Here we go with the second part of our new interview series of “Talking with the Champ” with Patrick Schweika from Suzuki Nine Knights! This time it’s a bit longer but we had a great time talking and never could tell time flew so fast so you better have a couple of drinks ready to read through all of it!
Patrick Schweika: Coming back to the main question, this winter I’ve decided to move to Barcelona to get comfy with my riding for this year and learn couple new tricks. It felt really good when I get to the first competitions later on but it doesn’t fell the same, you know? When I am riding my friends I am having great time doing my tricks and I am on point but I am not a guy that put his riding under pressure. When I am riding contest I am not really stressed, maybe due to my experience? When I first started competition I had huge expectations about my riding and skills. It was not about others, I just wanted to show my best but it wasn’t always going by my hopes. I was bummed after first ones where I didn’t ride like I wanted. I don’t see the benefit of travelling whole year to contests doing my thing and then you get maybe 20th or 30th and have two photos. So for now as I am getting more used to my big bike I prefer to go for photoshootings for magazines or stack clips. Focus more on my own riding and get more into events like Nine Knights and Fest Series. Where you finally have proper air time.
Yeah, Fest Series would feat you for sure! It would be good to see some proper flatspins there!
Yeah, it would be so nice and I am really looking forward but you know, Fest Series I like a little family and it’s super hard to get into it, but I think I will slowly get there (laugh).
Did you buy beers to Niko to sneak in?
Yeah (laugh). We are going to build a bike park here in Germany next year together so we have tons of time to get used to each other and maybe it will work out. Guys from Darkfest already invited me to their spot next year, but as I need to cover all the expenses on my own I need to figure out how to do it.
If you figure it out, let me know because I also need to get there (laugh)! We could fly together from Munich! But just coming back to the Nine Knights a bit, what was your plan for the week, as you started off the right foot stomping tricks on the first day?
Yeah, I was in a good shape as I was guiding youth bike camps in Winterberg so I was already tuned in my big bike at that point. I had experience from last year and the main parts of the course didn’t change that much, so it was like: “Ok, nothing changed I have just to get into the mindset to shred”. Then you are comfy with it. So I decided to do it on the first day right away. Just to have it done already. After you get comfy with big jumps and spins it really makes it easier later on.
You don’t seem to worry much, stomping spins on the first try and then landing cork 720 on an airbag. Also even though the Big Bertha party started pretty late into the week due to the speed problems after rainfalls, you did a 360 flatspin no problem on it! But still, there is not a lot of footage on the net about you riding big bikes. As I closely watch your social for past few years, you are mostly known for dirt jumping and slopestyle not like a proper freeride rider. How come?
When I got there on Monday the only things running for me was Suzuki trick jump and Sendolf kickair to get comfy again with everything, I did my tricks there and I know I can pull them anywhere from then on. My big plan was to have a trick session on Big Bertha but unfortunately, we didn’t spend much time there. Same with trying cork 720 – I crashed on it and didn’t feel like trying more so I could ride through the last days. Well, a reason why nobody was seeing my big bike riding is pretty simple. I rode on it for myself and never urged myself to bring a photo person or make an edit as I was in the “I am a dirt jumper” mindset. You may not know it but I’ ve started freeriding in like 2003? Funny fact has I never had problems with switching bikes. If my bike was broken I borrowed any possible one and was right into it. It takes me maybe 5 minutes to get used to a new bike and I can go and try anything with it right away.
Well, I guess that’s how it supposed to be when you are considered a pro, not bitching about bar size, tire pressure or geometry.
Yeah, a bike is a bike. It has 2 wheels, a handlebar and a frame and some shit in between.
Can you compare Nine Knights event to anything you have taken part in through the year?
No. Well, maybe a bit of Fest Series because it’s more about riding with friends and focusing on gathering great content instead of a proper contest or something. Nine Knights is different league compared to other events. They really look after you, not put pressure on you there, the hotel is booked, food is outstanding. Everything is sorted. You just need to focus on riding. It’s like riding with friends at home. But there are whole week world’s best photographers, videographers.
Yup, you got tons of footage from your riding just after a week there as you can simply focus on what’s important and don’t give a shit about work or whatever. Keeping your mind on the moment. For me, Nine Knights is like “work & travel” holidays when you have the best time of the year with your mates while still stacking great content daily.
Exactly. Holidays with friends, jumps and good times! It’s sick as Sam and Clemens are building such a decent features you simply love them. Normally when you go to a contest or a new spot you always fight with weird construction ideas. At Nine Knight’s you drop in and everything is perfect. Or how you would love to have it (laugh).
A bit off topic right now – how do you see MTB scene. Everybody is pretty much contest focused right now. If you watch social media, there are just people’s content from one contest till another happen. We have a few “film only” riders compared to the first group, like Semenuk or people who want to balance it – Rheeder, with their own video projects. My question is why MTB gravity scene is so concerned about riding to get sponsored due to the price of parts and do it by contest riding nowadays, rather than focusing on riding for themselves?
