|Occupation:||Dirt Norco Team – Downhill Mountain Biking|
Hi Dan, thanks for talking to us today. So how long have you been Mountain Biking for?
I have been riding bikes of some sort ever since I can remember really, and not just downhill. I started riding cross country and now I also like to ride road bikes, motocross, BMX – you name it, if it has 2 wheels then it works for me! But right now Downhill is my favourite and the one I have chosen to focus on and compete in.
What honours and achievements have you got under your belt?
In terms of titles and results, I have had a fair share of regional, national and international podium finishes and a few race wins dropped into the mix. However, the bottom line is that last year my best finish at a World Cup round was 13th place, so this year my goal is to better that.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Somerset in the South West of England but now spend a lot of time in South Wales to train.
Is this a full time job for you?
Yes, although this includes aspects other than just riding my bike. It involves a lot of marketing & sponsorship discussions, and the development & feedback of products as well.
This year has been particularly busy for me because Ben Reid, Alastair Beckett and myself have just launched the Dirt Norco Race team. Norco is the bike manufacturer supplying us with the best bikes and Dirt Magazine & Dirt Mountain Bike are following the team’s progress. This will be great for showcasing what we are doing as we travel around the world training and racing.
Where did you learn, and what made you start?
There is no real suppressing story to be honest, my Dad was always into road cycling so I was always riding bikes from a very young age, and I guess I started finding it quite cool being able to cycle off road when I got my first mountain bike. I was always making tracks and jumps in the woods over the road from my house with mates when I was younger, and it all just went from there. I have always liked to challenge myself, I like the speed of downhill riding and so racing was the logical progression.
Where would you recommend for Downhill Mountain Biking?
In no particular order:
– South Wales, where I live is one of my favourite places to ride. There is a great terrain and some really good tracks which are easily accessible from the M4. Recently there have been some problems with the tracks on forestry commission land being closed off and destroyed because of insurance problems, which is a real shame. However things seem to be on the up again now with permanent venues like Cwmwarm running strong and offering its own up-lift service 7 days a week, so it can make a great weekend getaway.
– Scotland has some great tracks including Fort William, complete with gondola to get you to the top. This is a world class track that hosted the World Championships in 2007 and has a round of the World Cup series each year. If you can make the trip up to watch this event, you won’t be disappointed. There is some really great riding, and track wise – Scotland is probably the best.
– Gawton is another venue in the South West that offers an uplift service and has some great new tracks.
– If you are looking further a field and travelling for a week or so, Morzine in France is easy to get to in the car or with a flight to Geneva and has so many tracks you could ride a couple every day for as long as your holiday and still not have ridden them all.
What has been your best memory in Downhill Mountain Biking?
Sprinting down the home straight at Fort William World Championships, in front of a cheering packed home crowd.
Have you ever been injured?
Unfortunately injury is quite easy with the nature of this sport. I have had a few broken bones, but the good times definitely outweigh the bad.
Do you have a favourite trick or jump?
Tricks aren’t really my thing now to be honest, I put all of my energy into going fast. Although saying that, there’s nothing better than a BBQ in the summer with mates at the local track just riding for fun and watching really good riders pulling stunts off.
What equipment do you recommend using at first? How much do you think it realistically costs to set up and get into the sport?
The equipment that I think is the best and currently use includes:
To start with I would recommend getting a cheaper hard-tail (no rear suspension) or shorter travel full suspension bike with a good helmet and some kit to ride in. As you progress you can upgrade your bike accordingly.
This makes you a better rider too because instead of jumping in at the deep end with all the comforts of a full downhill bike, a hard tail or short travel bike won’t let you get away with as much so you learn to ride more skilfully to compensate, and ultimately become a better rider when you do upgrade to a full downhill bike.
The top of the range kit is expensive and you would expect to pay a few thousand pounds for a top spec downhill bike. But, like anything – you get what you pay for.
What tips would you advise for people looking to get into the sport?
Just go out and have fun. As with anything – practice makes perfect. There are coaching courses available to give you a helping hand too, for example ‘Dirt School’ offer courses which are becoming very popular, so keep an eye out on DirtMountainBike for the latest, and for any other related news.
I’d just like to say a big thank you to my sponsors and the Dirt Norco Team. Check the page in future months to keep up to date with our progress and to see what we’re up to!