Gary Fisher: Mountain Bike Pioneer
From light shows for the Grateful Dead and decorating the Jefferson Airplane mansion to becoming one of the pioneers of mountain biking, Gary Fisher has seen a lot. And he remembers it all. Gary was born in 1950, and raced bikes until being suspended in 1968 for long hair. Fast forward to the 1970s and early 1980s, Gary is not only back on his bike, but starting a movement with $600 with his partners Charlie Kelly and frame builder, Tom Ritchey. By 1983, Gary was on to his own company, Gary Fisher Bikes, which was acquired years later by Trek Bikes.
I could barely keep up with Gary’s take on the past, present and future of bikes and society. He gets into it all: Growing up in Guam, Beverly Hills and the Bay Area; what’s needed to get more kids on bikes; bike shares, electric scooters and cities; the state of pro sponsorships; his views on nutrition and training; and a lot of fun.
As Gary says, “It’s not the nuts and bolts. The nuts and bolts are the carrier. It’s the places you go, the people you meet, the stuff you do. That’s what makes it a great adventure.”
GROWING UP: THE LUCKIEST MAN ON EARTH
David Swain: Let’s start with growing up and your influences.
Gary Fisher: I call myself the luckiest man on earth a lot of the time. Nobody gets to decide where they’re going to be born.
I was born in Oakland, Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. Right after I was born they tore that place down and rebuilt another one. Now, about five years ago, they tore that one down, so I’ve outlasted a hospital. It’s a miracle. I think about all these bikes I’ve broken, but the body heals. I still get to function. I can still ride a bike.
My father was in the Navy, and when I was six months old, we took a boat to Guam. My mother says I got tremendously seasick. My mother liked to sing, and sang in the nightclubs there. She was something. I mean, she went to Beverly Hills High School. On her 80th birthday, she pulls out these old headshots, and all the kids, we died, all these different hairdos, different makeup, different clothing and everything. Her father, Fred Applegate, was in the movie business. He worked for Warner Bros. for 40 years. He developed a job called a script director.
When I was a small boy, my mother made such a scene in Guam. My father went crazy, and my mother and I wound up going back to Beverly Hills and living with my grandparents. My grandfather was an open water swimmer and ran in the park. To sit at his table was a magnificent experience indeed. He was into health food, as were a number of people in the 30s in Hollywood. We’d go to the Los Angeles farmer’s market.
To sit out there as a kid, I was four and half years old. He’d bring actors to the house all the time, and he had a tweed suitcase with a camera with flashbulbs and a tripod. He’d subject us kids to these half hour sessions of, “we’re going to take some photos now, and they’re going to be good. This is what you’re going to do.”
Is that where you got your interest in healthy food and exercise?
Whatever it was, I got into eating well. Later on, we moved from Beverly Hills to the Sunset District in San Francisco. My mother met another man, and she married him. He turned out to be an architect and a hell of a good one. My best friend lived around the corner and was Japanese, so I got into Japanese food when I was about 5 as a lot of kids did growing up around here eating different types of food and everything. But the big thing was being an athlete.
So what about the bike, and getting your start?
It was going out and doing things big and crazy. When I was a kid, 12 – 13, it was Belmont Bike Club. The old guy, Larry Walpole, he was an East Londoner, mechanic for Pan American. He was hilarious, telling jokes all the time, and he’d drag me out on 80 mile rides, and make sure I’d make it back. I weighed 89 pounds. It was crazy. He’d push me up the hill sometimes. One time he got a piece of fence wire, wrapped it around my head tube, wrapped it around a seat post, and haul me northward into a big headwind on Highway 1 until we got up to Half Moon Bay. We went to Pete’s, and there was this old Italian there. He’d always feed the bike riders for free. I’d eat some food at Pete’s, and get back over the hill, Half Moon Bay Hill.
It was just the beauty of the machine. You could do this all human-powered, make all this distance, go all this way. Kids like to feel like Superman, and sometimes you feel like Superman when you’re on a bike. You feel like you’re flying, definitely. I still do. Even my weakened state, my old state, I still feel like I’m flying sometimes, just completely.
