Some videographers are good at appearing famous, regardless of how many followers they actually have on YouTube or how many people know their names. They put on the mask they want to wear, as many of us do. Italian YouTuber, Andrea Zilliani (Zili), plays the game a little differently. He’s about as chill and humble as they come, giving no hint of his actual MTB fame in the trail-laden southern European country. He smiles most of the time, and appreciates his fortunate lot in life.
I met Zili on a ride in Sestri Levante a few years ago, where we were both testing suspension with Fox. We now run into each other at press camps and EWS races, and I have genuinely grown to appreciate how he stands out from the other journalists and videographers. Those industry meetups are often fraught with trash talking, as if all the journalists finally get to say what they really think now since the boss isn’t around. Zili doesn’t engage in the negativity. As a life rule, he doesn’t talk trash, which makes conversations with him refreshing. Accompanying him on the trail is also a blast, as he likes to play around on the bike, and he’s often up for day-long adventures.
Like most mountain bikers, Zili has been riding bikes in some form since he was a little kid. However, he turned that love for balance and traction into a semi-professional road racing career at age thirteen. Italy has two different levels for professional road racers, split between those who have contracts and race the grand tours, and the riders who lead them into the final sprint at all of the national races. Zili raced in the second-tier pro category until he was 24 years old, competing in roughly 70 races each season.
All the while Zili was intrigued by a magazine called Tutto Mountain Bike, which is now called 365 Mountain Bike. The mag has a website called Bici Live, with different sub-sites that are dedicated to a variety of popular cycling genres. As his road racing career was winding down, Zili contacted the site via social media to ask about creating content for the road side of things, and he started working with them right away. After two years he added some work as a videographer with the EWS, the Italian Superenduro, and an E-enduro, to cover their events.
From there, it was all about capturing footage. Zili was shooting as a freelancer for a variety of MTB companies and events. He used a set of drones, stabilization tools, and top quality cameras to capture the sport that had become his main career focus. After a few seasons of freelance shooting he asked the folks at Italy’s MTB Cult if they wanted to produce video content, and he was quickly hired to create content for the site. You might have noticed a pattern here. This is how things work with Zili. People meet him and, thanks to his affable demeanor, they almost immediately want to collaborate. He was the sole video journalist with MTB Cult for a number of years, covering events, new products, and athletes for the site.
After experiencing the creative freedom of freelance work, Zili found the rhythm of the MTB site quite monotonous, and he decided to switch back to being his own boss and creative director. In 2019 he quit the stable gig to start his own YouTube channel, where he covers any and all of the bike-related jams that he’s excited about. In short order he has collected over 50,000 subscribers, and managed to carve a comfortable living out of his video work. It’s not all parties and champagne, as he often works seven days per week, editing late into the night, but he loves the craft and hopes to continue it long into the future.
He says that the pandemic allowed him to edit and upload a raft of content that had been sleeping on his hard drive, and his subscriber numbers blossomed along with it. While we were all locked indoors for sixty days he challenged his subscribers to live Zwift races with local professional riders, and invited everyone to a variety of group chats where they discussed all things MTB.
His YouTube channel covers a vast array of topics, from documenting day-long MTB and gravel rides to unboxing and testing gear, as well as following two of Italy’s fastest enduro racers around the tracks and sharing their experience of the EWS events. Nearly all of his current content is shot on a GoPro, and he says that the little action cameras make the content creation process far simpler and faster. Now that he has a solid following he is considering pulling out the fancy cameras again, at least for off-the-bike footage.
All of the attention that his video content has garnered makes him somewhat of a celebrity on the trail. When you ride with Zili, random people come up and say hello, and ask about past and future videos that they enjoyed or are looking forward to. In the passionate world of Italian mountain bikers, he’s undoubtedly a star.
In addition to his YouTube channel, Zili also does some film work with Red Bull Itaila and other clients. He’s the Italian commentator during Redbull’s televised World Cup XC races as well as Rampage, and he films the cliff diving events in Italy, among other exciting adventures.
Zili and I are on the hunt for a multi-day pairs-enduro to race together. We’ll share the story of that event and corresponding trails some time next summer. Until then, you can keep up with him via YouTube and Instagram.