Behind the 9: Panda bears, terrorizing the neighborhood and grips with Niner’s Anthony Lenz

Three cyclists ride gravel roads.
Grinding some gravel at last year’s Foco Fondo.

Does this guy look familiar? He may. We’ve featured him in a handful of Niner riding videos. Most recently he’s been seen on Niner’s SIR 9 in its various versions – a bikepacking steed and a singlespeed. But riding bikes takes up only a small percentage of Anthony’s time. Most days you’ll find him in Niner’s Rider Services Department working with bike shops and riders to handle their warranty concerns.  Recently, we sat down with Anthony and asked him a few questions.

NINER: What’s your first memory of riding a bike?

ANTHONY: I don’t know if it’s the first memory, but it’s the one I remember pretty clearly. I was probably 7 or 8 and my mom and I were living in this apartment complex and I remember that I would do hot laps around the apartment complex. There were probably five of us and we terrorized the complex and hit any little stair jump on our sketchy little Huffys.

You know, just the worst case scenario bikes. Saddles were torn. Grips were slid in on these little bars with rusted ends that had no bar plugs. We didn’t have helmets; we didn’t know any better. And we had this course – I’ll use that term loosely – and we would try to time ourselves to see how quickly we could do it. One time, I hit the stairs, went around a corner and then as I was coming into the right corner decided to do my best version of moto GP. I leaned the bike over and I remember the tires braking loose and I just dragged my knee across the asphalt. I think I had just learned to ride a bike a few months before. We were definitely pushing the limit.

A skier jumps with airs and arms spread wide.
Flyin’ high with a different mode of transportation.

NINER: What was your first mountain bike?

ANTHONY: The first mountain bike that I purchases was a Specialized P3. I had just turned 16. My buddy and I had just gotten into the freeride scene. What’s interesting, we were at the library “studying” and we discovered this section that had all these riding videos. It was like this light shined down upon us and we heard angels sing. We checked out as many as we could and one of the first ones we watched was like early Red Bull Rampage. We learned all about this different type of riding so we went into Bicycle Village and they had these P1s or P3s. We just harassed that guy at the bike shop until we got enough money together to go in and buy them.

The very first thing we did was go to this development that was under construction that had this big dirt mound and we started riding it. We wore full face helmets, kneepads, full on dorky teenager stuff. Another time, we decided to go somewhere and we had heard of Fruita. We had no idea that it was full on mountain biking. So we drive out there, go to Over the Edge and talked to this dude who had no idea what we were riding. He told us to head out to the Ribbon Trail.

We headed out there, no food, no water, wearing jeans, and started riding. We got way in over our heads. On this one downhill section we were pushing it and both of us overheated our brakes and ended up ditching our bikes into the bushes to stop. From there, the fun was over. We hike-a-biked for a long time. No water, no food, in the desert with full face helmets in jeans. We finally got to the main road and flagged a guy down who gave us a ride. When we told him what we were doing, he was like, “You do know that’s a cross country loop, right?”  We really had no idea what we were doing.

NINER: If you could go back to any place right now and ride, where would it be?

ANTHONY: Definitely the east coast. I’m torn between the Kingdom Trails in Vermont and DuPont Trails outside of Asheville. I love that area. It’s so much fun. On top of it, the community feel there is so good.

NINER: What’s the worst ride you’ve ever had?

A mountain biker catches some big air off of a jump.
More high flyin’ antics somewhere high above the fray.

ANTHONY: Man, that’s so tough because even the bad ones turn into the good ones sometimes. But I think, if there’s a bad one, it was early on when I was racing downhill. I had made it to Cat 1. I thought maybe I could move up and become a pro. But one of the things I noticed was that what separated those guys from me was fitness. So a friend of mine who was way into cross country and super fit suggested I go do some cross training on some cross country rides.

So I borrowed a Giant Trance from the shop I was working at and showed up to meet him at the bottom of Maxwell. I was wearing baggy shorts and flats. And by the time I got to the top of Maxwell I thought, “Wow. This is really hard.”  So it might not have been one of my worst rides but I did have the realization that there was work involved. But ultimately, I really liked it, the downhill thing went away and then I started racing cross country.

NINER: What is it about the bike that has grabbed onto you and not let go?

ANTHONY: It’s just what I’ve always done. I played team sports as a kid but the one constant through all of that was the bike. It’s also the one thing, when I’m super stressed out or whatever, the moment I get on a bike, it all goes away.

NINER: What movie or novel or cartoon character do you most identify with?

ANTHONY: Hmmm, I don’t know if I can tell you a character, but I can tell you an animal I connect with. I think pandas are super cool. They’re a friendly reminder of people. They seem like pretty relaxed animals but at the end of the day, they’re a bear. I think they represent what humans can do. They can be super cool but turn around and do something awful to people.

NINER: What is one rule you try to live by?

ANTHONY: My grandfather always said, “Don’t mix up today with yesterday.” And I’m not always good at that but to me it means, “Don’t focus on the negative. Can’t change yesterday.”

NINER: What would you do if you didn’t work for Niner and funds were not an issue?

A mountain bike rider jumps a bike off of a rock ledge.
A little Fort Collins air time. Anthony on a recent photo and video shoot.

ANTHONY: I would make sure my mom had a nice house to live in. And my friends, I’d help set them up in some sort of income generating business. Then I’d buy like a van, not a new one, but like a shitty 70’s Ford Econoline van and I’ve fix it up and drive it all over the country. I’d just go from place to place, find good local food and plug in. But the last time I didn’t have a job I started to go a little crazy so I’d probably go in and volunteer to work at different bike shops.

NINER: In the cycling world, who would you like to meet and go ride with? What would you ask that person/

ANTHONY: I’ve always admired Brendan Fairclough as a rider. His style is unique. He shreds and the best part is that he always looks like he’s having a blast while he’s riding. It’d be rad to get out on the trail with him and maybe bet a few pointers.

NINER: What piece of bike gear can you not live without?

ANTHONY: I’m pretty particular about handlebars and grips. I don’t like cushy grips. I like the feedback I get from the trail with thin grips. I know there’s a trade-off but I really pay attention to my bars and grips.

A person stand looking out over a city from atop a ridgeline. A bike leans against a picnic table.
Looking over the city. A little overnight bikepacking adventure.

NINER: If you had to choose between bowling, mini-golf or disc golf, which would it be?

ANTHONY: Bowling all day long. No question about it. In high school we had this thing. We had dollar bowling for high school students. We went every Tuesday and Thursday night. We got pretty decent. I like bowling a lot.

NINER: If you could improve one skill on the mountain bike, what would it be?

ANTHONY: I think the one area where I’m really lacking is confident cornering. I’m definitely a bit of a uni-turner. I feel like I can turn left a lot better than I can turn right.