Okay, let’s get this out of the way. NRML MTBer, aka Sebastian Bauer, at 6’4″ tall and 345lbs is a big dude. If you’re familiar with his videos and reels on multiple social media platforms, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Like many other YouTubers and social media wizards with hundreds of thousands of followers, you would probably assume that Bauer has been at this for years. But, I was surprised to find out that his jump from “normal work” to NRML MTBer only happened in the last couple of years.
I sat down with Bauer, with only screens and a few hundred miles between us, and chatted about life before YouTube, his breaking onto the scene as a content creator, his merge with the mountain bike industry, and much more.
And, of course, we shared many laughs as we chatted.
Just a NRML Kid
Bauer, 27, was born and raised in Marin County, California. This mountain biking homeland was where Bauer found himself for the majority of his life, despite work taking him elsewhere from time to time. And by “work” I do not mean social media or content creation. Like you and me, Bauer had a “regular” job in construction—solar panels to be more specific—before he found his place on the world wide web.
Like many of us, Bauer told me he found his bicycle beginnings “on some old clapped-out bikes our parents had laying around.” This led to the discovery of BMX bikes and cheap plastic ramps around the neighborhood. Skateparks came next.
The transition to mountain bikes happened at Mecca—Whistler Bike Park that is. When Bauer was 12 or 13, his family planned an extended camping trip north from their California home, with Whistler just happening to be a stop. Completely unconnected to bikes, Bauer and his family were walking around the Whistler Village, doing typical touristy things. That’s when he saw it.
“You come around the corner and you see the resort and all the jumps were there, all the riders were there, the lifts were going. My mind exploded,” Bauer explained. “We didn’t know it existed, we didn’t know mountain biking was a thing!” Bauer and his brother begged their parents to rent bikes and take a class offered at the resort. From then on the pair were hooked.
Making the Move to Social Media
COVID was a weird time for us all, with change being the one, perhaps, consistent experience for many. Bauer continued to travel and work building solar fields but was ready for a change. Along with his brother, Ders, Bauer started dabbling once again in video production.
“A buddy and I used to have a little videography business back in the day. We’d travel around, filming mostly enduro race series.”
Wanting to stay busy during long stents at home, Bauer and his brother set out to local trails to take pictures and create quick riding edits. The genesis of the project found Bauer behind the camera, not in front of it.
“Originally, it was just my brother we were taking photos of because he’s a lot more photogenic than I was. He’s much more of the average-looking rider, not a giant hunk of meat.”
Six or seven months of creating content went by before the giant hunk of meat jumped in front of the camera. Bauer described the clip as a “crappy” shot of him hitting a drop and then heading down into a berm. The reel was set to slow motion with a heavy song in the background. Fifty thousand people viewed it on the day it was posted.
“That video did so well and we realized that maybe there was something to this,” Bauer told us, referring to the fact that having a “big dude,” such as himself, as the subject of the content seemed to pull in more views. Even though the riding he was doing was “nothing special, just me going out on a trail,” Bauer saw the gap in social media coverage—nobody who looked like he did was putting out content.
And, thus NRML MTBer came to be. The name came from the fact that Bauer and his brother weren’t professionals, but just normal riders. After Bauer jumped in front of the camera, and became NRML MTBer, he recognized that more meaning, maybe mostly a pun, was brought to the name.
The Social Media Business
First, I think it is important to point out that Bauer and NRML MTBer team, consisting of his brother, Ders Bauer, along with another member, Matthew Erbentraut, have built a massive social media following. NRML MTBer has hundreds of thousands of followers across multiple social media platforms, with millions upon millions of views. This was all built in just a couple of years. Their first YouTube video was posted two years ago and the NRML_MTBER Instagram profile’s first post is from October of 2020. The NRML MTBer platform seems to know what they’re doing.
It didn’t start like that though. “It was all experimentation,” he said. “I don’t have a background in marketing or anything, it was all just learned. We were kind of shooting blanks in the dark,” Bauer explained. Similarly to recognizing that Bauer needed to be in front of the camera, not behind it, patterns emerged, ideas clicked, and there seemed to be some sort of path forward.
One of the first ideas that clicked was to evoke laughter. They realized this after filming a clip of Bauer riding his bike with all the air out of the suspension, full travel obviously being reached. This would be NRML MTBer’s first viral video and a push to land in the comedy arm of the mountain biking niche.
“That was the moment we realized that was the audience, that was what people wanted to see.” After that, Bauer and team set out to bring a more comedic approach to mountain biking content. This content was not only applicable to mountain bikers but also reached a general audience distant from the mountain bike world. This was intentional, an opportunity to bridge the gap between mountain bikers and those who aren’t familiar with the sport, but may want to be.
