Mountain Biking on Four Wheels Is Faster Than Two
Meet a rare breed of devoted racer: Stacy Kohut, the world's fastest mountain biker on four wheels.
"I have a responsibility as a person in a wheelchair, with a 'disability,'" says Crankworx Air Downhill race entrant and four-wheel category athlete Stacy Kohut, "to go out and lay down the hardest run I can."
Brought up in a drag racing family, as a grom Kohut rode full throttle into everything — BMX, skateboarding, motocross, ski racing. An accident on a swingset in 1992 nearly ended all that ...
Today, Kohut credits those experiences for the athletic prowess needed to master the custom four-wheeled mountain bike of his own design. And as unique as his machine, Kohut is one of the most devout athletes to his sport.
It feels how people think it feels to ride — it’s not a motorless ATV, it really feels like a bike.
As Kohut prepared to compete in the 2016 Crankworx Air Downhill race — epically contested on the planet's most-trafficked, expert-level jump trail, Whistler Bike Park's crown jeweled A-Line — we tagged along for the ride.
See the video below and keep reading to learn more
RedBull.com: First, tell us about your bike.
Stacy Kohut: It’s a 6.5-inch suspension travel gravity buggy. I got my first four-wheeler in August of 1999. It's made of chromoly, so it’s really supple in the way it rides compared to aluminum. The design does have some inherent flex — I can pump the bike and I can accelerate the bike. And it feels how people think it feels to ride — it’s not a motorless ATV, it really feels like a bike. For me, a bike has to be a certain weight, flex and feel because you have to be able to feel certain parts of a bike, more than a motorcycle. My four-wheeler is definitely in the category of a four-wheeled bike.
Speed isn’t enough to clear a jump, you need to seat-bounce these things.
You grew up riding everything — what’s been the key to mastering this unique machine?
It doesn’t matter if you’re riding a tricycle, UCI World Cup downhill or World Rally, your cockpit has to fit you. My bike puts my body in a natural "attack position." I can make the bike move with minimal input. I can run 24-inch wheels up front, or 24-inch all around. I prefer 20-inch up front and 26-inch out back — this puts me in that aggressive, attack position. If I want the bike to bank into a left turn, all I need to do is roll my upper body just a little bit and get my hip to drop into the seat and because of how I have my body stacked in the cockpit, that energy drops to the front right wheel and I can get it to do exactly what I want.
Check out the POV from Kohut's four-wheeler below
So what's the technique to jumping a four-wheel MTB?
Think like you’re a Supercross racer coming out of a slow, 180-degree turn and need to jump the triple jump — speed isn’t enough to clear a jump, you need to seat-bounce these things like a maniac. You have to sit into the take-off, and preload the suspension heavily, to get "pop." Then after take-off, at the apex of the jump, you have to catch the bike again with your butt — that has no feeling and is paralyzed, by the way — and then drop from the apex, down into the transition of the landing. Landing a little nose-heavy is always best, with most vehicles. It helps distribute the weight best to keep control on the landing.
I'm the only guy in my category. So trying to get as close to the times of pros on two-wheelers is the best way to stay competitive.
You're notorious for competing with the two-wheelers based on the percentage of time difference — who were some of your targets and times in the pro field?
I enjoy setting a "time allotment" to a lot of the pros. I knew the pro men's winning time from last year, as well as Jill Kintner and a lot of the upcoming pro and junior riders — I write down all the best times and aim for them. It's all about putting myself in that zone where I can bring my level of competition up more, internally. I can pretend there are a hundred other four-wheelers chasing after the title, but there isn't — I'm the only guy in my category. So trying to get as close to the times of pros on two-wheelers is the best way to stay competitive. Whether it's at Crankworx, a B.C. Cup or local Wednesday night race, I have to keep coming up with these challenges to keep improving.
You're known to put lots of runs down in a season — how much are you on the mountain?
During bike park season, I'm riding between two to 12 runs a day, three of four days a week. I'll ride any time, except in the pouring rain. The first few years I moved to Whistler, I did — but it's too hard on equipment. I try to get 100 days in and this season I got over 80 days.
That's why I'm here: To have my fun, but also entertain people with what I'm doing and to get them stoked on riding bikes, too.
What's your equipment usage?
I didn't break any equipment too badly, but I did go through four sets of four wheels, four sets of four tires, two pair of handlebars, eight sets of brake pads, 10 pairs of gloves, a couple helmets, three jerseys, some pants, two kidney belts — I'm very thankful to have sponsors to help because that's a lot of equipment to go through ... but, at the same time, I'm out there that much and a lot of people get to check out what I'm doing. And that's why I'm there: To get my fun, but also entertain people with what I'm doing and to get them stoked on riding bikes, too.