I discovered Rei at least couple years ago, probably not long after he started riding trials. It’s been really cool to see his riding progress, as well as to watch his trials practice area continue to grow. I find it interesting to see others like myself who started riding trials at around 50 years old. This is generally the type of sport that people start when they’re kids, not 40/50/60-somethings. So I love seeing folks like Rei, Tony, Todd, and Jen dive in and keep hammering at it.
Tell us a little about yourself (brief background, your profession, etc.)
My name is Reinaldo Tallet Santana. I go by Rei (pronounced like Ray). I am 50 years old this year. I came to the United States in 2002 from Cuba when I was 29 years old. Growing up a poor kid, I was always on my bike. We called them BMX bikes but they were really 20″ bikes made of anything we could find or get welded together. Some of us got lucky to get some used BMX parts, but I remember making forks out of school chairs. My friends and I were always adventurous on our bikes. I believe what we were doing back then was, unknowingly, like street trials, because we never had a BMX track, a ramp or a skate park. We would go up and down staircases, walls, and off loading docks or cars, doing 180’s and 360’s. We always rode brakeless, because we simply didn’t have brakes. I never got to the level of doing a front manual, but there were kids around me that could do them (brakeless).
Bicycles were my mode of transportation as long as I can remember, until I got to the United States. When I arrived, I decided to move far away from the heat I was used to, so I headed north. I’ve been living in Michigan since November 2002. In my head, Michigan seemed to have the best of all worlds, surrounded by water with all four seasons, including snow. I have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts as a painter, but I also love to build things and work with my hands. I work as a window and door warranty service technician for a local lumber company.
How long have you been riding bike trials? What is your riding level (beginner, intermediate, expert, elite)?
I would consider myself to be somewhere between a beginner and an intermediate trials rider. I started to get curious about trials in 2020. I started watching YouTube videos and learning how to do things… most of them incorrectly. I got frustrated and didn’t do much for a while. That all changed in 2021 when I discovered Aaron Lutze’s YouTube channel, which is now called “Super Rider.” That’s when things started to click and come together for me. The way Aaron explains things in his tutorials just made sense and I caught on quickly.
How did you discover bike trials and how did you get started? What age were you when you started?
I originally discovered trials back in 2009 when I saw Danny MacAskill’s famous video. His 2009 Inspired Bicycles video randomly popped into my YouTube feed. I called to my wife and said, “this guy is riding the way I have always wanted to ride.” I didn’t start trials seriously though until many years later. In between, I was trying out road riding and got seriously into mountain biking at the end of 2016. Then in 2020 is when I realized street trials was my thing. So I was 47 when I started learning. I was also finally able to afford a proper bike, which was very important for my progress and confidence.
How would you define/describe “bike trials” in your own words to someone who never heard of it?
Bike trials is a very hard skill done on crazy-looking bikes with no seats. The rider makes the bike an extension of his or her body. It requires extreme talent, practice, and total control of a bike, often in very confined spaces full of obstacles.
What type of bike trials riding do you prefer (style, obstacle types, moves, solo/group, etc.) and where do you like to ride?
It’s hard to answer that. In my mind, I believe I am a street trials rider, but in reality I don’t see myself riding in an urban setting. This is mainly because I don’t want to be that guy who gets a ticket (while I am learning) knowing that I am gonna break a bench or damage public property. So in reality, I am that guy who builds wooden obstacles in my backyard. (Thank God my wife lets me do that and the neighbors don’t complain). I have a love for boulders and walls, but those are hard to reproduce for practice and hard to come by in my area of Michigan. I also enjoy stairs, loading docks and chest-high park or landscaping walls.
My main goal is to have rear wheel control and wheel placement. I love 360’s and side hops. I am an extrovert and love people. We have hundreds of friends in our mountain biking community but, sadly, none of them are interested in trials. So, I am a group rider in spirit and I hate to ride solo, but I have to admit that I learn better in a solo setting. Although, I am lucky to have one friend in the area, Barry Tilson. He drives thirty minutes so we can meet up sometimes. But I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to ride with a group.
