Chipps catches up with Canadian Freerider Darcy Turenne. One of only a few professional women Freeriders, she also fronts a TV programme, rides for the Norco factory team, races, models – and jumps a mean 360.
Who you are and what you do?
My name is Darcy Turenne and I am a Canadian Freeride mountain biker. Job description: I ride my bike off jumps, over roots, down rocks, and through mud and get my picture taken while doing it.
For those that don’t know what a full time Freerider does – what exactly do you do?
My job description seems to change on the daily but for the most part I ride my bike and try to generate as much publicity as I can about it. Really though, that’s what I do. I ride off big jumps, do the occasional trick, have it filmed, and write about it. I do it all over the world in all sorts of exotic locales with other great riders and good friends.
How did you get into what you’re doing now?
I grew up on an island on the Pacific Coast of Canada that has a very large mountain bike community and I was really lucky in that regard. When I was 14 a teacher of mine started an all-girls mountain bike club and I couldn’t resist trying it out. Once I tried it I was hooked, but I still split my time between playing competitive volleyball, basketball and skiing until university. My mountain bike ‘career’ (it still seems funny calling it that) began by racing cross country, then downhill, and most recently I’ve been wearing the ‘Freeride’ hat. I was a member of the Canadian national downhill team for a while but started getting tired of going to races and being told where to ride, what to ride, when to ride, and how to ride it. I wanted to jump and discover new places off the race course… so that’s how the switch to Freeriding was made.
With disciplines like XC racing it’s relatively easy to see how a rider can progress (with some hard work) from amateur to semipro racer and perhaps to pro. With Freeriding, it’s hard to see how you can go from being ‘handy on a bike’ to ladder drops and backflips? How have you made that progression?
Wow, that’s a toughy! I think I have been able to progress my riding simply by spending more time on my bike, and keeping it fun. When I was racing I found that riding seemed forced and when I wasn’t having fun I rode badly. Now I make sure that every time I jump on my bike I am going to have fun. If that means taking a day or a week off, so be it. It’s taken me a long time to get to the level that I am at because I get scared pretty easy and until I’m 98% confident that I can land a jump or clean a section, I will hold off on riding it until the next day.
How have you found being a girl in mainly boy-centric world of downhill and stunt mountain biking?
I love being a girl mountain biker! Guys are really supportive and more fun to ride with because they push me and don’t take things too seriously. Riding with guys all the time has definitely made me a better rider and I attribute any style I have whatsoever on a bike to my guy friends showing me how it’s done. I have lots of great girlfriends who I can be girly with after I ride so it’s the best of both worlds.
Do you reckon it’s easier or harder to get a break with contracts, contests, interviews and so on?
Yes and no. Yes because there is less competition in women’s mountain biking and it’s easy to promote change and do things that haven’t been tried before, but no because very few people actually care about women’s mountain biking and there is no money in it! At first sponsors were like “Woman Freerider? Yeah, sure…” and they didn’t take me seriously, but that has changed a little bit since us girls started to get some of the limelight. The whole women’s Freeride thing is totally new. Before, to get any coverage as a girl, you had to either race or take your clothes off (or both). Thankfully I don’t have to do either!
As a Freerider, what aspects of your riding do you work on?
I used to be really concerned about learning tricks but now I really concentrate on going big with style… and landing a 360. Is it a case of trying to master (mistress?) jumps and stunts? Or signature moves? Or just trying not to crash?
It’s really about all those things. Trying not to crash while still pushing yourself is a big aspect of it! I crash all the time but I try to keep it to flesh wounds. I’m always trying to master bigger and better stunts and jumps and I definitely have tricks I am trying to perfect.
Freeriding is producing a lot of 23 year old ‘superstars’ who then appear to be broken, worn out and ready to retire by 26. What happens after that? Do you have a plan? Or are you just enjoying the ride?
