In early May of this year, Jason Clary returned to the saddle of competition for the first time since 2012, at Red Bull ‘Ride N Style’, taking 1st place. And a week and a half ago, signed with Mehdi Farsi of State Bicycle joining the ranks with Craig Streit and Scott Piercefield.
With the passing of his Mother and marrying his girlfriend, the last eight months for Jason have been extremely turbulent.
Jason tells me that he “just didn’t have the heart. I’d get on my bike but I didn’t have the passion or that edge that it takes to put yourself out there to win races. I wasn’t going to participate in Red Bull Ride N Style. I was at the point where I was really slowing down, but my father and my wife and my friends all came out to the race. They all got behind me. It wasn’t training, it was just heart and I exceeded everyone’s expectations, even my own.”
Brief History Lesson:
“My father motor-crossed and introduced me to cycling because of his injuries. I BMXed in the ABA from ages 7 to 16. In high school, I got more into skateboarding and street BMX riding.
“Fast forward a little bit to my early twenties when I broke my shoulder skateboarding, I started cross training on fixed gear bikes without really knowing about the subculture. I just really like riding track bikes: the clean lines and not having a lot of components. I was managing a dealership in Fremont, California, and commuting by bike from the city when I did my first alley cat, East Bay Mice Summer Series in 2006. I ended up doing really well.
“At the time, a good friend from high school was working for Broakland Bicycles, based out of Oakland, so I moved to Oakland and got sponsored by Brooklyn Bicycles. I was doing both sides, I was competitive on my road bike and still doing tricks on my track bike before they morphed into these BMX trick bikes.”
And then, Jason started working for Zip Car. “It was not a real bike messengering job, but I was on the bike for a couple of years in the city as a fleet technician and got to delegate all the tasks for the Zip Car fleets on bicycles. This opened a lot of doors in the city and I was hanging out with the MASH guys and I just ran with it. I always attribute where I am today with MASH. Some of those guys are my best friends and they inspired me. In the early years, I didn’t know how to skid, I didn’t know how to stop, I hate to say it, but I mimicked their stuff. I faked it till I made it.
In 2008, Jason was a part of a video called “No Cassettes,” which was produced by Chris Fonseca. Once its release in 2009, Jason tells me he closed this part of his life and began to switch avenues.
Red Bull’s ‘Ride N Style’:
“In 2011, for the Red Bull first ever Ride N Style, they didn’t have open qualifiers, it was who they picked to race, who they wanted to participate. When the race came up, I wasn’t chosen for it. It was a mixture of the most competitive riders and the some of the biggest names in the scene.
“Rainier Schaefer didn’t want to race, so I took his spot as an alternate and my best friend Kell Mckenzie, he took James Newman’s spot. I took first place and Kell took second. This win put me in a professional status rather than just another street racer. It was nice because we weren’t supposed to be in the event and it opened a lot of doors for me.
“The feeling of taking first was great because my parents were there, and at that point I was in my mid-twenties and they were kinda rocky. I was trying to find myself and things weren’t working out the way I expected
After Jason won the Red Bull race in 2011, he rode with LDG, Livery Design Gruppe out of Hunting Beach, for about a year and then switched over to an independent company in 2012.
Riding & life in & outside America:
“I have been to South East Asia and Puerto Rico, Malaysia, Indonesia – getting out of the country really gave me a whole new perspective on life.
“I come from a skate background and I hate to say it, but skaters are kind of cliquey, they don’t really share spots, the camaraderie isn’t the same. In the cycling scene, it’s better. I’m kind of biased because they know me when I visit these countries so they treat me really well. But they have their trick bike, their BMX bike, fixed gear free-style or track bike or skateboard – they’re a little more open and I just see within their crews they help each other out. Everyone I see does more with less. They make less money, work harder. And in Malaysia, especially where I went to the Kuala Lumpur International Fixed Gear Tournament – these guys, they don’t drink, they don’t party like we do, they just seem like they have more of a positive outlook on life. And it’s kind of nice when I get out of my day to day world and I get to touch base with these guys’ points of view and when I come back to the states, I get to bring that with me.”
Jason on Body English in Track vs. Road Bikes:
“Fixed gear is a subculture and the demographic that we’re going with is not as big as road cycling or even skateboarding, but I don’t see it stopping. I’ve had my track bike for years, I always go back to riding my track bike. Coming from a motorcycle discipline, my Dad always said, “body english.” I feel like on a track bike you have more control if it’s going into a slide. We live in that blind spot and being able to control your bike, the revolution of the back wheel and being able to have that “body english” is its skid sliding or doing a wheelie or popping up the curb, I feel like a track bike is easier than a road bike, at least for me, especially after all the time I’ve spent on one. At any point of the cadence or revolution of the cranks you can bunny hop or do a wheelie, but with a road bike, you don’t have that positive feedback from the cranks.
