How Sam Pilgrim Made Me Jump

by 48

While wandering around Eurobike last year I found myself being introduced to Sam Pilgrim, YouTube personality and former Freeride Mountain Biking (FMB) World Champion. As you do if you’re a bike journo meeting someone (fairly?) famous, I sat him down for a quick interview. It was all going OK, until he said ‘I don’t ride with girls, I never would they’re too slow’.

Frankly, I was too shocked to think of any other questions. I wanted to stick him on a gravel bike right there and then, and rip his legs off on a long and hilly route. What the what?

Getting back from Eurobike, I wondered what on earth to do with the interview. In fairness to Sam (I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here), there are no women’s categories on the FMB World Tour, so perhaps in his little niche of the sport there weren’t many opportunities to ride with women. The absence of women’s categories isn’t necessarily his fault (though it would be great to see male athletes calling for opportunities for female ones). Maybe he just needed to see a different corner of the world? I didn’t want to make him look like a jerk. Hmm. What to do? What to do?

And then, I wondered. He said he could teach me to do a backflip, if I could ride a roll in. He also said it’s a mind over matter thing: you have to want to do it, to jump, or do tricks. If there’s one thing that’s going to make me want to do something, it’s being told I can’t. He’d never ride with girls? Really? What if I could do the roll in…could he teach me a back flip? If I could learn to back flip, maybe Sam would reconsider his ‘no girls’ stance.

Hmm…maybe I should see what I can do?

In this interview I call myself a ‘wheels on the ground’ rider. I categorically state that I can’t jump. I’ve never been in a foam pit, never done a roll in at a skate park, and I don’t do tricks.

Looking back, that seems a long time ago. A different me entirely. Now?

Exhibit A: jumping

Now I can jump.

Now, I have spent hours throwing myself into a foam pit. I can roll down a roll in.

Exhibit B: At the skatepark.

Now, I own a BMX and I’m a member of my local indoor skatepark.

Now, I can clear a table top (and I’m not talking about the one my kids have just finished eating off).

Exhibit C: A trick

Goddammit, I can even do a few teeny tricks.

I wanted it, and I’ve done it. Better still, I love it.

Foam pit tricks have led to on trail confidence. Credit: YT Industries

So Sam, if you’re reading this, how about you teach me that back flip? I would offer to take you out on that gravel ride, but, I don’t know…do you think you’d manage?

A Note From Hannah:

This article originally appeared with the video interview, however it is clear that it could be taken out of context of the article, which was never my intention, and I’m sorry if anyone was upset by it – that’s not who I am. We had a fun chat, and following the interview Sam was impressed to see the riding skills of female friends we showed him on Instagram. The point of the article was to highlight how Sam’s comments had spurred me into acquiring some new skills, and to light heartedly suggest that maybe I could take him up on his suggestion that he could teach me to backflip in a day – not to have a go at Sam.

Comments (48)

    don’t want to burst your bubble, but i’m pretty confident he’d be far more likeley to rip your legs off on a long gravel ride. do you think a world class athlete isn’t going to be fit?

    The important thing is the definition of long. Mine would be in excess of 80km at current fitness levels, it used to be the wrong side of 130km before it was a long ride.

    It was a bit of an odd thing to say, especially in an interview.. Don’t imagine many women would *want* to ride with a boy who comes out with lines like that. Good on you Hannah for mastering the jumps etc, attitude is the most important thing (I think).

    So this was sent to me by my other half because it has been posted on ladies cycling pages as “sexist”

    Firstly the comment is clearly In jest and why have you sat on this interview from year this is clearly an attention grab

    Secondly you have clearly not prepared for this interview as you have no understanding of what slope style is and clearly have a very worped veiw of the riders and how they train

    Please do research before interviewing anyone so you at least have some clue what your talking about and don’t look this stupid again

    Hutch out!!!!

