“This is my son, Michael… He is the fruit of my loins,” quips Norman Hopkins on a sunny Friday morning. Mike looks at me, looks at his dad and we all crack up. Norm shrugs his shoulders and smirks with a look that just says, “What? It’s true!” Welcome to Rossland, BC and the entertainment that is Mike Hopkins and his family. We’re sitting on Norm’s patio with a fresh pot of coffee watching the cottonwood puffs float by in the thick rays of sunshine like a summertime snowfall. It’s hard not to get swallowed up in the beauty of the small mountain town. Nestled at the base of Red Mountain, just north of Washington’s northeastern border, Rossland’s history lays in the mines, but it’s present day glory is in the mountains, and we’re here to have Mike show us the goods.
Having known Mike for few years, I figured this would be a simple bio to write. He’s a good guy, easy to be around. We’d ride a bit. We’d drink a few beers. We’d shoot a cool video and high five when we were finished. But, Mike isn’t so simple and his aspirations are even more complex. It’s almost as if he leads two lives rolled into one skin, and peeling back the layers reveal someone that is made up entirely of the result of melding two very different personalities and two very different worlds.
From an outsider’s perspective Mike comes off as quiet and serious. He’s a bit of a control freak and doesn’t accept mediocrity or bullshit. He’s a planner and a visionary. He likes to scare himself. He will never take the easy road, even if it’s the obvious choice. He admits finding solace in discomfort, and he abhors routine. The more we talk about this, the more I admire his ability to live and feel everything and settle for absolutely nothing. It’s inspiring.
While I’m absorbed in his words about life, Mike suddenly switches gears and tells me about the time, just a few weeks ago, where he performed a dance to “Baby Got Back.” That’s also his song of choice for karaoke, apparently. And, just like that, the serious skin is gone. The silly voices come out. He’s almost theatrical in his presence. The inappropriate jokes start flying. We’re laughing big belly laughs and singing along to old jams from A Tribe Called Quest, bouncing along a fire road in his truck on our way to a rope swing. It’s hard to believe this is the same fear-loving, Type-A guy that shares the other half of his brain. But it’s also what makes Mike so unique: his ability to balance everything in his life is pretty incredible.
While Mike is currently best known for his mountain biking, he’s also a professional skier and has been for 14 years. Scooped up by Rossignol in his teens, he raced and competed in big mountain events through his early 20’s. During his skiing heyday, he became seduced by the allure of world travel, and exploration became his first love. The skis slowly dissolved into knobby tires. Just as he’d done on skis, Mike took to biking with a vengeance. Fast, fluid, and stylish, Mike rides with a fury rarely seen on two wheels. The guy is absurdly fast and has such incredible control that I found myself constantly on the brink of exasperation because he cuts everything so damn close. It’s some sort of organized chaos and it’s equal parts nerve-wracking and exciting to watch.
Mike’s mom fittingly calls him “Global Boy,” as he spends the majority of his time traveling the world and riding places that we only see in magazines or online. He’s descended 17,000-foot mountains in Bolivia. The past two years he’s chased summer and spent the North American winters in New Zealand. He’s lived out of a van and camped for months on end exploring new places every day. This past spring he spent two weeks riding around Israel with fellow Norco teammates.
His experiences there seemed to change him in ways that only travel can. The aftermath from his trip to Israel left him with a lingering desire to pursue more adventures in unique and exotic places, and it’s this desire that he’s channeling going forward. As Mike’s career on the bike has progressed he’s found his true niche as a creator.
Mike’s only competition each year is Rampage, and while it’s an important event for him, what he really brings to the bike world are ideas that we’ve not seen before. Mike does best when his personality shines through in his projects. His video, Loam Factory, is the perfect example of this. It’s silly at first, but then switches gears into full-tilt corner-smashing goodness that leaves most people slack jawed and pissed off that they’re stuck at their desks all day long. His current project that he’s been working on for over a year will debut this fall and, again, showcase not only his incredible riding skills, but his willingness to push boundaries and do something never seen before.
Mike’s creativity doesn’t just end with unique ideas on the bike. He also possesses two other talents that propel him into a different realm from the other guys. He’s got a keen eye for photography and he’s a very gifted writer. He has factored both talents into his formula for the future: Biking & skiing + travel + writing + photography = successful, long-lasting career. Mike’s long-term goals in biking extend beyond the dirt. He wants to be a journalist and focus on adventure travel. His ideal scenario would include assignments for National Geographic, where he would be able to convey the beauty of the world’s cultures blended with the splendor of exploring on two wheels to an audience that may not be readily familiar with mountain biking.
But, until National Geographic starts calling (and they should – I’ve read his stuff), Mike’s got work to do. There are trails to build. Videos to shoot. Rampage preparation. Corners to rally. Minds to blow. Jokes to tell and rugs to cut. There are at least two sides to every story, and Mike’s story is just in the prologue. Stay tuned.
OK so we had a whip on the cover of the last issue but we saw this shot we couldn’t say no. Photographer Sven Martin captures Mike Hopkins at the 2013 Queenstown Bike Festival, New Zealand, getting stylish and sideways. A banger for sure.
– Mike Rose
Mike Hopkins has definitely got a life that many of use aspire to lead, if you want to check out the other riders featured in the series then check out the links below:
Check out the other episodes of Beyond the Bike right here: