I discovered Travis Gardner on Instagram in the spring of 2020 and was immediately impressed with his street trials skills. He also seemed like a pretty cool dude, though I’ve never had the opportunity to meet Travis in person (at least not yet) since he’s located in Los Angeles, CA and I’m on the opposite side of the US in Connecticut. As I started compiling my list of trials riders to interview, Travis was one of the first that came to mind. The number of “expert” street trials riders from the US that I’ve found online (or in person) is not all that big; Travis stood out as an obvious choice for an interview.

I really enjoyed hearing what Travis had to say about his experiences and thoughts on trials. Definitely some good stuff in there, as well as some good stories and great advice. Enjoy!

How long have you been riding bike trials?

Not a terribly long time in total I guess. I kinda learned how to hop on my back tire in my teens watching Hans Rey and a little “here and there” bouncing around on small features but DH mountain bike racing was pretty much all I was focused on at that age. I did try one trials comp at the Mammoth Mountain national in 97 (I think 97) in the sport category but don’t remember placing. I remember it being a fun time but nerves and an extreme lack of experience made it a struggle for me. I remember a lot of dabs haha. After retiring in my early 20’s from racing and then going to school I was off of bikes for almost 15 years. Only in my late 30’s I got back in to riding and it’s been about the last 4 years (2019-2023).

How did you discover bike trials and how did you get started?

I first learned about it in the mid 90’s from an old video with Hans Rey and Libor Karas. I was completely enamored with the way those two rode. I tried my best to copy them but that short progress was quickly overshadowed by the growing DH scene and guys like Shawn Palmer, John Tomac, Missy Giove & Miles Rockwell were who I started to look up to. And around 15 is pretty much where my downhill career started and trials kind of disappeared for me.

How would you define/describe “bike trials” in your own words to someone who never heard of it?

For someone who’s never heard of it, the easiest way I’ve explained it is “parkour” on a bike haha.

What type of bike trials riding do you prefer (style, obstacle types, moves, solo/group, etc.) and where do you like to ride?

I kinda prefer all of it honestly. Street is mostly what I ride and I really appreciate how tough natural terrain can be but it’s probably the least of what I ride. Living in LA there’s not a lot of natural stuff around but I do love me some clean concrete edges and smooth man made surfaces haha.

And I love group rides cause it really helps me with my motivation but I don’t seem to score many and riding solo is what 99% of my rides are.

Why do you ride bike trials and what keeps you motivated to keep riding?

I guess besides just always having a love for bikes, riding is what helps with my fitness and sanity. Ski racing in the winter and riding the national DH circuit in the summer (also the World Championships to finish) took a heavy toll on my body. Before I was 30 I already had 3 surgeries on my right knee, multiple broken bones and I can’t tell you how many x-rays. Riding helps keeps me in check and gets my joints moving and somewhat limbered up. At 28 I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis and have to take a weekly injection to help keep my symptoms at bay. Getting on my bike and moving around can be tough some days but if I didn’t ride my arthritis would set in even faster. So I guess in a way, part of my motivation to ride is just to maintain joint health and mobility.

What’s the bike trials scene like near you? Are there other riders? Group rides? Comps?

The trials scene is very small. I’ve luckily found a few buddies who ride street bikes but getting in rides together is usually tough just cause of everyone’s schedules or that we don’t live in the same cities. And I think the last comps that were ever in California was before NORBA went belly up. They used to have them at every national pre-2000’s and they were amazing to watch!

How do you manage fear when doing scary lines?

I probably don’t do the most scary lines but when I do find myself in that situation, focus and commitment are key. And committing is probably most important because the instant you hold back or second guess yourself is where failure and injury come into play. And in trials, accidents happen FAST!

Who are your bike trials ‘heroes’ and/or influences?

I’d have to say Hans & Libor because that’s who I first knew of but after a friend sent me “Way back home” with Danny Mac it blew my mind! Then from there it quickly became the trio of Danny, Ali Clarkson & Duncan Shaw for street. And comp guys have been Jack Carthy & Charlie Rolls but most recently Samuel Hlavaty. That guy is wildly impressive!

What are your perspectives on the trials biking scene in general and in the US in particular?

In general I don’t feel like I have the greatest perspective to gauge the trials scene. There was a big chunk of my life that I just completely left the bike industry in my 20’s for school and to start my career. I do feel like with social media some amazing riding content is being put out and it has given a different perspective that can be seen by so many around the world almost instantly.

And a bit funny compared to back in the day when you had to see it on a VHS tape or catch it in between races if you had time. And unfortunately when I was racing, trials & comps definitely didn’t get as much coverage as they should have, at least in the US.

What would you like to see happening in the US with respect to bike trials?

It would be really cool to see more trials events being put on. Maybe independently or if national races started to include them as a regular event again. And it’s cool to see bike parks gaining popularity and it’d be nice to see some skill/balance areas being added to some of those base areas of the parks/mountain. But competitions like the Bentonville Bike Fest, which I haven’t yet had the chance to attend looks amazing. I hope more events like that gain more traction and maybe we’ll see similar comps popping up in other states eventually.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start bike trials or has just started?

Try to always keep it fun! Trials can be frustrating because developing your balance and bike handling skills takes time. Keeping it fun keeps you coming back for more and that’s what it should be about. And don’t get stuck in a box. Look at the different types and styles of riding there are. Watching other riders will help you develop your own style and allows you to study those more challenging moves you may be working your way up to.

Any interesting / funny / crazy bike trials stories or experiences you can share?

A couple of painful ones haha.

The first time I tried to hop a “rail to rail” and chickened out on the gap. I pushed the bike out in front of me as I jumped from the 1st rail but hung on to the bars. The front tire of the bike kicked off the 2nd rail and back at me. I basically punched myself in the face (with my hands clinched to the bars) and made my nose bleed out of both nostrils haha. That stung a bit.

And the first time I tried an “up to front” on wall my front tire skipped over after a few tries. When I immediately tried to jump off the bike it hung up on the wall (the bike) and somehow I got a certain sensitive man part caught, folded and smashed between my shorts and stem. Needless to say I had to wait a couple weeks for new skin to develop and every shower I took was pretty intense haha.

Anything else about bike trials that you’d like to share?

I wish I would have known about street trials over a decade ago and that I didn’t take so much time off my bike. But I’m so glad that I did find my way back to trials and I will be riding until my body won’t let me!

How do people find you online? (i.e., YouTube, web, social media, etc.)

IG @travisgardnerfit

What other US bike trials rider(s) should I interview here?

The first two that come to mind are Nathaniel Moore & Seth Stevens. Young up and coming guys who still have plenty of time to develop what they’re honestly already pretty good at. So it’ll be cool to see where those guys are in a few more years.


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