Why do you ride bike trials and what keeps you motivated to keep riding?
I like to ride trials because I believe it is the hardest technique I have ever experienced on a bike. It’s hard to execute most of the moves. To keep me motivated and riding, it is the challenge. Once you accomplish a trick or technique, or one quest, you want to go on to the next one. It’s complicated though. If you don’t do a combo or train in all the techniques you can lose the skills. So I think it is the challenge, the drive to conquer each technique that keeps me going. It motivates me to learn and watch more videos. It is also a great workout. It is intense. My ultimate goal would be a combo or variation of favorite techniques.
You have a pretty sweet trials course in your yard. Any plans to expand? Which obstacles/lines on your course are your favorite?
I am definitely lucky to be able to have the backyard setup that I do. I built it with a plan for growth. There are still many lines in it that I haven’t mastered yet. I would love to expand and make it more like a park setup where I had more room for friends to join in with more beginner-friendly features. My favorite features are the multi-level platforms so I can practice bunny hops, side-hops, 180’s and… hopefully 360’s.
Where else do you like to ride trials?
I think I kind of answered this previously. I would love to do more street trials, but I don’t want to break the law. I have gone to the coastline of Michigan and was hopping boulders along a pier. I loved it, but people started yelling at me because of safety reasons. It is just not common for people to see, so it scares them.
I am also lucky that many of my mountain biking friends are trail coordinators for local parks and trails. One of the parks has a pump track and they let me install a lot of features around it (bridges, drops, tractor tires, boulders, skinnies and ramps). I am still working on developing the skills for most of them. Natural terrain and riding on grass is a completely different ballgame.
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 ride trials and mountain bike. I tried road and gravel riding for a while but I found it pretty boring. I still enjoy mountain biking and we have an awesome community (EPIC Mountain Bike) in Lansing, Michigan and we have weekly group rides. Riding trials has definitely improved my mountain biking skills. Although I can go fast and I could keep up with the leaders in our group, I don’t care much for the speed. I’m always looking for a line or a spot to stop and session a boulder, a log-over, a natural feature or a technical climb or descent. I am always looking to improve my technical riding 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?
To be honest, I don’t ride as much as I would like to, either because of weather or work. I don’t have a set routine, but I try to practice for about an hour and a half, three nights a week (on a good week). My routine is about getting my camera set up so I can learn or perfect a new trick. I’m definitely riding for fun and the challenge, but It is great to watch my videos. Even though the progress is slow, it is gratifying to see. I enjoy making edits and watching others because it is cool to show my friends and family that I’m not the only one out there doing sketchy stuff on bikes.
You’re in the 50+ club now. What types of workouts do you do to stay fit and avoid injuries?
I am pretty active due to work (warranty service for windows and doors) so my upper body gets a lot of activity, changing out panels of glass, going up and down ladders, lifting heavy doors, etc. I also like to build things so I can maintain strength. Outside of work, I run on a treadmill to keep my legs and lungs fit. I tend to carry a lot of tension and discomfort in my upper back and neck (between trials and driving a lot for work). Recently, my wife started us on a daily stretching routine and it seems to help. The best thing for me to avoid injuries has been the right shin guards and protective equipment.
What’s the bike trials scene like near you? How many other riders are there? Do you have regular group rides? Comps?
The trials scene in Lansing MI, is close to zero (as far as I know). I am involved in EPIC Mountain Bike, a group in our area, and I have gotten some of the gang to come over to practice skills, but none of them are really into trials. My friend, Barry Tilson, comes to my DIY back-yard park every few months. Other than that, I was recently invited to another city, Ypsilanti, to ride with Mitch Bray and his friend, Matt. It was exciting to be around more skilled trials riders and looking forward to riding more with them. We don’t have any competitions that I know of. I am always open to meeting other riders nearby, if they want to reach out to me.
How do you manage fear when doing new/bigger moves or lines?
