Over the years, I was asked several times to talk about how I got into mountain biking. And recently it’s a question that came back a lot. So, while we are between seasons, I decided to answer it and give you this article (and a vlog). I’m not really cycling now that the mountains are closed. I’m kind of waiting for the snow to finally arrive and take out my fat bike and make some new videos.
Meanwhile, here’s how my mountain biking history goes…
Off-Road Biking Before the Mountain Bike
It all started way back. 1977 is the year I got my first off-road bicycle. Of course, at that time specifically built mountain bikes were not yet on the market. However, off-road bikes were a thing, and I had this motocross type of bicycle. Without a motor, of course. But it had front and rear suspensions. And, if my memory is still good, it was a red and black HR5 motocross bike.
As it was an off-road bike, I obviously began going off-road. That’s when I started to spend time in fields, bushes, and dirt trails I was having the time of my life. And that was my first few steps into off-road cycling which is how I got into mountain biking later on. I rode that bike for two summers. And those were the years I first learned to jump, to bunny hop and try all kinds of new stuff. I would try to jump over and on anything. I would jump on sidewalks and tables, rocks, you name it. Anything I could jump on and around, I would eventually take that bike and do it. Or at least try to do it. I really enjoyed the experience and how it made me feel.
Then in seventy-nine, I got my first BMX. My parents bought me, for my birthday, a leader type of BMX. It was from a big-box store, Canadian Tire, or something like that, and cost a few 100 bucks. So, that’s when I started going to local tracks and having some fun with that. I kept that bike only for one summer. But I rode it everywhere, and even did a few local BMX races. I had a lot of fun and knew I wanted to do more. So, during the winter I decided to approach some of the local bike shops and introduce myself. One thing led to another and I found some sponsors. By the following summer, I had a Mongoose paid by a local bike shop to seriously start racing.
That BMX was actually pretty cool. It was the Mongoose Motomag. It had these 24-inch wheels with rock-solid plastic rims. I mean, you couldn’t break them. You couldn’t even bend them or anything like that. There was also some padding on the handlebar and on the bike itself. Above all, this was my first real off-road race bike. And that was the summer of 1980. The mountain bikes per se as we know them today came out in 1978-79. So, at that time, the BMX was still the off-road bicycle of choice.
So, I’ve raced BMX for about five years. And slowly got into basic mountain biking. I would race BMX every summer, every weekend. I would go everywhere in Canada. But, mostly at local tracks in Quebec and Ontario. I also raced in a couple of places in the USA. I really liked it as a person but came to the realization that racing was truly not for me. Consequently, after five years of racing BMX and struggling to have sponsors and make money out of it. I recognized that I would not be making a living from racing BMX. Therefore, I decided from that point on to start cycling just for the fun and the pleasure of cycling.
By getting out of BMX racing is how I got into mountain biking. As I was slowing getting out of BMX racing, I got into all sorts of cycling. At that time, the first mountain bikes were starting to hit the markets. However, they only had like 2–2.5 inches of travel. Yet, I thought they looked so cool and was sure you could have some fun with them. Even more than with the other bikes. So, I went to a local shop and I bought myself a real mountain bike. That’s when I started to really let go to the BMX and riding a lot more of the mountain bike. Now that we had mountain bikes, we could truly go off-road with them, as well as ride them on the road, and have fun. And for me, that was really cool.
Although for the first half of the ‘80s I would have some mountain bikes, I wasn’t genuinely into it yet. I would still ride my mountain bike to go from point A to point B, and just for some fun. But it’s in 1985, when I decided to officially stop racing BMX, that I truly discovered mountain biking.
Around 1985-86 is when I really got into mountain biking. So once again, I went to a local bike shop and bought myself a new mountain bike. However, I grew up in a place where mountains were pretty far away, at least an hour or two of driving. Consequently, for the first few years, I couldn’t really go at the mountain. I was still just a kid with no driver’s licence or car. So, I would go on local trails and local spots here and there, where we could jump and roll over obstacles. I would also take my mountain bike to the BMX track. However, until the nineties, I never went to a mountain. Believe it or not.
Nevertheless, I would take my mountain bike to go everywhere. I used to live on the south shore of Montréal, and I would be pedaling my bike 25-30 kilometers both ways to go see my friends. I would sometimes do that four or five times a day. Funnily enough, I never got into road biking, even if I did have some. On weekends and nights, I would go on local trails, and woods for fun. So, that’s truly when I really got into, if we could say, the mountain bike world, and I really enjoyed it. But again, there was not a lot of trails, and the mountains were faraway.
Then life went on and caught on. I got some kids, and my mountain bike took the back burner. Even though I was riding it any chance I got with my friends. But all I did was mostly just local back and forth day-to-day riding. Always on a mountain bike.
By the late ‘nineties, the whole mountain bike industry has kicked off, and suddenly it is cool to be all over the mountains. Of course, by that time I was in my twenties, I had my driver’s license and a car. I could just take my bike and go wherever I wanted. And I did. However, there wasn’t a lot of mountains accepting bikes in this part of the country. Still, I did ride them, had a blast, and made a lot of friends.
In 1999, I moved to California. Realized after about a year that I had no friends, didn’t know anybody other than the people I worked with. I got to a point where I was really bored. And then I remembered that the best way to meet people and get out there is to get a bike and just start shredding. Although I had a bike, which I would use to go back and forth to work, I wasn’t biking just for fun. As I was surrounded by mountains, I decided to build myself a downhill mountain bike and start racing again.
