Crankworx Rotorua banner 2017
Conor Macfarlane Interview
Connor Macfarlane rounds a berm in the Mons Royale Dual Speed and Style. Photo: Clint Trahan

He’s a Kiwi who couldn’t be more stoked on sharing New Zealand’s dirt gold with the world. Sound familiar? It’s no surprise Conor Macfarlane walked away with the first Kelly McGarry Spirit Award at Red Bull Rampage last year. Unfortunately, he also left the event with a broken wrist. But in true McGazza spirit, he hasn’t let that dampen his spirits as he enters the Crankworx season with a full roster of events, and a full schedule over the year ahead. We talk to Kiwi warrior C-Mac ahead of the Mons Royale Dual Speed and Style about McGazza, bouncing back, ripping some great track and doing it all.

Impossible to talk about Crankworx Rotorua without mentioning the big man with the big smile. Kelly McGarry was instrumental in bringing Crankworx Rotorua to life, and in building what many of the slopestyle athletes say is the best course on the Crankworx World Tour. In 2016, you took home the Kelly McGarry Spirit Award at Red Bull Rampage. How does it feel to be recognized as someone who embodies Kelly’s positivity and determination?

First off, it was quite a surprise. I was still at the physio tent when I got told, just getting bandaged. It was the last thing I expected. To me, it’s pretty cool to be voted by your peers for something like that, especially ‘cause they’re the ones that are out there with you every day, doing what you do. That being said, I don’t feel like I’m like Kelly in the way that he was definitely a larger-than-life guy, and the most approachable guy out there, whereas I feel like I’m a little bit more shy. But it’s cool to be recognized for probably what’s more about my hard-charging attitude, and not giving up, and to have something in common like that. He definitely was a trooper, and an all-round good dude.

Why do you think it’s important to recognize and foster that positive attitude in the mountain biking industry that Kelly did?

For mountain biking, which is definitely a smaller industry than, say, baseball, or rugby for New Zealand, or any of those massive sports, it kind of keeps it down-to-earth to have awards like that. It’s quite a tight-knit community of riders at that level. I feel it brings it together ever more. It shifts the focus to something a little more light-hearted.

Some people’s last memory of you is from taking a serious beating at Rampage. You walked away, but with a broken wrist, and have spent a big chunk of the last while recovering from surgery. What happened, and how are you feeling?

It happened first day of practice at Rampage. Everyone thought it was a sprain for ages. I thought it was broken, but they were like “nah, it’s not” so I was like “sweet, sounds good to me.” I’ve definitely learnt to trust and listen to your body. It’s slowly getting there now. I haven’t been able to go hard on the bike, but now we’re straight into it. Crankworx for me is going to be the first proper test of the wrist. That’ll set the standard. Soon after that I think I’ve got four videos in the month of April that I’m supposed to be doing, so it’ll just be full noise from there I guess. There’ll be a little lull before the next set of Crankworx in Europe, then it’ll be straight back into it.

Aside from being known for your positive attitude, you’ve distinguished yourself as being one of the more versatile riders on the Crankworx World Tour circuit, having competed in Rampage, slopestyle, enduro, even XC World Champs as a Junior. How do you think that versatility benefits you?

For Crankworx there are so many different disciplines within the festival, so it definitely helps to have a bit of everything in the can. For the likes of speed and style, you’ve gotta have a bit of speed and you’ve gotta have a few tricks and a bit of style as well. And then, obviously, for whip-off, you want to be able to jump and be comfortable. For enduro, or an Air DH, it’s about speed and fitness.You have to be able to tie it all together…especially for the King and Queen. They’ve got an amazing all-round skill set.

In a way, that’s what the Mons Royale Dual Speed & Style is all about – versatility. Riders need to have a strong mix of both tricks and speed. What’s the vibe like on course when you bring this mix of riders together?

It’s sweet. There’s one or two that are definitely a bit more serious than the rest, but generally speaking, pretty much everyone’s just there to have a good time and ride their bikes and, obviously, do as well as they can. It’s a fun course and fun to ride. It sort of chills everyone out. I like stuff that doesn’t feel too serious, and it’s got that vibe, which suits me perfectly.

