Bodhi Kuhn is 17, but he's already tearing up World Cups and dreaming of building rockets
Bodhi Kuhn raced on the World Cup circuit for the first time in 2022, but you wouldn’t know he was a newbie just by watching him. He was easily one of the most consistent performers in the junior category, finishing outside of the top 5 only twice in the seven events he completed. The highlight of his season was a third place finish at his home country course in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada. In short, he was ready for the moment.
“Even from my first couple years racing, I always knew I was going to end up at the World Cup one way or another,” Kuhn says. “I wasn’t going to let myself not achieve that goal. In my mind it was never really an option. So it felt like all the planning, everything that led up to it was like, ‘OK, I’m ready for this.'”
Being able to train with those guys, ride with them all the time, have all the support from the team, it's definitely a dream come true.
Kuhn grew up in Rossland, British Columbia, where he says “if you don’t bike and ski then you’re pretty much doing nothing at all there.” He was raised by mountain biking parents. His father coached him as well as other local kids, and Kuhn traveled to races all over Canada to watch his older sister compete.
Last year, Kuhn rode part-time as a privateer, and part-time under the Trek Factory Racing Downhill tent while several riders were out with injuries. Beginning this season, he will be a full-time rider for the squad, joining Loris Vergier, Reece Wilson and Kade Edwards.
“It’s always been the goal to get on this team and ride with these people like Loris and Reece and Kade, these people that I’ve looked up to for a long time,” Kuhn says. “Being able to train with those guys, ride with them all the time, have all the support from the team, it’s definitely a dream come true, and I’m really excited to have the first year with them.”
Though Kuhn might be as prepared for the rigors of World Cup DH racing as any 17-year-old can be, he was initially overwhelmed by the speed and preparation needed to compete at the highest levels of the sport. Fortunately, he had a strong mentor with him. Vergier, who has seven elite World Cup victories to his name, was right by Kuhn’s side, showing him the ins and outs of racing the gnarliest tracks in the world.
“Getting to work with [Loris] one-on-one, doing track walk, going over lines and video and stuff like that, and just understanding how that team and how those riders do their race craft, it made a huge difference,” Kuhn says. “He made time for me, and he treated me like I was just another racer, somebody that had good ideas and understood everything. And that made a big difference, just having that mutual respect.”
Kuhn is preparing for another highly educational season racing incredible venues all over the world. He spoke to the Trek Race Shop about swimming in the deep end of World Cup competition, how he’s growing as a rider, and how he developed a passion for aerospace engineering (!) and hot Super Bowl takes (!!). The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
How does it feel to officially be a part of TFR? Does it feel affirming of this crazy career path you’ve been on?
Bodhi Kuhn: Yeah, for sure. It’s like the last four or five years I’ve been riding for Trek and it’s always been the goal to be able to get on this team and ride with these people like Loris and Reece and Kade, these people that I’ve looked up to for a long time. And it’s a pretty big move for me. Last year I was doing half privateer, half with the team at the end of the year. And now being able to train with those guys, ride with them all the time, have all the support from the team, it’s definitely a dream come true, and I’m really excited to have my first year with them.
How did you grow from being able to split your time with the team last year?
Kuhn: It was invaluable. It was amazing. At the time it was just Loris and me because of injuries, so getting to work with him one-on-one, doing track walk, going over lines and video and stuff like that, and just understanding how that team and how those riders do their race craft, it made a huge difference. And just seeing how he deals with the pressure, the mental challenges, all that side of this stuff. And then being able to learn and work with him and go back and forth on lines and every bit of the race made a huge difference.
[Loris] was really supportive. He made time for me, and he treated me like I was just another racer, somebody that had good ideas and understood everything. And that made a big difference.
What was Loris like to be around? He’s a very accomplished rider. Did he have a lot of time to show you the ropes?
Kuhn: Yeah, for sure. He was really supportive. He made time for me, and he treated me like I was just another racer, somebody that had good ideas and understood everything. And that made a big difference, just having that mutual respect.
