Fighting for the Underdog

A Johnny Appleseed of mountain bike advocacy, Chris Orr now works as a member of the IMBA’s Trails Solutions Team, where he travels across the country managing and helping with all things mountain bike.

Fighting for the Underdog - Spreading the Mountain Bike Gospel with Chris Orr

Chris Orr has the type of riding style that deserves a soundtrack: deliberate, fast and backed up with heavy chords, as you’d expect for someone who grew up riding BMX during the heyday of punk in the early 1980s.

Music aside, Orr is more Johnny Appleseed than Sid Vicious. Between his lifelong passion for two wheels and his current job with IMBA’s Trail Solutions Team, Orr’s journey has taken him from his home state of Nebraska to his new home of Santa Barbara, CA and dozens of places in between, imparting trail wisdom and advocacy along the way.

It hasn’t been an easy path to walk. Born without a fibula and a left leg two inches shorter than his right, Orr has fought through multiple surgeries, learned to walk more than once, and built his own orthotics. But one thing has been constant throughout—Orr’s unfailing love for all things bicycling.

“My earliest memory on a bike was when I was maybe 2 or 3, riding at the park across the street where I wasn’t supposed to be because there was a bridge over a creek you could ride almost like a ramp,” Orr says. “Bicycles give you the freedom and teach you about adventure as a kid. It’s a kickass thing to still be able to get on your bike as an adult and still enjoy that.”

Orr took that spirit of adventure to Austin, TX, where he first got hooked on technical riding, both uphill and downhill, and it followed when he moved to Santa Barbara, CA in 1993. It was the early golden era of mountain biking in Santa Barbara, and just three years after the move he bought his first downhill rig to handle the area’s steep terrain. Soon he became involved with the Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers (SBMTV), where his passion and dedication led to his appointment as president. During his time with SBMTV, Orr and other local riders implemented a bike bell program in 2001, and in 2002 he was picked to join Wade Simmons to address downhill/freeride issues at IMBA’s World Summit.

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