INTERVIEW Brian Kennedy (BKXC) | How a Mountain Biking Youtuber is building a bike park, travelling the world and creating a legacy

Brian Kennedy, better known as BKXC, is a YouTuber who has created his own path on the platform and is one of the most unique figures in Mountain Biking. He has discussed his own bike park 'Everstoke', travelling the world, his views on inspiration and most surprising riding locations.

This feature was written by Rúben Silva.

Part 1: Before BKXC

The Youtube world is almost apart from all other media. In a platform that over the past decade and a half became one of the most recognizable and successful, some people found in the platform the opportunity to "create" their own job. Brian is a Youtuber. There are many differing opinions when it comes to what makes a successful Youtuber however his is not directly related to money. "I have such freedom with my time," Brian tells me in a Zoom interview, when I asked him why he is living the dream.

He lives in Vallejo in the outskirts of San Francisco, California. He was able to use his knowledge from past experiences to create and develop the channel that would bring him fame. In fact it was only in his early 30's that Brian began his mountain biking adventure - at the time a website builder for a cookware company. "A lot more people are more capable than they’d imagine," he told me later on, and I realized that he fit into this category. He had started Youtube channels on audiobook reviews, and later on smart sprinkler reviews. The combination of his website building and video editing skills were the base for a new type of content that he would go on to do.

INTERVIEW Brian Kennedy (BKXC) | How a Mountain Biking Youtuber is building a bike park, travelling the world and creating a legacy
Brian in Sun Valley, Idaho, USA

Part 2: The 'TV Show' 

In April 2016 Brian created a new channel dedicated to Mountain Biking. It gained a bit of traction after some videos, and he set himself the goal of within a year gaining enough revenue to dedicate himself fully to the channel. Inspired by fellow Youtuber Nate Hills, he ordered filming gear - most importantly a GoPro camera and a gimbal for video stabilization, and in August he decided to take a leave of absence from work. His plan was to, in the space of six weeks, create as much content as possible. Ultimately he ended up at around 5000 subscribers, it was not yet a number that could be termed stable enough, but he dove head first into this new challenge. Alongside, he created a Patreon page, in which fans could support him financially and get in return special content (or more) that is not available on Youtube. All of this allowed Brian to stay independent, and ultimately reach a position where it was economically viable for this to become a job.

Brian announces he's quitting his job and dedicate himself full time to the BKXC channel

A rather unique position. Not many people at the time could make a living out of the platform - something which in recent years has grown exponentially - and specially from Mountain Biking. Not competitive racing, but with the ultimate goal of riding and showing off the best trails in the world. For this, he would show POV footage of himself in the trails of California, USA, Spain, New Zealand... The list kept growing and growing - and still does to this day. "I’ve been doing this for seven years, not many TV shows last for seven years they get cancelled. They last for four, five seasons maybe. That’s the top tier, they get to 100 episodes and then they cash out and move to something else."

Brian travels around the world showing of good mountain biking destinations. Over the years he's done a lot more than that, but by balancing the ever-growing audience and his own dream, he managed to find himself in a perfect situation. "Yeah it’s entertainment so I have to keep innovating so I have to keep changing things up and think what will the audience want, what do people wanna see, what do I wanna do… It’s this big balance. You can’t do only what the audience wants and then you’re never happy or you can’t do what you want and the audience isn’t happy. Then you have to ride this fine, going back and forth. I’m always searching for that perfect balance."

The 5000 subscribers grew further and further. Currently his subscriber count is at 537.000, whilst he's got almost 2000 people supporting him on Patreon. The success of the channel saw him invest back. The 'Nuggebago', Everstoke, Trail One Components... But those are all stories that were still to come. Over the interview he repeated several times this idea that his channel was a TV show and that he is the main character, his personality is a great part of what keeps people hooked but he also understands when to make changes. In a way, the different projects he's created over the years seemed to have become different seasons in his show.

INTERVIEW Brian Kennedy (BKXC) | How a Mountain Biking Youtuber is building a bike park, travelling the world and creating a legacy
Brian in Tibet, China

His favourite trails are in the Sentiers du Moulin, Québec (Canada). He is not a competitive athlete, he cannot do crazy stunts, but has become good enough to be able to ride very complicated trails - specially the technical and rocky ones - that not only allows the audience to relate with him, but at the same time put on display exciting features that are just about what regular riders can hope to be able to ride.

