While I’ve yet to meet Todd Cook in person, we met online a couple years ago, not long after Todd started learning trials. And fun fact: we both have the same Inspired Arcade! I’ve enjoyed watching Todd progress his trials riding skills and become more involved with the trials community, both online and in person.

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

My name is Todd Cook. I live in the greater Seattle area in Washington State. I am a husband, father, lawyer, Seattle Mariners fan, and street trials rider. I’m active on Instagram where I share my trial progression under the handle @todd_on_bikes. I also share some long-form trials videos (among other things, primarily baseball and basketball adventures with my sons) on my YouTube channel, which is called “Cook & Sons.”

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

I bought my first trials bike – an Inspired Arcade – in March 2020, right after the world went into Covid lockdown. It arrived from Tarty Bikes at the beginning April 2020, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to be a “trials rider” ever since. I often still feel like I’m a beginner. But I guess I probably fit more in the intermediate category. I’ve ridden in one trials competition and I competed in the blue “Sport” category, collecting a bit shy of half of the points. So I think I’m solidly in that “intermediate” category. But there are so many skills that I still don’t know. There is so much left to learn and improve on.

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

I discovered trials on YouTube. My first introduction was Danny MacAskill’s “Way Back Home” film. I don’t remember how I came across it, but I was utterly amazed. After discovering Danny, I quickly watched every video I could find of his riding. I didn’t understand what “trials” or “street trials” meant, but I loved his style, his bike (which I couldn’t figure out if it was a MTB or a BMX or what), the crazy lines he put together, his storytelling, and his sense of humor. Nothing beats Danny’s trials edits.

From Danny, I then somehow discovered Ali Clarkson, probably because Ali was riding in Danny’s Drop And Roll tour. Because he was always posting fresh weekly content, Ali’s vlogs became my main source of trials content over the next few years. I loved watching his vlogs with Danny, Duncan Shaw, and their other flat mates. Through Ali’s explanations, I finally started to learn what “trials” meant and that there was an actual sport of competition trials that he used to participate in before transitioning to street trials. I had no interest at all in the competition side of things or their crazy seatless bikes. That just didn’t command my attention like street trials did.

Fabio Wibmer and Elias Schwaerzler and their original SICK! Series episodes was also definitely an early influence.

Anyway, by the time 2020 and the pandemic rolled around, I had several years under my belt as a major fan of all things street trials. At the time, I had a Santa Cruz Chameleon and enjoyed riding the local trails and Duthie Hill bike park with my sons. I tried to work on very minor trials-type balance moves on my MTB. I never really considered trying to become a real “trials rider” until our state government issued a “stay at home” order in March 2020. For whatever reason, when that order was issued, I decided to order an Arcade from Tarty Bikes and use the next few months at home to see if I could do anything that resembled the street trials I’d fallen in love with online.

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

When people find out I ride trials and ask me what that means, I usually ask if they’ve ever heard of Danny MacAskill. If they have, I usually just say I do a very watered-down, old man version of that. If they haven’t heard of Danny, I usually explain it as a discipline of biking that is mainly popular in Europe where the goal is to ride your bike over obstacles without putting your foot down. And then I tell them to search for Danny MacAskill and Jack Carthy on YouTube.

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

That’s a funny question for me, I think. In my heart and soul, I am a street trials rider. That is what I love. But if you watch my actual riding, I think I’m much more of a pure trials rider. The main issue resulting in this disconnect is that I just don’t have the skill to do most real “street trials” moves, which involve a lot of spins and flowing moves. I don’t “flow”… pretty much at all. While I can do 180 hops, 180 taps (sort of), and, on rare occasions, no-jump footjam tailwhips, I am not athletic and/or skilled enough to do most street trials moves. But that’s okay. I love to challenge myself to get through a certain obstacle or line and then session that line repeatedly until I get it done cleanly. I really enjoy the process of challenging myself to learn new skills or progress in the skills that I already have and work my way through lines that test those skills.

