Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ryan Leech

Upon arriving in Squamish on Wednesday night, I was exhausted from my marathon of driving. I drove straight to Vancouver from Edmonton with only a couple of stops for fuel and food. I was so eager to get to the coast and to Crankworx that there wasn’t anything that was going to stop me or get in my way. When I got to the outskirts of Abbortsford, British Columbia, it was rush hour, and traffic was at a standstill. It was bumper to bumper and 32 Celsius outside. It was then that I opted to drive into Abbortsford and then zigzag my way to Vancouver to avoid the heavy traffic. This plan had worked, and I went through places that I had never been to, or seen before in Vancouver. When I arrived at North Vancouver I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. The people have a different aura about them than around here. It is hard to explain, but there is something about it.

With all of the construction in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics, it made it a very slow drive from Vancouver to Squamish. Why am I complaining? The view to the west is so beautiful, who can complain? Once I had arrived in Squamish, I found my accommodations and checked in. It was a room with two double bunk beds, (shared accommodation). Beggars can’t be choosers, plus I was breaking the bank going to Crankworx to chase my dream of becoming an established sports photographer (you only live once).

Thursday I had climbed off the top bunk bed to find it raining, and apparently it had been raining all night in Squamish, and in Whistler area where Crankworx was being held. North of Whislter is Pemberton (about 50km), and it was dry. Rocky did their big release of the ‘Flatline Worldcup’ there, and they did their big media ride there as well.

If any of you haven’t been to the Squamish and Whistler area, I suggest you go. It is so beautiful, and you won’t want to come home once you have been there. Being there was spiritual to me, not sure how to explain, but it makes a person feel alive. Even with all the rain that the coast has, it can make a person feel complete.

Once I arrived in Whistler and found parking I couldn’t even see the hill or half of the town because the clouds were so low. I was trying to find the Westin hotel to get my media pass and got lost a few times. I had no idea where I was going, but I found it, and got the pass without a hitch. When leaving the Westin, I came across the Rocky Mountain bike tent which became my home base for the week. Peter Vallance and Andreas Hestler are two of the nicest people a person can meet.

Right behind the Rocky tent is a coffee shop, but for the life of me I can’t remember it's name. I had gone in to get something to eat and drink. I sat down and looked to see who was at the table next to me, and found it was Ryan Leech, the famous trials rider. One of my goals was to get some pictures of him, and to do an interview, I heard that he is a super nice guy. These events are what lead up to me meeting him, and down below is his interview. I recorded it with a sound recorder and then tediously put it to paper later when I had gotten home a week later. When I heard myself, I realized that I can talk pretty fast at times.

Hi Ryan, would you like to do an interview?

Ryan: Sure, I would be glad to. It is getting kind of cold in here.

I think they turned the AC on.

Ryan: Yeah, I thought so to, but oh well. So where are you from?

I am from Edmonton, Alberta.

Ryan: From Edmonton EH?

Where are you from?

Ryan: I am just living in Port Moody, on the south side of the city here (Vancouver). Are you staying for the whole duration of Crankworx?

I am here until Sunday.

Ryan: Yeah, I am staying right until Sunday as well.

I am staying in Squamish, and I have a friend that is a radio DJ and she had worked as a DJ in Squamish. She had said that there are lots of people hiding from the authorities in the Squamish area. What got you into trials?

Ryan: Just fun got me into it.

How old were you when you started?

Ryan: I was about 13 years old, and I am 30 now. Mountain bikes, of course, were what got me started and racing and what not that I got into first and then I discovered the trials bike. But you know it is all about fun.

Yeah it is, if you don’t have fun riding a bike, then why does a person do it?

Ryan: Yeah exactly, you got it.

Have you ever done any XC racing, or anything like that before?

Ryan: Yeah, I did a little racing XC and a little downhill racing but fell in love with trials.

Did you have any mentors when you were young?

Ryan: Lots yeah! In the biking world, Simone Ponzri was always an early influence and I continued to look up to his methods for prolonging his career and how he managed to transform his way of influencing the mountain bike world, and spreading the good word about bikes. It is my hope as my career develops to continue coming up with new ways to get as many people riding bikes as possible.

Recently, I gave your video to my girlfriend and she has started to practice trials on her mountain bike. She had said that she can’t bunny hop, or hop curbs and wondered how I did that kind of riding. She is 37 and learning to do trials on bike.

Ryan: Right on! That is perfect and it doesn’t matter how old you are, or what age you are at. Bikes are an excellent form of exercise.

What mentors do you have outside the mountain bike world?

