OUTLAW BIKE TEAM
Presented by Leatt
Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Patrik Zuest
Every rider could benefit from some form of coaching and development, whether it be a junior rider taking their first steps into the sport, or a rider looking to make a break into the big name international competitions. For many – ourselves included – mountain biking is more than just a sport or a hobby, instead forming a significant base around which many elements of our lives revolve. The lessons you learn through mountain biking can be carried over to life outside of bikes, and Outlaw Bike Team is keen to capitalize on this to develop young shredders into better humans all round. We were very interested to chat with Tyson Henrie, founder of Outlaw Bike Team, to learn more about their operation.
The Loam Wolf (TLW): Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, what made you start this team/program? Is it your first time starting something like this, and what was your goal and the light bulb moment that pushed you to start Outlaw Bike Team?
Tyson Henrie (TH): I am from Utah, born and raised in Orem and now living in Provo. I have been a professional coach for the past 15 years in skiing, biking, and nutrition/fitness. My sister and I started the Sundance Ski Team, now the Arrowhead Ski Team, in 2006. We grew that from 8 athletes to 260 and 50+ coaches. I coached with my sister the first year to get a season pass. I didn’t even like kids at the time, but after having a blast ripping around with some rad kids I was hooked, and it’s been all downhill since then.
At the same time, I also had a job at a local bike shop, and they had a very loose DH team. I got a bike and started racing in the Utah Gravity Series. I did alright and loved it, then got a moto and did that for a bit. Then in 2010/11 I started riding bikes with the ski team kids in the summer as a fun cross-training activity and they showed lots of interest in it. I took Dillon Flinders to his first DH race and my first one back in a few years and noticed that there were more kids racing than before, and most of them were ending up bloody, broken, or in tears after starting, so I figured there had to be a better way to structure training and racing for kids. Between the ski team athletes and noticing a need for coaching at races, that was the genesis of starting a team!
TLW: When you first started how many people were around and how many members do you have now? How long has Outlaw Bike Team been around?
TH: I ran a small group of about 8 riders through training and to some local races for a few years, and then in 2015 Outlaw became official and we started traveling around the country to train and compete. Outlaw has grown to 66 athletes across the country.
TLW: Where is HQ for the Outlaw Team?
TH: I am based out of Utah, as well as most of our athletes. Most of them are in Utah, Salt Lake, and Summit counties. We have 8 athletes in Colorado, 2 in California, 1 in Oregon, and 2 in North Carolina. Our out-of-state athletes meet up with us for camps and races, and I provide workout, nutrition and technique coaching remotely.
TLW: Does the Outlaw Bike Team have a mission, ethos or goal?
TH: Our goal is to develop elite skills on and off the bike. We challenge our athletes to set high, hard goals and to pursue them relentlessly, while gaining life-long skills along the way that will help them be happy, independent humans with indomitable spirits.
TLW: Who can join the team and how do they get involved?
TH: We have various levels of participation:
- Banditos Camps – Local camps in Utah for intermediate riders ages 6+ looking to join the team or gain more skills to improve their overall riding and to find riding buddies.
- Respect The Send (RTS) Team – Intermediate riders ages 8+ that want to pursue some local competitions, find riding buddies, and increase their riding skills to advanced levels and ride any trails they want with confidence.
- Tribe Development – A small group of athletes ages 8+ with the goal of becoming professional riders. Generally Cat 2 or Cat 1 riders that consistently finish on the podium and can ride any trail with confidence. We refine your skills to eventually become a Tribe member. Applications to join the Tribe Devo team are open in early September. Applicants must complete 80% of the requirements from our 3 Pillars.
- The Tribe – Advanced riders ages 12+. Cat 1 or Elite. Aiming for World Cup or Slopestyle /Crankworx/Freeride glory. Must complete all Tribe requirements from the 3 Pillars and be able to pursue a rigorous training and racing schedule year-round.
All team information can be found on our website www.outlawbiketeam.com
TLW: What do you think about the current state of mountain biking as a whole, and mountain bike racing more specifically?
TH: It’s amazing! Biking has exploded, and usually with rapid growth comes negative side effects. Although it can always be better, MTB is in a great spot with industry, municipality, and family support. It’s so cool to see so many people getting into riding bikes from all ages and backgrounds. Unfortunately, Utah is a bit behind on trail and bike park growth, but we hope to change that with some trail projects and overall advocacy for DH riding in the area.
