GT Bicycles Photo/ Long Nguyen
Tyler McCaul is a fan favorite. He is a Rampage regular, placing near the top on a few occasions. T-Mac usually starts dropping the most gasp-inducing features from the early practice days. He always seems to dig out a line that's just a little hairier than the rest. He's also the Crankworx 2015 Dual Speed & Slide winner, 2012 Crankworx Whip-Off World Champion, a Slopestyle rider and is getting back into DH for a race or two in 2017 following a 7-year hiatus.
He's also one of the early video mavens. Realizing the power of the medium to drive his sport and career. You've seen his stuff, from straight sponsor content to editorial edits and everything in between.
GW: You’ve got a great new 2-part video series with Amir Kabbani, the 2nd part of 'Traitors' (below). You guys swap locations between his home turf in Germany and yours. Can you tell me a little about how that project came about and what the riding was like?
Amir and I have known each other for a long time and have become good friends over the years, but it always seemed like we never really got to ride together. We only ever rode together at events, and while you’re at a competition, you’re so focused on just practicing that it doesn’t feel like you’re even riding with people. We wanted to change that; we wanted to be able to session together. We also do a lot of digging in our spare time so it only made sense to do a bit of a trade and be able to ride each other’s spots.
Tyler and Amir in California filming Traitors 2. GT Bicycles Photo/ Long Nguyen
Amir took me to some amazing spots in Germany last summer, so I had to carry the weight of living up to his expectations when he came to my hometown. All in all, I think it was a fair trade, and we were both extremely pumped on riding each others setups.
GW: Many mountain bike pros I’ve interviewed over the years had some support from parents who embraced an earthy or active lifestyle - with a remarkable number of siblings both making their way into the sport: The Gehrigs, the Athertons, The Barnes, The McCauls (and more). Can you tell me a bit about your folks and your upbringing? What did they encourage that may have helped you end up where you are?
I think the best thing our parents did while Cam and I were kids was to give us the freedom to do whatever we wanted.
The McCaul parents had ice-water in their veins. T-Mac photo.
As long is it involved doing something productive and active with our lives, they were all for it. They never pushed us into something we didn’t want to do, and we literally tried every kind of team and action sport out there. Mountain biking was just the one thing we tried that Cam and I gravitated toward the most.
The kid people talk about in 6th grade. T-Mac photo.
Our parents were always supportive and always helped us get to races and contests, and they played a huge part in who we are today.
GW: It’s easy to describe you as one of the more ‘versatile’, ‘multi-talented’ riders in the game. Could you speak a little to why that might be? Are you just a wayward soul? Do a lot of different things turn you on?
To be honest, I just get bored if I do one thing for too long. I think that’s why I fell in love with mountain biking in the first place. I’ve never experienced another sport in which you have so many options and different ways of doing it. If I ride dirt jumps for too long, I can just switch to trail riding for a few days and it brings a completely different kind of thrill for me.
Berms usually stay fun for a while, I imagine. GT Bicycles Photo/ Long Nguyen
It’s a different feeling and a different kind of fun. Then, when I go back to the jumps it’s like hitting the refresh button again. It’s nearly impossible to not have fun on a mountain bike if you’re exploring different ways of riding and keeping it fun. I try to ride at least one kind of bike every single day, and I’ve been riding ever since I can remember. I plan on doing it for as long as I possibly can.
GW: Does your mental preparation vary by event type? I.E. Stay loose for Rampage and focus for DH. If it’s consistent throughout, could you take us through it?
I’d say it changes a bit from event to event. Focusing for events has never been my strong point. I think that relates back to my last answer; I need to constantly switch things up to keep it fun which in turn keeps my motivation up.
Focused, but diverse. Photo courtesy of GT Bicycles / ©Boris Beyer
When I used to ride slope comps, it was just practicing tricks all day every day, and it kind of took the fun out of it for me. Rampage is more mental than anything. I don’t have much to ride my big downhill bike on at home these days so preparing for that is mostly in my head and in the gym. I was a complete mess this year leading up to Rampage, until I got there. Then everything clicked, and I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.
T-Mac exactly where he needs to be. Photo courtesy of GT Bicycles / ©Boris Beyer
So ya, I’d say focusing for events varies by each one, and it’s something I am learning how to cope with better and better every season.
GW: You’re going to race DH again, what brought that about? (Best of luck, by the way)
Ya! I am going to try to make it to US Open this year. US Open is the last race I ever did and I think that was all the way back in 2010. Racing was my first passion and how I got my start in my career, and it’s something I really miss. I don’t know if I’ll ever become competitive at it again, as it’s something you need to put all your effort into to be successful.
I'm pretty sure he'll be competitive. Photo courtesy of GT Bicycles / ©Boris Beyer
With all the film trips I have planned this year, it’d be hard to put my all into it. I’m not sure if I’ll be making it to the Crankworx stops in Europe or not this year, but if I do, I might dabble into a bit of racing there as well.
GW: Have you made changes over the last few years to your race style or training to adapt to the sport’s changes?
As I moved away from slopestyle comps a couple years ago, I started spending more and more time on my trail bike. With the rise of Enduro over the past few years it was pretty good timing, and I’ve been doing more and more edits on my trail bike this year.
Trail is probably still pretty aggressive for Tyler. GT Bicycles Photo/ Long Nguyen
It’s worked out because it seems like Enduro/Trail edits are starting to get more and more views compared to Slope/DJ edits these days. I could see myself dabbling in an Enduro race or two in the future, but we’ll see.
