With another SA title and a top 10 finish at World Championships, Luke Moir has a promising career ahead. He waves goodbye to the Juniors and moves into the U23s complete with his own clothing range – and a fierce desire to be the fastest man when it matters.
For aspiring pro mountain biker Luke Moir, riding his bike is more natural than walking. He can’t remember quite when he started riding – though he does remember racing through the streets of Lakeside with his JD Bug push bike from a very early age.
Part of a competitive sporting family – dad Mark has represented SA both in Waterski
and in Master MTB World Champs – and the middle of three boys, Luke has always liked to win.
He won his first Western Province XCO race at the age of 10, and has posted consistently excellent results since. In 2018 he was South Africa’s XCO, XCM, XCE and Enduro Champion.
He won SA XCO Champs again in 2019, and went on to place 5th (despite having a puncture in the last lap) at the XCO World Championships in Montreal, Canada. This saw him officially ranked as the number one Junior Boy in the World for XCO at the start of the 2020 season.
Of course, it was to become the season that didn’t happen as Covid-19 turned racing
goals upside down. In the end, just getting to the startline for the 2020 UCI MTB World
Championships in Leogang, Austria in October – for his first XCO race since March – was a
feat in itself. He started strong in less than ideal conditions, with the rain-drenched course
throwing up lots of mud and deep ruts on a very steep and technical terrain, but a
mechanical caused him to lose a lot of time and he crossed the finish line 9th overall.
A win at SA Champs in early November finished his Junior career on a high. He turned 18 in December and moves into the Under 23s for 2021, where he’ll be looking for top World Cup spots and the chance to represent SA at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.
Was your dad the moving target that inspired your MTB success, or do you just love riding your bike and have natural talent? A bit of both. My dad was always an inspiration, but my love for the adrenalin rush of riding has always been there.
What drove your rapid rise to the top ranks of international Junior MTB? I’m a very competitive person and I like to win. My dad saw a talent in me in riding and I really enjoyed it so we wanted to see how far I could get in the sport. I’ve always been very passionate about trying to be one of the best in the world at something and I really believe I can reach this goal in mountain biking.
When did you win your first big MTB race, what was the race and what age were you? My dad took me to a WP XCO race when I was a nipper of about nine or 10. We practiced the course and it was super technical for me because I wasn’t too good back then. On race day,
there were lots of other much bigger boys so I just rode the race and had fun. I ended up
winning on the day. It was really cool to win and I really wanted to have that feeling
Did you ever meet the late Burry Stander, the 2009 U23 Men’s Cross Country World Champion and two-time Cape Epic winner? Do you think South Africa has any upcoming riders in his league? I met him once at a national race in Nelspruit. I saw him riding with his dad, and looked at this as wanting to be able to do this with my dad when I was older. I definitely think South African has upcoming riders in his league – there’s Alan Hatherly who won the 2018 U23 Cross Country World Championships. We have
some of the best MTB coaches in the world, which will help riders to reach the top
Is Alan likely to medal in Japan? I think Japan will be Alan’s first Olympic Games. I’d really love to see a South African cross-country racer take the top step of the podium at the Olympics for the first time ever – but even a top 3 would be insane.
What has been the most challenging part of your journey to being the world’s top-ranked Junior cross country rider going into the 2020 season? How do you juggle your academics, social life and sport? It’s quite hard to keep the motivation going when you are training every single day at the highest level and over the weekends, especially when it’s the worst of weather and you have a 1 000-word English essay due the next day. It’s also tough to keep up a social life when you know your friends don’t have to worry about training every day. But
I try to have some balance because I’ll only be this age once. However, I have big goals for the future.
What do you love most about MTB? Is it exploring trails, jumping bigger bumps, kicking ass, looking ripped on the beach, travelling the world or being a legend among your peers? I love finding the fastest and smoothest lines in the trails because there is no other feeling quite like this flow. The adrenalin rush of going as fast as I can downhill is my high and all-time favourite thing about riding, but during cross country racing, I like to burn it out in front of the crowds, going as hard as I can while head to head with many other riders.