What was his biggest positive surprise however? "Now I have to go back through my memory bank of all the thousands of places. You know I’m thinking about this place called Lewis and Clarke it was in Iowa... It was just this little tiny place but it had all kinds of cool features and elevation and ups and downs. And it just shows how so much is built by the trail builders and you don’t need a ton of elevation (altitude and mountains, ed.). Florida is also very similar where it’s flat land, but they make very fun stuff. Everyone gets so obsessed about elevation and everything has to be big mountains, but the right trail builder - and with all these good videos nowadays there are so many ideas - can make great trails with almost nothing."

Brian riding the Lewis and Clarke Park in Iowa, USA

"I’m easy to please," he tells me. His positivity also became some sort of a lure for this channel. The almost annoying positivity is something I have found inspiring. You struggle to find moments where Brian isn't making the best out of whatever situation he finds himself in. Hence, I didn't expect him to have a quick answer to my next question 'what was the worst surprise out of all of your trips' but I was wrong. "I heard in South Caroline there was this Forks Area trail system they call it 'FATS'. I had gotten a lot of comments and emails over the years 'you’ve gotta ride FATS you gotta ride FATS'. And then I went to it and I rode it, maybe I didn’t ride it in the right configuration, maybe I chose the wrong trails but I was like oh man so many people talking about this..."

Still his answer was in no way a critique on the trails he rode. Similarly to his words are his videos where even in the occasional crash, he usually chuckles it out. One would imagine that riding a mountain bike for a living would leave to a lot of scars and bruises but it is not actually the case with him. "I don’t do any stretching, I don’t do any routine or anything but I’m very… I can read the trail and judge pretty quickly if it’s too tough that it’s gonna be something consequential. I’ve chickened out on a lot of things that I was just eh I’m not feeling it'. It levels me up a lot slower, it’s taking me a lot longer to get good at mountain biking because I don’t take those big risks."

Brian riding the Forks Area Trail System (FATS). South Carolina, USA

"There are tons of guys that I know that are only doing mountain biking for like three years and they’re still better than me, but they’ve broken their collarbone, broken their leg, all kinds of crazy stuff. But you know they push the limit much more than me." Still, he proves to be - naturally - superior to the average rider, when it comes to riding downhill. Over the course of his channel it was very rare, however he has ridden the BC Bike Race for example where he could compare himself against other riders. And where the audience could have a glimpse of how he actually stands against others who do what he does.

"Yeah racing is fun. The BC Bike Race was a great experience, I didn’t train at all for that. Those experiences are specially good for videos too cause it’s a multiple day thing, you’re excited to see where the story goes. The story has a beginning, middle and an end, it’s really ready made for a Youtube adventure." The 'XC' in BKXC in fact stands for (or used to stand for, he often says) Cross Country Mountain Biking. In his early years as a rider that's what he did, "but I don’t have the killer instinct of training and wanting to be the best, it is what it is," he shares with me.

He found his niche in a type of riding that is more common among cyclists: recreational. Although it is his job, so it comes with responsibilities and a lot of tasks alongside the seemingly simple task of riding a bike. From the bike to Youtube, it takes a long process of capturing the footage (which in itself is a whole project to be able to capture the best possible images and sounds) and then editing it into something fans want to watch - and new viewers will want to seek more.

Brian racing the BC Bike Race

Part 3: Building a career

However, he has since moved on to further ventures away from Youtube. Trail One Components is one of his most recent projects, a company which manufactures bike handlebars, grips, stems and pedals. All made in the USA. In the past he looked to make income away from his job with the experimental Youtube channels. The roles have in the meantime reversed, but the mentality hasn't.

However he hasn't succeeded on the platform out of luck or a secret formula. In fact he shares the exact settings he has on his filming equipment and his little tricks, looking to inspire more people to do the same he does. "It is an interesting thing that if you think there’s some secret sauce it’s like ‘this is it I finally found it’. It’s just silly because at least with the Youtube thing it’s so much personality driven, it’s so much weird charisma that I couldn’t even define."

INTERVIEW Brian Kennedy (BKXC) | How a Mountain Biking Youtuber is building a bike park, travelling the world and creating a legacy
Brian in Saint George, Utah, USA (in the picture is fellow Youtuber 'The Singletrack Sampler)

"Yeah everybody should try, everybody should give it a try and see if they can make videos and if they’re good at it, if they’re bad at it... Even if somebody can watch my GoPro [footage] and then go film their amazing vacation that they only get to take two times their whole life, and they got to film that one time they went somewhere and they have those memories on their GoPro... Maybe they’ll edit it, maybe they’ll never look at it again, but yeah I just want more people to go out and film, there’s no secret there’s no magic recipe that is gonna spoil everything."

