Talking Freeride With Blake Samson & Chris Smith | The GMBN Podcast Ep. 23

Talking Freeride With Blake Samson & Chris Smith | The GMBN Podcast Ep. 23

– Hello and welcome to the GMBN podcast. This week we’re going to
be talking about freeride, the current state of it,
where the sport is heading and who better to guide us
through this conversation than our two very own
freeride aficionados, Blake Samson and Chris Smith. How we doing guys? – All good thanks.
– Good thank you very much. – I kind of want to talk about, freeride is something I
really enjoy as a spectator, but it’s something I don’t
have first hand experience of, in the truest sense of almost
the art form that it is, so it’d be really interesting
to hear your perspectives. And just kind of going
back to where it all began, both born kind of early to mid 80s. – 85.
– 81. – Yeah, I imagine very different, you were born in Zimbabwe. Trowbridge?
– Trowbridge yeah. – Trowbridge is probably
a little different. – Yeah, probably a little bit different to where you grew up right? – I had nothing to do with
mountain biking when I was born until I moved to England. – Oh really? – I was moved here when I was 15. – Oh okay. – And that’s when I picked up a magazine and I saw Chris Smith,
Grant Fielder, Chopper, all those boys and then that’s
where I kind of started. – And for you Chris,
when did you start riding as a mountain biker? – As a mountain biker, I
was quite late to the party, I was like 12, 13, I
used a bike before that as a mode of transport, mostly like BMX and that sort of turned into trials and then sort of to where we are today. Yeah, I was quite late to it to be fair. – And do you, growing up before, for me when I found biking it was like, oh my god this is what
I’ve been waiting for, before you found bikes, were
you kind of outdoorsy kids, were you sporty, what was
kind of your childhood like? – For me, well being in Zimbabwe born, I was born on a farm, so
outdoors was my thing, never indoors, and the
weather is good out there. You had some cold days
but the first thing I got, my dad got us into was BMXing. He built a BMX track in our backyard, and we were pretty lucky,
we had a bit of land. And I just took up BMXing with my brother. I followed in my footsteps,
my cousin’s footsteps, ’cause they started BMX racing. We wanted to be them, wanted
to do what they were doing. It was just like quite a natural
progression to follow them, follow them doing BMXing, go to the races in the main city, which was Harare, where I was born, and then from there just
moved on to motocross. – And what was the scene like in Zimbabwe? Was there strong BMXing? – Yeah, it was pretty big. I started riding when I was
five, my brother was four. We competed against each other. We were pretty, he was
first second, second first, first second, second
first, we had a battle between each other and
then yeah it was big but then to a point where
the next farm we moved to was far away from the city so
we started doing motorbikes, like Enduro racing and then
that BMX track turned into a motocross track and then it
just we followed our cousins. What they did, we did. So I was there. – I have a similar relationship
with my cousins yeah. – Yeah, yeah. – And Chris, cause you spend
a bit of time on a moto now, and that’s not a dig at
eBikes, it’s just a motorbike. Was that something you
did before mountain biking or did you kind of? – Yeah, I’ve always been well
into motorbike trial stuff, I’ve followed that for
ages, and I’ve ridden like, we do these things called time trials which is kind of like Enduro format, but you have judged sections per lap. You got to keep your feet up in those and I really enjoy doing them, and put a lot of focus into
them, and a lot of training. I rode expert in a lot of
trials, local trials and stuff, and to this day I still
ride trails motorbike, and Enduro and mixing it up and I think it’s real
good crossover sport. You find all these places and
stuff you can do on a moto that makes riding your
bike a lot easier I think, so pretty cool. – It sounds like both
of you from an early age already were developing a relationship between risk and reward. – And two wheels. – And two wheels. (laughs) But I find that really
interesting, I feel like, with downhill racing or
something, its objective. He or she was the fastest person
down the hill on that day. How do, Blake when you
come up to do something on, perhaps something that’s
never been done before or you’re building a
feature, how much is that, what motivates you to
push those boundaries of risk and reward? – I think the reward
