - WHO'S YOUR MOUNTAIN BIKING HERO?
July 2nd, 2020

Tomac didn't run out of a fire carrying babies, but he might as well have...

Hosted by Mike Levy (usually) and 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.

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?


139 Comments

  • 40 1
 Sam f*cking Hill.... the moto style, foot out flat out, his ability to make the gnarliest shit look way too easy, hes the reason i got into WC racing back in the day.
  • 6 1
 yes, my excuse to ride flat pedals (am afraid of those cleaty thingies)
  • 11 3
 WAKI is mine ????
  • 18 0
 Yoann Barelli. Hero. His message: be yourself, ride for fun, ride with friends, pet dogs, everything doesn’t have to be perfect, spread stoke, eat baguettes, run naked, care for the earth! Among other things.
  • 7 0
 have 3 balls
  • 1 0
 @clink83: Run level brake levers.
  • 17 1
 Jordie Lunn. Never met him but he seemed like the coolest dude at a time when I really got into more downhill-focused riding. I remember watching the rough AF movies over and over again because it just seemed different from a lot of the other mtb clips out there. I read the article on pinkbike about his accident after having a severe crash with a heavy concussion and partial amnesia three months prior. Got the rough AF sticker on my down tube to remind to take things a bit more slow sometimes.
  • 18 0
 Any and every trail builder. And those who advocate for greater trail access.
  • 3 0
 Could not agree more. Going faster is always impressive but I don't come close to the pairing of physiology and training tenacity in an ultra athlete. Nice to admire stretch reality talent, but get me on a trail with my dog(another hero) and I smile.
  • 19 1
 Probably myself to be honest.
  • 14 0
 Ned Overend. He would be a MTB legend just for his XC racing accomplishments in the 80's and early 90's. He was inducted into the MTB Hall of Fame 30 years ago. Then he won a couple more NORBA championships in his late 30's. He nearly qualified for the Olympics at 40. He won a couple Xterra world championships (off-road triathlon) in his 40's. And the US singlespeed championship at 55, and the US fat bike championship at 60. He just kept going and going! He found a good balance of taking care of himself and pushing himself, fueled by a passion for riding and being outside

I'm not old yet, but he is an inspiration to what becoming an old mountain biker can look like
  • 6 0
 Ned's on my list too. He's been crushing it forever.
  • 2 0
 Listened to this segment twice through and totally surprised that no-one mentioned Ned Overend or John Tomac. I thought I must have missed it the first time through. I think Alison Sydor was extremely dominant on the women's side as well, possibly more than anyone else, and over a lengthy career. Gotta confess, I have absolutely no idea who RC is that they were going on about... I've been mountain biking since the late 1980's. Went to Mont Ste Anne for the first World Cup XC and DH race which was back in 1992, I think... but this segment pretty much confirmed to me that my interests in MTB don't have much to do with the current state of the sport... I barely recognized any of the names they talked about. Must be getting old...
  • 1 0
 @DaveinAlberta: Sorry, we should have clarified! RC = Richard Cunningham www.pinkbike.com/news/rc-retires-a-tribute-to-richard-cunningham.html

And yeah, Overend, Tomac, Sydor, etc. all loom large for sure.
  • 11 1
 There are all kinds of rad people in this sport. One hero I forgot to mention is Clara Hughes. Never met her, but her Olympic accomplishments on the track and in speed skating are insane, and her work on mental heath awareness is incredible. And apparently she’s very quick on a mountain bike too.
  • 32 0
 Wade Simmons was also my favourite rider growing up because he always made everything look stylish, smooth and calculated at a time where alot of others seemed to just huck and pray.
He also completely went against the “don’t meet your heros” saying. I got to meet him at a bike shop opening in Vancouver when i was 13 or 14. Talked to me for over a half hour telling me about how they were going around with redbull around the world looking for a totally “new” Rampage site. Giving me tips on drops n skinnies, and if that wasn’t kind enough, he convinced the owner of the shop to give me a giant 48x36 Rocky Mountain banner of Wade that was suppose to go up in the shop which he then signed for me. I still have it hanging on my wall.
  • 6 0
 @brycepiwek: I was going to say Wade Simmons as well, he's a legend for a reason. So smooth riding anything. All round good guy too. I met him at a bike show when I was ~16 and he was kind and took some time to talk to me. Really a class act.
  • 1 0
 @brycepiwek: Sick story.. Hes always been my favorite as well.. Still rides gnarly lines well into his forties too!
  • 2 0
 @brycepiwek: Wade Simmons was always my fave and, when I eventually was lucky enough to meet him (I was freaking out a little on the inside), he was super nice and a totally cool guy to spend the day with.
  • 2 0
 @brycepiwek: Wade Simmons for sure, and lets not forget Todd "Digger" Fiander.
  • 1 1
 How about a discussion for another time on the most iconic bike of all time? After Finn Iles impossible feat of winning an enduro on that bike (RIP), surely the Stumpy is up there through all its iterations.
  • 2 0
 Wade Simmons? My brother says that guy is totally washed! (That and his other video parts were some of the most memorable of all time...that and he seems to be such a rad person off the bike also...legend.)
  • 1 1
 @snl1200: haha washed as in washed up? Uh ok... Guy still absolutely shreds.
  • 10 0
 Steve Smith for me. Watching his progression and desire earlier on to taking the World Cup overall in 2013, particularly with the unbelievable win in the wet at Mont Sainte-Anne over Gee. Inspirational.
  • 10 0
 Martyn Ashton

