Downhill Mountain Biking was my first love. Growing up in Cairns the influence of Glen Jacobs and his group of ‘Mudcows’ carved a clear path for my teenage years. Cairns is a small town in the far North of Australia’s Eastern coastline that is sandwiched on the small strip of flat land between the Great Barrier Reef and the Great dividing range. The Great Dividing range wasn’t just made up of hills, this was some of the most dense jungle on planet earth and it was the home of the Minjin.
As a kid I would stare up into the mountains on every car ride to school drawing imaginary lines fit for a trail and tried to make mental notes of places we could access each of the ridgelines we have marked for development.
We know Downhill today as a hyper competitive discipline with world class competitors from all over the world. Machinery has been refined over years to produce bikes that are capable of insane speeds and mine bending control; the level lifting each year.
This isn’t the downhill that I remember though. As a kid I watched downhill evolve from hard tails, to ill equipped short dual suspension bikes that served as cannon fodder for the 5 minutes that it was being thrown down the hill. It was raw. It was sketchy and it was free.
When I was 14 I worked two jobs to save the $750 I would need to go halves with my dad for a beat-to-shit Intense M1 that was the pinnacle of downhill tech at the time. I learned quick that there was a reason fast guys went through bikes the way they did and I never really had a bike that worked all the way, but I finally had a DH bike and was ready to follow in the footsteps of the guys I had spent my early years looking up to.
From 14 to 17 I spent almost all of my free time on my Downhill bike with my best mate Tyson and we would build trail after trail near our house with no access roads. We would spend months carting rocks and building drops in the scrub that I would look at from the road on the way to school.
I was able to do some racing but in reality I was never very good. Papa Pete hated the whole sport for reasons I now understand… His job was to shuttle us to the top of a hill, turn around, meet us at the bottom and then do it all again. When it came to a race day, he would walk uphill through the jungle and see me for a couple of seconds and I passed by. The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.
We were still racing BMX, playing footy, doing little athletics while also riding for fun when we got the chance but it was clear that both Matty and I were itching to race. This proved to be the final step that pushed us into racing Motocross. It was for sure a sport we couldn’t afford, but the number of sports we were trying to do was getting out of hand and deep down Pete knew that moto was where we wanted to be.
For the last time, we welded up the swingarm on the M1 and sold it. During the start of our racing career Matty and I shared a TTR-125 until I was able to save enough to buy a 2001 CR125.
While I obviously never made a career racing Motocross, my life was undoubtedly shaped by the sport and since we decided to dive in things have never been the same. It is always funny when you are able to look back with hindsight at all the decisions that were made in your life, both by oneself or others, and see how they impacted not only your life; but the life of others.
Heck, sometimes you end up having a big effect.
Aaron Gwin had the opposite situation play out. He grew up racing BMX before moving into Motocross. He was always the kind of kid that had an intense competitive nature and was willing to put in the work. Motocross wasn’t to be for Gwin though and it wasn’t until by chance years later that he was introduced to the sport of Downhill that he would finally get the chance to live his dream of becoming a factory racer and have a chance at becoming the best.
The decision of a friend to invite Aaron Gwin to ride a Downhill Mountain Bike for the first time changed not only his life, but the sport; forever.
And this is where we will pick up for CHAPTER 190 Ft. Aaron Gwin. While I no longer own a downhill bike, I still have a love for the sport like a first girlfriend. I check in on the sport much more than a person should check in on their first love though… I am lucky enough to have met and work with some of the best in the sport, and through the podcast I have been able to have conversations I could have never dreamed of. This near 4 hour podcast with Aaron Gwin is one of those conversations I always dream of having, and it did not disappoint.
I was a fan of Aaron Gwin the racer before we did the podcast. I assumed from watching not only his riding, but the way he dominated the sport, that under that Bell helmet was a man possessed. He reminded me of guys like Cooper Webb and Ryan Dungey and I was excited to hear about the thought process. I couldn’t have expected just how thoughtful and thorough Aaron Gwin was though, and how hard he had been working his entire life. The dedication he has to his own personal growth away from the track was inspiring.
This felt like a special podcast when we were recording it, and upon release it became clear that intuition was bang on.
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