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Interview w/ GASPI (Richard Gasperotti)

Richard Gasperotti, a legendary figure in the mountain biking world, joined us on June 21-23 for an unforgettable ride – Heli-biking in the Tarcu Mountains.

Gasperotti, known as “Gaspi”, made history as the first European to participate in the renowned Red Bull Rampage MTB freeride competition back in 2002. He is also the first person to conquer the wall of death with an e-bike, and in 2009, he set a world speed record on a bike, reaching an astonishing 211.5 km/h.

INTERVIEW w/ GASPI:

What first inspired you to get into mountain biking, and how did your journey begin?

“For me, it all started in 1990 after the fall of communism in what was then Czechoslovakia. Until then, I had only ridden BMX, and that’s when I wanted to switch to a bigger bike. Inspired by American and German MTB magazines, I’m proud to say I took part in the birth of MTB in the Czech Republic.”

Can you share a defining moment in your career that solidified your passion for MTB?

“The turning point of my career was in 2001, when I realized I could ride with freeride legends like Thomas Vanderham, Wade Simmons, Dave Watson, Ritchie Schley, Andrew Shandro, and others in Canada. What I learned from them inspired me to pursue a completely different style of riding than simply racing, which was the dominant discipline among MTB gravity-oriented riders. Appearing in Digger’s movie “Xtreme North Shore” also helped me get on the path I am on today.”

Based on your experience, what do you think is necessary to develop the MTB scene in Eastern Europe?

“It’s hard to say, as I don’t feel comfortable preaching to anyone, but I think there is a need for education. While people in Romania have access to all the information they need thanks to the internet, I don’t see many pioneers like Cristian Dunca, who are keen to take on the role of leader. The local community is crucial because it has great potential to attract more people to join and ride. The most important thing is a frontman who keeps the community together. I’ve seen many times that once the leader quits, the community falls apart, and the whole activity fades away. Romania needs more people like Cristian, who build trails, run helibiking businesses, and have the desire to offer good service and build top-notch facilities for the entire community. Expanding the sport also involves lifestyle media, which can help people realize that riding bikes is cooler than clubbing and hanging around pubs.”

What made you choose Romania for your freeride movie?

“I was looking for a destination reachable by car, as e-bikes are difficult to travel with by air due to battery restrictions. I planned an e-bike tour with my old band, which includes photographer Miloš Štáfek and Martin Smolik. Both of them needed to clear their heads, so they agreed to join the expedition. I chose Romania because it has beautiful mountains that you can reach within a few hours of intense driving from the Czech Republic. My planning involved careful research of the locations, using tools like travelers’ Instagram accounts or Google Earth users’ personal remarks. During my research, I came across guys who operate heli biking in Romania. I got in touch with Cristian Dunca thanks to the Romanian distributor of Mondraker bikes, which I ride. I noticed that they also ride Mondraker bikes, which made me think we would understand each other well. The result was one of the greatest trips of my life.”

Would you like to organize a bike camp in Romania?

“Sure, I’m already planning it. It won’t be this year, but definitely next year, and I think there won’t be just one. Romania is an exotic destination for many Europeans, with wildlife like bears, wolves, and other animals that we only see in zoos. This alone makes it a great adventure. You can’t stop for bratwurst and weissbier in the Romanian mountains like you do in Austria, where I also love to ride, but Romania promises a much bigger adventure. Another reason is that until now, you had to go overseas for real heli-biking, but in Romania, the experience is literally within reach, offering high-quality helicopters and service.”

How did you enjoy your heli-biking experience with weRIDE Romania?

“I’ve experienced heli-biking in Canada in the past – once at Rainbow Mountain in Whistler and another time in Pemberton. I rate the Romanian way as better and, more importantly, significantly more bike-friendly. In Canada, there is a risk of damaging the bikes as they are transported in bulk in one net. In Romania, the bikes are transported in a fixed metal holder, and all team members follow a precise schedule. Passenger safety training includes instructions on safe and dangerous zones around the helicopter. We planned the trail with enough time for photos and filming. We chose a 25 km loop, but it was so challenging that I drained the 400 Wh battery during the trip. There are no power lines crisscrossing the ridges, and there are no people. Cristian was our guide, leading us along a clear trail with big elevation changes. After entering the forest, the wide trail turned into a narrow single track that continued to a lake where we took a short break to swim. From the lake, we climbed again past a beautiful waterfall to the base. It was simply amazing.”

Can you share some tips for aspiring mountain bikers on how to improve their skills and performance?

“The key is not to push too hard because if you do, you might get stuck. Riders should define their goals and understand that success doesn’t come on its own. Since cycling has many branches nowadays, it’s important to choose your discipline correctly and then dedicate all your free time to developing your skills.”

What has been your most memorable ride or adventure so far?

“The biggest adventure for me to this day is the Zam expedition in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia, where I did a couple of gnarly runs down brutal slopes. If something had happened to me, I probably wouldn’t have survived as it was a two-day drive to the nearest doctor. I still consider this my craziest experience.”

What keeps you motivated to continue pushing boundaries in the sport?

“Seeing more and more people living stereotypically motivates me to push all my efforts not to give up, as I definitively hate to get swallowed by the consumer way of life. More and more, I’m looking for secluded spots and staying away from people. This year, I chose heli-biking in Romania over riding in some bike park in the Alps.”

Do you have any rituals or routines that help you stay focused?

“I need to be prepared both physically and mentally because I believe that the psyche is responsible for 80% of reaching our goals. To increase focus, I have adopted meditation as an integral part of my daily routine. I also say the Lord’s Prayer before every tricky ride.”

If you could ride anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

“I’d like to go to Spitsbergen. It hasn’t happened yet because the mountain that attracts me is located in the Russian part, which is impossible to access now for obvious reasons.”

Can you share a funny or unexpected moment you’ve experienced while biking?

“There have been many fun moments. Right now, I remember we were driving local bikers back from a party in Sardinia, and one of them fell out the side door of the van at a roundabout and unexpectedly turned up walking against us. It was only then that we realized we had lost him, and we couldn’t stop laughing. As far as fun riding moments go, I would use a quote from former Whistler Bike Park Manager Tom Prochazka, who said that every fall you get up from unhurt is a good one.”

Is there anything exciting coming up that you’d like to share with us?

“I’ve been doing a lot of e-biking development lately because e-bikes allow me to get to places I wouldn’t be able to reach on a normal “bio” bike. Thanks to e-bikes, I’m discovering the hidden secrets of freeriding. It’s hard to explain, but that makes it all the better to try and experience for yourself. I believe e-bikes will be one of the biggest booms in cycling. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an e-Rampage where riders ride up the hill from the bottom and have fun.”

Our time with Gaspi was nothing short of inspiring. His boundless passion for freeride mountain biking has reignited our enthusiasm and commitment to further developing the MTB scene in Romania.

Thank you, Gaspi, for your energy and inspiration!

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