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Sailing with gravity

Q+A with extreme mountain biker Mike Kinrade




Q+A with extreme mountain biker Mike Kinrade

By Emily Stifler Managing Editor
Photos by Nick Diamond Contributor

Mike Kinrade rides his bike down mountain faces like he’s creating a piece of artwork.

Watch a clip on YouTube, and you’ll see the Nelson, British Columbia native charging down a 40-degree slope at 30 miles an hour, arcing fluid turns and taking air as if on snow.

But it’s not only an artform: With time spent scoping potential lines, this type of riding is a finely tuned combination of risk, physics, athleticism and intuition.

“You’re literally dropping into the unknown,” says Kinrade, 32. “You don’t know how the dirt and ground will react to your tires or braking, or how to corner in it. It’s not like snow where it’s a consistent texture – every 10 feet is different, and you have to adapt quickly.

“Once you’ve ridden a line and get into the zone though, it’s a lot more free and fluid.”

Riding 150-200 days a year, Kinrade describes his downhill bike – an Evil Bikes Undead with Manitou suspension – as an extension of his body.

While many of his favorite big lines are in British Columbia, others, like those featured in the Redbull Media House-sponsored film, Where the Trail Ends, were first descents in far-off places like the Salta Province of Argentina.


After more than 15 years in the bike scene, Kinrade sees himself as an ambassador for the sport.

“I’ve started rediscovering what it’s about, what I’m stoked on and what keeps me coming back. For me it’s more about getting out riding with friends. I like to promote that part of the sport.”

Q+A with Kinrade

What was your first bike?

When I was 14, I got a Nishiki Expedition two sizes too big. It was black with purple paint splashed on it, and purple bar ends and toe clips – the ugliest bike ever. Mountain biking was new in Nelson, and the trails were super bumpy and rowdy.

Tell me about your family.

My dad’s a Kootenay boy, and my mom’s originally from Ontario. One of my brothers is a hockey player in Switzerland, and the other is an engineer in Vancouver. We’re very different: the hockey jock, the quiet nerdy engineer, and me, the black sheep.

Describe your sport.

I love looking for new places to ride, going for first descents of peaks.v

How did you get into that?

Byron Grey and Darren Butler showed me these big mountain lines in Invermere 12 years ago, and I was like, ‘What the f*** are you guys talking about?’ Watching Darren ride, I knew this was the future.

What do you like about it?

I love the lifestyle. It’s in the mountains, with friends. I love ripping through the rowdiest, roughest terrain, doing [30 miles an hour] where you wouldn’t feel comfortable walking. It’s exhilarating to go where a mountain bike has never touched the ground and be the first to do it.

How do you train?

I ride as much as possible, and I work out. My personal trainer, a paraplegic [paralyzed in a biking accident] runs a militia-style program called Sasquatch Performance Training. You’re not allowed to talk, ask questions or stop. Basically, he tries to kill you. It’s the same way on a bike: You get on and hammer, and every element is trying to kill you.

Tell me about your crash at the Red Bull Rampage.

A gust of wind blew me back on my bike, and I cased a jump. As I flipped over, my head hit the ground and I knocked myself out… It wasn’t actually that bad. I train to learn how to fall and come back from injuries. The biggest thing that sucks is it takes time off your bike.

Who inspires you?

My grandfather was an old mountain man who moved from Ontario and fell in love with the mountains. He taught me to respect nature and life. He’s been my biggest influence.

As far as riding goes, Dylan Tremblay. We grew up together, and he got me into biking when I was 14. [Later], he would just show up at cross-country races with his glasses on and his shoes untied and win. He was a freak, basically.

I’ve heard you’re planning a mountain biking event at Baldface Lodge, outside of Nelson.

It’ll be something like the Red Bull Ultra Natural or the Rampage – a 2,500-vertical foot, gnarly freestyle backcountry competition. It would be next summer or the year after.

How would you describe risk?

Risk is getting out of your comfort zone, [and whether you’re ready to deal with it]. Over time, you can tolerate more. The more confident you are, the more you minimize it.

What is your relationship with gravity?

It’s a constant fight and struggle, a love-hate relationship. Sometimes it schools you. [Downhill mountain biking is] like sailing with gravity – except there’s only one direction, so you just have to change the angles.

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