Tell us about the highlights and lowlights of going from young oke with some talent to podiums in Europe? What goes on behind the scenes that other youngsters should know about, and what can those with the perseverance look forward to most? In my first ever
SA Champs, I came 8th and developed a small dislike for riding after that, but I carried on, and the year after that, I came nd, and it gave me the feeling that I could do anything. There have been many ups and downs. For example, I had several injuries in Grade 7 (aged 13), which meant I missed some nationals and only returned to racing for SA Champs, which I went on to win. Again, it shows you can go from the bottom to the top again.
After I showed talent in SA, we decided to head overseas to race against the big dogs in Switzerland in a Swiss Cup. I went from winning races by four minutes to having the
tightest race I’ve ever had and winning by four seconds! After that, I broke my arm on
a training ride with another Swiss rider, so that shows that you can go from the top to the bottom as well. Every year after that, I’ve been going overseas to race and there have been good and bad races which I’ve learned lots from. The feeling of winning overseas is unreal
because of the big crowds, large race numbers and tough competition with big podium
All your preparation and training is done long before race day. Race day is execution day and if your prep and training has gone well, then it should be a good day. All the hard work is worth it for the feeling of stepping on the top step of the podium and knowing you were the fastest man on the day.
Tell us about the crazy weather conditions in Leogang, where you raced this year’s World Champs. How did you find the steep, rooty course and what was it like to be back racing after so many months in lockdown? It was really cool to be back travelling again, and exciting to be able to race the World Champs after all the uncertainty. It already felt like a win just being able to get there! It was a very different atmosphere due to Covid-19, but it still felt like it was going to be a super fun time. Track practice was a super big mess due to the extreme weather. Quite a few parts of the track were unrideable. It was super tricky and a very different experience for me as a South African. I do enjoy riding in the rain but this was next level so it was a bit weird riding on a flat surface, having zero grip where your tyres would just spin out.
On race day, the track had not dried out at all and ruts had formed, making the mud super squishy and sludgy. I felt super strong on the day but unfortunately I had had no XCO races before Worlds, which I could tell as I lacked the XCO power and lungs. Due to the mud, mechanicals were happening throughout the races, to not only me but other racers as well, so it was an extremely interesting race.
In the end, I had lots of fun and experienced stuff that I’d never be able to experience
in SA, so I think the trip was definitely worth it even though I didn’t get the result I had
been hoping for. The weather improved a lot for the U23 and Elite races and then, on
the last day, for the DH men, there was a bit of snow.
Who’s been your hero in MTB, and who’s career would you most like to emulate? I’d like to go more to the XC side like Nino Schurter, but I do love Enduro racing so I’m sure in the future I’ll be doing both as I believe I could be competitive in both disciplines at the top
level. However, I’ll still mostly concentrate on XC.
Give us your best tips on technical trail riding, including how to ace the A-line rather than the
chicken run. There is not much you can do on the day of practising the track to improve your skills. It is all done long before that. The various ways I’ve improved my technical skills are by racing enduro, building my own trails and hitting trail after trail as fast and smooth as I can every single time I ride. Eventually you’ll see that your speed will increase on your home trails and every time you are on unknown trails, you’ll find it easier to choose faster lines quicker.
Hit us with your 5 raddest places to ride a MTB, both in SA and internationally. My home trails in Tokai are awesome for my XC bike. Jonkershoek in Stellenbosch is good for my enduro riding. Mont-Sainte-Anne in Canada is awesome – after World Champs in Montreal in 2019, I rode some of the best trails I’ve ever ridden in my life. I’ve ridden incredible natural trails in Switzerland with Andy Seeli and I love the Flyup417 Bike Park in the UK.
Where to from here, Team Moir? I’m hoping to travel to the U23 World Cups and
beyond that, I’d like to qualify for the Commonwealth Games 2022.
Will we see you and your dad team up for some stage races perhaps? For fun, maybe.
Tell us about your clothing line: I’ve started my own brand called LMR (Luke Moir Racing), and we make my own custom race kit (tops, baggy shorts, caps and sweatshirts). We are hoping to go to market by the end of the year as we are finishing off the final R&D on the first sets of kit. The idea behind this is to raise funds for my racing.