Mountain Bike Vermont caught up with Sasha Yakovleff and Ben Haulenbeek, one of our favorite rider and filmer dynamic duos, to get the goods on their latest collaboration. Ben shoots the stills, and Sasha provides the thrills. Turns out there are still a few “secret” spots here in our tiny green-treed state. Learn what makes the two tick and work together so well, and feast your eyeballs on some sick riding.
All photos by Ben Haulenbeek
Mountain Bike Vermont: Sasha in a nut shell, what is your story? Give us a little bio. Ben, same deal man.
Sasha Yakovleff: What’s up! I’m 23 years old from Alstead, NH currently residing in Rye, NH. I’ve been riding bikes since I was 6 and mtn bikes since I was 16, also been building jumps and trails that whole time, so what eight years now? I’ve been riding professionally for Deity Bikes for about one year- before that Sinister Bikes for seven years- and also managing the Bike Park at Rye Airfield. In the winter I run the freestyle ski team at Burke Mtn and in the summers I also run the Woodward at Copper MTB camps. So overall I’m real busy between riding a lot and working a little, trying to live the dream one day at a time!
Ben Haulenbeek: I’m a native Vermonter, lifelong Mountain Biker, and I’ve been a professional photographer and videographer for the past eight years. I just permanently relocated back up to VT after working out of state for some time; so I’m in a transitional period right now, and for the first time really trying to figure out what I want do, and not just chasing arbitrary goals… Being stuck in cities doing commercial work for packaging and online retail excited me about as much as doing my taxes, and I had lost all interest in photo and video as a result. Now I’ve realized that photography and video never really interested me, but rather it’s a passion for the subject matter that drives my work; the ability to capture the excitement of a moment, and the ability to make things that interest me look as visually stunning as possible is why I want to create imagery. Now I’m trying to return to my roots, and mountain biking is what first got me taking photos and making videos, so it’s where I’d like to concentrate a lot of my time moving forward. Now I’m someone looking to use photography and video as a means to be involved with activities and industries that truly captivate me.
MTBVT: Ok Ben, you guys make a good team. Every time we see a media collab it’s pro quality… like that super green shot of Sasha in the Hallow, holy shit that one is rad. You guys been shooting together long?
Ben: Sasha and I have been working together for about a year and a half. We met back in 2011 at Knight Ide’s annual post-brewfest jump-jam.
MTBVT: Sasha, what have you been up to man? Working at Rye? Any cool stuff happening down there?
Sasha: This winter has been nice down here because I’ve been able to ride outside as the weather’s so mellow. We get snow for a few days and then it melts so it’s real convenient for cruising outside. I’ve also been riding Rye Airfield a ton and skiing and traveling for the Burke team a bunch. We’re gearing up for a pretty busy summer between camps and the bike park here at Rye so all that planning has been keeping me busy, along with dialing in Woodward at Copper MTB.
MTBVT: Ben, there are tons of riders out there, why Sasha? Any particular story that exemplifies your relationship and adventures there in?
Ben: I really like working with Sasha for a lot of reasons. For starters, he understands that taking photos and making videos can be a pain-in-the-ass some times. When he calls me up for a photo shoot, he calls me up to shoot; not to go for a ride where we bring a camera, and then everyone gets irritated when it takes more than a few minutes to set up and execute a shot… He is also a dialed rider, a lot of the time I’ll want to shoot multiple angles on something, or try a few different lighting patterns, which requires the rider to be able to nail a feature again and again. I also really like Sasha’s style on a bike, some people (including myself) are just stiff and don’t photograph well, Sasha always looks relaxed and natural on a bike, and therefore he photographs really well.
MTBVT: Sasha, you are known for diggin up crazy spots. Can you tell us a bit about this one? Looks a bit scary? Is it secret? You build it? Can we ride it too?
Sasha: Ever since I was a kid I’ve been digging my own spots- it’s a big part of riding for me. Especially now that I’m constantly producing media it’s super important to me to capture unique photos and videos on terrain that hasn’t been shot before. I love riding any trails but if I can build it, ride it, and shoot it that completes the whole process for me. I definitely get a certain sense of satisfaction when it all works out- I think any trail builder places some importance on this. Plus I can build the craziest stuff I can think of in the middle of the woods and not get hassled for it!
This particular spot is an old paper mill that my friend Wilson owns in Southern VT real close to where I grew up. It’s a super crazy building surrounded by rivers, mountains, railways, and other old industrial spots- I love it. We have had our own ramp setup in there for about 5 years now and it’s constantly evolving. Unfortunately it always get vandalized but at least a core group of kids rides there now and (sort of) keeps the ramps together. It’s semi-secret so hit me up if you want to ride, I’m happy to have people there we just have to keep it under control.
MTBVT: Ben, what did you think of the spot? Is this the craziest one Sasha has dragged you to? If not, what was the most far fetched?
Ben: I’m really fascinated with urban decay, so the setting was ideal in my mind. It is probably the craziest spot he has brought me, but I wouldn’t call the location far fetched, maybe it is for some. When he told me about a scrappy home-made park in an abandoned factory, I got really excited; I’d do a photo shoot at Chernobyl if I had the resources! And because it was sheltered, being inside, it was nice to be able to set-up lights with out having them get blown over every 5 minutes…
MTBVT: Sasha, plans for this summer? See you up at Burke or maybe at H-land?
Sasha: I’m already stoked for this summer, my Dad just gave me a chainsaw so that takes my trail-building to new heights! Haha endless options now….I just started a new freeride line last week, just need the ground to thaw out…
I have some stuff up my sleeves and of course will be shredding Rye, Highland, Burke, and always down to Posh and Catty for fun dirt jump sessions with my friend Josh Gee. Hopefully we can get to some more secret trail spots, Josh has a way of sniffing them out. I’ll be out at Woodwart at Copper for a few weeks so that’s always fun, we get to ride Trestle, Valmont, and Frisco which are all super fun. And you can count on finding me out in the woods in the middle of nowhere building and riding my heart out…
MTBVT: Sasha, who keeps you rolling? sponsors to thank?
Sasha: Big thank you to Ben for the photos, Wilson for the park, Burke Mountain, Woodward at Copper, my girl Lisa and my family. Also much love to my sponsors Deity Bikes, Bern Helmets, Teva Shoes, Dakine, Mocean Mate, and Rye Airfield. Also thanks MTBVT for the content and keeping the VT scene strong, you guys rock. Keep shredding everyone!
MTBVT: Ben, any final words?
Ben: I can’t wait to get back to this spot. Sasha and I really want to do a video there. I’m just trying to figure out how to get sufficient lighting in there; you can’t tell from the photos, but it’s really dark in that place. He is thinking of hosting a session in mid-March, so hopefully that happens before I ship off to basic training.
MTBVT bonus question: Ben, where is the flippin’ mine shoot edit? Hahahhaha
Ben: I suck, I know… I want to get that out before basic, and get everyone psyched for the summer.
Stayed tuned for Ben’s edit of an MTBVT sponsored mission to a certain exposed, loose, high-speed zone that can be see from most places in Northern VT…