Photo by Roy Rovers (www.bewicked.eu)
The name Darren Berrecloth conjures images of huge 360s over roadgaps and off rock faces. The Claw was one of the first guys to take BMX tricks to the mountains and make it work. In an era where dead sailor hucking was standard practice in freeride mountain biking, Darren stood out; He had style.
He is a true freerider, relentlessly hunting down slopes in arid landscapes on the off chance he can scope out a line. Big mountains and steep, unforgiving natural terrain is where he excels and the huge risks associated with this style of riding does’t seem to phase him.
I remember the first time I watched a 360 off a drop on a freeride mountain bike. I was gobsmacked. The clip was released in 2003 as part of Darren Berrecloth’s opening section in New World Disorder 4, but it took many more years until 360 drops became a common site in freeriding.
The Claw took to slopestyle and big mountain events like a fish to water. It was only natural that in 2006 he organised his own event on a course designed and built by himself, the Bearclaw Invitational. It was such a success that the contest returned, and it has since become the most highly regarded and anticipated stop on the Freeride Mountain Bike (FMB) World Tour.
In this exclusive interview Darren provides a glimpse into his life as a professional freeride mountain biker.
Years riding: 18
Sponsors: Specialized, Sombrio, Fox Suspension, Adidas Eyewear, Shimano, Mavic, Ixs, Lizard Skins, Mozzart Chainguides, 5 Ten.
Bike set-up: Which one?
Music: Punk Rock and maybe some Techno.
style or tricks: Steezy tricks.
Riding style: Big mountain all the way.
Local riding spot: Spook Woods.
Motto/phrase: Get it done!
Favourite place to ride: Home.
2011 Highlight: Getting to ride my bike again after breaking my back.
“I broke some ribs and a nurse cut an artery in my chest. I almost bleed to death right in front of my brother and girlfriend.”
Hi Darren, welcome to getabmx! How’s it going?
Going pretty good other than I just went fishing and got skunked.
What have you been up to lately?
I have been filming all over the world for the movie Where the Trail Ends.
So you grew up in Vancouver, which in part explains your love of the outdoors, what was it like growing up there?
It was pretty cool growing up here but if you wanted something rad to ride you had to build it yourself!
How did you get into bikes?
Well pretty much everyone had a bike when I was growing up and I just started going farther off those curbs and now here I am.
Do you think that you would have got into bikes regardless of where you lived?
Probably not, like if I lived in Alaska I would probably be a sledder.
In the DVD Counterparts there is footage of you riding MTB, BMX and a Snowmobile. Have you always ridden BMX alongside MTB?
Yeah I first started on MTB’s then rode BMX for years and only rode mountain bikes here and there, but then I got way back into MTB.
What drew you closer to the MTB world?
Being able to go big and having the freedom to do whatever you want and not get made fun of for it!
Would you say that it’s easier to be successful as a MTB rider rather than as a BMX’er?
Heck no I have to build almost everyday and risk my life on gnarly ass stuff, hike mountains and at times barely get to ride my bike because I travel and build and film so much! When I was full on with BMX I just rode my bike all day, every day.
Do you think that the level of MTB dirt, park and street riding will ever catch up with BMX?
Sooner or late snowmobiling tricks will catch up... What I mean is there is a level any sport can achieve and in time only the tools will depict the insanity.
In NWD 4 (Ride the Lightning) you landed a 360 off a drop on your DH bike. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one at the time to be amazed. How did the idea come about? And how many attempts did it take to land it? I’ve tried spinning a DH bike and it just didn’t happen...
Yeah I always looked up to guys like Seth Morrison that took the steeze into the backcountry and I tried it a few time on a sandy drop and crashed a few times but then I just took it to the backcountry and made it happen.
The NWD series is iconic to freestyle mountain biking. What was it like being a part of it? And do you have some crazy behind the scenes stories to tell?
Ah man it was pretty awesome to be part of it for sure but where would I start with stories when there are so many!
Other than that, what have been your best and worst roadtrip experiences?
The best roadtrip was in China, and the worst would be the countless hours in shitty vehicles travelling to remote deserts.
Are you working on any big video projects at the moment?
Yeeeeeup Where the Trail Ends.
Your riding is very big mountain orientated. I’ve seen a few videos of you riding some crazy natural terrain, just like an off piste skier or snowboarder. Do you get a lot of inspiration from snow sports? And would you like to see the freestyle area of MTBing move more in that direction rather than the dirt jumping and park riding side which is most popular these days?
I feel that dirt jumping and park is a great part of our sport and I personally love to do all types of riding but I would say it would be rad for the big mountain riders to get a little more love for sure.
You must have encountered some near misses and hairy moments during your career. What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done, and what has been your luckiest escape?
