Return of the Snake

Bryn Atkinson is back to blowing minds on the bike after recovering from two major injuries. What happened to your favorite rider’s favorite rider?

Anyone who’s followed downhill racing in the past decade knows Bryn Atkinson. The Aussie powerhouse ended his pro racing career in 2015, then continued to amaze followers by creating videos that perfectly showcased his hard-charging, loose-yet-composed, corner-slashing style. After a string of injuries, Bryn disappeared for a while. Now he’s back in front of the camera and no berms are safe – let’s try to keep up.

Many of the people reading this interview are already familiar with your track record as a World Cup DH racer, but for those who might not know you – who is Bryn Atkinson?

Bryn Atkinson, Aussie mountain biker living in Bellingham, Washington. Pro Racer/World Cup Downhiller 2002-2015 to MTB brand ambassador guy nowadays. I like slashin' turns and goin' flat out. I’m also a part-time tester for Shimano’s SKUNK program, riding the future and giving product feedback.

How did you make the move from racing to cementing yourself as your favorite rider's favorite trail rider to watch?

Fortunately I have sponsors that were patient and open to me shifting my focus away from racing. I made it clear that the goal was to provide that same value they had come to expect through racing and replace that with quality content that I was proud of. That and a whole lot of time on the bike.

What sets you apart from "all the rest”?

Hmm, I think playing to my strengths has been important. Being selective about what projects I take on, too – quality only. I’d say it’s also a combination of my background with racing and growing up on slippery terrain. When I moved away from racing and transitioned into a media athlete role, there was a large gap between DH and Freeride, you were either one or the other, and being that I wasn’t racing anymore I didn’t really fit either category. I saw an opportunity to bring a racer’s intensity, aggression and precision into the content space and just fully committed to that.

The snake – not just a custom bike that melted the internet, but an emoji you drop in a lot of your social clips. What’s that all about?

Haha, it’s just something that has come up over the years, especially after the snake bike. It kinda matches up with my style. I think most of all I just like the look of the snake emoji, ssss.

Injuries haven't masked your career like some people, but recently you've had a few. Can you quickly describe your injuries and what happened over the last 18 months?

Right around the time I was getting ready for the Norco Range launch video in September 2020, I had a crash breaking 4 of my transverse process’ L1-4 (the little wings on the vertebrae). Took me about 4 months to get back on the bike. Then March 2021 I was just getting dialed in again, starting to feel good on the bike, and a week out from attempt number two for the Range launch video I had a massage where the therapist pulled my shoulder into subluxation. Long story short, I needed to have surgery to repair the labrum and was off the bike pretty much the rest of the year.

Physical therapy can be grueling. What kept you pushing through it and the setback to your return?

Just having the intention of getting back to “race ready”. Doing everything I can to ensure there are no lingering weaknesses after injury. I just switch up the focus task to task and keep that same intensity, tick the boxes. Physio, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, swimming, road riding/gravel, whatever it takes really.

What’s it been like being forced on the couch while the world has been shut down?

It's allowed me time to focus on other areas of life that were perhaps being neglected before. Even though there were many epic days missed, there will always be more and I’ve appreciated the time away.

Have the injuries changed how you ride, how you approach features, etc.?

It has definitely had an impact, especially towards the tail end of my racing career. But I've learned a few tricks along the way to get through it more efficiently. For me it's been all about slowing things down and allowing adequate time to feel comfortable before going flat out. It's a process I would go through in the off-season to improve on-bike technique when I was racing. I’d literally ride at 80% from December through January – you start to think of trails a lot differently when slowed down and you’re able to really hone in on every aspect of riding a bike well. Anyway, you do something enough and eventually you get good at it, haha.

How important is style for you? Both with gear and with your unique approach to riding?

If we're talking about gear, style is everything – look good, feel good, ride good. Not to sound scripted, but the new Rapha Trail Knee Pad is exactly what you would expect of any other Rapha product; class materials with a focus on fit and performance. When I think of what I want out of a trail knee pad, the priority is to have them stay in place, conform to the shape of your knee and be comfortable for all day riding. This knee pad does exactly that.

I think on-bike style is important too, but it's a little more subjective. I definitely appreciate when someone makes things look effortless and fun, which I always aim for, but I’m a "form first“ rider, searching for the fastest way down a trail, but staying true to the shape and flow of the terrain.

Bryn Wears

Trail Knee Pads

Lightweight knee pads with innovative impact protection for mountain biking, designed in collaboration with RHEON™ Labs active polymer technology.

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Men's Trail Windblock Jersey

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