Photo Credit: Mike Cartier

Ian Farrar has been riding trials for most of his life. He and his brother Sean took the third and first place spots, respectively, during the 2023 North American Trials Championship. As he mentions below, Ian had a brutal mountain biking accident this past year, so I’m looking forward to seeing him get back out there on the bike and crush it again in Bentonville this year. I’m also looking forward to seeing where his riding takes him in the coming years!

Tell us a little about yourself

Hi, my name is Ian Farrar. I am 21 years old and I currently live in Longmont, Colorado. I have loved to ride bikes my whole life, especially my trials bike. In addition to that I am currently in my senior year of college at The University of Colorado Boulder pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering.

How long have you been riding bike trials? What is your riding level?

I have been riding since I was about 4 years old. As soon as I got my training wheels off, my dad started teaching me how to roll over rocks and small logs as any responsible father would. 17 years later I am now competing at the Elite Level in the North American Trials Series and I have done several UCI C1 events. I am also a part time bicycle stunt show rider doing mountain bike and trials shows for Dialed Action Sports out of the east coast.

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

I was initially introduced to the sport by my dad since he was a seasoned bicycle and motorcycle trials rider when I was learning how to ride a bike. He would often pick me and my brother up while we were on our bikes when we were little and lift us from obstacle to obstacle. Once I got my training wheels off, I learned to go up and over small obstacles. I have wanted to go bigger and bigger ever since. I’ve had the opportunity to try several different cycling disciplines including BMX racing, cross country, enduro, and downhill mountain bike racing, but trials was always a constant in my life. It was and still is my favorite type of riding. I have found it to be extremely useful cross training across all cycling disciplines.

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

The quickest description would be that it is the ultimate test of bike control, balance, focus, and power – similar to parkour on a bike or obstacle course riding. I also like to tell people that road cycling is like road running, trail running is like mountain biking, and trials is like rock climbing. That seems to paint a good picture for people and gives them something to relate to.

Photo credit: John Bradford

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 a competition, or pure trials, rider at heart. I primarily enjoy competition and natural riding. I haven’t had too much experience riding street trials and when I do ride in an urban setting, I look for big gaps or walls to go up. I am a big fan of back wheel moves like gaps up to back or side hops to back wheel. Mostly, I ride with my dad and my brother. It is pretty rare that I will go out for a ride without them. I am very grateful to have them for support and motivation. Since we moved to Colorado, we have been able to ride with a lot more people since there is a higher density of riders in the area, which has been fantastic. I have come to really enjoy some great natural riding spots in the Boulder, Colorado area since the natural terrain there is just endless. However, my all time favorite riding spot will forever be our backyard riding area that we built over the course of 18 years living in Tennessee. It was so awesome to have a training area in the backyard where we could design and build whatever we wanted to develop and progress.

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

Riding bikes is what I love doing most and it gives me an outlet to be active, challenge myself, have fun! I love the technical aspect of trials. I have always taken more satisfaction in conquering technical challenges on my bike as opposed to going as fast or as far as possible. For me, it is incredibly satisfying to be presented with an obstacle and challenge myself to figure out a way to ride over it, especially when it takes a few (or a few too many) tries to ride it out. It is a fantastic feeling when you finally ride over the next big obstacle in front of you. I am always motivated to do the next hardest thing to make myself better and to see myself get over progressively bigger and more difficult obstacles. The people around me also motivate me a lot especially my mom, Kay; my dad, Doug; and my brother, Sean. They all give me so much support. Riding with Sean is always motivating – seeing some of the stuff he is capable of at this point challenges me to push myself (It’s not annoying I swear, haha). 

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

In the past, I have raced BMX, cross country, enduro, and downhill mountain bikes while also riding a little bit of motorcycle trials and enduro on a moto. Currently, I am doing a lot of enduro mountain biking with some downhill racing in the fall along with trials. Trials techniques have transferred over tremendously to these other disciplines and have given me a solid technical background that allows me to feel confident on just about any bike I hop on. From there it’s just a matter of getting up to speed instead of hopping in place which for me took a while to get comfortable with. From BMX and mountain biking, I have definitely learned to generate speed and roll over obstacles efficiently; especially with pumping from my BMX racing days.

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?

My riding practice averages out to about 3 times a week for an hour or two at a time. During the summer, I will ride a lot more, almost every day, whereas during the school year I am lucky if I let myself go out and ride 1 or 2 times a week in the midst of classes (LAME!). I treat just about every ride as an opportunity to practice and get better because I enjoy challenging myself in that sense. If I do film any clips it usually comes as a byproduct of training. If I come across a difficult line that I think will look cool, then I will film it to post later or just look at my technique.

