Cam McCaul is synonymous with freestyle mountain biking. He has been a household name in the MTB dirt community for the past decade. Cam has featured in countless freeriding movies, from the acclaimed Chain Reaction and New World Disorder series to Aaron Chase’s Killing Time and Counterparts movies to name a few.
Other than his riding, Cam is well known for his charisma and energy. I’m amazed he managed to stay still long enough to respond to all these questions! Despite suffering from serious injury over the past couple of years and competing in pain he has still racked up some impressive results, including first place at Crankworx Colorado last year.
This year Cam is fixed up and ready to show the new kids on the FMB stage that he still has what it takes to shut down a slopestyle course.
In this interview Cam talks about how he tried to fit in with the cool kids, the origins of slopestyle, injuries, designing and building his own slopestyle course, filming trips and more.
Years riding: 12
Sponsors: Trek, Rockstar Energy, Fox Head, Fox Racing Shox, Teva, Shimano, Contour HD, Smith Optics.
Bike set-up: Trek Slopstyle bike, Trek Ticket (click here for bike check), Treck Session 9.9, Treck Slash, Trek Remedy.
Music: Black Sabbath, Nirvana, Queens of the Stoneage, Foo Fighters.
style or tricks: Hybrid really
Favourite trick: Frontflip superman
Riding style: Keep it flowing.
“Some of them were a little “too cool” to ride with me at first but I eventually got in the crew and had people to ride with every day.”
Hi Cam! Welcome to getabmx, hows it going? First of all, sorry to hear you’re still suffering from a shoulder injury. It came up as an issue last year during contests and you’ve had problems with it way before then. What’s the story behind it?
I started dislocating my shoulder in 2004. It’s been popping out like crazy ever since, and after breaking my Scapula and tearing a ligament from a crash at the Claymore Challenge in 2011, it became even more unstable and made it almost impossible to ride properly.
I guess Kyle Strait didn’t make it any better (video here)...
Exactly! That’s a good example of how easily it was popping out. Add a major torn ligament and a broken scapula to the mix, and there was even less stability. The time had come to get it fixed once and for all so I can ride the way I want and not be held back.
What do you do to stay busy when you aren’t riding?
I love to surf and play music so those two activities balance out the bike riding pretty well.
How’s it looking for contest this year?
Great, I’m super pumped to come in strong this year. In 2010 I broke my femur in the middle of the season. In 2011 I busted my shoulder during the 2nd comp of the year and rode the rest of the year in pain. I managed to finish out both seasons in 6th place overall so I can’t wait to complete a full season while riding 100%. I’ve been rehabbing the shoulder after surgery for two and a half months now and have another two months to get strong and comfy on the bike, so everything is right on track.
So from the beginning, how did you get into riding?
I saw other people ripping around town on full suspension mountain bikes on their way to hit up a trail ride and right away knew it was something I wanted to do. I rode a BMX bike and a motorcycle at that point in time and a MTB seemed like a perfect combination of both worlds; a bicycle that you could ride out your door without getting a noise complaint, but it had big wheels and suspension like a dirt bike so you could launch it high and ride it far.
How was the scene back then, and who did you ride with as a kid?
There were some local dudes who were older than me and had a good scene going. They were the same dudes that I saw riding around town, and once I got a bike from Toys R Us, I started meeting those dudes and trying to go on rides with them. Some of them were a little “too cool” to ride with me at first but I eventually got in the crew and had people to ride with every day.
What was your journey from first getting hooked up to where you are today riding for big companies, and was Ellsworth your first bike company sponsor?
I went from the Toys R Us bike to a more legit bike, to then finally an Ellsworth because that’s what the local shop dealt. I started breaking the Ellsworths and they started sending me free replacement frames. After breaking those, they put me on a kind of a R&D flow program with incentives for getting in magazines. One thing lead to another, I started traveling to events, and one day I got the opportunity to meet Andrew Shandro. A few months later I got a call from him asking if I would be interested in switching to Trek bikes. At the time I wasn’t sure about it because they didn’t have any of the types of bikes that I liked to ride. In hindsight it was the best thing that ever happened to my bike riding career. This is now my ninth year with Trek and they have THE BEST bikes in the industry hands down.
So you said that you’re currently designing and building a slopestyle course. What’s it going to be like?
A few months ago I was approached with the opportunity to design a slopestyle course for a County bike park in Novato California in Marin County. I spent the first couple weeks after my surgery drawing out ideas and dimensions for a course layout and now the project is coming along slowly but surely. Building still won’t likely start for a while, but I’m super stoked on the layout and it will make for a great FMB event one day. Maybe even for the 2013 season.
