Interview: Rae Gandolf, Pro Downhiller

I’m trying to think if I know of any other Ohioian who has raced a World Cup qualifier, and apart from Rae Gandolf, I can’t.  If you consider downhilling a niche sport, then women’s downhill is an even more exclusive niche.  Indeed, God has wired very, very few women to go fast down mountains on bikes.  Rae is one of the few.

Rae Gandolf not in her home state of Ohio.

How did an outdoor enthusiast like yourself land in Zanesville, Ohio?

Vet school brought me to Ohio, then I did a residency at the Wilds.  During the residency, I got into mountain biking and met local MTB sensei Heath Boedeker out on the Wilds trails.

What’s your day job?

I work as a contract veterinarian, currently at an animal shelter and periodically doing odd jobs in zoo and wildlife medicine.

Rae sleeping on the job. (That is 800 lbs of pure awesome right there!)

How long have you been riding?  How did you get into downhill?

I started actually mountain biking in 2001. Heath brought me to Snowshoe to check out the last NORBA race there in 2005, since a friend was riding short track. We happened to catch the pro women DH and I was blown away. The seed of addiction had been officially planted, and I talked Heath into trying DH with me in 2006. I got my first DH specific bike in 2009.

The ratio of male to female humans is something like 51:49.  But in downhill it’s about 99:1.  Do you think it takes a special kind of…rare…woman to enjoy this sport?

I think it just takes the desire to do it and that little bit of unique crazy that we all share in common.  Maybe the little bit of crazy is more common in men, but I constantly hear men call women crazy, so that can’t be it! I suppose that female fear suppressing adrenaline junkies who don’t mind sweating and bruising and occasionally breaking aren’t super common.

Signature braided action!

In your career you’ve had to overcome some pretty tough injuries, but you seem to come back stronger.  Can you tell us about that?

In retrospect,  I realize that I was pushing to get better too hard and too fast to make up for lost time since I found the sport relatively late in life. In doing so, I actually delayed my progress by being injured probably at least half the time I’ve been downhilling!  But each injury made me more determined to do whatever I could during that time to be ready to come back- ie when it was a broken knee (that was the worst), I worked on my upper body strength.  I learned a lot about injuries, surgery, physical therapy, and recovery, and I think my medical background helped me to get through it quite a bit. That said, it took the whole 2009 season to recover from 2008.  It was mentally pretty tough at times and I’d just about had it when finally I started to see some months of being injury free.

For the life of me I can't figure out why Rae has had so many injuries!?

What do you consider your greatest biking accomplishments? 

I’d say completing La Ruta (a nearly 300 mile in 3 days race across Costa Rica) was a big one, particularly since I hadn’t even been riding for 2 years.  For downhill, my biggest accomplishment was probably the participating in the Windham World Cup this year. I figured I’d be sh*tting myself practicing with those guys, but I actually had big fun and conquered a 30 foot double and felt like I sort of belonged there- even though I had back luck for my qualifying run and didn’t make the main race.

La Ruta is no cake walk. Few have the drive to do something this crazy.

This year you took a shot at your first World Cup.  What’s the difference competing at that level?

The most notable differences to me were that firstly, all the lines wearing in were good ones! Secondly, there were some big features, and you are pretty much expected to hit them.  Other than that, it really wasn’t that much different from the Pro GRTs I’ve done or Nationals in Sol Vista- since in those I’m practicing with some of the best riders around. It’s both intimidating and inspiring at the same time. There was actually more time to practice at the world cup and I when I asked someone if I could follow them through something, I could do so with more confidence that they weren’t gonna lead me to disaster! (I made the mistake of following someone random before at the US Open!).

Qualifying at the Windham World Cup.

You’ve ridden all around the world, what has been your best riding experience?