is learning that trick that I’ve always wanted to do. The risk will come with it, but when you’re practicing a trick where, the biggest one for me
was a 360 double tailwhip, now back then was quite a big thing, nowadays it’s like they do it off drops. – (laughs) Yeah, yeah, yeah. – That was, the reward from doing that was the feeling of learning
that trick and the motivation to actually nail that trick,
especially for a video, which is quite high, I like
that and I love doing that. It’s like anything really. – And what I always loved about
watching your videos Chris and growing up and just
seeing, like you said your MBUK, and these huge kind of quarry
stuff, is that there must be, I think when people talk
about a drive in cycling and motivation, they often talk about cross
country and racing and that, but it must be a huge amount
of drive to distinguish this is what I want to do, perhaps no one around me is even doing it. For you hunting out spots
in the southwest of quarries and stuff like that, would you say you were
really driven to do it? Or was it just an expression of passion? – I don’t know I think I
visited pretty much every quarry or derelict quarry in the southwest, literally I’ve been to all
these spots so (Henry laughs) people are like check out
this spot and I’ll say, oh yeah I’ve been there it’s
pretty limited and stuff. But I think what drove me
in those early days was, I like being scared I think, and actually conquering being scared. That was like you can
put your two fingers up in the face of it and
like yeah I’ve done that, what’s next, and what’s next, what’s next and I think you build
yourself up to a level, and I think that progression
if you’re riding is really key, like Blake said is tricks
you can work up, do your 360, and you do your 360 bar spin
and do 360 double bar spin. It’s always like up and up and up, to see where you can get to. I think that’s a really
important part of freeriding, doing jumping and stuff. – And did that change for either of you, maybe start with you Blake, when you turned professional
and suddenly it’s a livelihood? Was that financial pressure a motivator, or was it a bit like oh my God, I’ve got to put some food on the table. – Yeah, well I started, I was quite young. My profession, I was, I got
sponsored when I was 18. I was quite late because
I moved to the country along like 15. I started doing tricks when I was 16. I did a back flip when I was 17. – Yeah, wow. – Progression, it was like concentrated to get as many tricks and as dialed, as quick as possible
because people were starting when they were 13. Sam Pilgrim was doing
it when he was like 10, even doing flips at that
age or something like that, whereas I was doing it at 18. The motivation to get to a point where I need to do this as a living, it got hard, I’m not going to lie. But I was young, I was
staying at mum and dad’s. Mum and dad they want to
help and the more I did, the more contests I did
and the more I got money and got noticed, my
deals got a bit better. It was like a slow progression. – And for, you know speaking of contests, I mean you kind of I’d say, although you both have
a very shared skill set, probably the way, the avenues
were slightly different. But did you feel like with
the way the sport was changing and new tricks coming up, I think you’re probably in
that rapid acceleration of- – Oh yeah. – Things constantly changing. – Yeah, yeah. – Did you feel, I’ve this winter, I’ve got to learn this trick
to be competitive next year? – Yes. – Yeah. – It got to that point
where I was like man, you know, I need to do flip whips mid set, not on the last jump? – Yeah. – I need to make this
thing super consistent. I need to do 360 drops or flip drops. I need to do that this year. I need to learn that this winter, so I’m ready for next year. – Yeah I think an important part of it, was where I was forecasting
what was going to be next as well. – Yeah. – Like moving, and Blake I
think you kind of focused more on getting that
competition side of it, where as I was a little bit older. For me it was thinking right, I can’t do that on these bikes so why not take it to that bike. I started doing tricks on my Enduro bike and then that turned into slope
style bike and I was like, wow this would be cool
to do on a downhill bike and then you start doing your
tricks on a downhill bike so you kind of set another path, kind of, so it wasn’t just doing those tricks. – Which is freeride. – [Henry] Yes. – Essentially. – [Henry] Yeah. – Because you start to progress
from one sport to another, to another and then you
put it in other places where people wouldn’t expect to do it, I wouldn’t say is freeride but- – No but- – On a road bike.
