Interview: Darren Berrecloth on ‘Where The Trail Ends’, dicing with death and kicking chimps in the balls

Darren Berrecloth’s been absent from most of this year’s big freeride comps. ChopMTB caught up with him at Specialized’s 2013 launch in Snowbird, Utah to find out what he’s been up to, what makes him tick and, erm, how he’d take out an angry ape.

Let’s start with the basics…

I’m Darren Berrecloth, 30 years of age. I live in Vancouver Island, British Columbia and I’m a professional mountain biker, or a professional freerider – whatever you wanna call it. Nicknames: Claw, Bearclaw – those are the two industry-known names. My hometown buds call me Bears or maybe Bear Balls.

Sponsors would be Specialized, Red Bull, Sombrio, Fox Racing Shox, Adidas Eyewear, iXS protection, Five Ten shoes, Shimano, Mavic, Mozart chain guides, Lizard Skin grips, Spank bars (trying to get a signature bar there), GoPro… I need to have these pre-recorded or something!

So, how’s your year going, and what big events do you have coming up?

This last year-and-a-half has been pretty full-on with the movie (Where the Trail Ends~ ed), filming and whatnot, so I’ve cleared my schedule a little bit so I can actually get on my bike more. I don’t get to ride my bike as much as you all think. You ride your bike every day as a kid, then when you’re older and more famous, people want you to travel here and travel there. You don’t get to ride your bike as much and you’re just going off those skills that you learnt years and years ago.

This year I decided that rather than get my butt kicked by a bunch of young kids at a bunch of competitions, I wanted to focus on my competition – the Bearclaw Invitational coming up on August 4. I wanted to get on my bike a little bit more, get my confidence back and some of my old tricks back, and start to have fun on the bike again. Other than that, we’ve got Crankworx and of course we’ve got Rampage!

Tell us more about Where the Trail Ends

This movie is about us travelling the globe, searching for new terrain and pushing the limits of freeride mountain biking. It’s not your typical ‘bike porn’ – rock’n’roll music, insane tricks and stuff like that. It’s much more about the adventure, the athletes, and a more in-depth story where you’ll be able to sit down on the sofa and watch the movie quite a few times.

To most people’s stoke, we’re going to do two versions: a 60-minute version, so people buy it, sit down with their buds and a beer and watch it, and a core 30-minute version, so if you wanna go riding you can punch it in and then just go! I think this will please a lot of the audience.

I think a lot of people are gonna really trip on this film as the quality is going to surpass any other. One thing we’re really focusing on is sound – it’s sponsored by Dolby so it’s going to the Skywalker Ranch, the same place all the big Hollywood films go to get sounds edited. It’ll also have top quality colouring by the same place that the new Spiderman movie just got coloured at. It’s really going over the top in terms of quality, which will help set it apart from the rest of the films out there.

We’re trying to get closer to that Hollywood quality. It’s pretty fascinating to get involved with that world and it’s a lot of learning for us. Hollywood movies and action sports movies have a big bridge to be gapped. Once we hit one million views on the 90-second teaser you’ll get to see the four-minute trailer. I’m pretty sure everyone will get a bit more about the plot and more of a grasp of the film and get more stoked.

What have been your highlights of the year so far?

This movie! All the cool places I’ve seen – a couple of these remote little towns I’ve been to are actually off the grid and you really feel like you’re away from modern civilisation. For me it’s been really hard to achieve that – finding a place that’s not been touched by the outside world.

The Red Bull Bergline was pretty cool, too. In between film trips – this was my first around-the-world ticket where I started heading west and just kept going – I went to Germany and changed a few things on the course, which had been built from my design. Everything worked out really well and everyone had fun. I was stoked.

What bike do you ride the most, and what modifications have you made?

