I often wonder how professional athletes deal with retirement. Most of them have heaps of cash (not mtbers!) to soften the blow but the novelty of that must lose some of it’s lustre by the time you are ready to hang up your skates, cleats or Dainese suit. What must be difficult is going from a high intensity life in the media spotlight to hanging out with the kids and playing golf daily.
I’m not saying retiring pros are to be pitied but the transition can’t always be an easy one. I imagine those who do the best find an avenue to share what they have learned. Andrew Shandro has found an opportunity to do just that with the Whistler Mountain Summer Gravity Camps. I’m putting Andrew out to pasture prematurely; he’s still going to do some racing and he’ll be riding for years to come but he has backed away from racing full time this summer.
Here’s the rest of my conversation with Andrew.
nsmb – Are you going to be as involved in the world cup here as you were last year? (Andrew designed the World Cup DH Course last year)
Shandro – I don’t think so. That’s something I’m not really sure about. They’re trying to make mountain biking happen up there (Grouse Mountain) but they’re not really sure how to do it.
nsmb – TheyÕre scared about the tourists being scared away in the summer?
Andrew Shandro – They’re a tourist destination (Grouse Mountain) for sure. It’s a zoo up there right now with the grizzly habitat (Grouse has grizzly bears in large “natural” enclosures that can be seen by the public). They don’t want riders coming by all muddy. It was a cool experience though.
nsmb – Designing the course and all?
Andrew Shandro – Yeah that was big. I’m sure I’ll be involved in some ways with the courses -looking at things that need to be changed etc.
nsmb – Tell me about your new project at Whistler and how it all came to be.
Shandro – I’ve known Jason and Robert up at Whistler for awhile and they are super guys and they see the future of mountain biking with lift access as well and they are taking advantage of it and are the number one right now also. I haven’t heard of a park that comes close to theirs anyway. Have you?
nsmb – I can’t say I have. (Sunpeaks is pretty cool to though)
Shandro – What they are doing with the trails and being here in BC it’s easy to do right? I’ve been thinking about camps for 3 or 4 years now and nothing has materialized because of racing and not having the time. So this year with me being at home I approached Whistler and I think I just spoke to them at the right time really. We set up a meeting and I said I want to set up week long mountain bike camps on the same template as ski and snowboard camps and let’s try to be the first ones to do this. I mean Alex (Warburton) is doing his but we are obviously at the forefront. It comes back to the image idea. We can follow the ski and snowboard camps where it is image driven and we can really drive the sport in a way that I would like to see it go. So we had a meeting and they were thinking the same way. I worked on some spreadsheets and figured out some numbers and they were taken back a little bit because they didn’t expect me to do that right and it got the ball rolliing from there.
nsmb – When’s the first camp?
Shandro – July 21st. From the Sunday to the Saturday for 4 weeks straight. So basically your kid – it’s 13 and up although we planned on doing one camp that is 19 and up. So on the 21st you fly in and the next one will start on the 28th until July 3rd. It’ll be a month solid of camps. The goal is to avoid riding on a weekend when things are busy. So you come in on a Sunday and you ride Monday to Friday and you’re out on a Saturday. And the camp, the main thing behind the camp is action packed as much fun as possible.
nsmb – So what kind of riders do you expect are really going to benefit from the camp and enjoy it?
Shandro – I think we’re going to have a huge range. I think there will be kids who have ridden only a little. We can’t have complete beginners – they have to be able to ride a bike to be sure to be able to ride the Whistler Park. There will be kids who are intermediate and that’s okay. The cool thing is that we’re going to have kids coming for a week and then come away pumped and come back the next year so we can see them improve. And they get to ride the premier park with the premier riders basically.
nsmb – Who are the other riders involved?
