Chatham Islander a Freeride World in a Spin

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Changing room

From a girl who grew up roaming the Chathams on an off-road motorcycle, Robin Goomes now sets a new bar in the freeride mountain biking world – especially with her revolutionary backflips.

Robin Goomes didn’t own a pair of shoes until he was 14. She didn’t need it.

Growing up in the Chatham Islands, everyone got around in rubber boots.

And Goomes was always on two wheels. She remembers the freedom she had while cycling in this weather-beaten outpost known as New Zealand’s Last Frontier.

“Everyone knows everyone, and that’s really cool. We were just driving our strollers down the street in the middle of the night and it didn’t matter, ”she says.

At the age of 10, Goomes switched to motorcycles and hung out with the boys. There was no trail on the island to ride, so they spent hours roaring on farmland and on beaches.

“We just lived on our dirt bikes. We would go into the hills and build our own tracks and jumps. It was so cool, ”she says.

And it’s not a huge leap from those remote paddocks to where she now stands: the former soldier turned shuttle driver is taking the freeride mountain biking world in a dust storm.

This carefree childhood is a big part of why 25-year-old Goomes is practically fearless. Four months ago, she became the first woman in the world to land a backflip on a competitive mountain bike, at the Crankworx Innsbruck Speed ​​& Style event in Austria.

And not once. Six times. “Just because I knew I could,” she said.

This performance signaled a change in the sport. The world’s top riders say they will now need to improve their game to keep up with rookie rider Kiwi, who has paid her own way at competitions around the world in her first year abroad.

Right now, Goomes is in Canada, riding the final leg of the Crankworx BC tour on Silver Star Mountain. She will be home later this week (she reserved her MIQ spot well in advance).

His timing so far has been perfect. She kicked off her international mountain biking career when women’s freeriding started to soar.

During a brief six-week tour, Goomes also traveled to Germany to attend the Audi Nines, a famous freeride event where women were invited to ride alongside men for the first time.

The Kiwi was one of the top nine female mountain bikers chosen to practice slopestyle and freeride – a creative event rather than a competitive one. And she really had an impact.

The riders voted Goomes “Ruler of the Week” – the most impressive woman to pull off her tricks in the moonlight setting of a stone quarry in Hunsrück-Nahe. On the biggest jumps Goomes has ever tackled, she also pulled off a new trick – a “backflip-can side saddle lander”.

Contest organizers called her “absolutely unstoppable” throughout this week.

Robin Goomes shows off his tricks during a jump-jam session at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Canada. Photo: Photograph by Crankworx.

“It’s a big jam, it’s epic,” says Goomes. “The highlight of my life, I think.”

And she’s already packed a lot of highlights in her 25th birthday. “I lived a little, eh? ” she laughs.

From the land to the mountains

Generations of the Goomes family have lived in Rēkohu, Chatham Islands (663 inhabitants). Her maternal grandparents are among the many family members who still live there and she tries to return every two years.

Goomes was born in Christchurch and moved to the remote islands when she was five. “It was a really cool place to grow up,” she says.

But without a high school on any of the main islands, she and her sister returned to the mainland, living with their other grandmother in Christchurch for school terms.

Missing his mountain bike, Goomes discovered a BMX track less than a mile from his grandmother’s house. “So the best thing to do naturally was to start BMX,” she says.

She started racing nationally and continued through high school, even after her family moved to Auckland and she finished her school years at Takapuna Grammar.

Robin Goomes has fun during a slalom training in Innsbruck. Photo: Photograph by Crankworx.

Then she joined the New Zealand Army and experienced a “two-year lull” in her two-wheeled career. While based in Palmerston North, where she was Lance Corporal in the Engineer Corps, a friend in the forces convinced her to mountain biking on local trails.

“I had the worst bike and he took me on the toughest track ever. It was so steep and so scary, but I was really addicted, ”Goomes says. She bought a bike a week later and every weekend she traveled north to Rotorua to run in the forests.

