It’s not too often that an idea lands on the in-tray at Dirt that makes us all put down our teas and take note. When Lacy Kemp got in touch about a project she was working on with Jasper Wesselman that’s exactly what happened.
Micayla Gatto – Flat out in Leogang
Photo – Paris Gore
We all love flat out riding and all the action porn we see from downhill racing and bonkers events like Rampage. We are inundated with edits dropping like rain on a Welsh hillside as we see our favourite riders pin it on their local tracks or take part in a video for their sponsors. The question is, how often do we think about who is delivering that spectacle?
Think of Danny Hart throwing a massive whip on his World Championship winning run, or Cam Zink landing that backflip at Rampage. They are people, people who love riding bikes just like you reading this or me writing it. Riders may be placed pedestal high by us all but when it comes down to it they are just guys and girls who ride bikes.
Jasper Wesselman and Lacy Kemp
Through Beyond the Bike Lacy and Jasper will bring those stories to light giving readers a new insight into the lives of their heroes and the reality of being a pro rider. Here we put the magnifying glass on Micayla Gatto, and she tells her story. With facets of her life not many will be aware of Beyond the Bike takes a look at the hours she puts in to race on the World Cup circuit.
Eyes down for some turbo warm up
Photo - Paris Gore
Micayla Gatto in the words of Lacy Kemp
#Gattobooty. Big laughs. Talent. Selfies. Sleeping Vigilante. Confident. Unfinished business. Fast.As.Hell.
I could stop here, because that pretty much sums up Micayla Gatto in just a few short words. But, what I learned is that there is just so much more to the happy-go-lucky racer than what we see on Instagram or in most web videos.
Micayla Gatto has a big personality. She has lots of funny little voices she uses during conversation. She is known in the social media world for her “selfies,” and her #gattobooty. She has wild stories about night terrors that have involved ripping a headboard off a wall, saving her boyfriend from non-existent falling knives, and managing to scratch her face to the point of waking up bleeding. She likes to dance and sing in the car. On our way up to hit a lap on Cypress, she rolls down the window and says hi to the roadies suffering up the climb. A favorite song comes on the stereo and her ponytail is waving wildly around the car and we drive, dance, and sing our way to the top of the trail. It’s hard not to laugh because it’s so much fun.
Photo – Scott Robarts
While Micayla is easy to be around, she admits that she’s never really felt like she’s settled into a regular group of friends. “I belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I feel like I have a lot of acquaintances but very few real friends,” she says. “Ultimately I guess it’s better to have more than one plane of life.” Don’t mistake this for sadness. She’s definitely happy with the people in her life and the relationships she does have. She tells funny stories about track walks with Casey Brown, and then going and participating in live art demos in Vancouver with a totally different crowd. When I ask her to describe herself in one or two words she makes a funny face while she thinks it over, then says she’s “creative and complex”, or “passionate”, then laughs because it’s sounds so emo.
Her creativity and talent is pretty incredible. While riding a mountain bike at the elite level requires a ton of talent, it certainly doesn’t end there. She can sing. She writes her own songs and plays guitar. And man, can she draw. Any time Micayla is sitting down she’s doodling something on a napkin or spare piece of paper. Her style is inspired by Mexican street art and the skate/surf culture. Skulls, vivid colors, crazy faces, and curvy female anatomy are present in a lot of her work. She’s done tattoo designs, lettering for a Clay Porter film, and T Shirt designs for several businesses. She knows she’s fortunate to have this skill. Whenever she does decide to hang up the racing kits, her art will become a primary focus. For now, though, racing bikes is first priority.
As a huge fan of the sport, watching Micayla ride in person is pretty awesome. She’s damn fast on her bike and we’re just seeing small sections of trail as she flies by in a purple blur. Being a female rider, watching her puts a lot into perspective. I think I’m pretty good on a bike, but I’m humbled as I watch her over and over again launching off of rocks and roots that would undoubtedly trip me up at some point. While she’s the reigning Canadian national champion, her sites are set on bigger things: world cup podiums, world cup victories, and things like that. I figure she has the best resources in the world backing her up to get there.
However, it’s not that simple.
Micayla is broke. Straight up. While she does have a long list of sponsors that she is incredibly grateful for, they are almost entirely product-based and don’t involve cash. She funds her entire season by working four jobs in the off-season, in between races and by borrowing a lot of money from her mother. The work helps pay for some of her bills but it takes away from what she really needs and wants to be doing: training to ride and focusing on her art. Her days start early, at 5:45, when she goes straight to work for eight hours then hits the gym or goes for a ride. Some days she does both. When she’s done working out she grabs dinner then takes to her art for as long as she can stay awake. Sometimes she’ll only squeeze in a couple hours of sleep before she has to start all over again. During all of that she still has to figure out how to keep up with the business side of being a pro rider – emailing current sponsors, pitching future sponsors. It doesn’t end.
Photo – Scott Robarts
It sounds hectic, because it is. But, Micayla seems to be slightly addicted to the chaos. Some people don’t sit still well, and she’s one of them. She needs to be busy. She wants to be busy. The issue is that she wants to be busy doing things that are directly beneficial to her riding career. While she has to maintain this kind of schedule to pay for her travel on the circuit, she’s competing against other girls who have one full time job: go fast on a bike. I ask what would make a difference for her with regards to getting faster and being able to stand on the top step of the podium. She seems hesitant to say, “money” but ultimately that’s the answer. “No, money can’t buy happiness, but it can help fund my training and give me more time to focus on really achieving my dreams of being the absolute best I can be.”
Perhaps the hardest part of her situation is that she feels an immense amount of debt to the people who have helped her out. Her mother, her boyfriend, the trainers at her gym – they’ve all dedicated an untold amount of time, money, or effort to help elevate her to the highest level. She manages to use this feeling of “I owe everyone so much,” for motivation. It’s what fuels her drive to be the best. When she ultimately reaches the pinnacle of her career, there will be no doubts as to how she got there, the people she will thank, and the emotion involved in the struggle and thrill of achieving those goals. And perhaps, because she knows she worked extra hard to get there, the victories will be that much sweeter.
To check out more of Micayla’s art visit her Tumblr page.
Check out the rest of the series here: