[Words by Steve Thomas / Photography courtesy of Orange Bikes]
Yorkshire is arguably Britain’s strongest sporting county and has produced many a great cycling champion over the years, and their number includes Jack Carthy, a 10-time and current UCI World Trials Champion on 26-inch wheels. His accomplishments are often overshadowed and overlooked by the mainstream cycling media, as is the whole trials riding genre in general – apart from through the obvious big names who have managed to find that balance line between mountain biking, trials, and media excellence – such as such Danny MacAskill and Hans Rey.
Where it all started
The West Yorkshire village of Haworth is perhaps best known as the long-time former home of the Bronte sisters, although in recent times it’s been lifelong local lad Jack Carthy who has been writing his own history novel in trials terms, and who has indeed reached the wuthering heights of global trials excellence.
"I’ve always lived in Haworth and never moved away. When I moved out of my family home we bought a house just down the road, we’re a really close family.”
Like many of us, Jack found riding bikes organically at a young age and on the local streets, which would ultimately define his future.
"I always ridden bikes on my street as a kid, but when we found the trials bike I was hooked and never rode anything else for years and years”.
Yorkshire has had many great bike and motor trials riders over the decades, including Dougie Lampkin and Chris Akrigg - what is in that Yorkshire tea that makes them all want to ride over impossible things?
"Haha yeah, a lot has come out of Yorkshire. I think for the trials side of things it’s just all about the places we have to ride, and that’s made it easier to get better.”
Even after growing up through the early era of the internet and YouTube, Jack was hardly aware and not really influenced by the local trial legends.
"To be honest I was always in my own little world with riding bikes, and then I started riding with more people at the local competitions and it just grew from there. It’s all down to my mum and dad taking me to all the competitions.”
Making it pay and managing the show
With his raw talent and dedication, Jack has had no issues in carving out a living from the sport, right from the get-go.
"Since I started riding World Cups back when I was 15, I have always managed to earn a living from it. I was ranked 3rd in the world at 15, and so I think brands knew that I was going to be the next big thing in trials. There’s never really been any haggling or anything like that, we always need the brands, and we found those we wanted to work with and have stuck with them.”
All through he has managed his own affairs.
"I do pretty much everything myself, other than sorting travel stuff out - Charlotte (my partner) helps with that.”
In recent times Jack has also added a saddle and gears to his second bike and is looking to incorporate regular MTB more into his life and he is currently an Orange factory pilot.
"A few years ago I wanted to start riding MTB as well, doing it as trials, but also doing the media side of things and showing what is possible on a mountain bike with trails. I ride my e-bike most days, I love getting out and doing some trial lines with the motor assist.”
Keeping a low profile
"I have won 10 world titles in total; some were in the youth and junior category and five of them were won as an elite. I would say that in Haworth, most people know what I do because I have lived here my whole life, and also in Europe there is more interest for sure.”
"I don’t compete as much as before, as we prefer to do the bigger races - so the World Cup European Championships and the World Championships are my main focus.”
"Even so, there are a few trials aces who have become major stars – albeit outside of regular and traditional trials competitions ‘The Danny MacAskill’ stuff is all YouTube really, and so it’s easy for people to see it. I think many other disciplines tend to look the other way with trials because the skill level is crazy. I love all types of riding, but in terms of skill trails is the hardest and I think that’s what puts people off (taking it up and following it more).”
The daily hop and grind
"Every week is the same for me – bikes, bikes and more bikes. I go riding every day; riding is my job but it’s also my hobby just as much, and so riding my bike every day isn’t hard work to me at all - I love it”
"A normal day for me starts with taking Miles (his son) to school and then I go and pick my dad up and go riding. After that, I come back for dinner and then go and ride again. I return home later and then go for a mountain bike ride, and after that I go home to the family for the night. In between it’s media work and physio.”
That said, the Yorkshire winters can be harsh for riding, and Jack has recently started making a seasonal pilgrimage south to hone his craft during the dark months.
"Spain is the trials riding heartland, for sure. They have the whole package – the good weather, bike parks, lots of good riders, and even I have started to train there in the winter months.”
The highs and lows
"Just riding my bike day in and day out is a highlight for me but the biggest high would have to be getting 10 world titles.”
"I think the worst thing that happened was in 2019 when I won the World Championships and then they changed the decision after I finished - because of the marker coming off in the last section, which was a really rubbish moment.”
The Carthy Academy and the future
In the spirit of putting something back into the sport, Jack has formed the Carthy Academy to help young riders get a foothold on the scene.
“The academy is really something. I have always just trained pretty much on my own, but I think it’s time now to use that time to also help others. We can have riders come here, and they have the chance to train with me and be pushed more to reach their goals.”
What comes next?
"I want to keep going till the wheels fall off. But I think that over time we will move over to the enduro racing side as well as trials.”
"I hope that for trials and the riders, it gets more exposure, because it really is insane what we can do on a bike, and it takes a lot of work to get there!”
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