This is tough.  My initial reaction is the Big Mtn Adventures tour we took in Europe this year- that one wins for incredibly scenic and fun trails in amazing countries.  For overall experience, I have to say the  SantaCruz Hellride back in 2006 where I did an insanely tough ride following Marla Streb all around Downieville California and won a Nomad for finishing. Although the ride was largely grueling, SantaCruz Bikes made me feel like a superstar and Marla commented on my ability to ride downhill and encouraged me.  The Nomad was the bike that got me into downhill.  For super warm and awesome bike fuzzies, I have to say that some of the riding I’ve done at Ray’s in our very own Cleveland Ohio is on top!- Namely those couple times of year when I get to ride in a lady train with a bunch of chicks who shred. It’s crazy how we feed off each other and do some of our best riding that way.

Rae and some rocket scientist. If you're over 30, then you should know who!

I always like to ask the people I interview what ideas they have to improve and grow the sport in our area.  What are your thoughts?

I think that Shaums March has the right idea with the International Mountain Bike Instruction Certification (IMIC).  Using what I’ve learned though clinics I’ve taken and now the instruction certification I received has been so rewarding.  I think that if more and more people start to see MTB instruction as a mainstay, like it is in tennis and other sports, it would help it to expand the sport everywhere.  Riders come out of lessons inspired and motivated.  It’s also a great way to help spread the word about how and why to get involved with local trails and clubs. We also need more beginner trails- thats what I hear from people all the time.  The problem is that those of us most excited about mountain biking want to build trails that excite us. Perhaps that’s a place to get our park partners more involved in helping to build, since those trails are easier to create.

UPDATE: We forgot to add that Rae now offers a coaching clinic, check it out at:

Rae's riding style is solid and fast. She carries good speed where others back off.

What do you think would attract more women to mountain biking?  Any advice to give to the fairer sex?

Personally, I had something inside compelling me to mountain bike before I even knew what it was about. For people who don’t have that, I think more miles of beginner friendly trails would attract more women- where they can check it out without worrying that they won’t make it through the trail and they can enjoy being outside and riding without worrying about the terrain every second. My advice would be #1- Don’t feel bad to walk your bike, everyone does it! #2 Don’t be afraid to fall- everyone falls! And often it doesn’t even hurt-it’s just fun and funny and makes you feel like a kid again, so laugh and hope that someone else saw it so they can get a good chuckle, too. #3 Stick with it for a few month and even if you can just ride every 2 weeks you will improve exponentially and it will be a lot more fun.

Proof that Rae does live and race in Ohio!

Finally, most of the downhill world got to experience Heath’s marriage proposal to you, can you tell us that story?  And what was running through you mind at the time!

I’ll start by saying that Heath isn’t very good at surprising me but he sure got me on this one! I thought we were going to watch the men’s qualifying at the Windam World Cup but for some reason Heath was walking me toward this Waffle Hut. I got annoyed because he wouldn’t tell me what he was doing. Then I got really annoyed when he told me he got me an interview with Rob Warner- it was my immediate reaction because I wasn’t prepared at all for it and I didn’t want to sounds like an idiot! So I almost refused, but then quickly realized it was such a lucky opportunity I couldn’t possibly pass up. They beckoned us into the hut and Rob Warner asked my name, immediately breaking the ice with his response “Like the wizard!” Then he asked some questions and I’m pretty sure I sounded like an idiot. But next, he held the mic over to Heath – that’s when my mind started spinning- Heath sweetly pointed out that I threatened to leave him if I ever got faster than him and that I was gaining on him so he decided to propose. I’ve never been so dumbfounded and speechless and I think most people who heard it remember only the first part of my response, which was “You’ve got to be sh*tting me!.” Rob and his crew seemed to like that response a great deal. If you keep listening, you hear me say “Yah”(as in yes!). Then there’s the ring and people from across the world are blowing up our phones and facebook! Crazy! Just like I imagined when I was a little girl.


And here’s some space to give a shout out to your sponsors.  (Authors note: I’d personally like to thank Sierra Nevada since I have more than once partaken in their generous support!)

Yah, we’ve much appreciated their support for our local MTB team for several years now. It’s fun to be able to promote and share such a great company and beer with people who appreciate it. I can’t say enough good things about KENDA, either.  Their tires hold up and have treated me really well. I’ve been a Nevegal fan for years and my trial with the King of Traction mud tires ignited a passion when they made the sloppy conditions at Blue Mountain super fun!

