NINER: Does riding a bike ever feel like a job?
KIRT: Umm, no, not really. I’m proud of my job. I’m stoked to be doing what I’m doing and I take it seriously, like a job but it doesn’t feel like a job. Maybe when I raced World Cups back in the day it did. I think I was more stressed out thinking about the money I was going to make to pay this bill or that or how I was going to invest it. That was the bigger stress than actually riding. It was never like the job [riding] I was doing because I wasn’t like, aww, I’ve got to get myself to train. This is what I do. I get myself up to in the morning, because I’m a morning person, and I need to go burn this energy off and go ride my bike. So no, it’s never been a job but I do take these things seriously.
NINER: What do you eat when you’re in training mode?
KIRT: Hard boiled eggs, oatmeal, juice. I make my own. I have a Vitamix and I put everything, in it. Cilantro, beets, really whatever I feel like. I’m a meat eater but I go back and forth. I try not to do too much red meat but I love fish – halibut, sea bass. And Clif bars. I’m always eating Clif bars and Shot blocks. I like their oatmeal bars. And the Sierra Trail mix too. (By the way, when we all went out to lunch on the video shoot day in Colorado Springs, Kirt had a quinoa salad while the rest of us plugged our arteries…)
NINER: What’s your favorite trail?
KIRT: The trails in Invermere, BC are pretty cool. And Whistler, but that’s cliché. Another great place is Retallack, Canada. They do skiing in the winter and heli-biking in the summer. It’s rad too. When you get to the top, it’s seriously like flow trail – all the way down. I think a lot of people stay away because it looks real big, but most riders can do it. There might be a couple of places where a newer rider might get hung up but it’s super fun and flowy.
NINER: What does training look like for you? And here’s why I ask. Your public persona is of this guy who likes to have a lot of fun, goof off and do dumb stuff. But to get where you’re at and remain there, you have to train. So what does that look like?
KIRT: Yeah, like I mentioned earlier, I take this seriously. I love it and want to keep doing it. When I need to get fit, I go out and hammer standing up. I don’t sit down. I’ll stand up for two hours. Seriously. If I want to get fit quick, I go out and do my two hours standing up. Just constantly hammering on the pedals. I like to ride by myself a lot.
When I’m not out riding trails, I’ll ride my dirt jumper equally. I’ll ride something every day. If I feel like I’ve been riding trail too much, I’ll go ride the jump park just to stay on point. It helps with my technical skills which helps with trail riding.
I don’t break it [training] down to heart rate or anything but I will do sprints. I love doing pyramid sprints. Like if Sea Otter comes, like a month or so before Sea Otter, I’ll do my pyramid sprints. I’ll start out with 30 second sprints. Then I’ll break it down to three 15 second sprints and then four 10 second sprints and then I’ll finish just going all out.
Really, for me it’s just constantly riding. There are some days I’ll spend eight hours on my hardtail dirt jumping and digging and hiking back and forth. If you put that into how many miles, it’s a lot. A lot of those days it’s just sprinting out of the saddle and total body.
Y’know going to the pump track is really big too. I know, if I can maintain heart rate and recover after going to the pump track, I’m in shape. It’s really a constant thing. If you compare how much energy a guy like me burns compared to a guy who’s a pro cross country racer and goes out and does 5 hours on the trail, I can say after a day of digging and going to the skate park and pump tracking I’m burning a lot. I believe it contributes to how well I’ve done the past couple of years doing enduros and stuff.
But I don’t go do weights. I like swimming. Swimming’s really big because it’s low impact. With my body being beat up over the years, I’m not the kind of guy who needs CrossFit. I don’t think the CrossFit thing for me works. I feel like I’m only supposed to max my body out maybe once or twice every couple of weeks. The rest of the time it’s just hard work. I’m not really a big weight lifter, it’s just more swimming and riding a lot of different stuff.
It’s funny, when I’m hurt, though, I go dig. I do yardwork. Yardwork’s like a huge thing for me because you’re always doing one thing or the other. Chopping logs. I’ve got piles of logs for firewood. I’ll go chop. It’s just doing those basic moves and working my body in different ways. It’s funny, I did a piece for Decline magazine a while back. We did this alternative training program. And it was about picking up logs and how to isolate certain muscles and stuff. We also did a workout at a playground and we came up with all these exercises to do at the playground. But lifting weights, going to the gym? That’s really not for me.
NINER: How often do you ride just to ride?
KIRT: I like being able to mix it up and switch back and forth between dirt jumping and doing downhill shuttles and just going on basic cross country rides. I’m always doing something different so I’m never burnt out. And sometimes when I feel burnt out, I’ll just ride my dirt jumper for a couple of weeks. I’ll only get on my xc bike just to go pedal out whatever I did to myself dirt jumping.
NINER: What’s your most memorable biking experience?
KIRT: One year I was racing the World Cup at Mount St. Anne, probably ‘97 or ‘98. And they shut the lift down. I get to the top and there’s nobody up there because of lightning. It’s just pouring down and there’s lightning everywhere. I was riding through the trees and the lightning was hitting so hard that it was lighting everything up. There were no course workers. Nobody else was out. I was like the last guy up there. I waited for a while and just watched and then I just took off. When I got to the bottom of the course, it was gone. It was like a giant river that I was riding through. The water was just rushing and rocks were rolling.
I just remember how important it was for me to take it all in. Wherever I was, in Europe or wherever, I would always stop to take it in because I was there because of biking. I never looked at it as a job. In fact, that was my biggest problem with racing. I didn’t focus. I was too stoked on what I was doing and where I was at. And that day was amazing because I was riding through the trees and the lightning was hitting and I’m like thinking I was going to get hit by lightning.
For me, every time I was in the start gate I’d be taking it all in. I have some pictures of me in the Dolomites looking out of the start gate. I’d look around and have to remind myself that I was racing. I grew up appreciating the world, looking at pictures in encyclopedias. And when I was actually there, I would think how lucky I was considering where I came from. It’s almost like this whole thing is one memorable moment.
NINER: What motivates you to get out of bed each day?
KIRT: There isn’t motivation. I just wake up. Or maybe it’s just being able to wake up and plan out my day. Y’know, the whole Saturday for life thing. That’s what I want every day to be like. I want to be able to wake up and ask myself, “What am I going to do today?” The Saturday for life thing means take advantage of the day. And that means both things. If you need to rest, rest it up, but if you need to kick ass, then kick ass. It’s almost that European way of life.
But yeah, really it’s just waking up. I want to yell, “Yeah!” It’s the craziest thing. Even if I didn’t sleep all night…
NINER: Where do you see yourself in 10, 20 years?
KIRT: Still riding my bike for sure. Doing more kid projects. Maybe getting paid for things I do now for free. I take on people. I help people out. All the young kids send me their resumes, so maybe managing and mentoring. And it’s not even about money but if I can keep doing what I’m doing and then be able to help, that would be awesome. And it’s hard, y’know, because it’s getting 10% of their thing and if it fails, then you owe them. But I’d rather do it out of the kindness of my own heart. So, you know, just being there, writing stories or whatever, just passing on what I’ve learned and done, what I’ve grown up in and what you can accomplish. You know, I want people to know to just get off your ass and do it.
NINER: What are Kirt’s 5 Rules to Live By?
KIRT: We talked about this the other day. It’s really just one. Never get in a tube behind a boat. Y’know, don’t let someone else determine your direction. And maybe there’s a second one. Never get into a lease with a girlfriend. A wife’s different story. And you know, treat others like you’d like to be treated. It’s all pretty simple, really.