Part 4: The 'Nuggebago' 

INTERVIEW Brian Kennedy (BKXC) | How a Mountain Biking Youtuber is building a bike park, travelling the world and creating a legacy
The 'Nuggebago', Brian's RAM Promaster

Brian's backyard shed, the 'Nuggetorium' was often the target of questions. 'What kind of name is that?' The answer is as simple as it is telling that he does not take himself too serious and is an open person. The answer is chicken nuggets. The Nuggetorium was where he hosted livestreams with fans and worked on his multiple bikes that he acquired throughout the years. This includes Ibis bikes, one of his sponsors. But then came the 'Nuggebago'. The name has the same origin. It is a RAM Promaster which he had fitted with a special setup that would allow him to live out of his van. Over the past decade this became a bit of a trend over America, however he still lives in the comfort of his home in Vallejo.

Other Youtubers who have similar level of popularity such as The Singletrack Sampler and BCPOV do, whilst Seth Alvo (Berm Peak, or previously 'Seth's Bike Hacks') exclusively spends time living in a home. Brian does a combination of both. The Nuggebago has allowed him to take on new challenges. During 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic began, Brian spent the year travelling throughout the USA with the goal of riding all 50 states. His tally was at 49, as Hawaii was under strict travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

"It’s been so versatile, at first I was like I don’t really care who cares about a van but then I was so glad. The '50-state shred', and now… I wouldn’t be able to build Everstoke if it wasn’t for the van. Pitching a tent and being outside all night, it’s too tough it’s too cold. And it’s too hot... This is a nice and comfortable space," he tells me, coincidentally from inside his van. During the 50-state shred he met Sarah in one of his riding videos, the two have since gotten married in late 2021. Safe to say the van was a pretty good deal, but what comes next for it?

INTERVIEW Brian Kennedy (BKXC) | How a Mountain Biking Youtuber is building a bike park, travelling the world and creating a legacy
Brian riding in Cusco, Peru

The answer comes as a surprise. "I think a new van would be the next step," he replies. "It would be great to start from scratch, to build everything. I like the idea of the van; changing at the trailhead, sleeping and it’s so comfortable and stuff, but I can feel this thing getting a little long in the tooth in the United States. The van almost has a 100.000 miles which is not bad for a RAM and it’s like I don’t know how much longer this thing is gonna last." It could be possible that this will be one of the next projects to keep up in the channel.

"If I ever have the itch I go out and travel in the van, if I just want to have a regular house and a toilet I go back home." This is without saying that the riding is always present. This year alone, Brian has travelled to - besides several locations in the USA - Mexico, Peru, Palestine, Israel, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Canada and Spain. However the harsh weather of winter may be the trigger for new decisions that will propel the channel in a new direction.

Part 5: Everstoke

"I wouldn’t be able to build Everstoke if it wasn’t for the van," he said. What is Everstoke exactly? Adventure telling and being open to the audience is a big part of his success but another is his ability to connect with people. This helped him take the step to buy a property in North California alongside Youtuber and friend Aaron from MTBing Adventures. The 91-acre piece of land was virtually untouched and is an open candace to build whatever the duo want - within the legal limits.

Part of his inspiration was after seeing Seth Alvo build a mini bike park in his backyard, and then make the move to build a full-fledged bike park in Canton, North Carolina. "Yeah he definitely showed the possibility of doing stuff in his backyard and I was like ‘wow what if we do this in a bigger scale’ and actually have people pay to do that. And he did it so awesomely in his backyard with such a tiny piece of land and I was like 'ok we can make it bigger, better, make it really really cool for everyone to come and enjoy'." And over the past two years this has been another of his side projects, one that may take many years to actually support him financially, but where he gets to enjoy the freedom that his new career allows him to have.

"All the other random stuff like building Everstoke now, on these 91 acres of raw land, and trying to basically turn nothing into something. Building features, toilets, water, electricity and doing all these projects, these construction projects it’s pretty amazing and I hope that people like it more and more." This soon-to-be bike park is almost an analogy to the start of his new career where he is first taking a big risk, and then going all-in on something that seems crazy, but having the confidence that the community will turn it into something feasible.

The duo post regular videos on the creation of bike trails and infrastructure in the property. The latter proves to be quite challenging due to the remoteness of the location and the heavy snowfall that ensures every winter. However he has a vision in mind: "Yeah in the long-term future I would hope that we could build a couple nice houses out here and that would be some big house that families can come rent and they would stay out here on the land and they could use the trails and see everything we’ve done and yeah we keep improving the trails and keep improving all the little gimmicks and fun things out here."

