Getting to know Greg Watts

Photos by Long Nguyen

Greg Watts is no newcomer when it comes to mountain bike flicks. While his recent project with Mongoose Bikes and photographer, Long Nguyen got us pumped up, we realized he’s been around so long, the younger generation may not be hip to Greg’s many accolades over the years. We decided to take the groms to school and let Greg share what he’s been up to, where he’s been and where he’s going.

TLW: First let’s start with the biggest change in your program… Congrats on the baby! What’s life like as a father? Has it changed your outlook on things and where mountain biking fits in?

Greg Watts: Being a dad is pretty crazy. A few months ago, all I really had to feed and wipe was myself! Haha. It has been so awesome watching her grow though. She’s already so much more animated.
If anything, having a baby has made me focus more on biking. I found ways to prioritize my time. I wake up at 5:30 now, instead of 8 and it has made me put more emphasis on the time I do have on the bike. I may only have an hour or so to ride in an afternoon, but I make it count.

TLW: So what was this project all about? What were you trying to share or show to the viewers?

GW: This project was just a quick last minute decision, but I think it came out pretty good. My original plan was to do an edit where I build my own trail on steroids somewhere in Reno, and do sort of a Slopestyle trail bike edit. Flip whips and truck driver combos on a 27.5 trail bike. I thought that would be epic! But having a pregnant wife at home to take care of, I quickly ran out of time and asked Woodward Tahoe if I could film an edit on their new MTB trails. I helped build them with Alpine Bike Parks, so I don’t consider it poaching!

TLW: You’ve always been an active rider in the scene and someone other pros are often riding or digging with. Despite that, you’re not always in the spotlight or making the rounds on the circuit. How would you label your current career in the MTB world?

GW: Well, I’m definitely golfing the back 9, but I’m still having a lot of fun riding. I used to love being in the spotlight and being the guy everyone tried to beat, but it got old. The pressure that comes along with the spotlight is too much to handle sometimes. I found myself not being able to turn it off. I would stay up all night just thinking of new tricks or ways to improve at the next comp. I’d crash 6 or 7 times in a row sometimes just trying to pull a new trick. Pain didn’t matter and broken bones were just a stoplight in my path. That isn’t how anyone should live because I never let myself enjoy it. Looking back at my reply, it sounds a lot like biking was my crack.

Nowadays, I have a broader job description. I still go to a couple contests a year, but I am transitioning into being more of a media exposure type of rider. I am currently working on a six episode web series for 2018 which is shaping up to be so rad. It’ll basically be a huge road trip with a bunch of my MTB legend friends. I also help some of my sponsors with developing and testing product, give them advice on potential new riders and basically serve as a brand ambassador.

TLW: Has it been a tough transition to go from constant traveling, competing and video shoots to your current program?

GW: The transition has been pretty easy. Once I made the decision to step away from competing at every contest, I found myself enjoying the places I went more. I sleep better, and I’m able to enjoy the sport I originally fell in love with, rather than dread it. I’m not making as much money as when I’d take home prize checks every weekend, but I wasn’t getting rich in the first place. I’m still able to pay my bills and I’m happier. Traveling constantly will drain the life out of you.

TLW: Looking back over your career so far, what has been your proudest moment?

GW: In the past, I would say winning Crankworx. It is easily the highlight of my career, but I’m most proud of being able to come back from my neck injury. It was a tough one, and it fucked with my head for so long. Years! I am just proud of myself for not giving up because the vast majority would just quit, and even fewer would still be competitive. I think I got 6th at Crankworx France 6 months later, which was my first comp back. I try to play it off because I never lost function of my body, but I came very close to dying. One millimeter away, to be exact, from becoming a total vegetable.

Greg Watts tuckin the ski jump Greg Watts poppin' the rock garden Greg Watts rollin' the Waterfall

TLW: Looking forward on your future, what are you most excited about doing?

GW: I’m really looking forward to riding! Last year was an off year for me career wise. For the first time in my life, I did normal people things. I got married to the love of my life and had a baby! Tanya’s pregnancy wasn’t the smoothest for her so I spent some time taking care of her and the family. People take those things for granted, but it is next to impossible to have a traditional home life while maintaining this sort of career. I am really excited to get re-focused on riding and getting back to my roots. I have some new tricks in the works and I enjoy every time I ride whether its jumping or on a trail. Now that there’s no pressure, I remember why I do it. I look forward to watching my daughter grow. Teaching her how to ride a bike is going to be awesome. I am looking forward to spending time with my wife as well.

