An Interview with Léo Nobile
Monday 27 June 2011
by Ben Swales

PNG - 310.3 kb Two years ago, the trials world was blown away by a youtube street video. A certain Danny MacAskill pushed street trials into a new dimension, bringing it to a much wider audience and to media that had previously not shown much interest in it (newspapers, TV, cinema). It has now almost become a new discipline in itself, with new bikes and components reaching the market designed especially for this purpose. France, one of the bastions of competition trials, has also picked up on this new street trials fever. Léo Nobile (TMS / Bikevision) is one of the best examples of this. This dedicated comp rider now swears by street riding and, at the end of last year, he blew our minds with an astonishing new video that showed off his repertoire of tricks and lines, drawing influence form BMX, Danny MacAskill style street trials and trials competition (see the video here). Other videos soon followed, showing Léo to be a great street rider in his own right, adding a real ‘French touch’ to this, until recently, predominantly British discipline (Léo Nobile’s Winter Vid, Léo Nobile in Chambéry & Léo Nobile - After School). Each of these videos has been watched thousands of time, with the latest picking up over 20,000 hits on Zapiks! But who is Léo Nobile? What is he about? We decided to find out.

JPEG - 738.7 kb Based on your recent videos, it would be easy to forget that you were, first and foremost, a comp rider. You’re a member of Marc Vinco’s club, the Passion Trial club in Chambéry . Tell us a bit about how you started out in trials, how did you get into it, and when?

My parents were looking for a sport for me to do. Football? No way… Then my dad had the brilliant idea of taking me to RTF 73 (Randonneurs Trialiste de France – Trials Ramblers of France), as he had done a bit of moto trials in the past. That was in 1999 and I was six. I really liked it, so we got my first trials bike, a Hebo 20” V-Brake. I took part in my first competition almost straight away, in Poussin category in Saint-Nizier. I think I won, which motivated me even further!

Trials is in your blood then; your dad runs the Passion club and organises the famous Chambéry Internationals?

Yes, my dad’s really thrown himself into the sport, I’m very grateful to him! He started the Passion Trial Chambéry club three years ago, and is still the treasurer, but he doesn’t run it anymore. It’s Jean Christophe Béard, Léo Béard’s dad, who does that now. My dad also had the idea, with the help of Claude David, of organising a bit international trials event that brought all of the best competitors (Benito, the Cousts...), and everyone else, together. The idea was to promote trials (so we ran the comp in the middle of town, and for the riders to have fun (so we ran it in the off-season, after the World Championships, with great sections, a good atmosphere, expenses paid and prize money!). The Chambéry International was born! Unfortunately, last year, my dad had come health problems which have forced him to give up organising the event, and there was no one that was willing to take over…

JPEG - 32.3 kb

That’s a shame! Can you remind us of your results as a competitor?

This is my 12th competition season. I’ve competed in practically all of the Rhône-Alpes and French Cup rounds, except last year, when I was a bit sick of competitions.

JPEG - 50.4 kb My main results are:
- 2003: World Youth Games (Poussin) winner, Mom’Avalanche (DH)
- 2004 – 5th in the World Youth Games (Benjamin)
- 2005 - World Youth Games (Benjamin) winner
- 2006 – French Cup (R1) winner, 5th in the World Youth Games (Minime)
- 2007 – French Cup winner (Cadet), 7th in the World Youth Games (Minime)
- 2008 – 2nd in the World Youth Games (Cadet), 2nd in the French Cup (Cadet), French Champion (National), Rhône-Alpes Cup (Expert) winner
- 2009 – Qualified to take part in the World Cups (16 years old), 6th in the European Championships (Junior)
- 2010 – 7th in the European Championship (Junior)

JPEG - 123.5 kb JPEG - 63.8 kb

JPEG - 103.5 kb Quite impressive! And yet last year, just like that, you stopped competing and took up street riding, signing with TMS and blowing us all away with your video releases. What brought that on?

Haha – no, I didn’t just wake up one morning and make the change… Last year I really got into street trials, but I’d been riding street for years before that, first on my MTB and then on my BMX. I wasn’t that into it to begin with, I was a born comp rider and determined to remain that way! Then I had a couple of bad seasons where luck wasn’t on my side and I got a bit disheartened; I couldn’t be bothered driving 1000km in two days to end up freezing and half drowned in a river in the back end of Spain (bad memories of the World Cup in Ripoll, haha). And then Danny Macaskill released THAT video and Thibaut Marriaux released his first 24” prototype – the Combo. I offered to test it for him for a few months and to put together a promo video.

JPEG - 176.3 kb So it was a conscious decision to take up street trials?

Yeah – less stress and more fun!

So have you got much experience of BMX? How long have you been doing that?

No, not really. I’ve only been riding for a year or so. I’m getting more and more into it though!

I usually ride in Chambéry or in the tiny skatepark in Verney with a gang of seven riders Thomas Chaufer (who got me into BMX), Nicolas Gardent, Tom Boulard, Nicolas Delaporte, Jeremy Brosset and Olivier Trottier... We’re all pretty motivated and push each other quite a bit. It’s a great atmosphere!

JPEG - 55.3 kb What’s your biggest trick?

Flair or backflip to fakie in a quarter pipe.

Not bad… You’re also an accomplished skier, like every true Savoie resident, and you’re not afraid of getting upside down on the slopes either… Does that help with your riding?

