Nordvegr: The Way to the North
It’s normal to get home from a trip and feel like you’ve left something on the table. Whether it’s a trail you skipped out on or an area you didn’t have time to see, the things you didn’t do can be as motivating as the things you did. Thomas Vanderham and Remi Gauvin have both been to Norway before, but it’s one of those places that keeps drawing them back.
Much like a lot of Remi’s travel, his first two trips to Norway were for both for racing. Back in 2013 and 2014, Remi was racing downhill and competed at the World Championships in Hafjell. Thomas’ freeride background has put him in Norway twice before, but never in the world famous Nordfjord region, and never on his trail bike. Travelling to compete is a rinse, wash, repeat cycle. The process broken down is: airport to hotel, hotel to event, and a few days later you’re flying home. This trip was a chance to see Norway in a different light, and after landing in Ålesund and boarding what would be the first of many ferries, the small town of Stranda seemed like the perfect place to start.
The people along the way can be one of the most interesting parts of travelling. Located just up the road from our rooms in the Hjelle Hotel is the small town of Folven, home to Norwegian freeskier, Fred Syversen. Fred is a local legend who in 2008 unintentionally set the world record for skiing off a 107m tall cliff, but today he coaches skiing on the glacier, operates an adventure sports campground, and is building out the Hjelledalen valley mountain bike trail infrastructure.
Our Scandinavian photographer, Mattias Fredriksson, likes to joke around but with an underlying sense of sincerity. Early on in our trip he forewarned, “It’s hard to go on a road trip in Norway and still make dinner deadlines. I tend to shoot a lot…cause the shooting is epic”. It was a constant theme of the trip but the fjord views near Sandane had us especially late for dinner. The trails were above treeline which left us exposed to the harsh wind and rain, but the combination of fast riding corners, natural features, and stunning backdrop were just simply too good to cut the ride short.
With another trip under their belt and trails under their tires, Norway remains an incredibly interesting place for Thomas and Rémi. Newly built mountain bike trails with a strong historic culture of moving through mountains leaves plenty of room for endless adventures in the Nordfjord.
A Film by: Scott Secco
Featuring: Thomas Vanderham and Remi Gauvin
Produced by: Stephen Matthews
Post Production Sound by: Keith White Audio
Typography and Design by: Mike Taylor
Photography by: Mattias Fredriksson
Music: Pioneer by Ryan Taubert
Thanks to: Asgeir Blindheim, Fjord Norway, Visit Nordfjord, Veronica Vikestrand, 7 Blåner, Destination Ålesund, Sunnmøre, and Fred Syversen
Norway: The Characters Behind the Adventure
Behind every trip is a cast of characters with varied backgrounds and interesting outlooks. Individually, they’ve been brought on because they come with their own unique stories and skills and are strung together by a common thread; a passion for mountain biking.
I first met Mattias Fredriksson in 2010 while in Switzerland. He was shooting for Anthill Films’ upcoming film, “Follow Me,” and was incredibly friendly right from the get-go. His positive demeanor is contagious, and you can’t help but have a great time around him. Scott Secco and I first worked together in 2014 on his film, “Builder," and between the planning, building, and riding, we became great friends and have collaborated on several projects since.
Working for Rocky Mountain, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and ride with our talented athletes. Needless to say, heading out on a trip with Thomas Vanderham and Remi Gauvin was an exciting experience. Our trip to Norway also gave us the chance to link up with local Nordfjord rider, Veronica Vikestrand, a born and raised Norwegian and a true asset to the trip.
RM: What’s it like coming to another country to film a video where neither you nor the riders have seen the trails before?
Typically, I do most of my work in British Columbia where either the rider or myself are familiar with the trails. Having prior knowledge of how a track rides and when certain locations will get the best light certainly helps the process. I normally rely heavily on rider input for which sections of trail to shoot: if the rider is having fun then I think it shows on camera.
It’s always a fun challenge to visit somewhere new since I think it forces you to have a more open mind and look at everything with an eye to creativity as I don’t have specific shots planned. Travelling gives me an opportunity to put myself in unique situations with people and cultures that are different than my daily life. I would say in general I travel more for the culture than the riding.
RM: What’s your process for reviewing and editing footage on the trip?