You and Sean both compete at the elite level. How do you train and prepare to ride at that level? Any thoughts of competing at trials in Europe?

I think for competing at the Elite level the focus is definitely on building strength, consistency, and getting comfortable with big power moves in our training. I have competed internationally before in Spain for the 2015 BIU World Biketrial Championships but I definitely want to get to the point where I could go to represent the USA at UCI World Championships.

You and Sean both attend college at CU Boulder, and both race on the CU MTB team(s). What’s it like to compete together mountain biking? Do you ever have the opportunity to “evangelize” trials with your teammates or competitors and spectators during the MTB events?

Going to college and racing has been an awesome experience. For me, racing mountain bikes with the team is an excellent way to take a break from trials and spend time with teammates on the weekends. It’s a rewarding challenge to take some time to compete in a different discipline and just do it for fun alongside my teammates and my brother. During most of the race weekends Sean and I will bring our trials bikes to ride around on after the race days are over so our teammates get to check them out when we go out to ride. It’s great that they find the sport intriguing and cool to watch so we are able to talk with them about it and try to plead our case for why more people should ride them, whether they like it or not. We definitely have a reputation for being “the trials guys” within the team and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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

I have been living in Longmont, Colorado for a little over 2 years and the trials scene in Colorado is one of the strongest in the country. That being said there are about 20 guys in the Colorado trials riders group chat and three of them are myself, my dad, and my brother so it is still a tight knit community. We do have regular group rides maybe once or twice a week if the weather is good and we even had a group ride recently where we had 13 riders in total which was amazing. Outside of North American Championships, that was probably the biggest group ride I have been on. Unfortunately, there are not any comps in the area but we definitely want to bring them back to Colorado.

Photo credit: John Bradford

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

Fear, self confidence, and commitment is probably what I struggle with the most as a rider. I can get in my own head often when I am attempting a line that I know I am capable of doing but it may be high or exposed. I think I cope with this mostly through repetition of similar moves with less consequence so when things start to get big or high off the ground it feels more like routine so I can be confident in my abilities even though it is still something I strive to improve.

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

In the future, I want to be closer and more competitive with the top guys in North America at the moment, Sean, my younger brother, and Jeff Anderson, to continue my progression and be able to go further in Elite level sections. I would be really happy to remain within the top three in North America for the foreseeable future. For the long term, I would really like to progress to a confidence level to compete at the world level, with the hope of representing the USA at UCI world championships one day.

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

There are so many, where to start? First of all, I think my dad and my brother have been the biggest influences on my riding and progression over the years and it has been awesome to have their support throughout my years of riding. I also want to give a shout out to The Man The Myth The Legend, Mike “The Bike” Friddell, since he has been a lifelong friend of ours and he has done so much for the sport of trials here in the US. Growing up, I was a big fan of Dani Comas and Benito Ros as they were some of my favorite competition riders when I still rode 20”. Right now I mostly enjoy watching Jack Carthy and Charlie Rolls since they are pushing the boundaries of the sport and it is incredible to see what they can do. Furthermore, the fact that so many world cup riders have come to the US for the UCI C1 event in Bentonville has meant I have been able to see world class riding in person and it has been truly inspiring. Many of the North American riders have also been great friends and inspired me to become better such as Jeff Anderson, Ross Winsor, and Matt Meyer to name a few. Finally, although he may not do too much dedicated trials riding nowadays, I love watching Chris Akrigg and all of his videos such as “Five”. His versatility and trials skill on numerous different kinds of bikes is incredible.

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

I think that the trials scene in North America is a very dedicated and tight knit community. It is a very special thing to have practically everyone who rides trials in the US be connected in some way shape or form. It kinda feels like one big family. Because there are so few people that ride in the US it is important for everyone to stay connected and continue riding.

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

Even though I think it is special to have such a niche community of trials riders in the US, I do wish that the sport got more recognition here in the states, attracting more people to give the sport a try. I think having events like Bentonville Bike Fest that showcase trials competition goes a long way for exposing other cyclists to the sport and getting people interested in it. Having more local competitions in general would go a long way in growing the sport. However, it still feels like people view it as more of an oddity or a circus act. They think “Oh, I could never do that” and never give it a try. Exposure to younger riders as a way to build skills for other cycling disciplines, like they do in Spain and France, could develop and expose riders to the sport and maybe even enjoy it more. That being said, we do have some awesome young and talented riders like Owen Fields and Grant Memmott who have been killing it in competition every year! I need to watch my back.

