And it doesn't look like he's planning on slowing down anytime soon

Tinker Juarez was racing for Volvo/Cannondale when I shot this photo of him at Mt. Snow, Vermont, in August of 2001. It was the final race of the NORBA National Championship XC series for that year. Tinker was the top American finisher in the race, but he didn’t win against the riders from other countries. Canadian Roland Green won the race, fellow Canadian Seamus McGrath took second, Kashi Leuchs of New Zealand took third, and Ryder Hesjedahl of Canada took fourth. Tinker placed fifth. Canadian Geoff Kabush ended up in sixth. Americans Travis Brown and Kirk Molday took seventh and eighth. Luke Stockwell and Craig Gordon of Australia took ninth and tenth. The race was almost like a World Cup race, in that there were so many top international riders competing in the event.

Tinker had long been one of the top XC racers in America. If we can trust Wikipedia on this kind of thing (I actually found a couple of mistakes in Wikipedia’s UCI mountain bike race results a few years ago, and I personally corrected them), Tinker won the NORBA (National Off-Road Bicycling Association) Pro Men’s Cross-Country title in 1994, 1995 and 1998. He won the gold medal at the Pan Am Games in 1995. He placed second in the World Championships. He competed in the Olympics in 1996 and 2000. After his Pro XC career started winding down, he won five national championship titles in 24-hour solo races, from 2001 through 2005.

Tinker even raced on the road in one of the toughest ultra-endurance events in the world, taking third place in the Race Across America in 1996.

Tinker himself told me that he won a couple of World Cup races, too. Sure enough, Tinker won two World Cup races in Canada in the early 1990s. The results of those early years of World Cup racing aren’t included in the Wikipedia chart that shows the results of the later World Cup races, so I had to dig through old copies of our magazine to find those results.

Tinker is 63 years old now. He’s currently racing for Zerouno bikes and expecting to get a new cross-country race bike from them in the next few weeks.

I first met Tinker  somewhere around 1980, when he was racing BMX. I was working for BMX Plus! Magazine back then. I was doing the darkroom work for the magazine and shooting a few nearby races and some occasional bike tests for the magazine.

Tinker was a superstar of BMX back then, and he had been a major star from the time he was 15 or so. Besides being one of the best BMX racers in America, Tinker was also called “The King of the Skateparks” in the late 1970s and early 1980s due to his aerial skills at his local skatepark, which got him on the cover of BMX Action Magazine in their April 1980 issue.

I was afraid to even talk to Tinker when I first saw him at a BMX race at Corona, California. I don’t recall the exact date, but it was somewhere around 1980. Tinker was already a famous BMX rider, and I was pretty much a nobody, but I still wanted to get a photo of him.

I walked over to ask him if I could take a picture of him. I thought that I would be lucky if he’d even be willing to look at me, but he was the exact opposite of what I expected. Tinker was very humble and polite, and he even seemed a little shy. He wasn’t stuck-up at all. I’ve been friends with him ever since.

According to his biography on Wikepedia, Tinker had started racing BMX in 1974 when he was 13. He turned pro in that sport in 1976 and raced as a BMX pro into the first few months of 1986. Then he started racing mountain bikes somewhere around the summer of 1986. It didn’t take long for him to decide to stick with mountain biking after that, and he soon started becoming one of the top cross-country mountain bike riders in the world.

Nowadays, Tinker and I continue to stay in touch with each other, mainly via text messages, although we still talk to each other on the phone several times a year. He’s usually out riding when I call him during the day, though. He still trains a lot.

Tinker’s one of my favorite bike racers, and I’m always happy to see him. I’m hoping to shoot some photographs of him with his next bike in the weeks ahead. Once I do, I expect I’ll be putting some of them on this website. — John Ker/Mountain Bike Action


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