Last but most, I wouldn’t have made it this far without HWB Cycling. I’ve been lucky to have a gifted mechanic (and MTB dealer) and skilled, supportive rider at my side.


Interview with Todd Hamilton, Chainsmoke Racing

One more interview while it’s still cold outside to round out the who’s who in the Ohio downhill scene. It’s been a long winter, and if you’re like me you’ve spent some time on the Chainsmoke forum making plans for the upcoming year with fellow speed freaks from the area. But now that the sun is out and it’s time to log off the internet and login to some dirty fast trails, and when you do you’ll undoubtedly run into someone from the Chainsmoke team. Here’s an interview with their team manager, Todd Hamilton:

Tell us about Todd, how long you’ve been riding, what inspires you.

Well I actually got back into biking 4 years ago by winning a Gary Fisher Cake
3. Rode cross country for the first year through out Ohio. Then I heard about
Horn’s Hill through the SpokeJunkies. Bob Bevard was putting a call out to help
build DH trails in Newark, I had to go check it out. After helping out and building
trails I was soon hooked. Bought my first DH bike soon after that and it has been
all downhill from there. The camaraderie and competitiveness in the sport is what
keeps me coming back for more. Seeing the youth numbers grow every year is
outstanding too, it’s all about growing the sport I love.

You’re the current head honcho of the Chainsmoke Racing team, which has long
been Ohio’s foremost gravity squad. I remember back when I was at OSU, going
over to Mark Van Meter’s house for a party and him showing off his brand new
thermoplastic GT Lobo, and it seems like Chainsmoke has been around ever
since. Can you give us a nutshell summary of the history of the team and where
you came in?

Mark VanMeter decided to start a forum and a race team in 2008, it was an open
call so I signed up. I had no idea what I was getting into as I had never raced
before but Mark super supportive. Mark and I became good friends as a result
and I became his right hand man with the team helping out with the website and
what nots. In 2009, Mark decided to take his life in a different direction and got
out of riding. I didn’t want the team to go away so with a ton of help from Justin
Martincic and others on the team we moved on. It’s been getting bigger and
better every year.

What is it about Chainsmoke Racing that has given it staying power? Do you
guys have a particular ethos?

It started out as a bunch of friends that would hang out and ride together
anyway, so why not start a team and get a few deals to help riders get the gear
that they need that otherwise couldn’t. It’s grown from that to a legit race team.
Granted it’s not all about results for us but about having a good time every
weekend we go to a race. We’re all still a bunch of friends that would hang out,
have a few beers, and ride our bikes without it being race day.

So who is on the team for 2011, and what races are you guys hitting up?

Coming in from last season: Steve Pervis, Doug Tate, Richard Garyantes, Brian
Benini, Wes Plyer, Ken Martin, Brad Smith, Mike Dart, Justin Martincic, and
myself. New to the team this year are: Roxy Racioppo, Ninja Bob Safrit, Trevyn

U21 Team:
Phillip Steele, Eric Hickman, Ross Ciminelli

We plan to do most of the Gravity East Series and Snowshoe Race Series
A few of the racers are trying to get to the US Open and/or the Nationals. And as
many races as we can get to in between

Any shout outs to your sponsors?

A big thanks to Specialized Bikes, Elka Suspension, Marrow Racing
Components, Twenty6, Snitgers Bike Store, SixSixOne, ONEIndustries,
American Classic Wheels, Smith Optics, Azonic/O’Neal, Schwalbe Tires, Cyclist
Connection, and Legends Brewing Company. A few have been on board from
the start and a few are new to us this season, needless to say we are stoked to
have all these great sponsors supporting us in the 2011 season.

I always like to ask what ideas people have for the Ohio gravity scene, what it
needs and how to grow it, so take your best shot!

With downhill growing so quickly everyday, we really need bike shops that
support the gravity side of riding. Without that you don’t have the everyday rider
seeing the big bikes when they walk into a shop to strike interest. We have a
great network of trails built and maintained by some of Ohios finest, if we could
keep that ball rolling it will defiantly put Ohio on the DH map.

