Riding in Robin's Hood - The Story of Robin Goomes

Humble, strong and persistent, Robin Goomes is quickly climbing her way to the top of freeride mountain biking.

Words by Kelsey Timpany
Originally published in Spoke Issue 84
Audi Nines

From growing up in the remote Chatham Islands to spending five years in the Army (with a decent portion of that in Antarctica), Robin Goomes is a fresh-faced force to be reckoned with. Armed with vibrant energy and some impressive international results, such as being the first female to land a backflip in competition and being one of the first female riders at Audi Nines, Robin is only warming up.

The champion of the Chathams

Robin was born in Christchurch and raised on the Chatham Islands, 800km off the coast of Christchurch. “The Chats” is renowned for its abundant wildlife, fishing and remoteness. Generations of the Goome family have lived in Wharekauri, with Robin’s grandmother and relatives still residing there.

Robin’s youth was spent burning around the island on motorbikes and helping her Mum, a DOC ranger, feed burrowing birds and plant trees on the remote islands.

“We just lived on our dirt bikes. We’d go into the hills and build our own tracks and jumps. It was so cool,” she recalls.

Crankworx Innsbruck Image : Sven Martin

We just lived on our bikes. We'd go into the hills and build our own tracks and jumps. It was so cool.

Home-schooled for as long as possible, Robin benefited from a tight-knit community and life where adventures were endless. Perhaps this is where her larger-than-life attitude and cool demeanour derives from: Robin has a sense of wonder, respect, and a genuine stoke for life that can only stem from an such a unique upbringing. 

 

With no high school on the island, Robin and her sister would move back to Christchurch to live with their other grandmother during school terms. Robin filled the dirt bike void by dabbling in BMX at the local racetrack a few hundred metres from home. Here, valuable skills were ingrained, and Robin raced at a national level throughout high school, even after her family moved to Auckland where she finished her education at Takapuna Grammar. 

Army Life

“I wanted to do something cool [after finishing high school] and was definitely not going to university,” Robin insists. She chose to enlist in the army at 18 as a plant operator for the Engineer Corps in Palmerston North. The army presented plenty of opportunities, such as being one of the first females to be stationed at Scott Base as a machine operator, providing base support, and becoming a self-proclaimed ‘snow removal specialist’ with a team of 40-odd Kiwis.

While in the army, a friend introduced her to mountain biking, cutting her teeth on Kissing Rock aboard a ‘shitty’ hardtail with street tyres and no rear brake. “I’m pretty sure I walked most of it, but I remember thinking ‘this is so gnarly, I kinda love it’.”

A week later she brought an Avanti Torrent and would travel to Rotorua most weekends. While Robin believes her stint in the defence force didn’t physically help her riding, there were strong overlaps in dealing with high-pressure situations and training discipline that would set her in good stead.

The Rise of Robin

After five years in the army, Robin decided to pursue mountain biking more seriously.

“It was a conscious decision. I was just real curious and wanted to know if I’d make it as a mountain biker. I was super open to failing and not being good enough, but I didn’t want to not try,” she explains. “So I thought I’d give it a good old college try and if we could make it, that’d be sick. If we failed, I’d accept that too, and go back to normal life.”

Robin picked up a casual job shuttle bus-driving in the Whakarewarewa Forest, which allowed her to focus on riding. “I left the army, turned up in Rotorua and went to work for Tak and Tu from Mountain Bike Rotorua,” she recalls. “I told them I wanted to see what was possible as a mountain biker. Like ‘this is my goal, so I need a job that will enable me to be focused on biking’. And they provided that.”

Over the 2020-21 summer, Robin cemented herself as a rider on everyone’s radar in New Zealand. After packing all her belongings and three bikes into her van, she voyaged to Queenstown. Between finding places to park, Robin became part of the furniture at Wynyard Jump Park, where you’d find her from sunstrike to dark. She also attended every round of the National Downhill Series, gaining valuable exposure and consistently featuring in the top three.

I told them I wanted to see what was possible as a mountain biker. Like 'this is my goal.'

Competing in both downhill and enduro races, Robin obviously has the skill and drive to go places. Hamish Acland, director of Mons Royale, was one the first sponsors to capture Robin during his game-changing NZ freeride event, Future Ground. With no support or sponsors, he saw the raw talent she possessed and quickly put a Mons Royale jersey on her back. 

“I saw the same set of attributes as I did in Jossi Wells, the skier,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve seen that in a long time. She has that combination of talent, focus and work ethic, and how the industry hadn’t connected with her already was beyond me.”

