Mike Ross grew up like many young children.
“Every kid who starts riding bikes dreams of growing up and doing action sports for a living and not having to work a conventional job,” he says.
The difference is, Mike has actually done it.
After 10 years of juggling a passion with full-time work, the Queanbeyan electrician finally packed away his tools for the last time this year to travel the world as a professional mountain biker.
“I took long service leave from my sparkie work and put all my savings into doing it,” he says.
“I had some really good results, so this year, I decided to go all in, quit my job and commit 100 per cent to it.”
The “good results” include several trophies and gold medals, as well as his “biggest achievement” – becoming the first Australian to win a gold medal in the men’s division at Crankworx in Rotorua, New Zealand.
“That’s when I realised I need to do this full-time and give it a proper go,” he says.
It all started on the skateboard before Mike felt the call of two wheels, first turning to motorbikes and then freestyle BMX. This morphed into the even more extreme speed and stunts of mountain biking.
By the time he finished Year 12, he didn’t even have a day off between graduation and starting an apprenticeship in electrical work. But he didn’t give up then, either.
“I was waking up really early to fit in four hours of training every day, on top of working eight to nine hours,” he says.
“Now that I’m doing it full time, I don’t really know how I managed it, but I loved it so much, I never really made excuses – I just got it done.”
His average day now starts with a good brekkie, followed by either a gym session or a ride, depending on the weather.
As for the money, Mike essentially lets his “riding do the talking” to attract sponsors.
“It all sort of fell into place quite naturally, but the Australian sponsorship scene is very small compared to the rest of the world, so I’m very lucky to enjoy a slice of that.
“It’s quite emotional to see the support of people behind me.”
Despite being billed as a “mountain biker’s dream” by the ACT Government tourism agency, Visit Canberra, Mike says training facilities are few and far between in Canberra and the surrounding region.
“Australia’s a bit slow on the uptake of what we need to do the tricks we do, so we’ve always had to build our own facilities on private property,” he says.
“I think a really good facility would definitely help more locals – not just in Canberra but also the whole south-east coast really – prove they’ve got the skills to compete on the world stage.”
Mike continues to train at a “few mates’ houses”, but they’re more than happy to help.
“I don’t think any of my family members or friends doubted me at all, and they were just so happy to see me do what I love and what I’ve dreamt about it my whole life.”
As for the future, Mike will continue to follow the world tour.
“We have Cairns, and then off to Europe for about a month and a half, then from there to Canada for another month, and then back to Europe for another week. There are contests every second weekend, so it’s pretty full-on. And that’s only until August – there are a few more events after that.”
Follow Mike on Facebook.
Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.