Interview: Steve Peat

UK downhill racer on the Santa Cruz Syndicate and those elusive rainbow stripes

Sheffield’s finest, Steve Peat, is arguably the most famous downhill mountain bike racer on the planet, his never say die approach to racing means he is certainly one of the most respected riders on the downhill racing scene.

His career highlights to date include winning three world cup championships, with 14 individual world cup wins under his belt, seven British championships and two European championships.  

Three times a runner up in the World Championships, those elusive rainbow stripes are all that is left for him to add to his haul of medals and honours.     

Remarkably, for the World’s most famous downhill racer, Steve’s first foray into racing was in a cross country race as a 19 year old back in 1992. He won, but he soon moved on to downhill, learning his trade with close friends Jason McRoy and Rob Warner on fully rigid hardtails, proving that you can go fast even without suspension.

Picked up by Team Saracen in 1995, he progressed through Team MBUK, GT and then Orange – with whom he had his first taste of global success winning the downhill world cup in 2002 and 2004.

In 2006 he joined the Santa Cruz Syndicate and won the world cup again in 2006 as well.  Dogged by injuries in 2007, he still managed to compete at the top, and is looking forward to going hell for leather again in 2008 with Nathan Rennie and new teammates, Josh Bryceland and Greg Minaar.    

He talks to Marcus Farley about how he got started in racing, his new colleagues in the Santa Cruz Syndicate and those elusive rainbow stripes.

How did you get started in racing?

I have ridden bikes from a really young age (three years old). I had two older brothers that I used to chase around my local estate on their BMX bikes, but I never got into racing BMX. In my last few years at school, I ditched playing football and got a mountain bike and used to ride around at night for a few years.  When I got a job in plumbing, my boss decided one day he was going to get into mountain bikes and basically dragged me along to a local club and then on to a race with him.  I won my first novice cross country race and the rest is history as they say.

What tips can you give kids who are desperate to break into racing?

You don’t need to have the best bike or the latest kit to get into racing.  Go along on what you have been riding for a while, and see if you like it first.  If things go well, you can slowly work up to better bikes and kit.  But most of all enjoy what you have and make sure it’s fun.

What are your hopes for the 2008 DH season?

To keep on winning races!

Do you see Greg Minaar as a threat or are you glad he’s on board with you and Nathan Rennie?

Greg is a good friend of mine, who I share lines and race talk with anyway, so I can only see it making us both faster now we are on the same team.  Myself, Rennie, Greg and Josh (Bryceland) together make a special group of people who will be able to play off each other and hopefully learn lots of things from one another.

How glad are you to have your protégé, Josh Bryceland on the Santa Cruz Syndicate?

Stoked.  Josh and myself have been riding together for a long time now, too, so to see him progress and grow in to a mature, faster racer means a lot to me. So, to have him alongside me on the Syndicate makes it that much more special.

Josh Bryceland, Steve's protégé at Santa Cruz

You’re an accomplished dirt jumper, any reason you don’t ride 4X?

Mainly due to schedule at the races, and a lot of the tracks they use in 4X really favour guys who can just get a good gate, but can’t ride the rest of the track that well. I don’t really have time to do gates all week long when I have to prepare myself for downhill racing.

Do you give any feedback to the Santa Cruz design team to make your bike go any faster? And how is your bike set up for each race?

We work with the guys in the factory to try and get the best set ups for our bikes and to make them as fast as possible.  But I would say that most of how we set them up at the races is done by feel, and working closely with the guys from RockShox/ SRAM on Suspension. We have a great program from SRAM called Black Box and the service we receive is second to none.

What’s your training regime on and off the bike?

Drink beer and have fun...ha ha!

You’re a great advocate for the trail building at Wharncliffe woods in Sheffield.  Do you get stuck in with the building and how important are your local trails to you?  

I have been riding in Wharncliffe for about seventeen years now, so the trails mean a lot to me.  They are some of the best/most technical cross country trails I have ridden anywhere in the world, and will do so for a long time to come.  I have helped a little bit with the building, but while I am still racing week in week out I don’t have much time to get stuck in properly.

What motivates you to try and win?

Previous wins motivate me. It’s a hard thing to give up once you have tasted success before, that feeling of cracking the champagne stood on the top step is something that’s hard not to like.

Do you have a specific preparation schedule before a race?

Having raced for so many years now, I know what I need to do to make me feel good, it may not work for other people but it does for me.  I have a few little things I do but nothing special or crazy.  Mostly, I like to try and keep relaxed and have fun.  Joking around with friends helps take my mind away from it until I get in the start hut.  

 Who do you most admire on the downhill scene?

Any of the top guys.  I know what it takes for them to be where they are, and I respect that. I also admire racers who stay true to themselves and don’t get caught up in the winning ways.

How did it feel having your seat snap off at Fort William in the Mountain Bike World Championships 2007? Are you cursed never to win the rainbow stripes?

I wouldn’t say cursed, but I definitely feel I have been racing against the odds over the years. Fort William was a little different for me last season, as I had only just got off my crutches after the ankle injury, and I didn’t feel that good on my bike.  So, to have the seat come off just hammered the nail into the coffin for me.  I was glad to come away from there with my ankle still ok, really.

Can you tell us about Royal Racing clothing - what part do you play in the company? 

Royal is a UK brand that myself and Nick Bayliss started.  It has gone from strength to strength over the years and is now in really good hands with the guys at 661. I still have a say in lots of things, and Nick is still the main designer.  We are truly a rider owned company that puts riding feedback straight into our clothing.  

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