So then come the 1960s. Walk us through it.
Then the ’60s, I ran away from home. I quit the bike scene. My hair was too long — it was over my ears. I had met a band named the Grateful Dead and the Quicksilver Messenger Service. Can you imagine? They played in Pescadero, California three nights in a row and attracted less than 100 people over the three night span because they weren’t popular, but they’re all into health food.
I worked for a company called Grand Ultimate Steward Company or better known as GUS, and we used to cater to the Grateful Dead. We did the Carousel Ballroom, which later became the Fillmore West. Man, I painted Bill Graham’s offices one time. We decorated the Jefferson Airplane Mansion. That was rather fantastic, that one on Fulton Street.
This was in ’66, ’67, ’68, ’69. Sixty-nine came, December, The Rolling Stones to San Francisco and they wanted to play in Golden Gate Park. We held a meeting, Sam Cutler from the Rolling Stones, Sonny Barger from the Hells Angels, Bill Thompson from the Jefferson Airplane, and Ron Rakow. It was at Ron Rakow’s house on Sacramento Street. I was a kid cleaning the place up and taking care of things, and this meeting’s all going down.
The event didn’t work out in Golden Gate Park, and ended up at Sears Point Raceway. Someone at Sears Point figured out The Rolling Stones were going to do a film, and they had other vested interests. The deal was off. The last-minute, we went to this god awful place called Altamont. We had a disaster, and at that moment, that scene ended, and I said, “I’m getting back into bikes.” I was 19 and was right there at ground zero watching that whole scene.
You’ve been part of some real cultural change… much more so than just the bike.
Yeah, definitely. This weekend is 50th anniversary of people that have anything to do with the Whole Earth Catalog. It’s Stewart Brand and that whole group that put together this catalog that was a catalog of catalogs, which is a precursor to the internet in a way. It’s a bunch of old people. It’s going to be a reunion in Fort Mason, the San Francisco Art Institute of all things, my goodness gracious. That’ll be a blast from the past to go there and see that, see those folks.
GARY FISHER’s ON THE MOUNTAIN BIKE MOVEMENT
Fast forward a decade into the birth of the mountain bike.
Charlie Kelly and I started that company with $600, nothing. I was working for Bicycling Magazine, and that helps like crazy. You get to know everybody in the business. We did a presentation on the mountain bike in 1981 at the New York Show at the bequest of Bicycling, and we had practiced it really well. I mean, Charlie was another rock and roll victim. Another roadie for a band called Sons of Champlin.
The guy he’d be on the road a lot with, Howie Hammerman, was the sound guy and happened to be George Lucas’s third employee. We used to practice this whole slideshow in George’s screening room about once a month. We got out to New York, and we had this thing wired. We had all these incredible photos from five years previous of the Repack races (PHOTO) in Fairfax, California, Sierra Nevada’s, Crested Butte, and just years of these meticulous photos by Wendy and Larry Cragg (Larry is the steel guitarist for Neil Young). Those are the circles we were running in.
The mountain bike thing would cut across all lines. I mean, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, they got drafted by a guy named Tom Preuss. Tom Preuss was in our club, Belmont Bicycle Club, and he was just a crazy guy. I mean, he was crazy. He had a record studio and everything in the 60s, and Tom lost it. Tom was found on Bridgeway in Sausalito shooting a car, a .45 caliber revolver, and that’s the last I’ve heard of him.
When I was a kid, we were living in Burlingame, and we’d go on rides with the Belmont Bicycle Club. We go through La Honda, and a lot of times we’d stop at Ken Kesey’s place down here. Then the Hells Angels, they’d see us. We’d be San Gregorio, Pescadero, little cities out there by the Coast. They’d be looking at us, and we’d be looking at them. We’d just go, “freaks,” smile a little bit, and everything was cool. It was alright.
Why don’t we go back to the roots and progression of the mountain bike?
It’s not the nuts and bolts. The nuts and bolts are the carrier. It’s the places you go, the people you meet, the stuff you do. That’s what makes it a great adventure.
