This is the first of our Rider Spotlight series where we will be taking a closer look at some different professional athletes. First up is our own rider, Max Morgan. We have been working with Max for two years now and he has been successful in increasing our brand awareness in both the states and abroad. You will find him competing in both the U.S. Pro Gravity Tour Series and the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup Series. Max has continued to show incredible speed and competitiveness on the bike while being a standup character in the sport. In the first episode of our rider spotlight, you can learn more about how Max got in to riding, his racing career, his education, and other hobbies. Be sure to check out all the rad photos!
Attacking the course at Leogang 2017 - Photo by Dave Trumpore
My name is Max Morgan, I'm 25 years old, I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and currently live in Brevard, North Carolina.
Home base for me right now is in Brevard, North Carolina. It's a great place to live and is littered with endless riding. We can ride right out of the house on trail bikes or road bikes and there are a few good downhill tracks close enough to stay busy. There are definitely a few cold days in the winter, but for the most part we can ride there year round. Having guys at home to ride with like Neko Mulally, Dakota Norton, and Jimmy Leslie makes things a lot of fun.
Racing the Mountain Creek ProGRT 2016 - Photo Jason Scheiding
When I was just beginning high school, I started riding my local hill outside of Atlanta called Big Creek. I met one of my best friends Nathan there and we started riding as much as we could. I learned so much from him right from the get go. With only 50 second runs, we were ready to jump off of anything we could. I entered my first downhill race at Big Creek that year and finished second behind the junior national champion at the time. From there I was hooked. The next year I raced at Beech Mountain, which is a decent size mountain, and I loved it. I've been racing every year since.
In 2010 I got the opportunity to race on the Morewood USA team as junior. The team was headed by 2007 U.S. downhill national champion, Geritt Beytagh. I was able to learn so much from Geritt traveling, riding and racing with him. Geritt taught me about "dancing" my bike down the hill. I shadowed him for that year and without him, I don't think I would have been as successful as I have been.
In 2014 I hired Christopher Herndon as a riding coach. He was always more than just a coach and is still a good friend of mine. He taught me so much about my own race craft, pacing myself over the course of a race weekend, and getting my skills to a higher level.
Neko Mulally is just one of my beaus. It helps to get faster when you are always riding with fast riders. We have ridden a bunch together over the last 3 years and he has always helped me with racing advice.
Riding through the Austrian Alps at the Leogang World Cup this year - Photo by Dave Trumpore
This past winter I spent a lot of time at Windrock Bike Park in Tennessee. It's turned in to a fun place to ride that I can always challenge myself at. That keeps things fresh. The two guys that run the park, Neko and Sean, have done some serious work on new and existing trails. They even hosted the first Pro GRT out there and I was bummed to miss it.
2014 World Champs in Hafjell, Norway. Racing worlds in 2014 has been one of my most memorable races so far. It was my goal that year to make the worlds team and ever since then I've been trying to get back there. My whole family actually made the trip over to come see me race and that was pretty special. I didn't really have the most outstanding finish or anything, it's just a race I look back on the most.
Max with his brother Sam in Hafjell, Norway
Sea Otter Dual Slalom 2017 - Photo by Mike Thomas
I went to college right after high school at Elon University in eastern North Carolina. I was there for 3 years before transferring to the University of Vermont. I spent 2 years at UVM before graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and in Physics. School definitely took a lot of time away from racing but I'm glad I did it the way I did. I finished my degree and now have that to sit on until racing is done for me. Handling both is doable as long as you manage your time well. Look at riders like Shane Leslie. He is finishing his business degree and racing all the world cups this year. Pretty rad. Stay in school.
Collegiate racing was some of the most fun racing I have ever been a part of! I loved it. Because of UVM cycling, I met some of the best people and the racing was always a blast. It is just a much more relaxed environment than what I was used to at the time and I think it put things in perspective for me. We could have had fun on any track we raced even if was a flat grass field, but being in Vermont we got to race some legit courses. I have always loved the competitiveness of racing and collegiate cycling put the fun back in to things for me. It's too bad I blew it at collegiate nationals both years! Haha
Collegiate Dual Slalom race 2014 - Photo by Brooks Curran
For 2017, I was given the opportunity to completely design the look of my Bell Full 9 helmet. How cool is that?! I have always wanted to design my own custom helmet, and when you are out on the track it is sweet riding in a one of a kind lid. I couldn't have done it without the help of my roommate Callie. She did all the artwork based on only a few sketches I had drawn up. The helmet isn't painted it is actually wrapped and unless you are holding it right in front of your face, you wouldn't even know. I'm really happy with how it came out and gets me even more stoked to ride every time I throw it on. With the help of the crew at Worldwide Cyclery, Bell, and Magik SC this is what we came up with!
This year I am on a size XL Santa Cruz V10. That thing rips! For me, there is no other feeling that being fully up to speed, pushing your own limits on a downhill bike. Even though today's trail bikes are so capable, I just can't find the same feeling than being flat out on my V10. I love that. I've got all my bikes set up with Industry Nine wheels, Fox suspension, Deity components, and Maxxis tires.
For a trail bike, I'm riding a size L Santa Cruz Hightower 29". This is actually the first 29er I have ever owned. So far, I have really enjoyed riding the Hightower. It seems to handle just about anything you throw at it. I have it set up with a 150mm Fox 36 up front and that seems to be the perfect match for me. I've seen people running both 140mm and 160mm forks on there and I'm stoked with the 150. It keeps the front in quick but still can handle the rough stuff!
Probably my favorite bike I have built up for myself in a long time is the Santa Cruz 5010 I have this year. At first, my buddy Kiran and I talked about racing some more slalom events this year. Then we thought that building up some frankenstein 5010 bikes would do the trick just right. We started with a size large stock 5010 then mounted up a 7.5" length by 1.5" stroke Fox Float shock. The shorter shock gave the 5010 a 315mm bottom bracket height and limited the travel to 95mm. Then we lowered a Fox 36 down to 120mm of travel and ended up with a 66.8 degree head angle. Every time I get out on this bike it is such a blast.
Back in February of this year I had a big crash riding at Windrock and fractured my T5 vertebrae in my back. Luckily I didn't have to get surgery or wear any braces, just take some time on the couch. That was a tough one. Thankfully I was able to get back healthy and strong sooner than I thought. After some time off, I was able to string a few good races together this spring and was feeling fast on my bike. Just earlier this month at the Leogang world cup I went down on the finish line jump and broke the scaphoid in my left wrist. After a quick surgery a few days later I am now stuck again trying to get healthy. Thats the goal for now! Injuries suck but all you can do is stay positive and look forward.
Fort William world cup qualifying crash - Photo by Keith Valentine / Phunkt
Right now my focus is to get healthy and fit. This time off from racing has given me some more time to spend with friends and family. I will be back strong again later this year and hopefully can sneak in a few races. We will see
Photo by Cody Johnson