This interview was originally posted on June 20, 2013. The cover story from Issue #171 is Anna Schwinn’s interview with Missy Giove. Here’s an extended take on some of the questions that didn’t make it into print.
If you enjoy it, look for our special Personality Issue #187 with exclusive, revealing interviews that no other magazine can or will do available at Interbike and on newsstands in September 2015.
Schwinn: First question: Who was your favorite mechanic, Gravy or Monkey?
Giove: Oh! Not fair! You didn’t ask me which one was a better mechanic! Which one did I like better? Oh neither. They were both perfectly so classic. Gravy is, oh my God, Gravy is a kind, sweet, gentle hippy who’s one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever met in my life who is a character and so funny and so loveable. And such a perfect person. He’s just, I love Gravy.
Mechanic wise, he was amazing and built the best wheels in the whole possible world and he would also do whatever he was doing for you really slowly because he would do ten other people’s bikes, who were friends, at the same time which I loved about him—but I missed practice runs from it. He’s the best. He was awesome. And he made me a good practicer for exactly that reason; he made my time worthwhile on the hill. Thanks Gravy for that, he taught me that. And Monkey was fucking hysterical.
S: He made you the smallest cog on your current drivetrain
G: Yeah! Totally innovative, fun downhill mechanic, amazing downhill mechanic, methodical downhill mechanic who was a major problem solver and he loved the 50cc mini-moto, we both loved the 50, and we had so much fun burning brakes in when he was on his dirt bike and I was on my mountain bike and he was dragging me. So many funny moments. It was hysterical.
I’ll never forget all the images I have of Monk out of control on that 50 with me tied to him on a downhill bike. It was crazy. Crazy. I hope he misses that. I don’t think anyone else is making him do that. Plus he’d be towing me because a lot of times I wouldn’t want to go do a downhill run but I would need to burn the brakes in or I wanted to warm up and I might have missed a practice run, I’m not sure, so he would tow me up, like, a different part of the mountain so I could come down halfway. So he’d be on the 50 towing me up this gnarly single track. And then he’d have to come down.
This one time he was shuttling me and, he was such a good sport, and this fucking, like, mountain lion crossed his path and it nearly about ate poor Monk. He’s just funny as shit. He’d heat up salami sandwiches on the dashboard and eat them. The guy’s just classic. Unbelievable innovator and fixes every problem you could possibly have on your bike before it happens. So they answer is neither because they were both experiences I will never forget.
G: I can’t live without either.
S: Which bike was your favorite, and which was the absolute worst?
G: Well the absolute worst comes popping to my mind. Which would be the multiple drive chain Cannondale. That was hooptie.
S: It looked awesome!
G: Ughhh. I was so heavy that if—if I could have chosen only certain courses to go down on that bike it would have been a decent bike but, just changing lines, it was just totally extraordinarily heavy. If they lightened it up it would have been okay. Besides that it was fine.
S: And how tall are you?
G: I’m like 5’7″
S: You were hauling bikes around like that one.
G: It was okay, it’s just that there were lines that I wanted to get on that I couldn’t get on because it was a little heavy but hey, I learned. It made me a better rider.
S: It made you stronger.
G: It made me stronger. And hey, no bike is a bad bike, let’s put it that way. No bike is a bad bike, that’s the truth, but that was not my favorite piece of equipment.
As far as my favorite bike? My favorite bike has to—I have two favorite bikes, really. My very first Yeti. Full rigid. Pepperoni fork. And then my decade-long love affair with my Foes DH Mono.
S: Why your Yeti full rigid? Because it was your “first?”
G: Right? Just because of the experiences, the rides. It wasn’t just the rides. The way the bike felt, and just my interaction with this ride I was doing on that bike. For sure. The energy from that bike, from my full rigid experiences on trails. I had tons of fun on that bike.