– I understand yeah. You know I mean I think the Urchin bikes maybe the slope style stuff
the technology has enhanced. – Yeah. – I think with your downhill
bikes it is worlds apart. Do you think at the time it
was a natural progression and it was those incremental
steps you were taking, getting bigger and bigger, was just how the sport was growing, or did you feel perhaps it was limited by the kit you were using? If you took a downhill bike from now. You watch those videos of
Jeff Bender or whatever and the land is so smooth. There’s no rebound. – They just ka-kunk. (laughs) Always on the drops. – If you were a young man now
with a, younger man sorry, younger man do you think
it would be much different? – Yeah I think bikes were,
it depends where you rode. If you were in a perfectly
manicured dirt jump, sort of trails like Edmonton
and places we used to ride, then a dirt jump bike was amazing, but if you wanted to take those
tricks to a derelict quarry, like the stuff I rode,
you simply couldn’t do it, or it was a load of work
to make everything smooth. Whereas like on the downhill
bikes you could just go take a pick ax and a spade, and just go and build a line, and just be like stoked
for that for the day rather than making manicured trails. I think bikes definitely paved the way in how you were riding as well. – But I think that’s
something that all throughout your kind of career one
of the reasons that, although it was probably a
limiting factor is some ways, is being based in the southwest compared to if you were
living in Utah or something. – Yeah. – I think one of the reasons it, people found it so relatable was the fact that you were doing super
gnarly stuff out your back door. – Yeah. – You know, I mean I think that’s what, you saw it in the cover of NBUK and be like that’s in the UK, that’s this huge (Blake and Chris laugh) gnarly super crazy thing. – Yeah, I think I was super
lucky with the location and literally around my
house, within 10 minutes there’s like four or five big quarries, which as you say it was
the size of the stuff you would see out in
Utah and even the stone and stuff that’s there
is red rocks, gray rock, it is super cool and these
guys used to come down and be like, whoa this amazing. I just literally got used to it because it was ten minutes
out my door so yeah. – We’re looking at it and
going no, it’s so sketchy. Hell no I’m not doing that. – (laughs) Little tiny landing. – Oh, yeah terrible. – Yeah it was so. – ‘Cause I guess there’s a case to be made that freeride is a completely
subjective art form. However, competition is
good for kind of the sport and for sponsors and so
often you look at Rampage and they do try and score it. How do you feel about that? Do you want your riding to be judged almost as an exhibition
piece or how did you find, how Blake did you get on with competition? Did you enjoy that aspect? – I enjoyed it, I thoroughly enjoyed it. My brother was better than me but (laughs) yeah no I enjoyed it. I would say my skill, my riding, ’cause I was a goofy footed rider, so I thought that would
score me a little bit, a few more points, ’cause with a certain
trick I had to switch feet. – I remember it used to look so weird. – Yeah, so I’m goofy,
I’m right foot forward and I spin into my right foot forward. If you are regular foot,
if you’re spinning right you’re left foot forward, so you’re spinning away
from your front foot. Now when I come to tail whips I’d switch to front left foot forward,
kick the bike, do a 360, kick the bike, do a tail whip, catch it, and this while not even landing, catch the tail whip with a 360 and then quickly switch
back to right foot forward before even landing so I
could get to the next trick. Or stay like that and then do
a flip whip and then catch it. It was certain elements that I- – Get super crazy with. – Yeah it was a bit weird but yeah I was. – And how did you feel Chris, with the kind of scoring
or competition element? – I think I was always a
better rider than I was, not a racer, but like going
to these competitions. I always preferred riding and
doing video parts and pitches, ’cause that’s kind of where I
was in my career at the time. I think when we first
started doing competitions it was super basic tricks and
stuff and it just felt like, I don’t know, it was just, the scoring wasn’t recognizing the tricks for what they actually were. You’d get scored higher on a no hander than you would a bar spin
and the technicality of it, people weren’t so in
tune with those tricks and things like that in the early stages. – Yeah. – I think some of the courses
were a bit questionable as well. – Yeah. – Pretty hard to trick. – Quite political when it
comes to stuff like that. – And favored riders and stuff. – Same likewise when I was doing it. – I mean it seems, as Rampage,
which is on the horizon, as an example, people
still say Robs got robbed. – Yeah. – I mean how, did you
ever undergo something that you thought actually
that was a bloody good one and I didn’t get my just desserts. Is that something you can sympathize with? – I can say that was me
and Dirt Wars in the UK. – Yeah. – It was mainly Sam Reynolds and myself that were always kind of up against, and there’s a few other
people in there as well, but there was a few contests
where I was like, man, I did so many more tricks, but then it’s depending on the scene. If it’s on a trails, the
different vibe of riding gets judged a little bit more
than if you’re doing stunts on trails. Certain things like that
yeah, it’s all political. – Yeah. – It’s been I’ve done this. – Yeah I think back to the Rampage, I think you need to have
a rider judged format or a viewer judged format,
like votes and stuff. I don’t, it’s so hard to see
everything that goes down and understand it. So many people have got
a different perspective of what a trick or a line
is worth in their eyes and it clashes all the time, whereas I think you need
that bigger overall picture from the riders to actually
understand those lines and their experience and stuff. To trick that drop is like
crazy, or just to hit that drop, let alone do a 360 down on it. People might think oh
it’s just a 360 drop, but that drop is so fast and it’s on the biggest
exposed part of the course and I think from a rider’s
brain you get that fear and how much it should be worth. – It’d be like how they judge the FMB, like Crankworx Whistler. They, all of Crankworx
really, all those FMB judges, they all were old, ex pros. – Yeah I feel that. – They’ve definitely
been judged and stuff, they do judge, riders do a better job at judging other riders, instead of someone that just
goes oh I know that trick. – Yeah. – Or no that trick there looks
like it’s way better lookin’ than that one, but that
one’s way harder than that and then that’s- – Going back to the thing
you said about opposite foot, the opposite rotations,
people know that now and again it goes back again
to how actually hard it is. – I suppose it’s kind of
growing pains of a sport, but those growing pains come
with people such as yourselves, preparing to push it. With those, ’cause there
are many times that, you ever look back and thought that risk definitely wasn’t worth it
or things you just thought, well I’m going to have
to be scared for this. And this is kind of a secondary question, how do you cope with injury? Because it’s almost inevitable. If you’re pushing the
limits, it’s just when, not a matter of if. – It’s exactly that. It’s not, I don’t think it’s necessarily, it can be at technicals
and your bars or something could snap or something on
the landing of a big drop, but I think my worst
experience was in Salisbury. I tried doing this big step down gap. It was like 48 feet out
and about the same down, so it was massive for
the time. It was in 2002. Pretty early stuff.
