communication with Jed Olson was via a mysteriously enthusiastic email,
offering to help in any way with the Pirate Ride series, despite a leg
he told me was broken. I was intrigued by a fresh transplant who
had already sought to impact the scene despite being gimped. I
then out a face with the name at the La Grange classic in
Weaverville. After the race he hobbled up on his crutches, and
was of course nothing like I had pictured him. Things were then
dormant, through a failed ride one, until Star's SoHum Shootout.
Jed arrived, fresh off the gimp sticks, ready to help me organize the
event. He decided he would try out the course, despite sutures
still in his leg. I guess he felt pretty good because he toasted
all the local favorites and won the day. Instantly becoming the
buzz of the DH community. He has since established himself as a
die hard digger, avid rider, and good friend. His style is as
unique as his history and has pushed my riding to places I never
Indeed Only The First Half Of The Interview. I Have Enough
Dirt On This Fella To Fill A Dump Truck. So If You Like What You
Read Check Back For The Second Half Coming Soon. I am gonna have
to spend about 40 hours in a car with him this weekend so I didn't want
|Rider Profile - Jed Olson
"No matter what bike I'm on if there's a jump I'll hit it, if there's a good run for a skid I'll do it,whatever."
Justin: Alright it's
Wednesday May 10th, sitting here with Jed Olson, he is going to tell us
a little about himself. Starting off with any vital information
you would care to share; your date of birth, height, weight, and where
you were born.
Jed: I was
born in Mora Minnesota on September 25th, 1979. I've since grown
to 5'10" and roughly 180 pounds. Until last September I still had
an address in Mora Minnesota.
Justin: Where did you move last September?
In September we moved from Minnesota out to Humboldt County
California. Initially was roaming the streets of Eureka, and
crashing at my, then girl friend's place in Fortuna. It was
awesome, and now I live in McKinleyville.
Justin: And you married that girl friend since?
Yes on January 1st we had a wedding celebration, back in
Minnesota. Went back for all the family and friends, had a little
Christmas shin dig and then threw down for the big wedding. Then
bolted back out to California to resume our current lives.
Justin: What are your current lives at this point?
Our current lives are that weez Po, and both Kelly and I are Americorps
volunteers. I work at Zane middle school, and she works at mobile
Justin: Alright enough about the other stuff, let's talk about riding.
Justin: So you spent all of your youth in Minnesota?
For the most part yeah, I lived in Minnesota from the time I was born,
and that has always been my permanent residence although I've been in
and out lots of different places, lots of states and lots of countries,
but always had the mail sent to Minnesota.
Justin: Did you ever play organized sprts as a kid?
I played football, and basketball, and ran track, gave cross country a
try, and a little baseball, little leagues style baseball. That
was never too serious and lasted up until about 10th grade.
Justin: When did you get into biking, at more then just a playtime level?
People always ask me how long I have ridden, and truthfully I guess it
has been 20 years, just over, since I started riding a bike, and I
never gave it up. Pretty much always pushed the envelope, if we
found a tire and some bricks and a board we had a jump. We had a
skid contest at the end of our driveway. We had this big gravel
driveway that washed a bunch of sand onto the road, so it made great
skidding conditions. I always had an older brother who was always
pushing his envelope a little bit. Which definitely made me
strive to wheelie half as far as he could, or jump half as far as he
could. I would say around 9th-10th grade was when I was getting
out of organized sprts and started looking at biking as a sport.
Started racing BMX a little bit. Had been working at a shop since
I was 12, so after two years there I already had a quiver of bikes,
decided I better start putting them to use, and that I did.
Justin: So was that your first competition, in 10th grade? Or had you competed before then?
I think my first competition was in 9th grade, as a BMX race. I
think I was 14 Novice... that would of been the first organized
contest, outside of the skid contests and jump contests.
Justin: How long did you pursue BMX racing?
I really got into it as I turned 16, 17, anf 18. My freshman year
of college I reassesed the situation, and for awhile all I wanted to do
was drop out of college and become a pro BMX rider. Then I
realized I wasn't that much into racing, and kinda dropped the racing
scene my freshman year (of college). I decided I either had to
put everything into it, or it wasn't worth making the haul down to the
local race track. Well there was one within a half hour, the
others were all over an hour. So making the haul to those tracks
to not really pursue something beyond local racing just wasn't worth
it. So I just started riding a lot more for fun, and just
prusuing that side of it, doing whatever I wanted to on a bike.
