Even though he’s only 135 cm tall, Jakub Ouvin from the Czech Republic is considered a big man by his cycling friends. Despite struggling with pain caused by his height disadvantage and a poor selection of bicycles for his size, “Big Bubba” never even considered quitting riding. Mountain biking has helped him to overcome the hardest times of his life. In his We Love Cycling interview, Jakub talks about his fight with physicians who suggested he undergo hip-replacement surgery or else quit cycling. None of that was an issue for the tenacious Jakub.
I’ve heard about how much you suffer while riding. How are your hips these days?
The surgeon shared the news with me that my hip are done forever. The only possible treatment he sees is a total replacement with steel hips. My physiotherapist, on the contrary, insists that I can live with my original hip joints if I take care of myself and keep working on my body. I’m resolved to keep the doctors from changing my joints until the pain starts waking me up in the middle of the night. The new e-MTB really helps me stay in the saddle. It’s similar to using rubber tapes for doing proper exercises at the gym. The e-MTB helps me the same way to take longer trips and join groups of riders that are in much better shape than I can ever be.
Is it difficult to find a bike that matches your size?
Bike design has experienced an incredible evolution in recent years. Because of that, finding a proper bike is now much easier than it used to be. Considering my height, I need to choose a kids’ bike featuring any possible technical benefit of a bike for adults, like suspension, hydraulic disc brakes and gear shifting. Luckily for me, current kids’ bikes are derived from the bikes for adults, offering me everything I need to enjoy the ride. It’s not a problem to buy a full suspension bike with 24” or even 20” wheels in the bike shops anymore.
How about the first bike you ever had?
The only way was to build an original bike from scratch. In the past, I made several attempts to assemble a bike that would fit me well. For example, I tried a mullet bike (a bike featuring a bigger front and smaller rear wheel) with a 24” front and 20” rear wheel to stay low over the ground. Another experiment was a BMX frame fitted with an MTB fork with a 26” wheel. Each of my old bikes was a hardtail that didn’t offer me much comfort on rough downhill trails. The first real DH bike I ever had was made by Bolek Samek, a friend of mine who made the custom Krutor bike from carbon fibre using a technology he developed himself. In the end, I spent 16 seasons with Krutor and that turned out to be the perfect solution for me.
What bike do you use currently?
I ride the E-bike Mondraker F-Play 24, which I got directly from the factory in Spain. The change in my riding style was significant. Even though I had tried 24’’ wheel XC bikes previously, they felt uncomfortable when I got on rough terrain. I was also afraid of the considerably heavier weight from the motor and battery. After several weeks of testing, though, I can say with no hesitation that the F-Play is absolutely the best bike I’ve ever had.
What got you into mountain biking?
Recently, I was in shock after realising that I’ve been into biking for almost 20 years. My first bike was a 20” freestyle BMX with a heavy steel frame. I started cycling because of a Playstation game called Dave Mirra Pro Freestyle BMX. I spent many days with that game. My physician recommended cycling to me, but he didn’t imagine what kind of cycling I was about to choose. If he saw my early videos he would have gone nuts, as the footage was full of crazy stunts and crashes. After finding out that freestyle BMX was not the best sport for me, I switched to MTB when mountain biking became popular in my neighbourhood. Even though I left BMX prematurely, I’m still grateful to Dave Mirra for introducing me to cycling. I’m waving at Dave in cycling heaven.
How about your first ever ride?
I still remember it like it was yesterday. I took the trail that started by the Sněžník tower in Czechia and ran down to the valley. Without any previous training, it took me a lot of effort and made me exhausted for another two days. Several segments of the trail were technically demanding enough to scare me even in my dreams.
Best biking experience?
Once I took part in a shopping mall downhill race with a track running from the highest level to the ground floor, including huge, several-metre drops from the upper level to a lower one. On the other hand, every day spent with my mates is great if the weather is fine and we finish the day with camping, a bonfire and a barbecue.
What do you consider the most difficult part of riding?
After so many years of riding, my body hurts and makes me think twice about grabbing a bike and going out for another ride. Moreover, I often can’t help myself and have to stop riding because of the pain I suffer. To stay fit, I need to spend a lot of time with my physiotherapists at the FyzioGymCooper studio. The other thing is that at almost 32 years of age, it’s far more difficult to find free time to go out cycling.
What are your future goals?
To keep training to become stronger and avoid injury. I want to cycle and stay with my mates as long as possible.