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08-12-2010, 10:27 AM #1
Why Do the UK, AUS, & SoCal Produce Great Downhillers?
I'm just curious why some nations/regions seem to produce a disproportionate number of downhill racers?
Obviously the British and Australians are well represented in the WC. And, among Americans, there seem to be a shocking number of Southern Californians at the top of the DH race food chain.
Terrain? You'd think that having great DH terrain would be a huge plus. But having large mountains and great resorts is obviously not a prerequisite. Otherwise, the British and Australians and Southern Californians wouldn't be as good. (I've never mountain biked in any of these places, so maybe I'm selling the terrain there short.) Still, it's always been a little shocking to me that places with great DH terrain don't produce more great DHers. Maybe the problem is . . .
All-season riding? Having only 5 months or so to ride before ski season probably hurts the riders permanently based in big-mountain towns like Whistler even if the riding is otherwise epic.
Distractions of other riding styles? BC may not produce a huge number of DH'ers (Moreland and Smith excepted), but they do seem to produce a disproportionate number of sicko freeriders. Similarly, it always seems like the bike culture in places like Switzerland or Spain is more focused on suffer-fest-style XC/road biking.
Good national and grassroots race programs? I've heard it said a number of times that NORBA/USA Cycling sucked the life out of mountain bike racing in the 90's/early 2000's, although it's unclear to me how. I've also heard that the UK has loads of local races and a pretty good national system for developing talent. Again, though, the details are lost on me.
08-12-2010, 10:31 AM #2
I imagine there's a fair bit of crossover with motos, as AUS, SoCal and the UK all have major dirt moto and road moto scenes.
08-12-2010, 10:35 AM #3
Yeah I am guessing it has something to with this
a positive attitude will not solve all of your problems, but it may annoy enough people to make it worth the effort
08-12-2010, 10:37 AM #4
I wonder if there's also a connection to having a strong BMX presence. It's always seemed to me that BMX in SoCal is more popular than in many other parts of the country. Obviously a lot of DH'ers cut their teeth on BMX bikes when they were younger. (At least the older, Rad generation of DHers.)
08-12-2010, 11:01 AM #5
Socal: "god get me out of this urban/suburban hell, hey those race clothes will make me look sweet!"
Australia: "I'm drunk, watch this"
UK: "man I gotta get that nasty taste of crumpets out of my mouth.......I need something to focus on"STRAVA: Enabling dorks everywhere to get trails shut down........ all for the sake of a race on the internet.
08-12-2010, 11:21 AM #6
Inbreeding is an excellent way to select the genetic prerequisites required to be a truly good downhiller. Through this method, the areas listed have already groomed such a high pedigree of what is needed, that eventually some of the genetic elite would meander into this sport.
In England, this practice has led to a generally lower IQ and thus people have less self-respect for their bodies. It has also led to poor orthodontia, circumventing the need for such frivolous things as mouth guards. In Australia, what once was a colony of thieves and criminals has given rise to a society formed on getting drunk, nekkid, and doing stupid shit to impress your 'mates', which, in fact, are your friends and not your spouses. A civilization of half-witted, crocodile dundee lookin' motherfuckers surely would produce the anticlimax of intelligence presenting themselves as a fearless man, willing to careen down a hill on a bike, dodging in and out of trees, over rocks, all in a vain attempt to get a shiny piece of metal to use as a goblet for fosters. SoCal is a happy mix of the two locales, with a healthy dose of LSD to sooth the soul and fry what is left of a brain after staring at the sun while surfing, skating, and watching TMZ.Rogue Weather - Providing accurate, useful, and detailed weather outlook information for the West Coast
"You can't feed the world eating like a hippy"
08-12-2010, 11:27 AM #7Registered User
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
First, I'm not sure about there being a "shocking number of of Southern Californians at the top of the DH race food chain." If you look at the current UCI rankings, Aaron Gwin is #4, and the next US racer is Luke Strobel at #33. Probably more shocking that there's only 2 US guys in the top 33.