It’s the day before the Mons Royale Dual Speed and Style. What are you doing?

To be honest, pretty much every day before Dual Speed and Style I’ve got something else. I’m normally pretty flat out over Crankworx week, trying to juggle whatever other race or training there is, so I don’t get heaps of time to think about what’s next. But I’ll usually just jump on my bike that I’m going to use for the event and have a little ride around and hopefully practice the course. I think it’s more about before you get to the event – that’s when it’s important to have spent the time on the bikes. When you get there you should be comfortable enough to get on it and go, even though you’re jumping between different bikes.

Conor Macfarlane Interview
On that note, you said goodbye to Knolly at the beginning of this year, and joined the Intense Cycles team. How’s the change been so far?The change has been good. Knolly were awesome but to be riding product which Wide Open distributors, my first ever sponsor, bring in is something both Wide Open and I have wanted for a while so I’m pumped! The new bikes are awesome. They’re lighter for a start which means I feel I can flick them around easier and are lively in the air which for me is perfect. I have only jumped the DH bike so far, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes on some gnarly DH. I’ve given the tracer a good all round testing and its loving everything I’ve thrown at it so far.

Take us through your set up for the Mons Royale Dual Speed and Style.

I’m still undecided. It’ll be between my new Deity hardtail or my Tracer. I haven’t got to ride the hardtail yet, as was waiting on a few parts, so if I feel comfy on that maybe that, otherwise the Tracer.

Conor Macfarlane Interview
Frame Size: Tracer is a large
Bar width: FSA gradient 170
Grips: ODI vans lock on
Stem: FSA gradient
Bike Weight: Can’t remember but 1kg lighter than last year’s when I weighed it.
Suspension setup: Pretty firm, heaps of ramp up and slow rebound so it’s better for jumping
Pedals: Deity T-Mac flats or Shimano clips when I’m trail riding
Wheel size: 27.5
Carbon vs. aluminium wheels: Carbon
Brakes: Avid Guide
Air vs. coil suspension: Air, so I can pump it up for steep jumps if I needed.
Number of tokens in air springs: none at the moment but that is on my list of things to get done this week!
Gearing: 32 front with a 42-12 I think it is on the rear
Tyres: Maxxis Minions front and rear
Tyre pressures: For speed and style would run higher than usual, maybe 40 psi
Anything else we should know? It’s got a dropper so I can get back up to the top of the course ASAP and smash the laps out haha.Frame Size: Deity – one size fits all
Bar width: 140
Grips: ODI longneck
Stem: FSA gradient 35mm
Bike Weight: unsure
Suspension setup: Will run it pretty stiff but hopefully with some small bump sensitivity in there as well.
Pedals: Deity T-Mac
Wheel size: 26
Carbon vs. aluminium wheels: carbon
Brakes: FSA
Air vs. coil suspension: Air
Gearing: 26 -12
Tyres: Maxxis Icon
Tyre pressures: 40
Anything else we should know? Would put a front brake on it for Speed and Style but normally wouldn’t run one or the icon tyres.

In 2016, you became the face of Crankworx Rotorua, after starring in Tourism New Zealand’s Great Wheelie North video. How does it feel to have Crankworx returning to your home country for the third year, and to see how much the country has embraced the festival, and how fans and riders from all over the world have fallen in love with New Zealand?

There’s definitely a little bit of pride there because I quite like New Zealand. I think it’s a pretty sweet country, so I’m pretty stoked that, for starters, it’s come here, and as well that the fans love it. And ever more that the athletes love it. If you’re having fun, that shows, and that makes the crowd get stoked, and the people watching it get more stoked. It all just ties together.

Conor Macfarlane Interview
Watch Conor in the Mons Royale Dual Speed and Style at Crankworx Rotorua, LIVE on Zealand and Europe

Thursday, March 30
17h00-19h00 NZDT
6h00-8h00 CEST

North America

Wednesday, March 29
9 p.m.-11 p.m. PDT

MENTIONS: @officialcrankworx / @intensecyclesusa

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