Shandro – Dave Watson, Thomas Vanderham, Wade Simmons, Dangerous Dan. I threw Dan in there because it gives the camp another opportunity. We’ll build a mini flow show and have something kids can have fun on during the day. We’ll schedule in from 2 – 4 you can go do the flow show or if you prefer go dirt jumping. We’re just trying to cover all the bases. We’ve got the Whistler Bike Park with all those trails and then the bikercross course and I think there’s going to be a slalom course. Then you’ve got DanÕs thing and some North Shore style stuff in the park and then you’ve got the dirt jumps. At the end of the week I want to do a mock Redbull competition but a scaled down version. I’ll go up in the morning and layout the race – well not the race, the fun comp and just do little obstacles.
nsmb – Sounds like a blast.
Shandro – And we’ll do different levels – one course that is tougher than the other.
nsmb – Dan’s a great addition I think.
Shandro – I think so too. You know Dan -he’s kind of out there (laughs) but he’s a great guy.
nsmb – The kids love him – he’s super enthuiastic.
Shandro – He’s just so pumped. I don’t think we’ll have him for the whole week because his riding is kind of specific and challenging. He can teach them how to drop and I think teaching them how to ride that stuff (flowshow type stunts) will be great. He focuses on it well but other stuff like dirt jumping isn’t his thing so the other guys will pick up there. We’ve got a few other guys like Chad Onyschuk who’s really committed. I’d like to get Gabe (Fox) up there as well so he can hang out with the younger kids. He’s enthusiastic too.
Shandro – There are going to be days when it’s going to be work as well. You might be riding with a lower level group and you’ve got to be patient . But I think we’re paying the guys fairly and they get breakfast and lunch. I understand that I can’t do it without good coaches. I need good guys and obviously the guys I’ve got are really good.
nsmb – Is the plan now to stay all 5 days on the mountain?
Shandro – I put in a shuttle day as well and left it open to go either to Pemberton for the day or depending on the weather I’d like to give kids the option of doing a day on the shore. And we’ll see how the group is. Maybe one group will be pretty capable to ride harder stuff – but we don’t even need to ride hard stuff. There is Ladies or whatever. That way they’ll be able to say they rode the shore as well. It’s going to be just a fun week of riding you know?
nsmb – Sounds great.
Shandro – And you stay in the Tantalus Lodge which is a 2 minute bike ride from the lifts and you can walk wherever you want to go. In the evening the kids can go where they want chaperoned by a counselor. Dinner they are on their own but with somebody.
nsmb – I wish this was an option when I was a kid.
Shandro – Every sponsor that I or the other guys have will hook us up with some stuff so everyone will go away with something as well. I also want to talk to EA BIG.
nsmb – I bet they will be right into what you’re up to.
Shandro – Because they’re doing that Mountain Bike video game.
nsmb – They also did this sort of mini flowshow down at Sea Otter so they are pushing now.
Shandro – And they sponsored the bikercross too.
nsmb – At Sea Otter? Cool.
Shandro – I’m also going to get guys like that up – Eric Carter. But it really isn’t a race camp.
nsmb – Just riding skills in general?
Shandro – The main thing is for kids to progress and have a great time. That’s how I see it. And hopefully every kid will come out of the week riding a little bit better, jumping better. Having learned something while having a great tiime.
nsmb – Are you going to encourage kids to bring their own bikes?
Shandro – Yep. For sure.
nsmb – I want to talk about the fact that early on -perhaps because of your relationship with Mitch Scott (bike mag writer) and Sterling Lorence you became associated with riding the Shore.
Shandro – That was Gibson (John) who took all those shots actually. It was Gibby but Mitch queried the story. I was pretty cool alright.
nsmb – That was when you were riding for K2 wasn’t it?
Shandro – Ummm. I’m not sure. Was it Marin? I don’t remember the actual date. I’d have to look at the actual magazine. We shot that whole thing on Boogie Man.
nsmb – It was pretty fresh then.
Shandro – It was a super Shore day. Misty and rainy. Those days are so coolwhen the mist is coming through the trees and it’s sort of surreal.
nsmb – I’m wondering if now you are so focussed on racing that you have stepped away from that kind of riding some.
