Watching Sam Hill race enduro is like watching Usain Bolt run or seeing Serena Williams defend her baseline game. With the same bike and component technology as his competitors, Hill is somehow able to eke out riskier lines that other riders didn’t see or were intimidated by, and he makes them work. His knack for straightening out a snake of trail makes up time, resulting in a list of results that the young Australian can be proud of.
Hill is not only the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Enduro World Series overall champion, but he also won the UCI Downhill Championship races in 2006, 2007, and 2010, and earned the World Cup Downhill overall seat in 2007 and 2009. His wins and podiums between those results are too many to list, but you get the idea that Hill knows his way down a proper steep track.
Those EWS overall results didn’t all come through a season of podium finishes, and instead were hard fought at each event. In 2017 Hill only took the top step once during an EWS race in Snowmass Village, Colorado, though he also only placed outside the top five at a single race in Millau, France. The 2018 season saw a spike in Hill’s consistency streak, winning four of the eight EWS events. Last year the Chain Reaction Cycles rider started off a little easier, waiting to crack the top five until round three, finishing in second place at four different events, and fighting for the overall title with rival Florian Nicolai until the very last stage of the year in Zermatt Switzerland.
With the first few rounds of the Enduro World Series postponed, Hill is primed to sprint off the line as soon as he can. Until then, let’s learn a little more about one of the fastest mountain bikers alive.
What’s your favorite trail back home?
I’ve got a few good ones but my favorite is probably a trail called TNT. It’s got a bit of everything and is scary to ride fast.
What was your first tattoo?
It’s some initials on my foot.
What is your most recent tattoo?
The last ones I got were the tiger and panther on my knees.
Which one do you wish you never got?
Ahhh there’s none really. There’s some I like more than others, but I wanted them all at the time.
As your kids grow older are any of them taking a liking to mountain bikes?
Yeah, all three of my boys are into bikes and motorbikes. I think they will be more interested in mountain biking as they get older and their legs get stronger to pedal up the hills. I’m always getting outside with the kids and riding around the home. I have been helping them build their own little singletrack trail near our house that they can ride so that’s been fun to go together.
Is there a lesser-known rider who you see as a potential threat in the coming seasons?
I’m not sure, there’s always loads of good guys and people you haven’t really heard of who will have a breakout year. We have a super fast kid in Australia that’s not really well known yet and I think he could do some big things in the next few years so keep an eye out for the name Dan Booker.
How does moto riding work into your training plan? Does it offer training advantages?
Yeah I think it’s a great tool to use. The biggest thing I notice is the speed and being comfortable with it. I love riding my motorbike so it’s usually my way to keep riding and enjoy myself at the end of the mountain bike race season.
What percentage of time do you spend in the gym versus riding through the off-season?
When I’m training hard during the off-season I pretty much ride every day and spend 3-5 days in the gym also.
When you’ve competed in events like Cape to Cape MTB in the past, did you train for them, or use them as training?
The Cape to Cape is always at the end of my international season so I’ve always got my fitness there still from doing the EWS stuff. It’s a super fun event and that’s why I enjoy doing it really but I would like to actually train for that style event one year and see how I go.
What hobbies or interests do you enjoy that don’t involve wheels?
That’s a tough one. I feel like everything in my life revolves around wheels, haha. I do love spending time all together with my family at the beach or going camping.
It’s been several years since you moved to enduro from DH. Is there anything you miss about World Cup DH racing?
I miss the feeling on race day where you know you have to throw everything you have at that one race run. But at the time, I also hated that feeling of the unknown.
What has been your favorite EWS location so far, and why?
There have been so many awesome places, I think my favorite is La Thuile in Italy. It’s just an awesome place amongst the mountains and the tracks are just steep, natural and amazing fun.
Have you tested the [mixed wheel] setup yet?
No I haven’t tried it. I think it’s a bit confusing and the bikes are designed around one wheel size.
Now for a simple yet important question. What tire pressure do you run in a dry rocky race?
I’d usually run 23 front and 28/29 rear depending on how rocky it is.
Nukeproof Global Marketing Manager, Rob Sherratt, shared this personal note about working with Hill.
He’s an athlete that has defined mountain biking for two decades. Not only in the results he’s achieved, but the way he’s achieved them. He’s influenced what we ride, the way we ride and partly the way the sport defines itself. But importantly (and potentially unusually for these “modern social times”) in everything that’s happened, he’s stayed true to himself. You only have to go on Sam’s Instagram. It’s generally a real-life view of his life and not a constant rolling advert for sponsors. That, for Nukeproof, is the reason we are so proud to have Sam on our products.
When I first met him I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m fortunate to have got to know Sam over the past five years through the team and he’s honestly been awesome to work with from a Nukeproof and a personal perspective. He’s got a passion and desire to help Nukeproof grow, not just from racing result, but developing better products and rider’s perception of the brand through what he does. It’s been honestly easy to work with him, he’s a natural passion for bikes (and anything on wheels) and as so a great ambassador for our sport and brand. It’s also pretty good as an average rider to get some tips from him too!
Beyond the aura of “Sam Hill the athlete,” I’ve found him to be a nice human. Sure, he can be quiet sometimes, but he also has a sharp sense of humor (everyone on the team has a nickname from him) and good to have a chat with. Ultimately he’s a nice easy-going person, good morals and obviously loves his family, so a positive role model to any rider out there.
As a sport we are very lucky to be witnessing an athlete like Sam. I’m sure there are and will be some great champions, good characters and amazing athletes, but roll on many years from now we will still be talking about the legend of “Sam Hill.”