Fresh Start: Cody Matechuk Interview
The former street bike racing National Champion talks about trading pavement for powder, chasing backcountry and X Games glory in this Cody Matechuk interview, which took place last summer before he would go on to claim X Games Gold in 2018.
Featured image by Ryen Dunford
Fresh Start: Cody Matechuk Interview
Hometown: Cochrane, AB
Snow Bike Setup: Yamaha YZ450F, Yeti SnowMX 120, Tuned by Raze Motorsports, RMR Suspensions
MX Setup: Yamaha YZ450F, Tuned by LRX Performance, RMR Suspensions, Motovan Accessories
MSM: Obviously, someone who rides a snowbike at your level has experience riding motorcycles at a competitive level. What is your background in riding bikes?
CM: When I was three years old, I started in the moto side of things. I raced all through the ranks, getting up into mini-65s and -80s. In 2008, I went to full-time street bike racing on the national circuit. I was fourteen years old, riding an SV650 all over Canada. I won that championship, and then in 2009, I went into Amateur 600 and ended up getting that championship. When I was sixteen, in 2010, I turned pro, racing Pro Superbike and Pro 600. 2011 was my last year in street bikes, and I ended up racing Harley Davidsons in XR1200 Spec Class. I was close to wrapping up a championship there but I ended up having a DNF at one of the rounds that kind of put me out of the hunt. But we got second, and that was the last time I ever saw pavement.
Three summers ago, I decided to get back into moto lightly and last year I took it a little more seriously and built a moto program after my first year of [riding] snow bikes.
MSM: Were you ever into riding a sled? What made you first decide to throw a leg over a snow bike?
CM: I rode sleds for three years prior to getting a snow bike. I had been talking to Reagan [Sieg] and Brock [Hoyer], and basically they were telling me to buy a snow bike, that I’d love it and I wouldn’t want to go back. Finally, I bit the bullet and sold my sled. A week later I had a snow kit on and I was in the mountains. And I never looked back from there.
MSM: What size track do you run on your snow bike, and why?
CM: I pretty much run the short track all the time. I think the 129” track is an awesome track, just for me, [with the 120” track] you get that little bit extra out of a big drop, which is a big deal. Whereas if you were sticking to normal riding or trying to push drops that are 30-40 feet, the 129” is a great kit for it. But when you’re trying to push that extra 60, 70, 80 feet, you need everything you can get to your advantage. But [with the short track] there were definitely times when we had guys on sleds packing the trail up to places when it got deep.
MSM: What led up to your X Games invite?
CM: “We went full-tilt into last winter, especially when we got the news that X Games was [a snow bike event]. That really, really ramped everything up, put everyone into panic mode to get ready. We had to take our program and multiply it by ten to make it competitive. We focused on the racing and took it day-by-day.
Part of the invite was going down to Minnesota to qualify, and that was a story of its own with some of the setbacks that we had. Between a couple of crashes and some bad starts, it put us into the last-chance qualifiers.
We got into the main (pack?) in the back row, had a horrible start where I stalled in the second corner and was half a lap down, in seventeenth place. I ended up coming back to thirteenth for a red flag. They did a one-after-another restart like they do in Supercross—a rolling start—and from thirteenth, I ended up coming back and almost catching the leaders, up to third place. It was crazy, it was just hammer down, be aggressive, can’t seen anything and pin it. It was a dogfight all the way to the end, but we got that third place which earned us a spot in X Games.
MSM: Did racing on a national circuit in Canada prepare you for the experience of the X Games? What was it like to participate in the event?
CM: There’s one other event that I’ve been to that compares. When I was twelve—in the transition year before I went to big street bikes—we went to the World Metrakit Mini GP race in Valencia, Spain. It was a huge event and a crazy scene. Kids race motorcycles there like we play hockey here. Every ten-year-old is a full-blown racer. It was cool.
