Kye Forte is Team Wideopenmag’s elite downhill racer.
Having already completed a career in Pro-BMX, Kye jumped over to big wheels and has rocketed his way up the ranks.
A year or two ago, we didn’t think we’d be saying that. He joined us as a BMX pro in a Red Bull helmet and we had no idea how he’d get on. He had even less idea about bike set up, tire pressure, suspension or using both brakes. At his first British Downhill Series race he turned up with 40psi in his turns, his brakes the wrong way round and his suspension rock hard.
It turns out that wasn’t a problem as he smoked the master’s category at the British Downhill Series, then went on to do the same in Expert. There was only one thing for it after that – Elite.
In his mid-30’s, with two kids and a day job he jumped up to race the toughest, gnarliest, most competitive field in mountain biking. Amazing.
For 2017 Kye will be racing on board a Nukeproof Pulse downhill bike – fitted with products from Team Wideopenmag’s sponsors.
frame: Nukeproof Pulse Comp rear shock: RS Vivid with Ti-Springs custom titanium spring, tuned by Gibbs Tuning fork: RS Boxxer team, tuned by Gibbs Tuning bar and stem: Nukeproof Horizon wheels: Stans Flow Mk3 tyres: Conti-tyres Der Kaiser Project pedals: Nukeproof Horizon flat pedal cranks: Truvativ Descendant DH chain guide: MRP G3 steel brakes: SRAM Guide R seat: Nukeproof Horizon grips: Nukeproof Horizon mud guard: Mudhugger FR
So Kye, how’s life mate? You’ve just raced your first elite race – how does that feel?
Yeah life’s good, super hectic but doing lots of exciting things at the moment. It felt cool to be up at the top with all the big boys. I’m stoked to have graduated through the ranks to Elite, it’s a bit mad though going Elite at 35.
If I am honest I did feel quite under prepared for it all, been quite busy with work and family life over the winter and certainly not focussed as much as I would like on DH.
It went OK. I mean I don’t think the track felt good to anyone really, but during practice I was riding quite well considering lack of bike time. I took a gamble in my finals run on a sketchy over camber near the top that was catching everyone out, I just went in a bit to fast and it didn’t pay off and I clipped a tree with my shoulder. I stopped dead and lost loads of time. It was over then. The rest of the run must have been quite good to put in the time I did. I was happy enough with it, something to build on!
Can you tell us a bit about moving from BMX to DH over the last few years. Did you find it an easy transition to riding bigger bikes with bigger wheels?
I just loved the challenge of DH. For me it was the perfect blend of BMX & MX. Lot’s of things from BMX do transfer over, distance perception, jumping, manual and pumping skills. I also had a lot to learn and it took me a season or so to settle into it. I think it helped that I rode MX as well, I don’t think a good BMXer necessary makes a good DH racer.
Tell us a bit about your new bike. When did it turn up and how did you set about getting it set up and feeling at home?
I got my new bike a few weeks before the first round, it looks amazing and I’m super happy to be continuing on with Nukeproof. The frame and shock set up is similar to what we ran last year, but we’re back on Rockshox forks for 2017.
Gibbs suspension in Saltash helped me by re-valving the shock & converted the front coil to air which feels really nice. The suspension is by far the best set up I have had since I have been riding DH.
Where have you ridden on it since you’ve had it?
I have only raced it at the BDS and ridden it locally a couple of times, It feels faster and lighter than last year which is sick.
Do you have any little personal touches or unique set up things on the bike?
I run big 800mm wide bars and I run my brakes back to front. The rear brake is on the right and front on the left. I run my suspension firm and usually run my tires a bit harder than other guys on the team. Oh … and I run flat pedals!
Your old man made you some custom bar extenders – are you still running those?
Yeah on my trail bike! They’re sweet as. He’s a master at fabricating – you can literally ask anything of him.
How do you go about setting up your bikes? Do you agonise over it or just ride it as is?
As long as it feels good it’s generally fine. I’m a bit fussy about handle bar shape and I like a shorter stem. I am learning a bit more about suspension and starting to get a preferential setting. Coming from a rigid BMX it’s easy just to try and make everything stiff as…
What was the first thing you changed on the bike?
I swapped the brakes around … so I didn’t go over the bars!
Where are you hoping this bike will take you this year?
Hopefully it will help me increase my speed and take me on some sweet trips. I would like to get away on more riding trips and not only be traveling for work and for races.
Where are you hoping this bike won’t take you this year?
A&E. And no more up hill race tracks please!
What’s the hardest part about riding this bike?
Just that I don’t get to ride it as much as I would like to.
Do you fix your own bike? Do you like fixing your own bike?
I can do most things yeah. I do when I have the time and I quite enjoy it when I am not in a hurry. However lately I have so little spare time with work and that family that I don’t do it myself.
You’re the only rider running flats on Team Wideopen – what’s with that? Not tempted to clip in to win?
I have tried it, but I felt like it took away the flare in my riding. I would feel faster pedalling through roots, but then like a sack of spuds round the turns. I think taking up DH in my 30’s and learning all that came with it is enough. I think that to master riding clips is something that needs to be intuitive and learnt from a young age.
Have you crashed the bike yet?
Yeah! On my first ride out at Tavi on it! It was only a front wash out and a topple off a bank though! It was quite comical and it didn’t really hurt. I quite enjoyed it really!
In one sentence – describe with this bike feels like to ride?
This bike will make you look fast, go fast, do sick whips, ladies will love you and you will be able to do backflips.