AUSTIN “BUBBA” WARREN
PRESENTED BY STAN’S NOTUBES
Interview & Photos by Chris Wellhausen
AUSTIN “BUBBA” WARREN
PRESENTED BY STAN’S NOTUBES
Interview & Photos by Chris Wellhausen
Professional athletes have been adapting to a new way of working these days. While travel to events and shoots is basically a way of life for them, that is just not how things have been for the last few months. Not accustomed to being home for long periods, athletes have been forced to be creative closer to home, tapping back into their local resources which brought them up in their careers. One of the nicest mountain bikers I’ve ever met is Austin “Bubba” Warren. Recently, I reconnected with him on his local trails. Bubba is 26yrs young. He’s born, raised, & currently residing in Alpine, California which just East of San Diego at the base of the Cleveland National Forest. For San Diego county it is a prime location for having several choices of riding bikes. Since 2010 he’s been a pro mountain biker focused specifically on downhill and dual slalom racing. His sponsors include EVIL, 100%, Five Ten, Nezium, Stan’s, Maxima, Fasthouse, Onyx, PNG.
WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT BIKE QUIVER?
Oh man so many good choices. I have setups for many types of riding.
- Wreckoning – Downhill bike
- Offering – Everyday all-around trail riding bike
- Following – Smoother but jumpy trails kind of bike
- Calling – Dual slalom race machine
- Faction II – Pumptrack, dirtjump bike
- Chamios Hagar – gravel/ road bike
HOW’D YOU GET INTO PROFESSIONAL MOUNTAIN BIKING? WHAT DROVE YOU TO PURSUE IT? DID YOU IMMEDIATELY GET INTO DOWNHILL? WAS IT BMX INFLUENCED? WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST BREAKS TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE?
Being a professional mountain biker is something you don’t hear much about. As a resident of SoCal, I’ve grown up around the industry. Everyone around here is very action sports oriented. My brother Cody has been one of my biggest influences. He was a multi-time downhill national champion, so chasing him around really just evolved into me racing with him. Honestly, I loved every second of it and getting to spend time with my brother was the best part. He led me through every step and got me most of the sponsors I have today. He taught and pushed me passed my limits and let me believe I can do it no matter what. He is amazing, and I can’t thank him enough.
When I first started out, it was all BMX dirt jumps, riding the streets with all my friends, building jumps, and being outside. I didn’t really race as a kid, but I started around 13 when I got my first downhill bike. The Fontana race series is where it all started. It was weird for sure coming from moto, BMX, and then changing it up with mountain biking, but I knew it was a good fit. Right off the bat I loved the feeling of winning races, being competitive, and having a drive to get better. With that came crashes and hard work. Many slams, bruises, and broken bones. But I honestly think that is what pushed me to get to where I am today.
WHAT SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE RIDING CAREER HIGHLIGHTS?
- Winning both Downhill and Dual Slalom at the 2017 Mammoth Kamakazi Games.
- Winning the 2019 US Open Dual Slalom.
- Being on multiple Crankworx Podiums.
- Finishing 23rd in my first ever world cup.
- Building my own top-level tracks.
DO YOU ONLY RIDE BIKES TO PREPARE FOR YOUR RACES? DO YOU CROSS TRAIN? HOW?
There are so many things to prepare for a race. I am a one man show for getting all my bikes ready to travel, to do whatever it takes to get to the races. It helps having a girlfriend that does the same races so it’s a huge benefit and love it so much. Cross training is important, I incorporate a lot of different types of training; trail running, hiking, road biking, riding and racing dirt bikes, fishing, and surfing. Each activity offers benefits in balance, strength and reaction time. I like to switch it up a lot, to keep me on my toes and to not always be doing the same thing.
ARE YOU THE TYPE OF RIDER WHO CONSTANTLY WORKS ON HIS BIKE, SUSPENSION SETTINGS, AND EQUIPMENT OR DO YOU SET IT UP AND JUST RIDE IT EVERYWHERE ‘TIL SOMETHING FEELS WEIRD?
I am the type of rider that is consistently making sure my bike is on point. I am a race mechanic and a full-time racer. I always go through my bikes and change parts out as often as needed. Trail bikes are a little easier as you just hop on those bikes but when at the race weekends it is full throttle. Full race nerd.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY MAJOR INJURIES?
My worst accidents have come from riding dirt bikes. Over the years I have broken both wrists, a femur, and an ankle. I’ve also had a lot of bruised ribs too. Hitting my head a few times does a toll on the body. During the healing process, I’ve found benefits from ointments like CBD & Arnica. I’ve learned a lot from other athletes that have been injured. One of the key things to try to do, even if limited, is to move around. No matter how it feels, you cannot just sit on the couch and wait for the injuries to go away. You have to go through pain to get through uncomfortable situations. That will eventually benefit you…once healing begins, if possible, you gotta push yourself, get that blood circulation going, and get the motivation back. It is kind of a tough love approach. Taking on injury is part of the game, but I’m doing what I love and having fun with it. I am not going to be mad about that.
