This article comes straight from Issue 23 of FreestyleXtreme Magazine. You can get a printed copy of the magazine for free with any order placed in our online store (don't forget to request one at the checkout) or read the digital version below. Words by Pete Scullion and Jamie Edwards.
Photo: Matt Butterworth
Reece Wallace is one of the most talented freeride mountain bike riders on the planet. His education in Calgary, Alberta set him on a course of big lines, big jumps, Red Bull Rampage and ultimately to live the double-edged-dream of riding professionally. With the off-season in full swing we caught up with Reece for a chat about his journey so far and his plans for the future.
What was it like growing up as a rider in ‘Cowtown’ (Calgary, Alberta)?
I always felt out of place in Calgary. Not only is it cold as balls, but it had a real disconnect from extreme sports - or any sport which wasn’t hockey at the time. No one took mountain biking seriously. Being cold, frozen, and dark for half the year didn’t help either.
This resulted in almost nowhere to ride. We had a couple spots, COP, Millennium and a few local janky jumps spots my crew and I built. They were few and between.
A typical day for me would be stealing my mom’s shovels, taking the train 45 minutes and digging and riding in the south. It also involved my mom yelling at me when the jumps were ploughed and the city removed all her tools. Sorry mom!
That said, it wasn’t Calgary’s riding which made it a great place, it was the people. I had a large group of friends I met through riding who I still keep in touch with. I haven’t made any friends like that since living in BC. In fact, most of them have moved here to pursue biking in some regards. You don’t have a choice where you’re born, but you can choose how to deal with it and where you’ll end up.
So how did Calgary’s riding scene shape you as a rider?
Calgary was its own little bubble. No one was fighting for sponsors or trying to make it pro. There were no external pressures like pushy parents or contests. People rode because they wanted to ride. We sent it because we wanted to send it.
Calgary shaped me in such a way that I just love mountain biking, and it’s this mindset which keeps me going today. Alberta is a love/hate relationship.
And was it an easy choice to leave home for the Rockies on?
Yeah, it was. I wanted to be in BC to ride bigger jumps and get amongst the scene.
After high school, I worked full time throughout the summer and winter to save $2500 and moved to Whistler the following April with my girlfriend.
And when did you realise riding bikes might be more than just a hobby for you?
During university. My love for bikes outweighed most things, and I wasn’t too keen on doing anything else. I remember putting lots of time and effort into studying things I didn’t care about, and thought, “what the f**k am I doing?”.
I finished uni and decided to make riding bikes happen. Little did I know at the time, my communications degree has been integral in riding bikes professionally. Because yes, you have to know how to write an email or two.
You’ve ridden for Giant for a few years now, how did that come about?
Yup, five years with Giant.
It started when I pulled the classic grom move and went to Interbike looking for a sponsor (which FYI kids, doesn’t work about 99% of the time).
I made the rounds and stopped by Giant’s booth about five times, but the Team Manager was never there. I think on the sixth time, Brad (the Team Manager at the time) sat me down and said “hey kid, I like your persistence and think it speaks to your character. I’ll help you out with some bikes next year if you can’t find anything else”. So that was it. I got bikes from Giant my first year, and have worked my way up with them ever since.
What’s special about the Giant relationship that’s made you stick with them for so long?
Besides having the best bikes, it’s the people. I respect their vision and ideas when we create content, and our ability to collaborate keeps the fire burning inside to always create better videos which portray my riding and their bikes in the best light.
2015 was your first Red Bull Rampage start. What preparation did you do for that event and can you really fully prepare for the madness that is?
In 2014, I dug for Brandon Semenuk. Within a few days, I knew I didn’t want to be digging a line for someone else, I wanted to be back there riding.
The following spring, I went back to Utah for a few weeks and built my own features for a Chromag video. I submitted the video and was invited to Rampage the following fall.
Photo: Matt Butterworth
Do you prefer to build lines that are massive senders, or super technical riding, or a mixture?
A mixture, freeride requires both. We’re not racers, and we’re not dirt jumpers. I don’t want to see a line which goes straight to the bottom with no airs. I also don’t want to see DH bike do slopestyle which is the way I think Rampage is heading. Doing both, like Sorge, is what makes a successful run.
Did you dig your line on your own, or did you have a group of people to help make the line a reality?
2015 was a bit of a s**t show. It was the second year on the same venue, and the site was tapped out. My crew and I built an entirely fresh line, but it was bottle necked on both sides from other riders.
It wasn’t the line I wanted to do but Rampage riders aren’t too keen on sharing anything so I made the best with what I had. I want to come back in 2018 for another shot.
Do you think the rewards for winning Rampage justify the risks you need to take to win?
It depends on how you look at it. If you’re doing it for the money, then no, not worth it. You could work at McDonald’s and make more.
That said, no amount of money can compare to personal satisfaction. This is why I want back in.
Which riders have you competed against that inspire you to up your game?
Brandon Semenuk, Sam Reynolds and Oszkar Nagy.
Let’s talk 2018. What have you got planned for the year coming up?
More videos and hopefully Rampage. I just returned from a trip to New Zealand, and I have a new project for Giant dropping in two weeks. Then, I’m off to Utah to film a video to try to get back into Rampage. Once home, it’ll be more building and shooting.
I’ll also be attending a few Crankworx stops, but mainly just doing the whip-offs and filming.
Which of your previous videos are you most proud of?
‘Yeah Loops’ filmed by Matt Butterworth. Kamloops is my favourite place to ride, and I got almost all the lines I wanted for the video. Matt’s a wizard and tied it all together in a way which portrays me best.
Everyone is different and needs a bike to feel a certain way, can you describe how you set up your bike? And is it any different for competitions?
Depends on the bike. For example, in the winter I run tubeless mud tires on my Glory and a lighter rear spring. I also run the levers closer to the bars. It’s because I mainly ride steep, wet, and muddy trails. Whereas in the summer, I run tubes, harder tires, and a stiffer spring and fork. All of my suspension is custom-valved so I can run them as stiff as possible, while still having slow rebound.
What else have you got coming up in 2018 that you’re most excited about?
Right now, I’m still in the brainstorming phases but I’m looking forward to filming more free ride videos and creating cool content for everyone out there to enjoy! Hoping to top the year off with Rampage in the fall.
Any parting advice for anyone trying to do what you’re doing?
It sounds simple, but Brandon told me when I was 18 to just keep having fun and things will fall into place. I’ve stuck with this and it’s worked for me!