Mountain Bike Trials Champion Ot Pi

The Golden Age of Mountain Bike Trials

During the Golden Age of Athens, Greece (5th Century, B.C.), pilgrims traveled there to experience war, peace, business, romance and the blessings of the gods.

world trials champion ot pi crew

Trials Champion Ot Pi with Crew near Parthenon

During the Golden Age of mountain bike trials in the mid-’90’s, Mark Schulze and I traveled to Athens from San Diego to record the world’s greatest Observed Trials rider on video.

What are Trials? If you are familiar with extreme sports clips featured on YouTube, you may recall seeing Danny MacAskill hopping his bike on tables, cars, and doing 360’s off cliffs, with style.  And who was the world’s greatest Observed Trials champion of last century?  Ot Pi Isern of Barcelona, Spain.

When Mark and I, the dynamic video duo, had first seen Ot Pi at the Mammoth Mountain World Mountain Bike Championships in August 1988, we were awestruck by his finesse and fluidity on his bike. He easily clinched the Trials competition.

world trials champion ot pi corona del mar

Trials Champion Ot Pi at Corona Del Mar 1988

Months later, we videotaped Ot Pi at Corona del Mar, on moonscape cliffs above the crushing waves of the Pacific for a video called Ultimate Mountain Biking. Since 1989, Ot Pi had only gotten better. He was the current World Observed Trials Champion many times over.

With visions of Ot Pi dancing on the Parthenon, Mark and I arranged for him to travel from his hometown, Barcelona, Spain to meet us in Athens, Greece to appear in “Full Cycle World Odyssey.”

Summer had arrived sooner than the bulk of tourists expected in July. Each year one million visitors tread upon the slick marble stairways of the Acropolis. It is a city of well-worn pathways foreign yet familiar.

It was a pleasure to see Ot again. He had grown from a lanky seventeen-year-old into a handsome young man. He was taller, his face more mature, and his sparkly brown eyes just as mischievous. He sported a day’s growth of beard which he said the girls liked. His English had vastly improved. “Oh, that was some great food on the airplane,” were his first words. “Very nice people here in the hotel. It’s a spectacular city.”

Watching Ot Pi perform on his bike was like the breath held at the peak of a rollercoaster ride. You didn’t even realize you were holding your breath until just after he had achieved his next seemingly unattainable goal.

In the course of three days Ot Pi covered ground at the National Garden, the Acropolis, the Plaka, the Parliament Building, and at Sounion, known for its temple ruins by the sea. There Ot was a matador, tantalizing the raging bulls of rock and sea. We tried not to think that if he fell, the pumice would cut him to shreds, and frothing water would consume him. He executed his moves, performing safe landings on rubber tires.

Even with the blessings of the Greek government and tourism board, who had issued the crew a piece of paper typed in Greek which we could not understand, and which we showed to anyone in authority at all the above sites expecting clearance to shoot video, Mark and I still had to grease a few palms with drachmas to get certain shots.

A sequence where Ot hops his bike over two prone men, which was shot in front of a big Greek Orthodox church in the Plaka, incurred the wrath of a black-clad Orthodox priest who refused to look at the dog-eared paper. He raged until we began to shut down the production.

Of course as soon as he disappeared we resumed the shoot.

On our last night with Ot, he and I decided to conduct a little tourist jaunt through the shops of the Plaka. Just as we stepped into a jewelry and curio shop, an unexpected downpour began outside. It rained so hard that a flash flood churned up almost to the top step of the shop. Since Ot and I were obviously marooned there for a while, we resumed negotiations with the shopkeeper on a silver ring which had attracted me, but which I had put back, thinking it cost too much. Ot joined in the negotiations and as the rain stopped outside and waters receded, the shop manager, Ot and I came to agree on a certain price, and the ring was mine.

Years later, whenever I wear the ring, I think of that little cubbyhole of a shop, the raging rain, the way Ot Pi charmed the shopkeeper into settling for less, and my wet and wild moment alone with the greatest World Champion Mountain Bike Trials champion of his time.   

World Trials Champion Ot Pi – “Hot Pie” Goes to Greece

Crystal Pyramid Productions award-winning San Diego Video Editor, Patty Mooney, edited this clip featuring “Fin Du Monde” from Emily Richards and 2012AM and footage shot by Steadicam Operator Dick Crow in Greece with Ot Pi Isern, World Trials Champion. These are clips that were originally produced for the award-winning documentary, “Full Cycle: A World Odyssey,” an around-the-world travel adventure with mountain bikes.


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