Mike Steidley is one of the bigger names in trials here in North America. With nearly 30 years of trials riding under his belt, Mike has won numerous championship titles, fostered fruitful sponsorships, traveled around the world, and wowed crowds with his trials stunt show. Since the trials scene in the US is pretty small, I consider myself lucky that Mike lives here in CT, occasionally rides with my local crew, and always participates in our annual trials competitions. If you’ve been watching the videos on my YouTube channel for more than a few weeks, you’ve probably seen Mike ride – pretty impressive, right?

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

I’m a Connecticut born and raised Trials rider who’s been competing since 1997. Right after college, I started riding, professional, and still am very active in that as well as owning a video production business.

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

I have been riding since I was 13 years old and by the time I finished high school I had won the Junior National Championship. Since then I’ve gained 15 National Championships and represented the US in seven world championships.

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

I grew up in a small town where we all just rode our bikes to school and afterwards would go ride around town and just mess around and do little jumps and such. There was also some good mountain biking trails nearby that we would ride. I was never the fastest, but always was good at getting over the log in the trail or through a technical section. There was a local bike shop that had a few rocks in the back of the parking lot and one day one of the mechanics named Lawrence was riding on a Monty Trials bike, one of the ones with the old-school motorcycle tire and triple clamp fork. He then told us about a competition coming up and I entered that and won first place in the beginner category. I was pretty pumped on that and I think I got $20 cash for the beginner class but at the time that was double my allowance. A few months later I went to another Trials competition at the Jackrabbit Run mountain bike race in Norwalk, Connecticut and Hans Ray was there doing a demo. I got to watch his show and heard the announcer telling about how he has traveled the world and how he had been flown in from California and thought it was really cool. That same day I met Jeff Lenosky, who was also there, and he was the rider who won the pro category that day. At this point, I was fully hooked and just started practicing every day and then from there my trials career and love of riding took off.

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

I would basically tell them it’s a mix between Parkour and rock climbing, except using a bike. I often use the analogy of mini golf to describe how trial started, taking the hardest sections of the trail, and breaking them down into a competition with just the absolute, hardest part. As time went on, as the bikes evolved, the techniques went with it, turning it into what we now do today, jumping from rock to rock.

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

I am 100% competition rider and for me it’s all about training for competitions and to have a well-rounded skill set. I’m most at home riding rocky shoreline terrain out by the water and coastline. I do incorporate a mix of urban riding but that’s really to just practice brute, power, and strength type moves. I mainly am a competitive rider at heart, and that’s where my roots started and where my alliance I think will generally always stay.

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

For me, it’s all about the progression and working to achieve a goal. I really like the process of training for a competition and the mental and physical prep that goes into it. Aside from that it’s a sport where you can push yourself mentally, and as much as the physical aspect comes into it, on comp day the mental aspect really is what separates the top athletes from the rest.

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

I looked up to Cesar Canas when I was growing up; he was a big inspiration to me as well as Vincent C. Jeff Lenosky and Kenny Belaey have been big inspirations for me more so on the business side of things of how they were able to make a career out of it.

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 only get on a bicycle that’s not equipped for trials every once in a blue moon so if I’m being honest, if it has handlebars and I’m riding it, it’s probably a trials bike.

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, when I was in my prime of career and really training for the nationals, it was a daily activity. I would ride almost every single day and in the gym constantly, and spend hours working and keeping my bike in top shape. After almost 30 years in the game, things look a little different now as I am focused on my video production company but this year prior to the nationals I was pretty consistent riding several times a week, and also augmenting things with gym training. So it goes in chunks now but that’s just as I have been in it so long.

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

So the Northeast has always had a pretty solid chunk of riders and over the different years we’ve seen some come and go. Right now the scene out in the Mystic [CT] area is pretty strong with the weekly group rides that go down. We normally have one comp each year in the fall.

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

Managing fear is always one of those things things you need to be mentally sharpened prior to competing, you need to be able to remind yourself that you’re just a few inches off the ground and have complete control over your body, mind, and reflexes. At this point, I am focused on maintaining my skills and ability and, when I get closer to competitions, I’ll start doing moves that are a little bit bigger and high risk but otherwise I try to find the same challenging lines lower to the ground to just avoid any unnecessary risk. I will say for younger riders that are coming up, it’s all about reiterating the fundamentals and being mentally sharp and having 100% focus. The second you bring something else into your mind and don’t respect this game is the day that you crash and hit the ground super hard.

Whether it’s a place you’ve ridden many times, or just the first time, what elements / characteristics do you look for when picking lines? What are the aspects of potential lines that really interest you?

Well being a rider on the shorter side, I never could quite get the huge moves like some of the riders that were a bit taller. I’ve always tried to be very consistent on the medium level moves, but with the interesting takeoffs, landings, gap to hook, or the other elements that might be in a competition which will separate you from someone who can just do a massive side hop to someone who can have pinpoint accuracy with their wheel placement. That’s the stuff that wins competitions. Also, on days when you don’t have your maximum power to just throw the bike as far as you can, you can spend time finding lines that are interesting and have unique angles or require pinpoint accuracy, that makes things a little more interesting and keeps the training sessions fresh.

