Drew "Big Hops" Fortner doing a rear wheel drop from a wall
Drew dropping in

Tell us a little about yourself (brief background, your profession, etc.)

Hey! my name is Drew Fortner, I’m from Westfield NY. I’m 28 but I do not act my age. I’m essentially a ADHD adrenaline junkie full size toddler that loves to have fun. I come from a big family. I’m the second youngest of 8 kids. We all grew up riding dirtbikes, bicycles, unicycles. Pretty much anything with wheels or a motor. I mainly do residential roofing/framing but I am a little bit of a jack of all trades. Outside of riding I really enjoy learning different skills. Welding, woodworking, building drones, tree work, rock climbing, parkour. I definitely like to be busy.

How did you get the nickname “Big Hops”? What’s the story behind it?

So about 2012-ish I was doing a lot of riding with my BMX friend Josh Buss and we had come up with the idea that we needed nicknames (I know pretty nerdy right?). We called him “Doublebar” because he was super good at barspins and could actually double bar spin. I remember trying to come up with a nickname for myself and I think that’s when he suggested “BigHops” because I was always hopping around in stuff. And also at one point we got in trouble with his parents because I was doing a drop gap off their shed roof to a railroad tie we had placed in the yard. His mom came out and was very concerned about watching me attempt that gap. That was really one of my first “big hops” so it just kinda stuck and I’ve done my best to live up to it ever since 😂

How long have you been riding bike trials? What is your riding level (beginner, intermediate, expert, elite)

I have been riding bicycle trials I think since 2009. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden a competition but I guess I would say my riding level is somewhere between expert and elite.

How did you discover bike trials and how did you get started? What age were you when you started?

Well I grew up riding BMX with all my brothers. We had a backyard full of dirt jumps and a ton of dirtbike trails but I was about 14 when I when I stumbled across some Neil Tunnicliffe videos on YouTube. And they absolutely blew my mind. Later that year is when Danny MacAskill released his Inspired video. I used to watch it everyday. I had no idea what trials was before that but I remember immediately being interested. I had an old 20″ mountain bike that I hack sawed the seat tube off and made it single speed 😂 the bike was a death trap but I enjoyed riding it. I eventually saved up enough money to buy a really old Monty Alp off some guy on Craigslist. The first day I had it, I rode it for like 7 hours straight. My hands were bleeding and it was dark and I just wanted more. It was not long before I had a whole backyard trials course built in what little lawn my parents had left.

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

I definitely prefer street trials over pure. I think it suits my riding style more and I just found it more enjoyable to roll around and ride urban stuff. I do like riding pure trials too and have really been thinking about getting one lately. So maybe keep an eye out for that! I ride a lot of street obstacles. I love big drop gaps, hooks. I really enjoy rail lines and balance stuff. Flips are one of my favorites. Especially front flips. Ever since watching Danny do them, I just was determined to learn them. I remember after watching his Epecuén video where he did the first bump-frontflip, I was so stoked that I built a super sketchy ramp into the sand at a local beach. And this was before I even had a street trials bike so I was riding and old hard tail mountain bike. I just kept throwing myself at this ramp crashing upside down in the sand until I somewhat landed it lol….

I prefer to ride in groups but trials riders are so few and far between that 90% of my riding is by myself. I don’t mind it. I just put my headphones in and blast some music and try to find some obstacle to throw myself at.

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

I ride because I thrive on facing and overcoming challenges. I love the whole process of finding something I’m unsure about doing and working to overcome it. Also it has been a fantastic escape for me when life gets hectic. I love getting lost on my bike and just shut everything else out. I almost crave it sometimes.

What other styles of cycling do you do? How has trials helped you improve your skills in those other biking disciplines (and vice versa)?

I used to ride a lot of BMX and that has definitely helped me doing jumps and tricks like tailwhips or backflips. I also like to ride unicycles and that has taught me a lot of balance. I love riding mountain bikes. Doing little trials lines and such on a full suspension bike is a lot of fun. I feel like having a well rounded skill set on such a wide variety of bikes has helped me accomplish so much.