– Massive, I’ve seen it. – Yeah you’ve seen it. (laughs) – Sketchy ass thing. – Yeah it was kind of
like stepping up and up and I’ve reached this level
and went to this gap jump and I was like, yeah I can do it. We didn’t spend too long prepping it and I just sat in it anyway
and had a really short run up and I thought of the bases when
I’ve jumped off high stuff, you tend to go quite a long way out, but I totally misinterpreted
how long this actual gap was. Saw me jump off half way over, and I literally ditch my
bike and I fell 40 yards straight to my ass checks, like
bam on top of this landing, flipped twice down it and snapped
my ankle real bad as well, broke my back in two places, compression fracture, and split it. It was quite a big thing for me, but that’s always been
on the back of my mind, should I go and do it again. I know I can do that now
and we prepped it bad, but it’s like now what
would I get out of it. I’d just get a few thousand
likes on Facebook or you know, (Neil laughs) a hundred likes on it, but ultimately I could land and my front wheel could explode, it could flip over the bike, break my neck and be in a wheelchair. Just kind of like then compared
to now it’s different risks. You need to evaluate a lot more and you need to be riding
tomorrow not off at six months. You need to think about what
you can actually survive and I think that’s a
massive part of you career, is making it to the next
week and the next contest. You really need to think about it and it’s that balance of stepping
up and keeping in control. Making yourself last, your body last, to the next thing’s coming up. – And is that something
you sympathize with Blake? – Oh a hundred percent yeah. I broke my leg doing shows, on the shows that Martyn
Ashton and I used to do, the Animal bike tour. I broke my leg, snapped
it clean in half too, and it was hard. It was six months off, nearly
eight months off the bike. ‘Cause I thought there’s a
lot of riders out there that they have a big injury
and then they always think I need to be back on the bike,
need to be back on the bike, but there’s a long game. If you want to be in it for a longer time, you got to see out your healing process, to get to the next day,
like you’re saying. Thinking about next
week, thinking of this, if you’re thinking long
game then things heal slowly and when they take time to heal, they’ll be stronger and such thing, but I have snapped my
leg and broken shoulders. – I imagine at the
time, I’ve had injuries, although may I add, nothing compared to the
horrors you boys have faced. But does it feel a bit like a sentence? Like when you’re going
to be eight months out, is it a case of- – I felt relieved. (Chris laughs) ‘Cause I was right in
the middle of the season and I was super stressed. I had so much things going on. I videoed a shot, another
video, I was doing this contest, I had these shows, I had to
do this, I was like uhhh, and then gone. Big weight off my shoulders. – Yeah. – And I can just relax
and focus on future goals and healing. – Obviously a lot of relief. – Yeah. – But do you feel there was, imagine you’re so pepped up
and it means something to you. Even if it makes you very stressed, I imagine they mean a great deal to you. Did you feel also feelings of
guilt or anything like that? Guilty to feel relieved? – Yes especially when you’re sponsored. – Yeah. – And you are self employed. Because that’s what you are. You get like you think, oh
no I have a massive injury, I’m going to lose all my sponsors that I’ve been working so hard to get, they can just go (snaps) no. They’re in the contracts,
if you get given a contract, you read it and it says if you’re injured for a certain amount of months,
your pay gets cut by half, or your retainer gets cut by half, or if you six months and you’re
still not back you’re out. – Right. – I think with going back
to the injury thing again. You can learn so much
from injuries as well, not only what your body can
do and the pain it can take, and how it can heal, but I think the experiences
from some of that stuff as well. When I feel down that big step, down that’s like falling 40, 50 feet. Pretty scary and to
actually go through that and be that scared ’cause it
was literally staring at death as your falling. It’s literally like
coming head to head smash on the motorway and narrowly avoiding it. Just being that scared and I think that, if you put that into normal life, it’s like that’s not
scary, that’s not scary, that’s not scary, this, that, was proper scary. – I remember one time I was on my bike and we went to a roundabout
and I got hit by a car. I was completely my right of
way, they just didn’t see me and still even now sometimes, when driving for instance, I’ll go (gasps) just I’ll get like, that’s something I imagine something that essentially traumatic, staring death in the face,
does that affect you still? – Yeah, I think when I
go back to that spot, I’ve been back there
probably five or six times, sort of almost ready to do it, and I’m like I’ll get to
that spot and I literally, I know it sounds cliche, but you do have that flashback
of falling down there and literally when I fell down
I remember this scary moment of the wind whistling past my, usually when you ride a bike the full face is coming in through the front, but this was coming up through my ears, literally air going whoosh
and you’re so scared and you can see all these
jagged rocks and it’s like oh my God I’m going to fall
straight into those rocks, but as I say luckily
made it to the knuckle and got down the landing but yeah its, you learn a lot from that stuff. But it still gives me chills so honestly. Look honestly. – Yeah has got goosebumps. That is so crazy.