WHAT’S YOUR STATE OF MIND IN THE START GATE?
I tend not to worry about others and only about my race. Anything can happen. I tell myself that I will crush it, get myself hyped! But at the same time, I try to stay relaxed and focus on being calm. There was a heart rate monitor at our race in Rotorua. When I looked back, it said my heart rate was low just before the race and then it ramped up so fast; like from 85 to 200 within 10-seconds. To stay calm, I take huge breaths. The deepest you can go and the let it all go out. It helps by avoiding an overthinking mind. It keeps you relaxed and focused on the right things.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR RIDING FASTER?
Where you look is super important. Never look down. You need to look forward, to gauge what’s coming. Look where you want to go, and the bike will put you there. Another good tip is to make sure you brake before the corner and not in the corner. This will allow you to ride through with good exit speed, rather than lose speed by braking in the corner.
A small tip, but one to keep in mind, is to know the right gear to be in and pay attention to where your pedals are. To be prepared to climb up the trail, you need to shift into the right gear as you arrive. When cornering you want your pedal to be in the right positions.
WITH 2020 BEING A YEAR OF CHALLENGES, GLOBALLY, HOW HAVE YOU BEST DEALT WITH THE HURDLES?
This year’s challenges have been excruciating; full of ups and downs, positives and negatives. It’s been pretty much a game of hurry up and wait, haha. Back in March, we were kicking off our season in Rotorua, New Zealand for Crankworx. When we got home, our season came to a screeching halt. I was feeling really great on the bike and had 2020 lined up great with sponsors. Due to COVID-19, all our races were canceled. Then the travel ban has been pretty tough when our job is to travel to amazing places and race. It’s a bummer but I’ve been looking on the brighter side of things. It’s nice to be home, safe, and just have a great time with family and friends. I took a different direction and went back to my old self. I started to work at home; making MTB happen more from here with trail maintenance, spending more time building my track and riding at my friend Kyle Strait’s house. I’ve kept a pretty solid focus on what makes us better through utilizing local resources. I also took an opportunity to work with my family at their metal fabrication business. That is pretty fun, and I find myself always doing something new with so many projects. As usual, I keep riding every day to stay up on my fitness. Luckily, I had my private spots to ride during the majority of the COVID lockdown, so it was not an issue. But the way things have been globally, it has taken a toll on all the competitors.
HOW HAVE YOUR SPONSORS BEEN DURING THIS CRAZY YEAR WHERE EVENTS AND COMPETITIONS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED?
Man, the sponsors have actually been really amazing. There are a few that have been a little tough but other than that it has been great. It’s really lame the events have been canceled and who knows what’s to come but it has allowed for great times at home and other great times with friends. I cannot complain about that.
WHEN SELECTING BRANDS YOU WANT TO WORK WITH, OR HOPEFULLY GET SPONSORED BY, HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT MAKING YOUR SELECTIONS? FOR EXAMPLE, ALTHOUGH YOU ARE A SMOOTH RIDER, YOU SEND IT BIG, AND OCCASIONALLY LAND THOSE NASTY WHIPS WITH THAT BACK END OUT BESIDE YOU. HAVING TRUST IN YOUR EQUIPMENT, LIKE THOSE STAN’S WHEELS, MUST PLAY A PART WHEN YOU ARE SENDING OUT RESUMES RIGHT?
When it comes to parts and equipment, I want the best for sure. I have been lucky enough to have great sponsors and it is tough to choose. I have always looked for great people and companies that like to have fun. All my sponsors are such great people and do not really look for the whole “get great results and you will only benefit from that.” They look for the connections you build and how you represent the brand.
WAS HAVING THE ABILITY TO DO MORE FREERIDING THIS YEAR AN OPPORTUNITY THAT CHANGED YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THE SPORT AT ALL? YOU HAVE BEEN SO COMPETITION FOCUSED AND SOMETIMES THAT CAN DRAG YOU AWAY FROM THE CORE OF THE SPORT, THE FUN. DID THAT GIVE YOU A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON THE SPORT AND MAKE YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME FREERIDING IN THE FUTURE?
For sure, it gave me a chance to reflect on so many things. It gave huge idea of what you want to do outside of racing. I enjoy racing so much. The vibe, the camaraderie, it is what I love and that is why it all began. Riding and racing have kept me connected with my friends. Being forced not to travel as much has made me reflect on what stokes me out most. For once we’ve had a break in our typical schedule of back to back events. It has given us time to think what and how we want do things from now on. Taking a break has also given more time to focus on health.
WHAT SHOULD A RIDER FOCUS ON DURING THEIR NEXT RIDE?
Breathing at the right times. It’s key to building your endurance. Don’t be too hunched over when pedaling uphill. Try sitting straight up. It’ll help open your lungs. Make sure to take full breathes, breathe through your nose. Seat height is really important too. You want your legs to be just before full extended. Also angle your seat a little bit more down in the front to give more comfort and protect your man parts.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE AS TO WHAT THE BEST PIECE OF EQUIPMENT IS TO UPGRADE ON YOUR BIKE?