You’ve had quite a successful career in the trials competition scene in North America, with quite a few national titles. How did you train to ride at that level for so many years?

For me, it was all about consistency and developing a plan to be in the game for the long-haul, I’ve made very strategic decisions over the years with regards to sponsorship, maintaining my body, and maintaining a lifestyle that allows me to train to produce the results that I’ve gotten me this far. I would say mentally, you really need to put an effort into what you’re looking to get out of a sport if you’re going to be in it for such a long period of time and for me I really enjoyed the competitive training process so that’s what keeps me hooked and coming back. I’ve been very fortunate to have such long-term sponsorship in the industry and really took the time to understand the marketing needs of the brands that I’ve worked with. That’s helped me create longevity and keep the sponsors coming back year after year.

You created the Mike Steidley Summer Sessions series on Epic TV back in 2013, as director, producer, and trials rider. How did that project come about? Did that project lead to any other opportunities, either in trials or video production?

This was quite an interesting project. I had a GoPro sponsorship and made a little video that got GoPro video of the day and it got a decent amount of views. It was just something I shot myself an edited in Final Cut. Epic TV reached out and asked me about the potential of doing a web series. I didn’t really know any producers or anyone; I decided I would just take a shot at shooting at myself, I already had the skill set to plan and book trips as I had been going around the globe doing shows and going to competition so I figured all I really needed to do was sharpen up some camera skills. This is what ultimately led me into video production and creating content, because it wasn’t long before one of the bike companies I was working for asked me to do a video for them.

You’ve had some interesting trips for riding trials both here in North America and overseas. Which trip stands out as the most memorable, and why?

Yeah, I certainly have had tons of trips over the years. Going to the World Championships in 1999 was very surreal just because it was the first time I saw the level of riding at that caliber. I did some of the Koxx days events in Europe and that was really great to see and hang out for. For video trips I went to Cabo and explored and made a video riding around the area of the arch and that was an absolute blast.

Out of all the locations you’ve ridden, which has been your favorite?

Top locations are Lovers Beach in Monterey, California, the coastline in Rhode Island, and then I would say it’s a tossup between Central Park, just because of the beautiful backdrop, or the riding in France as it’s just so epic.

For a number of years you’ve provided entertainment to the public by doing trials riding demos / shows. What has been your favorite aspect of doing the shows? Any crazy stories from any of your shows? How can people book you for a show?

Yes, the stunt show has made its way around the US hundreds of times and I had a blast traveling the globe to put on performances. I’ve driven cross-country more times than I can count. I’ve performed in Taiwan and all over Europe. I’ve gotten so many fans and made so many friends along the way so it’s been a very grateful experience. People can book my stunt show through my website and it’s perfect event entertainment as I show up with everything needed to wow the crowds and put on a really cool show. What’s also interesting is I wear a wireless microphone under my helmet so I can interact and talk with the crowd.

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

Right now I’ve been more focused on growing my production company and just enjoying riding, so I’ve stepped back from really chasing hard riding goals. I still get out there and train and use the bike as it means to get some exercise, but I really only put myself in the training mode a few months prior to nationals. I really tried to step back and just enjoy the process of going riding, hanging out with friends, and not taking it too serious. After years and years and years of competing at such a high-level, I’m just enjoying getting out and riding and the process still feels good to me so I’m just nurturing that feeling.

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

America has had its ups and downs, and it feels like the scene has gotten smaller over the years. There’s less competitions which is unfortunate and it’s been very rare that we’ve seen new riders come up. There are a few new names but it’s really starting to feel like an old boys club, and I hope that some younger riders will come to carry the torch.

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

I’d love to see a national series tied into major cycling events like it was back in the days of NORBA. Those were the days when all the cycling teams had a factory sponsored Trials rider and it was super easy to make a career riding bikes.

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

Someone just starting out it’s a super easy sport to get into. You can mess around on the mountain bike you already have or pick up a used Trials bike for about 1000 bucks. It’s a great workout because when you’re just learning even 45 minutes you can spend sharpening skills that will translate to mountain biking.

During your trials career, you’ve had various sponsors helping support you as an athlete. What have you learned from that experience that might help other trials riders looking for sponsorships?

It’s really about what you can give back and what value you can bring to sponsors. Anyone can ride at a high-level, but in order to get someone to physically give you a paycheck you need to be able to tell them exactly where their money is going, and what the value they will get for that is. Building my own demo program and self managing everything allowed me to have a turn-key program for sponsorship activation, and I kept really good record of the number of people I was getting in front of, the exposure, and the return on investment for my sponsors. That along with competition results was what was needed to have a very long career as a professional rider.

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

www.mikesteidley.com and on IG @mikesteidley

Who is the one North American bike trials rider (any skills level) that you think I should interview?

Maybe JJ Gregorowicz?


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