Interview with Mike C / 331 Promotions

Mike Colonna along with four other guys run 331 Racing and Promotions, which is a cornerstone of mountain bike racing in Ohio. You might think 331 is all about spandex and Sidis, but Mike is actually equal opportunity shredder and loves a bit of downhill. And if you’ve been to Vulture’s Knob lately, you’ll have seen just how serious 331 is about gravity riding.

Tell us about Mike C, how long you’ve been riding and how you became a certified mountain bike nut.

Well, I started riding mountain bikes in the late 80’s and began taking it a bit more seriously in the early 90’s. Probably from about 1994 to present, mountain biking has pretty much defined my lifestyle. I entered my first XC race in 1996 at the inaugural Race at Camp Manatoc, which ironically, is now our (331 Promotions) biggest event of the year! I was there racing in the early days of Vulture’s Knob, Mickey’s Mountain Challenge and Tom Hayes’s Velo-Z. I’ll still enter the occasional XC or Endurance race and I even did my first ever DH race this past season. But for the most part, riding for fun, promoting, building and advocacy consume the majority of my time in the sport today.

Regarding my passion for mountain biking- From the early days of riding and racing, and still to this day, I’ve enjoyed all aspects of the mountain bike lifestyle. From the people I’ve met and the life long friendships that have followed, to the epic rides and remote locations traveled and all the parties and good times enjoyed after long days of riding with the crew. From the simple beauty of the bicycle itself, to the technical marvels that they’ve become. Even down to bicycle maintenance (yes, I love to build, work on and meticulously maintain high-end bikes, it’s a bit of an obsession). Not to mention the challenges and competition that this great sport has to offer, and the fit and healthy lifestyle it supports. It’s something that can be enjoyed by the whole family, young and old. I plan on doing this, at some level, for the rest of my life! So I suppose if you add it all up, I could be considered a “certified mountain bike nut”.

If you won an all expenses paid trip and could ride anywhere for one day, where would it be and what bike would you take? (You can only take one!)

That’s a good question! You know, mountain biking originated here in the states, and there are countless mecca’s of singletrack here that I’d love to ride. And I know Europe has a ton of epic riding to offer as well. But I think BC, Canada would be the place. I haven’t been there yet, but it looks to me like the best combination of rugged terrain, flowy features and challenging ups and downs, that make it so appealing. As for the bike, It would have to be the Yeti ASR7. It’s a big travel bike with surprisingly well-mannered climbing capabilities, especially when things get steep and nasty. And when the trail points downward, it just devours everything in it’s path.

I heard you did the US Open last year even though you were pretty new to proper downhill racing and had barely ridden an 8″ bike. What was that like? And have you got plans to race DH in 2011?

That was a pretty crazy experience…my first ever DH race! I’ve been curious to give downhill racing a try for a long time now. Over the years, I’ve always been confident in my technical riding abilities, so I thought DH racing might come easily for me. Man, did I have a lot to learn! Things like taking the time to walk and study the track to help dial in your numerous line options. And finding that the fastest way through the rock gardens, is to gap big sections of trail with perfectly timed, yet sometimes blind, leaps of faith. Then there are the drastically higher speeds you’re carrying into turns, jumps and obstacles. These were all challenges, that on the bike, I had never really faced before. All in all, it was a great time! I had a lot of fun hanging with, and learning from a fast group of Ohio riders. I even made the finals and finished mid-pack on race day, so I was pretty stoked!

We’ll have to see about racing in 2011. I plan on doing the local DH races (V-Knob, Horns, Mohican). As well as the Windham WC and the US Open again. But beyond that, I think if I’m traveling, it’s going to be more about kicking back and enjoying the ride with few good friends on epic terrain.

So you and the guys at 331 Promotions have taken over operations at Vulture’s Knob. How is that going? It must be a load of work!