– Yeah thinking about it. – But in a way is it not
incredibly affirming to know that you can, it’s like set up
or something like that. You haven’t got the right set up if you’re sat in the extreme, you know you’ve only got
it if you’ve gone too far and come back a click. It must be almost in a way
affirming to know actually I took it right to the very edge. I went potentially too far,
maybe I could do it now, maybe not, but to actually
say that was the definitive, that was the breaking point. – Yeah. – And I got to tell the tale. That’s pretty cool to me. – I think it is, but I think there is, that wasn’t the limit as
to what I could’ve done, it was a mistake in the process. For that big stuff you
have to prep it so well and I think you see that at Rampage now. These guys spent ages making
big runnings, big landings, and you could over jump it,
you could come up short on it, but it is there, that tolerance is there, whereas that line totally messed up. It was nothing.
– It was horrible. – And I paid the price. – I’m going to say it
again, it is horrible. – But I think the actual
limit wasn’t reached. It was the prep that wasn’t to match it. You need to go, if you’re going that big, you need to make sure
everything is ticked off, like what ifs and that wasn’t, it was pretty disappointing for me because it was like pretty mental block. – I can tell the way you’re
talking about it, yeah. But I think you said that about what ifs, now you’re both kind of
embracing fatherhood, you’ve both got young kids. – Yeah. – Partners, does that
change anything for you? Approaching really either
from a financial point of view or just to actually be a good partner? And to be there to support your children, does that factor in? – It does. I never thought it would. Being a pro athlete, being an athlete, you’re super selfish anyway. You’re really selfish
because it’s all about you, ’cause you want to be
at the top of your game. – Never buy a round I’ve noticed that. – Yeah (laughs) you just want
to be the best you want to be and you’re super competitive. Now Jen, my wife, she was
there right at the beginning of my career, she has followed me throughout my 16, 17 years of it now and she’s been there from the beginning, so she understands what it
takes, knows what’s going on. If she came in probably
half way through my career maybe it would be a little bit different ’cause I was quite selfish. I’m always, I’m not home. – [Neil] Yeah. – And now I’ve got a little man, I’m a year in being a father. I got loads to learn and I feel like I’m dedicating
a lot more time to him than doing other things,
pursuing other goals. My goal is pretty much
more nearly him and family. – [Neil] That sounds lovely. – But I think it changes, I think it happens to anyone and everyone. – Yeah I think it’s super hard,
for me I’ve got three kids from eight to six months now. I’ve got the oldest is eight and the youngest is three months and I think the hardest thing
for me is balancing the time. I used to have literally
every day to ride my bike and from going pro riding every day to we ride on our shoots now for this, is quite hard and as Blake says, I think for me now it’s like, seeing a smile on your kids
face is more important to me than going and landing a 50 foot step down and do you know what I mean. – That’s how, I yeah- – That was my buzz and I was
like yes this is amazing, but for me I get that same
buzz from the kids now. – That’s so lovely man. – I still love doing all
that riding stuff as well, but for me that is kind of shifted and it is a big shift I think
from when you go from rider to dad it is a big step. Especially when you’ve got three of them, it’s pretty full on. – Because I mean it sounds like- – I’ve got one. (all laugh) – It sounds- – And I still don’t see him as much. – (laughs) It sounds
like times are changing, in a good way. I think some pro athletes,
they finish their sport, and it’s like a vacuum, and imagine being a
premier league football and scoring in front of 40,000
people week in, week out and one day it stops, done. But it sounds like you guys have really, well you obviously still riding, still biking is your passion. – Still long game. – It’s the long game. – Yeah I think if you
love cycling that much you’re going to make it
last as long as possible. And you find other avenues. It’s not just one discipline
or one, what do you call it, genre of sport. Like dirt jumping doesn’t last very long. You’ve got to think of other things. – Yeah exactly that and I think
that we’re both super lucky to come from what we’re
doing into another job that we love doing. I think it’s always in
the back of your mind is what am I going to do when this ends? – Yeah. – There’s all these little ideas, but a lot of them aren’t
financially viable and you’re thinking what am
I going to do when this ends. I think towards the end of your career you usually start on three year contracts and now go to a two, then you’re
off like a yearly contract. – That’s when you start getting worried. – Yeah and you’re like oh my god is my deal going to happen next year and you’re like thank God
I got it for another year and then a big sponsor will
drop out and you’re got to like, how am I going to make that
