An interview with Steve Peat, December 15, 2007
Steve Peat manages to find the balance between fun and seriousness. He's sane, mature, and grown-up, with solid convictions and a strong moral code, but he also knows how to party, go fast downhill and have a good time. Tym Manley spoke with Peat in Spain while the two were on a trip together. Unfortunately, it was when the usually spirited Peat was suffering from a miserable cold.
The 33 year-old gravity rider has an impressive list of accomplishments on his resume. When asked if he could still get any better, he said, "Always. I wasn't really on top of my game last season [in 2006]. I started a lot of World Cups with niggling injuries. I was pretty consistent and happy with my season, but wasn't at my best."
The downhill scene is only getting more competitive over time. "I think we're always pushing to go faster and there are always ways to improve on everything and make everything faster," said Peat, a veteran competitor. "We keep pushing the boundaries - that'll go on forever."
On top of the tougher competition are the demands of his personal life. Peat said having a wife and child don't change how he races. "But it has affected the way I think about my whole life."
"I've never picked a loser. Some guys haven't done as good as others but not for want of trying." -Steve Peat about the riders he mentors
"It definitely gets harder. My life's a lot busier. I've got so much other stuff going on that it's harder to get the motivation to train in the winter."
Winning is just as important to Peat, but his family helps him keep it all in perspective. "At the end of the day I can go back to my wife and Jake and everything's rosy. The race just gets put behind me."
"Downhill racing is my job; it's definitely a job for me now," said Peat about his vocation. "I wouldn't say it's less important, but there are just other things that I have to do. I have to prioritise now."
The Mental Game
One of Peat's greatest assets has been his steadiness, even during times of stress. "I think one of my strengths is dealing with all the stuff around a race meeting; the things that can make you nervous or mess with your mind a little bit."
"I can put that behind me," said Peat, who said his approach just happens. "Nothing bugs me once I get in that start gate; I just get on with the job in hand. That's definitely one of my mental strengths."
Peat's focus is on the positive rather than the negative when the going does get tough. "When I start feeling nervous, there are little things I can do that will take my mind off it. I actually know what I've got to do if I start feeling nervous and start thinking about the competition or about a place on the track that I'm crashing on, so I can turn that round to positive thoughts."
In fact, it's all about converting negative thoughts into positive ones. "Say if I'm going through the track in my head and I keep getting stuck on a place where I've had trouble in practice, then I can get around that in my head and visualise the perfect run. People do it in their own little ways, but most people don't even know they're doing it."
Looking around and ahead
Peat doesn't limit himself to gravity riding. "I do all kinds of different training. I train on a road bike, my XC bike, at BMX tracks and in the gym. I'm more methodical about my training these days, though. Just from experience over the years, I know what makes me tick and I concentrate on that."
"I don't really analyse it [his weaknesses - ed.] that much. I just do the training that makes me feel better," said Peat. "I analyse some of it, but so long as I'm out there riding my bike and having fun, everything just comes. It's always been that way for me."
Although he said beforehand that he hoped to win, Peat finished 67th at the World Championships in Fort William, Scotland, but he's also looking ahead to more World Cups. "I've won 15 World Cups now. Nico (Nicolas Vouilloz, who for many years was the world's top downhiller) won 16 and I want to match his record and try to beat it." Peat finished third overall in the World Cup Series for 2007.
When asked about the end of his career, Peat said, "I don't see myself retiring any time soon. I've got another year with Santa Cruz after this one. And then, if I'm still enjoying myself, riding my bike and winning races, I'll carry on as long as it takes."
"I know it [Peat's life - ed.] looks really glamorous to some people and I'm certainly not knocking it, because I've done really well out of mountain biking and got to see some amazing places and earned good money out of it. I've got a good lifestyle out of riding my bike, which has always been fun to me the whole way through."
Mentoring the next generation
Over the years, Peat has picked out and brought on some top young racers, both personally and via Royal Racing. The best performing of those is currently Marc Beaumont, who was also sitting at the table during the interview. Others to benefit from his help include Neil Donoghue, Brendan Fairclough and Josh Bryceland.
"We started Royal as a clothing company and I wanted to put something back into the sport, pick some of the younger riders and pass on some of the experience that I've got, making it easier for them to get to the top. And it just went on from there, with more and more riders. It's been pretty interesting,"
Peat said there are no more new guys he's currently bringing along although there will likely be more. He joked, "I've never picked a loser. Some guys haven't done as good as others but not for want of trying."
Peat looks not only at the candidate riders, but also their background. "They've got to have a nice family behind them. There are too many MX dads running around the track and giving their kids shit, and that's not the style I want. I wanted it to be the Royal family - everyone mucks in and has fun with it."
He offered some advice for aspiring downhillers. "Go to some races and prove yourself before you even think of getting sponsored. Have fun and they'll come to you. I don't think any kid needs to train and get super serious until they're 15 or 16. Just ride your bike up until that age. Enjoy it."
Revealing a bit of his philosophy of life, Peat added that even though old guys may not be able to race to the same standard, "They can still try to have fun doing it. It doesn't matter. Everyone who wants to ride downhill should ride downhill. Who says you have to be good?" Not that that's something Peat has to worry about for now.
Read a previous interview with Steve Peat from 2006.