Mixing woodwork and pleasure

Oli Carter on juggling life as an enduro racer, product developer and carpenter with a young family and a mortgage.

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Your Instagram feed describes you as a “pro dad, pro husband, pro rider and pro woodworker” — is that in order of preference?

To me that is the order of importance. They give me so much support, it would be rude not to.

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How do you have time for all that?

I made bespoke furniture, still do. But it all came to a head last year, I made a decision to step away from woodwork and concentrate on family like and mountain biking. Then by chance came about with Ultimate Sports Engineering (USE), working with that brand testing products and promoting them too. I put it down to positive thinking that something came up!

The woodworker hard at work in the woods

What did USE like about you?

Well I’ve been riding and racing for years, growing up near Milland in West Sussex then living in France. I was sponsored by Cube, then I moved on to testing a Banshee UK. Then I helped Pat (Campbell-Jenner) on bringing out the Identiti Mettle, but they just didn’t have the budget to sponsor me. So it’s a bit of a dream come true this year for me with USE because I can ride every day but also keep doing my woodwork. I’m loving both and doing all of it and the family stuff too. It gives us more space to be a family. I think if you’ve got young kids, mortgage etc it’s really hard to find time to train, race and even ride, but you can still do it — you’ve just got to believe in yourself. I’m not very good at stopping, if I stop I’m just knackered. And that’s when you lose your energy, but I’m full of it.

Carter still revels in the thrill of racing

What are you up to at USE?

I’ve been testing products for them. They’re only 10 miles away from where I live, so I head over and get the first prototypes of new products, like the handlebars, stem and dropper post. Then I’d ride them every day, seeing what works and what breaks and what doesn’t break! I’m a fit and forget kind of guy, I don’t have that much time for maintenance which is good when you’re testing. I broke two sets of bars from a crash, but it turned out it was just the top layer of the carbon had cracked, so we went back and changed that.

I worked on the USE Ultimate Vyce stem too, it’s a really amazing piece of engineering — one piece alloy with a vice that clamps the bar. I know, it doesn’t look like it should be really stiff and strong because it’s so clean looking, but it does, just check out the review on mbr.co.uk. Then the dropper post is the newest product I’ve been trying, it runs on a locking mechanism, a mechanical system so it’s not full of oil, which is really heavy. That’s what I love about the testing, there’s always a new something in the pipeline that’s truly innovative.

You’re not just testing though, you’ve got a healthy Insta account going there…

Yup, I also do social media, and marketing of the brand. It works really well doing both because it can be a quick process.
I’ve got lots of scope to experiment and try different things. So the USE lights, I went out to Meribel and shot a night riding video, riding the Meribel downhill track at 3am was difficult. We used 50 lights for each bit of track, then move onto the next one.

I’ve had this idea for a while so it was great to try it out. I’ve always had these wacky ideas in my head and never had the time or the money to do it. Now explained it to Use and they said ‘let’s do it’.

Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met this year?

I was up with Jack Reading to see how pro riders do in their day and on Mondays he’s an optician. He uses that as his rest day around training and racing World Cups. The fact he has to work a job even though he’s at the top end of the sport says a lot. Everyone paints a really rosy picture on Insta and that’s the illusion, it’s really only the top 10 riders who are making enough money, the rest are scrambling around to race and get by.

Do you still enjoy racing?

Racing is where all the right people are. I’ve made a load of cool friends from racing, I go riding with them and that way you become a better rider. Racing is still a great thrill.