Wise Words is our new interview series talking to some of mountain biking’s most switched on people.

We’ll ask our short list of questions to a heap of influential, inspiring and outspoken people that we feel are driving the direction of mountain biking today. Some will make you think, some will make you laugh, some will be plain dumb, some will inspire you to better yourself and your riding. We hope!

This week’s wisdom comes to you via the man, the myth, the legend that is Mr. James McKnight.

Beyond being a top cat and an absolute pinner, James McKnight is currently leading the charge for high-quality print publications. The man behind Hurly Burly and the Deathgrip books, as well as having a hand in Eskapee’s Anthology, paper runs in James’ blood.

Photos by Ben Winder.

How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?

Likes to stop at as many cafés as possible. Has no sense of direction. Enjoys being lost. Has the most random but quite severe injuries.

What thing or things have you bought yourself in the last year that had the biggest effect on your life as a mountain biker or as someone who works in the industry?

I’m finding it hard not to reference Yvon Chouinard’s (Patagonia founder) book, Let My People Go Surfing. (Although actually I read that a few years ago and I didn’t buy it – a good friend gave it to me in return for letting him camp at my house for a bit. Great ideas are worth more than any sum of money. Thanks for the read Pedro.

That book has become a sort-of bible for our generation, and for good reason. Great company ethics, a focus on product longevity and all-round fairness can and should be applied to all businesses, not least in mountain biking.

What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?

Cross-country skiing. I’m also vegetarian and gave up caffeine and alcohol earlier this year. I am heaps of fun. If only my 15-year-old self could see me now, how ashamed he’d be.

What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear?

Look up and predict what’s ahead.


If you could go back and re-ride one day on two wheels from your life so far, where/what/when/who would it be? Would you change anything?

Back when I was cleaning toilets as a teenager in a Morzine hotel, my riding buddies and I had some pretty epic adventures on complete wrecks of bikes with burning brakes and blown suspension and slick tyres. I’d probably go back and re-ride one of those sunny days, although I wouldn’t change a thing.

What have you wasted the most time on in your life as a rider or in your bike industry career that you wished you’d given up years ago?

Well, as above, I wouldn’t really change anything because it’s all a learning process at the end of the day. Of course, plenty of time has been wasted fixing punctures.

How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling for inspiration?

Whenever I’m in a pit I just try to remind myself how lucky I am to have food on the table and a roof over my head, and that my work is something I’d do even if I weren’t paid for it (in fact, most often I am not).

What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?

Flow of course! Boring answer, but you can’t beat getting into a rhythm or cruising at speed or hitting a series of turns. Even if that only lasts for a fleeting moment, it’s then that everything around you dims out.

What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?

E-bikes. Or fat bikes. Or 29ers. Only joking. It’s all good fun riding bikes, isn’t it? At the end of the day, no one is forcing us to buy any of them. Not quite anyway.

What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?

I’d like the cost of quality mountain bikes to keep dropping. We, the industry, should try to always consider average wages and available spending money when pricing, reviewing or selling.

Who should we ask these questions to next?

Harry Heath.

Check out the latest Hurly Burly downhill World Cup annual here.

Keep an eye on James’ adventures over on his Instagram feed.

You can catch all our previous Wise Words interviews with the likes of Sven Martin, Manon Carpenter, Ric McLaughlin and plenty more here.