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The ROOST Questionnaire #3, Seb Kemp 2

The ROOST Questionnaire, a version of the Proust Questionnaire adapted for the world of mountain biking and mountain bikers, goes deep with one our favorite opinionated, do-it-all MTB lifers, Seb Kemp.

The ROOST Questionnaire #3, Seb Kemp

Seb Kemp is an international man of mystery. He lives in Canada, but has a funny accent from somewhere else; he works for Santa Cruz bikes, but the author could not find one person who could tell me what he does there. A long time ago he had a blog called 2flat (which is still updated from time to time), that rolled into the Whistler Diaries, and that blog was good. Then that blog took off and landed in Dirt Magazine, and became a regular column, and that column was great. Then there were magazine covers, and viral videos. Writer, filmmaker, world traveler, trail builder, teacher, rider - it's safe to say, Seb is an established icon of our micro-culture. Here he discusses the zen of punctures, Wade Simmons, and underwear (twice).

What is your second favorite sport or athletic endeavor?

If we're counting all types of cycling as one, and that's my number one, then it would have to be either snowboarding or trail building. I know trail building isn't a sport but if darts is considered a sport then trail building is way more athletic than that.

What is your favorite non-mtb bicycle or vehicle?

Either my #freeroading bicycle (SCB Stigmata - CX bike with 700ccX41mm Surly Knard tires) or BMX (S&M Speedwagon). It's a hard one to choose. Both bring me the utmost joy in the most innocent way. The freedom (the true freedom from not being confined to singletrack) they provide is what has made me a total two-wheeled junkie since day one. Freewheeling for life!

What is your preferred or ideal post-ride ritual?

Preferred would be just hanging the bike on the hook in my workshop and walking away to do something else. Anything else but have to clean it or work on it. This doesn't happen often enough for it to become common place. With rain, winter and mud dominating most of the year it means that there’s always cleaning and maintenance to do. The Californians have no idea how easy they have it.

Which mechanical glitch, imperfection, or problem will you tolerate on a ride? Which can you not tolerate?

Punctures - I don't exactly tolerate them but they are just as much a part of riding bicycles as the actual riding of bicycles. One of the pictures I have hanging on my wall is a Craig Grant photo of four guys silhouetted on an alpine ridge fixing a puncture. One guy is checking the tube, the others are sat around waiting. That picture is almost a perfect representation of mountain biking for me. It's as iconic as any pro rider hucking his meat off some drop on the North Shore or a racer victoriously crossing the line at the World Champs. That is mountain biking.

What bicycle maintenance procedure do you most enjoy?

Putting any brand new product on a used bike, just so long as it goes together without hassle...

Would you rather: turn your bike as much as you like, but never again have your tires leave the ground; or jump as much and as high as you like, but only ever ride in a straight line for the rest of time?

Corners are the one thing every trail has in common, or should have. But I couldn't imagine life without jumping. But then again I get bored of straight jumps, so how about a curved, hipped, bowled, flowing jump line full of transfers that goes on forever? I'd take that for sure.

Would you rather go for a three hour ride on: a bike with 15-year-old geometry and brand new suspension; or a bike with 15-year-old suspension and up-to-date geometry?

When I was reviewing bikes I'd say that I did ride some bikes with modern suspension that had geometry from the distant past. I don't think I'd want to ride either because the old suspension wouldn't last for the kinds of three-hour rides people do these days. And no matter how good the suspension is, if the geometry is wack then the whole three-hours would feel like a chore. I'd ride a fully rigid bike as long as it had really smart geometry.

What do you consider to be the greatest World Cup or World Championship race run of all time?

Every winning run was the greatest, on that track, given the competition, at that time. That's just what DH racing is. It can't be compared year-to-year or from one day to the next. It's just about the fastest at that moment in those conditions.

What do you consider to be the greatest injustice in mountain bike history?

Some of the recent IMBA announcements seem worthy.

Seb's self-filmed adventures in Jamaica, circa 2010.

What do you consider to be the greatest bicycle paint job ever?

Oh man, I think the Blur TRc, either the green and black or red and white ones are so classic. Or the Nomad 3 (baby blue and pink). Or the Bronson 2 (Kalimotxo). Others that spring to mind are just one-offs or custom jobs, which are cool, but it's production vehicles that count. And maybe I’m biased but I genuinely don't remember any others. Oh wait, maybe the Klein, Marin, and Fat Chance paint jobs of the mid 90's. Those are etched into my MTB mind.

If you could move one World Cup track to another World Cup venue, which would you move, and to where?

No idea. Racing ain't my thing, especially World Cup racing.

Which is your favorite World Cup race track?

Same answer as above. The courses matter not to me. As a video-streaming spectator, it's just the racing that counts.

What is your favorite color for a bike frame?

If it's made of metal then it has to be raw. That way you can see the welds and the grain of the tubing. If it's carbon then it's like lingerie. I’m not sure if red, black or white is my favorite, or maybe there's some other color of lady lingerie that I don't know about that I would love. Maybe there's colors or paint jobs out there that I can't imagine but are really, really cool.

(Seb sent us this YouTube clip from Old School for his answer above)


What is your favorite vintage downhill bike? (pre-2002 only)

The GT LTS, STS and Lobos stand out. Even though they couldn't stand up to too much abuse, the technology just seemed just so cutting-edge. The aesthetics were so beautiful; a mix of organism and science, like a cyborg.

What is your favorite story or legend in downhill history?

Chris Ball protesting the UCI and the DH course in his underpants (Calgary 2004?). Mainly because he hates people talking about it.

Seb a World Champ?

What is your favorite story or legend in freeride history?

That Wade Simmons is still better than 95% of mountain bikers out there, both up or down a hill. TRUE FACT!!!

If you could upload the skills and style of another rider to your brain and body, Matrix-style, whose skills and style would you choose?

Ratboy. He's way better than I think people realize. He's loose and powerful in the most casual way, just like the very best snowboarders are.

What is the biggest or best gift mountain biking has given you?

Life. Travel. Friends. Experience. Fun. Focus. Passion. That's more than one, I know, but they're all things I think some people go through life without finding, recognizing they have or realizing they need.

Where is the best dirt in the world?

All dirt is good. I love feeling the differences in tire feel from one corner to another. It's the little and often overlooked part of biking. No two meters of trail are the same. And that's awesome. So all dirt is good. Except for the anti-grip of the Andes above Santiago, Chile. That stuff is the worst. But maybe if I spent some more time there I'd come to love that unsettling feeling of vague traction and always being on the edge of disaster.

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