My average ride is a solo ride. I warm up a bit and then spot some line that I want to complete. And then I ride that line for an hour or two, battling through failure after failure after failure until I figure it out… or get lucky. My favorite moves are bunny hops and gaps. Most of my challenge lines involve gaps, and many of them start with me bunny hopping to rear onto something and then trying to string together some gaps. While trials is about getting through obstacles however you can without putting your foot down, my goal is usually to get through a line on my back tire. I really enjoy lines where I can hop onto an obstacle on my back tire and not let my front tire touch ground until I am back on the ground at the end of the line – like this one, which has been my most difficult backyard challenge line.

But I also really enjoy group rides as well. I try to get out to them as much as I can between a busy work schedule and youth sports schedules for my sons’ baseball and basketball teams.

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

I’ve always loved bikes. I never did anything organized as a kid, such as BMX racing. But I was always riding a BMX bike as a kid. My brother and I would nail together all of my dad’s scrap 2×4’s and plywood to make sweep jumps. And I would make racetracks around our cul-de-sac and pretend I was Cru Jones from Rad!

After about two decades living on the east coast, I got back into riding as an adult when I moved home to the Seattle area and discovered the amazing MTB trails the Pacific Northwest has to offer. At this point, I have two street trials bikes, a 26″ stock trials bike, a hardtail MTB, a 22″ BMX, and a gravel bike. But nothing excites me more than the street trials bikes.

I think that the nature of trials is perfect for my brain. I love challenges. I see trials lines all around me, everywhere I go. I find great satisfaction in setting a challenge and failing repeatedly until I figure out how to complete the line. It was like that from the beginning when I was just riding curbs.

When I first got my trials bike, the first thing I did in earnest was learn how to hop up stairs on two wheels. I spent months hopping stair sets with the goal of hopping as many steps as it would take to climb the Burj Khalifa. I learned so much about the feel of my bike and how to balance on two wheels during those first couple months. I then tried to tackle the back wheel hop. It took me four or five months to get decent at it. But during that time, I would spend hours sessioning a curb or a wooden obstacle I built for my back yard. No matter how small or unimpressive a move is, I have always felt great satisfaction working through failure to learn new skills and accomplish my riding goals.

I see new lines and new challenges everywhere! It’s hard not to stay motivated when I see all of these cool lines out there that I need to accomplish.

The creative side of street trials also keeps me motivated. As a general matter, I record a ton of video footage in my life: my sons’ sporting events, concerts, the world at large, and, of course, biking. I am constantly filming and editing videos in my free time. And that fits perfectly with street trials. I get a lot of enjoyment out of coming up with ideas, going out in the evening or weekends to try to get specific shots, and then putting together an entertaining (at least to myself) bike edit. One of my highlights of 2023 was the Inspired Video Contest. I absolutely loved the entire process of putting together my contest entry, Introducing the Hex Maker. I also loved watching the other entries by talented riders all around the world. I definitely hope Inspired brings the contest back for 2024.

You have three different trials bikes, correct? The Arcade, the Hex, and a comp bike? What are your impressions of riding each of them? Which is your favorite? Why?

That’s right. My comp bike is a 26″ Echo GU. While I have great respect for competition trials riders and the amazing things they can do, I am not a fan of comp bikes. There are definitely things that I can do better on my comp bike, if I put in the time to get comfortable on it. But I just don’t feel like I’m riding a bike when I ride it. I like owning a comp bike so I can try things on it when the mood strikes, but 99% of the time, I am going pick one of my street bikes when I go out for a ride.

I absolutely love both of my street bikes. I’m generally not a big “brandy loyalty” guy, but I am a huge fan of Inspired Bicycles. They make great street bikes. The Arcade and Hex are both a ton of fun to ride. I picked the Arcade as my first bike because it is steel. I’m a heavy rider and I thought the steel bike would best withstand any abuse I could dish out. Today, I ride the Hex more than the Arcade. I’m not sure why that is because I absolutely love the Arcade. I feel like my riding is pretty much on the same level on both bikes. Perhaps I ride the Hex more because it has Industry 9 hubs compared to a 108 engagement point Inspired (or maybe its Trial Tech) freewheel on the Arcade. Or it might be the bigger, 26″ wheels. I’m not sure. The Arcade is definitely better for spinning and bunny hops. I also think the Arcade is just about the best-looking bike I’ve ever seen, particularly in the dark chrome color I have.

I tell you what. I don’t need one and don’t really foresee it happening, but I would be mighty happy if I could add an Inspired Skye to my fleet one day. I’ve never ridden one before, but it is the bike that introduced me to trials via Danny’s videos and it would be so cool to own one.

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

These days, 95%+ of my riding is trials. I enjoy riding my MTB, but I am not a big jumper. Jumps tend to scare me. Also, I’ve crashed into a tree before and I really didn’t enjoy it. I do very much enjoy a nice techy uphill climb on my MTB. I dabble in a bit of BMX. I have a 22″ Subrosa Malum. I would enjoy it a lot more if it had trials-worthy disc brakes and a bash guard. I like cruising around a skate park from time to time. However, with BMX, I am most interested in learning old school flat land moves, which fits my general mindset of favoring slow, controlled techy riding over fast downhills and jumps. I also have a gravel bike. While I enjoy going out for a ride and racking up miles (and I need to do it more often), the gravel bike is by far my least favorite bike.

I think that my trials skills naturally help me with all of my other biking endeavors simply by way of increased control of the bike. I was particularly happy on a recent MTB outing when I did an endo pivot to help get down a steep switch back. Trials for the win!

It’s been fun watching you progress over the past couple years. What sort of trials practice / skill training routine do you use?

Well, right now, I am trying to follow along with Aaron Lutze’s 30-Day Bike Skills Challenge. But generally I don’t have any real routine or plan. I own some pallets and have created a bunch of wood features in my backyard. I enjoy creating backyard challenge lines and then working through them. But I sort of play it by ear. I usually have some skills I am working on (like right now I am working on my two-wheel take-off side hops and wheel swaps) and I put in a lot of time on those things. But most of my sessions are unplanned and they result because either I have in mind a particular feature I want to ride or I am in a certain location (for example, near one of my son’s baseball or basketball practices) and I bring a bike and look for something to ride.

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?

During an average week, I probably ride 5-10 hours. But I have no set routine. I am busy with work and have two sons with active youth sports schedules. I ride whenever and wherever time allows. This time of year, when it gets dark early, I often train alone in my back yard at night. When my younger son (who is too young to drive) has a baseball or basketball practice, I often take a bike and find something to ride during his practice. On the weekends, members of my local group are always trying to arrange group rides, and I try to make it to those as much as I can.

I record almost all of my riding sessions as a learning tool, to document my progression, and for Instagram clips. I make little edits fairly regularly, but I’ve really only had three times when I was specifically filming for an edit: (1) a MTB edit with my sons called “How the MTB Gods Kill” (which has nothing impressive in it, but I really love it), (2) a Burj Khalifa Virtual Stair Hop edit (my first real trials edit), and (3) my Inspired contest edit. During those three times, I pretty much dedicated 100% of my riding sessions to finding and filming clips for the edits.

Like me, you’re obviously not a teenager anymore. Do you do any special workouts or training to maintain strength and endurance as well as avoid injuries?

Trials riding is my main exercise. The riding itself has helped me gain strength and endurance. My general approach is to refuse to acknowledge that I’m old and just get after it. I don’t even stretch in advance of a ride. Luckily, even at my age, I typically recover quickly and heal quickly. Back when I started trials, the riding really strained my forearms and my wrists. But I’ve strengthen my arms and wrists through my riding and that is no longer an issue. I would like to get a Zwift trainer so I could put in miles virtually to work on my endurance and overall fitness, but I’m not sure if or when that will ever happen.

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

By North American standards, we’ve got a great trials scene here in the Seattle area. For my first two years riding I had never met another trials riders in person. But after posting a clip to Freddy Astrada’s USA Bike Trials Riders group on Facebook, another local rider recognized my clip as the Seattle area and reached out to invite me to join the group. Spearheaded by Peter Hellenbrand, we have regular Friday night and weekend rides in the Seattle area. I can’t always make it due to work or youth sports. But, with or without me, there is usually at least one group ride every weekend either in Seattle or Bellevue, or some other surrounding suburb. Our group includes Peter (26″ stock and 20″ mod), Jace (26″ stock), Evan (26″ stock), Charlie (20″ mod with a 24″ street bike on order), Henry (26″ stock and Inspired Arcade), Alex (26″ stock), Pablo (Inspired Fourplay and 20″ mod.), Mike (24″ inch street bike and 26″ stock), and Anton (26″ stock). Apologies if I missed anyone. We are always looking to add to the group or to have visiting riders join us. So reach out via Instagram if you’re going to be in the Seattle area and want to ride.