Future Ground gave Robin and 10 other females a platform to harness the energy and women’s freeriding progression by providing the ideal environment, coaches and opportunity to push the sport and each other. Robin really shone, and not just with her riding; she was the first on the shovel, the last to stop riding and always smiling. “I think Future Ground created a nice platform and Robin’s riding did the talking,” says Acland.

“It was my first time riding with that many girls,” Robin says. “I’ve done a bit of riding with Vinny and maybe one other, but this is the first all-girl crew that can ride, which is sick.”

International Accolades​

Robin’s career timing was unintentionally impeccable. She started 2021 focused on racing as it seemed to be the only path for women to launch a professional career.

As the year progressed the freeride scene experienced exponential growth, particularly for females.

“It was the perfect time for me jump on the freeride bandwagon as the sport is just taking off for women. I was doing well in New Zealand, but you never know how that compares to the rest of the world. I could be the world’s worst rider, but I’d never know unless I went for it, so I took the risk.”

An invitation to the Formation women’s freeride event in Utah as an alternate rider set the tone for her six-week stint abroard. Beavering as digger, Robin quickly made her presence felt as a rider too, dropping banger edits along the way and gaining international traction for her ballsy riding.

“I did get to ride a bit, but not as much as I would’ve liked,” she explains. “That was probably my fault for crashing and knocking myself out. It was on our day off and all of the diggers were riding. We had a big sesh; it was our only ride day so I wanted to go hard.

“We weren’t allowed to ride the actual Formation site, so went to the 2013 Rampage zone. I tried a backflip but went in too fast, and ended up over-rotating and crooked, clearing half the landing and landing sideways. Luckily I didn’t get any concussion. I honestly didn’t believe I was knocked out, but later the boys I was with reckoned I was out for at least a minute.” 

Innsbruk Robin Groomes

Dominating Europe​

Not once, not twice, but six times, the rookie Robin landed the backflip in competition at Crankworx Innsbruck. “Just because I knew I could,” she says.

Not only did she set a new benchmark for women’s competition at Crankworx, she also won the European Whip-Offs, placed a respectable 14th in a stacked Downhill field, and finished fourth in Speed & Style. Her performance signalled change in the sport, challenging the top female riders to step up their games or be left chasing the young Kiwi rookie in the bery near future. 

From there Robin took part in the Audi Nines contest and she was unstoppable from the moment she dropped into the famed course. She attacked every part of the extensive venue, stomping tricks and testing her limits on the largest jumps and lines.

“It was a big jam sesh, the highlight of my life I think,” she recalls, and considering the notches she’s already put in her belt, that’s not a statement to be taken lightly. “They were the biggest jumps I’d ever hit in my life. It didn’t feel real to be riding with my idols. I’m so stoked and want to keep coming back for as long as I’m able to!”

Being recognised as the “Ruler of the week” by her peers was a true testament to her riding approach and character. She landed all of her tricks, pulled off a backflip can side-saddle lander, and stomped the big air kicker and the formidable 18m freeride line hip.

By removing the competitive element, Audi Nines made space for the women to create magic, and Robin and her comrades did exactly that. She raised the roof, smashed through the course and helped the other eight riders to collectively lift the standard. 

The Future is Robin

Robin’s accomplished some remarkable feats without the ‘normal’ tracking of a professional athlete; her rise has been unconventional and by no means linear.

“No guy would’ve gone this far without support, because their egos wouldn’t have been stroked enough,” says Acland.  “She has an ability to be fun and smile, then turn it on to push herself on the bike.”

“It’s amazing to see how quickly things can change once you hit a tipping point. Robin is one of the ladies leading the pack that has pushed freeride past its tipping point, while still being an amazing role model and spokesperson. Kiwis are always well received globally because of their pioneering spirit. When you think about Conor MacFarlane and Kelly McGarry, the world has always loved a Kiwi on the global stage, and I believe Robin has the exact same makings.”

Robin makes no bones about her goals: “I want to go to the top. There’s so much room for this sport to grow for women, and I’m keen to help push it as far as I can. I have a full list of tricks I want to learn, and ideally I’d like to make a living from it as well.”

The three words Robin uses to describe herself are passionate, weird and motivated.

Robin puts in the mahi and gets the treats. She’s stoked on the small stuff, nothing is ever a problem and she’s just happy to be here. It’s been incredibly special to witness her grow and progress in front of our eyes in just six months.

Robin has truly kicked down the door of mountain biking and announced that she means business. We can’t wait to see where she takes it.