The opportunity to meet and interview fellow sports enthusiasts, and related companies, for feature articles on New Mexico Mountain Sports was a big reason for my interest in this online publication. I was excited to start reaching out to local businesses and athletes to start lining up interviews for personal interest, as much as editorial interest. For my first non-event feature article I am happy to present Christopher Martinez and Sandstone Cycles.
I first stumbled upon Sandstone Cycles and Christopher as I was searching for a good mountain bike related podcast. The impact that mountain biking has had on Christopher was immediately apparent when listening through the episodes that covered topics ranging from racing, ride reports, gear, and interviews. It is clear that mountain biking has become a lifestyle for Christopher, his teammates, and fellow podcasts hosts. While this interview didn’t yield meeting Christopher in person, I really look forward to meeting him at a future event or the next time I am in Aztec! Check out the interview below as well as links to the podcasts and webpage for Sandstone Cycles.
NMMS: Who are you and what part of New Mexico do you live?
CM:I am Christopher Martinez, 30 years old from Aztec, NM. Married with two kids (two year old boy and two month old girl). Interests include motocross and boxing, (I don’t participate in either one I just find both sports very entertaining).
NMMS: How did Sandstone Cycles come about?
CM:I began riding mountain bikes in late 2015, being from a small town I found a few pals that also shared a passion for riding mountain bikes. One was a long time friend Tyler Anderson (whom founded the name Sandstone Cycles), we’ve known each other from high school, the other was his brother-in-law Townesend Mackillop. The three of us are pretty like minded and just naturally clicked. In 2016 I set off on racing a couple rounds of the Scott Enduro Cup (Moab and Angel Fire) and in 2017 Tyler and Townesend joined me. Knowing we couldn’t rely on race results alone for sponsorship we decided to create a small race team…. Sandstone Cycles.
NMMS: I found Sandstone Cycles through your podcast focused on mountain biking and racing. From race team, to podcast, and now bicycle service, how did this journey evolve for you?
CM:The podcast came about through us learning about social media “the hard way”. We attempted to follow cam footage and the occasional cell phone clip on our rides for a little insta gold action, but to be honest it was just getting in the way of our fun and probably ruined way more rides than we wound like to admit. Just the hassle of having to stop, push play on your go pro, change batteries or just making a ride much longer than it should be didn’t seem worth it. And for enduro racing in particular your time has to be pretty well spent between pre riding, bike maintenance, general focus on riding/racing and for us taking care of our kids in between… the whole video thing just created more chaos for a weekend.
So, to tell our racing adventures we thought, how about we sit down after the weekend and just discuss it and talk about it on a podcast? It kinda worked, I mean, for all of us being far from professional public speakers. The podcast itself has morphed a little over the past couple of months. That was mostly through Tyler starting a new job and missing races and Townesend just feeling a little burnt out on the bike and needing a break. Townesend is also expecting a baby girl soon so a lot of his focus has been on that, which we couldn’t be more stoked about!
I wanted to keep the podcast rolling because we all plan to race again in 2019. So in the time being I thought, I live in a pretty awesome place and so far I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing people. So the idea to start sitting down with some of them came about. I try to mainly focus on small businesses, events or community development stuff to help spread the word, but its been really fun interviewing individual athletes as well.
The bicycle shop came about very unexpected. I’ve always done my own bike maintenance from wheel truing, brake bleeds, basic drivetrain stuff etc, because as a racer you need to know those things so you’re not left halfway through an enduro race with a broken bike. I was also doing a lot of maintenance on friends bikes and co-workers bikes. Then, at the end of August I was fired from my job. It sucked at first but for the past few years I’ve been having a lot of problems with management there, so as I look back now its been an incredible opportunity for me to do other things. I’ve always wanted to start a business so this was my chance to start a small shop doing something I really enjoy. It’s also been a lot of fun learning about insurances, LLC’s and tax stuff, these were all things I assumed were very technical things but with a little guidance from my financial advisor it was all pretty straight forward.
At the moment Sandstone Cycles is a bicycle repair shop, so I’m only relying on bike maintenance alone. Mainly because I’m not a big shop on main street. Instead I operate out of a small shop out near my house that is about three miles out of town. I also do mobile repairs were I will meet people at their work or house and do small jobs like drivetrain adjustments repair flat tires, tubeless set ups, etc. I will probably keep the shop small like this for as long as possible, and that’s primarily because I’m not a fan of having debt, even though most successful business start by leveraging some kind of debt, I just want to keep it simple and grow by utilizing the old school tactic of spending less money than I’m making. It just seems more appealing to me.
Currently I am working with Diamondback Bikes, so once all that is processed people will have the option to have their bike shipped to Sandstone Cycles, assembled, then they can either pick it up at the shop or have us deliver it to them, that is something I’m really excited about and definitely looking forward to. Also, we will soon be an authorized Jamis dealer. And that just came about by me and Tyler going to Angel Fire and riding their bikes at a demo very recently and it turns out they are very cool bikes with a very affordable line up for 2019. Me and Tyler were stoked and the Jamis people have been an absolute pleasure to work with, so it just made sense to us and we couldn’t be more stoked about it!
NMMS: Listening to your podcast, I recall that you are relatively new to mountain biking. How did you get into the sport? What keeps you interested in MTB?
