Join Co-hosts Samantha and Ross to see the fastest and wildest professional mountain bikers in the world.
Mountain Bike Mania airs on two major networks: national cable network beIN Sports, and national broadcast network American Sports Network, reaching about 50 million TV households.
Each 30-minute episode covers a different professional downhill mountain bike race in the most elite series in the USA: the Pro Gravity Race Tour. We feature professional men, professional women, and Junior Experts.
Stay tuned for our 4th season, this summer 2017.
Samantha is a seasoned TV reporter. She was an anchor and reporter for Fox in upstate New York, and then a reporter for CBS in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She loves biking, hiking, boxing, skiing, swimming, and dancing. She has a B.A. in anthropology from Vanderbilt University, and Master’s Degree from the Annenberg School of Journalism at the University of Southern California.
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Ross is a Mountain Biker, Skier, and Videographer. He is especially good with quadcopters. His short films have appeared on pinkbike.com, neontommy.com, and rjmfilms.com. He has a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Southern California, where he was a pole vaulter on the track & field team.
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Christine is an Emmy-nominated producer who brings years of experience to the Mountain Bike Mania team. Her career has taken her across the country, from local news up to the network level at CNN and NFL Network where she produced stories on some of the top football players and coaches. Christine thought football was intense, until she saw her first downhill mountain bike race!
Mikey (The Mad) Haderer is a long time Mountain Bike Industry personality. An accomplished professional gravity racer for nearly ten years as well as wearing several hats at different events from Race Announcer, Event Host, Athlete Manager Product Developer, and Race Mechanic, Mikey always keeps things interesting at the races. Growing up in Northern California’s Bay Area he has many other hobbies including Motorcycle and Car Racing as well as Surfing. He carries years of experience in the Cycling Industry to our team.
See article on Mountain Bike Mania and McDonald family in the Albuquerque Journal in New Mexico: https://www.abqjournal.com/915136/sibling.html (published on 12-25-16)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If hurtling down a mountain on two wheels over rocks, tree trunks and other assorted obstacles sounds like fun, then “Mountainbike Mania” is your kind of show.
It’s the brainchild of an Albuquerque family, brother and sister Ross and Samantha McDonald and their father, Kevin McDonald, who combined their professional expertise with their love for a popular sport to bring mountain biking to the TV screen.
This fall the show was picked up by beIN Sports, a national cable network, and American Sports Network, the sports division of the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Samantha McDonald estimates these network outlets enable about 50 million people to access the show nationwide.
Each episode features 30 minutes of pulse-raising action as professional downhill mountain bike racers compete in USA Cycling Pro-GRT (Gravity Race Tour) events all over the country.
“Our goal is to make it fun and popular to watch,” said Samantha McDonald.
She and her brother grew up in Boston, but the family moved to Albuquerque in 2013 when she took a job with KRQE. Samantha McDonald, 28, has a master’s in broadcast journalism from the University of Southern California. Ross McDonald, 25, who has a bachelor’s in sociology from USC, is an avid mountain biker and extreme sports videographer. Their father, an investment banker, is the business manager. Mother Diana McDonald, a retired art history professor, helps with videography. Samantha McDonald now live in Los Angeles, but the rest of the family is still based in Albuquerque.
Although mountain biking is widely popular in New Mexico and elsewhere, they noticed the sport wasn’t featured on TV. They decided to fill the niche, using their own money for the venture.
“The first season, we said ‘let’s just film as many events as we can to get on TV,'” Samantha McDonald said.
In the summer of 2014, they got airtime on local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox in 21 cities through a barter arrangement. Essentially, they delivered the show to stations with blank spots where the station could insert local ads.
“We were trading content, they gave us the distribution,” said Kevin McDonald.
He explained how that arrangement helped propel them to the next level. One of the local stations, KAME in Reno, Nev., was owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. A representative of Sinclair’s sports division, American Sports Network, contacted KAME asking if they had any sports content the network could use. KAME suggested “Mountainbike Mania.”