Justin: Have you ever of a competitive mentality, to push your limits and try new things?
Definitely, to push the limits, to try new things. I don't need
to win, I don't have that competitive side, but if somebody is sending
something off a jump I definitely have to thrown down what I can.
I can't really be comfortable walking away without throwing down
whatever I can on a bike. So in that way I guess I am
competitive, in pushing doing what I can, if I haven't done everything
I can I'm not satisfied.
Justin: What was the riding
scene like in Minnesota? Did you have a tight group of friends
that you rode with? Were you well known in the community?
I can't really talk shit about the scene, but it wasn't that
great. That wasn't that many people that really had the same
vision of riding that I did. There were a lot of BMX guys that I
really enjoyed riding with, but lots of times, because of the life I
was living, I didn't have a BMX bike with me. So a mountain bike
kinda became a more wide ranging versatile tool. A lot of the
guys I hung out with were either all BMX or all cross country and road,
no one was really that border line, for a long time. Although
there are guys who have gone that route and were that route that I met
later down the road, but there was never really a tight scene riding
the kind of riding that I wanted to do. That was one of the big
reasons for me wanting to move to a different area and really pursue a
scene, so to say. There is a scene in Minnesota, but it isn't the
ultimate free ride scene, it's more the urban flat landing scene.
Justin: From what I understand the terrain of Minnesota
doesn't have the sever hills that Humboldt County has, and on top of
that I hear the winters are quite frigid. How did those two
factors shape your riding and your activities growing up?
Jed: As far as shaping the
activities, I'm pumped about where I grew up. I did some of the
most random shit you'll ever hear; jumping off buildings into snow
banks, towing people behind cars in ditches, doing whatever, you kind
of find your own fun. As far as riding, the combination of
working all summer, usually on the road or out of town, and then coming
back to school and working my ass off, and frigid winters didn't leave
a lot of time for really pursuing riding. In the last six or
seven years I really haven't pursued riding like I wanted
to. Before that I was living at home summers and working in
a bike shop, racing a lot, riding all the time, and running into guys
who ride all the time. In the last six or seven years it hadn't
been a whole lot about riding.
Justin: You mentioned that you always had a summer job and
worked hard in school, sounds like you had your nose to the
grindstone. What were some of those summer vocations and did you
see those bringing you toward an eventual goal or were they just for
Jed: Originally the summer
vocations were; the first summer of college I worked back home in a
bike shop. Same shop I had worked in for the previous eight years
or so. Second summer in college I did a stint at a summer camp in
Connecticut, followed by the same camp the next summer. I was a
mountain bike instructor, it was good because I was riding but you ride
for seven hours with eight and nine year olds and at the end of the day
you didn't want to do your own riding. It didn't push my riding,
it kinda bummed me on riding more then anything at times. But I
definitely like the summer camp vibe, and that is why I was there, so I
can't say I wasn't having fun, I had a great time. I also pulled
some time at Woodward one summer. That was sweet, basically the
main reason behind that was to ride. Yeah I was at a camp, but I
was there to ride and I think it probably showed a little bit in my
work ethic. I have also spent time with a company called Cycle
America doing bicycle tours all over the country. That was good
fun again but riding a road bike all summer isn't really my idea of
training for free riding. At the end of the summer that year I
embarked on the road trip of a lifetime, free riding non stop for a
month straight. I also worked some summers for a company called
Finish Line Sports, where I timed rodeos, horse races, and drove a big
score board around to all these weird events.
Justin: Tell us a little more about your free riding trip of the century.
Busted my balls for a whole summer, had about ten grand sitting in my
pocket, I was working for Cycle America essentially doing my own little
mobile bike shop, wrenching on road bikes and selling parts.