Shandro – Well obviously I’ve grown up riding the Shore so I’ve always ridden here. It’s definitely helped me riding technical courses as well. Everyone would say the same thing. Are you asking me if I don’t ride the same trails?
nsmb – I’m asking if now you would still go up and rip Boogie Man or would you just do Ned’s?
Shandro – Shit no. I only ride Ned’s (Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – a fast and fun Shore Trail) when I’m on my big bike downhill training. We just do Ned’s and SexBoy because you can blast them off quickly. But I wouldn’t ride those as much if I wasnÕt training. I like natural flowing trails that are tough to ride hard.
nsmb – So what would you ride on Grouse?
Shandro – With the old shool buddies? Probably the last one I did was Bitches Brew top to bottom. Or with the huckers we’d go do Groovula or something. I enjoy the workout. It seems more satisfying to me.
nsmb – The climb up?
Shandro – I like climbing because you’re warmed up too.
nsmb – When we shuttle I always begin riding like shit.
Shandro – Most people do. Getting away from the North Shore one of the best rides I’ve done is Highlines in the Chilcotins.
nsmb – That’s an epic right?
Shandro – It’s a 7 hour loop. I saw Wade Simmons that day and Chad Onyschuk. That just shows what kind of guys those guys are. There aren’t too many freerider guys you’ll see doing 7 hour epics.
nsmb – Is it 4 or 5 hours of climbing?
Shandro – Yep. You’ve got to do it man. It’s so beautiful.
nsmb – Next time you’re going let me know.
Shandro- We’re going in the summer actually. Labour Day Weekend we’re going. You do this epic climb by Spruce Lake and then ride out. You’ll be blown away. It’s beautiful up there and drier as well.
nsmb – Does everyone take a Cross Country bike?
Shandro – I rode my Bonzai (Devinci) last year and guys were on RM6s – Sterling was on his RM6. I think Wade was on a hardtail. I think the perfect bike would be a 4 inch travel front and rear. It’s fun to have full suspension on that trail because you get into some downhill that has nice little natural hits. You could totally do it on a hardtail.
nsmb – I’ve been hearing about those rides for awhile now.
Shandro – I’ll keep you informed.
nsmb – So you just love riding of all kinds?
Shandro – Racing gave me a focus. Obviously I’m competitive a person. Definitely not as competitive as I used to be – I’ve used a lot of it up. But it was a great way to challenge myself to stay focussed. There’s a lot of great things about racing. If you talk to racers you find they are really motivated people. It’s easy to focus when you’ve got 3 months
nsmb – What races are you going to do this year?
Shandro – Mont Tremblant Quebec – the Canada Cup, Nationals at Sun Peaks, Grouse World Cup, Joyrider Biker Cross and some local races I can fit in.
nsmb – And you are going to be riding Intense?
Shandro – Yep. The sponsors this year are Intense, Manitou, Smith, Dakine, Cliff Bar and I’m working on something with FSA because they are doing 1.5 headsets…
nsmb – So is your Intense going to be inch and a half?
Shandro – The freeride bike is with the new Sherman for. It’s a good name. I’ve got one at my house right now
nsmb – Is it a 1.5?
Shandro – No it’s a 1 1/8 through axle with 5 inches of travel. It’s bomber though. And of course Sombrio clothing and Etnies shoes and Bean Around the World.
nsmb – What is your involvement with Sombrio right now?
Shandro – Well I think we all do a handful of things as you know in a small company. Dave (Watson) works his ass off and gets things happening and then I came on and Gabe came on. He’s the most financially involved – he’s stuck a lot of money into it and we’ve stuck a little bit as well. I think what I have to offer is knowing people and trying to just spread the word and visit the stores as a sales rep. I have some influence on the design as well.
nsmb – And how are things looking? The impression I have is that things are going better than ever.