When I’m home, I ride my hardtail a lot and on top of that, I ride my Enduro a tonne. I’m on a different schedule to a lot of my friends as they work a lot, so I end up going alone, which means I usually go for a good pedal so the Enduro gets used a lot. Me and Matt Hunter have set our bikes up pretty similar. We run a Fox 36 fork up front and DH tyres. I like the 36 Van fork as it really gives you that DH feel.

Other than that, I just built a new bike, the Status, just because it’s a totally different bike to the Demo. In terms of Rampage and bike park riding, the Status certainly leans more towards jumping.

If you could only ride one spot, where would it be?

Ooh, individual or area? I’d have to say the Island. There’s loads of variation. Everyone’s going to say their home because where home is, is where the heart is. You always love your home trails the best ’cause they’re your home trails!

My second choice would definitely be Utah. I love big mountain riding. Big mountain riding is… well, not a lot of people have done it and you do it once and you’re like, ‘big mountain riding is amazing!’. Riding down big mountain lines, fully exposed, big drops… you can’t beat it.

Darren Berrecloth rides the jumps near Qualicum Beach, BC. Picture from Specialized

Bearclaw hits the jumps near his home town of Qualicum Beach. Picture from Specialized

What riders do you look up to?

I kinda look up to everyone that has fun on their bike. In terms of people in the industry, guys like Hans [Rey] and Richie [Schley], and all the old guys that really paved the way for us, developed the scene and really showed me how to market myself and make my career last. I mean look at those guys – they’re 40 and still getting paid to represent companies! It’s the dream! To just get to 30 and still be doing it I have to pinch myself. My next goal is to get to 40 and progress my riding. I look up to those guys a lot.

Do you have a nemesis?

Everybody always wants us to have a nemesis but we’re all buds! The MTB industry is too small. We high-five each other and we’re all stoked when each other wins. We’re not elbow to elbow, grinding away. It’s always better to be able to cheer people on.

What’s been the biggest scare of your life?

I’ve had tonnes of broken bones and dozens of injuries but breaking my back was a pretty big scare! They all add up and you just think, is this it? These big all-mountain trips that are insanely out there, where you can’t be like, ‘I’ll just drive 10mins to get to the hospital’, they definitely make you aware of your surroundings and your mortality. We could die out here.

Wanna hear a crazy story? Me and [photographer] Blake Jorgensen and Nick, a filmer from Red Bull, got held back from leaving Nepal on a small plane out of Jomson airport. The crew got out on the first flight but the next flight got cancelled. We were like, ‘what do we do?’. Well, we could chance it by taking the next flight and missing our [onward] flight from Kathmandu or we could jump in a jeep and drive for 10 hours down a bumpy-ass road.

We ummed and ahhed and were back-and-forthing on what we should do, then a bunch of jeeps rolled up with another guide so we were like, ‘right, there’s our decision made’ and we were out of there. No big deal. A couple weeks later, we find out that the plane we were supposed to get on crashed. Out of the 20 people, four survived. Things can get real really quick, you know.

Darren Berrecloth riding near the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada while filming for 'Where the Trail Ends'. Picture from Specialized

The Claw during filming for 'Where the Trail Ends'. Picture from Specialized

What are you into apart from bikes?

Wintertime, it’s snowmobiling, snowboarding, skiing, fishing, hunting, quading, moto, wakeboarding, trail building… I’m never in the house.

What do you have on your iPod before/during rides?

When I’m by myself, I’ll grab the iPod. I listen to lot of mellow ambient stuff and hard rock, like Megadeth! That’s for you [Sam] Reynolds!

What are your three favourite bike products of all time?

Suspension, gears and dropper seatposts.

How about your three most hated?

Softtails. The [Girvin] Flex Stem was the worst! And maybe the [Cannondale] Lefty?

Finally, and most importantly, if you had to fight a kangaroo, chimp or hyena, which would you choose, and how would you beat it into submission?

Chimpanzee all the way ’cause all I’d have to do is kick it! The kangaroo would punch the heck out of you. Chimps might be pretty smart but they’re not when you just kick them in the balls! Every man will go down if you kick them in the balls!