Things down at Vultures Knob are going very well! And yes, it has been a load of work for everyone involved. But all of us are very passionate about this, we do it because we love it! What a lot of people don’t realize is that Vulture’s Knob is one of only a few, privately owned mountain bike destinations, that are open to the public year round. And our goal is to make sure that we can continue to enjoy this place for many years to come.

We’ve made a ton of changes and improvements during our first 3 years of operation there. And we plan to continually add and improve the trails and features to enhance the riding experience for all abilities. Some of our visions and ideas don’t become a reality as fast as we’d like them to, but we are definitely making progress. And we haven’t had to do it alone. We’ve been extremely lucky and very grateful for all of the fine folks who have lent a hand in making all of this happen. From all of the volunteers that help out on race days and trail days. To those who have had input with course design and trail construction. As well as all of our gracious sponsors and supporters and all the open riders who donate cash when they come down for a ride. Then there’s the handful of people that keep up with general maintenance, mowing and trimming, etc. And let’s not forget about the racers that throw it all out there on race day! None of this would be possible without everybody involved!

We welcome everyone to come out and enjoy a ride, a hike, a race. You can challenge yourself on one of our many trail features, camp out with friends, compete against the areas best mountain bikers on race day, break a sweat building a new trail section, even enjoy your first mountain bike ride with your son or daughter. This place truly exists for everyone to respect and enjoy.

It was a blast to shape Vulture’s first DH line last year, and you guys really pulled out the stops when you brought the digger in, so it looks like you guys have some big plans for us adrenaline addicts at the Knob. Can you give us a hint of what’s on the horizon?

Yes, it was a blast Aaron, and I’d like to thank you for your input and efforts on this project. As you know, we are really working hard to create legitimate gravity assisted trails and features down at the Knob. We are well on our way to completing the first phase of this trail system and hope to have it open for riding by the end of April. This first trail starts at the shale pit and will finish at the oil well down near McAfee Road. It includes several berms, rollers and jumps as well as a nice rock garden and a little creek gap. We’ve been trying to get down there and put the finishing touches on it for the last several weeks, but as you know, mother nature has not cooperated. Once the season gets underway, we plan to move forward with the second phase and would hope to have it dialed in by mid-July. The second phase would include the completion of two additional lines that would offer more advanced features, such as drops and gap jumps.

After that, the sky’s the limit, really. We have plans for a slalom course, dirt jumps, Super-D and even huge slope-style features! All of this will come with time, money and effort.

So if we’ve got a bit of time, money, or effort, what’s the best way to get in touch?

We schedule several trail days throughout the year, typically in the spring and late fall. We advertise these dig days on our website, Facebook page and through Gamesnake. We like to think that when you come out and help, you’re not only giving back to the sport you love, but you’ll also receive some good ole’ trail karma!

Finally, rumor is that there is going to be some DH racing of some sort at the Knob, starting this spring – give us the scoop!

Yep, we’re going to take a shot at putting a couple of downhill races on the schedule this year. Our first will be held on Sunday May 1st, which will coincide with our first XC race of the season on April 30th. So there will be a festival of sorts going on all weekend with bike demos, kids races, camping, the Muddy Paws Bonus race and of course, our big party with bonfire, DJ and frosty beverages on Saturday night. We’ll hold the second DH race on Sunday July 17th with the idea of having a second course completed and utilized to create our Double Down event. Each racer will get to take one run on two slightly different tracks and we’ll combine the times from each run for their overall score. It’s going to be a lot of fun and shouldn’t be missed!

Interview – Dave the Builder

Here’s the second in the series of folks that “git er dun” down at Horn’s Hill.  Dave Huff is quite handy shaping earth with a couple of tons of metal around him.  But he’s also got big plans for 2011 as new team manager of the Horn’s Hill Collective.  Get the low down below.

Dave the Builder

Tell us a bit about Dave, how long you’ve been riding, your background, and what makes you tick.

Well I haven’t been riding too long at all. I got my first DH rig in 2009. I actually grew up riding and racing motorcycles from around the age of 5. As far as what makes me tick… I’d have to say that trail building is up there.  There’s nothing better than seeing people bomb your trails with a huge smile on their face.

You had a big part in the creation of Horn’s Hill, what role did you play there?