It was interesting for me to see him. You see him from afar and you’re like, ‘OK, he must have all the confidence in the world, he knows he’s one of the best,’ but he’s still just as unsure about certain things as anybody else is. It was good to understand that even the best in the world still struggle.
You had an impressively consistent season given it was your first time racing World Cups. Did that surprise you at all?
Kuhn: It was a completely new experience. Like going to Lourdes for the first race of the year, I’d never been to Europe before. Normally I’m not riding my bike at that time of the year. So getting right into it at the biggest race that I’ve ever been to and seeing all my idols around me everywhere, it was super overwhelming at first. And it was hard to just be like, ‘OK, just race, do your race.’
But it started to get easier as the time went on, and everybody around me, like Andrew [Shandro], everybody on the team was just like, ‘All we want to see is you consistently getting a little bit better each weekend, getting into the flow of things, understanding the differences in racing and then just building on each week.’ And I feel like that’s what I did. I never rushed into it too fast where I was making a lot of mistakes and pushing too hard.
You definitely did a great job of that. Then in terms of getting faster each week, what made the biggest difference from race to race?
Kuhn: I think a big part of it was just understanding the changes on the track. As many people ride it at the speeds they do, it changes so much, and the lines that you think you’re on at the start of race day are going to be different than the ones that you race on. You need to be able to adapt quickly to that.
And then you just get used to the speeds. It’s a new thing; the tracks are much more wide open and much faster, and you start to think at a different pace than you do at some of the local races that are a little tighter and slower.
What sort of tracks do you like the best?
Kuhn: This year I loved Mont-Sainte-Anne and I loved Andorra. I’m a big fan of the fast tracks and the gnarly tracks, where the overall speed is higher. The tracks that are sometimes a little janky and finicky, I still enjoy them a lot, but they’re a lot harder to get your head around and be consistent on. And for me, coming from BC in Canada, I’m used to the big, fast, wide open dust bowls, which is why Andorra was probably one of my favorites.
I'm a big fan of the fast tracks and the gnarly tracks, where the overall speed is higher.
Your best result was in Mont-Sainte-Anne. Being from Canada, had you ridden it before?
Kuhn: I rode it once when I was maybe 13 with my dad. I didn’t actually ride the whole course, I just rode beside it because we were on a trip. But even from the first day at that race, I had more confidence and I felt better on my bike than anywhere else. And then after having a good qualifying run in second, I felt confident that I was going to be able to bring that to the race. I feel like when you get that little extra boost of confidence, you just ride better, more solid, and that’s what happened at that race.
It was a Canadian race, but it wasn’t necessarily a home race because it was far from BC and you didn’t know the track well. Was it still exciting to do so well in your home country? What was the reception from the crowd like?
Kuhn: I didn’t really expect it to be something more than just another race, but there was such a massive crowd, and Canadians, they’re very passionate about the sport. And then having Jackson [Goldstone] up there on the podium, and then Finn [Iles] winning as well, going up there and having everybody cheer and sing the national anthem, it was a pretty surreal experience. I really didn’t expect it to be such a patriotic thing, but it felt like a bigger deal than I thought it was gonna be.
Give us your back story: What got you into mountain biking?
Kuhn: I grew up in Rossland, and if you don’t bike and ski then you’re pretty much doing nothing at all there. So from the time I was two years old I was into biking. And my dad used to race the national races in Canada, and he grew up coaching me and a bunch of other kids from Rossland. And he always went to the races during the summer, and he went with my sister because she’s a little bit older than me, and I just always wanted to race these races with my dad and my sister and just keep spending time on bikes, doing all the things that I love.
And then eventually I started riding at a faster pace, and I was like, ‘OK, this is something.’ Even from the first couple years racing, I always knew I was going to end up at the World Cup one way or another. I knew I wasn’t going to let myself not achieve that goal. In my mind it was never really an option. So it felt like all the planning, everything that led up to it felt like, ‘OK, I’m ready for this.’
And then when I got there, you’re still just like, ‘Wow, OK, maybe it’s something completely different that I wasn’t prepared for.’
Even from the first couple years racing, I always knew I was going to end up at the World Cup one way or another. I knew I wasn't going to let myself not achieve that goal. In my mind it was never really an option.