The main problem I think is the industry has not yet discovered that pattern. The rider who is doing a media project with a company or media is way more important than riding a contest – regarding the impact he is doing on reach. It’s still flat facts that rule the sponsorship programs. More like in the racing scene. You need to have results from FMB World Tour and probably be in top 10 to ask for decent sponsorship – even just to cover expenses on the following the tour itself. But on the other hand, if you ask somebody who won the FMB World Tour for the past years, nobody really remembers.
It’s changing in the moment a bit but we are not where we should be. Comparing it to the skateboarding model, surfing or BMX there are companies that have already realized that social media and just media at all content is much more valuable than rankings. We are the turning point at the moment but most of the companies still didn’t realize it.
Just like we spoke before on the road to Nine Knights. Skateboarders usually stack clips for months or years before relieving a project live that lasts sometimes over 10 minutes. One edit per two years? In MTB you would be kicked off the team for such moves. Even though you have been feeding social with for example B-rolls or Instagram footage. But the public still expects that the final project will be like a movie premiere or go to the theatre. It showcases your best over two years of work, that’s heavy shit. We, on the other hand, have a new vlogging style of showing your work. How you dig that?
Just like I have said before, it should be all about good media content, and vlogging is not that type at all. It’s just like stacking whatever comes on film and releasing it in short term. Nobody really cares about the content behind it. There are a growing number of German riders doing that…
I think it’s a worldwide problem.
Well, you need to think which people do you reach with your content. YouTube is a hell of a place to put stuff too but it’s super big on another side. If you produce good content, put it on quality pages like PlusSizeBMX (he really said that). You reach like-minded people there. These people know how hard is to stack clips, they buy bikes or parts etc. For YouTube you reach 10 to 17 years old kids I guess.
Yeah, the Z-generation. People born after 2000 or so.
When I talk with my cousins who are in this age, they told me they don’t watch any TV at all. They only watch YouTube. New generation won’t probably know about the existence of E-Bikes until they see one. These kids won’t spend 5000 euro on a single bike. So companies that support vloggers pretty much dump they money in my opinion. Like SRAM won’t ever sponsor a vlogging rider for instance.
Well, I think it also comes from a tendency that people in vlogs don’t ride that good? When you meet them in real life, 90% of them simply sucks on bikes. It’s really common when you go to dirt jumping contests and see vloggers trying to ride. They really spend not enough time on their bikes.
Well, don’t get me wrong, there are some riders who are really killing it and still doing vlogs – Sam Pilgrim for example. But he started doing vlogs when nobody was out there with that format.
I think Sam started it just after he becomes FMB World Champ but he made it so natural and fun you simply enjoyed watching his toothless smile after each crazy idea. His life is so entertaining that’s it’s easy to gather good clips. A lot of riders don’t have enough proper clips in 10 wasted minutes of your life. Nobody cares what you ate for dinner or how your bleached your hair.
If you are not doing it for the views or clicks and you simply have a crazy life – another good example would be R. Willy from Nitro Circus it’s worth it. But that is a natural way not pushing it.
That’s what’s up. When I started getting into the scene like 12 years ago it was mostly for renegades and outlaws. You wanted to prove yourself, kill time with it or simply get shitfaced with homies with bikes as the reason. Space out from your problems. Now it’s so popular to be connected with extreme sports scene people pretty much use it as a thing to shine, even while not doing anything extreme. Just like with longboarding on flat – it’s close to skateboarding but well, you simply push wood on flat bro, there is nothing extreme about it until you go downhill. They are just posers. How do you feel about the generation that runs in Vans and wears Thrasher while not even possessing a skateboard?
In the end, it’s a very personal thing and people need to find it by themselves how they want to go through life. I don’t want to judge people who are doing above. Kids who wear Vans and Thrasher – it’s not even their choice pretty much, we have started doing it, pros made it cool and they just want to jump on that train. I don’t like in the end because people who get little to the scene, started riding and stuff and did it for money, really destroyed the scene. Like if I was booked for a show and tell my price for doing it, the organizer will laugh and tell me he can get 10 kids to do the same for that. Because they make it for free just to shine. It’s way worse than people buying products. Well, if more people buy Thrasher stuff, the company has some real money to back real riders. It’s weird to watch when you know the story behind it, but in the end, it keeps the sport going. That’s probably why skateboarding is really popular and with big money behind contracts. Like, everybody has Vans at home. It’s more like a lifestyle.
Right, you pretty much wear stuff that makes you feel like being in a group. It socializes you. Back in a day baggy jeans, big shoes now skinny jeans and slim look.
Yeah, it turned more into the fashion point.
You want to be a part of the lifestyle that is cool. So when you cruise through the shop or use public transport people will now realize you are into extreme sports. It may seem cheap, but sometimes it helps with meeting new like-minded people.
Right but is that even a question right now?
Nah, we spaced out again (laugh). So regarding Nine Knights – did you ever won anything apart from Ruler of the Week title, which is pretty much the holy grail there?
