Words: Mike Rose
All photos Nathan Hughes unless stated otherwise.

Seth Sherlock found mountain biking fame at a very young age with the classic “What were you doing when you were 10?” video. It showed a ridiculously talented ‘grom’ destroying his local trails with a show of riding skill that would put many adults to shame. The only thing that looked like it fitted him was his bike. His shin pads where down to his shoes, an oversized baggy jersey, a mop of brown hair, massive helmet and goggles… but the riding, for someone who was so young... it was off the charts.

Photo: Clint Trahan

Fast forward a few years and a ‘grown up’ Seth is now a Junior National Champion, Junior World Cup winner (Lenzerheide 2019) and also a key member of the INTENSE Factory Racing team. After a disrupted and wet 2020 Seth now finds himself racing in the senior ranks against the full-on pro field and his fellow team mates Aaron Gwin and Neko Mulally ... no pressure then!

Seth has such a natural and relaxed riding style, making the seemingly unrideable look like a walk in the park. For proof just check out any of of his video clips on his Instagram account. He is a talent for sure, and humble with it. So with the World Cup series just a few weeks away we thought we would grab a few words with him to find out a bit more about Seth Sherlock.

For someone who has never met you, how would you describe yourself?

I'm professional, modest, and eager to progress myself and my riding. I’m super dedicated to my sport, but I keep it fun.

You are from Squamish?

Yeah. Squamish has been a great place to grow up, I’ve been super lucky. We have an amazing trail system here and there is so much more riding within an hour’s drive. Whistler Blackcomb is only a 45 minutes away, so we have super easy access to the Bike Park, as well as skiing.

So skiing was a big thing for you when you were growing up?

Skiing was the main thing. I did ski school in Whistler starting at a young age and stuck with it until 2019 with the Whistler Freeride Club. I even dabbled in some Freeride ski competitions. I still ski casually, around 15 days a year.

Can you tell us a bit about your history when it comes to mountain biking?

I first rode a bike when I was six and got into mountain biking almost right away. I started doing lessons in Whistler when I was seven and did those until I was 13 or 14. I raced a bit of BMX when I was really young but was never that into it and was always drawn towards downhill.

You been involved with INTENSE for a very long time. How did all that come about?

I’ve been riding INTENSE bikes since I was 10. My first 26” bike was a Tracer VP that I bought off of Robbie Bourdon (freeride legend) and I’ve been on INTENSE ever since. We filmed an edit called “What were you doing when you were 10?” and it did really well, it currently has over 200,000 views. Thanks to the success of that edit INTENSE decided to sponsor me and I’ve been involved with them ever since.

What about your relationship with Chris Kovarik and Claire Buchar?

When I was 13 I was just about to start my first year of downhill racing in BC and got the call from Chris Kovarik and Claire Buchar that they wanted me on their Kovarik Racing Rider Development program... which was amazing. I raced on that program all the way up to my second year of U17 racing and got tons of valuable racing experience.

Seth (second left) with the rest of the Kovarik Racing Rider Development team.

What do you think is the most important thing that Chris and Claire have taught you?

They taught me all of my racing and riding fundamentals, from cornering technique to mental toughness. There’s no way I’d be where I am today without the Kovarik Racing program.

And then came the big call up, you joined the INTENSE Factory Racing team last year, just how crazy was that for a 17 year old to be on the same team as Aaron Gwin and US National Champ Neko Mulally?

Getting that call from Aaron was a dream come true. I didn’t feel much pressure, just excitement to have that much support and motivation to live up to my expectations. One of the parts I was most excited about was having a mechanic – when you are a privateer most of your time is spent trying to keep your bike in one piece, so not needing to worry about that was very exciting.

Aaron must have some annoying habits!?

Honestly, no, it’s been really great getting to know Aaron and his wife Lauren. He’s a super fun, chill person that I’ve already learned a lot from. I’m going to spend a lot more time with him this year though, so maybe some stuff will come up then, ha ha!

What about Neko?