(+1 for Wyn, he was staying in the same chalet as us for Whistler Crankworx in 2014, was a really nice guy the whole time despite having a pretty rough time with airlines losing his bike...)
  • 1 0
 Martyn is just simply inspirational. What a spirit.
  • 1 0
 Martyn is an absolute badass.
  • 11 1
 Everybody's asking where the Grim Donut is... But nobody's asking how the Grim Donut is. Stay strong under the spotlight bud.
  • 8 1
 Fun question. Personally, my little brother. The guy can just shred and I’ve been trying to chase him down since we were kids and he passed me up. When it comes to just riding specifically, it has to be Semenuk. No one else comes very close when it comes to dreaming about what I look like when I ride my bike. Otherwise I’d say Cam McCaul. An amazing rider and a super nice family man who doesn’t take himself to seriously and has aged gracefully in the sport.
  • 5 0
 Cam is a great role model, that's a good one!
  • 11 1
 Itll be the person who post the next grim donut video...
  • 7 0
 Hey there
  • 10 0
 THE trail hunter - MATT HUNTER!
  • 5 0
 Bender and Simmons. Pioneers in the sport.

The "Down" and "NWD" series were the shit back in the day. Modern bike films are good, but for some reason theyre just not as fun to watch compared to the old ones. Remy's newest shreddit is damn good to watch though.
  • 9 1
 My theory on this is due to the proliferation of slope style and dirt jumping. The focus of these two activities is air time and what one does in the air. The launch pad for getting into the air tends to be man made and perfectly crafted for ease of take off and can pretty much be done anywhere. Terrain and trail is not the focus. Furthermore the tricks done in the air are pretty much the same for every rider: Tail whip, table top, flip, no hander superman etc. It gets monotonous and boring watching the same jump and trick over and over to different music. While the riders are super skilled who do this, it does not showcase their full range of skills or ability as they build and manicure everything to make sure they can focus on the trick they throw once in the air. Thw whole aspect of riding the bike over varying train has been removed in modern films for the most part do the amount of building one does to make sure perfect air can be caught.

Older films showcased riders on terrain and trails that was less altered and required them to use their skills to to catch air and throw some style to get through the trail. The focus was on how the rider got through challenging terrain and each had different styles from Tyler Klassen, to Wade, to Schley, to Bender, Andro, Watson, Swartz or Bourdin etc, all very distinctive on how they approached trails and terrain. Riding the shore was different from riding in Nelson to riding in Colorado to Utah, etc. Different terrain and different challenges. Nowadays they got these areas bring a shovel and perfectly craft a hip or jump that looks the same anywhere and throw the same tricks and air they can do anywhere. Its exactly like difference between big mountain skiiing and park skiing, one is focused on the location vs the skill of the skier, while the other is about jumping in the air. I know what i prefer.

With all this said, watching this Remy character absolutely shred trails with minimal manicuring harkens back to the old days of guys showcasing their entire range of skill and ability to make a piece of trail or terrain look absolutely amazing and unique. Its the skill of the rider vs the terrain which is most interesting.
  • 4 0
 @riklassen: you specifically articulated a thought I’ve had for a long time about slope—they’re insanely talented and skilled athletes performing incredible moves, but I generally prefer watching equally talented riders charging natural features in the woods. Your comparison to ski films is apt; for the same reason I prefer Absinthe snowboard films over the X Games or the winter Olympics.
  • 2 0
 @riklassen: I agree 100% add to that the fact that everyday riders simply arent hitting this stuff so it is unrelatable to the common rider..
  • 7 0
 Mark Weir! He climbed over a million feet in a year mostly on a VP Free, and how many times did he win Downieville??
  • 2 0
 Yes! He had a quote I’ll never forget in one of the very first mtb magazines I got way back in the day: “I’d rather shit out my liver than push my bike.”