So what videos do the best? Bauer talked somewhat of a mixed bag when it came to “viral” videos—the “Tiktok trends,” he referred to them as. “I don’t like doing that stuff, I like sticking to the more original content.”
“It seems that the ones we put the least amount of effort into end up doing the best,” Bauer explained to me. He described the video that has done the best on NRML MTBer’s Instagram. You’ve probably seen it, even if you’ve never heard of NRML MTBer. The clip is simply Bauer riding his bike to a coffee shop and climbing off to go inside. As he dismounts, he carefully, and perfectly extends a saddle-less seatpost and continues to walk gingerly into the cafe (if you don’t get the joke from my explanation, you’ll just have to view the clip).
Bauer also felt that this meshing of social media and mountain bikes will lead to more curated content. Racers will make racing content, freeriders will make freeride content, and companies will make, well, product content.
Mountain biking content, but incredibly hilarious and, well, relatable to anybody. “That one, on my page, got some 30 million views. But, overall, it got something like 500 million views on the internet,” Bauer explained to me. The idea popped into his head and 10 minutes later it was complete.
But to think that Bauer and the NRML MTBer team are just stabbing in the dark would be an incorrect assumption. “Viral” can always be hit or miss; maybe sometimes just plain lucky. But quality content comes from time and effort with a little more time sprinkled on top.
The majority of the ideas for NRML MTBer content are from everyday life. It’s from Bauer seeing something happen on a ride, in his garage working on his bike, or hanging with friends that creates an idea in his mind. It’s added to his list and sat on until the time seems right.
“What people were watching on the internet at the time of the dropper post video is different from today. Back then the name of the game was short, hook by curiosity at first and finish it off with a big hit to your dopamine and serotonin.” Bauer feels like today’s viewers have evolved from that level of content, looking for more value rather than just a laugh.
So they evolved as well. “A lot of our really successful videos this year have been a little bit more detailed,” he said. “They’ve had a concept to the video, rather than just the video itself.”
The Content of the Future
While it can be hard to find and create content that aligns with the current viewer trends, it can be even harder to predict them. One thing that Bauer did point out, however, was the further meshing of the mountain bike industry with social media and content creators.
“It seems like every company, every rider, has to have a social presence. Every brand that wants to sponsor you for promotional purposes, social media seems to be the number one thing they are looking for as far as advertising and marketing.” Bauer hinted that ambassadors and sponsored athletes will first be content creators, then mountain bikers.
So, will content trump the actual riding? Has it already?
“You kind of expect for there to be this hardcore corporate environment, and there very much is that aspect, but in a healthy way.” On one side of the line, you had the business-centered, corporate atmosphere. On the other side, a bunch of mountain bikers talking shop like we all do.
Finding a Place in the Industry
On August 1, 2021, Bauer released a video announcing his partnership with one of the largest bike companies in the world. “I will be representing Specialized Bikes moving forward and I couldn’t be more stoked!” the caption read.
The bicycle giant isn’t the only company NRML MTBer is working with. Other than Specialized, Bauer, and the team are working with Heatwave glasses and 1Up bike racks. These are the brands they are officially contracted under, although they do work with other brands.
Being ambassadors for Specialized Bikes has “blown my mind,” Bauer said. Connections were made, relationships were built, and the end result was a partnership between NRML MTBer and Specialized.
Jumping into working with a major bike manufacturer was an interesting line for Bauer to dance.
Bauer gives Specialized a lot of credit for allowing them to build the platform they have. Specialized backs NRML MTBer as a creative force and doesn’t put limits or requirements on what they produce.
“They allow us to pick and choose how we make content. They’re down for anything—we’re not limited. We have free range to do what we want,” Bauer told me.
And they’ve been able to work together. Recently, Bauer and Specialized rider Cody Kelley put together an epic video for the release of the Levo SL. I can neither confirm nor deny that all the hair is natural.
Bauer told me that, of course, shooting the video with Kelley was an absolute blast. He’s also had the chance to work with Remy Metailler on a video showcasing the differences, and similarities, of the two riders. Most of all, Bauer spoke of the surreal feeling it has been to create content with some of the top riders. “Being able to meet so many of these people that I’ve looked up to for so long has been very cool.”
“Everything I do, I really try to appreciate to the fullest.” We appreciate what you do as well, NRML MTBer. Thanks for the laughs. Thanks for showing us that big dudes can be NRML too.