New Zealand rider Louis Hamilton has been a serious presence on the pro racing scene since his 4th place finish in the Pro Elite Men's class at the 2019 New Zealand DH Championships, but his win at this year's Crankworx Rotorua set a new bar for what this talented rider is capable of doing. It's been a while since we caught up with Louis, so we asked the crew at our amazing New Zealand distributor, Wide Open, to check in and let you all know what Louis has been up to . . . besides going really fast on bikes. Thanks to Kaycie at Wide Open for this interview!
Photos by Cameron Mackenzie and Kaycie O'Connor
Kaycie O'Connor for Stan's: Hi Louis, can you tell us about where you grew up and what drew you into riding bikes?
Louis Hamilton: Hey guys! I was born in the UK and moved to NZ when I was one, and have been in Rotorua ever since. Growing up with the forest on the back doorstep hasn’t, and never will be, taken for granted! When we moved to NZ, my dad (Dave) got dragged out by a few workmates at the time and got hooked on it. Once we had bikes (and had learnt to ride them), we would ride and build all sorts of jumps out of bricks and skinny bits of wood, ride down the stairs and jump off retaining walls around our home. This led to heading out onto the trails around the age of seven!
SNT: What’s your process for learning something new on the bike?
LH: I recently had an experience of learning something new on the bike, which was BMX start gates. The first thing I try to do when learning something new is trying to imagine myself doing it and what I am going to feel, things such as: timing, power, technique, bike response etc. I think a common process for many riders is the “just do it” approach - not knowing what they are doing. I had an organiser who knew a thing or two about gates, which certainly made me more aware of the bullet-points I had to try and achieve! With advice on what to practice or focus on, learning is rapid and accurate!
SNT: What drew you to start your business, Tuned Mountain Bike Coaching? Could you tell us a bit about Tuned?
LH: What drew me to starting Tuned was actually a bit of a funny story. I put my hand up for a volunteer day to help a heap of kids out with some downhill coaching. They told me what they wanted to learn and get better at, and although I knew what they wanted to do, I wasn’t actually aware of how I did these skills. After this session with the kids, I spent more time consciously thinking about how I was riding. It took me a while to brainstorm all aspects of riding, and here I am now sharing my brainstorm with everyone else to improve their riding! I have been coaching/instructing at Tuned Rotorua for three years in January 2022, and the future of Tuned is looking more exciting than ever!
SNT: What do you enjoy about your work?
LH: The thing I enjoy the most about my job is the people. My first ever job was in the tourism industry as a skydiving instructor (in a wind tunnel), and coaching for me is very similar. I get to meet new and awesome people and give them positive experiences. It is a really satisfying line of work. I cannot ignore the fact that I get to ride my bike as a job too!
SNT: How do you balance work with your training for events?
LH: Balance between work and my own training for events is something that as Tuned has got busier and busier, it has become more and more tricky to manage. However, the majority of my training commitments are off bike sessions now. I go to the gym 3 times a week with a group of close friends I have grown up with, all focused on their own sports. Before being a part of Redline Training, I used to train by myself and although I was motivated to get the sessions done, Redline Training has given me more motivation and pushed my limits way past where I thought they were. Working for myself also makes it easy to allocate rest days where is required and ensure preparation for key events is quality.
SNT: Looking back over the past few years, is there a moment that’s strengthened your progression in the sport?
LH: Over the past few years, there has been a couple of big influences for my progression in the sport, and that was having our daughter 'Jayla' enter the world. When I became a dad, it almost felt like a small weight had been lifted off my shoulders; there was no longer any self-pressure to perform. This made things more fun for me and reminded me of why I got into racing in the first place. Performing at a high level does come with pressure, whether you agree or not, but Jayla for sure has given me a different perspective which works well for me! Not only Jayla but also Tuned - becoming more aware of how I ride my bike has helped progress my ability.
SNT: What are your thoughts on the big win at this year's Crankworx?
LH: The big win at Crankworx 2021 is definitely a career highlight, despite the favourable conditions. The coolest thing about this win for me is the location. When I was 11 years old, I had the opportunity to be a sweeper rider for the 2006 World Championships in Rotorua, where all my idols came to race in my hometown. Going up in the shuttle with them and getting to be on course whilst they were practising is what got me into racing. I remember thinking, "this is what I want to do when I’m older". To win the Crankworx Downhill race on the same hillside where it all started is something me and my family will never forget!
SNT: What support have you received over the past few years, which has helped you with your racing?
LH: The biggest amount of support I have received over the past few years has come from family. Being able to attend events these days does not happen without babysitters! Jayla loves to come and watch bikes and having their support - whether it's babysitting, or trackside it’s huge. Also, I’m very fortunate to have the support of a few companies and brands that have stayed loyal to me and kept me rolling out there. The rider support I receive is all swings and roundabouts, I always appreciate the support I receive and ensure things are going both ways.
SNT: What does life beyond bikes look like for you, Louis?
LH: I don't think my life will ever be without some form of wheels, and I struggle to imagine a life without them. However, supporting my family and providing opportunities is something that I wish to pass on to them. The opportunities I was given as a kid have given me so much, and continue to do so.
A big thank you to the team at Wide Open / Stans NoTubes, who work continuously to support our venture and ensure that we are well looked after. Couldn't do it without you guys!