We’re just rolling around on these wheels and things and finding different places to do it, and what made the mountain bike scene so attractive was all that space was really open. When we started doing this, there were very few people even out hiking. It wasn’t a very popular sport. And all of a sudden, here’s all this stuff that’s car free. You don’t have the cars, the cops, the concrete. We used to joke about that all the time.
Literally, that was it. You felt free. You could do anything you wanted to, so that was a huge attractant. The reality is, when bicycles first came along, got popular 120 years ago, there were very, very few paved roads. Everything was off-road. This whole notion of purposely trying to go fast down hills and be acrobatic and everything, well, that was something for circus freaks, and then this became something more of reality.
If you go back to a YouTube video of Crested Butte 1980, you’ll come up with a video that shows some really early riding there in 1980-81. You’ll notice people trying to get across a creek, and only about a third of them make it all the way through. It’s really pathetic, and that was the nature of the beast. Even in Colorado, the riders weren’t that great. The big phenomena in the last 20 years is, man, people get air. They do crazy stuff, and it works. The bikes have gotten better.
The riders now are incredibly better because they have video. They can watch each other do this stuff, and have ways of practicing. They started by jumping in bodies of water and then at foam pits, and now it’s airbags. You can practice over and over again, and not hurt yourself. These guys have it wired.
And then the trails themselves. Back then, the trails used for the World Cup and all the world championships were just found things, and there was very little work put on them. The basic physics of it really wasn’t well understood compared to now.
Actually, if you want to get into the bicycle business right now, you might consider trail building. It’s one of the best paying parts of the bike business. It’s completely outdoors, and it has a lot of manual labor going for it. Really, it pays well because a really well-built trail makes you feel like a genius rider and makes everything really work. All those things is finally starting to click.
So back in the 70s you just found old 1930s Schwinn’s, re-built them and pushed them to their limits on the trails?
It was found objects. I mean, nobody had money to make anything in the beginning. Actually, the mountain bike craze up here that really was taking off up in Northern California got helped by the guys from Southern California, the BMX guys. They had a cruiser class. They used the same size wheel, so that’s where the rims, the good alloy rims, came from. Then guys like the Cook Bros. and Bullseye and there are all these makers down there that they got it right away. They said, oh, we know what you’re trying to do. We’ll help you.
The big thing was getting the Japanese supply chain, to work. I went after the bigger numbers. I wanted to go after the Japanese because they showed a lot of interest. They really got the whole aesthetics and everything. They were just showing up like crazy at our doorstep, and they wanted to do stuff. I did the show, the presentation in New York with Charlie, and we killed it. They loved it. After that, I said I’m going to come over there.
I go to Chinatown over in San Francisco. Buy a ticket roundtrip to Japan, 400 bucks. You’d go on a couple of days, boom, boom. I’d show up and say, hey, I’m here. Let’s do bike stuff. I will show you how to make this stuff, and what I want from you is give me first delivery, the best price, and I want terms.
There was a whole group on the SunTour side. There was Sugino, Dia-Compe, Sansin, all those, and Ishiwata tubing. Then on the Shimano side was Rio Maruti and his Trading Company. It was Shimano, Takagi, and a number of guys, Tioga, all those brands. There was two competing groups of bicycle parts makers and makers over in Japan, and I worked with all of them.
It wound up the Japanese government gave me a nice loan, and we took a lot of equipment and got complete bikes done. It was fantastic – a great thing for everybody involved. Domestically, we were making a lot of bikes. It was amazing how many bikes we could put together ourselves, but man, it was nothing compared to what those guys could do with good assembly lines and everything.
Negotiating terms, going to Japan to work with some of the biggest manufactures on the planet. You had worked as a bike mechanic, and at Bicycling Magazine, and next thing you’re sitting across the table negotiating terms and setting up this company. Talk about the entrepreneurship learnings for you.
That’s a funny thing. I can remember in the beginning thinking, well, what’s the laws against doing it? What do you have to do to become an importer? It took me about an hour to think there’s no laws. You just go do it. You go make it happen. I saw people do it with other stuff. I mean, the way my father thought, the way that other people I’d meet that thought they’d go and do crazy stuff.
