We speak with Olly Wilkins
In this Influential People interview, we speak with the legend from Surrey Hills. The one and only Olly “Odub” Wilkins.
Hey Olly, how have you been keeping yourself busy?
I’ve been keeping myself super busy with as many jobs as possible. I think I’m not bad at getting on with stuff as a big part of my day to day life involves a lot of self-initiation anyway! I’ve been digging, riding xc, doing a podcast series with Davi from HKT and filming my face talking nonsense for my YouTube channel. I’ve also been doing the standard DIY projects and I’ve been refurbishing my Honda Z50r ready for when this is all over. Oh…and I have set up a merch store. Hahaha
You mentioned on the HKT podcast that you’ve been doing a lot of digging recently. As someone who gets to travel the world do you think the UK has a good trail building scene?
Yeah, I’ve always dug a lot. I guess I come from a dirt jump background so I’m not afraid of hard work. Building a landing is a pretty soul-destroying task so building a rough xc trail is super easy by comparison. I try to improve wherever I live so that riding is as good and available as physically possible…from my doorstep. The dream!
Do you have any strong opinions on No Dig No Ride? Do you think more people should get involved in trail building and trail maintenance? Or is it ok that some riders choose to just ride other people’s trails?
Ergh. Something that’s hard to summarise in a sentence. I think I’m conflicted on these subjects. One part of me feels like it’s all common sense, but if you’ve never made ANYTHING then why would you understand why it’s a good thing to keep trails secret? I’m also kinda torn on the subject because I think digging always involves a certain amount of responsibility.
When you put a shovel in the ground you have the power to give everything on that hill a bad name. Jumps across walkers paths, crap stuff, big holes and litter can all have a negative effect on a scene rather than positive. I don’t wanna have a good track ruined by crap digging you know. It happens too easily. If a few more people just did simple maintenance then it would work well. Also if a few people did a few less guided tours then that would be great too. I dunno man, I think I’ve spent too long in the woods digging on my own to give a balanced answer. Hahaha
You’ve been creating some epic urban downhill races in South America with Christian Fairclough. Are you guys going to continue doing these and if so have this year’s events been affected by the pandemic?
Yes, some of my favourite trips are BSI trips (our track building company). The whole event feels like my own mini urban rampage. We have 10 days to make the best gnarly features and then at the end, I get to test them. The camaraderie within the team working towards these events is the best. All in locations I never thought I would visit from a perspective I never thought I would see.
The pandemic has left us with numerous events cancelled, unfortunately. Hopefully, they’ll appear later in the year!
So going back a bit now. You used to run rigid forks on your dirt jumper. What made you switch the suspension forks? Is DMR still selling your signature fork?
DMR ARE!! I never actually rode my signature fork believe it or not. It came at the exact same time that I started riding for Fox suspension. Unlucky really! It’s a running joke at DMR that we will have stock of them forever! I switched as I was riding bigger jumps and travelling more. Rigid forks are fine for the perfect groomed trails we have here in London. Not so much elsewhere!
Also on the subject of DMR. You’ve worked there for a few years. What is it you do and do you like working in the bike industry?
I have worked within DMR for years. I first started riding for them at the age of 17 and my only contact would really be for feedback on products. It’s a big part of being a pro rider and one I had never previously thought about. After a big injury I was told I wouldn’t be able to ride again and decided to use my graphic design degree with the guys at DMR. This moved on to a brand manager role where I could use my graphics in conjunction with my marketing experience on every DMR project since. It’s given me a lot of insight into business and the industry.
Working within the bike industry is tricky. Mixing your work with your pleasure is always a hard balance. After this many years, I think I have it down…maybe.
Many of your group of friends have gone into professional racing such as Brendan and Bernard. You’re clearly up there with the best of the best in MTB but didn’t go down the racing route. Do you regret that decision or was racing not really for you?
Yes, we certainly have some fast talent around these parts!! I don’t really regret it as I don’t have it in me. Not only am I crap at racing, I don’t enjoy it. I think I ride for the pure simple enjoyment of it and I’ve always worked to make that a part of my ‘job’. I love the sport and I love feeling like I’m as good as I can be but no part of me wants to line up at the top of a World Cup DH race. Same goes for Rampage, there’s a lot of stuff I’d love to ride there…just not on tv with helicopters and a start time!
Is there something in the water in the Surrey Hills area? There are so many talented riders from this area but it’s not exactly a mountainous region? Why do you reckon that is?
I reckon it’s repetition. We have tiny hills and loads of jumps. Growing up you would just do the same thing over and over. It clearly works. With that said, where we live is still my favourite place to ride in the world. I’d take these hills over some legendary spots. Maybe there is something in the water after all.
I’m really enjoying your Lockdown Companion series with HKT podcast. It’s one of the best entertainment getting us through the lockdown. How did you get involved with the podcast in the first place?
Oh, thanks! Too kind. I’ve always been a big podcast listener. Not MTB as such, but podcasts have always interested me. I had been a guest on Davi’s show and we had become friends. He approached me about getting something going and I jumped at the chance. He’s a top bloke and they’re super easy going. It’s just like hanging out with a mate, which right now everyone wants to be doing.
Lastly and maybe most importantly? Have you found your snake yet? Or is it still somewhere under your floorboards?
Dude that thing is still living life somewhere in the building. I still look around every day. Blows my mind that she’s escaped so successfully. I hope one day we will be reunited. Until then I sleep easy. Hahaha
Thanks so much for taking part in the interview Olly.
I hope you enjoyed reading this interview with Olly Wilkins. I certainly enjoyed working on it.
I would also like to thank Chris Greenwood for the photos. You can see more of his work here.
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