    Sam was asked about this comment by another journalist only ten minutes after and at the time if you know Sam you know he wasn’t trying to offend anybody especially Hannah ,but he meant a factual way.
    Now even though he might get flack for it he’s justification was even Rachel Atherton the fastest women on a dh is a minute behind the top men on a five minute course .
    He’s right ,he’s also entitled to say it without being quoted as sexist imo which is a sign of what a snowflake society we have become .
    Should he of said it ,imo no not because of sex\race etc because it’s simply poor manners .that’s all.
    Is the upcoming ladies only ride this wkd which takes in my favourite loop and the upcoming ladies only skills day at bpw sexist because I can’t attend due to my sex or a sign of how society still thinks we have to come .
    Or are we all simply sugar coating it

    Those evil women taking over BPW for a whole day. Oh no wait it’s not the whole park it’s just your favourite loop,but wait you can attend,just say you’re transitioning.

    What a spiteful headline.

    Interview appeared to be easy going and fun, the rapport was good. He made what was clearly a light hearted comment, perhaps based on his own experience.

    What Sam didn’t realise was that he was dealing with one of the perpetually offended for whom anything remotely gender-y can never be taken lightly!

    Let’s hope Sam didn’t rush off and start taking drugs, to prove he is a ‘real’ slope style rider to Hannah. I like nothing more than to listen to double standards (Trump?).

    Ah, the apologists are here in full force. Most of the tropes seem to have been deployed: “She’s just trying to get attention, because she’s A GIRL.”, “She’s stupid and doesn’t understand mountain biking, because she’s A GIRL.”, “It’s just a fact that she’s slow, because she’s A GIRL, no need to be offended, you offendeeish SNOWFLAKE GIRL”, and to top it off, “He was only joking.”

    Now, if you people have managed to pump this out in a few hours, have you considered how many times the writer has heard these things in her life so far? Do you think it might get slightly annoying being told over and over again that you can’t do the things you want to do, because you’re A GIRL? Do you think it might change an innocent jest into an exemplaire of something that has been going on forever, no matter the intentions of the jester?

    Interview summary:
    Hannah: Sam you’re on drugs.
    Sam: That’s just a silly stereotype.
    Hannah: Do you ride with girls?
    Sam: No, they are slower than me.
    Hannah: I’m calling the Police.

    She just needs to self identify as a slopestyle rider then.
    That way we can all accept that she is in fact, great at backflips.

    haha lev – summed up nicely

    Being sponsored by an Ebike company, I can’t imagine there are many female riders who can keep up.

    Do not apologise if people are offended then f$£& them. being offended isn’t a right and if you worried about it you’d probably never right anything. Good article though and I hope he does teach you the awesome back flip.

    disappointing all round.

    to be honest most of what i have read from this woman is mildly disguised feminist propaganda.

    Thank goodness for the internet, good job there is an editor for the stuff that goes to print 🙁

    Why would you not trust a bike review from someone who can only just clear doubles?
    There are a lot of people out there, me included, that do not regard themselves as expert jumpers / riders, doesn’t mean they don’t spend plenty of hours in the saddle enough to know what feels right or not right and happen to be gifted enough to be able to communicate their experiences.
    There are plenty of gnarcore bike reviewers and writers that spout total tripe and rely on nonsense cliches to sound like better writers.
    Maybe MBUK is more your bag?

    Urgh. What was the point of all the above but to provoke strong reactions. Most of subscribe to single track to avoid the rubbish reaction that seems to fuel the bulk of the other forums. How was this let out and why? Somewhat disappointed.

    wheres the interview video?

    Thanks for the extra comments, Hannah. I admit I missed the point when first read. The piece felt like a rant at a single comment and taken too far from the context.

    Regardless, would appreciate seeing more opportunities to talk about women in the sport – what they want, their opinions and what motivates them. Hopefully to drive greater inclusiveness.

    And bravo for getting out there and learning.

    Jesus the state of the comments here, incredible really.

    That’s awesome work Hannah, it’s funny how different things spur people on to learn new skills. I’ve only been properly mountain biking for around a year so I still don’t have the confidence to do jumps, but this article has pushed me to make it a goal for this year! I think there are places near to me (Bristol) where I can practice on some easier jumps so I’ll have to look them up.

    Sam seems like a lovely bloke, and I don’t want mountain bikers to undergo media training, but his remark really highlights the unconscious prejudice that still exists in the sport.

