In a new YouTube video, Cam McCaul looks back at his old bikes and a career full of wins, crashes and hijinks
A row of 11 Trek frames line a wall in Cam McCaul’s garage, each corresponding to one full year in his slopestyle career from 2004 to 2014. They reflect his best and worst moments — emphatic wins and daring video segments, bad crashes and injuries. Each captures a bit of who he was for a period of time.
Before McCaul decided to tell the story of each frame for his latest YouTube video, he didn’t realize how many moments he’d forgotten. He would look at the frames every day and receive only flashes of memories. In digging up footage, sometimes digitizing old segments from DVDs, and editing the video, he made his history whole.
“I look back and I’m looking at an 18 year old me who has no idea what’s coming,” McCaul says. “The bike riding is one part of it, but also just watching myself talk then, you’re like, ‘Woah, you’re such a kid and you have so much to learn.'”
Here’s the video:
McCaul is 35 now, an “old man” in the context of slopestyle and freeride mountain biking, and little else. And yet, the contours of his career align neatly with the history of the sport. He was a teenager when slopestyle was in its infancy. The first bike he shows off in the video is a Session 77 that Trek made custom for him because the company didn’t have a line of slopestyle bikes yet. He took it on the mountain bike TV show “Drop In” and chucked it across British Columbia, making a name for himself with his showmanship and sunny personality, while also showing off the progenitor to the Ticket S.
Cam’s favorite bike is his Remedy from 2006, which was a breakout year for him. It featured in one of his favorite video segments, the opening of “New World Disorder VII”, and won a number of contests. Its polished mirror finish still shines through the dents and scratches from a year well-seized. The frame was always dearest in McCaul’s heart, but doing the video helped him remember the sheer volume of its history.
“It blew me away to think about how much used to take place in just one calendar year’s time,” McCaul says. “As you go on, there’s less because some of those years were filled with injuries. Sometimes you come back and do a contest, or just get healthy enough to do a film segment, and that’s like the thing you did in a year.”
The bike riding is one part of it, but also just watching myself talk then, you're like, 'Woah, you're such a kid and you have so much to learn.'
The video editing process helped put his career in perspective. McCaul found that his most lasting memories often weren’t the contest results that had seemed so important at the time. Who he is today is an amalgamation of the pieces he felt worth keeping. His YouTube vlog is a trove of carefree fun that feels distinct to him, featuring day-long adventures, creative challenges with friends and glimpses of his everyday life.
Along with helping McCaul remember what he has forgotten, the video helped him see bits of his old self that he still recognizes today, mannerisms and inflections in the way he talks that he has not only kept, but passed on to his two kids. It’s the same with the frames, he points out. A 2014 Ticket S doesn’t look much like a jerry-rigged 2004 Session 77, but they are inextricably linked through a long process of determining what was worth holding onto.
“You look at how just antique the first frame looks, and then how polished the ones at the end look, and to think that the ones at the end you can actually just order up and buy,” McCaul says. “I think it says a lot not only about Trek’s development of that frame and their willingness to embrace that side of the sport at such an early time, but also just the progression of the sport.”
McCaul hadn’t anticipated that making the video would be so cathartic. The idea for the video was borne in part from the fact that his hometown of Bend, Ore., was too cold and snowy to do the type of riding he typically does on his YouTube channel. But the process of editing the video gave him time and space to reflect on how far he’s come since hopping on the “Drop In” bus at 18 years old.
“At that time you’re focused on certain things, and the big picture isn’t one of them,” McCaul says. “I think I’d be really proud to see that mountain biking has grown, and trail riding has gotten more and more aggressive. I feel like the influence of slopestyle and free ride has had a big effect on the way people ride, and that has had an effect on the way companies develop the bikes.
“I would be really excited to see that it’s still a thing. And not only is it a thing, it’s bigger than we could have ever imagined.”