Off Season | Brendan Fairclough

Joe Chafkin

PHOTOS: Amado Stachenfeld

LOCATION: United Kingdom

“I get psyched on old, shitty motorcycles on the road, and I get psyched on expensive, stupid bikes that ride off-road and get covered in shit. So all aspects, really, everything with two wheels.” -Brendan Fairclough

Professional downhill racer Brendan Fairclough is known for his innovative style. During the off season, he trains not only his body, but his spirit, developing the latter with leisurely rides separated entirely from the pressures of competition. It’s what gives his lively personality a certain mystique: asked about whether he feels he occupies a particular niche in the cycling community, he responded, “I guess so, but you can’t really put a tag on yourself.” Keen to learn more, we went out with Brendan Fairclough near his London home to observe how he operates, balancing two disparate definitions of cycling — as a profession, and as a hobby.

Without any particular goal in mind beyond having a good time, biking becomes a space for creative expression, returned to its original state — before the sponsorships, the traveling, the fame — again reserved for fun and self-reflection. Deviation fuels imagination, exposing new possibilities in all areas of life, demonstrating that there is always room for growth, that undiscovered pleasures will never cease to exist, even on the most well traveled paths. When we sacrifice our experience-fortified preconceptions to look through the lens of relaxed open-mindedness, we access an untapped and bottomless well of potential.

It is, of course, important to approach our commitments with a degree of seriousness if we want to succeed. But stepping away from these pursuits allows for growth outside of expectations, creating an opportunity to discover aspects we never knew existed. Writers’ block seems an apt metaphor for the creative stasis that people experience throughout their careers — we engage a medium so much that all alternatives appear to have been exhausted; its significance grows stale when outcome supersedes process. The best thing to do when the words aren’t coming is to step away, separate yourself. Upon returning, the task at hand seems less monolithic. There’s simply more to life than results, according to Brendan:

“I think these days, you’ve got to be pretty ignorant if you’re in this industry and think that it just relies on results. Because a result on a certain weekend has a shelf life, you know? Let’s say you win a World Cup: that’s going to last a week in the media these days, at the most. There’s a lot more benefit and a lot more reach if you can do other projects on the side — like movies and print media, projects with a longer shelf life.”

Brendan expands his scope as a professional cyclist by involving himself in new mediums altogether, and by trying out different sorts of bikes: “I get psyched on old, shitty motorcycles on the road, and I get psyched on expensive, stupid bikes that ride off-road and get covered in shit. So all aspects, really, everything with two wheels.” Taking alternate creative routes, we’re reminded of why we first started writing or riding — the freedom — and ideas suddenly begin to flow. Approaching our roles with less intensity can be a needed revelation, kindling the flame of youthful passion, refreshing worn tradition that has come with time and repetition to acquire fixed significance. Our routines will tire themselves out, provided we let them. As such, we must make a routine of breaking routine.

Through this process, Brendan Fairclough has sustained an unwavering passion for what he does and developed an unprecedented style of riding, garnering the support of sponsors who admire his reinvigorating influence over the bike community. His inspiring lifestyle emphasizes the importance of finding satisfaction outside of results — for personal development, for pursuing something seriously without sacrificing what attracted us in the first place. It’s what, over the years, has made professional competition sustainable for Fairclough.

“When I come back from a hard month away racing, I go out for a ride with my friends at home, so it’s definitely still a hobby, and definitely still what I enjoy most in the entire world.”