Interview with Lilo and John of rva MORE
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Z. Gasa
Lilo and John of rva MORE may come from different backgrounds but they certainly have a passion for mountain biking, conservation, and adventure in common. As members of rva MORE, the two are part of a growing community of environmentally-conscious outdoor enthusiasts, bikers, runners, boaters, and more dedicated to building up the great trails of Richmond, Virginia.
Jeremy Lux had the opportunity to chat with the two for the Life in Motion podcast where they discussed adventure sports, rva MORE, and how COVID has affected the outdoor community.
As someone who calls the mountains of Virginia home, Lilo is certainly far and away from her original home of Spain. Growing up near the ocean, her love of adventure branched out to other great sports like skiing and mountain biking when she moved to America.
She remembers those early days of biking alone when she would get lost on the trails, which led her to join a women’s racing team and eventually find rva MORE. A gifted triathlete, Lilo was a perfect fit for the organization and also owns an outdoor company.
John on the other hand grew up in the states where he would visit his grandparents’ oceanfront property to surf as a kid.
“When I was 9-years-old, I started racing BMX on dirt style tracks before everything was paved and then got into mountain biking probably when I was like 11 or 12,” he shares.
Near high school he got into the fixed gear bike scene then started doing whitewater kayaking in California around his early twenties.
Since then John has worked in the whitewater industry for a decade now and also enjoys biking and rock climbing just the same. He made his first connection with rva MORE while working for the James River Park System when he first moved to Richmond.
Today rva MORE works with the community to promote trail access for everyone, educating folks on ecology and conservation, and helping build new trails, among countless other helpful things. Lilo shares how the org brought the Richmond community together when major flooding cancelled a park race.
“We put out an SOS to Richmond folks that there’s been a lot of flooding and we needed help to clean up debris from the rains and hundreds of people showed up,” she says. “There was actually close to like, what would you say John? 200, maybe 300 people out there helping to clean the park?”
“Oh yeah,” John replies, “It was to the point where we were running out of tools to hand out! It was just overwhelming with the amount of support from people just wanting to come out and give a hand.”
On top of community projects, rva MORE also partners with various bike shops and breweries in the area to promote local business. The partnership between rva MORE and the Richmond community is simply a gift that keeps on giving.
John also shares how the COVID pandemic had affected the outdoor industry. With so many people forced to quarantine folks simply looked to the outdoors to be their escape from home. He says that at the beginning of the pandemic the parking lot at Pocahontas Park was so crowded that Clark, one of their trail builders, was delegated to directing traffic eight hours a day every Saturday.
Lilo says that she’s noticed an increase in attendance especially from the work from home crowd.
“I’m seeing more people out there because it’s so easy. I know several friends that will hop on their bike and ride for 45 minutes, come back, then resume work from home,” she says.
Seeing how much rva MORE has done so much for the community it's crazy to think how the whole mountain biking scene in Richmond first started with some “pirate trails” as John calls them, that have now become sanctioned by the city.
On the topic of community-building, John and Lilo are encouraging and hopeful.
“If you are in a smaller town and trying to find out what is available to get people together and engaged, one thing to look to is social media,” she shares. “It all starts with a couple friends and then they tell their friends, and then it can become more formalized to where you can set up a nonprofit.”
From a simple trail in the forest to a growing army of volunteers, rva MORE is proof that all great things come from humble beginnings.
For more info on rva MORE you can visit their website rvamore.org, Facebook, or Instagram to learn more about their mission, trails, rides, and events. As for Lilo and John’s full chat with Jeremy Lux, check out their interview on the Life in Motion podcast available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.