Tires. Those are your contact points. I’d say suspension and tires are most important. Those are the things hitting the ground and keep you on track. It will consistently let you know how the bike will handle various terrain. An example would be cornering. If you’ve got that dialed, then I’d say brakes. Good brakes react instantaneous. A cheap brake just won’t perform.
YOU DID HAVE A CHANCE TO GET OUT OF SOCAL FOR SOME EVENTS & A SPONSOR SHOOT ONCE RESTRICTIONS LIGHTENED UP; A ROAD TRIP AND THEN A TRIP THAT GOT YOU BACK ON A PLANE. HOW WERE YOUR FEELINGS DURING THOSE TRAVELS?
The events I eventually got to go to were amazing. In late June I went to Silver Mountain and, Tamarack in Idaho for the Downhill National Series. It was great to be back in my element and do what I really know. My mindset was focused on doing my job, where I am comfortable and that makes me happy. In August, I flew up to Washington for a shoot with EVIL bikes that will support a new bike launch. The forests of the Northwest are super green and beautiful. The dirt was so good. The style of trails up there are epic. The steepness of the trail often has to incorporate the roots of trees and big boulders. Definitely a different than the looseness on the trails in So Cal. The overall experience was all time. It certainly was not as much travel as I normally do. Parts of the travel experience still had a weird vibe to them which I understand why. When we drove to that race it wasn’t bad cause you don’t deal with that many people and can stay within your own space. Flying to Washington honestly wasn’t bad either. The airports were clean. It was evident that they are taking every precaution they can take to make it safe. All in all, it was a great time and can’t wait to get out more again soon.
HAVE YOU NOTICED MORE MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL USAGE DURING THE COVID?
Oh yeah, so many more people. People you wouldn’t normally see. Maybe ones who should not have been on the trails they were on, but it’s good to see people out there. It’s my job to inspire people to get out and enjoy bikes. The bike communities are growing which makes the bike companies grow. Often people are so busy with life, but, then they find biking and it helps them realize the beauty of outdoors, the adventures you can have with your family and friends. There are so many benefits with biking with connecting with nature, and the outdoors.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON EBIKES?
They are great for people who can’t ride as much, who don’t have the most amount of endurance. They also help get some of the older riders out more. For me, it means I get more laps, or get to ride further.
AS WE WERE ALL DESIRING TO GET BACK TO SOME SORT OF NORMALCY AWAY FROM PANDEMIC RESTRICTIONS, THE WESTERN US HAD BEEN STRUCK WITH AN EARLY FIRE SEASON. YOUR HOMETOWN WAS PART OF THESE AND WAS HIT WITH A LARGE FIRE PRETTY CLOSE BY. HOW DID THAT AFFECT YOU AND/OR THOSE YOU KNOW?
Fires in California are a normal as we know in September and October. It’s best to be prepared as best you can for this potential. I feel living here my whole life its normal for just how many people are out and about now and it will just keep happening. I knew a couple people that lost their homes, which is really sad. Our small community gets together and puts in a lot of effort to help with whatever people need. We live in a desert pretty much, a very dry climate, so I see it as just being prepared, especially when the Santa Ana winds pick up during peak Summer days, anything can happen. Luckily for us, the fires a few weeks ago headed another direction so we got lucky with the smoke. We were very fortunate that we could stay home and not be forced to evacuate. I pretty much always trim the trees up 6ft, make a fire break around the yard to prevent damage, and just make sure the yard is a clean as it can be. It’s a very scary thought and is so damaging but with everything bad there will be good.
WOULD YOU SAY THIS YEAR HAS PRESENTED YOU WITH MORE CHALLENGES OR OPPORTUNITIES TO SHINE AND SHOWCASE YOURSELF?
This year’s challenges have been draining for athletes for sure. For myself, I think it has made me realize there is a lot more than just racing and pushing yourself to the max. I really like to ride with new people, help people out and work on our local trails to get more people stoked on what I do for a living and keep it growing. Just keep it real and love what I do. Those are the opportunities I am so grateful for.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO?
I’ve been looking forward to really trying new things out the ordinary for me; being I guess, more spontaneous with my girlfriend, Kialani. So far, we took up surfing and got a blue healer puppy we named Milo. This whole experience has given us time to find what we want. We have realized you can be stuck in a rut and it is hard to get out. I cannot wait to back to racing and being with all my friends from around the world. Luckily, we had a dual slalom race in my home town, at my friend Kyle’s Strait Acres. So much hard work and dedication has gone into building up the track and making this a proper event. This race is for the racers. It showed that we can make our own events and put them on how they really should be.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR NEXT SEASON?
Next year is so up in the air. We all would love to just go into 2021 and start how 2020 started. It was great but that will not happen at this rate. Next year, I plan to stick to the schedule I have every year and race. I plan to do more edits with all my sponsors and hopefully work with some kid’s foundations to bring kids out to the trails. So, there are plans and there will be way more to it but that is all I got now. I am pumped to see really what it brings us.
Thanks Bubba, and good luck in 2021!
Follow Bubba on the social @bubba_warren