24 St. Patrick’s Days ago, the U.S. got Hans Rey

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Never lacking a sense of moment, Hans “No Way” Rey tweeted earlier today, St. Patrick’s Day, that he came to the U.S. from his native Germany exactly 24 years ago. Now that may make some of us feel pretty old, but it also brings back a flood of great memories from watching Hans over the years. The guy deserves far more accolades than he usually gets for creating a whole new zeitgeist for mountain biking.

Two things in particular: Hans bridged trials excellence with fearless mountain biking stunts and showmanship. And Hans brought his game to video, creating a culture and spreading a market that evolved into today’s high-flying slopestyle DVDs and Web clips.

Mixing it up with Greg Herbold, Hans starred in the first feature-length mtb film, the must-see “Tread,” back in 1994. By then he was already an old hand at making specialty videos in a series that included the aponymous “Hans No Way Rey” and “Monkey See Monkey Do.” His 2006 “pub crawl” with the winningest mountain bike racer in history, Steve Peat, is a YouTube classic. (Note: Catch the hairball cliffs riding, the most daring we’ve seen documented!)

I first caught Hans’ act live in the mid-’90s in a crowd-pleasing Vancouver, B.C. demo that included riding up and over a car as well as drop-wheelies up and down the concrete abutments at the plaza. Always approachable, he stuck around to chat with fans afterward. When I stood next to him I was surprised at how tall he was — around 6 feet — and how taut and sinewy his slender but powerful frame appeared. He was leaner and more chiseled back then, and of course had the trademark pony tail and full blond head of hair. His whole body rippled when he moved.

Over the years I’ve seen him perform at various bike shows, including Whistler Crankworx a few years ago. During the Whistler demos he was feeling it, and it seemed obvious that for extreme trials the years were catching up. Sweating profusely after one demo, he told me, “It’s a bit much, show after show. I’m whipped.” The following year Ryan Leech replaced Hans, who hasn’t been back since.

Today’s younger generation of freeriders pays homage to folks like Wade Simmons and Dangerous Dan and Andrew Shandro. But if you ask those stars about their heroes, the list starts and ends with Hans Rey. As we noted when all the commotion over brilliant newcomer Danny MacAskill hit, Danny is just one of countless trials progeny benefiting from the trails — and trials — Hans blazed.

Hans is traveling the globe and on Twitter and doing his charity work and otherwise keeping it real with his own unique brand of cycling outreach and evangelism. He’s giving back to the sport that’s been good to him. We at Bike Intelligencer hope he is aware of what he’s meant to the mtb world over the years and are glad that, once he landed here in the U.S. two dozen years ago, he never left.

  • A brief historical overview from Hans Rey’s Web site.
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