My first 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 anticipated going.

This Is 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 to O.D.
Rider Profile - Jed Olson

Photo File
"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?
Jed:  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?
Jed:  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?
Jed:  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 medical clinic.
Justin:  Alright enough about the other stuff, let's talk about riding.
Jed:  OK
Justin:  So you spent all of your youth in Minnesota?
Jed:  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?
Jed:  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?
Jed:  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?
Jed:  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?
Jed:  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?
Jed:  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?
Jed:  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 fun?
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.
Jed:  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 trip.
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 was done.
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 to things.
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 riding?
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...