I did light shows in the 60s, and that was a really cool thing. We had ten people in our show. We were 16, 17, 18. We’d charge $1,000 a night. That’s what we wanted, and Bill Graham wanted to pay 100 bucks a night, which would pay for our bulbs, that was it. I’ve always been able to scale it up, make it work.
I watched Bill Graham take over the Carousel Ballroom and turn it into Fillmore West. It was Janis Joplin and her manager, and they wanted the money, man. He steps up and says I got to take over this place. Nobody stopped him. He had the money, and he took it over, boom-ba-dee-boom-ba-dee-boom-ba-dee-boom. It’s like he’d just step in and say here’s who I am. Here’s what I do. I can guarantee this. You know it’s going to work, and they’d say okay.
You see that photo right over there? That’s me. I’m on a horseback. You see? There’s a little rat hole park in Hollywood, and I’m 4½. My mother would bring me there. The Disney’s would be there, Walt Disney and his family, and he’d be going off on, well, I’m going to build this place that’s great for the family. We wind up going to the opening day at Disneyland. I’m almost 5, and I go with my best friend, Arthur Robbins. The next day, we go, and we build a miniature Disneyland in his backyard. My mom knows somebody in the LA Times. She calls him up and says, hey, I got a story for you.
I got in the LA Times when I was under 5 years old. That was my first major exposure and stuff. I’ve sort of been, I say, the luckiest man on earth. I had a tremendous amount of opportunity come towards me. Thank God for my grandfather to train me right, and my great-grandfather, he is famous for doing speeches. You got to take everything you can and amplify it really hard to get any kind of a notice these days. And at the same time, make it delicious. It has to be delicious and taste so great.
STATE OF BIKES: CITIES AND KIDS
Talking about cities, I’ve heard you speak about what you’ve seen from around the world where bikes are better integrated into society as a form of transportation. Talk about signs of progress, or ingredients that work.
I see it in places that aren’t here. We aren’t taking it very seriously at this moment in San Francisco. It’s dangerous. It’s not the place you want to raise your kid, and that’s really a bad measure. I mean, there’s some things that Mayor Breed is has brought along, and I think she’s got a new transportation administer. But we’ve yet to see what they’ll do. I mean, the bike coalition, which I’ve been a member of and I pay my dues, 45 years, it’s one of the oldest bike coalitions in the United States. Man, there’ve been some really crazy battles and, and the state of it is rotten.
I know there are ten cities in Germany that are going to zero pollution. There will not be a single combustion engine inside those cities, and it’s over a ten-year period they’re doing this. Those places, I feel like I could raise a kid there, and it’s a good thing.
It’s nuts what we’ve done. I mean, my father made a tremendous amount of money off of Orange County. He designed a big portion of it. The suburbs were a great boon, but now, the whole thing, it’s become a mess. Marin County is built out that way. Our transit now is the world’s most expensive. It’s called 1.3 passengers in an automobile. It’s so broken. In San Francisco, we thought, well, the rideshare thing will help. No, it put 40 to 50,000 extra vehicles in a city a day, so that’s a big mess.
I like the scooters. I like the scooter people. I like the electric bike share. I do JUMP. It’s geo-fenced off to not enough of the city. There are not enough of the bikes in the city. It’s the classic thing. The way you kill a transit system is you make it lame. I don’t know who’s in charge of this one. This is stupid.
We’ve had something that’s been building up for the last 50 years. That’s right here, Marin County, the birthplace of low growth. It was 50 years ago that the developers from L.A. came up and said, hey, we want to take the population to 1.4 million. The population was 200,000 at the time. Today, the population is at 265,000, and it’s typical of all of California. I mean, I love being able to go out. All the open space we got and everything, it’s so great, but at the same time, it’s like, man, we made a mess. How are we going to get out of this one?
You’ve talked about the Belmont Bike Club and the Larkspur Gang and what they meant for you as a kid. What are the aspects of community that drew you in then, and what do we need to do to create an environment for kids now that helps get them outside?
