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Pilgrimage: Sam Pilgrim Photo Essay

pilgrim [ˈpɪlgrɪm] n

1. A wayfarer, a foreigner, a stranger, a homeless wanderer, a traveler.
2. One who embarks on a quest for something sacred.
3. A person who undertakes a journey to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion.

Origin: Middle English, from Old French peligrin, from Late Latin pelegrnus, alteration of Latin peregrnus, meaning foreigner. 

TEVA team rider Sam Pilgrim was five years old when he got his first bike and 15 when he landed his first back flip. Today he is one of the world’s top freeride mountain bikers, helping drive the sport even higher and in new directions. He and his bike have traveled the world to compete, to break new ground and to open people’s eyes to the potential. Yet his freeriding pilgrimage had never brought him to Japan, until now.

Click here to to see “MTB Pilgrimage: Sam Pilgrim’s Freeride Mountain Bike Journey Through Japan”

“I started bike riding when I was about five years old, there was a photo of me on the first day of school sitting on my bike, lovin’ it. I naturally started doing little wheelies and jumps off curbs and things and, as I got more into it, my dad took me to a park where people were doing jumps and tricks and stuff.”

“Now I’m traveling around to ridiculous places on that bike, maybe even influencing more people to ride bikes with my videos and riding, which is pretty cool.”


“Tokyo is awesome. On my first day I met this famous wrestler from Hawaii named Konishiki who used to be one of the top sumo wrestlers. He is a really nice guy and showed me around the training grounds where these guys wake up at 5:30 in the morning to train and fight each other. Then I did a bunny hop over two sumo guys laying on the floor, and they were pretty scared about that, but it was funny.”

“I (and my bike) got blessed by a priest in a temple, which was a pretty special thing. I don’t do any praying of any sort at home, and this was full-on Japanese-style and very traditional—it was awesome.”

Nozawa Onsen, Nagano

“Seeing the rural side of Japan was an awesome opportunity. I got to check out shrines and things which were really sick. One of my favorite moments on the trip was the ‘shrine line’ I made in Nozawa Onsen. A local rider, Katzu, showed us the place, and it didn’t look very cool at first, but we came back and looked at it properly, and it was like two drop-offs in a row, a jump through two trees, skidding across all this sacred ground and down some rocks, and then across the road into urban environment, up some steps and off another drop-off. It shows you can make a cool track in less than an hour and have fun on the bike.”

“The parks in Japan aren’t great at the moment, but are still a lot of fun, and there is a lot of potential for bigger things here if more locals and people get involved with it.”

Minakami, Gunma

“They’ve got all these perfect places to have bike parks, but they just don’t seem to have a lot yet. It’s good to see there are a lot of people here really interested in mountain biking. If they put in more bike parks, there would be more people getting into it, I think. They’ve got hundreds of ski resorts, so hundreds of places with working lifts where they could have MTB parks. The potential here for freeride MTB or any mountain biking is massive.”

“We went to this bridge bungy jump place (in Minakami), and I’d just seen this horrible video on YouTube where one snapped, and I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I didn’t do it, even though there were little girls and stuff doing it…”

Shibukawa, Gunma

“We hit a park on the way back to Tokyo, and they had some pretty cool jumps there; small, but there were some long tracks from the top going down, to smaller and medium jumps, and then a bigger one. I guess they didn’t know they could do some of the tricks I was doing off those jumps, but maybe tomorrow they will by trying back flips or something and be the next guys in Japan sending tricks.”

“When I leave Japan, I’d like people here to see my riding and say, ‘Wow we actually do have stuff to do here on the mountain bike,’ and when I come back here next year, cheers TEVA (laughing), I hope to see loads more people riding, and more mountain bike spots opening up.”

“I’d love to come back to Japan…my little pilgrimage here has definitely been a cool one.”

Sam Pilgrim: At a Glance

Name: Sam Pilgrim
Nationality: British
Residence: Colchester, U.K.
Birthday: June 4, 1990
Sponsors: TEVA Footwear, NS Bikes, Monster Energy, Adidas Eyewear, TSG, Halo Wheels, Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport, Marzocchi, Muck-Off.

Tour Results

2012: 1st Balaton Bike Fest, Balaton (HUN)
2012: 1st Teva Games Slopestyle, Colorado (USA)
2012: 3rd Red Bull Berg Line, Winterberg (GER)
2012: 5th 26Trix fueled by Monster Energy, Leogang (AUT)
2012: 1st FISE, Montpellier (FR)
2012: 3rd Teva Winter Games, Vail (USA)
2012: 2nd Rocket Air Slopestyle, Thun (SUI)
2012: 1st Vienna Air King, Vienna (AUT)
2012: 1st FISE Costa Rica, Guacima (CR)
2012: 6th Monster Energy White Style, Leogang (AUT)
2011: 1st Red Bull District Ride, Nurnberg (GER)
2011: 1st Eurobike Dirt Competition, Friedrichshafen (GER)
2011: 1st Monster Energy Slopestyle, Basel (CH)
2011: 4th Bearclaw Invitational, Mount Washington (CAN)
2011: 3rd Crankworkx Colorado, Colorado (USA)
2011: 1st Dirt Town, Jelenia Gora (POL)”
2011: 3rd 26Trix, Leogang (AUT)
2011: 1st FISE, Montpellier (FRA)
2011: 1st Telekom Extreme Playgrounds, Duisburg (GER)
2011: 1st Rocket Air Slopestyle, Thun (CH)
2011: 1st Vienna Air King, Wien (AUT)

Thank you for the support and cooperation of the following companies:

Teva: http://jp.teva.com
Jeep: www.jeep-japan.com
Nozawa Holidays: www.nozawaholidays.com
Compass House: www.compasshouse.jp 
The Craft Room: www.craftroom.jp 
Canyons Alpine Lodge: www.canyons.jp
MTB Japan: www.mtbjapan.com
Delight Club Field (MTB Park): www.delightbike.com
Dirty Bike: www.dirtybike.com
Freeride Adventures: www.freerideadventuresjpn.com

Click here to to see “MTB Pilgrimage: Sam Pilgrim’s Freeride Mountain Bike Journey Through Japan”

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