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

I don’t really do big moves or lines. But I do face a decent amount of fear. My main way of dealing with fear is to just not do things that scare me. But, if I am facing a scary line that looks manageable to me, I often try to work my way up to it in increments, like I did with this walkway drop gap. I leave the really scary stuff to the pros.

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

My long-term goals are just to keep progressing and staying healthy and able to ride as long as I can. My near-term goals are to learn to do many moves that I cannot currently do or cannot currently do well. I’m working on my side hops. I am always working on extending the length of my gaps. My current best is 68 inches and I’d really like to get to 6 feet (72″ inches) because that is one inch more than my height. I want to learn manuals… but I have never made a real effort to learn them because rolling on the back wheel with my brake unlocked scares me. I’d also like to ride in another trials competition and get a clean section. I competed in sport class at the most recent competition in Port Moody, British Columbia. I never scored more than 30 points in a section, but I know there were 2-3 sections that I could have cleaned. A clean 60 points would be a cool accomplishment for me.

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

My favorite rider is Danny MacAskill. You just can’t beat his style of trials filmmaking, in my opinion. I love all of his big videos, particularly Way Back Home, Cascadia, Wee Day Out, Inspired 2009, and Epecuen.

Behind Danny, Ali Clarkson and his YouTube vlogs have been one of the biggest influences for me wanting to get into trials.

Joacim Lundgren is doing some mind-blowing riding right now. His combination of ridiculous power and rock-solid control are amazing. I’m not sure that Joacim has done a single correction hop this year.

As for comp riders, you cannot beat Jack Carthy. I’m always cheering for him at the World Champs and World Cups. I tend to enjoy watching the 26″ class more than the 20″ class.

I also have a lot of guys I really enjoy watching on Instagram, such as George “Thoxson” Thomson and his crew, Christoph “Kholwheelz” Kholmeier, all of the Inspired Team riders, the Mindcontrol Trials guys, and the Shindig guys. While street trials is my main interest, I really credit Matty P. and the Shindig Podcast for introducing me to the world of competition trials and all of the amazing riders out there with no seats. Aside from Jack Carthy, my favorite comp rider to watch is Andrei Burton.

However, the guys I am currently most influenced by are guys I fairly regularly check in with for tips and advice: Aaron Lutze, Travis Gardner, Vido Wings, and Nathaniel Moore. Many thanks go out to these guys for helping me along the way. There is a good chance that your readers already follow Aaron, Travis and Nathaniel (as well they should!), but they might now be following Vido. I’d recommend that everyone go follow Vido right now. He’s a super kind German trials rider who has given me advice, guidance, and encouragement countless times since we connected on Instagram. And he is an awesome street trials rider and he has his buddies have a lot of fun bike-based adventures.

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

I don’t have the historical perspective that some other riders can offer in terms of comparing today to the past, but I’m personally quite happy with the worldwide trials community right now. I connect to the community in several different ways: Instagram, YouTube, podcasts, Facebook, and my local group. My main presence in the trials community is through Instagram and I think we have a top-notch community there. I’ve connected with and received encouragement and guidance from so many riders around the globe. There are so many opportunities to see amazing riding, connect with other riders, and learn trials through Instagram. Second, as I already mentioned, YouTube introduced me to trials. Over the years, more people are getting involved and there are more opportunities than ever to see and learn trials on YouTube. Shindig Media and Mindcontrol Trials have also both done a great job in building community. I’m always waiting for fresh Shindig Podcast episodes so I can learn more about the people involved in the community in the UK and worldwide. There are so many top riders that I watch all the time now that only discovered when they were interviewed on the Shindig Podcast. If you haven’t listened, working your way through all of the back episodes of the Shindig Podcast is an outstanding way of meeting all of the biggest and most important players in the trials world.

As for North America, I think we have a lot of small localized “scenes” growing across the country. The US is so big it’s just not as easy to get big group rides together here, compared to the big rides they have over in London or Barcelona. But we are doing well and adding to our numbers across the US.