    Some more examples that spring to mind without even having to think about it: Claudio and Rob saying Rachel Atherton is fast “because she rides with her brothers all the time”, and the comments that used to appear under Joey Gough’s Instagram posts, before she got sick of people assuming she was a bloke and added “Miss” to her username.

    tetrode, there are great beginner-friendly tracks in Bristol at Arnos Court and Stockwood, tabletops over by the far car park in Leigh Woods, and plenty of bigger stuff to go at in Belmont/Ashton Hill.

    Thanks Mr Agreeable! I’ve heard of the Belmont ones but not of arnos court or Stockwood. I’ll definitely check them out!

    IMO – Put the video back up, it may help contextualise the rest of the comments .

    It seems to me that there was a considerable amount of reflection and thought given to this article, and much care was taken not to read too much into what Sam said.

    If I suggest that those who have taken offence, calmly re-read what Hannah has written, will I get shot down? It is all strangely perturbing to a non-social media user like me.

    Great article – I’d love to see Sam take you up on that!!

    Very tasteful updates based on feedback – the interview was clunky and perhaps things said on both sides didn’t come across well but being able to take criticism without pushing back on the commenters is a rare thing, especially in online journalism.

    I don’t know which made me laugh more – the article or the incensed comments! Hannah, you are wonderful, keep it up!

    A few comments need addressing…

    1) there are different kinds of fitness – I’m not making a comment about SH here, but just because someone is fast/badass on a bike doesn’t mean they’re going to have sportive-type endurance, it wouldn’t surprise me if Hannah could rip his legs off (and I’d love to see her do it).

    2) I’m not a crazy fast or rad rider, I’m probably bang on average. What is most valuable to me is that a reviewer can understand how a bike handles the kind of mid-pack manners I’m likely to show it. I’ll read PinkBike if I ever get gnarly enough to dismiss everyday riding/riders.

    @snapperdan – I totally get where you’re coming from, and you would expect that bike reviewers are super skilled riders, but… sometimes having too much riding skill can work against the reviewing abilities of a person. If you’re too good on a bike, then your riding skills can compensate for any shortcomings in the bike and you just get on with riding it. Whereas a lesser skilled rider can quite often be very finely tuned in to noticing the subtle differences between different bikes, thus making them very good at actually writing about bikes. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that Chipps isn’t the most technically capable rider in the world(!!!), but he’s a damn good journalist and bike tester, yet I don’t see people criticising his riding ability or cancelling their subscriptions because of it.

    PS, please note that this last bit is really not aimed directly at you, just a general observation prompted by your comment 🙂

    Blimey, there’s some real charmers, sorry riding gods, commenting. Respect to Hannah for learning new skills and, importantly, having fun. I’ve not seen the vid so can’t comment but it’s undoubtedly never easy being a woman in a male-dominated activity.

    i cant for the life of me find this video, can someone post a link?

    I disagree with you a bit there Dan – I can’t jump for s**t, in fact, I reckon Hannah is probably better than me in a bmx park after this year. But riding north lakes tech on a weekly basis, means jumping isn’t a priority for me – I’m more concerned about getting steep and technical where I like to think I can hold my own. Take me to a set of jumps and I ride like a rank amateur, but there aren’t too many of them round here and it doesn’t really interest me so I’m not too bothered. Does that make me any less of a rider? I would argue not.

    Being honest snapperdan if you are that good and able to understand the nuances of a £5k bike I would expect you to ignore magazines and get a demo in. Or are you telling me that you just buy based on one review?

    Being someone who would love to learn and be able to jump, but has a subconscious fear of imminent death that overrides everything else, I’d like to learn more about *how* Hannah learned to jump.
    Having an incentive and the enthusiasm is obviously a good first step/requirement.

    Snapperdan, you appear to be somewhat naïve about what mountain bike journalism involves. None of us actually ride. We just turn up at the office and sit around drinking coffee and making disparaging comments about sponsored riders until the postman arrives. Then we wander down to the bank with the large cheques that the industry sends us for promoting e-bikes, wireless shifting, or whatever tomfoolery they’re trying to foist onto their unwilling consumer base that week. Riding bikes? Oh my days…

    Got any jobs going? I’d fit right in.
    What biscuits for tyre reviews?

