The mountain bike industry lost one of its most unique characters over the weekend with the passing of Chris ‘Monkdawg’ Vasquez. Monkdawg was a well-known mechanic who worked with some of the biggest names in racing, including Brian Lopes, Missy Giove, Kirt Voreis and Aaron Gwin.
“His riders are the reason he got out of bed every day, they were his mission statement; they were the only thing that mattered,” wrote Martin Whiteley, former team director of the now-defunct Trek World Racing downhill team. Not only was he loved for his dedication to the racers he worked with, industry insiders and fans alike knew him for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude and wild stories. “When I was done working on bikes, late at night at World Cups and Nationals, I’d walk out of the pits and always stop by Monk’s rig, because he was always the last one in the pits…I’d stop by and waste his time because I had to get a daily monk story in,” wrote industry veteran Craig Glaspell.
Some people close to Vasquez have attributed his decline in health to his diet. “His poison, literally, was Mountain Dew,” wrote Whiteley. “Any green food like salad or vegetables, he called that 'rabbit food', and while a lot people thought that was 'typical Monk' and laughed it off, he was dealing with demons.” Tributes have poured out on social media and on various websites since the news of Monk’s passing on August 7. He was 46.
You can read Martin Whiteley’s full blog post here.
Here’s the ‘7 Reasons’ on Monk that ran in Bike’s November 2007 issue:
7 Reasons Why Monkey is a Man Among Wrenches
*With little experience, the former BMX racer started as a team mechanic for Yeti in 1993. During Chris "Monkey" Vasquez's 15-year career, he has propelled the sport's fastest riders, including Kirt Voreis, John Kirkcaldie, Missy Giove, Brian Lopes and Jill Kintner, to national and World Cup podiums.
*"He's the last guy in the pits," says Lopes. "He'll stay up all night and do whatever he has to do to get the bikes dialed. He's not married. He doesn't have kids. Driving that truck around and going to races is his life."
*He might be slow now, but he was once much faster—until two blown knees nearly crippled him. The nickname Monkey was given to him by his cousin after Vasquez deftly scaled a 12-foot-high fence while being chased by the cops.
*No matter how hard he tries, he can't leave the sport. "Every time I try to quit, someone calls me up and offers me a job," he says. "I've just always worked hard and been fortunate to work with the raddest racers around."
*Despite the downhill scene's rowdy reputation, Vasquez rarely drinks or goes out at night. "I was around in the heyday when shit almost exploded," says the 37-year-old. "When you get older, you get smarter and pick your battles.
*"He's been around for so long, he's probably more recognizable than some of the young racers. Some people might recognize him more than someone like Sam Hill," Lopes says.
*He's cool under pressure. In the final moments leading up to Lopes' World Championship four-cross run in 2005, Lopes requested Vasquez swap the smallest rear cog from a 14-tooth to a 12. Vasquez made the change, noticed the hand-stacked cogset was off by a millimeter or two and fixed it—in less than three minutes. Brian made the start and won the race.