We need to build things. I was talking to the guys at Red Bull last week, and they have a Red Bull Pump Track Championships down in Arkansas.
We need a lot more venues. NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) wants to have a bike track, a place, a space in every neighborhood – just like a baseball field. It doesn’t have to mountain bike 100%. It’s got to be bike, and it’s got to be something the kids like. That’s all. The magic thing about this whole program is kids really like to ride bikes of all forms. It’s amazing. The scooter too, the scooter thing is happening. The two-wheel revolution is going through the kids.
We’re putting our money in the kids programs. We’re putting over a million dollars a year in it right now on that NICA side. Starting at middle school and then through all the high schools. Then we’ll do whatever discipline really works for the kids.
Our overseas guys, they have different versions. You’d be surprised at how many of them have their own kids’ versions, have had it for a long time.
I remember Czech Republic. Ten years ago I’m there, and I went to an event after a big marathon mountain bike race. The next day was for kids. The youngest were a year and a half old, and they’re going about 50 meters with their parents. They’re all on these little four-wheel things, and they go up every age group to 14. They have races for all of them, and they have a scene going on with it. You look at how many good riders they have and think, well, what have they been doing?
Europe’s the hotbed. The sports are more established. They spend more money per head on sport. They have better coaches, all that, but they work it harder. They just got more kids to start. You go to countries, Asia and a lot of places, no, this doesn’t exist there. In the States, it’s a new thing and we’re bound and determined we want to be in every single high school in the United States. That’s 179,000 high schools, and I know we’re going to do it. Kids like it too much.
What states are really taking off?
Some of the ones you expect like Minnesota and Wisconsin, and then there’s a lot in the southeast. I think it’s 25 states right now. It’s right around half, and it’s almost doubling every year. The amount of riders, the amount of kids that actually do it overall is almost doubling. It’s still got a number of years to go to be something really big, but it’s getting there. I think, in ten years, it’s going to be one of the major kid sports for sure.
What do you think about making the bikes and the gear accessible more? There’s still an intimidation factor when you walk into a bike shop.
That’s one of the things. If we’re going to make this a thing for all the kids in the nation, there’s a lot of places where there’s got to be a limit on what the bike is.
There are three ways. We’ve spoken with Schwinn and Shimano and our suppliers and say, hey, we want to make a special model. We want it to be cheap and good and long-lasting. The second aspect is putting a limit on what the bike is (we have all these fancy bikes here in Marin). Then the third will be subsidy. We go to a lot of the people that provide healthcare. They’re into it. They know that a third of our 10-year-olds are pre-diabetic, and this is a program to keep kids away from diabetes and really help them lifelong.
GARY FISHER’s KIT: NUTRITION, TRAINING AND THE FUTURE
We’ve got some of your bikes sitting right behind you here. What’s your riding of choice or preference these days? How has that evolved?
I’ve been riding a road bike a lot. It’s the easiest for fitness in a way. You can take your effort and just make it what you want. Go as hard as you want to go. Then I got a mountain bike over here. Then an electric bike that’s sitting outside today waiting, and that’s the shopper bike. That’s one you take on the ferry, and go to the city, and go get stuff done really quickly. It’s super-efficient.
How have you thought about nutrition and health over the years?
You got to get rid of this notion of food is entertainment. Go back to, well, this is nutrition, and this is medicine and all that. At the same time, be very, very careful what your habits are. That’s what you do every day. You can’t have dessert every day. That’s a bad habit, but man, don’t get rid of desserts. If you space them out, they become a bigger celebration every time.
It’s all those things that we humans are — if we don’t have this stuff, there’s nothing worth living for, right? There’s the stuff you have to have, those goals. Today, I was just saying I got to ride a race in a month called the Iceman, and it’s always a lot of fun up in Michigan. Oh, they have fun, but man, I’m thinking I got to get my ass in shape.
Goals work. It’s got to be a challenge but a chance.
As you’ve gotten older, what works for you for staying in shape and getting out?