GW: You’ve struggled through an injury or two, can you take us through your fitness and health routine for pre-season and during the season? How has it changed over the last couple years?
Injuries are something I’m all too familiar with unfortunately. I went to the chiropractor a couple weeks ago after I had a bad crash, and he wanted me to list off all my injuries and when they happened. I told him he’d need a bigger notepad, haha. I think slopestyle really took a toll on my body. I was really good at always eating sh!t on the last jump after having a good run going, haha. It was kind of my signature move.
What goes up... sometimes comes down hard. GT Bicycles Photo/ Long Nguyen
As I get older I think it’s just all about taking care of my body and listening to it when it talks to me, and not pushing it too hard like I used to. I never used to do any off-the-bike training, but now I’m starting to get really into it. I’m going to the gym, recently started seeing a chiro, and am going to try to control my ADD enough to devote some serious time to yoga to help keep my body movin! I’m not old yet, but I need to take care of my body now so that it still works when I am older.
GW: Because Teton Gravity is a mountain bike and action sports website, we’d love to hear your thoughts on equipment and bikes. How do you like the GT rigs?
The bike industry is crazy – every time you think bikes can’t get any better, they always do! Every time GT re-does one of their frames, I’m bummed at first because I like my current ones so much and am afraid of change. Then, when I get on the new frames, I can’t believe what I could do on the old technology.
The Fury drops in. Photo courtesy of GT Bicycles / ©Boris Beyer
GT is always ahead of the curve with technology advancements, and I’m grateful to be able to have had the benefit of riding their bikes for so long.
GW: Are there any equipment or product trends (from any manufacturer) you are excited about or that you are curious about or may try?
Pads and protective gear are becoming more and more minimal, but at the same time they’re getting more and more protective. That’s an amazing thing, and I think it will play a huge part in the safety of our sport in the future.
As far as new components, I’m pretty keen to try out a groupo of the new Shimano Di2 electric shifting.
GW: What’s the most non-standard thing on your bike?
Probably the wad of electrical tape that I wrap around my crankarm/BB junction to keep my cranks from spinning when I do tricks.
Cranks look level. The tape must be working. GT Bicycles Photo/ Long Nguyen
It’s pretty counterintuitive to take components that are engineered to have as little drag as possible and intentionally make them have more drag, but I like my pedals to be exactly where I left them when I’m doing tailwhips.
GW: You’ve always been out front in terms of video visibility, but I’d love to get your thoughts on how your role, or that of any athlete in mountain biking, is different now than it was a few years ago? Being a sponsored visible athlete is about maintaining a platform and keeping a narrative going for fans. Have your media responsibilities changed? How do you adapt to that?
Some riders think that once you stop riding comps that your role and work load are drastically reduced, but I find the opposite. There are so many people making videos these days, and making really GOOD videos at that, it’s hard to stand out. You need to constantly be putting content out, and in order to do so, you need to have new and creative content to film. That requires a ton of digging. People aren’t going to keep watching a video of the same thing over and over again, so I think that’s the main thing it takes to be a successful content producer. Always putting out new and unique content.
At the same time, we now have social media to stay on top of. This can be challenging because you don’t want to leak too much from shoots that you have in the works, but at the same time people and sponsors are hungry for content and expecting it on the daily nowadays. There are also people who always try to film your stuff just so they can get ahead on social media, therefore keeping stuff under wraps until your videos have been released can be pretty tough.
GW: Anything you particularly love (or wish would change) about fans today?
I think that fans of our sport are amazing. The only thing that irks me is when people like to see riders crash. There are some sick individuals out there that actually find it entertaining to see people get injured.
GW: Your passion for bikes and mountain biking seem strong as ever, but does anything else interest/intrigue you besides cycling?
I spend most my time digging and riding. Other than that, I really like old motorcycles, and eating buffalo wings.
GW: Because you do a diversity of things over any season, can you take us through your strategy for mapping out a year? Is there a lot of planning that goes into that? Do you look for things that challenge you in new ways? Anything you are PARTICULARLY looking forward to this season?
My schedule is always kind of up in the air. Even when I think I have it set in stone, something will pop up, and I usually jump on it. It can be tough for my sponsors because they want to have a definitive outline at the beginning of each year of what I’ll be doing for the season, but I don’t always know.
This looks like it took a bit of digging. GT Bicycles Photo/ Long Nguyen
I just know that I’m going to be busy, and I’ll always be doing something. Even if I’m home, I’ll be digging or working on some kind of future project. I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of cool opportunities over the years, and I hope they keep comin! Although tough at times, I try to spread my season out with a variety of different kinds of riding. 9 times out of 10 though if an opportunity comes up to ride my DH bike I’ll always be there. I love riding my DH bike and always will.
I just got back from New Zealand, and I’m heading to Bend, Oregon for a Fest event that Carson Storch and Kyle Jameson are hosting, and I’m pretty darn excited for that at the moment.
GW: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for Mountain Biking? Anything you see in particular that might shake up the sport?
I think Rampage is really good for the sport and helps get a lot of eyes from the general public to see it. Whenever people ask me about what I do and I say that I ride bikes, they say, “Do you do that crazy thing on the red cliffs!?” As Rampage grows each year, I think it will only get better and better, and I would love to see more and more Big-Mountain type events like it pop up in the future.