No, I was couple times nominated for Best Trick or GoPro contests. Maybe the best whip couple of years ago? But, never won one. Sometimes I was a bit sad about it, especially in best photo/video, because I was really stacking clips with Fishy over the week and was pretty sure it will be good. I was never really pissed about it as the stuff that won categories was always mind-blowing, but I thought, not regarding showed tricks, but the photo or clip as a whole, that my stuff was more decent and better produced. Sometimes it felt like winners are close with the judges. When I was the first time at Nine Knights, I was not really known and didn’t know everybody. There were like FMB riders together, French gang – little families. I never won anything so to win whole week is pretty much mind-blowing.
But as the scene is pretty much small, do you think it would be a good idea to make more events where riders really have time to get along and get to know each other? That’s why Nine Knight really stands out – you finally have time for such things.
Yeah, if you meet a person at the contest, he is really focused on his own thing. Completely different than in real life. It’s not like he is a bad person, he is not in an environment to chill.
That’s the problem as we have so many contests in Europe but people don’t really know each other if they are not on the scene for ages because they meet new kids, who are so stressed about their runs, they don’t act normal. If you drive whole night to the contest that it few hundreds of kilometres away, ate some shitty fast food just to be at the training in the morning because you can’t afford a hotel as most of them are paying their own expenses. Then you have maybe two runs to prove your best in front of the people you look up to and crowd you don’t know. It can’t work.
Exactly, you definitely meet different characters at Nine Knights than during the normal events.
Do you think there should be more invitational contests where sponsors or parents could help with sleeping space and food, so riders really have a chance to know each other? That’s pretty much what Fest Series power is all about. Imagine a scenario where you have 3 days, anywhere in the world, no budget limit – how would you organize such thing?
I did it already at my homespot before I moved to my new place. It was called a “Shnigshnuk Jam“ (hope it’s written like it – Matt). Just a good spot, everybody sleeping at my place, I even found a party location but I couldn’t afford that much so not everything was covered. We just had a great day of riding with local photographers and filmers capturing everything and that’s a way it should be. If somebody gave me a million of dollars, I wouldn’t need to spend it all. Just to cover everybody’s flights and whatever they would need just to make it for the event. Just like Nine Knights do. It’s that simple if you let people have fun together while riding and not making them worry about anything, their level of riding will explode.
Do you think our scene has the power to switch more into small, family-like events rather than chasing money in big competitions?
I think both are really important. Fest Series and Nine Knights prove there is a space for that but FMB World Tour and Crankworx Series are important for normal spectators. Most of the people don’t even know about our existence as a sport. So the judged events share the idea what’s and how people can differ riders by the skill level while broadcasted worldwide. It’s easier to understand rankings rather than parties and style moves. New media like Facebook, Instagram or YouTube make it also easier to get known by the mainstream folks.
What is more appealing for the new people to the scene? Having a jam at the local spot with probably few guys getting drunk and lighting a thrash bin while pogoing or streamed event with big prizes, live feed, and official ranking system?
Both are important. It’s all about passion so it’s good to see friends riding together and pushing each other, but on the other side, it’s good we have a competition where people compete with each other.
Do you ride with music to keep up with your mindset?
Nope, it’s too distracting and I love the sound of the bike and things around. It also about listening to yourself. A couple of years ago when I got one of my first sponsors, I put a lot of pressure on me to make the best out of it while now I know it was not really getting much in return. But after few months of not landing any new tricks or lines, I was mad at myself and sit down to reconsider “why this is happening”. And I figured out it’s because I am not having fun anymore. I don’t do it for myself. I’ve stopped smiling. Now when I go out for new tricks or to ride new place you can bet I will start with a smile when I drop in. Even if I don’t have the best mood, I smile. My mind is motivated to push myself and do it for my own goals, I never stop smiling while doing my thing!
So what is your advice for riders who made it to the edge where they sold their first photo for a t-shirt or got gas paid for going to the contest?
If you are already on the step to get sponsors and you feel the beginning pressure of it just think why you are in this position. How did you get there? Why do you ride bikes? For me was the fun of doing it so when I don’t feel it anymore I simply get back to my memories about what gave my that fun. I stop caring about the pressure. I do it for my own. If you are the only guy getting stoked on what you are doing, that’s fine. That’s you. Sponsoring happens on its own, just ride your bike and be a good person.
As we are pretty much few weeks after Eurobike and Interbike, do you have any advice how to approach new sponsors?
Start with thinking like “what kind of benefit this company will have in sponsoring me”. Make a proper plan about it, don’t rush it. Get ready for questions that may not feel nice, people may don’t even know your existence. Have facts straight and a plain offer. Have a portfolio. Companies love numbers. Get the circulation numbers from magazines or pages you appear at. Show your reach. Then send it to them and explain why they should back you and what are your future plans.
One last question, are you looking forward to next Nine Knights?
Hah, that’s an easy one. FOR SURE!
If you want o give a shout out to anyone, now is a good time mate.
Sure, I want to thank all my sponsors, because without them I couldn’t follow my passion on that level. Big shout out to Santa Cruz for giving me an opportunity to spin their V10 through the air. It’s funny because when I told you I don’t have a problem with switching bikes, this one was really far easier to play with! I also want to thank Nicko Zacek for being such a great person, caring about us all week and doing a fantastic job with his whole Nine Knights team!
Thank you for your time and let’s catch up later for some good times!
Looking for his past year performance at Nine Knights? Here you go!