money up and it is a big worry and I think we’re super
lucky to move across and it’s worked out well. – Because I suppose
you guys were in an era and it felt as though there
was a definitive moment about 10 years ago, maybe
eight, nine years ago, and people started
saying is freeride dead? Do you think we’re in a post freeride era, if there is such a thing? Or do you think it’s
still alive and kicking? – I don’t know if it’s dead. It’s definitely gone off the radar, but then you could blame
that to social media. There was a lot of impact
being like freeride yes, media and all these videos are coming out, they were like the pioneers
of free ride sport. All these videos making those- – New world disorder when
stuff happens like that. – Exactly all those were, they happened. That was a good thing
that happened to the sport and now with social media, kind of dictates what
you’re going to watch, ’cause you start, you get lost in it. You start following something, then if you’re following that, the social thing will
make you follow that. And then that one thing
you’re following last week you feel like is dead. – [Neil] Yes. – Kind of thing. – Also I imagine as kind of
freelance, self employed, things like magazine cover shoots, were really valuable to you. Now the print media, – That was a big thing. – Isn’t kicking around so much. I imagine a direct source of
income for self employed riders has gone. Yes, they might be able
to get it from the avenue, that revenue as a social media thing, but it’s not the same
as come to this quarry, do this big jump, and then go do that. – I feel like it’s got diluted as well. Social dilutes a lot,
brings out a lot of people, to do the same thing. – For sure, yeah. I think a big part of my
career was, as you mentioned, was print went it first started, I used to do loads of
shoots for MBUK and Dirt and things like that, and
quite a few other mags, but then as you mentioned,
that kind of disappeared. Then it went over to doing
loads of social media stuff, to doing all that freeride stuff like Instagram, Facebook videos. Then your own edits to where we are today. It has soft of definitely changed the way we’re doing things. – I miss those days. Getting a front cover was
probably my biggest thing. – Yeah. – And I’m glad I got it like right, I would say near the end of it. I had a Dirt front cover,
I had a MBUK times two, two Dirt covers. – Yeah. – Yeah, that was like a big thing. Also that in you contract, as a pro athlete was worth a lot of money. – Yeah that was the biggest
thing in my contract. – That was what I worked real hard for. – Yeah like print stuff
was really big back then, interviews, then you’d get all
your win bonuses chucked in, they’d double it, then they’d say you get
paid this much per page, this much for the front cover, this much for the thumbnail pic. – It was crazy. It wasn’t just one sponsor
that would give you a bonus. If you had five or six sponsors that had this bonus scheme in place, you could make three, four
months wages in one shoot. – ‘Cause I imagine yeah, no short on motivation from the athletes. Looking at something like
Rampage there have been, in my opinion, so many definitive moments, I think of Cumsing doing
that massive step down that he flat dropped, I think of Kelly McGarry over the canyon, some really, really cool stuff and a thing that also sticks out for me, as perhaps a catalyst for change, was Paul Basagoitia’s injury. – Yeah. – Do you think that
changed the sport a bit, or at least perhaps the way
the spectator views the sport? – I don’t know if it changed
maybe the outlook on the sport, maybe people started thinking
well this is dangerous. Even though they know it’s dangerous, but it put it more into
perspective of what could go wrong. – Just to help people who
perhaps aren’t familiar. – Yeah. – Basically it stems down to
how much the event organizers, where their responsibility extends to, in terms of rider injury, wouldn’t it be fair to
describe it as that? – Yeah I think so. – And if somebody- – A few more rules chucked in to make a little bit more safe. I’m not too sure what goes
on behind closed doors. – And the rider in this instance
had a really nasty injury, life threatening injury. And medical bills racked up in America, very I imagine that would
be absolutely terrifying, especially, I don’t know if
be had a family and stuff, but your house or something
could be on the line. Something I imagine was a
very low moment for him. – Yeah, yeah. – Do you think event organizers do, do enough for their riders? – I think they would help support, I’m not too sure what goes on down there, but they probably would
show support for sure. – Yeah. – They won’t not just throw
him out on the streets. – Yeah, yeah those bigger
events definitely give you that kind of support as well
when you do get injured, but personally I’ve been to
some events over my career that you literally,
where you could die at. I’ve done the Urban Downhill out in Taxco. The race down there, and
literally in practice I remember there was like a kicker on to a roofer, then a gap off onto another house, and you jumped off the
house down into the street. And I was testing and I
