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You should know: Ripper’s Lounge Racing

B.C.'s full-speed, full-party team are downhill's biggest fans (and pretty fast themselves)

Photo by: Niall Pinder

If you were to pick one team that best embodies the spirit of downhill in Canada, you probably wouldn’t guess that it might be a group of 30-55 (or older) guys. Downhill is a youthful sport that is, with a few exceptions, dominated by riders in their teens and early 20s. Then there’s Ripper’s Lounge Racing.

If you’ve ever been to a downhill race in B.C., you’ve likely noticed, either seen or heard, the RLR tent. Famous for being in the centre of the action, and for welcoming new national champions with celebratory keg stands (yes, they have a keg of Deep Cove refreshments… at their tent), the RLR tent is where the party starts on most days. Often mid-afternoon.

Ripper's Lounge Racing rider races mountain bikes in Fernie B.C.
Race day red!

Origins of the lounge

RLR came to downhill later than most. They were originally a group of friends more focused on freeriding (and refreshments after) on Cypress Mountain on Vancouver’s North Shore. The racing side started almost as a joke, to get back at a friend.

“One year, one of the guys said he wouldn’t be riding with us anymore because he’d joined a downhill race team and had to train seriously,” Brett Carels says when explaining the team’s origin story. “We thought we’d show him that you can race and still have fun, so we started our own team.” While the team does party, Carels is quick to add that they race, too. In their first year, RLR finished ahead the team their buddy defected to in the series standings.

That work-hard-play-hard approach remains. While they may be the first to start the party, RLR also races hard. Several team members are on the podium on any given weekend and the team has several national championship titles, including Don van Eesteren and Tom Power in 2022. They’ve been a commanding force in the overall points race at Dunbar Summer Series, re-capturing the “Oustanding Team” trophy over the weekend at Kicking Horse, and even earned a nod from the normally elite-focused Cycling BC awards for “Team of the Year.” This year, two Rippers took the team international with a trip to UCI Masters worlds in Patagonia. Lately, the traditionally Masters-exclusive team has expanded, adding a female racer and an elite racer, Rob Davis.

Tianna Smith hands over the “Outstanding Team” trophy to Ripper’s Lounge Racing at the end of 2022 Dunbar Summer Series. Photo: Niall Pinder

Chainsaws, spades and mangos

Like many things in Canadian downhill, RLR’s passion can be traced in part back to Stevie Smith. RLR’s switch to racing coincided with Smith’s rise on the international scene. A team trip to Norway to watch Hafjell World Cup in 2012, just as Smith was building momentum in his World Cup overall campaign, cemented their path further into racing.

“We just thought this was the coolest thing ever. We’re huge Stevie fans,” says Carels. “Getting to see him win in Hafjell, then everything that happened that year? That was amazing.”

To this day, the team still proudly wears a Long Live Chainsaw patch on their race day red jerseys.

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About the name? Carels gives the literal explanation that they’re rippers, they like to ride fast, and their tent in the pits is a place where anyone can come lounge at the races. He almost says it with a straight face, too.

While they may not care about being polite, especially on Instagram, Ripper’s Lounge Racing do care deeply about supporting downhill racing in Canada. They don’t shy away from raising a stink when they think something isn’t right and are always doing what they can to promote and support younger riders they think deserve more attention.

This year, the team’s made custom mango-shaped F**K Cancer stickers, supporting Canadian downhill racer Magnus Manson through treatment. They were selling them from the RLR pits all week, with donations going to a charity of Manson’s choice.

That kind of commitment to the downhill community is why you’ll see their staple Ace of Spade’s stickers on race bikes from riders of all different teams in the pits. Most of them weren’t even put there by the Rippers, either.