Yeti / FOX National / Devo teams in Pacifica
Looking out of the window of our AirBnB in Pacifica, California, we could see the sun creeping over Montara Mountain, lighting up the mist of the crashing waves on Shelter Cove beneath us. Quinn was already grinding espresso beans for the team. More on that later. This trip came about for a number of reasons. The first was that Yeti wanted to get the Yeti / FOX National and Devo teams together for a relaxing weekend of riding before the 2021 race season. Secondly, these racers hadn’t seen each other in a group setting, nor trained or heckled each other for almost all of 2020. Pacifica was an ideal location — good weather, rowdy trails and most of the team lives within a solid car ride of the place.
Now, back to coffee. Well, Quinn’s coffee.
Quinn Reece has a deep-seated passion for the stuff. He’s a self-taught barista who has been thoroughly spoiled by Yeti’s own, Shawn Neer. He carries around an indestructible, weatherproof plastic case (suitable for transporting a $30,000 camera) where every piece of coffee equipment has its place — as you’d expect from someone who is a self-admitted OCD sufferer. No matter the location, Reece can always pull a perfect espresso shot. Not only should we thank Neer for adding coffee to Reece’s expertise, but we must also thank him for Reece gracing the Yeti team. Neer approached Yeti Race Team Manager, Damion Smith, and suggested he keep an eye on the 16-year-old youngster. Now twenty, Reece is going into his fourth-year racing under the Yeti flag.
Reece’s success in racing truly stems from how much fun he’s having. He quickly and carefully analyzes every obstacle before hitting it without reservation, while making every move look effortless. It may appear that he’s pushing the limits every time he rides, but the double-major, doctorate seeking mathematician-physicist just operates at an entirely different level.
We threw the Shimano drivetrain into granny gear as we started the first climb up a grueling fire road. The wind was whipping, which didn’t stop the continuous no-holds-bar jesting that would ensue. Reece bore the brunt of the jabs as Davis reminded him of lost bets, and Reece asking if the Pacific Ocean was a lake. The dynamic of this group is akin to that feeling where you haven’t spoken to an old friend in months, or even years, yet you pick up exactly where you left off. The relationship between these four has evolved over years of riding and racing together and it’s nothing short of a tightly knit family.
Consciencely or not, Davis assumes responsibility of group leader. A race scene veteran, the 29-year-old millwright has been under the Yeti tent for the last five years and will be for the foreseeable future – it’s his home. Davis made his way onto the Yeti team after a solid performance going up against Richie Rude on a borrowed enduro bike his father lent him. After the race Smith found Davis in line for a hot dog, asked what his plans were and the rest is history. Davis recently completed flipping a house in Windrock, TN where he trains on the rocky, rooty trails that the Eastern US can offer and his experience riding those notoriously rowdy trails is evident in the way he rides other parts of the country.
The quietest member of the team, and perhaps most modest, is 18-year-old Lauren Bingham. She lets her riding speak volumes. With a background in competitive dancing — the Waltz, Foxtrot and Salsa — she is a smooth rider, powerful, yet light on her bike with great cornering skills. She knows how to pay attention to the lines her teammates take and quickly learns from them. The Salt Lake native began racing cross country at six years old and has been on a Yeti race rig since 2017 when she serendipitously connected with Sarah Rawley, who was running Yeti’s ambassador program at the time. Ever the eye for talent, Rawley asked Bingham if she’d like to throw herself on a Yeti and she’s been with them ever since.
The single track we were shooting on was tight, and flanked by waist-high brush which dropped into trees providing for much needed wind relief. The exposed upper section was dry, dusty and rutted out from erosion, but the trees were a bit more manicured. Roots and fallen trees ran the trail and the berms were ripe for smashing. Surprisingly, Warren Kniss seemed perturbed. His concern wasn’t the trail. Kniss is a savage and hits obstacles with fury. Rather, his anxiety was seated in the overwhelming amount of poison oak. He was relieved when the light became too harsh to shoot and we had to call riding quits for the day. Davis was relieved to finally show Reece what an ocean was — I won’t go down the rabbit hole of Reece attending school in San Luis Obispo, a city that literally looks out over the ocean.
Kniss is a soft-spoken lad with a grin similar to Dennis the Menace. He’s always up for any bit of action and is a heck of an athlete. 2020 was his first year as a member of the Yeti National Team after earning his acceptance in 2019 when he put down a solid performance at TDS on one of Davis’ bikes — they’re close friends after all. Not only is Kniss savage on a bike but he can skate with the best of them. We watched, jaws on the ground, as he meticulously placed his trucks on the bowl’s coping and weaved through kids on scooters. We high tailed it out of there before he had the chance to collide with one of them, and we had the chance to deal with an angry mother.
The wind continued to be relentless and Kniss knew of a location buried within trees, complete with a couple of dirt jump lines the team could play on, and berms primed for Reece to blow up. Jump after jump, these incredible athletes demonstrated the trust they have in one another, almost clipping tires as they made their way through the lines. There were smiles, fist bumps and “Dude! I almost hit you, you pulled up too much” after landing the final double.
The entire trip mimicked that same flow. Each member of the team was super stoked for one another, looking out for each other while continuing to up the ante. Each run challenged the next, grounded purely in the simple joy of riding bikes, and without one ounce of negative or belittling competition. Each pass down the trail was fast, progressive and wildly intense.
I had my reservations coming into this trip. As the clear outsider I was intrigued of the challenge of how I would be able to capture these racers, bikers and friends in a way that didn’t feel forced. But from the minute I met them, the intimidation factor was completely suppressed. It became apparent to me that this team isn’t just made up of talented riders who are only after podium finishes. Winning is core to Yeti, that much is clear. But to truly be a Yeti racer, you need to be more than that. Yeti racers have to have the right attitude, they have to be a part of the support system and they need to want to be part of a team. While mountain biking may be a solo sport, racing at this level means looking beyond individual performance — sharing line choices and cornering techniques. Fully supporting one another, ready and willing with a smile and a fist bump, no matter what happens out on the course.
- James Stokoe, Photographer, and Writer