The newest member of the PNW Squad is none other than Co-Founder of Barelli Concepts, EWS racer, and environmental steward, Yoann Barelli. Yoann resides in beautiful British Columbia where he's able to focus on family, coaching mountain biking, and creating insane videos like Into the Gnar. With his drive to educate the industry, both riders and companies alike, about the importance of environmentally friendly practices, Yoann is the perfect partner to push us towards our own sustainability focused goals. Welcome to the Squad, Yoann!
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Creative, Passionate, Kind
Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s the “CliffsNotes” version of your life story?
I was born in the south of France in 1985 and I grew up being the clown of the classroom, not the disturbing type though. I knew that school was important, but deep down I had other plans, so I did what I needed to do to be average and to keep learning without getting into too much trouble.
Mountain biking became quickly a passion; It was what I was doing after school, during the holidays, all the time. It took a huge place in my life, and, eventually, it became my life. I’m now 35 year old, I'm the dad of a wonderful 3 year old daughter Anna, I'm still a clown, I ride my bike for a living, and I now live in Canada.
What makes you tick? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
My daughter. She gets me out of my bed every morning at 6am... She is 3. I think we should ask her what motivates her to wake up that early haha!!
Lots of things make me tick and it's been a constant evolution and change. I love waking up knowing that there is something exciting to do. I kinda need at least one adrenaline rush a day and they can range from jumping into a frozen lake to jumping a new drop on my bike.
When did you start mountain biking and what was the progression like? Were you hooked from the start?
I started racing MTB when I was 7 (1993, mountain biking has been my passion for 28 years, and I love it more day after day). In 2004 I became the Elite French Champion. I was racing DH World Cups and was a top 20 guy. At this time there was very little money in racing and I was juggling between school, racing, working and partying. In 2007, after a couple of low seasons, I decided to take a break with all that was my life at the time. I went to Australia on a working holiday visa for a year and a half to discover myself and life.
I came back from Australia and started racing DH again but I couldn't get back to the WC race pace. I think it was due to the fact that the bikes evolved quite a bit while I was gone and I was lost with sizing and the newer geometries at the time. In 2013 I decided to switch to enduro and in 2014 I signed my first ever professional contract with the Giant Factory Off Road team. It was like a dream come true. I got on two EWS podiums and had multiple top 5’s. My career is shifting again. I now own Barelli Concepts with Amanda, my business partner. I'm orienting myself towards coaching, sharing my vision of riding trails, and giving tips to people to be more comfortable on their bikes. I want to race a bit still, but at different events, and I love jumping and riding gnarly stuff. Now I find myself riding the same way as I was when I was a kid; seasoning stuff, playing, pushing myself and doing things that I would have never imagined before.
I love mountain biking and I love the mountain community. I was hooked at the start. I'm still hooked and my goal is to make more people hooked on this amazing sport.
What are some of your bike related goals?
I don't know where mountain biking is going to take me, but so far this journey has been amazing. When you’re passionate about things and do things with passion and love there isn't any limit. These days I'm completely stoked about big jumps and crazy lines. I have a project that really resonates with this in the Sea to Sky corridor, but you'll know more about it soon :)
What are some of your life goals?
Oh there are lots! Life is a journey and my goals keep evolving. We were born with a brain and a heart (soul or however you want to call it), but most of us live in our brain. We overthink things a lot and don't listen to our heart, our intuition. For me, mountain biking and riding things out of my comfort zone is a combination of both. You need to listen to your feelings first, to your gut, to your heart, and then you use your brain and follow your own process to accomplish what you want to do. It's the same in everyday life and the decisions we have to make on a daily basis. It takes some work and tools to understand what it means first and more work to do it everyday. It's a work in progress.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not riding bikes?
I love being with my daughter and my partner's kids. Kids remind me to appreciate life as it is and to look at things with curiosity, amusement and love. I love spending time with my friends and doing simple things. I'm pretty chill and love quiet time.
What’s your absolute favorite thing about riding bikes?
Riding bikes can change lives and give a better lifestyle to a lot of people. When I was in Australia I kind of lost myself in drugs and other stuff, but mountain biking brought me back to a sane and healthy lifestyle. It's also a way for a lot of people to get back to nature and connect with themselves, putting the stress of their daily lives behind them for an instant. Biking does lots of good things.
What’s your least favorite thing about riding bikes?
Riding in the winter in BC. The trails are actually amazing at this time of the year and the riding is incredible, but man, it’s such a process. From getting ready to ride, to finding the right equipment for cold, rain and mud. Then getting all muddy, changing before getting in the car because you’re disgusting, to washing everything afterwards hahaha. It takes a full day and everything gets completely destroyed very quickly. I'm not really a winter guy, and you might have seen on my social media that I kind of suck at skiing, but I still love it here :)
How do you hope to add to, or improve, the bike community?
I want to push the bike industry towards more sustainable practices. There isn't any right or wrong, but I believe that we should be the leader in using recycled materials, recycling and bringing the industry back to North America and Europe. I've seen lots of good things happening in this domain during the past year and I'm super pumped on it. Lots of brands are trying to get better and that's what really matters. Every step counts.
What’s your current music of choice? Do you have any songs, artists, or playlists that you’re hooked on?
I listen to everything and it really depends on my mood. Sometimes I'm gonna listen to some of the bad, DJ stuff that I used to listen to when I was partying hard, like David Guetta. Sometimes I listen to more meditative stuff like White Sun, and other times I listen to old school French rap like the Fonky Family. These days I like old school rap.
Do you have any moments or memories of riding bikes that stand out from the rest?
I remember exactly when I won my first EWS stage. It was in 2014 at Crankworx Whistler. The trails we raced were Ride Don't Slide to BC's Trail. A gnarly, technical, and physical stage. I knew during the stage that I was going to win it. I felt it, I was flying, it was amazing. After the race (I got 5th) I was talking to my team manager, Joe Staub. I looked at him and said, “Well, if I can win a stage, it means that I can win a EWS!" I won many other EWS stages after that, but never won the race I wanted. Maybe one day.
Are you currently working on any projects that you’d like people to keep an eye out for? What can you tell us about it/them without spilling the whole secret?
I'm working on a documentary at the moment but I can’t say too much about it right now. I'm also working on cool product related projects with some of my partners and it gets me really excited. Some cool things are happening already and more to come :).
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The world needs passionate people more than ever. Let's do it, let's be creative and brave and bold!