FRANKLY THURSDAY - MATT WHITTAKER

Matt Whittaker? Who's that you ask? Maybe the name 'Dog Boy' rings a bell? On the right track now? Well, the two are one and the same, born Matt Whittaker but branded 'Dog Boy' for life.

Matt has been a staple on the New Zealand downhill scene for years now, first as a rider and now behind the scenes supporting his race team. He's always lurking in the background somewhere, keeping abreast of what's happening in the DH scene locally and around the world. With his distribution company Wide Open coming of age, a host of top shelf components and frames and Matt's friendly manner as well as his talented staff, Wide Open has become one of the 'go to' suppliers in New Zealand.

Where to from here? We'll all just have to watch and see as this start-up matures further into an industry leader. Here's Frankly Thursday with Matt Whittaker Dog Boy. From Grease Monkey to Businessman.

How old are you? 35

Where do you live? Rotorua

First bike? Some sort of BMX, I loved that bad boy

Who makes your riding possible? My FSA equipped Turner Spot with Marzocchi 55RC3 Ti forks (if that's not a plug I'm not sure what is!)

Give us a bit of your history in the bike world....I worked at the Cycle Centre in Upper Hutt when I was at college and I raced a bit of XC, even shaved my legs! I started a plumbing apprenticeship but fell off a roof and stuffed my back. I then went and worked as a mechanic at Mud Cycles in Wellington. I was racing a lot of DH and doing the Nationals during this time.  John Kirkcaldie asked me to join him on Team Foes in the USA as his mechanic. I was with Team Foes/Azonic for five years before returning home to start Wide Open.

What was the best part about travelling around the world riding and fixing bikes? Doing something I loved and seeing the world at the same time. Meeting so many cool people that I used to read about in magazines. It's crazy how one opportunity can form your direction in life.

Best spot in the world to ride? Bromont Canada, it has everything.

What can you not live without? My wife Alice and children, Louise and Josh. What's your day job? Running the madness at Wide Open.  I am very lucky to have some great people working with me.

What does your average day look like? Sitting in front of my computer, talking on the phone, sending e-mails, and trying to keep up with my children.

What motivates you to get out of bed and go to work each day? Being self-employed. I never think "I don't want to go to work today".  Each day I get up and can't wait to get to work. I think I am really fortunate that I do something that drives me so much.

What are your plans for the coming summer? I want to try and ride my bike a little more than what I have over the last few years. Keep building the Wide Open brand and the products we distribute and help our riders reach their goals.

What's wrong with mountain biking? Weight weenies!  People are looking at weight over performance these days and it's the first question you get asked.  It's a balancing act between performance and weight that is most important in any product.

What's right with mountain biking? That it's become so mainstream. I never would have thought that there would be so many mountain bike parks in New Zealand and that they would draw such a broad variety of people. The sport has come a long way and I think has still a long way to go. Who do you look up to? Brent Foes, because he was one step ahead of the rest. John Kirkcaldie, for being so competitive and putting New Zealand DH on the map. Steve Peat for been the nicest guy in mountain biking. All the bike shops that give up their weekends.

What do you like best about living where you do? The weather, having the beach close by, trails, and the mountain within a short drive. What do you dislike about living where you do? I miss my home town of Wellington because that is where I grew up and a lot of my family and friends are still there, I think because it is just so familiar. The coffee there is always good too!

What's the attraction of the bike industry for you? Doing something that I am passionate about and being able to sell cool products. We work with some great people and companies which is very satisfying.

Favourite piece of bike kit that you deal / sell? We have a whole warehouse full! That's a hard one. Turner because his bikes ride so well. It amazes me that once you have owned a Turner you will struggle to ride anything else, the proof is in the riding, a bit like the new 2010 Marzocchi forks. What are your vices? Family and friends.

Got any dirt / story of a pro MTBer you'd like to share? I do but I can't say, we used to always enjoy ourselves after a race, that's all I will say!

Lets play some word association with your team riders: Brett Frew Farmer Kelly McGarry Hair Matt Scoles Stiff fork Samara Sheppard Trains hard Brook McDonald Solid