This April, Sammy Mercado, 28-year-old bike-jump- aficionado, invited mountain bike professionals, Carson Storch and Darren Berrecloth, to Riverside, CA to joyride through his handmade mountain bike dirt-jumps.

From humble beginnings in Guadalajara, Mexico, Mercado was raised in a broken home losing his father at age 8 and working jobs that inspired him to take initiative and move to America in pursuit of a dream. Upon arrival to California from Mexico, he started mowing lawns regularly in the area. One of his clients was the Diamond Bar Skatepark, a fun well-groomed park with mellow transitions and plenty of street obstacles from big to small. Mercado found himself spending countless hours at Diamond Bar and picked up English from his newfound community led by mentor and local-pro-BMX rider, Mike Saavedra, at the skatepark.

At 18, Mercado had fallen in love with bikes and saved up his mowing money to purchase his first 20” BMX bike. From that moment on, Mercado was never seen without his bike – sometimes biking roughly 40 miles to Diamond Bar from Long Beach just to ride with friends.

After learning the art of building dirt jumps and earnestly watching the intricacies of the sport, Mercado discovered his passion for Downhill Mountain biking. Experiencing the freedom of his local hills and striving to become the best rider he could be, Mercado took action to create a private line of his own. Using his own manpower, along with a shovel, pic axe and some water — water he carries into the desert using 5-gallon buckets — Mercado carved a slice of freeride paradise into the hidden hills of Southern California.

To Mercado, learning to build offered a sense of freedom, gave him space for creativity and an opportunity to leave a legacy. “I don’t want to build jumps to ride today,” says Mercado, “I want to build jumps that will last forever.”

At Red Bull Rampage 2016, Mercado was digging and actively participating alongside some of the worlds best jump-builders when he met pro’s Carson Storch, the up-and-comer placing 3rd that year, and Darren Berrecloth, a godfather of MTB. The crew decided to make the trek out to Southern California and get the keys to a day of riding Mercado’s private trail together.

“It was humbling to come and ride the trail that Sammy had built and to see how much work he had put in,” Storch says, “It brought me back to when I was young and I’d dig all of the stuff that I wanted to ride. Now that I travel the world riding trails and jumps that other people build, it’s inspiring to see Sammy’s passion and fun to experience the grassroots way of mountain biking again.”

Red Bull caught up with Mercado to find out what it takes to build a Red Bull Rampage-inspired run, in the middle of nowhere — keep reading to learn more.

What’s your background on bikes?
Sammy Mercado: I started riding when I was young, but just random — no real riding or doing tricks. I just rode to cruise around … I never saw anyone doing tricks.

How did you find your spot to build?
We used to go out to this area and ride motorcycles as kids. At first, I pictured myself building jumps for the dirt bike, but all my friends stopped riding motorcycles — so I kept up with the BMX bike. At that point, I found out about downhill bikes and I began riding about five years ago.

Who else digs at your spot?
To be honest, it’s just me — all the time.

So what motivates you to be out in the hills, solo for hours?
I don’t know — every time I’m out there, and by myself, I’m just doing my own thing. I can get my ideas, build it, try it and try it again if it doesn’t work … My motivation comes from being out in the mountains — I feel so relaxed there. Nobody telling me anything, it’s just me.

What else do you have planned to build in your zone?
I work construction, so when it rains I cannot go to work. But that actually works with digging because that is the best time to build, when the dirt is wet.

What’s your biggest challenge building in the desert?
It’s always hard to build something from scratch and then not know if it’s going to work, or not. In winter, it’s the rainy season, and it’s the best time of year to build. Once summer comes, there’s no more rain — so I have to fill buckets at home and drive them out. I’ll put 14 buckets of water in my little [Toyota] Yaris and then just carry them back to the spot, one at a time.

How was it to have Darren Berrecloth and Carson Storch come check out your zone?
I had met Darren and Carson at Rampage last year, and it was amazing to have them come out. I was nervous — I didn’t know if they’d like the trail, struggle with it, or what. But those guys hit big stuff all day, so it was rad to ride with them on jumps I made and see them sending dumped 360s and backflips.

Story courtesy of Red Bull