Neko is super cool as well. We love to bug him about how finicky he is about testing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when he tests a bunch of different spokes on his wheels and comes to the conclusion that he can’t tell the difference it’s hard to not bug him! Overall I can’t wait to spend more time with the team this year, we all get along really really well.

We know that racing at World Cup level is difficult, but just how difficult is it?

Coming from the much smaller Canada Cup races it was a huge culture shock at first. Being around all of the people that I’d watched on TV for my whole life was super weird and intimidating for the first couple of races, but after some good results I got over it. The hardest part is keeping yourself focused and motivated over the off-season. Eight months is a long time and it’s easy to lose sight of your goals in racing and lose the motivation to work out six days a week along with stretching, yoga, dieting, etc. The uncertainty of the pandemic doesn’t help with that either. I’ve been staying super focused this off-season. I’m feeling better than ever, both mentally and physically.

After some great results in 2019 I think it is fair to say that 2020 didn’t go exactly to plan. Obviously it was a crazy year with Covid-19, etc. It was also your final year in the Junior category, so how do you reflect on last season?

2020 was a tough one for me for sure. I think my poor results were the culmination of a lot of things. In the past it’s taken me a few races at the start of the season to get into the race mindset, figure out the bike, and get my racing routine sorted – a luxury I didn’t really have last year. The conditions were also really tough, and I hadn’t raced in enough European mud to feel super confident in it. By the end of last season I felt like I was just getting into it but it was already over. Either way I have a good idea of what went wrong last year and I’m confident that I can turn it around this season.

What do you think it will be like stepping up to the Senior level this year?

It’s going to be a huge step up. Racing directly against Aaron and Neko is going to be crazy. It will be nice to be in A-practice all weekend, so I can practice with both of them the whole time. Not needing to wake up at 6:30 in the morning before qualifying and the race will be great too.

Do you have any specific goals and aspirations for the upcoming season?

I want to consistently be in the top 40 at the World Cups and get a couple of top 20s.

Photo: Clint Trahan

Do you have a favorite style of terrain or a specific track that you love to race on?

I really like the steeper, more technical tracks, like Val di Sole and Andorra. I’ve always struggled more with the flowy and pedally stuff, however I have a stiffer bike set up and I’m fitter than ever this year so I’m hoping those two things will help.

And the weather, does that affect you? Coming from Squamish you must be used to a little bad weather?

We’re used to the rain in Squamish for sure, but the dirt in Europe is way more slippery when it’s wet than it is here. You can almost ride faster in the wet than the dry in Squamish, and that’s not the case at all in Europe. The conditions in Leogang last year were closer to riding in the snow in Squamish!

An inspiration to all. Seth with his dad and Stevie Smith's mum.

Do you have a favorite racer, someone you look up to, or just like their style?

While I was growing up Stevie Smith was a massive inspiration. It was incredible to see a Canadian doing so well at the World Cups and I think that his legacy is at least partially responsible for the success of all of the young Canadians at the World Cups right now.

Photo: Max Barron

Let’s talk about bikes. So you rode the M29 last year, but you have now swapped to the prototype M279 mullet wheel set up.

Last year I was running an M29 with a custom link and a +6mm reach adjustment. It was great but I never got the set up quite right. The M279 Prototype feels amazing so far and my set up already feels dialed. It’s the same frame as Aaron’s but there are a few differences between our builds. Most notably I’m on an air shock, I’m running 223mm rotors, and I’m on 10mm rise bars as opposed to the 30mms on his bike. I still have some more settings to test out.

And what other INTENSE bikes do you have?

At the moment I only have the M279 Prototype and my large Primer 29. The Primer is great, the geometry is perfect for the riding I do and despite only having 140mm rear/150mm front travel it handles all of the gnarly Squamish freeride stuff I throw at it with no problems.

So it is just a few weeks now until the first World Cup, what do those weeks look like for Seth Sherlock?

Some really intense training and more fast riding and testing on the downhill bike. I don’t have the luxury of pre-World Cup racing this year so it will be a challenge to get up to pace before Leogang. I'm feeling good though.

Keep up to date with everything that Seth is doing by checking out @sethsherlock and @intensefactoryracing