TLW: What’s your plan for the 2018 season?

GW: My plan is to still go to some of the Crankworx events to compete in Speed & Style and pump track. I love Speed & Style because it blends my slopestyle career with my original love of Dual Slalom. I also want to do a couple of dirt jump and slopestyle comps that are convenient for me. We need more comps in the States!

My main focus will be the web series I have in the works. I’m working on getting it funded right now, but it is looking really good. Lone Wolf Productions (no relation to Loam Wolf) is on board to film it and I have a bunch of high profile riders on the guest list. Going to places like Bend, Santa Cruz, Highland Bike Park and Utah will be a great time and I think the content will be a fun and unique view on the scenes in those areas.

TLW: You were a big part of the Santa Cruz/Aptos riding scene, and even had your own spot with former roommate Tyler McCaul, Deer Camp. How has the transition been after moving to Reno?

GW: I will always miss the scene we had in Santa Cruz. Every type of riding was at our fingertips. Sadly, all good things come to an end and with the demolition of Post Office, I think some of the scene died with it. Santa Cruz is an awesome place, but it’s not possible as an adult to live there unless you’re a doctor or something. My neighbor was actually a doctor and still paid rent because he couldn’t afford a mortgage.

Reno is an awesome place to ride too. I have some jumps in my yard that keep me busy and some rad shuttle trails near me. It’s a little more difficult in the winter with the colder weather, but I still manage to ride Woodward Tahoe at least once a week.

TLW: You definitely brought the Aptos work ethic with you to Reno and had a pretty awesome jump line at the new property. Sadly the brutal winter looked like it flooded your line. How has the rebuild been going? Any major changes with your second start?

GW: Yeah the storms last winter pretty much wiped my jumps out. The flood was about 4 feet high in the yard. It swept a lot of the dirt away. I have since rebuilt one of the lines even better. I needed to fix a couple things anyways, so a new start forced me to make those changes. Simple tweaks with spacing on the jumps made them flow way better, but it took a long time to rebuild since I had a lot of other projects in the works. This year, I will be ready with tarps and a badass water pump so I’m hoping to keep them in riding shape through the winter.

Greg Watts flood damaged yard line
Greg Watts flood damaged yard line
Greg Watts fix yard line
Greg Watts fix yard line

TLW: What do you miss most about Santa Cruz?

GW: I miss the accessibility of riding in Santa Cruz as well as ocean fishing. In Reno, the riding spots are more spaced out, so it takes more effort. I knew everyone that rode in Santa Cruz too, so it was easy to find a riding buddy.

TLW: What do you like most about Reno?

GW: Reno is awesome because the people here aren’t all up in your business constantly. In Santa Cruz, you couldn’t touch a shovel to the dirt without someone complaining. There is a ton more open space here, and people generally don’t care what you do. My mortgage is less than what my rent was in Santa Cruz too!

TLW: When you’re not mountain biking or digging, what is your favorite thing to do?

GW: I like to fish whenever I get a chance. It calms me down waiting for a bite. Fishing is decent in Reno, but I needed to completely change my set up and techniques. I’m still learning. I also like to ride moto although I only get out a few times a year. Lately I have been enjoying some hikes with my wife and newborn.

TLW: Tech or flow?

GW: Tech. Flow is nice, but it gets boring and I always liked smashing rock gardens. The steeper the better.

TLW: Pizza or burritos?

GW: Burritos. Californian at heart!

TLW: Favorite trick?

GW: Flip-super-seater.

TLW: You’ve got to pick one last place to ride before the end of the world. Where is it and with who?

GW: Post Office with the original crew!

Greg Watts flipping out in Woodward

Greg’s Mongoose Fireball Spec Breakdown

Frame: Mongoose Fireball
Fork: RST Stitch set at 100mm
Tires: Maxxis Ikon 2.2 (26″)
Wheels: Novatec Factor 326c
Brakes: Shimano Zee front and rear
Cranks: Saint 165mm
Pedals: Deity Tmac
Seat: Frisco DJ I beam
Stem/Bars: Deity Cavity 50mm/ Blacklabel 38mm rise
Grips: Sensus Lite
Bashguard: Gamut p20
Crank stopper: Custom gamut guide converted

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