So, I got myself an insane frame, which at the time was the Santa Cruz Super 8. That was the tank of the tanks of bikes. Those bikes are literally unbreakable. Then, I bought all the parts, piece by piece, either from local shops or from shops I knew back home. And I build the bike over the course of the winter. First thing, spring of 2000, I started racing downhill with no real prior experience in the mountains, per se. I still went out and registered for races. Again, the only real experience I had with mountain biking was mostly local trails. Cross-country type of trails more than downhill, and a few times at bike parks in Quebec. And, of course, a lot of BMX experience. However, I felt invincible, and thought I could be the next World Champ.
Still, I was ready to start racing, even if I truly was just a beginner mountain biker. I signed up for all the local, and less local, bike races on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Of course, I quickly came to the realization that I was no better than when I was a kid. After two summers of racing downhill, I concluded it was not for me. I was spending more time crashing my bike and having injuries than actually finishing races, even less winning. So, after two years, and after meeting and connecting with pretty much everybody in the industry locally, I pulled out of racing once and for all. Thus, my last downhill race was in 2001.
I stopped racing, but it’s how I got into mountain biking. I kept in touch with some buddies so we could go riding every now and then but without the pressure of racing. In the end, I did end up by accomplishing what I wanted when I started biking in California. Which was basically getting into biking to meet some new friends and just have fun in life and see where it would bring me. While in California, I also got married. And even if I wasn’t riding that much, I was in California surrounded by mountains. So, I would always have this desire of going to ride. One thing led to the other and I finally really got into it. I simply started biking as much as I could to release the desire of that adrenaline rush.
After the Races
Since about 2000, I’ve been riding my mountain bike almost every single weekend. At least from May to October during the downhill season. I visited a bunch of bike parks in the US and Canada. I’ve been riding mostly with a handful of close friends, and later with my wife, and now my oldest. My idea is essentially to ride downhill bike at any bike parks to have the time of our life with no pressure, no questions asked, just ride, ride, ride.
Today, my goal is to visit as many bike parks as I can. Of course, when I first started 20 years ago, there was only a handful of bike parks. But nowadays, there’s more and more bike parks as the sport increase in popularity. I probably visited 10 to 15 bike parks so far. And all of them enough times to know them and their trails. I meet a lot of people throughout the years. A lot of good people passionate of biking. And surely had a blast. I tried other style of riding, like road cycling and bike packing, but I always got back to mountain biking and mainly downhill. That’s where my blood is.
Over time, I also got my wife into it. But it took a long time. She did ride a little in 1999-2000 but did not really enjoy it. She had a hard time, wasn’t comfortable on the bike, and ended up by crashing a lot. So, she stopped. However, she would still come with me at the mountain almost every weekend. She would do the shuttle or do other things around while I would be riding alone or with some buddies.
However, after a long time, she started to want to try again. And once, we’ve been able to find a bike she was comfortable on, she did get into it. So, for the last 20 years, I’ve been mountain biking mostly in bike parks with buddies or alone. And for the last 10 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have my wife riding with me. As she has way less experience, the idea has been to teach her how to be able to shred with us all day. She may not be as fast as us or as adventurous, but she’s still able to follow us safely. She can shred all day without being exhausted and most importantly have a blast. For me this is awesome. Being able to ride with my wife and teach her everything I know about cycling is the best part of it.
Today, she’s a “bike park girl” so we are normally going to ride bike parks 30-40 times during the season. So, from May to October if you’re looking for us, we’re on a mountain somewhere. I also go out with buddies on local trails and mountains as often as I can.
We’re now in 2020. Of course, with everything that’s been going on with the pandemic, a few things have changed when it comes down to our mountain biking activities. First, the past summer, most of the bike parks have been closed, or open for a short time only. Additionally, we moved across the country. Therefore, we haven’t been riding much. But we did manage to go riding in a few places. And even have been able to ride with my oldest son. Which is awesome.
One thing my wife and I are planning to do, around biking, is to travel more. Indeed, we want to go visit all the World Cup mountain bike parks. We’ve been following the races and riders for many years, so it would be nice to put our tires where they did. Furthermore, I once thought I would be one of them, so I kind of need to do this. That would be the next step into our mountain bike journey. Now, of course, with the pandemic and everything, it did change our plan, which was to start last summer. Which obviously did not happen. However, hopefully by 2021 we’ll be able to plan for next winter, probably a trip to New Zealand. Of course, we’ll wait to be sure that it is safe to do so. But no worries, when will do, we’ll share those experiences with you.
My Mountain Biking Journey
Here you have it. That’s how I got into mountain biking. I started off-road biking in 1977 and never stopped. Over the years, I had some ups and downs, some cool and some less cool adventures. But I would not have it any differently. I would not go back to any of the previous cycling that I was doing, but that’s what led me to my passion. I really was made for mountain biking. And I think I fell into it when I was a kid. Indeed, just talking about it right now makes me want to jump on a bike and go shred. That’s how bad it is into my blood.
One thing I forgot to mention during this journey is that I also did a lot of mechanics. I’ve obtained my bike mechanic certifications and did a lot of maintenance for other people and myself. And I still do. And that’s how I learned about bikes, and all the details that can make the difference. I love everything around bikes, maybe not as much as riding, but still love it. I genuinely enjoy every single minute when bikes are involved.
If there’s one thing you should remember from my story, it’s that you should, if you don’t already shred, take a bike, and start pedaling. If you’re like me, you’ll automatically have a smile. Likewise, get into mountain biking. This is probably the coolest thing you’ll ever do in your life. There are so many reasons to love mountain biking, but mostly it will make you happy. You will see yourself and the world in a different way. For me, you probably have figured it out, it’s an addiction, a passion. I will always continue mountain biking. And I will continue until I no longer can ride my mountain bike. See you on a trail.
Let me know, how did you get into mountain biking?
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