He’s my hero for that alone.
  • 4 0
 Jason McRoy

He was the first person I really looked up to in this sport. Talented and fast on a bike, but always one eye on having a laugh as well, and didn't seem to take himself or life too seriously. Taken far too soon.....it'll be 25 years next month since he was killed in a motorbike accident :o(
  • 6 0
 Peaty. Arguably the man who's done more to inspire a generation of brits to try downhill, and face of the steel city race, which is a belter.
  • 3 0
 Too many to list but the cool thing about mountain biking is that I've had the opportunity to meet and talk to many of them. I don't know of many sports where the hero's would be so accessible. We are very lucky in that respect.
  • 3 0
 Anyone who puts their time and money in making this sport better for others. It’s pretty easy to find some time to ride or dig a little trail for yourself but it takes a ton of dedication and sacrifice to make a large positive impact on the sport as a whole or in your local community. I tip my hat to the heavy hitters out there and thank the small players who can be counted on to do their part as well.
  • 3 0
 I think my hero is Brendan semenuk... He is above average when it comes to skateboarding, and bmx too. He has a great mindset and it's a lot to learn from. Also, some guy said he's good at mtb too, but idk
  • 3 0
 And rally car driving, and probably nuclear physics.
  • 2 0
 Stayed at Wade Simmons North Van house a few times back in very early 2000's, while riding the Shore. Saw surfboards in his kitchen, asked him about the boards. Ended up quitting biking and surfing for 12 years! Now back to biking, trailbuilding and of course still surfing. Wade technically inspired me to do something besides bike, ha ha! Great guy, so grateful for those times. I can verify this story by noting that Radiohead and Jonathan Richman were topping out on Wade's playlist back then.
  • 6 0
 Juli Furtado & John Tomac - legendary!
  • 3 0
 How did it take this long to scroll down to JT???
  • 2 0
 Juliana Furtado!! I wish she could have won gold. She was my XC hero above all.
Steve Romaniuk!! WHAT?! the Drop In dudes inspired me to launch off dirt jumps.
Darrel Young, BMX legend. I saw him smoothly clear the big doubles at Riverside when I was about 13 and was blown away. Ultra smooth
  • 2 0
 Brian Park is such a downer! This could have been a nostalgic discussion about reading magazines and looking for your favorite rider. Instead he tries to steer the conversation to the pitfalls and difficulties of being a professional. Thank you Kazimer for calling him out. Not everything is “toxic.”
  • 2 1
 Rusty at Katmandu, employed me when I got to in Whistler in 98, large amount of my friends to this day all have a connection to that shop. I’m still in BC, still riding bikes, thanks to landing on my feet wrenching and selling bikes in That shop. Rusty is a character who ran things a little loose, definitely one of the “old guard Whistler hippies” we didn’t always see eye to eye, but for a few years we had a pretty rad team in that shop and we sold fixed and rode a ton of bikes. It was a funky bike, board, bong and pipe shop sorta didn’t fit with modern era of Whistler... Thanks Rusty.
  • 2 0
 I was going to say one of the legends of yesteryear, but watching the young guns pushing the sport I have to say I'm looking up to those guys a lot more lately. Riddle, Mechem, Lieb, Nell..so many legends in the making.
  • 1 0
 Although a couple of rows back, I've lined up to race against Geoff Kabush and Kilian Jornet and what I was thinking of most was how pissed I would be if the 30min drubbing I was about to take was due to doping (though unlikely with those two classy athletes). Now I find myself looking up to the up and coming juniors who can rip your legs off on the climbs and fly down descents despite having only mountain biked for 5-10 years!
  • 5 0
 People that build trails, all of them
  • 1 0
 My hero is definitely Brendan Fairclough aka BRENDOG!! He's one of the most stylish riders alive but what sets him apart is his feel good upbeat positive attitude. He's a good role model and proves that you can be a super professional athlete and still just have fun on your bike. And props for making DeathGrip one of the best MTB films ever!
  • 2 0
 Ned Overend. I thought he was "old" to be racing at 33 when I was teenager, and he's about to turn 65 in Aug ... and still racing. Great inspiration to keep going past 50yrs old.
  • 1 0
 Why is the pivotal saddle standard so widespread in bmx and hasn’t been adopted for mtb? The newer version has tilt and fore/aft adjustment. Add to that it’s light and seems stronger and more durable than rails. I’ve bent rails, and snapped ibeams at the side ridges in the past. I’m new to pivotal but it seems so much better. Does anyone know why mtb doesn’t use it?
  • 2 0
 Might be a bit inflexible for longer term sitting, you probably don't have the fine tilt adjustment you need to suit most arses too?
  • 1 0
 A name I’m surprised didn’t get mentioned was Kirt Vories. He’s been a creative rider forever, even back when he was crushing it on the races, and always found ways to have a good time on the bike. His career and lasting stoke/progression is legendary.
  • 1 0
 Hans Rey. Had a chance to meet him five years ago, even rode toghether that same day. After the ride, he took his time to show me some old school bikes he had in his camper (he was on his way to the UK for an exhibition)
Reminiscing about his video's that I pretty much grew up on, up to the point where he almost missed his ferry from Calais to Dover.