Yeah, skiing’s obligatory where I come from! I didn’t get to do much this year, there wasn’t much snow, but it certainly helps with my riding! It means I’m not scared of ramps or being high up and it helps with rotations and spins.

JPEG - 68.6 kb JPEG - 21.1 kb

Have you tried competing on a 26”, or are you still using a Monty Kamel? Or is 2011 going to be pure street trials?

No, I haven’t tried 26” yet. People tend to forget that I’m still riding for the Casa Monty team for 2011! Thanks to Jean Fabregas, who has supported me since 2008!

So you’re riding both disciplines at the same time? Which do you prefer?

It’s completely different! I love pure trials, especially the sessions with Marc Vinco (who I owe a lot to!) and Romain Tiercin... we set the trials world to rights and have a laugh! We sometimes talk more than we ride! I love street trials too; it’s a different style, it’s your imagination that gets the workout, rather than your muscles!

JPEG - 688.1 kb Is there much difference between 24” and 26”? Does it bring anything different to your street riding? What are the benefits of each?

I feel like 24” is the ideal size for street trials, but that is certainly influenced by Danny Mac, at least as far as I’m concerned! It’s a nice balance, not too long, not too short. It’s short enough to make spins and tricks easier and long enough to tap and to lend a pure trials element to the style.

Tell us a bit about your bike... Is it a production model, or do you have a specific build?

I ride a TMS combo. It’s slightly different from the production model; I run double Hopes, a small stem (80mmx5°), Try-all Fork (with slightly less rake than the TMS fork) and a Try-All freewheel and cranks.

JPEG - 664.2 kb Who are your sponsors other than TMS / Bikevision?

As I mentioned above, Casa Monty, the French Monty distributors, New Era Caps, GB73, Nordic Attitude Pro Shop and Entendiz. I’m very grateful to all of them!

Who are your main influences? There’s a bit of MacAskill in there, obviously, but there must be others?

Ha. Danny Mac, of course! But the two other main influences on my riding are Dominik Raab Mr Kenny Belay. And then there’s David Grant and Garret Reynolds in BMX !

JPEG - 129.4 kb Let’s talk about the MacAskill phenomenon… It’s like September 11th or the Kennedy assassination – everybody remembers where they were when they saw it! It’s a real ‘moment’ in trials history. And it’s brought unprecedented media attention to the sport…

Yeah – I remember exactly where I was when I watched it for the first time (although I’ve watched it so many times since then! As soon as I saw the first more, I said “this man is a GOD”.

Even in France, more and more riders are turning to 24” street trials. There’s certainly the fad effect, but it’s easy to see that the discipline is finding its niche and is here to stay. Do you think the future of trials is based in the streets?

I think that the sport and the way that it’s organised is getting a bit stale. In order for the sport to develop and become more popular (and so that the pros can earn a proper living) something needs to change. Street trials is one way, but there is also – and why not? – endure trials and many other variations that we could explore. That’s just my opinion though.

Trials is certainly having some difficulty in ‘breaking through’, which makes it even more exciting to see someone come almost from nowhere and become a real star while the greatest champions remain these unknown heroes as far as the outside world is concerned. And Way Back Home was even better! Does the front flip interest you? Or is it one of those ‘MacAskill only’ tricks?

Of course! I’ve already tried it (see the video on my blog). It’ll definitely be in a future video…

Looking forward to it! What are your current favourite tricks?

Bunnyhops, manuals, backflips and flairs!

JPEG - 653.4 kb JPEG - 774.6 kb

Tell us a bit about Félix “Joe prod” Leblanc, who films and edits your videos. Is he your Dave Sowerby? Is it important for a street rider to have someone to ‘manage’ the camera work?

I met Félix not long ago. He got in touch about making some videos so that he could practice editing and filming with an aim to going to audiovisual college. He’s super cool, we get on really well. We’ve made three videos together so far and I’m really grateful for all his hard work!

What do you do in your day-to-day life? College? What are your future plans? Will you try and make it with trials, or is that just for fun and you have other projects in mind?

Yeah, college… I’m working for my Baccalaureat Technologique in Lanscape Gardening. I’d love to be able to make a living from bikes alone though!

JPEG - 43.4 kb

What are your main hobbies outside trials?

Bmx freestyle skiing!

What sort of music do you listen to?

Reggae, US rap and dubstep.

JPEG - 120.4 kb Where are your favourite street spots?

Chambéry, obviously! Geneva too, there’s some cool stuff there!

You recently went street riding in Turin, what was that like?

Yeah, it was top! Italian photographer Mattia Slaifer contacted me and asked to do a photo shoot at K-124 Days. But during the February holidays my family went to Italy, so we decided to meet up there and do the shoot in Turin! I rode with two other riders, Stefano et Matteo, who are really cool!

When will your next video be out? What sort of video can we expect?

That’d be telling! I’ve got a few projects on the go… They’re looking good!

Good... Do you like Tribal Zine?

Haha – as if I’m going to say no to that! But yes, of course, what trials rider doesn’t like Tribal Zine? Thanks for all the hard work you guys put in! While I’m at it, I’d like to thank Matthieu Chandelier, who’s always there when I need him to take some photos. Big up!

Thanks Léo! We’re looking forward to your next video! See you soon!

Thanks, and yes, see you soon!

JPEG - 144.8 kb

Photos : Léo Nobile, Picturide, Matthieu Chandelier, Jules Jouaux, Mattia Slaiffer.