Mtbr recently had a chance to sit down with Hans Rey (who needs no introduction) and Ken Avery (VP of marketing and product for Vittoria North America). Rey gave us a peek into what’s new for himself and Vittoria tires, the Wheels 4 Life program, and the experience of riding through Los Angeles with Missy Giove and Timmy Commerford, bassist for the band Rage Against the Machine.
Rey is a former national champion and world champion, and a pioneer of extreme mountain biking. Indeed, he’s been called the Wayne Gretzky of mountain biking, and our sport wouldn’t be where it is today without his influence. His trials riding and adventures have earned him recognition far beyond the bike, and his work in communities all around the world have elevated him to counter culture icon thanks to a personality and skill set that attracts people into his world.
Rey attracted significant attention to mountain biking when he jumped over a car on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles, and then performed in the first Extreme Sports Act at the 1996 Olympic Games. Whether he’s riding waterfalls in Jamaica, roaming amongst wild animals in Africa, traveling in the footsteps of the Inca in Bolivia, or looking for headhunters in Borneo, Rey is always pondering what he can shred and how fun it will be.
Along the way, he’s created numerous legacies in cycling, the Hans Rey Adventure Team and Wheels 4 Life program to name a few. These efforts inspire Rey to use his mountain biking talent to reach outside competitive cycling and explore the greater world. He and his wife Carmen started Wheels 4 Life under with the idea that something as simple as a bicycle can have a profound and positive effect on someone’s life.
“Bikes for us in the Western world are a luxury,” he explained, noting that elsewhere thousands of people in over 30 countries have benefited from a Wheels 4 Life bicycle. “Yes some use bikes for transportation, but it’s generally a luxury item. But a bicycle in poor third world village can help a person break out of a vicious cycle of poverty. We are very proud of that. We want everyone to know when they contribute, 90% of donations go towards buying new bikes.”
Rey and his wife go as far as publishing their tax records for complete organizational transparency. Vittoria is a firm believer in the Wheel 4 Life organization and is also signed on as a supporter. As of 2018 Wheels 4 Life has given nearly 10,000 bicycles to people striving for a better tomorrow.
For 2018, Rey has signed with Vittoria, which relaunched their MTB line in 2015 and impressed the industry with groundbreaking tire compounds and highly-regarded designs. “Hans is extremely authentic and we are immensely excited to work with him,” said Vittoria’s Avery. “He’s demonstrated that cycling can be a lifetime sport and in that time you can enjoy many different facets of it.”
Besides his duties as an athlete and brand ambassador, Rey will assist Vittoria in product testing and development. “Hans witnessed the evolution of the industry from inside, so he has a good handle on what designs have staying power,” added Avery.
Rey’s riding style will push forward thinking tire development continued Avery. “He’ll ride 30 miles from village to village, then perform a trials show for a thousand people, so his tire choice is crucial,” he said.
“We worked together before and I’m very excited to work with Vittoria under Ken’s direction,” said Rey. “They are a really cool company. What really sets them apart is they specialize in bicycle tires. Not like some other companies that may do car, moped, and whatever tires. Often at other companies, engineers design all the tires — car, scooter, motorcycle, and bike. But a motorcycle tire is completely different than a bicycle tire, and Vittoria knows that because Vittoria designs bicycle tires.”
Rey is particularly excited about Vittoria’s Graphene compound. “This compound is exceptional,” he said. “It rolls fast, it’s durable, and it has insane grip. It’s like steroids for tires. I was impressed how the tires were mounting, too. I was in England with new tires and no compressor, but they set up with a floor pump no problem. Once I started riding Vittoria tires, I could tell the difference right away.”
In 2016, Vittoria introduced its 4C Compound, the result of a proprietary rubberizing process that enables usage of four different compounds in the same tire. This layering process adds versatility, enabling Vittoria to tune tread flex, rebound, and base stability. A soft top layer durometer provides grip and support in the corners, while a stiff base compound improves durability and braking traction.
So what’s Rey’s favorite Vittoria tire? “I like the Martello the most right now, but I also like the Mota for muddy conditions,” he revealed. “For my E-Bike I’ve been riding the Cannoli. I’m generally a fan of tires with bigger nobs. Air pressure is so crucial for bigger tires, one PSI up or down and you can feel it. On my GT Grade gravel bike I run the Terreno dry. It’s a versatile tire, you can really ride it everywhere.”
This year, you can catch Rey in the Hans Rey Adventure trips series. You might also run into him while out exploring his local trails near his home in Santa Monica, California.
“Right now, I’m very excited about these urban adventures we’re doing,” said Rey. “I just did one called the TransAngeles. We rode across the crazy urban jungle of Los Angeles and through the incredible nature we have right outside of the city. It was with my friends Missy Giove and Timmy Commerford of Rage Against the Machine. We rode through the San Gabriel mountains and Santa Monica mountains. Our last stage was on Catalina Island, where we traversed the whole 27-mile long island from one side to the other. It was such a fantastic way to experience one of the biggest cities in the world. We saw all the landmarks like the Hollywood sign, and also pedaled down skid row. There’s such a contrast. We made this trip on my regular trail bike and an e-bike because I want people to know e-bikes are not evil. There is a place for them and they can be entertaining.”