How Mark Matthews Went from Shy Kid to Outgoing Pro Mountain Biker

MTB Mark Matthews

My name is Mark Matthews and I’m a professional mountain biker and travel blogger from Vancouver Island, BC. This job is 7 days a week and sometimes life feels like one big vacation, but it has all the usual stresses and setbacks of being self-employed. I’m currently at home in Courtenay BC, but packing up and getting ready to head off to Whistler for the week. Over the years, I’ve grown out of my shell, I used to be very shy but these days I come off as very outgoing. I love making new friends and experiences where ever I go!

How and why did you get into mountain biking?

Where I grew up on the West Coast of Canada has endless opportunities for mountain biking, I was always competitive and wanted to be a professional athlete. I pursued ice hockey at a young age but didn’t have the talent or build to make a professional career out of it. In the summers, I got more into riding bikes and jumping them off things with friends. It got to the point where all I wanted to do is ride and no other sports. So when I was 12 or 13, I got myself a BMX dirt jumper and started learning tricks. From BMX I transitioned into mountain biking because it seemed like more fun and there was more people to ride with.

MTB Mark Matthews

Why is mountain biking important for you?

I love the feeling of no thinking, just reacting. Mountain Biking can take me to that place where nothing else in my life matters. It’s the ultimate distraction. Being a very shy high school kid, mountain biking was my outlet. I didn’t feel like I had a proper social circle but I always had my bike and riding friends to meet up with every weekend. I have a natural talent for riding and when I started progressing it was the first time I felt like I was really good at something I loved to do. It has shaped who I am today and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It has not only taught me the importance of hard work to get good at something, but it’s also allowed me to see the world in a way most people don’t get to see. I have travelled the globe on my bike and experienced a connection with the places I travel from a very unique perspective.

MTB Mark Matthews

How do you train and prepare for events/races?

The old 10,000 hours rule. I try to ride everyday, and scare myself a little bit every time I ride. It’s the only way to push yourself. I stay on top of pre and post-ride stretching and workouts. It’s important to keep your body fit. I am not a high performance athlete so a specific training regime is not required.

To prepare for events, I listen to my favourite playlist to get me stoked, make sure my body is feeling in top shape, and flush out any other distractions in my life. Take things one item at a time and stay confident.

What are the hardest parts of mountain biking?

Calculating the risk of major injury is the hardest part of freeride mountain biking at a professional level. The mental road blocks post-injury can be the biggest challenge. Keeping your body strong and the amount of time on your bike to a maximum is the key to fighting this.

MTB Mark Matthews

How do you eat and sleep?

Lots travel can hinder my sleep but I travel quite well and never experience horrible jet leg. As long as I get 5+ hours of sleep, I function quite well. For recovery days, I make sure to sleep in when I can and get at least 8 hours. I don’t follow a strict diet but I eat as healthy as I can on the go even if it is way more expensive. You wouldn’t but regular fuel in a race car. Absolutely zero fast food, lots of servings of veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and mostly a fish-based diet. Barely any other meats. Keep caffeine and alcohol to a minimum. I don’t supplement, real whole foods is the only way to go.

How do you handle injuries and recovery?

Injuries are tough, especially as you get older each year, but the mental game is the biggest part of it. If you can stay focused, stay on top of physiotherapy, and not ride when you should be resting than recovery times are significantly reduced. A healthy diet is key too.

MTB Mark Matthews

What is your best advice people new to mountain biking?

Have fun and do it at your own pace. It looks intimidating, but the groups of people who do it are some of the nicest in the world. Mountain biking is possibly the friendliest extreme sport out there. If you are a total newbie, research your local mountain bike club and find out when group rides are happening. This is an awesome way to break into the scene.

Best advice for people who have been mountain biking for years?

Don’t worry about the latest and greatest products and trends. The industry is constantly changing because it is a business. Spend more time on your bike and less time worrying about the parts that are on it. Also, don’t worry about getting sponsored. Many riders desire this but forget the whole point in having a sponsorship is because you have the influence to sell bikes (you’re essentially a business man). Although, I love my career, it can take some of the passion out of the sport. Live care free and have a rad time riding!

MTB Mark Matthews

How do you balance normal life with training and competitions?

I have a very understanding girlfriend who is supportive of my travels and sometimes is able to join me. Other than that I have no family of children commitments so it’s very easy. In terms of competition planning, contests are not currently on my radar but I spend weeks and even months planning upcoming trips/media projects for sponsors. I often miss out on having a regular group of friends to hang out with when I am at home. Since I travel so often people never think to contact me.

MTB Mark Matthews

What mountain bikes do you prefer?

I currently ride for Knolly Bikes, SR Suntour suspension, and We Are One Composites. All top of the line brands and my local bike shop, Black’s Cycle in Comox, sponsors me and makes sure to keep my bikes in awesome shape.

What has been your best sport purchase below $100, and what other favorite gear do you have?

My Santa Cruz skateboard, bought used off a friend. Skateboarding a huge challenge, which I love about it.

I love my Five Ten shoes, iXS body armour and riding clothing, and local BC company; Ryders Eyewear, makes great products as well.

MTB Mark Matthews

What will the future bring?

Crankworx Whistler is full of competitions for 10 days straight, and I compete in a couple of them. That I coming up for me until August 20th. This happens every summer. Aside from this festival, I rarely compete these days. Instead I adventure travel, story tell, and create exciting video content. Before the end of 2017 I will be travelling to Tibet in October and New Zealand in November. When the off season finally hits in December, I would love to learn how to surf at my local spots on Vancouver Island.

Follow Mark Matthews on his website, Facebook, and Instagram

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