You can't talk about the DH scene in New Zealand without mentioning Sam and Zach Baker. Not only do these two brothers have style for miles (and that's just their hair), but they're straight up fast/ pinned/ flat out on pretty much anything with two wheels. The two ageing groms are great advocates for the sport in general and this has pretty much secured them head to toe sponsorship in a country where getting a free inner tube can sometimes be tricky.
How old are you?
Z: 17 S: 19
Where do you live?
Z: Waimauku, wops. S: Waimauku, heart of the Great North West Auckland.
What do you like best about living where you do?
Z: Not quite a JAFA.
S: I live on a farm, so have got free range to do whatever I like, have dirtjumps, pump tracks and a few wooden skinnys from back in the day. I live opposite Riverhead forest where I've ridden most of my life, and am close to most of the other good locations in the Auckland scene.
What do you dislike about living where you do?
Z: Combination of working where I do. Takes ages to get home with traffic. S: It’s pretty far away from anywhere, 10 minutes drive to a shop, and the riding we have close by is not quite of the gradient I'd like. Our biggest hills produce tracks still shy of the minute mark. Not ideal for downhill training.
How did you get involved in the mountain bike scene to begin with and how long ago was that?
Z: Started racing BMX when I was younger then gradually moved to the bigger bikes.
S: I don’t really know to be honest, it all just happened. I rode bikes all the time as a kid, making anything we could out have wood, some pretty sketchy jumps just hanging in by a few nails. But we loved it. Zach and I just thrashed our 16” bikes till we were like 13. That’s all we rode. Some of the gaps we did on those things look pretty decent on a mountain bike. Then we got into BMX through a neighbour, and saw a little Kona hardtail in a bike shop and just wanted it real bad. Saved up and bought it and became one of the regular Woodhill worshippers. Through the help of Aaron Fernandez, a family friend, we heard about some races under the CMMBC banner and the rest as they say is history.
What’s your ‘day’ job? What does it involve?
Z: Warehouse bitch at Worralls.
S: My day to day job at the moment is pretty much a full-time student, scraping by as they all do. It's good however, gives me plenty of time to train, surf, ride do everything I want to do while also allowing me to work as well. I've always been involved with working in the bike industry, from working school holidays at WH Worralls, to building kids' bikes at the Warehouse. I'm now currently working at Riders Depot, a new store on the North Shore that is offering the entire Fox mountain bike lineup as well as casual wear from Fox Clothing, Unit, Metal Mulisha, Scott and many more.
What are five benefits of working with bikes all day every day?
Z: Discounts. People. Environment. Discounts and discounts.
S: Working in the industry has allowed me to always be at the forefront of new technology the companies are bringing out, be it a new GT at WH Worralls, or the new Fox Rampage helmets. It’s always exciting seeing the development and growth the industry has right now. Five benefits would have to be: Working with something you enjoy and can relate to; seeing new products come through the door; working with like minded people so you can talk about that sweet drift you had last night on the tracks; hearing mountain bike DVDs playing in the background rather than some rock station; and the awesome people you get to talk to about riding and the places they have been.
How would you describe your riding style?
Z: Smooth, consistent.
S: I would describe my style as pretty controlled (hopefully with some finesse), fluid, and I definitely love to turn with the rear wheel. I’m often the first to try some shady dirtjump that hasn’t had any attention in a fair while. Others may describe my style as slightly, only slightly, rugged. I went through a bad patch of breaking stuff, and that's hung around me like a bad smell.
Z: Big Mumma.
S: Favourite trail would be Champery, Switzerland, or any of the Morzine off-piste downhill tracks. Dunedin’s Signal hill is also pretty up there.
What’s one thing you’ve learned in the last 10 years?
Z:Times tables. S: Last 10 years, since I was 9? Well, now that I’m starting to head out into the workforce I'm realising how important it is to enjoy everything and have a positive outlook on everything. I had some rough times with injury when I was in a cast for 6 months, missing World Champs in Canberra, and that made me realise just how awesome it is to feel those tyres sliding in some loam again. Enjoy the small things.
What’s wrong with mountain biking?
Z: Cross-country. S: The way there is a lack of sponsorship and support especially here in New Zealand. Chris Mildon has done a great job over these last few years with us juniors and aiding us in preparations for overseas, however the individual clubs have begun to slacken off. There is now hardly anyone wanting to hold a National Series round and it’s starting to look a bit grim. Here’s hoping things begin to turn.
What are three things right with mountain biking?
Z: Bike NZ. Queenstown. Cove. S: Aaron Gwin, the amount of track development that is happening around the place, and chairlifts.
Top two mountain bike developments in the last 10 years (bike park, part or whatever)?
Z: Cove shocker. Cove Sanchez. S: Cove Shocker (absolute dream), wide bars.
All time favourite rider?
Z: Brandon Semenuk. S: All time is forever. It would have to be a mix of Aaron Gwin, and Ben Reid.
Top five favourite bits of mountain bike kit?
Z: 1) Fox stuff. 2) Mirror lenses. 3) Five Tens 4) No gloves 5) Moto helmets. S: 1) Gravity 780 mm bars. The business. 2) Any Five Ten shoe, you cannot ride without them. 3) Leatt neck braces. 4) Flat pedals. 5) Cove Shocker frame.
Who do you look up to?
Z: My dad, he’s 6’2.
S: Aaron Gwin for my racing, Mike Davis for my training.
Other than your hair products, what are your vices?
Z: My MK1 Escort. S: My hair wouldn’t have seen any hair products in a long while; it’s a tad wild at the moment. I'm a bit of sucker when it comes to anything with adrenaline. I like to surf and ski a lot, also enjoy motocross, and BMX. Foodwise, I can’t go past vanilla almond Crunchy Nut Clusters for my morning meal.
Finish this sentence. “On a Saturday I like to get up and….”
Z: Get back down.
S: Being someone who hates sleeping in, I like to get up around 7.30-8, tuck into some Crunchy Nut, then head off for surf if the waves are up to it. If not, maybe go for a run or gym in the garage, whatever takes my fancy. For lunch have a standard salami and cheese pita thrown in the toaster for some heat, then head out to Woodhill in the afternoon for a good dirtjump jam. After that, probably go out for some fish and chips on the beach and do a bit of photography of the sunset. Then get home and get into a good movie. Sounds like a pretty rad day.