You’ll find no one more at ease on a bike than professional mountain biker Martin Söderström. He’s a skilled rider who made his name in mountain bike slopestyle, but he’s equally at home riding freestyle on big mountains, on the street or in a skatepark.
Back in his native Sweden he was one of the first mountain bike riders to see if he could make a career out of his talents by going pro – a decision that paid off handsomely.
Since his emergence, a slew of other Swedish mountain bikers such as Anton Thelander, Max Fredriksson and Emil Johansson have followed in his footsteps. Söderström has their respect and admiration for what he’s done in career.
That career quite simply has been one of fairytales, nightmares and inspiration all mixed into one – and at 32 years old he’s still continuing to have fun out on the trails, dirt jumps and skateparks of the world.
Martin Söderström’s mountain biking career has been on point
© Adrian Berggren/Red Bull Content Pool
Learn about his career journey, from its origins on the streets of Sweden, to riding slopestyle at the highest level, to being an ambassador for his sport.
The king of Swedish style
Söderström is an easy rider to spot out on the trails. The tall Swede throws technical tricks with ease, making it look like he’s floating down trails. Often referred to as ‘Swedish style’, it’s been adopted by every Swedish kid dreaming of becoming a slopestyle star. Fellow Swede and the current king of slopestyle Emil Johansson credits Söderström as one of his biggest riding influences.
Söderström and Johansson doing their thing whilst filming in Järvsö in 2020
© Adam Klingeteg/Red Bull Content Pool
Like most, Söderström started out riding for fun. A skatepark in his hometown of Uppsala opened in 2003 and this is where Söderström created and formed his unique riding style.
To ride a mountain bike on a skatepark is no easy thing, due to its size. It forces you to learn to manoeuvre a bike and master tricks in a very small, technical area, something which Söderström says helped him form and then develop his riding style.
“All we did from 2003 onwards was to ride skateparks.”
Söderström thinks his riding style is heavily influenced by skateparks
© Jay French/Red Bull Content Pool
The early years – hunting for jumps
In the years that followed, Söderström would ride anything and everything he could find in his hometown. From skateparks to street furniture to DIY jumps. In 2005, he discovered dirt jumping, but permanent jump set-ups were few and far apart in Sweden, never mind near to where he lived.
Söderström, fresh faced and a whole lot younger, back in 2009
© Johan Ståhlberg/Red Bull Content Pool
We didn’t have the insane jump lines and indoor facilities that kids have today. We used to drive for hours just to get to a small mulch jump or some sandy dirt jumps in my friend’s back garden
“We didn’t have the insane jump lines and indoor facilities that kids have today. We used to drive for hours just to get to a small mulch jump or some sandy dirt jumps in someone’s garden. But I guess it forced us to be more creative with what we had,” Söderström remembers. “We’d go jump off natural lips and rocks in the forest, spend hours upon hours jumping down stairs in town, and if you heard about someone dumping some dirt somewhere in the neighbourhood, you’d quickly head over and try and shape it into somewhat of a jump.”
Riding what you find – Söderström in Stockholm in 2011
© Mattias Fredriksson/Red Bull Content Pool
The fairytale breakthrough
Mountain biking and riding was something that was now consuming Söderström’s mind. If he wasn’t riding, he’d be at home watching videos like New World Disorder to get inspiration. Slopestyle contests were beginning to take hold across the world by 2005 and there were even places in Sweden that were now beginning to hold fledgling competitions. Together with two of his best mates, Söderström travelled around to as many as he could, living out of a van as well as riding his bike in new places around the country.
Söderström competing in White Styles in Austria in 2010
© Marcel Lämmerhirt / Red Bull Content Pool
Even if Söderström was quickly making a name for himself in Sweden during these years, he never expected to become a professional rider. “When I started with slopestyle it was really hard to think that someone from Sweden would be able to make a living out of mountain biking, because no one ever had.”
After winning the 2007 Nordic Slopestyle Championship in Åre Söderström released a video edit of his riding on YouTube and it went viral. On the back of the video he was invited to his first big international competition the following year (2008), White Styles, in Austria. Söderström remembers being extremely nervous when going, but despite being a complete rookie, he managed to finish fourth. It got him an invite to Vienna Air King, where he finished even better, in second place.