over jumped the step down, went to stop before I
jumped onto the other house, I couldn’t slow down on
it because of all the dust and other stuff on the
roof, I slid across a roof and I was hanging off the
roof by one ass check, holding my downhill bike with one hand and I looked down below
and there’s is a drop of about 20 feet down to spike railing. You could’ve literally skidded
off the house, fell down and caught that between your legs and probably split you in half. – Thank God you’ve got a
good set of glutes on you from all those scots there ’cause man you’ve got some purchase. – Right (Neil laughs) but
it was just stuff like that, those urban downhill races. – Literally your ass is saving you. – I stopped doing it after that, ’cause I was like I could
die at this, literally. – ‘Cause you did one
recently for the channel? – Oh yeah that was scary, that was scary. Good fun though, they are good fun. – Yeah. – You could end yourself there and I’m not too sure if they could help. – Because Rampage does seem to be getting more slope styling. Do you think if that’s for the good and if so what would be the direction you’d like the sport to go in? Do you, when you see Brandon
Semenuk tricking everything, are you like stoked or do you want to see Brandon ride the steepest,
gnarliest natural thing? – I, do you know, it’s
quite a tricky subject. – I think it’s a good balance to I think- – Excuse the pun but. – When you see like
Emilio Hansen and stuff going down like Crank Works
and you’re like oh neat, it is super impressive, but then it’s still on massive features. Those guys are hitting like
12 foot kickers and stuff, doing massive gaps, but I think the location
and how exposed you are, so it’s like Rampage and the bikes it is a different sport, really. – It is a different sport but being back in the day it was
all about the crazy line, shoot into big gap, with not much lift. Nowadays there’s quite, it is
trick orientated a little bit. But there is so much you could watch a guy going down a mountain, skidding, which a lot of people would think, they’re not watching the
sport or following the sport, they’re like oh this guy
is just skidding down some crazy ass mountain. But if he does skid, skid, skid and then does a humongous flip
over this great big canyon then everyone’s like whoa this is insane. – [Neil] It’s more tangible. – Exactly so I think
bringing tricks into it makes it more watchable because it’s not mountain
bikers that’ll be watching it, there’s going to be potentially
a lot of other folks. – I remember once being stood in a shop and it was New World Disorder
that was playing on the TV on loop, and it think it was
that massive stuff they do in those cam loops, just
those huge grease loops, absolutely gnarly. I think it was Graham Agassiz
is carving his way down and this guys in the shop was saying, as a consumer of the media he was like, that’s not hard is it
though, I could do that. And I tried to explain
just how steep it was, just getting, you’re constantly
fighting and finding grip. He was like yeah, but it’s basically just
riding down something steep, you just drag the breaks a bit. – That’s why you bring in stunts. – That was, totally. – And people are like well
I could skid down that and then hell no I’m going
to do that flip jump. – Well that’s why I think
Kelly McGarry, that back flip- – Exactly. – Was one of the first
viral things really. And like Gee doing that
step down that was hit and that sort of stuff
was really mind blowing. – Which I think kicked off bringing those slope style deets over. Look Nicolai Rogatkin, that
dude was born in a skate park, he was a BMXer, then he
moved into mountain biking, and now look at him. He’s hitting the slopes of Rampage and doing his stunts
there, which is gnarly, but then I would like to
see a bit of both ya know. Skids into it and gnarly. – I would love to see Brendan score higher if I’m honest with you. – I wouldn’t say that. – I think I’m going back to place common, like with Nicolai at Rampage, that’s where you can see
the difference in the sport. Nicolai is an amazing slope style athlete, he’s literally top three
every time, top five, but first run at Rampage
crashes massively, that legendary cliff fall. And it just shows you the difference in the style of the riding and
how different it actually is. Take one of the guys that won Rampage and take them to the slope style contest, they’d probably just go straight airs, maybe a table and a 360, but it just shows you the vice
versa of how different it is. – Bike handling is different. – For me starting here, my
passion is endurance cycling, and I’ve managed to kind of- – I can see that. – Twist a few arms and kind of wing it, so I could do that sort of content. Do you guys still have that, kind of the burn in your loins
for sending some big jumps or are you kind of more satisfied with? – Definitely 100%. – Yeah, I get super excited
when, just traveling around, and I’m on Google maps and I
see a quarry and I’m like oh! – Geologist Chis. (all laugh) – Yeah I’ll go and check it out ’cause there could be the best step down, or the biggest jump in
there ever, the best line, and it’s just things like that. – The best vault. – Exactly so it’s yeah,