I actually met Bob Bevard through one of my moto buddies. I basically eves-dropped on their conversation and told him that if he needed a machine operator that I would help out.  I had no biking background at all but had built numerous MX tracks in the past.  I was the man in charge of the machine operation at Horn’s.

So that’s where your handle Dave the Builder came from then.  What do you like better, building or riding?

Man that’s a tough one.  I’m going to have to say that building trails is amazing and a great workout so I’d say building. If you threw racing in the mix I’d go with racing because there is nothing that replaces that feeling of having a perfect run top to bottom.

Dave the Builder

You’ve taken over the Horn’s Hill Collective race team for 2011, what changes are you making and what is your vision for the team?

Yeah, Bob Bevard started the team and managed it the past two years and he just wanted to step down and focus on some other things ya know.   The main changes I made were to separate the team into two levels.  I mainly did this to be able to provide the guys that were on the PRO or CAT1 level a better level of support with our sponsors.  I wanted to be able to give back to the riders that focus on an entire series or lay it on the line for the team.  I also found a company in Columbus named Heath Care Logistics that donated a 2000 E350 Cargo Van to us for $1!  I’m in the process of converting it to a full on race vehicle to haul our bikes and work out of at the races. That was huge!

My biggest vision for the team is to make our team a well known name in the Downhill scene and let people know that these dudes from Ohio can throw down.

So who is on the team, and what races are you focusing on?

Man we have some fast guys on the team this year.  There are like 20 riders this year!  We picked up Josh Clark, Shawn Metcalf, Vance Nonno, Davis Nonno and Blanton Unger.  Also picked up a Pro level Slopestyle rider from KY named David Thacker that has a ton of BMX and 4X experience and Conrad Scouton also living in KY that will be a CAT 1 DH racer this year with us.  Returning from last year are Harrison Reynolds, Scott Lowery, Dan Watts, Scott Metz, Bob Bevard, Bill Lamar, Rick Burchfield, Jake Hostettler, Jamie Johnson, Chuck Kales, Tommy Agler, Connor Smith and myself.  We basically have a guy in nearly ever class to offer our sponsors so that’s huge for getting our name out there.  We are going to focus on the Gravity East Series and Snowshoe Powerade Series this year as well as hitting up the US Open and Nationals @ Beech MTN.  There will be some random races we are going to as well.

There’s some strong talent there!  And it’s more than just Horn’s Hill locals.  Sponsors?

Yep there are some super fast guys for sure. We look to be on that top step a lot this year.  Our sponsors have been awesome this year.  We have Kenda Tires661ONE IndustriesDivision 26 clothingAzonic hardware,Backcountry.comHuck N and Stone Brewing Company helping us out this year.  Mongoose is also helping me and a few others on the team out which is a big reason for why I can continue to race so I wanted to give them a shout out.

Sounds like a borderline professional production!  It’s great to see this for the sport in Ohio.  Where do you see gravity riding headed for Ohio, and how do you think we should get there?

Man I’m doing my best to give the riders what they need to go fast.  Our pits will look legit and I know we’ll have some results to back it up.  Yeah, when we get to the races in Vermont and New Hampshire it always turns heads when they announce that we’re from Ohio.

I’d say the sky’s the limit for gravity riding in Ohio.  The biggest thing is making sure the folks with the ideas and passion find the riders to help them get their ideas in the dirt so people can shred it.  The biggest obstacle to trail building is finding the helpers to make it a reality. How’s that quote go?  Ideas are nothing without execution.  That’s so true in trail building.

Any personal goals for the coming season?

Well I won my class last year in the Gravity East Series so I’m moving up and it’s going to be tough.  I just want to have another great season and try to stay injury free.  I think if I do that and stay consistent I can get another class championships this year.  I’d also like to see an Ohio Gravity Series come to fruition this year.

Anyone that has ridden Horn’s I’m sure sends their thanks to you for your work there, and I know the Horn’s Hill Collective is looking forward to next season.  Keep up the good work man!

Thanks Aaron.  I’ll do my best.  See you on the trail.

