Thomas Ali: Gearing up for success


Credit: Courtesy of Thomas Ali

Sophomore Thomas Ali does a jump at Highland Mountain Bike Park in Northfield, New Hampshire. “I love mountain biking because there’s a great community surrounding it and uplifting everyone,” Ali said. “The adrenaline is just awesome. I love flying through the air.”

Sasha Libenzon

Gaining speed and flying through the air, sophomore Thomas Ali rides his mountain bike through the woods. Ali has been mountain biking for over five years, gaining a love for the sport and the community that comes with it.

While Ali’s favorite place to mountain bike is at Highland Mountain Bike Park in Northfield, New Hampshire, his love for mountain biking started in his backyard, with his best friend, Shane Desmond.

“I started mountain biking in my yard, building jumps with plywood and cinder blocks,” Ali said. “I eventually went to Highland Mountain Bike Park up in New Hampshire, and they have a lot of terrain and different trails that are really fun.”

To learn more about mountain biking, Ali sought inspiration in professional mountain bikers.

“What got me into mountain biking was watching videos of people like Nicholi Rogatkin and Aaron Chase,” Ali said. “I just tried to start making jumps myself in my backyard. I [then started] asking each year for a new bike or new equipment.”

A large aspect of mountain biking is the community that comes with it, which Ali has come to appreciate.

“It’s a great community, everyone respects each other, and nobody puts each other down,” Ali said. “There’s a few people in Wayland that I mountain bike with. They’re really nice people, they don’t make fun of anyone for being less skilled.”

Learning new tricks is a gradual process. Ali uses the foam pit and ramp at the Highland Training Center to learn and practice new jumps.

“Usually, the main thing is just being gradual,” Ali said. “The big thing is having the right jump, and having enough time to do the tricks. I found that I progressed so much [at Highland] because there’s also a foam pit in the training center. It’s really helpful for learning flips because if you fall and slam it’s not as bad, you can get up and keep trying.”

Due to the difficulty of transporting a bike on a plane, Ali has only biked in New England. When he isn’t mountain biking in Wayland or Highland, he enjoys Vietnam Trails in Milford, Massachusetts.

“Vietnam Trails is a lot more of a different terrain than Highland because it’s a lot more rocky, so a lot of jumps are actually off of rocks or rock faces,” Ali said. “I’m planning on going to Colorado this winter, and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to mountain bike just because of the snow.”

Ali is interested in doing different forms of bike racing. Although he hasn’t done many races, he wants to try enduro racing, a style that involves biking up a mountain and then racing down.

“I’ve raced a couple times before in cross country [style] which is mostly just peddling,” Ali said. “I’m trying to get a couple sponsors, just for jump riding, which is called free ride. Hopefully next year, if my parents allow, I’ll start racing enduro racing. This is a lot easier to pick up sponsors because you can put in your race times and your results, which is a lot clearer to brands to see how good you are.”

Several months ago, Ali crashed into a tree at Highland, causing him to be unable to ride for some time. Now, he is getting back into mountain biking.

“I kind of got into a bit of a crash,” Ali said. “It happens to everyone. There’s a couple of trails at Highland where it’s kind of just a tight turn, and I went off the trail and hit a tree. Overall, if you know what you’re doing in mountain biking, and you’re not tired that day or hydrated, then it’s not too dangerous.”

Whether it’s the community or the way it feels flying through the air, Ali has found a passion for the sport of mountain biking.

“I love mountain biking because there’s a great community surrounding it that uplifts everyone,” Ali said. “The adrenaline is just awesome. I love flying through the air.”