"I always loved this idea of getting out there and build your own trails and have people come out and camp and bring people together and see ‘oh there is adventure out there’. I talk about how there are adventures out there you just have to make the time and do it, but not everyone can fly to Spain and make a big mountain bike trip. But hopefully a lot of people can get in their car and come pitch their tent and come ride these trails and kinda get a taste of it."

I argued that Everstoke could be termed, in a way, the making of a child's dream. He agrees: "Yeah exactly, and kinda showing all of that stuff in the video. There’s possibilities, come up here and check them out and let your imagination run wild. The fact that this is seven years in, it does get older and a bit more stale, even though I watch back on my videos and I’m like 'that was good that ride was really cool'. But you know, people want to be intrigued and feel something and if they don’t feel anything anymore you’ve got to give them something else. So I do like the idea of building cabins, building trails, more stories, more adventures and more things that people can connect to at Everstoke."

"Last winter was very hectic there were feet and feet of snow and it shut us down until maybe like late March. You could drive in and hike in if you want to. I probably will do that a couple times throughout the winter but we don’t have a snow plow, we don’t have enough set up so that we can be winter proof yet. Hopefully the next few weeks won’t have a ton of snow and I can actually do some more work out here and make things more bullet proof for the winter," he continues. Over recent months he's managed to install reliable signal on the property, which he used to communicate with me. Alongside the small projects within Everstoke, he has also brought in a portable home and he has already made a public call for anyone who'd like to visit the land.

It could be argued that with so much done, and having risen to such a high and specific level in terms of content, that it'd become hard from him to find new inspirations. He does not believe that. "I still do get inspiration, but it’s a lot of outside mountain biking channels. My favourite Youtube channel right now is called Stud Pack and it’s like a father and son duo, and now son-in-law now building a house. It’s this neat process where it’s just building and it’s fun, and I love that concept. And they inspire me, it’s like they did it this way and they’re funny, maybe I should try to do this more in my videos or do that, so I get inspired by all kinds of different things."

Since Brian plans to build liveable spaces in Everstoke, he may try to replicate some of his new favourite content. "Definitely I would love to do that. I kinda hope that Everstoke would be more of a combination between building and riding, and do stuff." It is the idea of an ever-growing project that he believes captivates people into coming back, and it's creating stories that viewers can follow along that ultimately makes for good entertainment.

INTERVIEW Brian Kennedy (BKXC) | How a Mountain Biking Youtuber is building a bike park, travelling the world and creating a legacy
Brian in Israel

Part 6: What can you learn from Brian

The best advice that other Youtubers don't usually give. "At least with Youtube, or in general, one of the things that I did was that I had a lot of practice ahead of time," was his answer. "I worked in a newspaper and I was editing videos so I had hours in that. And then I tried a Youtube channel where I was doing audiobook reviews, and then I was doing smart sprinkler reviews... So I had a lot of time already invested and trial and error and learning all the little tweaks and little stuff that you’d learn in a book. If you were gonna write a book on how to do Youtube you have to do these little things that become second nature. And getting all that out of the way, you have to be able to do all that stuff and still feel good about it, whilst still making progress with an audience."

It's a difficult mix to get right, but Brian did so. His channel developed from POV mountain biking videos into what he'd likely refer to as a TV show with several plots to follow along. Some more popular, some less popular. Other plots will be created with time. He enjoys what he does and that is ultimately what allows him to dedicate his time an effort into it. "Marques Brownlee the tech guy on Youtube. He had 100 videos before he got 100 subscribers which is just crazy to actually put in the time and effort to do 100 videos where nobody cares and there’s no views. You have to actually enjoy the process," he gives as an example. He mentions a quote he's heard: "The benefit from the thrill of whatever you're doing, you have to be able to put up with the pain. So if you’re able to put up with the pain of whatever you’re doing it's a huge unlock."

"I think the bar for publishing and creating stuff nowadays whether it’s photography or riding, the bar is so low which is great. Almost anybody can do a creative thing but you put the real time and effort into it like it’s a job. That’s the hard part [however], to do a job when you already work a job."

"But no matter what your passion is for creation. If you’re into creating things, being able to document that thing and post about it or take a picture about it... Do 3D printing, or woodworking or whatever there is, the bar is so low, there are no gatekeepers to say that 'no you can’t do that type of TV show'. You can do any kind of TV show on Youtube. Or if you just want to write, post on Instagram, Twitter... Getting out there and trying something, putting a decent amount of effort behind it, and then sharing whatever you want to create with the world."

"The world is hungry for new and interesting things...."

Brian riding Portal trail in Moab, USA. His most viewed Youtube video at the time of writing

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