22 Years and Counting

22 Years and Counting

Chris Kovarik x INTENSE x Fresh Paints Whistler

The word ‘legend’ is often used a little too freely, but INTENSE team rider Chris Kovarik really is a legend of the downhill mountain bike world. There are very few (if any) professional mountain bikers that have been with just one brand for such a long period of time. Twenty-two years, well over two decades of loyalty and dedication, during which time Kovarik has won multiple Australian National Championships titles, four World Cups, including his unforgettable +14 second demolition in Fort William 2002… one of the greatest race runs of all time… and all on flat pedals let’s not forget.

Back in the late 1990s Kovarik was part of the initial wave of super fast Aussies that turned the downhill race scene on its head. The style was powerful and aggressive, but always seemingly in control… kind of! When Kovarik was on track it was serious stuff, it was not for the fainthearted. You couldn’t take your eye off him, and he was always up for the win.

So to celebrate 22 years with INTENSE Chris hooked-up with local specialists Fresh Paints of Whistler to create this very personal one-off celebratory custom painted M29 frame. We caught up with Chris and asked him some questions about the project.

So how did this all come about, what’s the lo-down?
Over the 22 years that I’ve been riding for INTENSE there has been on and off talk about creating a Kovarik signature frame, a way to celebrate both INTENSE’s and my work and loyalty... time flew by and nothing really came of it. I got chatting to my good riding buddy, videographer and now master painter at Fresh Paints of Whistler Dylan Forbes, and asked him about a Kovarik signature paint job, and he was like, ''yeah, let’s do it''!

This was all over two years ago in Whistler when I had an M29 frame sitting there. I taped it up ready to paint with a design so I could later present it to INTENSE. A few weeks later I decided I didn’t like the idea and scrapped it. I flew back to Whistler in January this year and got chatting to Dylan again and we decided to do an all-out, one-off custom ‘22 years with INTENSE’ paint job.

Have you worked with team at Fresh Paints before?
I have not worked with them before doing paint jobs, but I have watched Dylan at work painting many times before, so I trust his style. Fresh Paints and I go back over 10 years of filming. They have pretty much filmed all my videos, like the Crankworx Dirt Diaries. Dylan, Mitch and Dewey are a very talented bunch off the bike as well as on it.

There is a crazy amount of detail that has gone into this design.
The blood splatter window and skull window were Dylan’s idea, it was a way to separate the paintwork, ideas and colors but still incorporate the INTENSE logo clearly. There’s a ton of detail in places you don’t normally look... you have to see it up close to really appreciate it.

I wanted the paintwork to illustrate some of the work I’ve done over the years. It’s all personal, it’s all the music I’ve listened to, the quotes, the colors, the flags. It’s not just a random idea, it all has meaning or represents parts of my career or something about me. The Australian, American and Canadian flags on the down tube represent respect to myself. Born, bred and began racing in Australia, INTENSE originates from the USA and it’s where I got my first Pro contract, and thrashed and beaten in Canada. I had a bunch more ideas to put into the paintwork but Dylan ran out of time thankfully!

There are lots of band names on there, do you know how many?
No I haven’t counted, but it’s around 25 or so. It’s what I grew up on and still live on... heavy metal. It’s a Metal Mayhem theme I’ve had for around 20 years but I never made into something. There are also a few quotes there that fit into my career… they have all inspired me and driven me on throughout my career and life in general.

And the 22 years of Blood Sweat n Beers?
It’s exactly that. A lot of blood shed on and off the bike, a lot of hard work, sacrifice, dedication, motivation, frustration and dark times... but there have been more good times and a lot of beers along the way.

How did it all come about with INTENSE back in 1999?
It was at the NORBA finals in Vermont. I was a privateer riding for Dave Rodgers’ Qranc Team with Nathan Rennie, Johnny Waddel and the Rogers brothers. I think I won the race and ended up second in the overall points for the series. Later that day Jeff Steber (INTENSE CEO and founder) approached me, gave me his number and said to give him a call if I’d like to ride for INTENSE. A month later I signed with them and basically became part of the family from that day on.

There are probably too many to mention, but what are the highlights from those 22 years with INTENSE?
Yes there’s been a ton of great memories and highlights along the way, a couple that stick out are my win at Fort Bill by 14 seconds, third place at the Worlds in Kaprun 2002. There was my third place in Schladming with Nathan Rennie and Sam Hill winning, we were all on flat pedals which was cool. The comeback win at Mont-Sainte-Anne in 2006 was really satisfying. Then merging with CRC and Nigel Page was a really cool adventure, including three years developing the EVO DH bike. It’s been great to have shared some input and see the bikes evolve from the M1 right through to the M279 mullet today that the INTENSE Factory Racing team and young Seth Sherlock (who I used to coach for many years) are riding.

Back to the frame, the blood splattered inside of the seat and chain stays, it looks like someone has put their fingers in the spokes!
The guys did a custom painted helmet just before the frame so it ties into that, and they both tie into our top five Whistler Crankworx Dirt Diary videos over the years, ‘Shred till ya Dead’, which always had a horror theme. The helmet design was really up in the air, I’m not one for bright colors so when the boys said let’s do all white with blood dripping I wasn’t sure about it, but I trusted them and ran with it. That took four to five days to do and Dylan once again put his touch on it, adding the subtle ‘Karving’ knife armed hooded shadow to tie into to the horror theme.

And the skulls on the frame are a nice touch, ha?
The skulls fit into the heavy metal theme obviously, but also into our films. It’s a graveyard of dark times in my life and career but also a reminder that you could end up there anytime riding or racing your bike if you mess up, that’s how on the edge our sport has become these days (hence the head tube with the upside down Metal Mayhem crosses).

You chose the M29 from the INTENSE range.
It’s a DH bike and that’s what I grew up doing – racing down hill – so it was only fitting to choose the M29 over the M16, as it’s the bike I will be spending most time of my racing, coaching and riding on.

Do you have any idea how many hours it has taken to paint?
The frame took two weeks on the go. You can see that Dylan has put a special touch on this one, and he has also added a few little details I didn’t expect.

Do you have a favorite part of the design?
All of it. When you’re at a distance the frame looks like it’s just black and white but as you get closer you start to see how much detail there is, it’s subtle, detailed and aggressive all in one.

You must have had a few bikes sprayed up over the years, do you have a favorite?
I have had a few different colored DH bikes over the years but this is my first custom paint job, I couldn’t have had better guys painting it or thought of anything this rad in the past.

We can't wait to see it built-up Chris. And I guess we need to know, are you going to ride it or is it going to be hung up on the wall!?
I will be building it up myself to ride in Whistler Bike Park and race some BC DH events where we will be running our INTENSE Podium Payback Program. Cheers.