Giant’s Josh Carlson is a rider’s rider. He’s friendly, funny and fast. He’s got a ready smile, an infectious laugh and one of the most engaging personalities of anyone in the pro ranks.
Josh is also one of the top enduro riders in the sport. After years of racing motocross and Supercross events in Australia in the pro ranks, Josh took up mountain biking for fun. He was so fast that when he started racing, the officials moved him into the pro ranks in the cross-country division. Once Josh took up racing enduro, he quickly established himself as one of the top riders in the world. He’s won events in North America and placed 10th overall in the Enduro World Series. Josh is not afraid of going fast or taking chances. He’s got the strength, speed and skill to power his bike over anything he encounters on the trail, and he does it with style.
The MBA Q&A:
Josh Carlson tells all
MBA: Where did you grow up?
Josh: Wollongong, NSW, Australia
MBA: What kind of work do your parents do?
Josh: Dad has his own landscaping business, and my mum works in aged care.
MBA: When did you first start riding a bicycle?
Josh: I started riding a bicycle when I was 3 years old with training wheels. I rode it so much, I bent and snapped the training wheels off before my dad could take them off. I wouldn’t start riding bikes as a sport until 2006 when I was 20.
MBA: When did you first start competing in events on a mountain bike, and what kind of bike was it?
Josh: In 2006 I entered a local club XC race on a Diamondback Outlook Sport. I purchased a Giant Anthem 1 in late 2006 and started riding more seriously.
MBA: How did you finish?
Josh: I was second overall and first in Open Men.
MBA: If you raced other kinds of bikes before competing on mountain bikes, how long did you do that, and what made you switch to mountain bikes?
Josh: I raced motocross prior to mountain bikes. I rode and raced motocross from 1996 until 2006. From 2003 until late 2005, I followed the state and national Australian motocross and Supercross circuits. I switched to mountain bikes in 2006 for a bit of fun, and it seemed way cheaper than motocross! Mountain bike racing also seemed to be a lot more about the rider and his abilities rather than his machinery and bank balance.
MBA: What were your best competition results on motocross bikes?
Josh: Top three in state, Pro-level motocross and Supercross, and top 20 nationally.
MBA: When did you start competing at higher levels on mountain bikes?
Josh: In 2007 I started to compete in Expert-level XC racing and moved into the under-23 field.
MBA: How did you do in your first event?
Josh: My first expert-level national cross-country race I placed seventh, I think. I then stepped up to the under-23 class in my next race and lapped second place and was forced to step up to the Elite class.
MBA: What have been your best national and international results?
Josh: My best international result has been third place at the Whistler Enduro World Series event and 10th overall in the 2016 Enduro World Series. In cross-country, I placed third at the 2010 Australian XC championships.
MBA: What titles have you won?
Josh: I came close to winning the 2015 Whistler round of the Enduro World Series. I flatted on the final stage and slid back to 25th. I won the 2012 Oregon Enduro Series and numerous North American Enduro Tour rounds.
MBA: Have you gone to college?
MBA: Do you have any other kind of career training?
Josh: I am a qualified landscape tradesman with an additional qualification in arboriculture. I also used to be a motocross coach when I stopped racing in 2005.
MBA: Did you earn any awards, in sports or academics, while in school?
Josh: I was nominated for the Apprentice of the Year in 2009, but I couldn’t go to the award ceremony because I was at a bike race, so they gave it to someone else. I placed second in the race, though! Ha ha!
MBA: What other sports do you like to do now?
Josh: I still ride motocross for cross-training now. No competition anymore.
MBA: Can you tell us something interesting or unusual about yourself or your family that is not widely known.
Josh: When I was racing cross-country, my coach (Mark Fenner of FTPTraining.com) and I thought it would be a good idea to go on a small ‘starvation diet’ for five days. We were hoping I would [cannibalize] some muscle mass off my upper body to help me lose a bit of unnecessary weight. I stuck to 500 calories per day and did body-weight exercises like squats, lunges, crunches and pistol squats to maintain the muscles in my lower body. Five hundred calories was super hard to maintain and stick to. My smallest-calorie day was 460 calories, and my largest intake was just over 600 calories for the entire day. I had just had some pins taken out of my wrist. I couldn’t do anything while the wound healed, so I just played on the couch for five days and ate egg whites and strawberries. By the end of the week, I ended up losing 200 grams of muscle mass off each arm.
I started the week at about 77 kilograms, and at the end of it I weighed 72 kilograms before I started eating again. I was starving! Was it worth it? Not too sure, but what it did teach me was a lot of information about the food we eat and the difference between real calories and empty calories. My true weight ended up around 76 kilograms once I was back to a normal diet.
