Spencer Rathkamp will ride just about anything with two wheels. He grew up turning throttles, not pedals. It was only a chance meeting with a photographer from HI Torque Publications, who own both cycling and motocross magazines, that caused Spencer to even consider riding a bike without an engine. Spencer recalls that, when the photographer asked him to model for a shoot that needed someone to ride jumps on a bike ,“I was more than pumped to partake”.
He wasn’t so pumped when he turned up to his first high school mountain bike league practice and found himself to be the only person not in lycra. He recalls thinking “that stuff was so appalling”, but the rest of the sport appealed to him. Spencer’s first mountain bike ride was less than auspicious “My first mountain bike ride was with my best friend, RJ Wageman. He is a professional motocross racer and uses mountain bikes as a cross training tool. He convinced me to go on a ride with him one day, so I hopped on his father’s clunker. Halfway up the climb, the crank arm fell off, so I turned around and kick pushed the way home. I LOVED mountain bikes....” Despite feeling pretty ambivalent about the dress code, and his inauspicious first ride, Spencer stuck it out and grew to love cross country racing. Once he found a bike with crankarms that stayed attached, he met with the kind of success that comes with a love for the sport and great natural ability. Soon enough, he was winning local races and standing on podiums from Sea Otter to the National Championships.
Spencer quickly found that his weakness was climbing. “I could hold my own and podium or win a local race, but that didn't mean much to me. I wanted to be at the pinnacle, not looking up at them.” After dedicating a lot of time and effort to improving his weakness, he realized he might encounter more success playing to his strength, which was riding really fast downhill. That was when he found enduro racing and decided to give it a try at the Cat 1 national championships in Mammoth. He won.
Spencer can be found racing mostly enduro events around the world, but he’ll happily ride road, XC, gravel, or even team multisport events like the RockyMan in Brazil where he represented the US in MTB and BMX on the same courses used for the Olympic games. Spencer keeps it varied in order to keep it fun, he says that deep down he is happiest “popping wheelies with my friends.” These days, he sets his goals in terms of pleasure, not podiums. For 2019 Spencer says that “I am riding my bike in cool places, doing cool things and creating content that people will want to watch for a second time or inspire them to ride their bike, I will be happy.”
For such an accomplished rider, Spencer remains in touch with that kid who never looked at a push bike twice. He says he still pushes his skills and does thing on his bike that scare him every day. He’s also happy to bring new people into the sport that has given him years of pleasure. These days, he encourages kids to work on basic skills. “The dumb things that most people are too ahead of themselves to work on; bunnyhops, wheelies, nose wheelies, trackstands, etc. Those skills will help tremendously and translate onto the dirt quickly.” Hopefully, this approach will help encourage the next generation of Spencers to overcome their fear of lycra and get out on their bikes.