[X Games] was definitely surreal, but you get in the moment and you can’t really think of it that way. It’s just another race, just another set of guys. At the end of the day, you race the track—the people are the obstacles—and you do what you can.
Fresh Start: Cody Matechuk Interview
MSM: Do you prefer riding freestyle in the mountains or racing your snow bike?
CM: I definitely prefer the backcountry stuff. It’s where snow bikes belong. The freedom of what you can do on a snow bike compared to a sled, and the options you have—you can take a hill that’s been hit hundreds of times on a sled and you can come at it a completely different way on a snow bike and really get creative with it. And I think the creativity and imagination that you can put out onto the slope is the whole thing that gets me with snow bikes.
You go trail riding on a dirt bike, and you’re stuck to that trail, and you’re stuck to the surroundings. But as soon as you get on a snow bike, everything’s covered and unless it’s a straight drop, you can sidehill it. The options are just endless.
MSM: Describe your perfect day riding in the mountains. Do you have a favourite zone to ride, and why?
CM: I really, really like Revelstoke—especially for snow bikes. It seems like pretty much anywhere you go you can find stuff, with all the trees and the cliff features. But really, the perfect day is timing that bluebird after two weeks, three weeks of the mountain being socked in, and no one’s really been up there.
Hopefully that bluebird falls on a Monday or Tuesday when you don’t have too many people in town, and you get the whole mountain to yourself. You can’t get it any better than that. And you just start hammering down.
MSM: Which film crews did you shoot with this winter? How is a shoot day different from a day out riding for fun with your friends?
CM: We mainly filmed with Jaya [Lange] for the upcoming movie, Trax. Second to that, we filmed a little bit with Hickshow. We did a little bit of dabbling with Donovan Skelton from Slednecks, and also out on the coast for half a day with Pascal Gallant. I ended up having bike issues and had to go back down, so we didn’t get quite where we wanted there. Also, I should have some features in the Braaap film as well.
[Filming] is definitely a lot different. I bring buddies out once in a while that haven’t been out. They see all the big stuff being thrown down [in the films] and they want to come see it. They don’t usually come out and ride with us after that because they’re always getting yelled at not to ride anywhere!
We go into a new zone and you see all the fresh snow, and all you want to do is eat it up, destroy it. But when we’re filming, you can’t do that. We get into an area and try to plan everything, every track, to leave it as pristine as possible. So we’re always going around everything and really focusing on where we’re walking, where we’re putting our footprints.
We usually can’t even go in and check out landings. You’re trying to judge it based on other slopes that face the same direction and look the same. It’s all just to try and make that shot look as good as possible. Everything we do is to try to nail that money shot on the first one so you don’t have any tracks.
So as soon as you get some guy going in the background, revving up his sled and putting tracks right in your perfect backdrop—well, you can’t really have that. It’s more down to business. You’re there to film, and you’re there to make art and do big jumps, you’re not really there to explore anything. You get your exploring done on other days.
MSM: Have you set any goals for yourself for Winter 2018?
CM: I have a couple of big gaps and big drops that I didn’t get to check off [last winter]. That’s probably the first thing—as soon as the snow comes—some stuff that snow bikes and even sleds have never done. Then obviously, that X Games gold, that’s what we’re pushing for. That’s the crown jewel. Besides that, I’m hoping to put on some riding clinics, to give back to the sport and give some new riders the skills to develop.
MSM: Any shout outs?
CM: I would love to thank all that made this possible:
Yamaha Motor Canada, Yeti SnowMX, Raze Motorsports, Olympia Gear, ZOX Helmets, MOTOVAN, Cycleworks Foothills, RMR Suspensions, Merchant Services, Sosa Original Clothing, Toyo Tires, Coldwell Banker, Bike Binderz, Cochrane Floors & More, Hatt Automotive, iRev, Ryen Dunford Photography, Seat Concepts, LimeNine, CR Racing.
As well as everyone along my travels that have pitched in with a bed or a garage to work in, every step of the way; I will never forget.
Bring on the snow!