It’s hard to keep weight off; easy to put weight on, harder to put out just absolute horsepower like I would before so longer rides, easier rides.
What about diet? What’s your go-to for consistency?
I don’t keep things away 100%. I’ll eat beef but just tiny amounts. It’s just a little essence of this and that. I eat a lot of fish, but it’s simple. A air amount of veggies because they fill you up and make you feel good.
Lately, I’ve been cooking for my wife, and I learned to cook from her father and Greek diners. That gets into too much comfort food. You want me to make you a leg of lamb? You want me to make you some feta meatballs or all this stuff, oh, man, but that’s dangerous. It’s good to just have a program — I’ll just go out and ride two or three hours a day. If I do that every day and I watch my diet, hey, the weight comes right off.
It’s like my brother. He’s six years younger than me. He says to me, “I gained a pound a year. That’s been the average over the last 15 years.” I say, “Rick, that’s ten calories a day too much. Ten calories, that’s all you got to cut out.” It’s impossible. You know what I’m saying?
I take a totally different approach. It’s like, yeah, yeah, it’s creeping up. It’s creeping up. It’s creeping up. Okay, on the campaign, a month, two months of the campaign, the campaign is burn an extra so-called 1,000 calories day, and then I can eat. I can eat better, but I can’t go crazy.
It seems like your appetite goes up first before you start burning off calories. I won’t eat a whole lot when I’m out on the road. If you’re digesting properly and you absorb well and you’re really healthy, you can absorb about 200 calories an hour, right?
You’re in really good shape. You’re young. You can be burning 1,000 calories an hour. You’re in crummy shape, you’re 35, you’re burning 250, 300 calories an hour. That’s it. That’s all you can burn. You get in good shape and you’re between 35-65, you burn, 400-600 calories an hour.
That’s it, and you’re never going to produce more than 200 calories an hour from all the sugary stuff. You eat more than 200 calories, and you’re just putting it on the storage area. You aren’t even using it.
Part of the whole thing is getting into the state of where lot of your energy comes from the anaerobic. An untrained individual will take only 30% of their energy from the anaerobic, and the rest is by breathing hard. Somebody that’s well trained, you’ll take 70% from your anaerobic, and that’s why you’ll say, hey, the dude wasn’t even breathing hard. He just rode away from me.
I can still get to that place. I don’t have the horsepower I had. I can’t put out 800 watts for a minute and a half. I can put out 300 watts for a minute and a half. It sounds so pathetic, but you go pretty fast. If I get in really good shape, if I can get back to that anaerobic state where I can fly. I could ride 100 miles right from here to Santa Cruz, and just feel faster in the last hour than the first hour.
I can still get to that place — just can’t get there as fast. It used to be I train hard for five weeks. At the end of five weeks, oh, man, I’d be flying, and nothing would hurt me. Now, it takes four months, and I don’t do it all the time. I don’t think you should go at something that hard all the time. I’ll train hard like that, and then I won’t train that hard for a year and a half. I’d spend another six months, eight months training really hard. Get back in shape.
How has the role of coaches, nutritionists, and the community of support around athletes evolved?
I’ve ignored it a lot, too much, I think. I pay a lot of attention to what happens, what’s coming down in the papers on nutrition and things. I haven’t used a lot of personal coaches; they didn’t exist in my day so much. I had the old guy, Larry Walpole, for a while. I had a guy, Fritz Liedel, who was an Austrian, and he was a really good road racer — won Austrian nationals one year.
I look at what I did in my road racing career, and I made a lot of stupid mistakes with training somewhat but especially in strategy and tactics in the event itself. Racing competition is one-third being a nomad, one-third being an athlete, and one-third dealing with the bullshit. You’ve got to have all that stuff together.
Racing bikes was the thing I wanted to do more than anything. I think that it’s one of the most fun things. When you got it all together and you’re in one of those big packs with all that energy, it’s incredible and how fast everybody is as a group. It is a truly amazing sport when you get close to it. That desire never leaves. It’s like to have that kind of horsepower and those cards to deal and everything, it’s like you feel like Superman. It’s nuts how great the whole thing can feel.