His big break would come later that same year, during the biggest event of the year: the Nissan Qashqai Challenge. Söderström slipped in on a wildcard entry and managed to win the whole competition against the biggest names in the sport at the time: Trond Hansen, Paul Basagoitia and Cam Zink. It sure made a statement.
Söderström has been lucky enough to be invited to ride at Red Bull Rampage
© Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool
2009-2013: The golden years
What followed were some intense years of traveling and competing. In 2009 he won a total of nine competitions, including the Big Bavaria contest, a title he defended the following year. In 2010, Söderström stepped up his game further by competing in the newly formed FMB (Freeride Mountain Bike) World Tour: the official international circuit of professional freeride competitions.
Söderström got very used to podiums from 2008 to 2013
© Dale Tidy/Red Bull Content Pool
In 2012, he cemented his role as one of the most talented riders in the world. Winning competitions like SKS Slopestyle and IXS Dirt Masters in Winterberg and finishing the year second overall on the FMB World Tour. He also got to ride Red Bull Rampage that year, the pinnacle event that every mountain bike slopestyler or freerider would love to compete in.
Söderström remembers the good times: “Those years were crazy. We were a bunch of 18 to 20 year olds who’d just started to make money, get some fame and we thought we were rock stars. It was a couple of very fun years travelling around the world.”
Söderström has twice been a runner-up at Red Bull Joyride
© Dale Tidy/Red Bull Content Pool
Söderström kept his momentum going into 2013 and found himself once again battling for the overall FMB World Tour title against one of the best slopestylers and freeriders on the planet in Brandon Semenuk. He finished second to Semenuk at Red Bull Joyride that year, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. On the final jump of a simply perfect run that would have seen him better Semenuk’s leading score, Söderström crashed hard, breaking his tibia and fibula just above the ankle.
“I went from the highest high to the lowest of lows,” Söderström says.
Having had the doctors say he might never ride again, he worked hard on his physical rehabilitation for the next nine months to make sure he could ride the 2014 FMB World Tour season.
Watch Söderström’s road to recovery following that Red Bull Joyride crash:
Martin Soderstrom’s incredible recovery story
The full drama behind the Swedish star’s incredible road back to the bike.
But disaster struck on his first competition back in 2014. Söderström over rotated a flip-whip on his second run, put down his foot at an angle and broke it at FISE Montpellier. What would follow is the stuff of nightmares. After finally recovering from his broken foot he then managed to re-break his tibia/fibula fracture not once, but twice. He also broke his hand and fractured his back.
All this meant a lot of time off the bike and with it Söderström, unsurprisingly, found it hard to deal with the mental challenges of that and whether competing in contests was worth it anymore. Still, Söderström somehow managed to make a small comeback in 2015, placing a credible fourth at the Crankworx Slopestyle contest in Rotorua that year. More injuries followed and by the start of 2017 he decided that it was time to retire from slopestyle competitions altogether.
But Söderström wasn’t ready to leave the world of bikes just yet. The years after 2017 saw Söderström seek to return to where it all began for him – just having fun riding his bike. It saw him go back to making more video content and segments, collaborating in the front of a camera with former slopestyle rivals and those making a mark on the scene.
Martin Söderström and Emil Johansson
See Martin Söderström and Emil Johansson put their style and excellency in focus at Järvsö, Sweden.
In terms of a competitive focus, Söderström began participating in dual slalom, pump track and speed and style races at mountain bike festivals around the world. Between 2018 and 2019, Söderström podiumed four times at Crankworx speed and style contests, across the Crankworx Festival stops, winning twice and taking the overall title for the discipline in 2019.
Strait/Söderström – Speed & Style Innsbruck
Martin Söderström and Kyle Strait go head-to-head in the battle for the Speed & Style crown in Innsbruck.
In 2020, after 13 years of competing at the highest level, Söderström decided to retire from competitions altogether – a decision that had been coming for a few years. “When you let go of the pressure and the stress… the love for the sport slowly comes back.”
A legacy to be proud of
Söderström is still very much part of the bike world today. He’s a big advocate for bike riding and an ambassador for mountain biking in general.
Söderström continues to mentor and teach the next generation
© Jay French/Red Bull Content Pool
Continuing that legacy, he keeps teaching and mentoring young riders today to be the superstars of tomorrow at one of Sweden’s indoor action sports schools and when he travels around the world. Here’s to much more from Söderström in the future!
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