definitely high and red. – I’ve done it yes. I went to do Darkfest. Darkfest, I did, well Darkfest
is one of those fests, there’s massive jumps. This one is out in South Africa, Cape Town and it’s all about big jumps, and I really wanted to hit big jumps, and do some content around it. I do kind of have the
burn to do these things. I would like to go to Rampage, and I would like to, not ride it, but to go there to see what it’s like, to ride some of those shoots and basically do videos
on how to be a freerider. I really want to do more stuff like that. – That sounds super cool, yeah. Because do you think, what’s something I’ve
always found amazing is, an example, somebody that I
think is criminally underrated is someone like Conor MacFarlane. – Yeah. – Who’s just amazing, but
also he’s an enduro rider, he can flat drop pretty much anything, someone like him is kind of
struggling to get into Rampage year in, year out. – Yeah. – Do you think that
the way that we kind of because I’m sure if you
guys were to make a video on freeride, you know doing it, it would be absolutely fantastic and it would be really, really
well received throughout. I have no doubts about that. But do you think there’s kind
of, in the upper echelon, there perhaps isn’t enough
room for all these top riders? – I think so. There’s, how many go into it, 20. – Not that many yeah. – And they have this thing
called proving grounds, that you have to prove
yourself to get a wild card to go in and actually do Rampage. There’s a lot there, there’s like, that’s a whole event in itself. Those people want to do that. Yeah, it’ just it’s really
hard to be at the top. – Yeah I think the video
submission thing they used to do a few years back, was probably just as, maybe even better than proving grounds because you’ve got some of those guys that are some amazing riders out there, especially in these smaller countries, that simply can’t travel
or don’t have the money to go to things like proving grounds, or sponsors to send them there, But I think if you just
submitted a video, an edit, although it might take multiple
shots to get line dialed, it would show your potential and I think that’s something
that’s a lot more achievable by a lot more people. – I guess it’s probably
the double edged sword of the progression in the sport. It seems like Gwen
Waterman’s on that first one and I believe he actually
crashed on the way down. I’m pretty sure they just
turned up with a husky box, and few beers and some
sandwiches, (all laugh) some casks in jeans and were like, you’ve got a huge array of riders. You’ve also got a lot of racers that, that wasn’t their sole income so I imagine that they
probably aren’t a bit flexible in terms of travel et cetera. But it certainly changed a lot and so people’s sort of impressions of what the sport should be. But I guess for me when I see
those really talented riders that don’t get a spot, I always think, oof,
they’re so good though. – It’s a shame to see and I think a reserve list is always good because a lot of people get injured, like a few people have got
injured the lead up to it, practicing. – Benito, Cunito, I’ve
forgotten how to say it, Spanish guy, Gee Alton’s
out so he’s the next one in. Emil Johansson he’s in. – [Neil] And Antoine Bizet as well? – Antoine Bizet. – Yeah.
– He broke his arm didn’t he. – He broke his arm, yep. – I think that gives
Emil his space actually. – Okay and Emil is a
full, well he’s insane. – [Neil] Should we start the
hashtag GMBN for Rampage? (Chris laughs) Get you boys over there? Careful now. – I’ll be part of someone’s bike team. (Chris and Neil laugh) – Perfect. But Rampage, for those that don’t know, is on in just a few short weeks and it’s going to be
really, really exciting. Thank you very much for your time guys. – No thank you very much. – And your thoughts and feelings and it’s been really interesting
to get those insights. – Thanks a lot. – As always guys thanks for listening. Don’t forget to like and subscribe and you can check this
out on any of your kind of podcast listening services
of choice, Spotify et cetera. It’s all on there. Thank you very much and
we’ll see you next time.

32 thoughts on “Talking Freeride With Blake Samson & Chris Smith | The GMBN Podcast Ep. 23

  1. Will you post normal videos on mondays as well? I really could not care less about podcasts and I just skip mondays. on the channel :/

  2. and gee probably cant run for rampage… it could be a good different environment for atherton bikes. it survived dh, hardline and hopefully rampage.

  3. 00:36 How Chris and Blake got into Freeriding
    04:15 Risk Vs Reward
    15:38 Injuries
    22:22 Transition into fatherhood
    25:50 Is Freeride dead?
    27:34 Getting a front cover
    31:44 Tricks vs gnarly lines at Rampage

  4. Blake talking about his family really hit home, being almost a year into fatherhood myself.

    I had to take a big step back and look at the things I was doing, wasnt really an option dislocating my shoulder every other weekend, whether it rugby or clocking a tree. Crazy that your responsibilities as a father come before your own self preservation.

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