Ryan Thibault (pronounced tee-boe) is co-founder of Mountain Bike Vermont – MBVT.com – and co-author of the up and coming comprehensive guide to mountain biking in the green mountain state. With the growth of sustainable trail building and landowner cooperation, Vermont has become a destination for mountain bikers of all levels searching for challenging single-track with over 1000 miles to choose from. Not only does Thibault run the organization in his spare time away from freelance graphic design and shredding the brown pow, but he is a tried and true maple syrup drinking, cheddar eatin’ country bumpkin. Ryan enthusiastically obliged my request to probe deeper into his MTB mad genius.
DO: Where did you grow up?
RT: I was born in Berlin, New Hampshire. My folks are both native Vermonters and were going to college in NH. They moved back to VT a couple weeks after my birth so I feel like I can still say I am a “born and raised” Vermonter. I grew up in the Northeast Kingdom, a region known for its rural landscape and agrarian culture. It was a great place to be a kid. I spent my entire youth climbing maple trees with the kids in my neighborhood.
DO: Describe your youth in 3 or so sentences.
RT: We didn’t have video games when I was young. I spent every waking hour running in the woods and can remember not wanting to go home when my parents called at dusk. Summer days were spent at the local lake, winter days were for sledding on the hillside by the house. I would not trade my childhood for any other circumstances.
DO: What is the purpose of MTBVT?
RT: Mountain Bike Vermont documents and promotes the biking culture in our fine State. We’re are in the final stages of publishing a guide book for Vermont. And we also organize and promote events. Oh, and we ride bikes… a lot.
RT: MTBVT was started on a mountain top in the interior of British Columbia. Co-founder Vince Hempsall and I were backcountry skiing, eating lunch on a mountain top, and spit-balling ideas. ” I suggested [that] “we should do a guide book for biking in Vermont” not knowing the investment I was about to make. Vince was all in and MTBVT was born. Over the next year, while compiling beta for the book we found that we had a lot to say in the interim so we started the website and documented our travels.
DO: What makes you and Vince such a great team?
RT: He has put the most time in out of the crew and keeps us on the rails. I am the artsy one that keeps coming up with new lofty ideas. Vince is the one that talks me down off the cliff. I shoot photos. He writes. He also edits my chicken scratch and makes me look like a writer. That said, Vince and I owe a ton of credit to our newer “partners” too. We have amassed a small army of MTBVT supporters/contributors and they are the platform that MTBVT stands on.
DO: When did you start writing the VT MTB guide and what will it cover?
RT: We started three years ago. At the time we figured it would take about six months. We were wrong. We spent the entire first summer traveling the state meeting the cast of characters that have built the scene. We rode a ton, but worked, well, not so much. No worries though because we have been back to every location a few times since. The guide will cover about 25 areas [and] networks around the state.
DO: When do you think it will be coming out?
RT: Late June!
RT: Probably my unabashed gift of gab. My wife calls me Vermont’s biggest cheerleader. I also shoot a mean photo on occasion. My main contribution as of late revolves around branding. My day job is media production and graphic design so I have had many opportunities to marry my trade with my passion for MTB. In the past couple years I’ve branded quite a few events, bike shops, trail networks, trail associations, and even been lucky enough to design graphics on some bikes. It’s gratifying to know I have helped sculpt the local scene at that level.
DO: What ways do you contribute to the mountain biking community in VT?
RT: I ride a lot of trails and try not to skid too much. Does that count? Kidding. I just started a local chapter of VMBA called Mellow Velo, Trail Stewards of the Lamoille Valley. We are working on two trail networks that will be adjacent the local high schools. I’m excited to get more kids involved in the sport. I also do tons of media work outside MTBVT as I mentioned previously.
DO: Who are your heroes?
RT: My grandfather Max. He was as strong as an ox and as flexible as a reed. I learned a lot from him. Miss you Pépère. My business partner Bob, he has taken me under his wing and mentored me as a designer. This is a rare opportunity/relationship in this day and age and I am very appreciative of it. Also folks like Jim Lyall, Brooke Scatchard, John Worth, and Knight Ide that have laid the ground work in the way of VT trail building. Without their efforts we wouldn’t have an amazing local scene and community.
DO: Anything else you want people to know?
RT: Yup. I want everybody to know that I love my wife Amber and thank her for putting up with me and all my ideas and for giving me a beautiful baby girl last month! I also want people to come to Vermont. We have a beautiful and unique state. We are open for MTB business. Come and ride with us. And don’t forget to take home a pound of cheddar and a gallon of maple syrup.