Charlie Harrison first rode with Trek when he was 14. Now he's starting a new chapter.
Charlie Harrison is a Trek racing legend: A true lifer who not only succeeded on the track, but helped the company develop some of its most innovative mountain bike technology while representing himself and the sport of downhill racing with incredible cheer and humility. Charlie is leaving Trek Factory Racing for a new career in firefighting, and we can’t thank him enough for everything he has given to Trek and the mountain biking community over the last 10 years.
Charlie started riding with Trek in 2012 as part of the ODI-Trek Satellite Racing squad at just 14 years old. He returned from a two-year stint with another team in 2015, when he took on a pivotal role as part of the Trek Test Team. At the time, Charlie was one of the first riders to give product feedback on the constantly evolving Trek Session, which won 12 World Cup races and a World Championship during the two years he was on the squad.
During that time, Charlie established himself as one of the top American juniors. His time with the Test Team opened doors to a fulfilling career in racing.
“Without that, I probably wouldn’t have even gotten my ride with TFR, just because I made so many good connections and got to meet so many people who were so pivotal in my career and also really had my back,” Charlie says. “I got to try new things and get exposed to what being on a factory team looks like before you’re actually on it.”
In 2019, Charlie joined a new and incredibly young TFR squad that included current teammates Kade Edwards and Reece Wilson. In his first World Cup race with the squad, he took fourth in Maribor, earning his first career elite World Cup podium. He closed the season by taking third in Snowshoe on home U.S. soil.
“There was so much momentum within the team,” Charlie recalls. “Everyone was just so psyched on each other. Everything was going great. All these things rolled into each other and played into that result. I’m so thankful to have been able to stand on a World Cup podium. That was super, super huge for me.”
Charlie recalls joining TFR unsure of how well he’d mesh with his new teammates. Any worries were put to rest at the first team camp.
“We had our first team camp in 2019 in December and we knew each other from racing, but we didn’t actually know each other,” Charlies says. “But on Day 1 it was like we had been on the same team for years. It was crazy how quickly everything just clicked. I think that was so, so beneficial moving forward, because everyone was feeding off of each other and we just had such a good time.”
Charlie’s experience confirmed that Trek could be his home for the rest of his career. The pandemic and injuries disrupted Charlie’s final three seasons with TFR, but there were still some unforgettable moments, from his three consecutive wins on the brand new Session to open his 2021 season, to one last World Cup top 10 in Snowshoe.
Every time I thought about what sort of a program I wanted, it always came back to Trek.
“Every time I thought about what sort of a program I wanted, it always came back to Trek,” Charlie says. “Trek is just a professional, dialed brand. At the same time, I think a big part of my success was because I had so much experience with Trek and I knew exactly how everything was run. There was no question in my mind that Trek was the right fit for me.”
Harrison is leaving downhill racing to become a firefighter in his native California. He has envisioned taking on the role his entire life. His father is a retired fire chief, and his younger brother is also in training to become a firefighter. But though he’s moving on to a long-awaited new chapter in his life, Charlie is grateful to have had the chance to race bikes for a living.
“It’s been such a family over the last four years, and looking back, there were so many crazy experiences that we got to share, and monumental things that everyone on our team got to accomplish,” Charlie says. “After having time to reflect on all of these amazing opportunities throughout my career and experiences I got to share with people, it’s cool that now I’m able to be like, ‘Wow, that was so awesome.'”
Charlie will miss his teammates most of all, in particular Reece Wilson. The two were less than a year apart in age, and followed similar development trajectories.
“I feel like Reece and I have had such a great relationship within our time on the team together. We’ve grown super close like friends and brothers,” Charlie says. “Even if we had different circumstances within the season, we were feeling the same things and we were super open with each other and super supportive. I’m definitely thankful for him.”
Charlie’s legacy at Trek is unlike any other rider’s. He played an outsized role in the brand’s nascent forays into mountain bike racing, and sparked excitement among domestic and international fans for a burgeoning sport. He was also one of Trek’s longest-tenured riders with seven years of experience performing at a high level on Trek bikes.
I just want to thank everyone at Trek. The effort definitely doesn't go unnoticed. And to be able to have been part of such a top tier program is such a blessing.
“I just want to thank everyone at Trek. The effort definitely doesn’t go unnoticed. And to be able to have been part of such a top tier program is such a blessing,” Charlie says. “I’m so thankful to have my name associated with that forever. They really helped me push my potential. It’s been a true honor to be a part of Trek and get to work with everyone.”
We know that Charlie is off to do great things. All the best, Chuck.