How have parkour and any other types of training helped your trials riding?

Growing up I had a very athletic friends group. We were constantly doing flips and climbing everything we could find even before parkour was a thing. I quickly learned how similar bike trials was in the aspect of overcoming obstacles and wanting to do things that “normal” people would deem impossible. I think it gave me a great spatial awareness and physical ability to do a lot of the things I’ve done in bike trials. I still enjoy doing flips and climbing random things. It’s more fun then going to a gym lol

Likewise, how has moto trials helped your bike trials riding and vice versa?

Moto trials and bike trials have definitely had the biggest impact on my life. I sometimes wonder if I had to choose between them which one would I choose and honestly I still don’t know that answer. I think starting on bicycles had a huge impact on my progression with motorcycles. All the body movements and thought processes and even riding styles are extremely similar. Often times I will learn something new on one of them and then I’ll try to mimic it as best as I can with the other. I know a lot of Moto riders that use bike trials to train and sharpen their skills.

How often do you ride trials? What sort of routine do you have for practice versus riding for fun versus making edits, etc. – how much time is dedicated to each?

Well I used to ride a lot more. Like 4-5 times a week. Sometimes over 8 hours a day on the weekends. I’d have no problem working all day then going home and ride my bike until midnight….. The last two years life has gotten really busy so I haven’t ridden much but I’m hoping to get back into the swing of riding more. I’ve really never had a routine or any sort of structure for bicycles. I would just have an idea or see something that I wanted to do and I would become obsessed with it until I achieved it. Sometimes I would daydream up something I really wanted to try and I would find a riding spot to make it work and just keep trying it until I got. Even if it took days of attempting it. I’ve also never been good at making full edits. I have a couple on my YouTube but almost all of them were made by one of my friends. This is one of the better edits on my channel. It was made by my Moto trials friend Aaron Thistle. It’s probably the only video where we had more than just one riding session worth of filming. So I feel like it had adequate effort put into it. I’ve always had a hard time filming because I almost always ride by myself. So really I stuck to making short clips for Instagram.

What’s the bike trials scene like near you? How many other riders are there? Do you have regular group rides? Comps?

I’m the only trials rider for about 2.5 hours. There are a couple riders (Dan Smith, Rob Ponti) that I would meet at Rays MTB. It was always a treat to get to ride with other trials riders. I was always a little jealous of watching people overseas have these big group rides. They look so cool. There have been a couple comps near me. I live about an hour from Allegany State Park where I’ve gone to two trials competitions. I’ve often thought about trying to host another event there because it’s such a cool spot and it’s a shame we haven’t had a comp there in almost 10 years.

How do you manage fear when doing new/bigger moves or lines?

I definitely take calculated risks. I mean there are many times where I would know the chance of success is well below 50% and it might be reckless but I’m just willing to send it anyway but I like to think that I know it will work out one way or another. I guess between riding moto and doing parkour I have just learned to shut my brain off and focus on the task at hand. I feel that’s there’s a calming factor about doing dangerous stuff too. I feel like I can focus much better when there’s actual consequences.

What are your personal goals with respect to trials (near-term and long-term)?

I always wanted to make a living out of riding. Which I am extremely lucky to have had the opportunity for multiple years. Besides that I just loved riding and I still want to ride till I simply can’t anymore. I’m really excited and I look forward to the day I can ride with my son Easton. I hope he loves riding as much as I do! I wish I could get more people into the sport and some day I want to have a trials park where people can come stay and ride.

Who are your bike trials ‘heroes’ and/or influences? Favorite trials video(s)?

Jeez there are so many. I mean Danny [MacAskill], Ali [Clarkson], Duncan [Shaw], Fabio [Wibmer] obviously. Neil Tunnicliffe. Damon Watson. I have spent so much time watching videos getting inspiration and then going out to ride. I’ve watched Danny’s Way Back Home hundreds of times more then any other video. I used to wake up and watch that video everyday single day. I actually have the whole sound track memorized 😂 I also enjoy watching Kenny Belaey and a lot of the UCI competitions.

