If you’ve been following mountain bike racing during the past two decades, you’ve probably heard of Geoff Kabush. After a long and successful international cross country racing career, the 41-year-old Canadian Olympian recently switched his cycling focus to other types of events across North America. He now splits his time between Squamish, British Columbia, and East Bay and Truckee, California. We caught up with him as his race season was just getting underway. Stan’s NoTubes: What kind of riding and racing are you doing now?
Geoff Kabush: I do all the fun mountain bike events in North America. I’m mostly focused on trail and enduro events, but I’m also adding in some gravel. In a way, I’ve gone back toward my roots in cross country because what I do now is more like cross country racing used to be when I started: longer loops in fun places to visit and ride. I like going to events with big participation where others can be there riding, too. For example, it’s been fun going to race singletrack at the BC Bike Race.
SNT: Tell us about the transition.
GK: Through 2016, I was part of the Scott-3 Rox team. Then in 2017, I departed and started my own individual program. Yes, during the past five years, I had been doing a variety of events, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I switched away from World Cup cross country racing toward a more diverse racing schedule. Now I run my own solo program, primarily sponsored by Yeti and Maxxis. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also rewarding. I enjoy having direct relationships with sponsors and working on product feedback and R&D. Plus if there is an event I see on the calendar, I can go do it because I have the freedom to plan my own calendar and shape how I want to present myself.SNT: What’s life like after so many years of racing cross country? Do you miss it?
GK: I miss some of the community and not seeing everyone, but then a lot of people with whom I was close also moved into this different style of racing. I still see a lot of my friends around, and now I get to spend more time at home.
SNT: When enduro first came to be, it seemed like cross country riders could potentially do well in the new discipline, but now it seems that gravity-oriented riders tend to excel more. What’s been your experience with enduro coming from an elite cross country background?
GK: Growing up in Canada, the technical aspect of riding was always my strength. So with enduro, I enjoy the blind racing that comes whenever there is no prospect of pre-riding. The first such event I did was Trans Provence, then I did Trans Cascadia. I liked the atmosphere, and there’s no pressure to pre-ride. You just show up and race. I used to not like riding new-to-me trails at full gas. But now I do. You have to be comfortable on your bike, and then you just read the trail and react. You have to be ok with making some mistakes and not get too frustrated when you do. It’s all about finding speed and flow on a new trail. I’ve done a few Enduro World Series (EWS) events, but they allow some previewing by foot and on bike. They are committing and intense and do favor the gravity riders.
SNT: What are your goals for 2018?
GK: I’ve always said I’ll keep riding until the fun stops. There are a lot of events I’m enjoying, and I’ve always been excited to go to new places and new venues. Dirty Kanza is a new challenge for this year. The Epic Rides Off Road Series is another focus for this year; it’ll be fun to go to their new event in Bentonville and check out those trails, plus that event is NOT at altitude. And of course, going back to BC Bike Race is always a highlight because I get to revisit communities in which I grew up racing, and I like being back home in my own province.
SNT: Speaking of Dirty Kanza, have you done any other gravel or similar events?
GK: I’ve enjoyed the Grasshopper series in NorCal with its mixed terrain. I’ve also done the Lost and Found 100 and Grinduro. SNT: Tell us about your current bikes and wheels.
GK: On trails, I’ve been riding the Yeti SB4.5 and the SB5.5 with 4.5” and 5.5” of travel respectively, but now I’m on the new SB100 with 100mm of travel. I ride shorter travel platform kind of full suspension bikes with ~120 and 100 mm of travel. For endurance and cross country events, I ride Stan’s Podium SRD wheels. I’ll use the new Stan’s Arch CB7s for the Trans Cascadia and the new Crest CB7s for Moab Rocks and similar events. Stan’s wheels have always been known for being light weight, but I’m just as impressed with their durability. During my career, I was always aware of Stan’s wheels, and I’m excited to officially ride and race them now. They set up tubeless so easily, it’s great. And the tires always shape up perfectly on the rims for each width. For gravel, I have a quiver-killing, carbon curly bike bar from Open Cycles, a company that was started by Gerard Vroomen and Andy Kessler. It’s a road bike with enough clearance for 27.5” mountain bike wheels so you can run all different setups. It even has top tube mounts for a bolt-on bag. On it, I use the new Stan’s ***REDACTED*** and Avion wheels.SNT: When you look back at your career so far, of what are you most proud?
GK: That I’m still enjoying the sport. I rode through a dark period of the sport [referring to rampant doping - Ed.], and I’m proud looking back at the choices I made and the success I was able to have despite what was going on around me. I was surrounded by people in Canada and International that made the wrong choices. Many of my friends had to quit. Then the testing became better, and now it’s harder to get away with doping. In North America, it feels currently like a more level playing field, which might be helped by there being a lot less money in the sport now than there used to be. Specifically speaking, it was gratifying to get to stand on top of the World Cup podium in Bromont in 2009.
SNT: What do you regret the most?
GK: I can’t go back and change anything so no, there’s nothing I regret. I never thought I’d be racing this long, but I’m enjoying it, and there’s no reason to put a timeline on my career. As long as you’re having fun and racing, there’s no reason not to keep doing it. Plus it’s fun to tease the young guys about getting beat by Masters.
SNT: What about that time you got punched by Brian Lopes at the Trans Cascadia? What happened?
GK: I’ve had a lot of laughs about that incident. I was trying to have some fun, and Lopes wasn’t having as much fun as I was having. We were on a podium spraying champagne. He told me that he was going to punch me in the face if I poured champagne on him, so I couldn’t resist. My Yeti ride profile actually now says I “can take a punch.”SNT: You’ve been in the sport a long time. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
GK: The format is the big thing. It seems like it’s evolving back to how it was when I started. When I did the junior world championships in 1995, the winning time was over 2.5 hours, and I finished in three hours. My strength was always endurance and pacing. Then the cross country format became a shorter discipline over a shorter course with more technical features. That took away my best racing. I struggled to adapt to the steeper, sharper courses. The sport got shorter and more intense, but I like longer formats with more subtly technical singletrack. Short tracks are new to the World Cup this year, and I would have loved to have them around when I was on the circuit. I’ve always done some racing on the road, and I love the tactical side of racing. I used to love the long cross country format at Sea Otter. It was a like a road race on mountain bikes. I also always loved the short track and its tactical aspects. It would have been fun to race that discipline internationally.