Leavenworth Film Festival is now in its 4th year. While this is still young by most accounts, this event is growing in popularity and becoming better every time around. Each past festival has featured a live performance at intermission that enhances the night’s experience by adding style of creative expression to an already awesome lineup of films. Last year, professional mountain biker, Ryan Leech, put on an amazing show with nothing but a bike and picnic table. Ryan is one of those original pro-riders from “back-in-the-day”. You might know some: Wade Simmons, Ritchey Schley, and John Tomac just to name a few. Perhaps these weren’t exactly the first riders, but definitely those on the cusp during a time when mountain biking was in its youth and the realm of possibilities unknown. The equipment was poor and the trail features even worse. The bikes had steep head angles with no suspension, tiny tires, and rim brakes. With time these cantilever brakes gave way to V-brakes only to be trumped by hydraulic disc brakes on carbon molded bikes with adjustable suspension and three different wheel sizes to choose from. Trails were off-camber, steep, rutted and riddled with tall skinny-bridges in unnecessary places. Over time the bridges rotted and fell over and the trails were rebuilt with smoother transitions, run-outs, and berms (with bridges limited to appropriate locations). Basically, mountain biking has become more refined with age.
Like the bikes and trails, the riders evolved as well. Starting with the reckless antics of Josh Bender dropping cliffs and countered by the precise balancing of Hans Rey and Ryan Leech, the possibilities became clearer with the freeriding movement of Thomas Vanderham, Darren Berrecloth and Cam Zink. Then came the McCaul and Semenuk era of smooth back/side/front-flips, no-hander/footer kicking-flip-air-tricks that are now being further honed by Brett Rheeder and others. The sport of mountain biking has followed a fast trajectory. But our original pros are aging gracefully and some are only getting better as the years pass; Ryan Leech being one of them in particular where he is still one of the best trials riders in the world.
Many bikers, who are specialized in their professional riding, also enjoy all types of riding in their personal time; Ryan is no exception. And he’s good at all of it. He climbs quickly, downhills fast and corners with style. Is it just because he’s a “natural”? He would tell you otherwise. Ryan feels this common idiom degrades his accomplishments. He worked hard. Harder than others to become the rider he is today. Nothing came easy. It is this aspect about the professional mountain biker, Ryan Leech, which makes him still relevant today. He firmly believes we can all accomplish our goals with the right intention and the power of practice. And as one of the first pros, who’s not getting any younger, he rejects that other idiom: “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.
Ryan developed the training program “The 30 Day Wheelie Challenge” to teach aging riders new skills. Techniques that some believe are reserved for youth. No matter when in life you joined the mountain biking lifestyle, you can benefit from the lessons Ryan teaches. He also offers the “RL Connection” program where he delves into skill development and progression through practice, physical and mental fitness, yoga, and functional movement. Check out his programs here.
Ryan came to our town to perform at the Leavenworth Film Festival. But he also rode our local trails for the pure passion of riding. He is an introspective person who aims at maintaining balance in life to progress in riding. Watching Ryan perform, riding with him, and observing his positive outlook prove that he is not just a professional mountain biker. Ryan Leech is a professional at living a life well balanced. And in that, has continued to progress and grow with each passing year.
Just as mountain biking in the early days, the potential for the Leavenworth Film Festival is unknown. But like Ryan, the festival crew continues to work hard to make this event better with each passing year. So come on out April 9th to see some amazing films and live performances at this year’s Leavenworth Film Festival (and don’t neglect to check out Ryan’s training programs –you won’t regret it!).