Shandro – Things are happening. It’s really just man time. With a small company capital is a big deal so we are sort of in the stage where we are growing 100% a year. Dave’s done a really good job with designs and we have all learnt a lot from doing it and evolving. We want to have a bike company that is rider owned rider designed right and the image is what we want. The goal is clothes you can hang out in – it’s a lifestyle line of clothing. We are learning all the time by changing stuff and trying new things. Our new stuff looks really great as does the winter stuff for next year.
nsmb – It’s exciting to have a company doing it for us.
Shandro – Dave and Gabe and I have been in the industry for a long time and Thomas is our main rider and we’re sponsoring some other riders as well like Tyler Klassen (although that may have fallen through since he won the UFC for RaceFace – ed.). We can hire who we want to hire and do what we want to do.
nsmb – Do you have any video plans this year?
Shandro – I’m not sure what’s happening with vids this year. Jorli (Ricker of RTTH) isn’t doing anything this year (that may have changed as of this publication -ed) And New World has their crew. You have to be either a Kona guy or an Oakley guy or you aren’t in. Wade’s Oakley now so he’ll probably be shooting with them now.
nsmb – Really?
Shandro – I would think. It would make sense.
nsmb – There’s just the Kona issue. The other issue is that Derek Westerlund likes to say “if you are shooting with me you can’t shoot with anyone else.”
Shandro – Who else is he going to shoot with though?
nsmb – Bjorn (Enga of Kranked) doesn’t have this type of project on the go so I guess that leaves Digger.
Shandro – So whatever really comes up. If stuff doesn’t come up then I’ll really try and work some shots with Sterling (Lorence). He thinks like that and does really cool stuff.
nsmb – How did you get hooked up with Manitou?
Shandro – Well back with Marin I was riding with Manitou forks. Jose Gonzales who heads their race program is a great guy who I had a good relationship with so I just stayed in contact when I was riding with other companies and he mentioned that they were looking for someone up in BC to help them out with this new project. They need it because Manitou gets killed up here. They had some problems so they realize for them to get into this market will be great. Even the Dorrado, which is a high end expensive fork, is unbelievable. They basically want me to make sure guys are hearing about the Sherman and trying it out. They want to get into this market and they know that they can. They have really worked hard on this fork (Sherman) from the seals to the burliness.
nsmb – I look forward to trying one (hint hint!). You mentioned this earlier but I want to touch again on how being from the Shore helps you when you are racing.
Shandro – I think from learning to ride on the shore and how technical the terrain is, it obviously prepares you for the most technical race courses. I know that if I can ride the most challenging trails on the Shore that I will feel comfortable on any race course.
nsmb – So are there specific situations where you can tell that what you have learned riding the shore really helps?
Shandro – The Shore has so much to offer. It is a huge playground for Mtb riders and it is constantly evolving to challenge you as a rider. I feel that I can adapt to different terrain well and I’m able to see the options on a trail, whether it is on a race course or picking out a line during a filming day .
nsmb – What do you notice shore riders can do that good riders from elsewhere have trouble with?
Shandro – This sounds a little redundant but it has to be the ability to ride the most technical lines, stunts, drops and what ever else the Shore throws at you. There are great riders everywhere, but living on the shore gives us so many options.
nsmb – Cool Andrew. Thanks for sitting down for this.
Shandro - Let’s go have a Guiness!
-two time world cup downhill winner
-X games gold medallist
-four time Canadian National D.H champion
-2001 Canada Cup overall DH champion
-ten Canadian National team memeber
-multiple podium finishes at Norba National Events
-North Shore Extreme
-Torque Video Mag
-Ride to the Hills
Bikes for 02
-Intense Uzzi SLX
My favorite trail is a tough one but in a nutshell any trail that flows is always good. I’m stoked with what Whistler has done with the Bike Park . It is by far the best lift access Mtb park going and the Plan is to keep building new trails and stunts.