Worked hard all summer, non stop for four months, on the road, in a
tent everynight. Actaully most nights were on a gym floor cause I
was too tired to put up a tent. Decided I needed to go to
Whistler, cause I had always wanted to go there. Told another
buddy I was going no matter what, if he came along gas would be cheaper
then if he ever tried to go alone. I had bought a van for
five hundred bucks right before I left (for cycle america). It
had sat for four months. Got home, started it up, ordered teh
Banshee I am riding now from Quality Bicycle Products, picked it up at
their shop, put it together, loaded it in the van and took off the next
day. Went to Montana first, then to Whistler. Rode Whistler
off and on for a week as we also jetted down to the North Shore.
At that point my brother flew out and we picked him up. Now it
was three of us in the van with four bikes. All of us sleeping in
the van almost every night. A couple of nights in the tent.
Then we went from British Columbia down to the Ashland (Oregon)
area, that was my first trip to Ashland. Rode mountain top to
bottom, got a ride back up to the top with some portly softball
players. That was a really sick trip to Ashland. Then we
went down to the bay area, did a little surfing. Darted across
Vegas to the Red Bull Rampage. Did some riding out there, did a
road gap I had been looking at for quite awhile, and had seen in a
bunch of magazines. Watched the contest. Then we darted
back up to Moab, and then back to Minnesota via Colorado. It was a
pretty sick trip. Three people, four bikes, tons of random stuff
going on, and about a month or a little more on the road.
Justin: The Rampage was a big motivator in putting that trip together right?
Jed: I was kinda debating
whether or not I wanted to dart from British Columbia down to the
Rampage, but I definitely wanted to see the Rampage. I think it
was the second that it was going on. I'd seen it before and
really wanted to check it out. That summer I had actually ridden
the course on a four inch rental bike and it just amped me to watch
someone really send it on the course, so decided to make it part of the
Justin: The Banshee, was that your first long travel bike?
Jed: I had a Haro X3, the first
Haro X3 that ever came out, the first one that came with disc breaks,
and everything free ride that I wanted. It was a sweet set up for
the price, but it definitely wasn't a long travel bike. I rode it
like it was (long travel) but it wasn't, so I needed to step it up to a
bike that wasn't going to hold me back.
Justin: Before then did you feel like your bike held you back, was your progression based upon what you were riding?
Jed: I think that bike helped
and hurt. It helped in that it was a small frame and a light
bike. Comparitively the Haro was a light bike, and a lot of times
it was the only bike I had around so I would go out and ride it on the
road, cross country ride it, or take it to the dirt jumps, ride it at
the skatepark, or ride the halfpipe with it. It was the most
versatile bike I've had in awhile, I could completely kill it on
anything I was riding with it, so that was good. But it got to a
point where it was just exploding. I ended up trading it to a kid
for the equivalent of fifty bucks, there wasn't much left of it when it
Justin: You started college in Minnesota or elsewhere?
Jed: I started in Minnesota, and
pretty much went straight through in Minnesota, with the exception of
one semester where I studied in Australia. I was over in western
Australia for a semester and then extended my stay over a summer
there. But pretty much pounded through college as quick as I
could. At one point I really didn't want to go to college, but I
realized the cheapest way to do it was to just get it done and out of
the way while I still had scholarships and before I had mortgage
payments and everything else to pay for.
Justin: What was your take on the riding vibe in Australia while you were
Jed: There was definitely a vibe there, definitely a vibe that
was going around. Right away, like the second day I was there, I
met some guys who were like 'we saw you had a bike, why don't you come
ride with us?' So it was sweet to ride with those guys, and it
was a good scene. They brought me around and we rode all over the
place; cross country, downhill, long epic free ride days. Not
much shuttling or anything like that, but we would make a whole day of
riding just about every weekend. It would usually be a thirty
mile day, with long climbs and long downhills. It was times like
that when a short travel bike really came in handy. But there was
always another scene that those guys weren't really in that was
bubbling around where I was. That's where guys like Sam Hill were
in the same area at the same time. There was a really sick
downhill race scene going on, we went out and watched a few, but none
of us had the equipment to actually be competitive so that's where that
stopped. I really feel fortunate that I was able to get into the
scene that I got into while I was there.
Justin: There's a lot of buzz, in the last few years,
regarding Australian riders, just because they've been so dominant in
the world racing and freeriding scene. Is there anything that you
witnessed there that would explain why guys are so laid back and so
fast? Is it something in the terrain, something in the culture?