That’s something that I’m working on. I have always been too fearless and I get injured pretty easily because I don’t factor in the risk. I have been working on taking things slower and being more aware of the environment. If I get in groups or with others, I get pumped up and take too many risks. That is usually when I get hurt. I will say, the smaller the wheel, the scarier it gets for me. I do have a fear of heights, though, so when I am doing rear-wheel hops on a feature, I am up there and the fear kicks in. In fact, I would rather jump from obstacle to obstacle over a gap than to jump from an obstacle down to the flat.
How I deal with the fear is repetition. I keep practicing and getting familiar with the situation and build up control. As the control grows, the fear starts to subside.
What are your personal goals with respect to trials (near-term and long-term)?
I think my goals are simple, I want to keep challenging myself. I also want to ride with confidence and be comfortable doing trials in front of a group of people. Short-term, I am working toward 360’s, but long-term, I just want to have fun. I have to factor in how much risk I am willing to take to determine what I want to take on.
Who are your bike trials ‘heroes’ and/or influences? Favorite trials video(s)?
I try not to idealize anyone, but Danny MacCaskill is my biggest influence because I think he is the whole package. I see an amazingly skilled athlete who is humble, creative AF, and a super clean rider with unique style. He is just out of this world. Although, lately I have been watching Jack Carthy, Alejandro Montalvo and Charlie Rolls. Those guys are amazing. Of course the Shin Dig Media group all seem very skilled. They remind me of how my early BMX years used to be. Riding with a bunch of friends, trying things out and laughing at our crashes. As far as videos to learn from, I think Aaron Lutze is great (as I already mentioned). His tutorials are impeccable.
What are your perspectives on the trials biking scene in general and in North America in particular?
I don’t think I can answer this, as I am fairly new to the sport and not involved in competitions. To be honest, I have never been to a competition and don’t know how they work. I would love to see more people interested in the sport, especially young riders. I think it is a super challenging sport that takes a lot of discipline and patience. I don’t understand why it is so big in Europe and other areas, but not as common here in North America, but I don’t know much about it.
Any interesting / funny / crazy bike trials stories or experiences you can share?
When I first started trials, I was watching some videos and was able to get up on my rear wheel for quite a bit, but I was always hopping backwards. I spent a whole year hopping backwards. I thought I was never going to break out of it. I started to get discouraged and I stopped riding for a while. Looking back now, it is kinda funny. I started posting my rides on the Inspired Facebook page and asking for feedback. I got some from some helpful people, but I didn’t understand trials language, so things didn’t click in my brain. After that, Fefo Estrada created the North American Facebook page and someone shared Aaron Lutze’s tutorial videos. They helped me to start hopping forward. And to add a little bit more comedy to the story, when I was hopping backwards, I thought a new bike would fix it. I always heard that a 20″ mod bike would make everything easier to learn. So, instead of buying a cheap, beat-up bike, I bought a brand new Jitze Varial. To my frustration, I could not get up on the rear wheel… extremely odd geometry. Even to this day I can’t. So I have a high appreciation for pure trials riders.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start bike trials or has just started?
Just be patient and keep practicing. With the proper setup and research you can do it. If you are lucky enough to have an experienced rider in your area, learn from him or her. Be observant, but understand not everyone has the skills to teach. Just keep getting out and practicing. Try to do the research and find the right combination to unlock moves to take you where you want to go. Also, if you are spending more than a month hopping backwards, you are doing something wrong. Don’t give up.
Anything else about bike trials that you’d like to share?
I just wish I would have discovered the sport earlier. Among all the cycling disciplines, street trials is the one I genuinely enjoy the most. It motivates me.
How do people find you online? (i.e., YouTube, web, social media, etc.)
I have an Instagram account which is @hextermorgan_trials and I am working to build up my YouTube channel in the future.
Who is the one North American bike trials rider (any skills level) that you think I should interview?
I think you are doing a great job of finding a diverse group of people to interview and I always look forward to learning about the new people you feature. I really don’t know many trials riders, except my friend, Barry Tilson. He may have a different perspective to offer.