Interview – Big Drop Bob

I thought it would be cool to do some interviews with some of the main characters on Ohio’s downhill scene.  So I’ll start things off with Bob Bevard, the man behind Horn’s Hill.

Bob, you’re a pretty legendary figure in downhill circles around here. Tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your background?

I raced dirt bikes for about twelve years but quit doing so in my mid-thirties. A former student of mine presuaded me to try mountain biking. I was skeptical that it would be much fun. That was 16 years ago. Did cross country for 11 years before the lure of downhill grabbed my attention five years ago. It’s very much like the excitement of racing motorcycles. I still do cross country and road biking.

They call you Big Drop Bob, how did that name come about?

When I got my first DH bike, I was horrible at dropping. I built a drop in my back yard that was adjustable. That winter when I was in Arizona riding, I did a very big drop and my buddy filmed it. It was crazy big for my skill level at the time, but I was successful. I showed the footage to Mark VanMeter (the originator of Chainsmoke downhill website) and he nicknamed me Big Drop Bob as my name on his website. I still like dropping.

You’re one of the main men behind Ohio’s most successful new gravity scene at Horns Hill, can you give us a brief history of Horns?

Horn’s is unique. I went up there on two different occasions thinking cross country trails, but the terrain was too steep. The second time, I had just begun riding downhill and I realized that it would be great for downhill. I tried contacting the city about building there, but there was big political battle going on over that park at the time.

I rented a mini-excuvator and built a couple berms and table tops in my woods, but I don’t have a huge amount of vertical. I said at the time, “this is just my prototype for building dh trails at Horn’s Hill.” People laughed…”yeah right.”

A year later, the parks director went to the Bike Doctor looking for someone to build mountain biking trails there. Sean knew that I was interested in building there so he called me. How it all came together is actually pretty amazing. Dave Huff wasn’t even riding bikes, but he happened to be coming over to visit his motorcycle buddy right when he and I were walking Horn’s to get ideas about building there. Huff told me he could run an excuvator and he’d be willing to help since he wasn’t working at the time. He wasn’t just blowing smoke! He put in amazing number of hours up there with me building trails, just for the fun of it. And then he got the bug…. Anyway, thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours have gone into building Horn’s. It’s amazing how much time and money have been donated to make it all work out. Thanks to everyone!

So what does 2011 hold for Horns?

We made some nice improvements last year. Trail four is coming together nicely and trail three got some big re-works. We were able to raise about $600 last year (actually rather disappointing) so we don’t have the money to do anything extensive. We will probably just stick with improving and maintaining what’s there. There is still the need to make a sustainable erosion control design for where trail one and two converge at the end and I’m sure Rick will be improving trail four some more.

Do you have any personal goals for 2011?

I turn 60 in three months. It’s a little like when the odometer on your car rolls over. You have to wonder whether to go for another hundred thousand or trade it in on a new one. I feel that I could do downhill another ten years, the good Lord willing, or I could back it down a notch and not race as much as last year (13 races). Either way, I’ll keep riding road, cross country and some downhill. I benched 235 at the end of my pyramid two days ago so my strength is still decent. I guess I’m still trying to figure this one out. I love having a reason to stay in shape and downhill sure provides that.

What about the gravity scene in Ohio, do you have any ideas to progress things and make it grow?

I think location and sustainability are the keys. You have to have a location that is close to a fairly large population. That’s one of the Keys to Horn’s. The paved access road is also key. Mohican is awesome because it has natural downhill. Rock requires no maintenance where slopestyle requires a considerable amount of maintenance. Always having some easy trails is important. When I’m in Phoenix I downhill on South Mountain. It is awesome downhill and the city is the fifth largest in the U.S. yet it’s a very small group that rides it. I think it’s too challenging for many people. We have a tendency to always go bigger and more challenging, but we have to remember the beginners and intermediate riders. We need to combine fun days with some light competition.

I’d personally like to thank Bob for the time and commitment he has to promoting our sport through events like the Ohio Gravity Fest and especially for his work at Horn’s. Thanks Bob!