CM:Around age twelve my Dad bought me and my older brother a couple of four-wheelers, and where I grew up which is where I still live today there is miles and miles of BLM land. From age twelve I spent most my free time riding four-wheelers and eventually racing them at the local motocross track. As my skills progressed I took it more serious and in 2007 I moved to Phoenix, AZ to attend a tech school. It was in Phoenix were I took racing ATV’s a lot more serious with a larger talent pool. I moved back to Aztec in 2010 and somehow quit ATV racing and raced dirt bikes for a couple years. But in 2014 I had the fire back in me to race ATVs again and I wanted to race at the highest level of the sport. So, I purchased a mountain bike (the readers now can probably see where this is going) to increase my fitness. After learning about mountain bikes and purchasing a few crappy ones, in September of 2015 my wife bought me a Santa Cruz Bantam in Telluride, CO. I immediately took it on their bike park with the 3×9 drivetrain and all and just had the best time ever.
I learned as much as I could about bikes in a very short period of time, lost a lot of weight and decided that I found a new goal to chase. I set all the ATV stuff aside and rode my bike as much as possible. It was also very comforting to learn that the region I live in is much more suited for racing mountain bikes. On the ATV it would’ve included driving to places like Florida, Minnesota, California or Washington. So it was great to learn I could race a mountain bike in Moab, Angel Fire, Park City…. practically my back yard!
As for what keeps me interested, I would have to say the progression. For myself personally, I spend the majority of my time working on my skills, because I feel that is my weakest point being so new to riding mountain bikes. And given my background in motocross, I realize I didn’t get good on an ATV overnight, so with mountain biking I stay very patient and always look for results three to five years down the road and just enjoy being in the moment each and every ride.
NMMS: I’m a big fan of the Enduro race format and stoked to see it growing. What aspects of Enduro attract you the most? Do you plan to do try some other genres of MTB racing? Perhaps cross country or 12 & 24 hour endurance racing?
CM:For enduro racing, so many things have to be right from fitness, bike set up, your mental focus and most importantly you have to know how to ride a bike very well if you want to be competitive. All those things are what keep me most attracted to enduro. I’m also a very big fan of the people in the sport, most enduro racers, even the guys that are very fast don’t really seem to care a whole lot that they are racing bikes. When you are pedaling a transfer or waiting to start most the guys and girls are just talking about random stuff like politics, something current in the news, motocross or supercross, maybe quoting an old movie but mostly just laughing at all of it and having a good time. Honestly if you are a little too serious I don’t think people are going to like you very much. Although it is appropriate to get serious when it comes to your race run, but you definitely need to know when to turn it on and off in my personal opinion.
I do want to get into racing cross country later on, but mainly just to chase some local podiums like Road Apple Rally or the Alien Mountain Bike Race here in Aztec. Myself, Tyler and Townesend are actually pretty serious about team racing the Mesa Verde race in Cortez, CO someday, so I’m looking forward to that. I currently do not even own a proper XC bike, actually I never have for that matter. I just think it would be really fun to do good in some of those races because its just so different. In enduro your in the hurt locker for about 10-20 minutes per stage then you get to recover. In XC you’ll be there for about two hours, and I think that would be really fun to train my body to be able to do that.
NMMS: The interviews have been excellent! If you could interview any regional athlete or MTB industry person, who would it be and why?
CM:I don’t have anyone in the industry that I particularly want to interview, I’m pretty attracted to talking to anyone just because I value a great conversation whether they are a small or large figure in the sport. Although, I really want to interview more public officials or individuals who deal with outdoor recreation. Growing up in Aztec I’ve always been bothered by the attempt at creating more outdoor recreation. Oil and Gas is big here and many locals are grateful that it creates jobs, including myself. But it’s sad to see the huge amounts of BLM and forest lands that surround San Juan County with 33,000 oil and gas wells and only two designated mountain biking and hiking trails. There is so much potential to create more outdoor recreation but it all has to be done by non profits asking for donations and hoping to find volunteers. I’ve seen in other cities that trail builders are being compensated by their city to build outdoor recreation. After all, that is what ultimately brings people to the area. I would say its highly unlikely for someone to travel here just to look at a well location then go back home and tell their friend and family about the great experience they had looking at well locations. Thats all.
NMMS: What’s in store for you and Sandstone Cycles/racing for 2019? Any goals in particular?
CM:For the shop I just want to stay on track and not take it too serious to the point it gets stressful, I really want to create long lasting personal relationships with my customers and to help with that I don’t want to get overwhelmed with too much work. There is also a possible career opportunity for me that would include me having to move to Albuquerque, but that is still pending and I won’t know for sure for awhile. If it happens Townesend and Tyler will probably run Sandstone Cycles here in Aztec part time and I will start a small shop in the Albuquerque area. However it works out, we’ll find a way to have fun with it.
Podcast. I hope to progress at becoming a better host and keep finding fun and interesting people to talk to. And again, not take it or myself too serious to the point it is no longer fun. Then cover an occasional enduro race and get “The Gang” Me, Tyler and Townesend back on a few episodes in 2019.
As for racing. I plan to race the Scott Enduro Cup if they have a 2019 series and just as much little events here and there. I can’t speak for Tyler and Townesend but I’m sure they will race as much as possible. Myself and Townesend talked about doing a couple free ride trips just to go out and have fun on bikes in remote areas, so that would be cool! We’re also going to try working a few demo events for Diamondback, and that would be great if that works out. We had the opportunity to run the Sedona MTB Fest for them this year and it was so much fun!
NMMS: Thank you very much for your time and keep up the great work with the podcast! Any parting words or things you would like to add?
CM:I also would like to say thank you to NMMS and to everyone who supports us and listens to the podcast. We do this because we’re passionate about mountain biking and everything has come about through the simple principle of trying to leverage our own gifts and talents to help others.