If you weren’t a pro rider, what do you think you’d be doing right now?
Kuhn: I still want to go to school and I’m really interested in engineering and specifically aerospace engineering. It’s something that if I wasn’t biking right now, I’d probably be putting 100% effort into it. It’s just something that inspires me in a similar way that mountain biking does. There’s endless possibilities and there’s so many new things to explore.
Do you see any similarities between those two passions? What is the draw to aerospace engineering for you?
Kuhn: It’s weird because in my mind there’s a connection there. But it’s not so much that they’re both about speed or anything like that. In my mind there’s just so many opportunities and different things to explore within those little niche groups. For mountain biking, I want to be able to race World Cups and race World Championships and get to a point where I’m really accomplished at the end of my career. And then for engineering, I just feel like I can help push our knowledge and understanding of whatever may be out in space, because I’m building rockets. It’s about exploration. I feel like there’s no limits to what either thing can lead me to.
Where did that interest in aerospace engineering come from?
Kuhn: Honestly, I have no idea. I can’t remember. It’s been a long time since I started getting into it. I’ve always been super interested in space and exploring what’s out there because there’s just so much of it and we’re just a very small, little planet. And I think I was like, ‘OK, I probably don’t really want to be an astronaut, so what else can I do?’ And I thought, ‘Make big explodey engines.’ [Laughs.]
Did you geek out when the James Webb telescope was launched?
Kuhn: I was very excited. It’s pretty funny, there’s been a couple of launches. Like the SLS rocket launch, I watched that with my sister and her boyfriend and I was so excited. And they’re just like, ‘OK, that’s cool I guess.’
That was basically your Super Bowl.
Kuhn: Yeah, exactly.
Amazing. Back to Earth: What are you most looking forward to this season?
Kuhn: Honestly, just getting time on my bike, riding as fast as I can in these really amazing places around the world that I would never be able to ride if I wasn’t on this team and racing World Cups. And just trying to grow as an athlete, but also as a person. There’s a lot of new experiences coming up and I’m trying to make the most of them.
I was like, 'OK, I probably don't really want to be an astronaut, so what else can I do?' And I thought, 'Make big explodey engines.'
Are there any tracks or parts of the world you’re excited to explore?
Kuhn: Yeah, I am really excited to go back to France. I really like it there. That was super fun. I’m excited but also a little bit nervous about going back to Canada. I really can’t wait to ride the Mont-Sainte-Anne track again. But being in October in Canada on the East Coast, it could very well be snowing and negative degrees.
What makes you think you’ll be a better rider this year? How will your biggest improvement come about?
Kuhn: I think there’s a lot of factors. I think it’s a lot of small things coming together. I’m doing a lot more focused training this year, understanding how to hit the goals that I’m after and what steps I can take to get there. But I think my biggest opportunity, where a lot of the improvement on the bike is going to come from, is just being able to ride with my teammates, who are some of the fastest people in the world. Getting to learn from them on the bikes and off the bikes, I think that’ll be where I probably grow the most this year.
We can’t wait. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kuhn: You mentioned the Super Bowl. I’m a big football fan, and I think that’s pretty funny coming from Canada. Nobody else in Canada really likes football, so I’m always trying to get all my friends, teammates and family to watch, and they’re like, ‘Uh, no, probably not.’
I’m a big Chargers fan. And I’m a big Oregon Ducks fan, actually. And you know, Justin Herbert came from Oregon.
The Ducks are cool! They have great jerseys. How’d you get into football?
Kuhn: My dad went to Oregon. He’s from Eugene, so he went to school there. I wasn’t really ever that into the sport, but one game he just explained to me how it worked, and then I got hooked.
What did you think of the Super Bowl this year?
Kuhn: I think it was one of the best Super Bowl games of all time until that last call. I thought that was a very lame way to end the game.
It was kind of lame.
Kuhn: And the whole game there wasn’t a single holding call, and then right then and there? It’s like gah, really? I mean, I am more a fan of the Eagles anyways, so I might be a little biased.