To the mountain-bike community, Kyle Strait needs no introduction. On the bike, he was an absolute child prodigy, and entered his first Rampage when he was just a young teenager. In 2013, after landing a massive Suicide No-hander off the Oakley Icon Sender, Strait became the only person to break the Rampage curse, and won the for a record second time.
Kyle, or Lyle, as he has been affectionately nicknamed, is the epitome of an all-rounder in the gravity world. From dirt jumping to dual slalom to slopestyle to big-mountain riding to World Cup downhill, Strait has lived in the upper echelon of mountain biking since the turn of the 21st century.
But the reigning Red Bull Rampage champion seems to be switching gears and heading toward a new career path: professional sport-fishing.
I had heard some rumors, and had seen more than a few fish photos on his Facebook page, but Kyle set the record straight when I met up with him about a week ago, as he was passing through Moab, Utah, on his way to film in Virgin, the site of Rampage.
"I'm still going to do some riding and filming this year, but not much," Strait said. "I mean, I still have sponsors and stuff, but I've gotta focus on the fishing."
Loyalty to his sponsors is part of the equation, but with a brand-new custom Ranger Z522 Comanche bass boat on order, Strait still needs to cash some mountain-biking checks before he can completely retire from the sport. The boat—which is being color matched to the Fox kit he wore during his winning 2013 Rampage run—a new pickup truck and a massive amount of new fishing tackle represent a sizeable dent in Kyle's wallet. According to the freerider, getting set up for his assault on pro fishing is setting him back roughly $200,000.
Though it may seem strange that he isn't looking forward to defending his Rampage title with 100-percent focus, Kyle puts it into nearly perfect perspective.
"What if it takes another 10 years for me to get another Rampage title? If I'm going to have any shot of making it into the [Bassmaster] Elite series by 2017-2018, I need to travel and fish—head to all the little tournaments."
Only a few new competitors qualify each year for the Bassmaster Elite series, so Strait has his work cut out for him, but it is definitely a goal he's ready to pursue.
"NASCAR might be the ultimate American sport, but I've seen how hard it's been for [Ricky] Carmichael and [Travis] Pastrana," he says. "Being on the Bassmaster tour, though…there's not much better than that. It's the Olympics of fishing."
Perhaps as a testament to his good nature and the respect he garners within the bicycle industry, most of his sponsors are supporting Strait's decision to go fishing, and are sticking with him at least through 2014, which should make the transition to his new career slightly less daunting.
"We're obviously saddened that Kyle is transitioning out of the mountain-bike world," says John Dawson, SRAM's MTB Sports Marketing Manager. "He's an incredible natural talent and outstanding ambassador for the sport, so we're going to continue to support him whether he's on a bike or in a boat. I have no doubt that the lifestyle and training methodologies that have served him so well in mountain biking will elevate him to the top of the professional fishing world. Besides, he looks right at home with a pole in his hand."
Still, with the level and fame he has reached in the mountain-bike world, one can't help but ask whether Kyle is at all nervous about his decision.
"Nervous? What's there to be nervous about? Have you seen Rampage? What's the scariest thing that could happen while I'm fishing? Fall out of the boat and get wet? Cut my finger on a fishhook? Run out of beer?"
Our sport may be losing one of its stars, but the professional fishing world just got a bit more rad. I, for one, look forward to keeping track of Kyle Strait's quest for big-money bass.
**BIKE reserves the right to claim that some – or all of this story – might not be entirely true. Happy April Fool’s Day!