Kade Edwards of the Trek Factory Racing Downhill team is a colorful character and a rising star on the downhill racing scene. Edwards is a true bike rider who enjoys all kinds of bikes, all the time, every day. It consumes him and has obsessed him since he first started competing as a 6-year-old, which means he’s been competing on bikes for virtually all of his young life.
“I was always serious when it came to competing,” said Edwards. “People were saying that me getting second in a World Cup was good, but you know what they say, second is first loser. I want to win.”
To learn more about this rising star, check out Endura’s video of what Edwards does best — shred.
The Bad Boy of Mountain Biking
‘He’s not here yet.’ Of course not! Kade Edwards is a world-class downhill mountain biker and a teenager. Did anyone (me or the team’s press officer) ever really think that the 18-year-old Edwards would be on time for this interview slot? Of course not. After all, he had that reputation. The bad-boy of mountain biking who, in his own words, “got kicked out of school” for behaviour that was less than optimal.
Half an hour later, the phone rings and a bright voice on the other end says, “Hello! It’s Kade.”
Over the course of the conversation, several expectations are confounded. Kade Edwards is a professional mountain biker for the Trek Factory Racing Downhill team. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that he’s really a full-time bike rider, who rides bikes, all kinds of bikes, all the time, every day. It consumes him and has obsessed him since he first started competing as a six year old which means he’s been competing on bikes for most of his young life. Starting out on motocross and trials bikes, he abandoned racing motorised bikes when his dad – former downhill racer Tom Edwards – pointed out that he couldn’t do trials and motocross and BMX and mountain biking.
“I had to choose,” recalls Edwards, “it wasn’t an easy choice, because I love riding bikes. I don’t think there’s been a day in my life when I haven’t ridden a bike at some point. I don’t think I’ve ever spent a day off a bike since I was two years old, it’s my life.” The motocross bikes were ditched party because they were too loud and upset the neighbours. So much for that bad-boy character…
Career’s information talks at school – even hypothetical ones – would effectively have centred on Edwards desire to ride bikes for a living. “That was all there was, that was all I wanted to do. There was nothing else. I’d ride in gym class.”
Being on two wheels is as natural to Edwards as being on two feet and there’s no doubt that racing and competition drive him along. “I liked riding trials, I think it’s a great to improve balance and it helps you pick a line, but it’s…slow, y’know? There’s no speed and I like to go fast.” His efforts on a motocross bike helped with the “ragged, fast stuff” and the combination of those two off-road motor sports proved to be a near-perfect preparation for downhilling. Considering his dad raced downhill at a decent national level in the 1990s, it was almost inevitable that Edwards need for speed saw him gravitate towards downhilling, although he didn’t race downhill till he was a positively ancient nine years old.
The Love For All Things Two Wheeled
And there’s the rub. You don’t have to spend long talking to Edwards to realise that his love of all things two wheeled is at the heart of the matter. Hell, he’ll even confess to enjoying a road bike ride every now and then, to give his body a break from the pummelling it inevitably endures piloting a downhill bike. “Yeah, I do, I quite enjoy a road ride, not that I’d put that on my Instagram,” chuckles the Huddersfield lad, who has 24,000 followers on the social media platform.
The jargon-heavy, image-conscious world of downhill mountain biking lends itself to outrageous video clips of still-more outrageous riding skills, but behind the fist bumps and the bro-speak, its a serious business that Edwards is happy to be immersed in it. The cliche that downhill racing is basically having a laugh, perfecting your tabletop skills, before throwing yourself down a mountain prior to enjoying several beers is one you sense he never fully bought in to. “I dunno,” he muses, “I was always serious when it came to competing, I want to win, people were saying that me getting second in a World Cup was good, but you know what they say, ‘Second is first loser’ and I want to win. The racing is close at the top in the World Cup and any little mistake can cost you, you’ve got to think about your run, it’s not just going balls-out, you’ve got be smart and strong.”
He elaborates. “Sometimes you have to go slow into a section and come out of it with more speed, not just go flat-out and hope, you’ve got to get the balance between going balls-out and riding smart. At the moment I’m still maybe a bit more in the balls-out phase,” he laughs, “but I’m learning.”
But Edwards is thinking about his riding. “When you watch riders like (five-time UCI Downhill World Cup winner Aaron) Gwin, the way they are taking pictures of sections to study later or watching GoPro footage over and over to study lines, it’s really not about just going all-out from the top, it’s about finding a balance between going flat-out and being careful, it’s about finding that edge.”
But knowing when to go flat-out and having a ‘natural’ ability to go fast is, in the end, what wins and Edwards clearly has the attributes to win races. “The difference between racing in the UK and then the World Cup is…it’s the speed and the length of the tracks and finding that last little edge, finding that extra ‘Go!’ that you need. The first time I did a course walk in a World Cup I was really just worried about making sure I qualified, because it was pretty intimidating in places.” That was only last season, this year, he’s already been on the podium.
World Cup Confidence
“In World Cups everyone is going fast and you need to be close to the ragged edge most of the time, you can’t really afford to back off because that’s what makes the difference. I’m not sure you can learn to be fast, I mean, you can improve your technique and approach to racing – your training and stuff – but when it comes to just letting the brakes off? When it comes to not feathering the brakes and scrubbing off a little speed?”
Edwards was not braking much when he won the British national downhill round held on the Fort William track. “It’s good, psychologically, because a few of the World Cup riders were there, but they always re-surface and smooth the track after the nationals for the World Cup, so it changes a bit, even if the lines you ride are the same. I mean, it’s an advantage, but maybe not that much. Good for the confidence though.”
Polite and reflective, Edwards is a walking, talking riding refutation of what many imagine a young, ambitious downhill mountain biker needs to be. Considerably more calm than the young teen who was expelled from school, Edwards’ philosophy these days is a rather more laid back and fatalistic. “I’m not really into the mental side, I just go out and if you win, you win, whatever happens, happens, just go as fast as you can and try to stay on! Ride your bike, have fun.”
Interview over, what else was on the cards for Edwards? “I’m off to ride my bike.”
Of course, what else.
Editor’s note: Words by Kenny Pryde. Images by Moonhead Media & Falk Meier.
Endura has made a rad Trek Factory Racing Downhill tie-dye jersey especially for this film, and the only other one we made is up for grabs. Enter here.