Grant ‘Chopper’ Fielder is British to the core. A dirt jumping, slopestyling freerider, he’s been at the forefront of the UK scene for what seems like forever. A long-time member of the Kona Clump team, he’s competed on the international circuit for many years against some of the sport’s most respected names, including those from the freeriding Mecca of Canada.
That's where his sponsors, Kona, are from, but compared to a hardcore Canadian freerider Chopper has a slightly mellower time riding his bike. In between hitting the skate park and exploring local ride spots, he fishes and behaves in a typically British manner. Darts in the pub, pint in hand… You know the kind of thing.
Of course, the difference in terrain has something to do with it. Canada has miles of wilderness with steep mountains, hardcore trails and animals that can kill you. Bears fish for leaping salmon in the rocky rivers. The south of England, on the other hand, has lots of pubs separated by skate parks, dirt jump spots, quarries, hills and mellow streams. No dangerous animals, aside from the odd football hooligan. And you’re more likely to see shopping trolleys in the water than rocks. Perfect for a spot of riding, a bit of trout fishing and a round of golf followed by a cup of tea. All of which Chopper enjoys.
Rather than go out for all-day epic rides in big country, he’s more likely to turn up at one spot in the morning and another in the afternoon, having had a bit of lunch in between. There’s a place near Lymington that’s seen lots of Chopper action over the years. It’s a sandy bowl, so it’s easy to build all sorts of dirt jumps, and its edges have good drop-offs.
An hour away are the quarries of Somerset and their endless hucking potential. In between is Salisbury, with its chalky drop-offs and gap jumps. On the trail front his site of the moment is Rogate, with its well built tracks satisfying his need to spend some time on a bigger bike. All add up to give him the ability to deal with whatever the international slopestyle comps can throw at him.
Chopper also manages to fit his other passion, fishing, into his schedule. “I love the complete contrast with mountain biking,” he says. “It’s really relaxing. I don’t like to ride every day – it can make me a bit stale. Fishing gives me an opportunity to completely shut off and recharge.”
It’s something he picked up from his dad, who was also a keen angler. And living in Hampshire doesn’t hurt. The county is home of the rivers Test and Itchen, chalk streams perfect for fly fishing, so it was a hobby he was exposed to from an early age. Fly, lure, coarse, beach… Chopper’s tried every type of fishing going, but mostly sticks to the first two.
It’s similar to doing different types of riding on different types of bike – it depends on what mood you’re in, what equipment you’ve got and what the terrain is, but it’s all good fun. While Chopper’s pretty good at fishing, he’s damn great at mountain biking. Watching him rip the trails at Rogate you can tell that if he devoted enough time to downhilling then he’d be decent at it. In fact, he’s a natural on any sort of bike.
It’s obvious he’s as comfortable on his big rig Kona as he is on his hardtail, cross-country or slopestyle rides. And he loves having a go on all of them. “My main competition bike is the short travel Kona Bass. I can ride anything on that,” he says. “It can be a bit short for some of the bigger stuff, but it’s a good compromise. You can lock it out so it feels like you’re dirt jumping, but you can also switch it to full-sus to do some freeriding. It’s all I need for most slopestyle comps.”
But lately he’s been spending much more time on the Kona Stinky Deluxe, which offers advantages at his favourite riding locations. For example, the big bike allows him to take massive drops in his stride at Salisbury. And at Rogate it lets him play the part of the downhill racer, hitting stuff harder and faster than he would on the Bass. “I’m aiming to do some bigger mountain events this coming season so I’m spending a lot more time on the Stinky, which I’ll need if I can qualify for the Rampage,” he explains.
He’s hoping to ride the Red Bull-sponsored challenge this year: “It’s the ultimate freeride competition,” he admits. “That’s proper freeriding.” Chopper has progressed from dirt jumping to slopestyle and is now heading towards full-on, big-huck, balls-to-the-wall freeriding, which he reckons is a natural progression.
But it’s not all play and no work. Chopper gives talks and demos at schools, both on his own and as part of the Super Schools programme. This keeps him pretty busy and he fits in as many as he can. “When I was at school we’d always get some bloke coming in and giving an inspirational talk and I couldn’t relate to a lot of them,” he says. “But everyone has a bike and I always get a really positive response.”
On top of that he’s ambassador for Southampton Street Sport, which involves doing more talks and demos for the council. And he’s the rider representing Europe on the Freeride Mountain Bike (FMB) World Tour, helping to make it run smoothly. “It’s a massive thing for freeriders now,” he says. “Riders are starting to go to bed early rather than partying. Everyone’s taking it a lot more seriously. We don’t want to be seen as the junkies of the sport – we want to appear as professional as the other disciplines”.
Through Super Schools he’s also now part of athlete Jamie Baulch’s Definitive Sports Management group, and is currently driving around in an extremely smart Jaguar as part of the deal. Not bad for someone who rides a bike for a living!