How did slopestyle actually come about?
Every action sport has its racing side and its freestyle side. The racing side of MTB developed first, as it does in many sports. Eventually, play riding between races progressed to dirt jump exhibitions after slalom races. That evolved into jump contests that were held on their own, which evolved into bigger and badder jump contests, which evolved into putting more than just dirt jumps on a contest course. Drops, wallrides, road gaps, quarter pipes, they all started popping up and it resembled more of a snow slopestyle event than it did a dirt jump contest. Meanwhile, Rampage was starting and Freeride became its own genre of mountain biking. The first slopestyle contest I ever rode was a snow comp called FreezRide in 2003. Later that year, Whistler transformed their annual dirt jump contest into a slopestyle event. It was a huge success and in 2004 Crankworx was born with slopestyle being its main event.
During the first few years of Crankworx the drops and jumps kept growing. Then the features on slopestyle courses reduced in size to encourage riders to do bigger tricks. I always thought that huge jumps, drops and wooden features was what defined slopestyle and separated it from dirt jumping contests.
As a competitor, what are your views?
I feel like Crankworx courses were getting better and better between the years of 2003 to 2006. The course in 2006 was the perfect balance of big obstacles with a flowy shape, dimensions, and spacing. In 2007 a downward spiral began. The obstacles were the same size but the flow was off; flat landings, weird spacing, no maintenance, etc. Subsequently the riding level went down due to the course, and the public perceived this to mean that the course was too big... This was not the case. An ideal slopestyle course would have the perfect balance of size and flow and the crowd would be wowed by both visually stunning obstacles and the riding that takes place on them. If you can only have one, then you choose the flow. At least then the riding level would get progressively better every year. If course designers can successfully balance these two factors, you get a perfect slopestyle event. It’s just easier said than done.
You haven’t had an easy time with front flips. Are they really worth the hassle? Would you have learnt them if you didn’t compete?
I’m fascinated by frontflips. They just seem so wrong at first but once you master the technique, they work so well and you can add variations to them. I ride for myself. If the judges like the tricks that I do it’s a bonus. Frontflips are incredibly challenging and progressive and if you’ve been competing for almost ten years, then these are the kind of things that keep it fresh and exciting.
Photo by Andy C (Flickr link)
“I check the BMX webpages every day for new videos and I love getting ideas from their world and putting a MTB terrain spin on it.”
Any plans to learn double flips?
I tried once and broke my collarbone. It was on a really big jump and I made the mistake of doing it too slow because I didn’t want to over-rotate. In hindsight, I should have started out fast and then slowed it down to avoid the over-rotation, but I learned that lesson the hard way. Maybe I’ll try again some day and learn from that mistake!
What’s it like riding at contests and events such as Joyride and the Nitro Circus tour in front of thousands of people? Do you get nervous?
The more you do it, the more normal it becomes. Nitro Circus shows are great practice for events like Crankworx because you get into the routine of having to perform on-point in front of thousands of loud awesome people.
Is Rampage fun to ride? It looks terrifying! I remember when you come up short on the Canyon jump. That must have shook you up a bit?
Rampage is the most fun in the world when everything is going smoothly. I think knowing how much danger exists is a factor that makes it so exhilarating when you pull off your run.
What do you think about Josh Bender?
Biggest balls to ever hover over a MTB saddle.
I heard that the Post Office trails were getting plowed, but the trails look like they are still going strong. Has the issue been resolved?
Yep, they’ll be plowed eventually. We’ve been hearing this every year for the last decade but it hasn’t happened yet. It’s supposed to happen this spring so we’ll see how it goes.
What advice would you give to other riders facing opposition towards their trails?
Unless you own the land, you don’t really have a say, so enjoy it while it lasts and always have a plan of where to build next.
Was it your idea to backflip the beach cruiser at the start of Top Soil 2, and how did you make it out of the sea, it looked super rough!?
Yeah, that was fun. It turned out that a massive swell happened to hit that day and we already had the ramp hidden behind the public restrooms at the beach so it was go-time no matter what. Luckily the bike floated so I paddled back to shore with it and we got a sweet shot.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done, and what has been your luckiest escape?
One of the scariest things I’ve done was probably flipping the Green River Utah canyon jump for NWD 8. The lip was really small and quick and if I buzzed my ass on the tire while flipping the takeoff it would have been a long way down into the bottom of the canyon.
My luckiest escape was probably a big crash I had at Rampage in 2003. I came into a section way too fast, lost control of my speed and flew off a cliff. I’m not sure how I didn’t get hurt on that one.