Where I think North America really falls behind is in competition trials. I’m not sure what we can do about that. It would definitely help if we had more dedicated trials parks like they have in the UK, such as Radical Bikes, Bike Trial Academy UK, etc., or if we had training clubs like they have in Spain and some other countries. But with people like Kenny Belaey, Mike Friddell, and Freddy Astrada working on it, I expect to see more competition opportunities in the coming years in the US.

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

Trials is so enjoyable to watch and it has a good presence on social media so I think that more and more people will continue to get involved with trials in North America. I think we can cultivate strong local scenes organically through social media and, in particular, the USA Bike Trials Group on Facebook, which helps riders connect across North America. The most difficult thing for North America will be re-establishing the competition scene. I would love to see Bike Trials get added to the Olympics. That could really help to get some money and organization into bike trials in the US. Although I will never be a big competition rider, I do hope that I get more opportunities to travel north to Port Moody, British Columbia to participate in competitions at the Rotary Bike Trials Park.

Tell me about the trials competition at the Port Moody trials park in BC, Canada. Was that your first trials comp? What did you learn? Think you’ll do more comps in the future?

I had a blast at the Port Moody comp. It was my first comp. My MTB rider son went with me to film the comp for me, but then he ended up riding Beginner class – and winning the championship! (I like to describe him as an International Trials Champion – we were the only non-Canadians in the comp… so we made it an International event!). It was a lot of fun. It was also really tiring. My legs were completely shot afterwards.

I scored a paltry 220 points out of 600, but I was happy with my performance. Comp riding is so different than how I normally ride. I rode my Inspired Hex, which is not ideal for the competition setting. The lack of a run up tripped me up on numerous gates. There were a bunch of rocks that if you put them out in the open, I would just bunny to rear and hop over them. But they were REALLY HARD with no run up. I rode the Hex because I am more comfortable on my street bikes and it’s the bigger of the two street bikes. But there were a couple gates that I couldn’t get on the Hex that I was able to get easily after the comp on my comp bike (which I brought along with us). For example, there was a platform that I couldn’t bunny hop up because there was no run up, but I was too cramped in the cockpit to roll up it on the Hex. I dabbed on it both laps of the section. But it was so easy on the comp bike. Overall, I was glad that I rode the Hex that day. But I would like to prepare for and ride the next comp on my comp bike to see how I can do on it. If I ride it regularly for a month or so leading up to the next comp, I’m sure I could have a better score.

I think the main things I learned from the comp are, (1) I gained even more respect for comps riders because the competitions are HARD! and (2) planning your route is important. I usually pick a line I want to try, fail at it a bunch, and eventually get it. But at a comp that yields no points. You have to complete each feature first try. Taking time to map out your plan of attack can be a huge benefit.

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

I guess that my craziest trials experience is getting 1.3 million views on a recent crash/redemption video on Instagram. Most of my clips get between 1,000 and 10,000 views on Instagram. It was a surreal experience seeing the crash clip rack up 100K views each day the first week and then keep going to a bit more than 1.3 million as of today.

Crashing can be scary. The good thing is that the experience that makes you a better trial rider can also help you minimize the negative impacts of a crash. It’s the mechanical failures that you don’t expect that are the worst because you might not have any indication that you are about to crash until it is too late. That’s what happened with my big crash video. So my advice is to keep up on your bike maintenance! And, in particular, if you ever remove your back brake lever, be sure you tighten it properly on your bars when you reinstall it! The back brake is so important in trials!!

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

Put in the time and be patient. To learn trials, it takes a lot of reps and persistence. But if you put in the time, you can do it.

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

#RideInspired 😉

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

You can find me on Instagram at @todd_on_bikes and on YouTube (also @todd_on_bikes).

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

Let’s hear from Canada. On Instagram, my main man up in Canada is Jason Yu. He’s got a great crew of 40+ trials riders, including Aaron Dobler and Leo Bolt who both rode in the Port Moody comp. Of course, the Elite category champion in Port Moody was 6x North American Champion, Jeff Anderson. You should interview all of these guys.

Drew “Big Hops” Fortner. I bought my Hex from him. He goes big and is a master of back flips.

Peter Hellenbrand is the leader of the Seattle crew. He’s been riding for 20+ years and, like Aaron Lutze, hails from Wisconsin.

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