S: When you look back at what is arguably the heyday of mountain bike racing, ’92-’99, what mistakes did the sport or athletes or promoters make in not solidifying it as a viable sponsorship investment?
G: Honestly, I think that the technologies with our cameras had a big part to do with the fact that most of everything that has to do with cycling, with the exception of track cycling—it’s one of the only easily viewable sports—but you can only see it where there are velodromes. And while there are getting to be more velodromes, you know what I’m saying. Basically, I don’t think it was anybody’s fault, I think it was the fact that our sport is not very viewable without access to all these big, heavy, expensive cameras and you have to be an athlete to capture it behind a camera.
S: Except for slalom. You can see slalom.
G: Yeah, but you had to drive. Like each one of those venues is like four hours away from a major city. It wasn’t very accessible to the average person. You’d have to have a car, you’d have to have the money…
S: You’d have to know what the sport was.
G: So basically I think it was just accessibility because people were literally not seeing it. So cycling just got spread through word of mouth through convincing somebody to get involved with it or try it. It was just referrals. Something that is only growing as big as something as a referral, there is only one median which you can see it. It’s with a referral.
So you have to know somebody. You don’t just have to know somebody, you have to know somebody who is going to let you borrow a bike or can fix your bike or wants to take the time and energy to invest to try to get you out and get you hooked. Cause a lot of people don’t do things like that, their first time on their own. As far as my own personal experiences that I remember, that’s how I got into it. If I wasn’t out doing it by myself, it wasn’t happening. I think that probably isn’t like that with everybody.
S: Yeah, I think so. Even with velodromes, you can go watch, but that community is so tight that, depending on the velodrome, it is not an inviting experience at all. There are people who like the fact that they can keep cycling private.
G: I hear what you’re saying.
S: My dad talks about it a lot. My little brother, Tucker, plays bike polo. Dad says, “Well, what’s going to happen if bike polo ever takes off is the same thing that happened to mountain biking in that you’re going to end up with a bunch of actual athletes getting in there, ruining it for all the originals.”
G: Cool people.
S: Cool people. Yeah. They’re just going to get in there and be athletic. That’s what athletes do. So I feel like there are some communities that want to keep it quiet. To keep it away from the athletes so they can still do it. So it can still be fun.
G: Yeah, I totally understand.
S: As soon as things get mainstream, people with physical talents get involved and ruin everything for everybody else!
G: I totally agree. I was not one of those rule followers. Now it’s very funny that you say that because it’s when things kind of get watered down.
S: You lose people who are just out there to be bikers, who embody all the spirit and everything you love about riding. You talk about communing with nature and your bike as an appendage and an extension of yourself and then there are these guys just out there to be really fast. They’re different people.
G: I know what you mean. And that’s a really good point because I try to tell people, I was never a racer. I raced so I could be a biker. It was a way that I got to do what I loved to do. If somebody could have just supported me and my family and my friends to just ride my bike in a way that I want to ride my bike every day I would never have chosen competition as a form, probably.
Not that I didn’t succumb sometimes to the fact that sometimes I wanted to have my best day, my best moment, trying to have a glorious moment on my bike by really riding on the edge, making it happen, having a good time, coming down really consistently and kind of linking a whole entire run together. Coming down a whole entire mountain ‘cause when you do that, it’s really fun.
There’s something about going from the top of the mountain to the very bottom of a mountain. It’s like a river. It’s fun when you can put it all together and it all just floats as opposed to doing all in segments and whatnot. So it was fun to give myself a forum, which I chose as like race day, to put that all together and just kind of paint a picture on the way down, trying to flow like… if I was a river, how would I get down this? And just have it be fun and interact with my bike and my bike interacting with the earth and the water. That was really fun too, riding in monsoons.
S: Where the path is cut for you.
G: Yeah so, I just love that experience about it. And I’m so glad that there are brilliant people like yourself that want to help people like me who want to do stuff like that. To have this very specific tool to do it with—not just a specific tool but a perfect tool.
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