Wheelie Master Wyn Masters Started Racing DH at Age 11 [Interview]

Wyn Masters started out competing on horses before switching to downhill. Check out our recent chat with the the New Zealand legend.
Wyn Masters interviewing teammate Martin Maes. Photo: GT Bicycles

Whether you follow professional mountain bike racing or not, you likely know of Wyn Masters. The New Zealand native keeps up an entertaining social media presence with his weekly wheelie and manual display, and countless YouTube videos of riding and interviewing fellow athletes while holding makeshift microphone props far too close to their faces. He’s a character whose smiling jovial presence seems appreciated by everyone around him, and we were stoked to get to know him a bit better over email.

In 2019 Wyn started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise cash for privateer racers on the EWS and World Cup circuits, handing out a chunk of the donated funds to the top unsponsored rider after each round. He was able to give the fastest women’s and men’s privateer €1000 after the World Cup and EWS rounds he attended last season, which is a nice chunk of funding for athletes trying to compete against folks with full team support.

Wyn finished 22nd out of the 283 competitors in the 2019 EWS overall, placing a respectable 17th at the dusty Italian round in Val di Fassa, 7th in Rotorua, and 12th at the event in Tasmania. Competition is steep back home in New Zealand, where he earned 4th at the DH National Champs race in 2019, and 2nd in the UCI Oceania Continental Championships in 2018.

Long story short, Wyn Masters is as fast as he is creative, and he’s crafted a unique gravity career with various pans in the fire. Let’s dig into the questions.

Photo: Fabio Piva/Red Bull Content Pool

What’s something most people in the race scene don’t know about you? 

Both myself and my brother (Eddie Masters) started out with horse riding. We used to compete on horses before we got on to bikes.

Tell us a little about your lengthy racing history.

Well, I’ve been racing DH since I was 11 years old, but in Europe since 2008. It took me a while to be able to save enough to get myself to Europe for a race season so that was my first one at age 21. From there I got a deal with a small Italian brand called Ancillotti Cycles for 2009 and then another Italian team Kenda-Playbiker the following year in 2010. In 2011 I had a deal with MS Evil team but only did a few races due to a nasty compound arm break.

In 2011, I was to ride for another Italian team but had a scaphoid injury that wouldn’t heal, and finally, in 2013 I got over the tough years of injury and had a good season with Bulls Bikes who I rode with through till 2015 and then signed with GT in 2016 and am happily still riding for them today. I did my first EWS race in 2015 as the first round was in Rotorua, NZ and got 3rd that day behind Fabian Barel and Jerome Clementz, so it was good debut for me.

As a famous wheelie and manual master, what tips can you share to help readers up their rear wheel game? What made the wheelie truly click for you? 

Well to begin with learning going uphill in an easier gear, preferably on a smooth road or path, and begin learning to feather the rear brake to control the wheelie and to stop you from looping out. Eventually, you should get more comfortable with the balance point and it will start to get easier to hold the wheelie up. The main thing is to practice enough so that you get comfortable on the balance point.

I’m not sure I used to do wheelies on the way to school everyday so each day they just got longer and more consistent.

What do you think of the new Fox 38 and X2? Is the 38 as much of a game changer as the 36 was when it came out in 2005? 

Yeah, I’m lucky enough to have had the new 38 and Float X2 on my bike for a good few weeks now. I’m pretty stoked with them. I think maybe not as much of a game changer as the OG 36 but for a big guy like myself that increased stiffness is a welcome change and also the fork is more supple so it gives you more grip and confidence on the bike which is sweet.

Photo: GT Bicycles

Are you running a [mixed wheel] setup on your Force or Fury?

Yeah, the past year I have run both my Force and Fury set up mullet. I just like the bigger wheel up front for the roll over ability and the more nimble feel of the 27.5 rear wheel, but I still ride a full 29 Sensor and have fun on that bike too so for me its not a crucial difference more just personal preference.

Once the season begins, do you plan to race some DH in 2020, or stick to EWS events? 

Well when the season begins, which hopefully is possible, I will be focused on EWS racing but still racing a few World cup DH races. I am there anyways [so I will] do my WynTV videos.

What’s your favorite trail or system to ride back home?

Probably the Craigieburn trails [that are] one hour from Christchurch in NZ, but really in NZ we are lucky and have so many sweet places to ride.

What gave you the idea for Wyn TV? Will you continue interviews this season?

I just wanted to start showing a bit more of the inside of the sport and with a bit of Kiwi semi-serious humor thrown in. Yeah, the plan is to be doing them at all the World cups and EWS races.

Red Bull Valparaiso Cerro Abajo, in Valparaiso, Chile in February, 2019. Photo: Alfred Jürgen Westermeyer/Red Bull Content Pool

Are there things you prefer about enduro over DH, and vice versa?

Enduro I really like for the amount of time on your bike, and the adventure of all the cool and crazy venues we get to visit and explore. DH I like it for the intensity of putting down that one run on the day, and also how much better it is to watch and cover for the media.

What other sports or hobbies are you interested in? 

I like to ride motocross/enduro moto when I can, pretty much enjoy all things two wheels.

What are the most important elements that have to come together to win an EWS race? 

Everything has to come together on the day. Generally just being in the moment and riding without thinking is when I ride my best. It is hard to consistently find that zone though. If I knew how I might have won more haha.

When I won in Rotorua it was a super muddy wet race so it was just managing the conditions best and riding as well as I could even though sometimes it felt like I was battling. Just keeping on pushing was the key there I guess

Where is your top EWS event location thus far, and why? 

Tough question, I probably would have to say Canazei (Val di Fassa, Italy). It’s just an epic place with views everywhere you look and I enjoyed the mix of trails they had for the race.

Photo: GT Bicycles

What tire pressure do you run in a dry race like EWS Canazei? 

Generally I always run 26psi front 28 rear, and Cushcore if its rocky.

What elements of your bike do you change to suit a given track or event? 

For enduro definitely less changes than for DH, but we would often do small suspension adjustments to try to find a comfortable feeling on the bike at each location, and possibly slightly higher tire pressure if it’s really rocky. For DH we raise the handlebar if it’s a steeper track. Apart from that I don’t change too much.

And you favorite gelato flavor?

I would say I have to go with stracciatella.

Photo: GT Bicycles

You can donate to Wyn’s privateer fund via Go Fund Me once the season gets rolling, and rewatch all the WynTV your heart can handle on his YouTube channel.