I’ve heard that I’m fairly unique as a filmmaker since I can’t sleep until I’ve gone through the day’s footage and edited it as tightly as I can. Editing what I’ve shot each day means the footage is fresh in my mind and I know which shots are my favourite. Plus, by the end of the shoot I’ll have a rough cut that’s often quite close to the final cut. The final benefit of this is that the riders can see what we’ve shot each day. I think this helps with their trust in me since they can actually see the footage (I can be a little slow sometimes to setup shots). I also respect athlete’s opinions on the video and Thomas and Remi had some great suggestions for this edit. Filmmaking is a team sport!
RM: You grew up in Sweden and have shot both skiing and biking in Scandinavia for many years. What’s the most special thing about Norway to you?
First of all, it might be the most beautiful country in the world. Everywhere you look it’s just insane! As a photographer I love this place because you just can’t go wrong. I like to joke (except I’m completely serious), that it’s hard to go on a road trip in Norway and still make dinner deadlines. I end up pulling over a lot to shoot the epic vistas.
I’ve been to Norway an uncountable amount of times in my life, both for personal and work trips, and I still haven’t gotten bored.
RM: You’ve had a long and varied career as a photographer. How did you get started in bike photography?
I grew up in the south of Sweden, 4 or 5 hours south of Stockholm, and started riding bikes in the late 80’s! Even before I had my first real mountain bike, I remember stripping off the kickstand, fenders, and chainguards to emulate the look of a proper mountain bike. My parents were choked because I came home muddy all the time, but I didn’t care, I was totally hooked.
Around the same time, I had started my own punk rock magazine called “Heavy”, was a drummer in a band, and I think that’s where I first found my passion for journalism. I loved writing about what I cared about, so at 16 started working for the local newspaper.
I spent my early career working for a handful of different magazines in Sweden, but I decided that writing in Swedish was limited compared to shooting images that everyone can enjoy! I shot the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, US and World Championships in 1999, but other than that I stayed far away from shooting events – ha ha. I focused on inspirational stories and trips because that’s what was important to me. I started shooting mountain biking, because I absolutely love to mountain bike.
RM: What bike did you bring on this trip?
RM: Where did you grow up in Norway and how did you get into mountain biking?
Today I live in a small town just outside Ålesund and I’ve lived in this area my whole life. Living at the foot of the mountains and along rolling terrain separated by fjords, being in the woods and on the trails felt natural to me. I bought my first hardtail in the late 90’s, shortly followed with the purchase of the Kranked film on VHS. I was so inspired by what was happening in BC, that I bought my first full suspension later that year.
I tried downhill racing in 2004 but it just wasn’t for me. I’d get too stressed, lose my nerves, and just couldn’t get along with being forced into a format of riding. I think that’s why I first connected with Kranked so well, the idea of freeriding and using mountain bikes in whatever fashion you want was invigorating.
RM: As a born and raised Norwegian, how would you say the mountain biking scene in Norway changed over the past several years?
It’s been growing like crazy. New bike trails and bike parks are being built all over the country, and the enduro race scene has exploded. We’re also seeing a lot more “adventure-style” riders, taking inspiration from our backcountry ski and hiking culture. The riding here is very different than what you get in the Alps or North America, but mixed types of trail combined with Norway’s beauty is incredibly unique.
RM: How did you get involved with Rocky Mountain?
I have been working in the bike industry since 2008 with different brands. Right now I’m working for 7 Blåner, who has been the distributor for Rocky Mountain since 2016. I’ve always admired the Rocky Mountain brand and have looked up to what they stand for since I started riding in the late 90’s! The opportunity to now be helping show some of their legendary athletes around my home country has been incredibly exciting!
RM: What bike did you bring on this trip?
Same thing I've been on all year, my Instinct BC Edition!
RM: How did you first get involved with Rocky Mountain?
I got a call from (Thomas) Vanderham back in February 2014 while I was working on the oil rigs in northern Alberta. He said that Rocky Mountain was developing a new downhill bike called the “Maiden” and that the R&D team was looking for feedback from racers. I didn’t have a sponsor lined up for the coming season, plus it seemed like a cool opportunity. After that first season riding the Maiden, I started racing enduro in 2016, and am now committed to a full EWS circuit as a rider on the Rocky Mountain Race Face Team. I really owe it to Thomas for giving me a chance to come on board.
RM: As an EWS racer, you spend so much of your season travelling around the world to race. What was the coolest thing about travelling to Norway to film and shoot, rather than be locked into a racing schedule?