“The bikes are our paintbrush and the streets are our canvas,” Jason muses. I don’t know where I pulled that – from somebody. It was in my interview in Urban Velo.”
On Sanctioned Races and Pro Status:
“I don’t do any sanctioned races although I do race against category racers. I’ve done the Red Hook Crit and I’ve done a Crit race in Puerto Rico. My teammates are Craig Streit and Scott Peterson who are CAT 1 racers. I’ve raced in the velodrome in Asia, but I don’t have a license.
“In my eyes, after all the time and dedication that I have put in on the bike, I am pro, but as far as any certification, I’m not. I don’t see that any time soon they are going to sanction street races, alley cats or sprints – the stuff that I do. There’s always been that kind of feud between those who are category racers in the Wolfpack Marathon Crash Race, but I hang with the category racers, so….. what does that make me? Just because I don’t CAT up, does that not make me the same level?
“I’ll tell you this from the bottom of my heart, I’m the epitome of a street bike rider and I’ve always wanted to keep it that way. It’s not that I don’t want to ride crits, it’s just that I like riding in the street. There’s more dynamic, there’s more going on. I do the crits because that’s part of my sponsorship, but that’s not what I get off on. What I get off on: riding in different cities through the thickest traffic, in the most sketchiest times of day.”
Being a Roll Model:
“There are some races in Kuala Lumpur and the people there follow Macaframa and MASH and all of us. I can’t even have my messages on my Facebook turned on because the fans, the kids, they contact me, they really look up to me. They’re like, “When are you coming back to Malaysia?”
“And I’ve noticed that even with me, I’m going to be 31 in August, and I’ve been skating for almost twenty years, riding track bikes for over a decade now and even I looked up to some of the most famous skaters. It’s nice when they respond or instagram or facebook. A lot of the guys I’ve always looked up to, it’s like, “Dude, you’re at the same level.” So, when you’re a younger guy and you just reach out cause you want to talk to somebody about gear ratio or what chainring your using or tire, I try my best to get back to the kids. I really hope that I can make a positive impact.
“I’ve had some really off the wall questions and even if it is off the wall, I try my best to be a positive roll model for these kids, especially in these countries where they feed off the internet, they want to be so Americanized: the style and the dress and the bicycles we ride.
These kids will tag me in these photos and they’ll say, when they grow up, they want to be like me, I’m their idol – I don’t want to come off as narcissistic – but when I wake up in the morning and someone on the other side of the world says that who I am changes the way they feel and inspires them, that’s what makes me want to ride harder and continue to do what I do and try to make the urban racing scene grow.
“I guess looking back, professional riders and skaters that were mean to me, it really set a precedence – I didn’t want to be that way. I mean, plus, I’m not that way.”
Loves about Cycling:
“When I get off the plane and I’m in some random country and I don’t know where to go, so I build my bike and then sprint out into the streets with heavy traffic accompanied by new friends – that’s what I live for. I’m a creature of change. Cycling has opened so many doors of opportunity. I’m really excited about State Bicycle because I think they’re going to make it possible for me to continue to travel the world, which is pretty much my main objective.”
on Wolfpack Hustle:
Jason has raced the 2010, 2011, 2012 Wolfpack Crash Race. Looking back on the 2012 Crash race, he tells me:
“I trained for that race. I was with the lead pack. I was doing really well and then, they had the false start and we all got strung out. I ended up getting tenth fixed that year.
“I have mixed feelings about that race. I’m always going to go back to the street side of it, I loved it! It’s really intense, it’s sketchy and scary, but it’s hard.
“Going back to sanctioned bike races where you’ve got people like me who know how to ride and then you’ve got the kids that are out there not holding their line. I saw a kid take out a stop sign at full speed.
“I think it’s a great race and I think it should continue. I’m always wholeheartedly behind Don (Roadblock) and anything that has to do with Wolfpack because I think the image is great. Don is trying to create something that isn’t anywhere else, only in Los Angeles.”
“In the last month, Mehdi Farsi, of State Bicycle, put the Wolfpack CVC CTR CRIT on my calendar. So, I’ve been doing training for the past couple weeks, putting my nose to the bar, making sure I’m going to look decent out there and become that professional bike rider again, live up to my reputation – get back into it!”
“I’m a little apprehensive about the firepower that’s coming out to this race, but I’m just gonna take it like I always do and go out there, smile and have fun. If I’m not having fun, I’m doing something wrong.”
“In my heart, I’m a racer. Riding is my passion. Anything with wheels. As long as I’m on the bike my life works out right. Bottom line, I’m going to keep riding as long as I can.”