Inside the life of mountain biker, and Red Bull Rampage star, Cam Zink.
Cam Zink just wants to spend time on his bike. One of the best free ride mountain bikers in the world knows that whether it comes to prepping for his next career-defying moment, course training or mental preparation, it all goes a lot better for him if he just gets on his bike.
“I just ride my bike and always want to do better tomorrow than I did today,” Zink tells SI.com. “And it all just kind of falls into place.”
Maybe you know Zink for his 360-degree flip off the Oakley Sender at Rampage in 2013, or for his legendary 2010 spin, or maybe for his 100-foot backflip in 2014. And he likes it that way. “I’m glad there are numerous things that stand out in peoples’ minds,” he says.
The most recent signature moment, though, the backflip, was a product of Zink flipping a 60-foot dirt jump, 20 feet beyond what he’d done before. “I started to think it was possible to flip 100 feet,” he says. “The record at the time was 70 or 75 feet, ramp to dirt. It stuck out in my mind. It seemed like something I could do that would be a big achievement.“But that’s just kind of who I am and what I do, as far as finding something new and something intriguing to push yourself. That was something that was maximizing my potential.”
Sure, the spectacle grew in size, but he’ll take the achievement, he says, even if he’s already wondering about the potential for flipping farther. Maybe 150 feet, even. “Not to call out fences for anything in particular,” he says, “I just want to keep my options open.”
Zink, who recently signed as a LifeProof athlete, has long been considered a bit of a daredevil when it comes to tricks and achievements. Now, though, at 29 and with the birth of his “baby doll” daughter Ayla, he views risk a bit differently than he once did.
“I’m the kind of guy that flies by the seat of my pants,” he says. “I see something and I’m going to do it and not care about the risk, but when it comes to things like that, it is more about planning now. I’m still going to do it, because I am what I am, but I’m taking more steps in the meantime—staying fit, not going out the night before a contest, things like that.”
While Zink understands some sponsors and fans want an athlete to specialize in one thing, he wants to do slopestyle and big mountain stuff, he wants to race, he wants to mix speed and style and everything. “I just enjoy riding my bike and doing as much as I can and being as well-rounded as I can,” he says. “That’s how I grew up. I want to try to do everything.”
To stay in shape, Zink avoids regimens, hates schedules. He just wants to keep busy. “The best thing you can do for riding a bike is be on your bike,” he says. But he doesn’t stay just on a mountain bike, mixing in motocross—he calls it the beset thing for your body—to beat him up and build endurance in the muscles he needs for riding. He rounds out his bike work with balance training—Bosu balls and yoga—and has even taken to running. With so many knee surgeries in his past, Zink says he sees it as a privilege to be able to run at all.
As Zink’s career has gone on, he has taken his more preparatory approach to heart. But with age comes added responsibility, as well, from family to business. This year he took YT Industries to the United States and has continued running his grip company, Sensus. This winter, though, some of that will change, as he has hired people to help him run the business side.
“I really enjoy it,” he says about the business world. “I look up to people in business just as I do in riding. I appreciate it and I love it, but I want to put it on hold for a little bit. The best thing you can do in business: Hire someone who is smarter than you.”
This winter, Zink plans to spend less time focused on business and more time on riding. Expect Zink to get time on his bike. It will make him a better rider. It might even help him flip farther.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and training for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.