When you go to these races that are all in amazing places, there usually isn’t time to appreciate where you are and what’s happening around you. At an EWS race, you’re so focused on performing, that you miss out on seeing the local culture and beauty of these places. The pace of shooting photos and video is so much slower, so you actually have time to soak in where you are and learn about what’s around you.
RM: What bike did you bring on this trip?
Tried and true, my Altitude.
RM: You’ve been travelling to ride mountain bikes for a long time. Do you still enjoy the process, seeing new places, and not knowing what kind of riding you’re in for?
Absolutely! One of the things that makes filming mountain biking so great is the diversity of the environments we get to work in. We can shoot in jungles, deserts and everything in between which is one of the reasons that I think bike videos are so good. Mountain biking has facilitated a lot of my most memorable trips and I'm excited whenever I get a chance to go to ride in a new location.
RM: You were riding in Norway over 10 years ago. What was that all about?
I've travelled to Norway twice before. The first time was in 2003, I think. I was new to the Oakley bike team and we travelled quite far north to Narvik with Wade Simmons, Kyle Strait and Cedric Gracia. That was the first time that I worked with Mattias Fredriksson as well and experience the awesome energy that he brings to a shoot. The second time was in 2009 for an event called Anti Days of Thunder that was definitely ahead of its time. They had some huge jumps built that we got to session and also involved a team relay DH race (that team Canada won if I'm not mistaken!) Some of the guys involved went on to help start the FEST series.
See the full story, photoset, and video, “Nordvegr: The Way to the North”.
Carson Storch’ WW2 desert bomber Maiden
Rocky Mountain’s history at the Red Bull Rampage starts back in 2001 when Wade Simmons won the very first Rampage. Over the next 17 years, our riders competed every single year but one, including an impressive eight-year stint from Thomas Vanderham. Now, Carson Storch is carrying the freeride torch in the Utah desert and is ready to battle it out for his fifth Rampage appearance.
Carson’s custom painted Maiden was a collaboration with his friend, KC Badger. Carson and KC are both from Bend, Oregon and they wanted to bring elements from their hometown into the WW2 bomber themed paintjob. Taking inspiration from both eastern Oregon and the Utah desert, details of the artwork include a Rocky Mountain rattlesnake headtube, a “Maiden” cowgirl with an Oregon shaped body, rivet details, and five bombs signifying each of Carson’s Rampage appearances. The frame is hand painted from start to finish using enamel paint, just as they would’ve done on the original planes.
“I’m a big fan of both KC’s riding skills and his artistic abilities, so for him to hand paint me this frame for Rampage truly is an honour. It’s based off a WW2 plane I saw at the Museum of Flight in Seattle…and I can’t wait to get it up in the air next week!” – Carson Storch
“Sure, it would have been easier to just design some custom decals, have the bike painted and slap them on, but we wanted to try and emulate Carson’s riding through the paint job – NO SHORTCUTS.” – KC Badger
“I’m beyond thankful to Carson for trusting me to do this bike for him. I hope it brings him good luck, keeps him safe, and I think it’s going to look even better with a first place medal strung around it!” – KC Badger
The Grom Reaper
What’s it like to experience Whistler through the eyes of a kid? In short, it’s awesome. You get to eat ice cream for lunch, there’s no such thing as a to-do list, and your mind is set to cruise control, focused in on having as much fun as possible. Whether you’re chasing your heroes down the trail, or unexpectedly leading them, the world looks pretty good from a grom’s eye view.
Dane Jewett’s a 12-year old kid from Squamish and has been tearing it up on the Reaper for the past three years. Starting on 24” wheels, he moved up to 26” for this season and is looking to take his first ride on the all-new Reaper 27.5 later this year. Dane Jewett is the Grom Reaper, and he’s pretty fun to follow.
Carson Storch, Thomas Vanderham, and Dane Jewett took a few laps together down Crabapple Hits.
The Reaper can tear up singletrack, smash technical descents, and slay bike park laps all day long. And, because we know that kids grow (and have younger siblings), the Reaper is easily convertible from 24” wheels to 26” wheels and vice versa. We also have the new Reaper 27.5 option, to keep your kids shredding longer!
Reaper 26 and Reaper 24
East of the Divide
Straight to the Point
Every rider has ridden at least one bike that for whatever reason is unforgettable in their mind and holds a special place in their heart. With the occasional tall tale of greatness backed by the lasting proof of visible scars, the remembered fondness of this bike comes from conquering races, epic adventures, and even the simplistic motion of spinning on two wheels. For Andreane Lanthier Nadeau, the Rocky Mountain Vertex is this bike, and even today as a full-time EWS racer she still finds herself drawn to riding her cross-country hardtail.