Michael Overbeck Photography
“I always picture it going perfect in my head a million times before I drop in. ”
How do you set yourself up to try a huge gap or big trick for the first time? What do you think about on top of the roll in, and as you’re approaching the lip?
I always picture it going perfect in my head a million times before I drop in.
Riding for a living is the dream for most riders. Are there any downsides?
Definitely no downsides, just the challenge of trying to be in multiple places at the same time and making sure you stay healthy so that you can follow through with all the plans and commitments.
What do you enjoy most about riding?
Freedom to ride your own way.
Michael Overbeck Photography
“Consistency and the ability to adapt to a course is the most important thing for riders trying to make it in the FMB.”
Who inspired you when you first got into riding, and who inspires you now?
The older dudes in town that I was riding with were my main source of inspiration during my early days. Later on, I was mostly inspired by the riding I saw in videos. Aaron Chase’s segments in all the Chain Reaction videos and Kirt Voreis’s part in “Evolution” were epic because they were oozing with style and creativity. John Cowan’s segments in the early NWD films were also a big fave.
The bar is being raised all the time. Do you feel under more pressure at comps now than when you started competing?
I think I’m more accustomed to the contest atmosphere these days so its less nerve racking now than it was when I started competing. I just pick a run that I will be stoked on and focus on laying it down.
Is there an unknown up and coming rider you have your eye on?
Brett Rheeder is a new up and coming dude out of Ontario that I think will turn some heads. He has a high level of riding and is super consistent with it. I think consistency and the ability to adapt to a course is the most important thing for riders trying to make it in the FMB. A lot of kids can hose down a sandy step-up jump, but putting together a well rounded consistent run is what lands you on the podium.
Who do you enjoy watching ride the most?
Probably Andreu Lacondeguy.
What’s it like having a brother who rides? How much competition is there between you on a normal session and at comps?
It’s cool, we’ve been riding together since we started so surely there’s always a competitive aspect to that, but at a contest we want to see each other do their best. Of course we both want to beat each other, but we also want each other to land our run.
You’ve featured in so many videos and web edits. Is there one which stands out for you?
Right now the thing that stands out is that I need to film more. All of my videos are old so its time to make some new ones.
Do you have any big video projects planned for this year?
I missed out on most of the shooting this year because of my shoulder surgery but I will have some footage in the new Anthill release “Strength in Numbers” and the new Freeride Entertainment release, “Where the trail ends.” I would love to have filmed more with both of those projects, but my off season has been dedicated to getting healthy.
Got any tips for dumping threes?
LEANNN back. Extend your arms. Take off like you’re going to do a backflip and drop your shoulder and turn your head to look at your rear wheel right before you leave the lip.
“We (Cam and his brother) have been riding together since we started so surely there’s always a competitive aspect to that, but at a contest we want to see each other do their best. Of course we both want to beat each other, but we also want each other to land our run. ”
What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen on a bike?
What is your fondest or funniest riding memory?
Watching Bearlcaw case a rock, get a pinch flat and then fall over. You had to be there.
Best spot you’ve ever ridden?
Desert landscapes that feel like a natural bike park. Places like: Green River, Punta San Carlos Mexico, Virgin UT.
Worst and best roadtrip experiences?
The worst roadtrips make the best experiences. Any time something goes wrong on a roadtrip it ends up being the part that you remember and laugh about the most for years to come. One time I went on a roadtrip in an RV with Voreis and Vanderham. We drove through the desert for a week, hardly found anything to ride, got stuck in a ditch for a while, but we had a blast.
Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
I’m trying to teach myself how to play piano.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
You should really do an interview with GetaBMX.co.uk
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Still riding, got a kid, enjoying every minute of it.
Finally, and I guess most importantly, why do you ride?
Because I’m hooked. I think about doing it all day, so I might as well actually do it.
Rob Newman (co-organiser of Dirt Wars)
What would it take to get you to a UK comp?
I’m down, I guess a sure way would be if it was a Gold on the FMB or if I was already in the area for something. I love the UK. Especially the dry wit and sarcasm you guys have. Would be stoked on an excuse to go back.
Stevil-1 (Pinkbike user)
What did you think of the Bearclaw Invitational? Will you be back?
Love it. Yep, I’ll be there this year.
Were you in on any of the after party fiasco?
Was your bike OK after taking a swim during the big air comp?
Yep, its not made of sugar.
How can I get the McCaul shine on my hair?
That sounds gross. I didn’t realize I had that. Heading to the barbershop now.
Bikeaddict123 (Pinkbike user): What’s the best riding trip you’ve ever been on?
Probably the Punta San Carlos Mexico trip in Follow Me. We had epic terrain to ride, good waves to surf, and plenty of Mexican food to fuel the fire.