We’ve teamed up with Jeep, who are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, to shine a spotlight on some of the ultimate renegades from the world of action sports - past, present and future. This interview with Canadian mountain bike pioneer Darren Berrecloth, which first appeared in our sister publication Dirt Mountainbike Magazine, explains how he became one of the best-respected and most influential riders in the business - and why he’s such an inspiration to the likes of Jeep ambassador Dan Atherton.
Words by Lucy Kemp | Video and photos by Jasper Wesselman
Eagles come to him to learn how to fly. Bucks are so honoured to be hunted by him, that they casually wander into his yard and wait. He gets a say in where the next Red Bull Rampage is held.
If he doesn’t like the way a slopestlye course feels, he changes it, and then helps start organizations like the FMB. He doesn’t always offer his opinion, but when he does, everybody listens. He is Darren Berrecloth: The Most Interesting Man in Mountain Biking.
On a rainy weekend on Vancouver Island, Darren Berrecloth plays the part of happy host, he welcomes us with open arms and a couple Coors Lights. We are given a quick tour of his beautiful house and then plop down on the couch to see what’s good on Netflix. A text message comes in and we’re invited over to his neighbour’s house for a couple more beers.
"Darren doesn’t always offer his opinion, but when he does, everybody listens."
Arriving on the scene, we’re greeted by a couple of people deep into a few bottles of wine, dancing to Motley Crue and Molly Hatchet. Everyone is arguing over what music to play next. Eminem is vetoed. Rolling Stones are cheered. Beastie Boys are booed. The Gossip gets the nod from the Claw and we rock out until one of the other guests is over it. It goes on like this until we’re ready to leave and get some rest before we start shooting the next day.
Saturday rolls around and the rain is relentless. I’m sitting in Darren’s kitchen watching him make smoothies. He’s incredibly aware of nutrition and, aside from beer and scotch, doesn’t put much of anything in his body that isn’t organic or that he didn’t kill himself. He doesn’t eat dairy, doesn’t eat much gluten, and actually scolds me a little bit when I confess that I like soy. He has powders for this and special salts for that.
One of his newer sponsors gives him a ton of all-natural supplements and food each month. It saves him a hefty chunk of change and has helped him become hyper-aware of his health.
With the exception of one lunch, every meal we eat is home-cooked by Darren and absolutely delicious. Sucking down my freshly pressed juice he looks at me and says, “You’re going to pee and poop purple." An excellent start to one of the most interesting weekends I’ve had in a while.
When reading about Darren and watching videos online, it’s easy to learn that he loves his homeland of Coombs, B.C. There is simply so much to do within 20 minutes of his house that he has no desire to live anywhere else. In a few short hours we’re taken to a trail he’s building that anyone can come and ride, we shoot bow and arrows, we go on an XC ride, and we head over to a local diving spot to watch the sea lions frolic in the water.
Despite the Vancouver Island bike culture being around longer than he’s been riding, Darren brings certain validity to the area. He’s a bonafide legend at the young age of 33. A word of friendly caution: don’t try telling Darren that he’s the reason you started biking.
He’ll tell you that he didn’t make you go buy your first mountain bike. He didn’t take you for your first ride. He maybe made it look a little cooler, but shirks all credit for getting people into mountain biking. It’s an odd and humble response to what many would consider a compliment, but he’s convinced that there was some other force at work when you took your first spin on knobby tires. Darren is incredibly grounded, even though he knows he’s done a lot for the sport.
"'You’re going to pee and poop purple,' Darren says. An excellent start to one of the most interesting weekends I’ve had in a while."
When I ask him, “party in the front or business in the back," he smiles and says, “party all around." While there’s no doubt that the guy can toss back a few cold ones and let loose, we’d all be crazy to believe he’s a full-time party boy.
Darren has the business side of biking on lockdown. He’s incredibly well spoken, and respectful of all sponsors and competition past and present. A pro for 12 years, he’s brought so much change to the sport on his own that without him, mountain biking progression would have certainly been slower.
He was the first guy to bring BMX-influenced tricks to big mountain riding and to Rampage in 2002. He helped start the FMB – along with a core group of riders – that has changed the way contests are run and judged. His contest, the Bearclaw Invitational, is now a diamond stop on the FMB tour. His designs are often integrated into course builds all over the world and he’s adamant that big mountain contests stay big… and not just focused on man made stunts or dirt jumps.
A common misconception about Darren is that he seems like he’s in a bad mood, but that focused look is just a part of who he is. Self-described as intense, energetic, and rebellious, that look is “just the face I wear," he says.
When asked what animal he would be if he had the choice, he is quick to answer with “an eagle – they can fly and are at the top of the chain." He’s no stranger to eagles. In fact, his handy work actually did help two baby eagles learn to fly. He saw them on the ground under a drop he built and watched them make their way back to the top and hop off the end, wildly flapping their wings to get the hang of airtime.
The same spot where the eagle incident occurred is nearing another milestone. Darren’s dirt jump spot, known as the Spook Trails, is currently being threatened by logging, and may only have weeks left in its life.
As any builder knows, plowing trails has about the same effect on your soul as when someone kills your dog. So much time and love goes down the drain in an instant. Darren isn’t taking the logging lightly. He’s lucky enough to have a few close contacts at the logging company and is hoping to be able to help steer the cutting in the least-destructive path possible.
While Island life is undoubtedly pretty special to Darren, there is one thing he lacks: a core group of riders to help him progress in slopestyle. We all remember his famous line in “Seasons" about feeding off of each other. Laugh as you will, this is something that everyone benefits from. He confesses that he would love to have the camaraderie of a crew like the boys in Aptos.
"As any builder knows, plowing trails has about the same effect on your soul as when someone kills your dog."
Without that type of network, his inspiration comes from within. “Internally – I guess I just really want to keep getting better," he says. His recent and well-documented injuries had him sidelined for seven months. While the physical implications of that much downtime are obvious, his real struggles were in his own head.
He fought depression and the anguish that comes with a massive injury. What separates Darren from the average person is his will to not only overcome those injuries and breakdowns, but to come out a stronger rider. He’s learned so much about mobility and strength that he may, in fact, be better prepared than ever before to send it big time.
While Darren isn’t planning to cease competing any time soon, his path after riding will always be deeply ingrained in the bike industry. He’s got an incredible passion for the filmmaking side of the business.
His work with Freeride Entertainment, the Collective, and Kranked have given him an education that most film school students could only dream of. He can see a shot in his mind before anyone else. He’s meticulous about angles and lighting. This may be why his segments are often the best part of whatever videos he’s in, and why Where the Trail Ends was such a smashing success for action sports cinematography.
Whether it’s training baby eagles to fly, building slopestyle courses, directing the next mega hit mountain bike film, hunting for dinner, or stepping on the podium at Rampage, Darren Berrecloth will always be doing something that most of us could only dream about. All with that intense look on his face. After all, he is the most interesting man in mountain biking.
The Jeep Ultimate Renegades
We’ve teamed up with Jeep, who are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, to shine a spotlight on some of the ultimate renegades from the world of action sports – past, present and future. The series kicks off with mountain biking, as seen through the eyes of one of the scene’s best-respected riders and trail-builders, Dan Atherton. Next month we’ll shift our attention to surfing, asking big wave surf legend Andrew Cotton to pick out his ultimate renegades.