Andreane Lanthier Nadeau, or ALN as she’s known to friends and fans around the world, began her love affair with the Vertex in 2010 as a cross-country racer in Quebec. At the time, she was racing on 26” wheels and had moved up from provincial racing to compete at the international level. 2010 was also a very special year, as she had earned the opportunity to race her Vertex at the World Championships at home in Mont Sainte-Anne, QC.
From 2010 through 2015, ALN was riding and racing her Vertex 26” and Vertex 29” almost religiously. In 2015, ALN joined the Rocky Mountain Altitude Rally Team, marking the start of a new chapter in her athletic career as a professional enduro racer. In joining this team, she had committed to racing on the re-designed Altitude at each EWS stop around the world, but the Vertex always remained in her fleet.
“If I want to check up on my riding – like to figure out if I’m on point or not – I’ll take my Vertex out for a rip. It keeps me honest out there on the trails”– ALN
ALN is making waves on the 2018 EWS circuit as a member of the Rocky Mountain Race Face Team, competing against the fastest enduro racers in the world aboard her Instinct BC Edition. At home and in the off season, she still finds herself throwing her leg over the Vertex. She loves the challenge and finesse that’s required to ride aggressively on a hardtail, and more than anything she loves that she’s still creating riding memories aboard a bike with the same namesake year after year.
“I feel like I owe it to the Vertex for helping to shape me into the rider that I am today.” – ALN
Its lightweight frame provides incredible stiffness and rolling speed, while its modern, aggressive geometry inspires confidence everywhere on the race course—even technical corners and descents. Available in a next-generation Smoothwall HBO carbon layup for even lighter weight. See the models
Bike For A Buck Charity Auction
We've teamed up with TASCO MTB to help with a World Bicycle Relief charity raffle. TASCO MTB founder Nate Miller said “We are extremely excited to be able to raise money to help the World Bicycle Relief mobilize people in need, through the power of bicycles!”
World Bicycle Relief is empowering people across Africa. So far, they've provided over a quarter of a million bikes in Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
How the raffle works: During the next several weeks, anyone who buys a $1.00 raffle ticket has the chance to add this shiny new Rocky Mountain Sherpa 27.5+ overland bike to their quiver! Miller went on to say “Just putting some of your coffee money into this raffle will give you a good shot at winning—Plus that money will be put to good use, as 100% of the raffle proceeds will go to World Bicycle Relief! The winner will be announced December 21, stay tuned!”
How to enter: Head over to tasco-mtb.com/bikeforabuck and purchase tickets directly on the website. Also, for every $10 in product purchased, TASCO will credit you an extra entry. Enter today and enter often.
Riding in Ecuador with Tito Tomasi
Story by Tito Tomasi
I live for travelling, adventures, and riding new places. The allure of riding new trails and expecting the unexpected has become a way of life for me. When I first began planning my trip to Ecuador, I reflected back on my first visit there which was in 2012. I wanted to revisit some of my favourite places, but I was also ready to go further and sink my tires into something new.
This time around, I was lucky enough to be travelling with one of the best guides in the country, my friend Mateo. Mateo is a passionate rider that loves to explore (like me), and always comes up with crazy ideas for the next big ride. He rides super hard and isn’t afraid of taking on the big epics.
I’ve always loved sketching and painting, and my artwork has allowed me to keep the memories from my trips alive long after they’re over. From brightly colored paintings to simple pencil drawings, my art is a reflection of what I’ve seen and experienced along my adventures.
I started my trip from just south of Quito and was in awe of Ecuador’s beauty from the minute I stepped off of the plane. The first part of my journey would take me towards Laguna de Quilotoa, a stunning lake that shifts in color as the sun moves across the sky. Mateo and I’s were joined by our friend Dani, would join us for the first major ride around the Quilotoa crater rim. The Quilotoa rim trail is both technical and very physically demanding, making it an aggressive way to start off the trip.
Riding at 3900m elevation was slowly wearing us down, and the threatening rainclouds had us worried about overexhaustion and exposure. The clouds were moving quickly, so we dropped in from rim trail and headed towards the town of Chugchilán in the valley far below. Navigating through farm lands and sandy singletrack, it was an amazing experience passing through villages along old roads, and eventually being rewarded with food and shelter.
