Nicholi Rogatkin interview

May 28th, 2015

By Simon Nieborak in Features

The future of freestyle mountain biking

At last year’s 26TRIX event in Leogang, Austria, an unknown rider donning a peak-less full face helmet – Dave Mirra style – had a lot of the top competitors wondering where the heck he’d just emerged from.

Turns out the 19year old from Boston, Massachusetts was a bit of a child prodigy when it comes to riding.

Sponsored from the age of 5, Nicholi developed a bag of tricks by the tender age of 14 that many top riders still don’t have down – he pulled a 360 Double Whip at age 11, a Backflip 360 at age 12 and a Double Backflip at age 13 making him the youngest in the sport to do so, and recently stormed in to the mountain bike slopestyle scene last year with an arsenal of tricks that makes all the top riders sweat. Despite being a rookie, he’s far from shy and kicks the butts of the big dogs – second at Crankworx New Zealand; double win at Vienna Air King with best trick and overall; second at Rocket Air and first again at Bike Days in Switzerland

So, in one short sentence – he’s the future of freestyle mountain biking.

I caught up with Nicholi on a recent shoot in Barcelona and spent some time getting to know him. Here’s our Nicholi Rogatkin interview…

Nicholi Rogatkin interview | Factory Jackson

Off the bike, Nicholi is softly spoken and a relaxed character. You’d never know this by watching him ride though! Photo | ©Simon Nieborak

What goes through your mind when you’re spinning around your axis in one hell of a weird way, to do the the Cash Roll?

“The Cash Roll is a trick that took me over a year to learn and perfect. The first times I tried it I had no comprehension of the rotation or what was even going on throughout the course of the trick, but after persevering through the many failures of trying it I finally was able to perfect it – and it has become almost a routine trick for me now. Regardless, when I take the Cash Roll to the biggest jumps l’ve ever rode – like the ones at District Ride and Whistler – it becomes one of the scariest and toughest tricks for me to do”

Most recently, you even squeezed a bar-spin into it! 

“I was stoked to put down the Cash Roll bar-spin to dirt. I didn’t think it was possible for the longest time because I am a goofy footed rider – so when I do the Cash Roll my knees become very tucked in from spinning to my inside foot. But, I managed to figure it out and put it down at La Poma so that was a crazy feeling!”

Besides you, there are perhaps one or two MTB riders who can do this – why are you so attracted by such big and advanced tricks?

“I have loved big tricks ever since I started riding bikes 14 years ago. Big tricks and new tricks are what inspires me riding everyday. I never had the patience to learn technical tricks, I always just wanted to send it and go as big as possible – so that’s what I always do. Big tricks are what makes me love riding bikes so much”

Let me go back to where it all started from you – you have made a pretty big stir on the freestyle MTB scene in just a year. Where have you come from?

“I have always had great respect for mountain bikers and for their sport. In 2013, I wanted to have fun riding a different bike, and have a bike to ride at Highland Mountain – which is in driving distance for me. Martin Soderstrom and Geoff Rogers were able to help get me hooked up with a Specialized P3, so huge thanks to them! I would not be riding MTB today if it wasn’t for them. ”

“The bike definitely took a bit of getting used to, but eventually I started to learn a lot of my BMX tricks on it. My favourite thing to ride was always dirt, and unfortunately so many of the BMX dirt contests started fading away. I saw how epic all the MTB contests were, so I decided to try and compete. My first big MTB contest was the Colorado Freeride Festival. I knew a few of the guys like Martin, Yannick Granieri, and Sam Reynolds from riding Masters of Dirt with them every year since I was 13. All the other riders were super cool to me and I was really stoked on the all around vibe!  After that, I’ve been in the FMB world and it has been unbelievable throughout.”

Nicholi Rogatkin interview | Factory Jackson

Don’t let the enormous trick bag fool you – Nicholi has style for miles. Photo | ©Simon Nieborak

What’s your favourite place to ride/train at home and the best place you’ve ever ridden, so far?

“I am fortunate to have an amazing setup at home with a lot of ramps, and recently an insane new addition to my yard – a massive airbag, thanks to Kali Protectives. I am in process of building a big start ramp for that, so riding that should be so good once the setup is complete. I also spend a lot of time at Highland Mountain, that place is so fun. They have everything – perfect DH trails, massive slope style course, dirt jumps.. anything you want if you ride bikes.”