    Some weird comments on this thread. You don’t need to thrash a bike to pro level to be able to understand how it handles, and where its weaknesses and strengths lie. If you think that this would help then you’re ultimately going to disappear down a hole where only Sam Hill or Loic Bruni are sufficiently fast to provide a meaningful verdict.


    No, don’t be like that Dan! It’s not really a sore subject, it’s just not the be all and end all of mountain biking!

    Well that escalated quickly…..

    Would be interesting to know what people class as a ‘Mountain Biker’ – is it someone who shreds the gnar to the max?, someone who can backflip, can and x-up?, someone who can ride trials?, someone who can smash out 100 miles a day off road?, someone who only rides park?, someone who only rides trail centres?, someone who only owns a fat bike?, someone who can crush the opposition on a XC loop?, someone who will ride whatever they like on any given day – be it XC, trail or a family ride around a country park with their kids? or someone who “only rides Enduro braa”?

    I’d suggest that they’re ‘Mountain Bikers’ – just different type of riders. Mountain Biking is as diverse a discipline as I think you can get.

    Who cares if Chipps, Hannah or Will can’t clear a 50 foot road gap – I’m assuming they’re all competent riders who have there own preferred type of riding, want to share their enthusiasm and love for ‘the sport’ through the pages of this site and the magazine. They’re good enough to be able to tell you how a short travel XC race rocket handle differently to a 160mm Enduro Sled and some of the differences between the same types of bikes.

    I’ve ridden with some great fast, technical riders – does it mater that they can’t wheelie, manual the length of a football pitch, clear a double, know what setting to change on the shock or forks for every different trail or even set up their own gears?? No – what matter is they’re riding to their ability and enjoying doing it.

    Fair play to Hannah for sharing her jumping progress – it’s something that I need to work on and plan to this year.

    Keep up the good work STW and I would love to see Sam teach Hannah to backflip.

    Hannah, I’m really sorry, your article was great but has been truly Trumped by the comments at this point 😀

    Unfortunately I didn’t get to catch the video Interview. It had been taken down by the time I saw this, I guess Hannah was happy with the amount of exposure she’d gained from blowing a small comment out of proportion.

    Sam doesn’t like riding with Women because they are slower. I mean that IS a fact (unless you’re talking about the top 0.001% of women riders maybe) Why does that make him sexist? If I said I didn’t like going to the strip club with my gay friends because they just sit in a corner does that make me homophobic?

    “If I said I didn’t like going to the strip club with my gay friends because they just sit in a corner”
    You’ve obviously never been to a strip club with my gay friends.

    Cancelling subscription

    As a white middle class male with the privilege of rarely having to experience subtle or frank discrimination and the impact this has it would be easy for me to criticise you Hannah for being too sensitive, making mountains out of mole hills and not realising Sam was joking. Sams comment was clearly not intended to be exclusive, malicious or misogynistic but did require thoughtful challenge and I thank you for doing this.
    Most sports have made great efforts to improve inclusivity, diversiy and participation but addressing both obvious and subtle discrimination eg the FA Respect programme as they understand their sport will be enriched both culturally and financially and that they have a huge amount to contribute to the wellbeing of individuals, communities and the economy. Unfortunately, you only have to look around at most trailheads to see that mountain biking has a significant issue encouraging women, younger children, older people, those with disabilities and people from ethnic minorities or disadvantaged backgrounds to take up such a fantastic sport and everything it has to offer. Fabulous initiatives such as the Glentress mental health project and amazing people like Martin Ashton, Andy McKenna and those at Can’t Quit are leading the way but theres much more to do. I’m going to endeavour to be less exclusive, watch my language and be more positively inclusive and I’m even tempted to get a BMX. Thanks Hannah.

    Sam mustn’t of meant the comment – he was obviously high on drugs at the time being a slope star

    Did you discuss with him before posting this? Because it comes across as fairly damning of him, and without the video, there is no context. It would have been fairer to redo the article with him involved or shelve it completely.

    Was he stereotyped as being on drugs before or after the comment on women’s riding? (Can’t see video)

    Also, why would a gravity biased rider care about a gravel bike? As a mountain biker I couldn’t care less about them as it is

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