Well, I’m 24 so I guess my career is almost up huh? Ha! Thankfully in women’s mountain biking, riders usually peak way later than guys. You’re right, a lot of guys push it so hard when they are young and shorten their career lifespan with injuries and burnout. I am definitely enjoying the ride and want to keep on this wave for many more years, but just in case I went to university and got a degree in geography and environmental studies. I would eventually like to make environmentally and socially based documentary films. How worried are you about getting injured?
I just got over an injury so it’s definitely fresh on my mind. I don’t want to get injured ever, but I know it happens if you’re stupid enough to be doing what we’re doing! I try not to think about it ever when I’m riding though.
How is the cameraderie among the Freeride set? Are you all super-competitive? Or just happy to ride together?
There is huge camaraderie amongst riders in the Freeride scene. We’re all doing the same thing, love the same sport, and end up travelling to the same places and partying together. Girls can be catty from time to time but for the most part, I get so excited when I see another girl riding that I will adopt them as an insta-friend and there is no competitiveness, in my mind anyways.
Tell us a little about your TV work I host a TV program called ‘The Ride Guide’.
It’s an internationally broadcast travel destination show about Freeriding. We’ve filmed all over the world and I’ve been with them for two full seasons now, and part time for a few more. It’s great fun and I’ve been really lucky to ride all over the world and meet amazing people because of it.
Is Freeriding, stunt riding and Downhilling purely about bravado and skills? Is there a lot of fitness and strength training involved behind the scenes? Are you often seen sneaking out on a road bike to get the miles in, or are you a pure dirt-girl?
I’d like to say that I train really hard fitness wise, but I really don’t! I used to be really hard-core about going to the gym, logging miles on the road, etc. when I raced but not anymore. I don’t find it fun and when I’m not having fun, I don’t ride well. Instead I choose to train by riding things that directly correlate with me getting better as a Freerider and are still fun. I try to BMX as much as possible (because I love it) and when I am injured I swim. I also surf and ski to keep fit and change things up a bit. There is definitely fitness involved with Freeriding though. A lot more than I would have ever thought. My arms have gotten so strong this year alone from riding!
Who have been your riding heroes so far?
Anne Caroline Chausson, Marla Streb, Missy Giove, Alison Sydor, and Leigh Donovan. They started it all for me and are still heroes in my books.
What do you do for fun? Do you get to ride in the winter too? Or are your bikes put away after the first snow?
Riding my bike is pretty damn fun so that’s what I do most of the time. For other types of fun I ski, surf, hike, eat, go fishing, shop with my girlfriends, hang with my family, make T-shirts, dance, make silly videos, take silly photos, and explore new places. It’s too cold to ride in Canada in the winter so my bike hibernates for a while, then I try and migrate somewhere warm like California.
The Norco Five we saw you with at the Sea Otter appears to be a kind of signature bike for you. Can you tell us a bit about it? Isn’t it a bit short travel and light for a burly job like yours?
My motto is if you can’t ride it on 6in of travel you shouldn’t be riding it! That’s not true in all cases, but most girls don’t weigh a lot and because we don’t have the same upper body strength as men, it is very beneficial to have a lighter bike that manoeuvres in rough stuff. It’s meant for drivers, not passengers. It definitely can take the hits though. I just spent three weeks riding it every day in burly terrain and it is holding up like a champ. Haven’t had a problem yet and haven’t even wanted to ride another bike in my quiver, which is amazing because I have a very large quiver.
What are your plans for next year?
I always seem to make plans and then everything gets shifted around last minutes so I prefer not to plan anymore! Basically just keep doing what I’m doing, but do it better. Travel to some exotic places, learn some new tricks, build a trail and shoot it for a video segment, and try to stay as healthy as possible.
And when do we get to see you riding in the UK?
I was supposed to come to Scotland this year with the TV show and I was so excited, but then it got cancelled. See what I mean about planning? I love the UK and I hope to pass through next summer at some point. Me and Big Ben need a visit!
For more information about Darcy, see www.hellodarcy.com
(This article originally appeared in Singletrack Magazine Issue 44)