Do you plan on taking a run at Sean’s North American trials champ title in 2024? You guys seem to have a great relationship (which is awesome!), is there also a friendly competitive tension between you two?

We do have an awesome relationship and we ride and train together all the time which I am very grateful for. We both push each other to be better in a supportive and fun way with some trash talk and banter. I think that Sean was definitely driven to be better than me growing up and now I am trying to keep up with my little brother which I think has led to us both being better riders because of it. I definitely want to close the gap to Sean in the future since he is at such a high level right now. I am not sure if it will be this year because I just recovered from fracturing my neck and getting stitches in my arm in September (Downhill racing crash). I want to focus on building up my strength after that and hopefully be more competitive in the future. 

Photo Credit: Mike Cartier

Your family shows up at the Bentonville Bike Fest with a trailer full of trials bikes for people to try for free. Where did you get all the trials bikes? Have you done this at other events as well? What has been the most rewarding aspect of doing this? Any fun stories to share about people trying the bikes?

We have plenty of trials bikes at our house. Many of the bikes that we give out to people to demo ride are old bikes that Sean and I grew up riding or bikes that my dad has accumulated over the years. Dad used to be the US importer for Megamo bicycles so we have some of them built up for people to try as well! We have done similar events in the past where we will bring out trials bikes for people to try when we did after school programs and camps while we were living in Tennessee. It is super cool to give people the opportunity to try trials bikes for free where they would otherwise never get the chance to ride them! Bentonville is a great place for it because we are often located right at the edge of the trials sections so people can watch the competition and then try it for themselves. There have been a few times where people have signed up for the trials competition in Bentonville just because they tried one of our bikes and they wanted to give it a go. One of my favorite things to see each year in Bentonville is one kid and his dad who always come to the festival and come to ride Sean’s first trials bike, an Onza Mini Master. It’s the only bike of ours that will fit him but every year the kid is so determined and driven to ride over obstacles which is so cool to see him get excited.

You were doing trials demo shows with Dialed Action Sports this past summer. What do you like most about doing trials demos? Will you be doing shows again next season? How can people book you for a show?

Demos are a lot of fun for sure. It’s special to be able to share the sport with people who have probably never seen it before and have fun while doing it. I enjoy trying to interact with the audience and walk through some of the finer details of the sport while I am riding. It is very rewarding to get positive feedback after the show. It can be repetitive at times doing the same routine over and over which isn’t so bad because then I am more excited to ride on my own afterward. If people wanted to book me for a show they could book a mountain bike show with Dialed Action Sports at Sean, Dad, and I also do our own shows as well through where we do trials and mountain bike specific shows with all three of us for schools, camps, and bike festivals.

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

I am always amazed by the random interactions that I will have with people who I see that also have trials bikes, when they see me riding, or even when they see that I have a trials sticker on my water bottle (Yes, that happened to me this year!). It always turns into a 30+ minute conversation about trials and you almost instantly become friends with them. There is something really special about the trials community because there are so few of us. The best singular story would probably be my brother, Sean, having to ride the last three sections of North American Championships on my bike last year on his way to the title. He broke his bike in one of the previous sections and had to share it with me!

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

You should absolutely go for it and have fun! But also give it time and embrace the initial struggle. I see so many people try trials but be put off by how strange the bikes feel. Unfortunately, they give up before they learn how to utilize the geometry and figure out how the bikes are ridden most effectively. It’s difficult to get over the hump of learning how to balance, hop, pedal kick, and control your brakes to the point where you can feel confident on a trials bicycle. But the rewards are worth it when you learn to conquer obstacles and transfer those skills to other forms of riding. Also, you don’t have to learn how to ride trials on a trials bike. You can learn basic skills on any bike and you can have fun doing it!

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

Riding my trials bike has been the greatest adventure that I have had in my life! Trials has taken me to so many incredible places and has led me to meet so many incredible people and life long friends. Thank you to everyone who has made this ride so special and I can’t wait to see where this unique sport takes me and my family next!

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

I am pretty much just on Instagram (@ian_farrar and @farrar_cycling) and anybody can send me a message if they want to get in touch with me! That is where I share most of my clips and videos.

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

You already picked my brother, Sean, for an interview so thanks for doing that. I think that my dad, Doug Farrar (IG: @doug_slug_farrar), has a lot of interesting stories that he could share based on his own experience in the bicycle and motorcycle world since he has been around the sport for a long time. Also, I think it would be great to interview Jeff Anderson (IG: @jefftrials) and hear a little more about his backstory and his experience riding NATS for so many years.


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