“The best place I’ve ever ridden is hard to say, but Crankworx New Zealand in March of this year was amazing – It was the best course I have ever ridden. Perfectly built with huge, flowy, trickable jumps, the sessions we had on that course were unbeatable. I can’t wait to go back there”
Now, when you’re full on into MTB, who’s your best riding buddy, both back home and at contests?

“MTB is such a sick world, honestly I love riding with everyone in this sport. With whoever you ride it’s always such a funny, sick session. That’s one thing that makes contests and traveling so fun – all the guys are so cool to ride with.

Back home my spot is pretty isolated on the east coast and far away from everybody, so I have solo sessions pretty much every time I ride at home!”

Nicholi Rogatkin interview | Factory Jackson

With his peak-less full face helmet, you can see that Nicholi took inspiration from two of the BMX worlds most successful riders – Dave Mirra and Jamie Bestwick. Photo | ©Simon Nieborak

Many passionate mountain bikers aspire to be like you, but who are your idols in this sport?

“Growing up with BMX, my first idol was Dave Mirra. He killed everything in BMX, and his riding style was always to send it huge.

Then I began to spend a lot of time at Woodward Camp and got the chance to ride with Jamie Bestwick and watch him absolutely destroy the vert ramp everywhere he went. He became a huge idol and inspiration for me, and when I go up to Woodward Camp now I still have the chance to have sessions with him which is always such a good time”

The level has risen so high that some riders decide to throw double-backflips in qualification rounds – not to mention insane tricks and combinations in final runs. What’s next in freestyle/slopestyle mountain biking progress?

“The riding level of MTB has gone next level. We’ve had to throw down finals runs in qualification every time. And in finals, I seriously can’t believe my eyes watching – then have to drop in and push myself more than ever before. It’s thrilling and epic every event. The sport is experiencing huge progression, the riding is mind-blowing and riders consistently throw down historic new tricks. For the future, there is undoubtably going to be more progression, bigger jumps, bigger courses, and overall insane riding”

You follow the FMB World Tour – which one is your most favourite? No doubt, you’ll want to defend you first ever MTB win at 26TRIX even in Leogang…

“The FMB World Tour gives us all the opportunity to ride at the highest of our potential and ride at the top level of the sport.

My favourite contest has to be Crankworx Whistler, it’s a contest that really showed me how epic mountain biking is. The first year I went there, was inspirational – I am stoked to go back there! Winning 26Trix was unbelievable at the time – I’m stoked to go back there this year too, the course and the vibe there is fun. I’m going to have fun sessioning there with my friends, and will send it as hard as I can in the contest! Hopefully things will work out for me…
You know the taste of winning pretty damn good – but everything doesn’t always go as smoothly as planned.  Professional mountain biking must be hard work – physically and mentally…

Professional mountain biking is absolutely a dream and something that I’m hugely thankful to be able to do. However, things always get tough regardless of how good you are. It takes so much perseverance when you go for something crazy, crash super hard – and have to get up and do it again without complaints. And then when you do try it again and eat shit even worse, it’s the same process. So it’s gruelling both physically and mentally. Riding MTB is insane in that sense but there’s nothing else I’d rather do”

Nicholi Rogatkin interview | Factory Jackson

Get used to seeing those legs that far away from the pedals… Photo | ©Simon Nieborak

We all love bikes, but there are some other cool things to do in life. What is your way of spending free time in Boston? What are your hobbies?

“There’s nothing better than riding bikes!

But in the winter when it’s too snowy here in Boston I’m either snowboarding or playing hockey. And in the summer when it gets too hot you’ll find me jet skiing!”

Imagine a perfect set of dirt jumps… what is your dream run?

“Perfect jumps and tricks are always going through all rider’s head – we’re constantly imagining the dream run. For me I have a few new tricks in the works so we’ll see if I can make that dream run a reality haha!”



Nicholi Rogatkin is a name you’re going to hear a lot of in 2015 – keep your eyes peeled for his progress, and a few utterly insane tricks that he’s been working on!

For 2015, he rides for: X DubaiSpecializedKali ProtectivesAlpinestarsContinental TyresSpank VP ComponentsDT SwissMasters Of DirtNinjaz Gloves

 Check out Nicholi in the video below – when he was just 14 years old and cranking out the tricks like no one else – just wait until you see what he will be bringing to the MTB scene!




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