Photos courtesy of Will Fryar
SALSA – Please introduce yourselves to our readers.
WILL – HI! My name is Will Fryar and I am a photographer and filmmaker from Wilmington, NC. When I’m not behind the camera, I am with my wife and two kids or biking the SORBA trails here on the coast.
MICHAEL – Hey there. I’m Michael Lowther, the owner of Overmountain Cycles here in Morganton. We’re in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and down the street from what we call the “other Pisgah,” or Wilson Creek, where our film was shot.
SALSA – The past 12 months have presented extraordinary challenges for everyone around the world. Can you each speak a bit to how the pandemic affected your businesses?
WILL – I left the corporate world and started my own production company in the summer of 2019, not knowing what was waiting for me in early 2020. But to tell you the truth, it all worked out just fine. I lost some business because of the pandemic, but I also received some unique opportunities because of it, including making this film.
MICHAEL – Oh man, the past 12 months have been an absolute roller coaster. It’s true that the cycling industry has boomed during the pandemic and we’ve been a part of that boom, but most people don’t see the back-end issues. Not being able to order service parts or turning people away because bikes are out of stock for months on end. We’ve held our own and are extremely thankful for Salsa and QBP being such good partners.
SALSA – In no way downplaying the truly horrific loss and damage that many have experienced, it does seem that the pandemic and the necessary restrictions to daily life also presented opportunities not just to try new things, but to see the world in a different light. Have you found this to be true?
WILL – Most certainly. It ultimately helped me to slow down and take more time with my family, friends, and neighbors. It helped me get on a mountain bike again because the gyms were closed. It was fun meeting a whole new community of riders and having that outlet to work out our anxiety and stress in those first few months of 2020.
MICHAEL – Absolutely true. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for being in the cycling and outdoor industry. We’ve seen many new (masked) faces this year and it’s been a pleasure to help them all find a bike, get outside, and find some sanity in this pandemic. Overmountain Cycles has strengthened as a community hub for cyclists and the like. I think we’ve all seen how connecting with bikes and the outdoors has brought much light into our lives.
SALSA – Will, we’re guessing that you knew how to ride a bike but weren’t really a bike rider before COVID?
WILL – Correct. I was actually something worse…a MX rider. Even on a dirt bike, I still preferred the woods to the track. Over the last year I noticed that I would make more of an effort to ride my MTB than to take out the dirt bike.
SALSA – Fully realizing that we as humans often entirely overcomplicate things, how would you describe the learning curve with taking up mountain biking, Will?
WILL – I applied a lot of what I had learned on the dirt bike to mountain biking, so it really was just getting my cardio up to speed, which took some time. Downhill, cornering, and jumping all came to me much easier having been on something that was 230 lbs. I would ride with friends and lose them on the downhills only to have them right back on me on the climbs.
SALSA – Reading the Vimeo description that accompanies your first mountain bike film, Masters of Fate, we’re guessing that being behind the lens shooting mountain biking was also a new experience? What was that like?
WILL – 100%. Over the course of 2020 I knew I wanted to fuse these two passions together, but I needed to wait for the right time. Then, just like that, Michael and I reconnected late last year and rode together; I knew I had the guys who could take on the riding I needed for this film. As far as the filming aspect goes, it was all new to me. Living at the coast, I am more accustomed to filming surfers. When I was in high school, my first films learning to shoot and edit were skateboarding films. Having guys going 20 mph downhill, I knew I wanted something that could keep up, so I brought the drone with me to give the film a much larger dynamic besides static ground shots. I also mixed in some GoPro footage as well. It was one of those shoots where we were all so new to the process that the biggest thing we could bring to the table was a great attitude and just have fun—which is exactly what we did and why it worked.
SALSA – Michael, as a bike dealer and passionate cyclist, how does it feel seeing a longtime friend take up interest in bicycling?
MICHAEL – I’ve got to be honest, I couldn’t be more excited. Will and I have known each other a long time and have many similar interests. Being able to share the love for shredding some single track and getting lost in the woods helps our friendship grow on another level.
SALSA – We’re guessing you’ve seen many other newcomers to the sport over the past months?
MICHAEL – I used to think Morganton was a small town, pre-pandemic. Now I know it’s full of people looking to branch out and finding passion for bicycling. We’ve made new friendships and can see the cycling community growing in our town. It’s exuberating.
SALSA – For those who have been contemplating bicycling but haven’t yet pulled the trigger, do you have any words of encouragement?
MICHAEL – Just do it and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. By that I mean, don’t worry as much about having the right bike, clothes, or whatnot. Find a bike, reach out to a few friends, and get on the trail. You’ll find the right path from there and it’s never too late to branch out.
WILL – I received my first mountain bike when I was 11. I spent hours making trails in the woods near my house and loved every minute of it into my high school years. After taking a 15-year break from riding I can tell you that the mountain bike scene is stronger than ever and trails are getting more and more fun with folks putting in time and money to make it happen. I also really enjoy the geometry and capability of the modern-day MTB. Bigger frame, wheels, and suspension really make for an all-around better experience right out of the gate.
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.