What about the sponsorships and the funding going to the athletes?
Oh, the whole thing’s a mess. They don’t get a cut of the TV stuff. They don’t have a good union. They’ve got a union that’s just a face; they don’t negotiate. It’s the saddest thing.
The saddest fact is, some of the best women racers in the world, they’ve got to quit racing, and go out and find a real job. They’ve gone to the top of what you can make as a woman racer professionally, and that’s not nearly enough. It’s a mess. You google top 100 athletic contracts in the world and 80 of them are American baseball contracts. It’ll be from five to ten years long mostly, and a lot of bike contracts are notorious for being one or two years. To me, that’s crazy for the sponsor as well as the sponsee. You’ve got an identity with a rider and everything, and then it’s all over. There’s not a healthy relationship.
The basis of the problem is that there is no riders union and that the riders don’t demand enough out of the number one group, which is the Tour de France. The Tour de France guys don’t want to share it, and they have no responsibility to want to share it. I mean, people will say, “Oh, they should do this. They should do that.” This is their business. They’re going to do whatever they’re going to do. Come on, grow up kid.
That’s the thing. There’s no strong riders union. That’s the only thing that could get them to cooperate. It’s not only riders that don’t get the shares. It’s the other events, truly. There’s no competition for them, so it’s like we’ve gotten ourselves into that thing. The Tour De France gets 100 times more exposure worldwide than the second biggest race, and that’s a real issue.
Do you think social media can have a role in elevating what TV is not doing?
Yeah, you bet. You’ve got to have pushes, power, a position. It’s like you can push against – it’s like the Japanese know this. I mean, the whole – the wrestler thing, it’s like it’s all about what you’re anchored against. You can push all you want, and if you’re not anchored correctly, you’re not pushing. Nothing’s going to move.
The only leverage they have is, well, who’s the entertainer here? Who’s providing the entertainment, and what kind of a deal do they have? The deal they have is such a ridiculous third-party deal. It’s like they have to deal with their own sponsors, not with the television program at all. They are what sells the TV program, but then there’s nothing there. That’s the missing link.
Look at the other big worldwide sports, and all of them have and have had a union of some type for the athletes (the people providing the entertainment). Until the sport gets that – and there’s some riders that have been talking about that, but it hasn’t formed up, I don’t see anything on the horizon that’s going to change it. It needs that like crazy. Right now, it’s just the sponsors taking care of the thing. They can come, and they can go, and they do. They come and go too quickly.
On the woman’s side, some things are starting to loosen up and improve. When they get real equality, and that means that they’ve got to give not just equal prize money but equal time out there. It’s ridiculous. Look at the Tokyo Olympics. The time trial for women, it’s half the distance. That’s an insult right there. It’s ridiculous. It’s a big statement. It says the women athletes aren’t as good as the men athletes. It says it very loud and clear. It’s not the way you want to go. It’s not the modern world at all. Cycling, especially in an older practice, it’s really behind. Mountain bike, I will say they do give a lot more equity, equality in the racing.
Stepping out of the pro world and just into future of biking and just outdoor sports in general, what do you see coming down the road that you’re excited about?
Events where people are having fun. A few weeks ago I was at a trail builders conference in Switzerland. A guy from Denmark was talking about their kids program. It’s like their kids racing has got a handicap system. You start out the day by doing all these little tricks, little skinnies and little things, technical stuff, and you get 20 seconds to dab. Some kids get a head start, and some kids got to start behind. It puts a completely different element into the thing, which I think is great. Especially for kids in those age groups, they come in a lot of different horsepower ranges, different sizes.
That’s always been a thing with the bike is we say it’s a great equalizer. It doesn’t matter what size you are so much as you find a way. It’s just more interesting events like that that’s for kids, and then for grownups, I mean, there’s all these events for different aspects. It’s not just about horsepower or about total skill but combinations thereof. And things that are more fun; they’ve got good music, good food. People want to have a good time in every category.
Anything I missed? There’s so many stories we could go through.
You’ve got time. We’ll talk to you after another five or ten years.