The scariest moment of my life was when I broke some ribs and a nurse cut an artery in my chest. I almost bleed to death right in front of my brother and girlfriend. Luckiest escape well I get lucky all the time.
Do you prefer riding the big mountain FMB events such as Chatel and Rampage over slopestyle courses?
I love the big mountain ones but id definitely say the slope events are more chill to compete in!
Michael Overbeck Photography
“I have never competed to win I always compete against myself. I set a goal for a run and if I nail it then I'm stoked.”
What is your favourite event of the tour?
Red Bull Rampage or my contest (Bearclaw Invitational).
How do you feel coming into the 2012 contest season? And who do you see as your main competition?
Well I have been so pinned with this movie for the last two and a half years that I feel that my riding has actually gone downhill since I never get to ride my bike anymore because of all the traveling and obligations, so I am focusing on just riding my bike and having fun. As for comps I will be focused on my event, Crankworx Whistler and of course Red Bull Rampage.
You’ve been hosting your Bearclaw Invitational event for a number of years, and it is highly regarded in the FMB circuit. When you design and build the course, what are the main factors that you take into consideration?
I want to progress the sport and give the riders a course they will enjoy riding.
Do you agree with Cam McCaul that Crankworx courses have lost their flow over recent years, and that the jumps and other features should be made bigger?
Totally they keep on blowing it by not getting me to design the course. I've been waiting for ten years!
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 just think about the speed and let my instincts kick in.
Riding for a living is the dream for most riders. Are there any downsides?
Heck yeah tons, I crash for a living and it takes a toll on your body, it's hard being away from home all the time and it's tough to remain focused all year long.
What do you enjoy most about riding?
Who inspired you when you first got into riding, and who inspires you now?
Jay Mirror back in the day and now, Seth Morrison.
With riders such as Anthony Messere coming onto the scene, the bar is being raised all the time. Do you feel under more pressure at comps now than when you started competing?
No I have never competed to win I only compete against myself. I set a goal for a run and if I nail it then I'm stoked.
How do you keep riding fresh and exciting?
Well I have been asking myself the same thing and that’s why I am not doing all the comps this year.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen on a bike?
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
You don't know nothing!
If you weren’t a professional rider, what do you think you would be doing?
Turning wrenches or some sort of trade
Finally, and most importantly, why do you ride?
I love the challenge and the freedom.
Photo by Jimmy Frusteri
“Don't let the thoughts of someone else depict how you live your life.”
Innes Rankin: What made you want to change from BMX to MTB?
Mountain bikes are flat out more fun.
Morgan Hampton: Thinking back to the days of videos like "Run For Your Life 2", you and those around you seemed much wilder, both in terms of riding styles and the crazy antics of your lifestyles. Do you think that you've calmed down a bit since then?
Heck yah I'd be in jail if I didn't haha.
Do you think that the MTB scene as a whole has lost it's rough edges, and has become more professional/polished; now there's more money/opportunity in it?
No mountain biking is still rugged and to be frank the money and opportunity is more in the racing world.
Could MTB do with a return to this rock 'n' roll attitude of its former years; in light of the sea of clones/riders wearing the same brands, riding the same bikes, doing the same tricks, and all trying to be the next big thing?
I don't know to be honest.
26streetswagg (Pinkbike user): What is your opinion on pegs on MTB’s? You’re clearly inspired by your BMX background with tricks such as Turndowns and Lookbacks, but do you think pegs are a step too far?
I think if it makes you happy then go for it! Don't let the thoughts of someone else depict how you live your life.
Olly Geary: How do you do such clicked turndowns on MTB with really flat bars?
Specialized SX, the frame has a low top tube.
Stevil-1 (Pinkbike user): What does the future hold for upcoming Bearclaw Invitationals? is the course going to be the same, with technical northshore features like last year among everything else? And has there been any pressure to move the event to Whistler?
I am going to change the lower part of the course and add an amateur contest line. Yes that’s right an amateur comp!
Alex Crump: Do you still see any of the other guys from that "dropintv" series you did in New Zealand a number of years ago? What is your best memory from that trip? And will you ever do it again?
Yeah I still run into a few of the guys and I’d say the sickest moment was when we shredded that trail that started in the high alpine and ended in the jungle.
CRS-one (Pinkbike user): It seems like you were one of the first mountain bike riders to do opposite tricks, which not many people caught, then or now. Now people are just starting to catch up, but rather than do it for video parts people are starting to spin opposite 360s or barspins for points at slopestyle competitions. Do you think opposite tricks will get as big as they are in BMX now, where practically everyone can whip and spin both ways?
Yeah it’s inevitable when guys like yourself notice these things and then go on to learn it all.
Cheers Darren, take it steady!