What was it like to ride with Danny MacAskill, Ali C, and Duncan Shaw? What’s the story behind that opportunity – how did that all come together?

I worked on a traveling stunt show for a couple years. The show was called Marvel Universe Live and it featured everything from fight scenes to all sorts of different acrobatics and even motorcycle stunts. I rode moto trials in it but it was a great opportunity to travel and take my bicycle all over the US and even several countries overseas. One time in particular we were doing shows In Glasgow Scotland where we got in contact with Danny, Duncan, and Ali C. The first night we met up with them to ride I actually blew my rear hub apart doing tailwhips with Danny. I was pretty bummed because we had a week left in the city and I was really hoping to get to ride with them more. The next morning Duncan Shaw actually dropped off new hub at my hotel where I was able to rebuild my wheel and get to go riding that night! Thanks again Duncan! We got to ride and hangout with them a bunch more that week! It was definitely a highlight of my riding career. Those guys are so cool! it was a surreal experience!

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

I think although it’s such a small scene, we have such a great group of people. Everyone I have met from across the country are just amazing people and I’ve always had such a great time riding with them. I hope to do more in the future!

What would you like to see happening in North America with respect to bike trials?

Although I haven’t made to the event I wish we had more events like Bentonville. Something along the lines of radical bike fest. Just big group rides where we can get everyone together for a great time.

What are your top 3 favorite moments / adventures / opportunities you’ve had as a bike trials rider?

While we toured through the UK with Marvel is definitely my favorite. Those couple months were so jam packed with riding and getting to meet cool people. Meeting Danny, Duncan, and Ali. So many fun adventures both on and off the bike.

Another highlight is when I was doing some smaller shows at a fair in Georgia with my friend Jay. Being that we both are skilled at bicycles and moto trials, we would often switch back and forth taking turns riding different bikes each show. I was riding my Inspired arcade at the time and had just recently learned how to do mini flips. We had a whole bunch of kids on a school trip watching this one show and we convinced Jay to lay down and let me flip over him. I was very inexperienced with doing flips in an actual show but it worked out and they were all so pumped, it was a neat experience. I believe that picture is my profile picture on Instagram.

And last but not least, another one or my favorite memories is landing my first actual front flip. Another time Jay and I were doing shows in Ohio and we found a neat spot to ride in a park. I kinda jokingly said that I should set some picnic tables up and front flip off them. And he asked if I actually thought I could do it and I was pretty confident it would work out. It was a tricky setup because I set one end of a picnic table up on another to make a ramp but the downside was there there was still a 2′ hop to get onto the table and then very quickly flip off. Finally worked up the nerve to send it and I tried it 3 times before I landed it and rode away but I’ll never forget that feeling of actually sticking it. I felt like I was on top of the world.

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

Absolutely go for it. Trials is a fantastic way to improve bike control/skill for any type of riding you want to do In the future. It’s an amazing sport that I wish more people saw the appeal of what it has to offer. Another tip is to not get frustrated with it. There are times it’s tough or even boring when you’re not seeing progress or don’t have people to ride with, but it’s so worth having something to work towards and challenge yourself with. Learning how to crash and pick yourself back up and try it again is valuable in more than just riding. I’ve learned a lot of important life lessons on my bike!

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

Facebook: Drew BigHops Fortner
Instagram: @BigHopsFortner
YouTube: Bighopsfortner

Who is the one North American bike trials rider (any skills level) that you think I should interview? (Why them, and what should I ask them about? How do I find them online – IG, YT, FB, X, etc.)

I would have to say Jay Gregorowicz. I met jay at a moto trials competition many years ago and we’ve had a lot of great times riding bike trials and moto trials together. Traveling around the states competing and doing shows. I think he’s got a lot of interesting experiences. His Facebook is Jay Gregorawics and his Instagram is @jaygtattoo.

1 Comment

Interview With Nathaniel Moore - This Is Bike Trials! · December 9, 2023 at 12:04 pm

[…] would probably most like to see one with Drew “BigHops” Fortner. An absolutely incredible rider who has landed frontflip variations not even MacAskill has done, […]

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