For those in the local racing scene, the name Eric Olsen is probably familiar. A constant podium threat at Cascadia Dirt Cups, a GGR youth development coach, and a small business owner, he is one seriously busy guy. It's a wonder he can balance his responsibilities, let alone make it to a start gate on time (more on that later). I theorize his speed between the tape is driven by the necessity to get back to his 3D printer to fulfill the incoming orders for Jank Components. Luckily, Eric was able to find enough time to sit down and chat with me about everything ranging from the disaster of a day that was his first pro win, to his comically ambitious plans for this upcoming season.
What role does the community of Bellingham play in developing your passion for racing?
It’s the ultimate mountain bike town in terms of trail access and the number of really talented riders that you can hit up every day and go ride with and progress your skills. I can ride every day of the week, more than I’m physically capable of, with people who are faster or more skilled than me on every single one of those days. That’s just the best way to get better. I can just be getting dropped by different people on different trails every day of the week, or just getting towed into terrifying jumps. Living in a town like this just fosters the more social aspect of mountain biking. You can just meet so many people and learn a lot quickly. I never feel like I’m the best rider in the group and that’s awesome.
How is it to race on Forbidden frames?
So the way that came about, the Fanatik team started with an Ibis connection and that was sweet. I rode the Ripmo for quite a while; that’s a really efficient bike which was a good way for me to get into enduro bikes because of my XC background. Then Ibis was having supply chain issues and it was starting to look like it might be tough to get frames. Both me and Andrew were like, “Let’s try a bunch of bikes." The high-pivot thing seemed interesting, and the Specialized Enduro seemed interesting. We were just open to trying as many bikes as we could.
The Forbidden Druid felt just genuinely different… in a good way. There was something to it, it rode a different way. Forbidden was stoked and we were stoked. I think the bikes are fast and Forbidden is constantly working on improvements for them which is huge. Like, they’ll come out with the Ziggy-Link or the Moto Foam, which is appreciated from a racer's perspective.
It’s been cool because Jank Components (my company) has been solving little problems on my bike. Then they have come out with their own refined versions; it’s awesome to see them solving those problems in-house. That’s the world I live in, making a bike race-ready, just getting it to be as dialed as possible. The Forbidden bikes are awesome though. They are quiet, the geo is right, the chainstay lengths adjust with the sizes, and they just work.
What were the high and low points of last race season?
The high point is pretty easy. That was Tiger Mountain Enduro. It was my first and only Pro enduro win. Racing is funky and confusing; it’s easy to be on the podium relatively speaking, but getting that first place is so elusive. I had gotten seconds and thirds but never first.
I guess that race was almost the high and low point of the season. I was super busy and moving to a different house at the time. I was sleeping on a hard floor the night before the Tiger race, up all night super sick. Then I drove to Seattle and didn’t quite get the practice figured out and didn’t get to all the trails. I woke up the next morning running super late for the race. Then I fell asleep in my car in the Tiger parking lot and Andrew Cavaye called me and was like, “Where are you? We are literally starting, like, going up the hill."
I almost went home, and then just decided to ride the course. The whole day I was so off the back. I didn’t see anyone, all the pros were gone. I didn't think about the race at all. The cool thing was, there’s no live timing for Cascadia Dirt Cup, so you chip in at the end and find out the results. I was so far behind that all the other pros were finished, so it was like, “this is it," but also I didn't even care. I was just stoked to finish. Then low and behold, I won the damn thing.
How does that feel to have that moment of realization?
It’s just a great reminder that fun is fast. That's a pretty cliche racing statement but it’s genuinely so easy to get caught up in being too serious. It’s just about trying to finish the day to the best of your ability. I wasn’t thinking about anyone else out there.
What projects did you get up to this off-season?
The video, Atmospheric River Rats, is something I’m really stoked about. It was an idea that Logan Patrick-Nelson and I came up with. I got to know him a little bit through the Whatcom World Cups because he’s an absolute beast on a bike. I asked him if he’d like to make a Tommy Caldwell style, Slice of British Pie type thing, in Bellingham. Just a community-type film. British Pie is only pros but our idea was to film whoever wanted to film and we did it. It premiered at Kulshan K2.
My company, Jank Components, is also growing in more official ways. I just gave some stuff to Pinkbike that they want to feature. Who knows what will come of that but they asked for it so that’s cool. Then I’m working on a project with GroundKeeper for handguards that can have custom printing on them; I’m stoked for that collaboration. I have a CNC machine about to show up which is a massive upgrade in terms of Jank Components manufacturing capability. I have been running my business with what I would describe as the Trek Marlin of 3D printers. I'm really excited about actually taking the time to upgrade and make better products.
What does your upcoming season look like?
Let me start this out by saying last season I was doing some NW Cup downhill races. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of downhill racing because it’s not enough riding and you can get in your own head because it’s the same track over and over. I might dislike it because it feels like swimming when I was younger; I just don’t like that feeling anymore. This was after my win at Tiger, so it was starting to get into my head that if I just made my race weekend hectic then it was going to go better. Just get my mind off of racing. So the idea was to ride from Fanatik to the race in Port Angeles. It was a ton of fun and just made the experience way better for me. So that got into my mind that riding to races is pretty fun.
This season I am going to do some EWS stops in Europe, which I’ve never done before and I knew it could be a super stressful experience. It’s the highest level of Enduro racing, and I knew I could pretty easily ruin it for myself. So then the idea came about that it could be pretty sweet to do a bike tour between the rounds of the EWS. I don’t exactly know when that idea became real, but it did. I probably told it to someone and then it's real.
Dan Perl is going to join me to document it while we try to raise money for World Bicycle Relief. We are doing it, flights are booked, and we've got bike bags being made. Dan is fully on board, so we are going to bike between three EWS rounds. The route is planned, it’s only 800 miles or so. We are going to be using a mix of public transit as well. The train system is so dialed that there's no reason to not use it just to make it harder on ourselves. I want to show people that biking is an enjoyable means of transportation and that you don’t need to always drive places with your bike.
Looking back at one of your first enduros, the 2015 Capitol Forest Enduro, you finished 15/16 in U18. What advice would you give yourself then?
That’s so funny; that race was insanely muddy. I think I was actually doing decent until I broke my chain on the last stage. I took the time to put a quick link in… it took me so long to do that. When I finally got that done and pedaled out and it was maybe 15 seconds to the finish line. I should have just kept running, so that's my advice, “Don’t stop, just keep going."
Racing capabilities aside, what struck me most during my time talking with Eric was his humble appreciation for the biking community in Bellingham. Perhaps the most visual representation of this appreciation is the Atmospheric River Rats video. A not-so-serious cinematic showcase of riding that’s not exclusive to any one skill level or gender, Atmospheric River Rats beautifully encapsulates the local cycling community and why so many riders chose to call it home.
At this point in the season, Eric has already secured podium finishes at both the Hub-a-Palooza and the opening round of the CDC at Tiger Mountain. With a little bit of character building sprinkled in on a wild Squamish Enduro course, he looks to continue to build confidence before his epic journey across Europe.
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