Genuine guy, takes his time for a long time fan. We all know the saying about meeting your childhood heroes, but sometimes they can be everything you expect them to be and even exceed expectations.
  • 1 0
 Richie Rude. Seeing someone form the East Coast USA not only hang with people form Europe and the west, but BEAT them, warms my heart. Same goes for Neko Mullaly, he's from Reading PA which is less than an hour away from me, and he's done a ton to promote DH all through the east. Basically I root for any high level pro from the East Coast. Also Phill Kmetz.
  • 1 0
 Random cranky comment: you guys talk about bringing more riders into the fold and expanding the sport.... then you go on to talk about all these people by initials and nick names. RC, Stevie, Jordy??? How about actually saying their full name and who they are for the people that haven’t watched every World Cup race for the past 20 years? Love the podcast otherwise.
  • 1 0
 Big part if why I picked my E29 was SWAT.

No heroes, but used to look up to a rider, until a #MeToo moment with a friend of mine. After seeing the messages he sent her, that was enough. Sadly, he's a "hero" to a lot, and mentioned in this episode.
  • 1 0
 I'd say Sam Hill as well, met him last year in Canazei, amazing how composed and relaxed he looked just before dropping into the final stage and even had time to ask me how I was doing. I would add Darren Berrecloth, impossible to forget the scenes of him shooting Where the trail ends, a Rampage veteran and someone who looks like a good backcountry adventure buddy
  • 5 2
 Why does everyone in mountain biking call them fire roads??? In BC literally every gravel road is a logging road.
  • 7 1
 Because that is the access road fire trucks/services take to get to different points of the forest.
  • 8 0
 I think it came from California from back in the day when MTB started and everyone just kept using fire road for any road up a mountain. Yes In bc there logging roads
  • 3 0
 A universal term is "forest road". This covers wildfire, forestry and recreational use. Note: Please do not confuse this with a "Forest Service Road". The Forest Service is a Federal Land Agency that has forest roads. However several entities have forest roads, in both BC and the States.
  • 5 0
 @JDFF: A lot of maps of B.C. backroads use FSR as a designation so it’s pretty common term not applied to US Forest Service.
  • 1 0
 @Honda750: that is true. And would be less confusing in BC, since the US Forest Service obviously isn't an applicable agency. On a side note, I wonder if Specialized is looking into infringements on the use of "FSR" on BC maps? Ha ha!
  • 1 0
 Agreed. Locally we also nickname them logging roads, although they are technically FSR's as others have noted.
  • 4 0
 In Utah all we called them growing up was “dirt roads.”
  • 4 0
 Cedric Gracia--Brett Tippie and whoever they respect.
  • 3 1
 Was feeling salty about the Minnesota bashing....but it's true, if we did an in-state DH/Enduro/Slalom/air DH race here it would be pretty sad Wink
  • 3 0
 We like to joke, but I'm positive there's a ton of great riding there Smile
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: Ha no worries. We make it work Smile
  • 1 1
 Hello, BC is in your back yard! We could host all 4 events there!
  • 1 0
 Hey, we're definitely no BC or PNW...well, any mountainous state but I'll put our duluth trails up against most. Plus, if they keep investing in trails up in the iron range it'll keep me satisfied for a while.
  • 4 0
 Shaun Palmer was a shredder in everything he toughed. Even skiing...….
  • 3 0
 What Bike will @mikelevy choose to use for his double gravel Everest attempt?... LOL!
  • 2 0
 Highly likely to be a BMC URS gravel bike. If I do it. Maybe.
  • 1 0
 There are a few locals here I really look up to. Older people (relatively) in their 50s-60s that still ride and dig trail full blast. That is who I look up to and lifestyle I aim for going forward.
  • 1 0