After five years in the military, Goomes decided she seriously wanted to continue riding and left last year to settle in Rotorua. She got a job driving shuttles for a mountain bike rental company in Whakarewarewa Forest.

“I would work three days a week and then I would drive and train,” Goomes says. Last summer, she traveled to the South Island to make the most of the national mountain bike racing season.

There, she was invited to a women-only mountain bike progression camp in Queenstown – the first of its kind – where 10 riders received help advancing their tips and techniques. It was also about treating women mountain bikers in a more professional and empowering way.

It put me on the path I’m on now, ”says Goomes. “There were such good vibes, all the girls were pushing each other to learn new tricks.”

It was then that she decided to make a career off the coast. “I was doing well in New Zealand, but you never know how it compares to the rest of the world,” she said. “I could be the worst runner in the world, but I’ll never know unless I go and do it. So I had to take this risk.

So Goomes got vaccinated against Covid-19 and in June traveled to Formation, a groundbreaking event for women’s freeride mountain biking, in Virgin, Utah.

She was invited as a digger – a reserve rider who, armed with a shovel, digs lines and builds jumps for their team rider.

Robin Goomes learned so much as a digger at the Training women’s freeride event in Utah this year. Photo: provided.

“It was a door opener,” Goomes says. “I also rode a bicycle, and from there I should definitely have a place as a rider next year.” She also crashed while trying to complete a backflip – and knocked herself unconscious.

The backflip

Fortunately, with no signs of a concussion, Goomes continued to run in Austria, where she met her Kiwi partner, Kieran Watkins.

“He rides, he doesn’t really race, but he came just to support me,” she said. “Crankworx is on full blast – I had three bikes, and it was event after event. There’s only a 30-minute gap between races, so I was really under the pump. food, water, bikes and everything sorted out. It was too good. “

His support did the trick. Goomes won his first international event – the Crankworx Innsbruck (turning the bike sideways in the air in a jump), which doubled as the European Championships.

Then she rocked the mountain biking world, pulling off the revolutionary backflip in the speed and style event.

“I taught them two years ago to use an airbag and never did anything with it,” says Goomes. “It was until last summer in Queenstown, where there were some good jumps and I started doing lots of them.

“I wanted to do it in Innsbruck, but I knew it wouldn’t score well – it wasn’t even on our scoresheet. I just wanted to do it, because I knew I could. It was cool, there was so much hype. I haven’t had any broken bones yet, touch wood.

Goomes made a quick trip home to New Zealand, then left again in August for events in Germany and Canada, where she racked up a handful of top five spots in the professional women’s events.

Robin Goomes competes in the downhill race at Crankworx Innsbruck. Photo: Photograph by Crankworx.

While Goomes is also good at downhill, she decided to go freeride.

“It’s still pretty funny – a year ago I was doing tricks because it was fun. I didn’t really know what freeriding was because it was almost non-existent for women. It’s only getting to a point where we could make a career out of it, ”she said.

Goomes has dug deep into her savings to pay for her trips so far (although she has also won the $ 10,000 Mark Dunlop Memorial Scholarship – to help Kiwi mountain bikers take to the world stage, and received a donation of £ 1,000 from English racers Bex Baraona and Martha Gill to help her get to the Audi Nines).

“With the military you make a lot of money and don’t spend a lot, so I got to a point where I could do that stuff. Now I blew the budget, ”she laughs. “This year was my chance to do something good and to be chosen by the sponsors for next year.

“I want to go to the top. There is so much room for this sport to develop for women, and I’m quite keen to help push it as far as possible. I have a full list of things I want to learn and keep pushing the sport. And ideally make it a job too.

Once out of MIQ, she will be directly involved in the New Zealand leg of the Crankworx World Tour, at her home in Rotorua on November 3. She will then be behind the wheel of the shuttle again.

Goomes hopes to return to the Chatham Islands when she can.

“Someday I would like to go back and take my bike and build a track for the kids there,” she says. “This is the dream.”

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