A Kiwi in the Valleys: meet our cover star Leo Sandler
Our headline feature this month highlights the 10 hottest up-and-comers who should be on your radar in 2019. One of these new elites is Leo Sandler, and if you're not familiar with his wild riding, we bet you soon will be
MBUK: Tell us about yourself...
Leo: I’m 23, from New Zealand and currently living in the golden valleys of South Wales.
What prompted the move over from NZ to UK?
I was sinking into the chiller life a bit too much in NZ and decided to travel around Europe. I got offered a job in Bristol and quite liked it!
How did you get into riding bikes?
My sister and I would always go to the local bike park on weekends and I'm still not bored of it to this day.
What style of riding do you like the most and where do you normally ride?
Sessions with mates are definitely where I’m the happiest, whether that involves riding a whole trail, or just a set of berms or jumps. I mostly ride at Black Mountains Cycle Centre, BikePark Wales and on the natural trails all over the valleys.
We hear you now work at Black Mountains too?
Yeah, I help out there, mostly on the trails. I've always been a fan of Sean and Huw's work so it's great to dig stuff that I can look forward to shredding later.
Who do you normally ride with?
I mainly ride with my sister [Veronique Sandler] but other than that, the G Up or Die crew. Riding is something that both me and Vero have always loved doing, and we'll continue to love it until the end. It makes it way sicker, and pushes us both to try new stuff. Seeing her send things that scare the life out of me always blows my mind and inspires me.
Do you look up to any other riders?
The people I ride with, for sure. That's Vero, Kade Edwards, Kaos Seagrave, Max Nerurkar, Joe Parfitt and all the boys I ride with really. Those guys definitely push the limits and keep the stoke alive.
Do you think it’s tough trying to make it as a rider, rather than a racer? Do you feel any pressure to do crazy stuff in order to get noticed?
I've never really thought about it in that way, to be honest – I just ride my bike. I love the media side of it, but it’s always just been a personal thing – which a few people have started liking – so I’m just happy to keep doing that and let it go where it wants!
You've filmed a few pretty wild web edits, is that something you enjoy doing?
I sure do! Sometimes I see things that are gnarly, but the reward of nailing it is too intriguing so I'm willing to scare myself, haha! I’d choose it over a 9-5 any day.
Best trail you’ve ridden this year?
All the tracks in Morgins, Switzerland.
Biggest slam this year?
Casing onto a solid rock at BikePark Wales and obliterating my rear wheel has to be up there. The noise echoed across the valley like a gunshot!
Luckiest escape you’ve ever had?
When I hit a pile of dust in Pila, Italy and fully blew my hand off the bars. Somehow I managed to get it back on and not crash.
Who would be your dream sponsor?
Waitrose – to hook me up with ready meals after a hard ride!
Anywhere you’d love to ride, or a trick you want to nail?
Believe it or not I’ve never been to Whistler so that’s definitely number one on the list. I’d love to be comfortable throwing flat spins too, but that may be far-fetched, so for now I’m gonna stick to whips and shralps!
Where do you want to go in the sport?
I just want to keep doing what I’m doing, progressing and seeing where it takes me.
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Former Mountain Biking UK features editor Ed Thomsett is a downhiller at heart but has been riding bikes of all types since a young age. He's raced both nationally and internationally in downhill and enduro, and has spent several summers living in the Alps and Canada, riding, roadtripping and living the dirtbag lifestyle. Now Ed calls upon his years of experience riding bikes to the limit as a writer and reviewer for MBUK and BikeRadar. He's also an avid trail builder and has scraped out numerous steep and technical lines in the woodlands of his native North Yorkshire. These days Ed will happily turn his hand to any discipline and believes the sign of a good week is when every bike in his shed ends up muddy by the end of it.
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