a hero for a generation

Ride to live. Live to ride. The old Harley Davidson motto and I think it’s one that many mountain bikers also aspire to. When I was just getting seriously into my biking, Jason McRoy was wearing XS Wear T-shirts with that very logo. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Here was a guy who’d gone to the US and raced against the pro riders on the downhill circuit and proved his ability. After those performances he landed the contract with Specialized. He was making the front pages of the magazines and was winning races.

I think that everyone has someone that they respect within a particular sporting discipline, who is a champion of their particular generation, be it Valentino Rossi in motorbike racing, Michael Schumacher in F1 or say John McEnroe in tennis. Those people for that certain generation represent the aspirational heights of the discipline. What tends to add more to the glory of such people is when they have had to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve their status. Lance Armstrong is perhaps the ultimate example of this.

Jason McRoy
gone but not forgotten | photo by Steve Behr

JMC was that for many people. There were the stories, like the one of when the Specialized UK staff had gone over to head office in California and had been quizzed at customs over a large number of MTB Pro magazines with a certain popular rider covering his dignity with a lid. Then there were articles and the photos, like racing a 4×4 down a mountain. And the videos, like Dirt. JMC made you want to get out on your bike and ride, because if you did there was always the outside chance, that one day, if you rode enough, you might just become as good as him.

I remember hearing the news of his passing and not believing it could be true and then not long after I was at the Plymouth Grundig and the riders gave a minutes silence at the start in his honour. It was a chilling moment. Now every time I pass his shrine on the Woodhead Pass I’m reminded of him. I ponder whether Nico would have reigned for so long at the top if Jason had been there to take the battle to him. I don’t know what would have happened, but I wish we’d all been given a chance to find out.

It’s been ten years now, but JMC is missed no less and is still remembered by riders, friends and his family.