There’s an argument to be made for Campbell River’s John Stevenson as the best dirt bike rider on Vancouver Island.
Although he’s been riding recreationally with his dad since he was about eight years old, he only started putting himself up against other riders competitively about four years ago. Once he’d decided he wanted to race, he looked around at what kind of options were out there and found the Vancouver Island Dirt Riders Association’s Endurocross circuit.
It didn’t take long for him to discover that’s exactly where he belonged.
“I started racing at the end of 2014, but anyone who knows me knows I’m a pretty competitive person, and when I got into it, my goal was to take the championship,” he says.
So he did.
“I started off in Intermediate, and I won that the first year, and then you go to Expert, and when you win that, you go up to the top one, which is called Masters, which I won this year,” he says.
His rise to the top of the top-tier might have happened a little sooner, in fact, but he tore his ACL in 2016 and sat out the next season to fully recover. Last season was his first year of competition after winning the championship in the Expert class, and he came in second.
“We came back after that and did some homework, put in a little more time on the bike doing cardio, managed to rattle off a few wins this season and earned the championship,” he says.
While there is some prize money on the circuit, Stevenson says, it’s not like he’s making a living doing it. His day job is as a personal trainer, both with his own business, True Coaching, as well as with Primal Athletics in Willow Point.
Which is handy, because to say his chosen sport is physically demanding might be an understatement. Races consist of a loop anywhere from 10 to 25 km long, and riders are on the bike doing as many laps as they can, through challenging terrain, for up to three hours at a time.
There are eight races per season, where riders collect points based on the position they finish each race, so you can drop in the standings quickly if you don’t finish near the top in a given event.
“It does beat you down,” Stevenson says. “And cardio is really, really important. There’s a lot of training involved. You’re certainly not just gonna get up off the couch and go riding for three hours.
“I do two or three days in the gym doing full body workouts and try to average two or three days a week out on the bike.”
So what’s next for Stevenson and his bike? What do you do when you reach the top of your field that quickly?
“I mean, I guess I could go down to Washington and join their national circuit down there, but it comes down to travel, expenses, food and all that, but I’ve got a good group of sponsors behind me that have been there for a few years now,” he says.
“Maybe there are a few more people out there that want to jump on board, but not a lot of people really know what it is, because it’s not really a spectator sport with a bunch of publicity or anything.”
But if it sounds like something you’d like to support, you can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information about how to get involved.