Hans ‘No Way’ Rey is a legend. Mountain bike hall of famer, multiple world and national trials champion, freeride pioneer, the guy in that “Monkey See Monkey Do” video — on VHS, of course.
Those were the days where the GT LTS/RTS carbon were the hottest full suspension bikes on the block, The days of 56K modems, AOL 1,000 hour CDs in a tin can, Magura hydraulic rim brakes, print magazines …
Fast forward to 2015. The evergreen Hans is as strong as ever and still goes on epic bike trips across the globe riding in partnership with GT Bicycle. In fact, Hans is the longest GT-sponsored athlete for a whopping 28 years and running ever since the early days of mountain biking.
With that in mind, we sat down with Hans for a quick fireside (okay, a hotel lobby) chat in Park City, Utah.
So how did you get into mountain biking?
I started as a trials rider in Europe when it was just really trendy, kid’s sport really. I was about to retire from that and go to a university when an American trials rider came to Europe. Trials was a European sport then but he started telling us about this new sport in America called mountain biking and how there are always these stage races where a rider has to do downhill, cross country, and trials on the same bike. He said I should come over and show Americans what real trials are and I figured that’d be a great ending to my career.
I was 19-20 years old so I thought why don’t I take a semester off from the university and check it out.
I went over and the guy’s name is Kevin Norton and he had a real big interest in promoting trials and making it bigger. He introduced me not only to the mountain bike world but also into the whole BMX world because at that point trials was kind of living in both worlds. It went so well that I got a contract with GT and then I got hooked up at Swatch. They wanted me to tour America with skateboarder Rodney Mullen together to do shows and stuff so I thought maybe if I stay little bit longer I can take another semester off and it’ll be a great way to learn the language and see the country a bit. One year became two, three and next year will be number 30.
How has mountain biking changed over the years, from your point of view?
If you look at the bikes from back then, you wonder how could you ride down these trails. Some of the trails you ride today are more or less the same trails you rode back then and it makes you sometimes wonder how you pulled it off.
I wasn’t one of the first guys but I was definitely there when the boom started. My roots go deep into all different sub-cultures of sport because I would eventually start racing some downhill, slalom … I even got third place at the Slalom World Championship one year.
I then started doing adventures on a mountain bike that really brought me the respect from the people that everyone who has a mountain bike knew how hard it was to bunny hop up and down a curb and this guy rides over cars and whatever.
The last 15-20 years were really based on changes and technology of the bike. I think the next 10-15 years will be about how we ride the bikes, purposed-built trails for example and all that stuff.
Was it more fun?
Usually when you look back at things you always be like the good old days were always better. You can look at that side too, but I don’t think the fun has stopped.
I’ve always said my philosophy is “I am going to do this as long as I have fun.” That hasn’t really stopped and that’s probably why I am still doing it. I embrace all the new trends, technologies and changes and have fun with it.
I still try to spread my roots. My roots are really deep now after being there for so long and I have a really solid foundation. And I still am interested in all the subcultures. My weekly riding habit involves several forms of riding. I do a lot of all-mountain stuff in connection with my adventure trips, regular mountain bike ride, but I ride trials once a week still. Sometimes I do shuttle runs, downhill runs and I even train on the road bike every once in a while to get some miles in. I even enjoy riding e-bikes sometimes.
Up hill or downhill?
Describe your idea of a perfect holiday.
For me it might be not to touch my bike. But no, I can only do that for a couple of days. My wife always says I get antsy if I am dis-attached from my bike for too long. But sometimes it’s nice to just go somewhere to relax, do nothing, to enjoy nature, and some spend time with my wife.
Any Particular place?
I like to go to new places. I like to go to special remote places, like I went to this really cool island with my wife a few years ago to Fiji. It was just a really nice vacation. Really special place with one-on-one time.
I get to do a lot of the cool biking stuff as my job. Luckily I have a dream job and I appreciate that. My office is some of the coolest biking trails and locations around the world so I don’t necessarily have to do that on my holiday.
If you had to choose a car that represents your personality, what would it be?
I am a fan of Audi, or a Land Rover kind of guy.
How much would you charge to wash all the windows in your town?
Probably a 7-figure amount.
How many golf balls can you fit in a schoolbus?
Tell us your most embarrassing riding story.
In my downhill racing days which I was never really the guy to necessarily take home the world championships, I did start the world championship three times. I didn’t take it so serious, I was more just doing it without much preparation in those days. You have a water bottle with you and I was even drinking during my runs and stuff. But in one particular one at the Worlds in Italy in ’91, in the qualifying run I started out the gate and forgot to put my goggles on. It was really foggy and muddy … and I had to stop to put my goggles on and then continue riding. Hence the fact that I didn’t qualify in that one.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I like my cocktails and drinks.
Any advice for riders out there?
Well, if you want to make a living and be a professional, you’ve got to be professional. You have to treat it like a job. At the same time you don’t want to treat it too serious. You’ve got to have fun with it. At the end of the day, you have to make it happen for yourself.
We are a relatively small sport. It’s not like there are talent scouts out there looking for you. A lot of the guys who start becoming sponsored at one level or another often don’t understand the big picture — that it’s a business and these sponsors don’t just do it because they like you. There needs to be something in return. That “thing” in return can be in many different ways: It can be with a good
result, it can be with media exposure, it can be being a spokesperson or a communicator for the brand.
It could be in many forms, but you have to deliver that and you have to document it and show it to them. The bottom line is, have fun with it. As long you have fun, you’ve already won a lot.
If you could pick a super power, what would it be?