Oli Carter - the Master Juggler

"...bike-loving, woodworking rad-dad"

When you think of what life must be like for a professional mountain bike enduro racer, it’s not uncommon for the mind to jump to scenes of gnarly high-alpine lines, jet-setting around the globe and rigorous training to keep in peak mental and physical fitness. So where do a young family and a woodworking business manage to find their place outside of the race tapes?

Sounds impossible, and for some, it may be, but Oli Carter juggles life’s most essential and treasured passions in his stride. A self-proclaimed “bike-loving, woodworking rad-dad”, Oli has been riding bikes his whole life but only really began to take it seriously in 2009, after finishing a ski season in Les Arcs, France. “My mates persuaded me to come back with them in the summer for a few weeks. So I went home, looked for a bike on eBay, found a sparkly purple Dartmoor that was, in hindsight, a collection of bolts, headed out to the Alps and cracked the frame on the first run.” Fortunately, Oli took his Scott Octane DS hardtail frame with him and so managed to swap the frame over and salvage what was left of the holiday, after which, he was hooked on mountain biking. “I ended up staying in the alps for five years, snowboarding, biking and refurbing high-end ski chalets with my carpentry work.”

“Living in the Alps..."

In 2011, Oli gave racing a go after getting his first downhill bike. “Living in the Alps got me up to speed as I would go and race IXS cups and French national events as they were only a few hours drive, and the standard was pretty high!” Having the Alps on his doorstep meant that Oli didn’t have far to go when it came to training. As the lifts aren’t open all year round, pedalling his trail bike up the mountains to session descents became the norm for Oli - little did he know at the time that this was enduro mountain biking. “In 2013, I switched from downhill to enduro and raced five EWS races on 26” wheel bikes. I say bikes as I was doing product testing and reviewing for Ride.io, so I had to change bikes a few times that year.” After meeting his wife, Oli moved back to the UK and has settled into family life with two beautiful daughters, Bodhi, two and Aurelia, four.

Oli Carter Enduro rider styling it up
Styling it up

Oli Carter keeping it pinned on an enduro stage
Keeping it pinned

“There’s nothing like the feeling of a race run, the pressure, nerves and adrenaline are an addictive combination and one that still has me coming back for more each year.”

As the UK government announced stay-home measures in March 2020, sporting events throughout the UK and across the globe have either been cancelled or postponed. After selling their home at the start of the year, the Carter family are currently residing in a barn that Oli converted into a studio at his parent’s house until the new place is ready. “It’s pretty tough living in one room with the kids, but we are in the middle of the woods so I couldn’t think of a better place to be in lockdown. Every cloud has a silver lining, right!?”

"...building dens..."

While the UK adjusts to spending more time at home, the nation is seeking ways to keep busy, entertained and productive within the realms of our new restrictions. For Oli, he’s been keeping busy as he explains what a typical day looks like for him and the family, “we have been in the woods everyday building dens, making campfires, family bike rides, walks and crafts. The activities are endless with the little ones. I’m not going to lie; we are having a lot of fun and loving having the time together as a family. It’s also given me a chance to have time to train properly again, which is awesome. I’ve only got an XC bike right now, and it’s perfect for getting a lot of miles in, and I’m loving a different style of riding from my norm of hammering downhill!”
“I have lots of great bike parts in the garage from over the years, so I’ve built up a mullet extreme XC bike. It’s actually the perfect bike for right now as you don’t have to ride it too fast to get a bit wild. I have been running a double Nobby Nic set-up on that, but recently changed out the back tyre for a Racing Ralph as it has been very dry the past few weeks.

Oli's trail ripper build to keep things entertaining whilst he's not racing.
Trail ripper

Oli Carter's trail ripper with tanwall Hans Dampf rear.Oli Carter's trail ripper with tanwall Magic Mary front.

"...so sticky it feels like you are cheating..."

When it comes to my enduro race bike, my go-to set-up is an Ultra-Soft Magic Mary SuperGravity casing front and Soft Magic Mary SuperGravity rear. However, my favourite tyre in the whole line up has to be the Ultra Soft Dirty Dan mud spike. I have ridden that tyre all winter as it has been so wet! I use it as a full spike on the front and a cut spike on the rear, so it rolls better. The Schwalbe tyre cutters are so good with having an adjustable gauge; I can do all sorts of experiments on what cuts work in different conditions. I usually ride natural, steep, muddy and rutted trails and for that, those tyres are perfect. The compound is so sticky it feels like you are cheating and can commit to lines as if it were dry. I feel very lucky to have such an awesome line up of tyres to choose from, they have been a key part in my success over the years. Thanks so much Schwalbe and stay safe everyone!”

Once regular racing resumes, you’ll probably find Oli slaying trails at national and international enduro events, but if you can’t wait for that, then get all the latest on Oli’s adventures by following him on Instagram.

Words: Jess Strange - Velo Me | Images: Oli Carter and BigMac Photography