 Pleeeease do a discussion about the importance that people place on pro bike setup. Reliability and maintenance in the context of a single race run vs. a whole season of normal riding are totally different.
  • 1 0
 Myles Rockwell- dude is an absolute shredder still and even cooler dude. Crazy remember seeing all those articles, vids, reebok commercials and now I shred with him on the regular
  • 5 1
 Randy!!!
  • 6 4
 No hero worship for me, many great riders and great people out there but I will not put anyone on a pedestal.
  • 2 0
 H-ball, the Missile, Tippie, Claudio, Yolanda, Tinker, A-C.C...how many can I choose?
  • 2 0
 Easy answer: park trail crews that are out there grinding hard, especially at Windrock and Angel Fire.
  • 3 0
 Matt Hoffman! The ultimate extreme bike pioneer.
  • 3 0
 Not a mountain biker but Evel Kneivel is on that showed the way
  • 2 0
 No one. I ride my bike to get outside and enjoy the activity, not to idolize some person.
  • 2 0
 Eddy Merckx!! Oh wait...well if he rode a mtb. Still the greatest cyclist. Half man. Half bike
  • 1 0
 Yes! The Cannibal!
  • 2 0
 Nobody mentioned Missy Geovi?! One of the most iconic characters in our sport. But yeah, Wade Simmons for sure.
  • 1 0
 Wade Simmons for sure! that cover jumping the moreno vally road gap in NWD3 just blew my mind on what kind of stunts you can do on a mountain bike.
  • 2 0
 Andrew Shandro. Coolest dude in the industry.
  • 3 0
 Greg Minnaar
  • 3 1
 Cedric Gracia! Always so much fun to watch ride.
  • 3 0
 ET... (Nicolas Vouilloz)
  • 1 0
 If @mikelevy completes this 24hr 2400ft/hr marathon, he'll be Kazimer's newest hero
  • 5 0
 I've spent too much time in close quarters with Levy for him to be my hero, but I will be really impressed if he does it.
  • 5 0
 @mikekazimer: *when he does it.
  • 2 0
 Matt Hunter (or should i say lone wolf)????
  • 3 0
 Tomac!!
  • 2 0
 Paul Basagoitia. For the things he has done in and out the bike.
  • 1 0
 Levy, you didn't say Nino Schurter. He is sad. He thought you were friends.
  • 1 0
 Uh Josh bender obviously... Dude still talks about himself in the third person....epic.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy is my MTBing hero... The ability to look that good in Lycra during the current field test Wink
  • 3 0
 Found Mike's alt.
  • 1 0
 Can I say Mike Levy, because his idea of a cheap aluminum mountain bike he would buy with his own money is a Pole Stamina
  • 1 0
 I probably should have thought about that one more haha
  • 1 0
 Surprised that @mikelevy & @mikekazimer didn't have Palmer (Mountain Bike's Kenny Powers) on their hero list.
  • 1 0
 I appreciate Palmer's raw talent, but he's not someone that I look up to, for various reasons.
  • 3 1
 YOU!
  • 1 4
 Another great podcast which is usually the highlight of my week. Please don't fall into the inside joke trap though. The Bontrager pronunciation joke is funny but I needed to explain it to my kid who doesn't listen to every episode like I do.
  • 5 1
 Nothing worse than having to explain something to a kid. ????
  • 8 0
 On the plus side we only have about 3 jokes we recycle endlessly, so everyone will catch on eventually.
  • 1 1
 @Mattntp: nah it's fine, my point was just that sometimes its hard to pick up a new podcast because of all the inside jokes.
  • 2 1
 Forever and always, Steve Peat
  • 1 0
 Gee Atherton, Mick Hannah.
  • 3 1
 Who is RC?
  • 1 0
 was wondering the same thing... I know who Richard Cunningham is... Inside lingo I guess...
  • 2 0
 Tomac!!
  • 1 0
 Brett Tippie. No one is having more fun than Brett.
  • 1 0
 Palmer. Chuck Norris even respects Palmer.
  • 1 0
 Gotta be Tinker. The dude is still fats and even still some bmx style.
  • 1 0
 Cedric Gracia, Steve Peat, Greg Minaar
  • 1 1
 Pretty much anyone who rides better than me is a hero. So most people...
  • 1 0
 Landon Mackey
  • 1 0
 SAM HILL ! ! !
  • 1 0
 Brendog!
  • 1 0
 Minnesota Haaaaaaaatter
  • 1 0
 Sam & Yoann
  • 1 1
 The 50to01 guys!
  • 1 4
 Grim Donut or we riot!!!

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