DH racing is exploding as well. With junior categories consistently being the largest at each that I’ve seen, it’s only going to get better. There are so many fast riders in the US. It’s also great to see more race series come online with Downhill Rockies coming back, and the stellar work from NW Cup and Downhill Southeast.
TLW: Where do you think the sport and racing can improve? (don’t hold back)
TH: Oh boy…
Well, coming from a performance aspect and background, I’ll focus on what I know and mainly address how we can dominate elite levels of competition. I firmly believe this focus has a trickle, no, a flooding effect down to the weekend warriors and aspiring pros alike. Aaron Gwin dominating the WC for 6 years got so many kids stoked on riding DH, and now look at our grom divisions across the country.
To simplify it, we can all collaborate, communicate, and plan with a unifying purpose in mind.
Our national governing body (NGB), USAC, needs a complete overhaul of their gravity division, or lack thereof. I believe they have recently taken the first step and hired someone to focus on MTB, which they have not had in a long time. I have outlined a proposal to support elite development for DH riders in the US on a google form to start the conversation. It has to start with a well thought out National DH schedule created and approved by September or October at the latest, allowing for a national points system to be re-established. They can utilize the successful race series already in place and create regional racing for riders to earn national points to qualify for the National DH Series and Championships and then from there, create a legitimate selection pool of athletes based on results and points to go to the Elites. No politics, no last-minute changes, no confusion, no shenanigans.
USAC needs to communicate their plans for Gravity MTB and be open to feedback. Seek out race organizers, club leaders, pro athletes, and bike companies for feedback. I’m even offering to coordinate all of this and help them connect with the community they serve.
Club and coach support. Canada has a ton of MTB and gravity-specific resources for their clubs and coaches to develop athletes, USAC has zero. I’ve had to recreate all of my ski racing material to work for biking. Accredited coach training could be a good thing if done correctly. Club check-ins and support could be huge. Resources on how to start a team, insurance, best practices, job boards, hiring, long-term athlete development. Even just infographics on how a kid could potentially qualify for a World Cup would be helpful.
I received a lot of feedback about USAC and most of it was that we just have to forget them. But I don’t think that’s the case. We need to work with them. Other sports have NGB’s that do all of this, so why can’t MTB?
FMB needs an overhaul as well. We have athletes competing in Slopestyle and that whole thing in the Americas is tough to navigate as well. Unless you have limitless funds to travel around the globe, your chances of earning enough points to qualify for Diamond events is very, very small.
UCI… I’m not sure where to even start. The athlete union is a great idea. Transparency, trust, higher payouts, athlete safety, greater privateer support. I am a fan of the new 2023 WC schedule so far. This is a whole other article though…
No, I’m not a fan of DH in the Olympics in case you were wondering. That’s all.
Bike companies need to collaborate with their customers, race organizers, municipalities, trail builders and teams to build a solid foundation for long term skill development in the US. Work together with multiple companies and help race organizers raise more funds for higher pro payouts and to build new tracks. Work with resorts to make it lucrative to build new trails and host races. Companies have a lot of sway and influence and can use it to develop the sport from the roots.
It would be great to see developmentally appropriate tracks for juniors and even novice adults. I realize there are many challenges to this, but maybe someday we can see races where Junior Cat 2/3 are on a separate track that they can absolutely charge on. When kids (and adults for that matter) are thrown into a gnarly track, training at the same time as Cat 1 riders, it can be very intimidating, dangerous, and doesn’t lead to aggressive riding. Too difficult tracks lead to defensive riding and more crashing. Since most of us travel long distances and pay a lot of money for 1 run, it should be the race organizers goal to help everyone find success at their race and to build confidence and keep them coming back for more. They’ll also progress much faster as well, as opposed to jumping into a situation they may not be entirely ready for and probably end up crashing or doing poorly. The U.S. Open does a great job with this and I believe some Downhill Southeast races do something similar.
There are so many amazing people in our communities building rad things. We can all learn from each other and figure out what works and what doesn’t together. I think that our biggest challenge now is creating a unifying vision that works for our massive country and that can support our ever growing group of ‘pro’s in the making’. Again, that dream affects all riders at all levels with better bikes, gear, trails, and more money in the sport to continue to develop it all.