Building a racing career on two wheels: Steve Estabrook wins 2019 Eastern States Cup downhill mountain biking championship

Steve Estabrook
Photo by Scooter MacMillan
Steve Estabrook stands in front of some of the many trophies that he and sister Katie have won over the years in motocross and mountain biking.

Staff Writer

When Steve Estabrook was 3 and-a-half years old, his father Rick saw him riding a bike – without training wheels – and he knew that his son had a knack for two wheels.

By 6, Steve was riding dirt bikes and by 7, he was racing them.

On Oct. 20, Steve won the 2019 Eastern States Cup downhill mountain biking championship.

All those years ago, Rick also saw the knack for two-wheeled sports in his daughter Katie. And he was convinced that dirt bike racing could become a family activity. A year younger than Steve, Katie started racing motocross when he did. She was 6.

Steve and his sister raced motocross through childhood and high school. Their dad was the “chief mechanic,” keeping the motorcycles running. They became “a family of extreme sports enthusiasts and adventurers,” Rick said.

Steve raced motocross through college, Katie through high school. With college, her adventures switched to teaching and foreign travel.

She taught in France during college and after graduating from UVM, taught French in Kansas for three years. She’s now teaching English as a second language in the Dominican Republic.

Rick said that his daughter was very popular in her stint at the high school in France because motorcycle racing is huge in Europe and “she was the only teacher who raced motorcycles.”

From gas to pedal powered

After college, Steve switched to mountain bike racing and found that a lot of his “motorcycle skills have translated to mountain biking.”

The floor of the Estabrook’s three-car garage in Shelburne only has room for one four-wheeled vehicle. The rest of the floor is filled with bikes, both motorized and not, and the walls are covered with trophies. Although there are at least 300 trophies here, there are more than 300 other trophies, plaques and medals stored in boxes, drawers and elsewhere waiting for a place in the spacious new home they built a year ago when they moved from South Burlington. Around a fourth of the biking booty is Katie’s, Rick said.

Winning the Eastern States Cup means Steve Estabrook is the fastest downhill mountain bike racer on the East Coast this year.

He also came in 79th in early September at the Union Cycliste Internationale Mountain Bike World Cup at Snowshoe, W.Va., the only World Cup downhill mountain biking race in the United States this year.

He broke his toe in a qualifying run and is confident he would have placed much higher had he not been injured.

And if that’s not impressive enough, in the Eastern States Cup championship series, Steve also competed in the Enduro mountain bike racing series and came in third. Enduro mountain bike races consist of three to five timed downhill stages with untimed (but time limited) uphill rides between stages.

Three years ago, Steve became a pro, but that doesn’t translate into a lot of money – yet. The top 10 mountain bike racers in the world make “in the six figures,” said Rick, but for the time being Steve’s winning purses are in the hundreds of dollars.

So, he makes ends meet building and renovating mountain bike trails. He’s been working on trails in Burke, biking afternoons, working out and trying to get as healthy as he can.

On the road for trails

In a week or so, he’s headed to Knoxville, Tenn., with the mountain bike trail building company he works for so he can build trails and train all winter.

This past year, he’s lived out of his van and traveled around the United States. This added up to 40,000 miles of driving solo to biking competitions in such distant places as Asheville, N.C.; Seattle; Boise, Idaho; Moab, Utah; Quebec; Bentonville, Ark.; Snowshoe, W.V.; Denver, Co.; and Washington State competing against riders from Central and South America, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and numerous European countries.

Another way he keeps in the sport of mountain biking is by teaching and preaching the sport. He’s taught at camps and clinics. “It brings families together,” Steve said, and he should know.

Steve Estabrook can’t remember when he couldn’t ride bikes. After all these years, he’s still an enthusiastic advocate and practitioner of biking: “I try to do every discipline of two wheels.”

“When I first started mountain biking, there weren’t many little kids doing it,” he said. But today “the kids are pushing it.”

“It’s great for everybody,” Steve said. “It’s a pretty good time to be alive.”

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