The terrain in Ecuador is incredible. After Quilotoa, we travelled north from Quito towards the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, an area which was very different than what I expected. As we approached the area it appeared like all the other dry mountains nearby, but the reality was it couldn’t have been more different. When we finally arrived and dropped into the crater, we were treated to a winding singletrack through an endlessly lush rainforest.
Everywhere we went seemed to hold some sort of historical significance. We were riding deep inside a volcanic crater on ancient trails and learned that we were actually riding through lands that belonged to a pre-Incan culture, the Yungos. The Yungos community used this fertile land as trade leverage during colonialism. In between the land they used for farming, they had developed an intricate network of trails and paths for moving through the area, which were now perfect for mountain biking!
The black sandy trail was surrounded by walls of vegetation, and we were navigating what was one of the most unique trails I’d ever ridden. From weaving through the dank humid rainforest to emerging into a dry dusty desert, the dirt under our tires turned from black to red. Ecuador switched it up on us once again. We had gone from rainforest jungle to a desolate crater-like area that was appropriately nicknamed, “the moon”.
From the Pululahua crater we drove south passed Quito and Machachi to the base of Cotopaxi, an active volcano in the Andes. We set up in a mountain hostel for the night hoping for good weather, but this was a story I’d seen unfold before.
Cotopaxi is a very special place to me. When I first came to Ecuador in 2012, I was on a 19-day bikepacking trip and I spent 4 days waiting for the clouds to clear but never actually saw it. I was always drawn to come back but would again strike out on this trip.
The snow was low, but we decided to make the most of it. The soil was incredibly soft, but still ran insanely slightly frozen ground and cold temperatures. The feeling of freedom and happiness from riding these lines surrounded by deep canyons and crazy colors is something I’ll never forget.
Mateo and I tried three separate times to approach and ride Chimborazo, and on the last attempt I had one of the best rides of my life. We descended from Condor Lake at 5100m into the low-lying jungle at 700m. From the volcanic rock field and sand slopes, to the high mountain ridge lines and impossibly thick jungle, we had proven once again that Ecuador has some of the most diverse riding on earth.
After two weeks of riding in Ecuador and visiting many of the places I’ve dreamed of, I once again feel incredibly lucky for getting to travel to ride my bike. Everything from the adventurous riding to the unique culture and passionate people, has made my experience in Ecuador unforgettable. I would like to thank Mateo and his company Ride Equadorfor his help.
Whenever we travel we leave certain expectations in our mind and assume we know how things are going to go, but once your hands are on the bars it’s always a little bit different. Once you’re there, the only thing that matters is the trail in from of you. This is when you know you’re living 100% in the moment.
“Vive la Vie”
Last Fall a group of Rocky Mountain athletes, ambassadors, and friends took a road trip through some of the best riding networks in Quebec and the Northeastern United States. We set each of them up with our new Thunderbolt, to ride the style of trails in which the bike was designed for. Built for technical climbs with the ability to power through the rough stuff, the Thunderbolt is a quick, nimble, trail weapon, meant to excel on demanding trails.
It’s amazing what you can pack into a long weekend with a solid crew. Our EWS team rider, Peter Ostroski, his sister Sophie, and Rocky Mountain Sales Rep, Sean Rudzinsky, headed north across the Canada-US border to meet up with the Canadians, Christian Gauvin, Kevin Simard, and Ian Hughes. Christian is based out of Bromont and has been a Rocky Mountain athlete for 10 years, Kevin has been with Rocky Mountain for 5 years, and Ian is a coach working for the Centre National de Cyclisme de Bromont (CNCB). Packing up for the weekend, stop one would be at Vallée Bras-du-Nord.
“I couldn’t believe how hard I could push the Thunderbolt on descents and still make quick work of the climbs. The snappy nature of the bike makes it ride light and is easy to handle, and its maneuverability and quick acceleration allowed me to get creative on the downs!” – Peter Ostroski
Action, agility, and acute adjustments, the trails in Eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States demand focus and quick corrections. Often overshadowed by the trail lore of the Pacific Northwest and tales of the endless BC backcountry, the east side of our continent doesn’t seem to get enough credit. Riddled with technical singletrack and daunting rock moves, it pays to ride with purpose and precision.
When we re-designed the Thunderbolt, we brought the rear travel up to 130mm, increased frame stiffness, and lowered the suspension rate curve. We also added the option of our BC Edition platform, accommodating a longer stroke shock to provide 140mm of rear travel. Both the Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt BC Edition have RIDE-9™ adjustments, giving you control over the geometry and suspension characteristics, so you can be ready for any trail.