I would guess that it is more related to the lack of structured programs for kids like those that exist in nearly every other sport. Skiing, basketball, tennis, etc., all of them have a lot of coaching infrastructure in place for kids that excel. I don't think that exists in mtn biking, so as a result, kids just go out and ride. That's not a bad thing, but it doesn't create world champions. (Full disclosure - I never even realized it till Gene Hamilton mentioned it in one of his camps)
08-12-2010, 11:40 AM #8
As for Southern Californians, I think you missed the preceding clause to that sentence:
And, among Americans, there seem to be a shocking number of Southern Californians at the top of the DH race food chain.
08-12-2010, 11:51 AM #9
Yeah, I don't understand the SoCal thing either. The riding there sucks frankly. The mountains are so tiny too. I mean, who in the hell wants to ride a 5000' downhill."I knew in an instant that the three dollars I had spent on wine would not go to waste."
08-12-2010, 11:53 AM #10SexFuck Guest
You seriously need to travel man.
Sure its not a MTB tourist destination, but the U.K. has the sickest DH tracks anywhere. I'm talking DH not FR. Almost every town has a track within 20 minutes and they are WAY, WAY, WAY, steeper, rockier, slipperier and all around knarlier than the sidewalks you call trails in the 'rocky mountains'. You see little kids riding 10inch DH bikes down the streets everywhere. There is more to the U.K. than 'London' Ever heard of Fort William? Jesus Christ, man get out once in a while.
Also, sure Whistler isn't year round, but ever heard of Squamish or the North Shore?
Could it be that for the most part the DH riding in the USA just kinda sucks?
08-12-2010, 12:05 PM #11Registered User
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- Aug 2002
08-12-2010, 12:24 PM #12
The bigger picture is that the US is nearly irrelevant in DH at the WC level. So, we should be asking "why has DH passed the US by?" Dirt magazine pretty much covered any possible reason, but the venue issues, TV coverage problems, Lance factor, etc were he main reasons. And, the OP needs to add France to his list.
08-12-2010, 12:27 PM #13
SexFuck- Great username and avatar, but I'm sensing a little hyperbole. I've seen enough Earthed videos to know that there is definitely some great riding in UK. "Sickest DH tracks anywhere," though, is pretty bold claim. Have you verified claim this by riding everywhere?
To the extent you're suggesting that I haven't travelled with a bike enough, I whole-heartedly agree. I'd love to ride Fort William, etc. (Incidentally, I've lived in Leeds, Japan, and Tanzania and have travelled to over 45 different countries in the past 15 years, so, otherwise, travel generally isn't my problem.)
As for Squamish and North Shore, I think the mountains above them see a bit of snow. (I admit that I could be wrong, so please don't go apoplectic if I am.) I also suspect that a number of DH'ers there who might be year-round riders decide to hang up their bike and pick up their skis/snowboard for at least part of the winter. At least they do so more than people who are hundreds of miles away from great skiing.
Anyhow, I'm just exploring why some nations/regions produce more WC downhillers than others. Maybe I have understated the importance of having rad nearby terrain. Obviously, there must be some DH terrain nearby.
08-12-2010, 12:34 PM #14
08-12-2010, 12:51 PM #15SexFuck Guest
Its a bit like asking why the best Downhill Ski Racers come from the east coast. Nobody travels to the east coast to go skiing, but the conditions that the racers learn in growing up are conducive to produce the best ski racers.
"the sickest DH tracks anywhere." Ok, well I haven't ridden everywhere, but I have ridden in a lot of places including Whistler all over BC the PNW, California, the Rocky Mountains, France, Switzerland and Germany and I can tell the knarliest scariest downhill tracks I saw were in the U.K. But no-one is going to travel from the U.S. or Canada with their DH bikes to ride some 500 vertical foot track in some rural village in the English countryside. That just isn't how things work.
08-12-2010, 01:14 PM #16
That said, I've always thought that many racers come from the East Coast in part because they have less big mountain "distractions." In other words, it seems like few people race in Tahoe simply because they'd rather ski pow, etc. Why do endless laps on a groomed course when you have the option of skiing pow? East Coasters and Midwesterners don't have this option to the same extent.
I think there may be a similar phenomenon in British Columbia. Personally, DH racing seems more fun that banging gates on skis, but I can totally see how folks in British Columbia might be more interested in riding their epic FR/XC terrain than practicing DH.