Name: Josh Carlson
Nickname: Frother, JC, Carlso
Birthdate: March 26, 1986
Birthplace: Wollongong, Australia
Height: 185cm (6-foot-1)
Weight: 82 kilograms/180 pounds
Shoe size: 45/U.S. 11
Helmet size: Medium
Marital status: Married
Current home: Vancouver, B.C., Canada House: Apartment
Cars: Nissan Frontier
Started racing: 2007
Turned pro: 2013
Racing specialty: Enduro
Favorite course (North America): Whistler
Favorite course (Europe): La Thuille, Italy
Favorite food: Ice cream
Goals: Enduro World Series champion
Favorite recording artist: Slash
Favorite movie: Caddyshack
Favorite hobbies: Motocross, guitar Jobs held (other than racer): Qualified landscape tradesman
Always takes on a trip: Too much stuff
What you would be if you were not a racer: A dad and weekend warrior
INSIDE THE PROS’ BIKES
Josh Carlson’s Giant Reign Advanced
Bike weight: 14.3 kilograms/31.5 pounds
Estimated value: $10,000? “Not sure of this one.”
1. Frame: Giant Reign Advanced; XL; 160–180mm front/160mm rear; carbon front triangle, alloy rear triangle.
“The characteristics I like about my frame are the stability at speed and stiffness. The harder I push it, the better it feels, which is the perfect scenario.”
2. Fork: RockShox Lyrik; 160– 180mm; 46mm custom offset; two tokens; 80 psi; 2–5 clicks of low speed, seven clicks of rebound.
“The Lyrik fork is the best fork I’ve ever ridden. The custom offset helps my front-end feel, and the low-speed compression really allows me to have a very sensitive feeling in the front end. Each click of adjustment has a different feeling and allows me to adjust my traction levels and high-speed compression in between race stages for the perfect feel.”
3. Tires: Schwalbe Super Gravity, front and rear; Magic Mary, 27.5×2.35-inch front; Vert Star compound; Nobby Nic, 27.5×2.35-inch rear; Trail Star compound. Front psi: 23–28. Rear psi: 26–32.
“The tires are awesome! They are as dependable as it gets, and I know they will perform perfectly in all conditions. I have been playing around with my tire pressures over the years, and the tire grip continues to get better and better. Having so much grip and reliability is an amazing and confidence-inspiring combination.”
4. Inner tubes or tubeless system: Stan’s tubeless system.
“I prefer the tubeless system so I can run a lower psi and have a lot more grip. The puncture resistance is also a key component.”
5. Saddle: Giant Neutral saddle.
6. Seatpost: RockShox Reverb dropper post; 150mm.
7. Shock: RockShox Vivid Coil, 57mm stroke; 450-pound spring; seven clicks of rebound.
8. Stem: Truvativ Descendant, alloy, 50mm.
9. Brakes: SRAM Guide Ultimate; 180mm rotors, front and rear.“I like the Guide brakes’ ability to disperse heat and stay consistent during a race run or descent. I am more of a ’dragger’ than a ’stabber,’ so I enjoy the feel of the Ultimates.”
10. Handlebars: Truvativ Descendant riser bar, alloy, 760mm wide, 20mm rise, 7-degree back sweep.
“I like the fact that I don’t have to cut this handlebar at all. The sweep and rise are nice, and it feels good on the bike.”
11. Bottom bracket: SRAM
12. Grips: ODI Elite Motion, lock-on.
“I like the feel of the contoured grip in my hand. I have been super picky with grips in the past, and this is the first lock-on grip that I have liked. Now I love it!”
13. Cranks: SRAM Eagle X01 Carbon cranks, 170mm length.
“I like the shorter crankarms to give a little extra clearance from rocks and other obstacles when pedaling.”
14. Chainring size(s): SRAM Eagle; 38-tooth front ring; 10-50 rear cassette.
“With the new Eagle range, it makes pedaling a 38-tooth front ring a lot more manageable. It’s easy to spin up the hill with the 50-tooth ring, and having the 10 means that I will rarely ever run out of gears.”
15. Pedals: HT T1 pedals, alloy spindles, blue.
“They are easy to get in and out of, and feel nice underfoot on long descents. They offer a good platform for descending and are not too bulky when descending or pedaling.”
16. Chain: SRAM Eagle Silver.
“Josh tells us he changes it ‘once a race week/weekend.’”
17. Rear derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle.
18. Front derailleur: None
19. Shifters: SRAM X01 Eagle Trigger shift.
20. Brake levers: SRAM Guide Ultimate Carbon levers.
21. Rear cassette: SRAM X0 Eagle. 10-50.
22. Chainguide: MRP AMG (V2) chainguide with bash guard.
23. Water bottle cage: King bottle cage, titanium.
24. Headset: Giant/FSA
Josh couldn’t tell us the details on his wheels, so we contacted Giant for more information, and Joe Staub, the Giant Factory Off-Road Team’s team manager was able to share that information with us. “Our team has been using a unique a-la-carte approach to each rider’s race wheels depending on the specific bike used or race environment,” Staub told us. “For the majority of the season Josh has been riding a conventionally laced, hand-built, 32-hole wheelset. At times he has used Giant’s PTRX-1 alloy rim, and where the courses get very aggressive, we have been using a DT Swiss 471. Either of these are laced to a DT 240 hub using Sapim D-Light spokes and nips.”
26. Extras: Custom-made Frother bag by Clayton Bailey (my mechanic, Colin Bailey’s dad).
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