“That’s what really set the ball in motion,” Kevin McDonald said.
They also recruited Christine Detz, a former classmate of Samantha’s who produced stories for the NFL Network, to produce the mountain bike show. Samantha McDonald said that helped them land national sponsors, KHS Bicycles, ODI Grips and Jensen USA. They’ve also attracted New Mexico sponsors: Angel Fire Bike Park, Bosque Running Shop, Fat Tire Cycles, Massage Envy and Mercedes Benz of Albuquerque.
“They were excited to be part of this, there was nothing like it on TV,” Samantha McDonald said.
The family also pursued other ways to gain viewership by working with GDMX, a Burbank, Calif.-based company that syndicates shows, distributing them to stations. Through this connection, “Mountainbike Mania” caught the attention of folks at AMGTV, a network that distributes programming through Roku, small cable operators and local stations.
Viewers can also watch episodes online at mtbmania.net and on YouTube.
“We had to figure this out as we went. There was no website or anyone at a station telling us how to do this,” said Kevin McDonald.
He recalled that sports TV giant ESPN had a mountain bike racing program in the 1990s but it hadn’t lasted. He ventured that their success so far is because they are a family business with each member willing to do a variety of tasks and the ability to communicate.
Filming the events requires a lot of travel. USA Cycling Pro-GRT races are held from January through early fall in locations from Southern California to Vermont. But the McDonalds keep expenses low by hiring local videographers and, when possible, using volunteers to check rider’s speeds and times.
Longtime professional downhill mountain bike racer Mikey Haderer is the commentator for most episodes. Samantha and Ross McDonald co-host the shows.
“It has been a very complicated entrepreneurial venture. We thought it would be a great learning experience and it’s gotten big faster than expected,” Kevin McDonald said. “It feels like we have the tiger by the tail and there’s a world to conquer.”
MTB Mania as seen in Mountain Bike Action - October 2015, p. 18 (http://mbaction.com):
“Mountain Bike Mania” is a TV show that covers mountain bike races in the U.S. The 30-minute show made its debut in the summer of 2014 when it aired for 10 weeks in 21 cities on local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. The show presented downhill and enduro races from all over the United States. The first episode of 2015 aired on KDOC in Los Angeles on April 4th and featured the Fontana City Nationals, sponsored by Southridge USA.
Nearly 50,000 people watched that episode. The newest episodes of the show are now sponsored by KHS Bicycles, Jenson USA, ODI Grips and Angel Fire Bike Park.
“Mountain Bike Mania” is a family affair. The show is hosted by siblings Samantha and Ross McDonald. Parents Kevin and Diana McDonald help with the videography and business matters (dad Kevin is an investment banker; mom Diana retired last year after 17 years as an art history professor).
Samantha and Ross got the idea for the show in May of 2014. Samantha was then a TV reporter for CBS in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ross was an avid mountain biker getting his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, where he also worked as a videographer of extreme sports, including mountain biking. The McDonalds knew that no one was covering mountain bike races on TV. A week before Ross’ graduation, Samantha and Ross asked each other, “Why can’t we do this?” They made a demo reel, and five weeks later the show was on the air.
“We were excited to combine our love of biking and videography,” says Samantha, who received her master’s degree in broadcast journalism from USC. “It all came together very quickly,” adds Ross. “We had to figure out a lot in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, we’ve had great cooperation from bikers, race directors and the TV community. A lot of people want to see mountain bike races on TV.”
This spring the show hired a producer, Christine Detz, who had been a producer for the NFL. “We all know that football on TV had a very modest start,” she says, “yet it has grown to be huge. We are not aiming as high as the NFL, but we do hope that ‘MTB Mania’ can bring great mountain biking into living rooms all over the country.” Longtime pro downhill racer Mikey Haderer provides expert commentary on the show.