Christian charges hard year-round racing fat bikes in a true Canadian winter, racing XC and enduro in the summer, and helping out with demo days and local ride events. He lives in Bromont, right next to the trails. The mountain biking scene is strong here, and with a passionate drive the community has helped move mountain biking forward through volunteerism, fundraising, and commitment.
“We have an incredibly strong trail building crew here in Bromont, and there’s definitely no shortage of talented riders. The builders are all so passionate about riding, I think it’s their personal commitment to both building and riding that makes the trails here so fun!” – Christian Gauvin
Rocky Mountain has been working with Vallée Bras-du-Nord since they first began developing mountain bike trails in 2007. The trails are the work of an incredibly unique, at-risk youth program where they work in groups of 10 for nearly 6 months at a time, building and maintaining all the trails in their tenure. The vision is that working in nature can be used as a kind of therapy and connecting youth with the outdoors is a way to help them build skills and self-confidence. The dedicated program managers are building out a network that truly represents the riding in Quebec, with trails that breed creativity. The network here is growing quickly, and for good reason.
We’re truly lucky to get to ride and work in such a beautiful place. We have everything from flow trails to the more classic, technical riding you’ll see in Quebec, and have developed the network to weave amongst the natural features of the environment. It’s pretty epic here!” – Mathieu Dupuis-Bourasssa, Operations Manager at Vallée Bras-du-Nord
''I love how hard the trail building community is working to grow our sport in Quebec. There’s so many great networks in close proximity, we as riders have seemingly endless choices of where to ride.” – Christian Gauvin
Peter Ostroski grew up in New Hampshire, and after a 6-year stint in Alaska, moved back to the Northeast settling in Burke, Vermont. He’s been a member of our EWS team since the beginning, starting with a spot on the original Altitude Team alongside teammates, Kevin Soller, and a young Jesse Melamed. But his history with Rocky Mountain doesn’t start there. He first rode a Rocky Mountain at 12 years old, hopping aboard an extra-small Instinct that he reflects fondly on calling it, “his dream ride”. Peter’s known for his ultra-quick precision and solid power on the pedals, both of which he developed as a cross-country racer charging hard on the tech trails out his back door.
The trails of Quebec and Northeast US don’t get the same level of exposure as the West Coast of North America, but things seem to be working just fine. The trail centres have developed a unique culture that’s helping to shape our sport in a meaningful way, and the riding still offers everything one could want.
“The mountains aren't as big as the Alps or BC, but they pack a punch and offer tight, challenging steep terrain if you know where to look.” – Peter Ostroski
Putting in the time: An interview with Peter Ostroski
Peter’s been riding and racing for Rocky Mountain for a really long time. He’s worked his way up from a grassroots hookup to representing our brand proudly at the Enduro World Series. He’s been a member of our North American enduro race team since its inception and isn't slowing down any time soon.
RMB: To start it all off, Peter, where are you from?
PO: I grew up in North Conway, New Hampshire, and stayed there until after I finished University. It was only an hour or so from my hometown. After wrapping up at Plymouth State University I moved up to Girdwood, Alaska for 6 years to ski and ride. Now, I’m back in the Northeast USA living in Burke, Vermont. It’s really awesome being so close to the Kingdom Trails, and there’s a ton of other great riding nearby.
RMB: What first got you into riding?
PO: I was lucky enough to grow up in a family who loved being on the move and doing things outdoors. My folks introduced me to mountain biking, and at that time North Conway had a fairly strong riding community. My buddies and I were pretty competitive, and we grew up pushing each other, chasing around the older riders, and rode mostly on trails which were way above our heads at the time.
From there I got into XC racing at a state level, which included everything from 24-hour solo missions to competing at the cross-country nationals. Mountain biking has always been a passion of mine when there wasn’t snow on the ground. I grew up alpine ski racing and was fortunate enough to compete at the national level and consistently through university. It’s always been exciting trying to balance both sports while dealing with the dynamic swing from season to season.
RMB: So how did you go from XC to Enduro?