Ryan: Well, the one person I really admire is Ken Logarf with the work he has done on integral thinking, and it is more of a philosophical kind of thing. His work is really powerful and I learned lots about the physics of a bike.

What do you like about bicycles so much and inspires you about them?

Ryan: Anytime I see anyone doing something creative, something new and pushing the boundaries; not just physically, but in every aspect of life and doing things in new ways, experimenting and taking risks, again not just physically on mountain bike, but in every way it is inspiring to see that.

How much air pressure you put in your tires on your trials bike?

Ryan: 35 to 40 psi, and I use tube tires.

Have you ever used tubeless tires for trials?

Ryan: I actually haven’t given it an honest try. I have been skeptical and there are too many weird twisting strains and torques, and would make it too easy for the bead to come off of the rim.

What was your first bicycle?

Ryan: Umm, it was actually a Norco which is ironic, and it was a mountain bike.

What would you like to achieve when you are finished trials? Do you want to do trials for the rest of your life?

Ryan: So many other things, yeah definitely it is hard to pin point just one thing because I have so many interests and there are so many things I would like to contribute. Cycling will be an important factor and it will be a vehicle for all of the things that I would like to do. Not necessarily trials, but just riding bikes in general.

Kind of like Andreas Hestler and how he now works for Rocky Mountain bikes?

Ryan: Who knows? We will see, and there are lots of ideas.

How many events do you do in a year on average?

Ryan: Usually I am up to a 200 or so trials shows in a year mixed in with all of the other stuff that goes along with it. It keeps me pretty busy.

How far have you traveled?

Ryan: All over the world I guess! I try to keep things closer to home though, in the Pacific NW for the majority of my shows. But if something good comes up and I can make good use of my time when I am over seas, then I will make a trip like that.

Who is your favorite downhiller?

Ryan: Umm, oh boy! Since I got his pin here it would have to be Peaty (Steve Peat).

He is a good guy hey?

Ryan: Yes! Good times, and he keeps it fun which is what I like to see. It is easy to take these things too seriously. Although he does take it very seriously, it’s not over the top, it is still light hearted. It is still about fun, but it just can’t be all about goofing around having fun, and you you can’t be all about being too serious. You gotta have both, but it has to be balanced, and then it is a winning combination. For Peaty, he has a very successful combination, and it works. For all those young racers out there, remember to keep it fun and don’t stress yourself out about every race and getting the best spot. Just have some nice clean fun and that will pay off in the long run.

How many times have you broken limbs?

Ryan: For me none, but I have blown my knee and that is about the worst of it.

Who is your favorite XC mountain bike racer?

Ryan: For me I remember Juli Furtado, I had pictures of her on my wall and she was an early XC racer. I also remember John Tomac back in the day. They were the early influences. I don’t follow it too closely anymore, but it is so incredible, the level the athletes are at today. The competition is fierce these days. People are obviously having to push it a little bit further each year.

What is your pre-trials meal?

Ryan: Nothing too special, and I just try to eat healthy and balanced. Just good wholesome food, and nothing too heavy.

How many hours a week do you train?

Ryan: Again, it is nothing too specific, and I am not too scientific about it. I just ride when I feel like riding, and I do cross training. The cross training I do is yoga. It has really helped me with the power and flow style I have in trials. It is going to prolong my riding career and keep my body feeling good.

What was the happiest day of your life?

Ryan: Oh! I don’t think I can pick one, I have lots of things to reminisce on. It is day by day, as well though, at the same time.

How many bikes do you own?

Ryan: I always keep two trials bikes that are identical. I have an old mountain bike that does everything that I need for my trail riding, and I have a commuter flat bar road bike that I do my errands on.

Does your better half ride?

Ryan: She does absolutely! We mountain bike together, we do trials together.

Do you have children yet?

Ryan: No, just two nephews. One of them has a perfect bunny hop. It is pretty cool, and he is six years old. He was going over my highjump bar which is a good ten inches I would say. Yep, it is pretty RAD.

For young riders what other advice do you have for them?

Ryan: Racing mountain bikes for so long, and when we would ride downhill there were no shuttles or chairlifts, and big bikes that have a big gear. We rode uphill to get our downhill. Riding single track uphill is actually really an enjoyable part of the sport, and it is actually really challenging. Also, be creative in your riding and mix it up in a way that is fulfilling to you; makes you pumped. Don’t just do what your friends are doing. You are the next generation, so progress and push the sport in any direction you want. Get creative and come up with some new ways of riding and keep it safe. I have a show coming up so I should probably get cruising.

I will come later and take some pictures.

Ryan: Thanks for the chat Patrick, nice interview.

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