Jed: A little bit of both.
The terrain I was riding they have something called ball bearing soil,
and that's what it was, you would walk through the parking lot and fall
on your ass. To ride in that was hell, but if you could you were
on it. Also, when you look at the culture every neighborhood has
a free BMX track, every neighborhood has a free skatepark. In the
Australian way of life they say they 'work to live', and Americans
'live to work'. It shows, you know, when you take your kid out
every weekend and go hang out with him and get him to ride his
bike. You just have such an active culture. Everyone in the
country lives on the coast, for the most part, and everyone is active
in water, on the beach on the weekends. Lots of cities with
walkable distances, rideable distances. You don't have quite the
fat culture that we've got. So a little bit of both, a little bit
of the harsh terrain, Australians have definitely had their work cut
out for them inhabiting that country and riding in it. The
culture that has developed from that really supports and active
lifestyle, supports a laid back way of life, real level headed approach
Justin: So you would lean more toward the term free rider as opposed to racer?
Jed: I prefer to use the term
black diamond riding... no that's not true... definitely free rider not
racer. Just rider is the label that i use. I ride
everything and enjoy it all. No matter what bike I'm on if
there's a jump I'll hit it, if there's a good run for a skid I'll do
it, whatever. Not necessarily so much about racing, just riding.
Justin: When did you really become aware of the mountain biking free ride scene?
Jed: I had some old videos, like
Pulp traction, Tread, and Re Tread. Some of those older videos I
saw what guys were doing, I can't remember which one of those videos it
is, but Brett Tippie makes some debues and he's shredding down some
steep slopes and I thought that was kinda lame in a lot of those
videos. That is when I saw that there was free riding, and that
wasn't really what I was looking for in biking, but that was definitely
and aspect of biking that was going on at the time. From there, I
guess media really pushes the free ride scene, what you see in
magazines and videos depicts what free riding is, although to me it's
always just been riding what ever is around.
Justin: What changes have you seen in the depiction of
free riding by the media, the popularity of it and the actual level of
Jed: The depiction has changed a
bit, I think everything is looking more toward fow rather then just
doing a big hit. Being able to session wherever you are, I think
that is kinda the ultimate for people who enjoy free riding. For
me that's what I look for, I don't look for one big hit, I look for
some place that's just hit after hit after hit and just flow it left,
right, down the center whatever. I think media is depicting that
more and i think it helps that there are more riding spots that are
like that. Whereas before there was one cliff you could send
yourself off and you push back up to the top and do it again. I
also think the riding is following that same trend as more places are
developed and more people get into it. You can bring a crew out
and it's more then one person. To qoute Justin Graves "Two
shovels is so much more than one more than one." When you get
more people out things happen a lot quicker. That's definitely
where free riding is going, people are pushing each other, it's pushing
the sport. I see a huge influence coming from moto and BMX, as it
should be. Everything is so closely linked that it should be hard
to tell the line between the different aspects.
Justin : Do you see the future progression of free ride
being more towards technology? Obviously as the bikes have gotten
bigger and more dialed in more things have been possible. Or, as
you just mentioned, the cross polination. With BMX pros coming
and applying their skills to mountain bikes as well as dirt bike riders.
Jed: I definitely see technology
playing a role, but I feel it is the human side of it that's gonna be
pushing the sport. Technology could cease right now and riding
would still continue to progress no matter what. Technology could
even regress and you would still see a progression in riding.
Justin: Going back to Red Bull. You've told me that when
you first became aware of it you weren't too impressed with the level
of riding. Do you think there was some complacency, and/or still
is, in the free riding scene? Guys falling back their lorals.
Jed: I'd seen that event on
video and thought it must be super sick, and went and watched it in
person and just wasn't impressed with what I saw. Not that it
wasn't insane, there was lots of good riding, but I just expected those
guys that I had always looked up to to be a lot better than what I saw
when I went and rode with people I knew, and that's not really what I
was seeing. I saw a lot of guys trying to nail a few big hits and
saw a lot of guys not really push themselves. Definitely
understood why video editors edit three days of the competition down to
fifteen minutes, because it looks a lot better that way then watching
the whole competition.
To Be Continued...