PO: Throughout my years XC racing, my goal had always been to race a World Cup in Europe - just to see if I could hang at that level. Once I pushed through the local ranks and had gained enough points to race “across the pond”, well…it was an eye-opening experience. I realized it wasn’t the path for me. My timing was good though, because enduro was gaining momentum in the US and having a new discipline to compete at was interesting to me. I had always trained on aggressive trails for XC racing, riding bikes like the Slayer for most of my rides during my XC racing years. Fortunately, it’s that exact kind of riding which I enjoy most, so it was a natural transition for me. I’ve been a part of the enduro scene for the last 6 years.
RMB: Tell us about your history riding Rocky Mountain Bicycles, it starts long before your enduro racing career.
PO: I’ve been riding a Rocky Mountain since I was 12 years old and first jumped on a 26” wheeled bike (which was the original Instinct). I think it may have been size XS just to make it work for my size, and it was my absolute dream ride. I owe my introduction to Rocky Mountain to the regional sales rep at the time, Mark Jenks. He took me under his wing, showed me some basic mechanic skills, and helped me with my riding as a coach and mentor. Mark had set me up on a regional sponsorship program, which gave me the opportunity to represent Rocky Mountain as a junior with a sweet bike and riding kit. From there, I was introduced to the US sales manager, John Olden, and worked my way up to some larger races and events on a similar program.
Things really clicked when I was on my way to Utah for a race, and I met two guys from Rocky Mountain’s R&D office in North Vancouver. The Product Manager, Ken Perras, and Marketing Manager at the time, Peter Vallance, took me on a ride and gave me the chance to share my background and present some ideas to move the brand forward. It paid off! I was able to make my way on to a more structured program, and a season or two later, Dre Hestler brought me aboard the first enduro team with the new Altitude. The Altitude Team included a young Jesse Melamed, Keven Soller, and myself. We hit a few of the very first EWS races as the Altitude team, and grew into the Rocky Mountain Urge BP team, and now the Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro team. It’s been a crazy journey!
RMB: It sounds like it’s been a pretty awesome journey!
PO: Being a part of a strong team with some of the best riders in the world is a special thing. I have learned so much about bike racing over the last 5 years. It’s so important to have teammates that you can trust at the races to talk about the tracks, bounce ideas off of, and keep the energy high. Having the support of the EWS team has been great, and it’s allowed me to bring experience, stories and knowledge back to the regional and national races in the US.
RMB: What do you do in the winter? Tell us about that?
PO: Winter’s always been about skiing! I mentioned I grew up as an alpine ski racer, and then raced at the national level in university. Now, I’m a ski coach, and I keep the passion alive through my career and continued involvement in the sport. This is what led me, besides the amazing skiing, up to Alaska 7 years ago. I began working at a junior program at Alyeska Resort, and it evolved into somewhat of a full-time gig. As with many things in life, it's a balance. I try to give the athletes I coach the best opportunity to reach their potential, while striving to accomplish my own goals as an athlete.
RMB: Do you coach year-round?
PO: I coach skiing mostly in the winter, but there are a handful of summer ski camps I’m involved with. Right now, I’m working at Burke Mtn Academy in Vermont, which is a ski academy that has produced numerous Olympians and successful alpine racers over the past 48 years. It’s been really working at the school that was the first sports academy in North America. My job is somewhat seasonal, which gives me more time to dedicate effort towards both my biking and skiing career, keeping my life dynamic and fun.
RMB: What does your schedule look like for the year?
PO: For the upcoming season I plan to race a few EWS events (Austria, Whistler, Spain and Italy), a handful of Eastern States events, Trans-BC, and the Continental EWS races in North America. The goal is always to podium at national level races, Trans-BC, and try and be up there in the ranks at the EWS races I attend.
RMB: Everybody knows about the PNW trails, so tell us about the northeast US trails.
PO: The PNW gets so much attention, but the Northeast US trails are pretty rad! There is some really amazing riding and super varying terrain. There’s everything from rolling hills to fairly sizable mountains, modern flow trails to raw and technical trails. The mountains aren't as big as the Alps or BC, but they pack a punch and offer tight, challenging steep terrain if you know where to look.
I don't think the Northeast gets the exposure like the Pacific Northwest because the culture is just different, and these places have only just recently pushed to become riding destinations. The PNW is leading the charge, but with strong engagement from the NE municipalities and land owners to push for more MTB tourism, I think the momentum is growing around here.
RMB: What bikes are you riding on this season?
PO: I will primarily be riding Instinct, Altitude, and Thunderbolt. I also spend a fair bit of time on the Suzi-Q in the winter, riding on snow and going wherever I can. When the conditions shape up, its actually pretty fun.