08-12-2010, 01:42 PM #17Lord King of the Beater-Kooks
08-12-2010, 02:03 PM #18
08-12-2010, 02:21 PM #19
for the uk, my guess is...
no decent skiing there so bike all year no matter how wet or cold
proximity to the alps for awesome mtb holidays
all besides the large population pool. it aint a cheap sport.
08-12-2010, 02:26 PM #20
SoCal: Culture. I don't think the conditions/mountains have anything to do with it although cornering in terrible, loose, dry dirt is a whole lot harder than tacky-worm living-dark colored stuff. A lot of the previous generation down there raced motocross at some point (or some form of 2 wheeled racing) so there is a little bit more acceptance for the idea of "racing". That, and there is this hyper competitive environment (in everything down there) mixed with a decently athletic gene pool and emphasis on sports from an early age (plus a pretty robust economic climate to support it). A few of good athletes get sick of the little league bullshit and move into something they love and guess what? They happen to have fairly refined motor skills and the mindset that makes for a good DHer.
Aus: What Kidwoo said. I really think its something to do with their psyche. Everyone from that part of the planet is always cool, calm and collected in pretty insane situations. This is what makes Sam Hill awesome to watch (ride a bike) yet so boring in every interview. Most seem like they live in some alternate form of reality where the consequences just dont matter. I remember when I used to race, dudes from AUS never wore pads yet rode like the bike was merely some tool to be sacrificed as they absolutely pinned it down the mountain....we figured the lack of pads made you save it "at all costs". Crashing wasn't an option. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure they even cared.
UK: Now THIS is the one that doesn't make sense to me. Shit weather, expensive place to live, not many real mountains anywhere (keep in mind this is all in my head, I have no idea how much of this is real) and I don't think of the UK as a place where people are (as a whole) 'reckless' or willing to roll the dice a lot.
08-12-2010, 02:47 PM #21
If you like action sports of any kind, there is nothing else to do in the UK.
And SexFuck is without doubt the best username on TGR._____________________________________
08-12-2010, 03:01 PM #22
Regarding SoCal as the place where great American DH racers come from-it's really the place where great American 4x and DS racers come from. Like Palmer and Lopes.
Arguably, the most sucessful American DH racer measured by world cup results was Missy Giove and she's from NY. Myles Rockwell is from Norcal. Tomac and Mike King were only sort of SoCal racers. Herbold is from CO. And of course Gwiny is from SoCal.
08-12-2010, 03:14 PM #23
Maybe it's a more of recent phenomenon, but, as I mentioned above, there seem to be a disproportionate number of Southern Californians on America\\\'s current World Championship roster.
One other interesting note from that roster: There are currently only a few folks from Colorado racing DH; but there are a crapload of folks from Colorado racing XC.
08-12-2010, 04:03 PM #24Registered User
- Join Date
- Aug 2009
The argument that good tracks lead to fast racers has it backwards. Good riders build good tracks no matter where they live. I think that the places listed have a very strong racing culture that trickles down to the groms. When they see the fast local guys doing cornering drills, hitting the gym and generally working hard to get faster, they mimic it and do the same. I think that in many parts of the US a lot of the fast guys and track builders haven't necessarily been racers for some time now. With increased exposure to the international scene via Vital, etc. (well, really I think Vital) and some successful Americans I think this is changing.
As for So Cal - its historically been a place that racers go to train in the winter and/or relocate to, so riders in that part of the world have had a lot of exposure to super fast guys and their training methods. Plus like someone said moto is really big down there.vitalmtb.com
08-12-2010, 05:08 PM #25Registered User
- Join Date
- Jan 2004
- North Vancouver
I started a similar discussion on NSMB. Why the hell can't Canada field more riders at the WC level.
From that thread I think the conclusion is club racing.
UK has a strong club racing scene, if you want to ride the tracks that SexFuck talks about you likely need to be part of a club and race it. Thus they race a lot.
Pretty sure the Foster's drinkers fell into this same situation.
Here in Canada we've had weak DH racing support, but back east we have a very strong XC racing scene, we've produced a host of good XC racers both men and women.
I suspect Canada will add a few more fast racers to the WC in the next couple years, freeride is dead up here and racing is hot, we have the terrain and the talent, finally good to see them excited to go fast instead of be huck monkeys. Our current crop of BC juniors are putting down times that would be winning the pro class here so the next gen is doing well.