Brad Simms needs no introduction: known for his pure, raw power on BMX, Brad is now making his mark as a mountain bike athlete. Born in Waldorf, Maryland, Brad has been riding BMX professionally for over 15 years, crisscrossing the globe in search of unique lines and cultural experiences. He has connected with fans through hard-charging, authentic, and physics-defying content. Brad earned the sport’s most sought-after accolade last year – the 2020 NORA Cup BMX Reader's Choice Rider of The Year.
SRAM and Rockshox are excited to welcome Brad into the family for 2022 and beyond. Brad recently visited our Development Center in Colorado Springs, CO, and sat down with us for a chat about his first mountain bike ride, bike technology, hitting Rampage lines, and what he hopes to achieve as he broadens his inimitable skillset onto bigger wheels.
10 Questions with Brad Simms
1. The first person who took you mountain biking was Brandon Semeneuk. What was that like?
That was about three years ago. I was in the midst of working on my (X-Games) Real BMX part, and Christian Rigal was like, "I feel like we need a break from filming in the streets. You want to go ride mountain bikes with Brandon Semenuk and Logan Peat?" I had no idea who Brandon was at the time. I didn't know of many mountain bikers.
We showed up and they had seven mountain bikes just waiting for us to ride. He’s riding an e-bike and I see the Red Bull helmet. I'm like, "Okay. Right. Dude must be super legit." I saw these big jumps and I hopped on one of the bikes, and there was a little spine in the first jump. I hit it and got thrown into this crazy nosedive. I was like, "Whoa, hold on. If I was on my BMX I would've flipped over the bars." But the shock compressed and saved me. "Okay. That was interesting."
Then two seconds after that, we all went up to the top and we looked at a 40-foot-long table. I have a background in riding dirt jumps and racing, so I wasn't afraid. I just hadn't been riding that speed in a long time. I hit the first jump, cleared everything, and from that day I've been hooked. It's probably some of the most fun I've ever had on my bike.
2. How do you apply your BMX perspective to mountain bike terrain? What is different and what adjustments do you have to make?
I've been riding bikes for 26 years. I grew up racing, riding dirt jumps on my BMX. For the first four or five years, I mostly rode dirt. I didn’t start riding street heavily until I was 17. A lot of it translates over, then there's some stuff where I've had to make huge adjustments, such as using my front brake. Braking is new for me, before hitting a turn, and not braking into a turn. I still find myself hitting brakes in a turn here and there.
Also, speed adjustment. When I ride street, I'm mostly filming within 15 to 20 feet. My filmer can just stand right there while I do a trick very close, like on a bench. But with mountain biking, you might have to try something two or three times, and then you have to hike a mile back up the mountain. So there's more fitness involved – that's for sure.
3. How about your vision for lines or obstacles — you ride a lot of things on your BMX that most other pro riders wouldn’t even realize is ridable — will you take some of the same approach on the MTB?
Yeah, I think so. When I ride like street, I look for stuff that people either think is impossible or is just unusual. I look for stuff that not only moves the core bike community but also the general public.
Once I really start to fall into my style on the mountain bike, I’ll find the right spot on a trail. I'm also having to relearn some of my old tricks. I can do a lot of jumping tricks but haven’t been doing them lately as I was so street-focused. But now that I'm on a mountain bike, let's pull those tricks back out!
4. What’s the jump to mountain bike technology been like?
For me, a mountain bike is essentially a spaceship. Because I'm terrible at working on my BMX bike, working on my mountain bike is like doing calculus equations in my head. But I love it. Especially all the wireless AXS stuff. I'm not banging up my knuckles on shifters or anything. I'm just clicking a little button here, a little button there for the dropper, this and that. And everything's cleaner. I don’t like when I have a hundred cables on the front of my bike anymore. Because I’m used to a simpler bike, that is the biggest game-changer for someone like me.
A mountain bike is essentially a spaceship. Especially all the wireless AXS stuff. Because I’m used to a simpler bike, that is the biggest game-changer for someone like me.
5. What was your summer of 2021 like? You traveled a bunch and mountain biked with lots of new people?
It was cool and also a very humbling experience at the same time. When I first got on a mountain bike, I was like, "I should be able to do a lot of things." I thought I was going to just hop on and just manual down the street. That did not happen. I would say 85% of things came easily and others weren't so easy. I mean, manualing is 10 times harder on a mountain bike than on a BMX bike. I was like, "oh, this is a lot more bike to maneuver."
Before I signed with Canyon, I only knew a handful full of elite mountain bikers. When I went to the bike park, there were loads of kids calling me out. "Hey, you're Brad, you're Brad." I was like, "What? Mountain bikers know me?”
Then when I announced that I was riding for Canyon, there was well over a thousand comments, most of them from mountain bikers. So that was cool. It was interesting because I had no idea the response I would get.
6. Who are you excited to ride with, or get to know better from the SRAM and RockShox family?
I would like to ride more with Brandon Semenuk. I feel like there's a side that people don't get to see of Brandon. Everything's very clean-cut, and it'd be cool to hang out with him and get to see some of the other side.
Christian Rigal and I have worked together, but it’s always great to see Christian and ride with him. I would like to hang out with some of the downhill riders as well. I met Vali Höll already. It would be cool to go to Austria, hang out, and ride some of her local stuff.
7. What was your impression of riding at the old Rampage site last fall?
Rampage was insane because I had hit some smaller drops, and I was like, "Okay, cool. I've hit some drops before." Then I got humbled. I hit the hip a few times at the old site, and then few guys were like, "Well, we're going to go up top and hit some other features." I'm like "What features?" They were like, "Up there."
Everything that could go wrong was running through my head. My foot could slip off. I could go too slow, case it, fall backward in the gully, or whatever. I could walk my bike back down the hill, go sit in the van and twiddle my thumbs, or if I brake perfectly, clear the gap, I ride away and have fun. So that's when I go for it.
8. Are there any spots that you went to with BMX or countries that you travel to in the past that you're excited to go back to now you’re riding a mountain bike?
I thought I was going to slow down with my traveling. But now that I found mountain biking, I feel like I have to go back and revisit at least half of the countries that I've been to. I’m really excited to go back to Madeira and would like to visit Italy. I would like to go ride around Central Asia and road trip through the Pamir Highway.
9. Are you curious or eager to explore different disciplines in mountain biking now that you've gotten your feet wet?
I'm down to explore. I'm not big on climbing, which I know people just want to take me on these 7,000-foot rides. But it’s also not always about jumping for me. Sometimes it's just some beautiful landscape you can ride on and cruise around, hit some turns, and mild tech.
10. Do you want to contribute something to MTB that’s a little different, and push it in that direction?
It's a tall order, but yes. There are so many incredible mountain bike athletes currently. So for me, there's a lane. I already see stuff that's possible for me to do. Going into mountain biking with a different background, I can ride a trail a bit differently than most. So that's where I'm going with it.
Brad Simms Bike Check
Frame: Canyon Spectral CF 27.5
Fork: RockShox Pike Ultimate
Rear Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb AXS
Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle AXS
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC
Rotors: SRAM HS2
Interview by Ross Measures and Sarah Rawley. Photos by James Stokoe.