"Grab a shovel, stick it in the dirt, build your own fun" - Magilla
1 Sep 2014
Interview and photos by Brian Barnhart
Jeremy Reiss, known to most as Gilly or Magilla, is an icon in the trail riding community. Back in the 1990s Gilly roamed the country with the FBM crew and had an undeniably felt presence in era-defining videos like 1201, Lights Out, and All Time Low, inspiring many riders of that generation. Originally from Ithaca, New York, Gilly settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the mid 90s strengthening an already respectable trails community. Along with new friends, Gilly dedicated himself to building Posh into what it is today; a Mecca to trail riders around the world. Gilly’s flow through the woods matches his skills with a shovel, and raises the stoke at any given session. Although no longer living in Bethlehem, Gilly still comes around for some laps through the woods, and much respect is exchanged with this underground legend and friend. Riders like Magilla are a rare breed these days: talented, creative, humble and committed. He lives a drug-free healthy lifestyle, yet remains a pure badass, ignoring any lame trend that comes along. These questions delve into Gilly’s time living in Bethlehem, PA and digging Posh into some of the sickest trails ever.
When did you move to Bethlehem, PA and what inspired that move?
I moved to B-town around the spring of 97, I had moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana with Crandall and Mike Tag pretty soon after graduating high school and had lived there for about four years. We had built pretty good trails there for the time and for being on flat ground. I think it was a combination of the scene kind of gradually dying out in Fort Wayne and visiting POSH and experiencing downhill trails for the first time that sparked the move. I was just ready to be a part of a thriving trail scene and loved to dig and that’s all I wanted to do at the time.
What was the trail scene like back then?
It was way different than it is now that’s for sure. There was about a quarter the amount of jumps there are now, but it’s weird there were probably like 3 to 4 times the amount of locals. Everyone would just ride all day, no watering the jumps, just riding through 3 inches of dust, but no one knew any better. That was right about the time when trail salt came around and the no dig no ride policies came in to effect, the dedicated stuck around and trail dialling eventually became what we know it as today.
How many years did you live there and how many jumps do think you helped build at Posh?
I lived there for around 13 years I think. I couldn’t even tell you how many jumps I built there, too many to count. I was in those woods pretty much every day that it wasn’t raining or snowing, or that I wasn’t out of town.
What do think made Posh some of the most respected and most visited trails around?
I think Posh has just been around a long time, probably the longest of any trails I know of. Posh just rides really good, it’s intimidating at first but once you figure out that you don’t really have to try at all it’s really pretty easy. We always would try to just fine tune every section and every jump even to get them to ride perfect, I always had a checklist of little things I wanted to change or fix in my head and would go down early every day and tinker or change something before I would ride. Basically fix the glitch. I think Posh always had kind of a bad rap that the locals were assholes and people were super intimidated and even scared to go there because they would get thrown out or something, but once people come they realize that it’s totally not like that at all, as long as you show respect and are nice to everyone.
Why do you think trails lost the spotlight in BMX media for many years, and how do you feel about the resurgence of attention to trail riding?
Well BMX trends are kind of a weird thing, my friends and I have always just done and ridden what we wanted to but a majority of the younger generation just do what ever everybody else is doing or riding. So street riding became super popular as well as skate parks, maybe it’s because kids got lazy, maybe it’s because it became the trend. I don’t know but kids just weren’t in to building or riding trails for a while.
So it’s definitely nice to see the next generation getting in to building and riding trails more now, I love seeing pics of new trail spots popping up that I’ve never seen before. Love how there are whole magazine issues dedicated to trails and that the builders are finally getting the respect that they deserve.
Why do you think a place like Posh, with all its legend, is maintained by just a handful of diggers?
Well for a long time there just weren’t any younger kids around that were getting in to trails, the street trend was in full effect and Posh has just been around for so long that pretty much everyone that dug there was over thirty. There’s no real beginner line at Posh so it’s hard for any kid to start riding there if they don’t already have pretty dialled skills. So life happens, people get too busy, people move away, people quit riding. So the hardcore remain, J-bone is the man; he keeps that place in order. No way that place would be what it is anymore without him.
Looking back, has all the shovel work been worth it to you?
Yeah for sure, I always enjoyed digging. Well not always I guess, fixing the same flat bottom four times in a row before you get to ride it because it keeps raining is never fun, but there’s no better feeling than riding and having the best time of your life on something you and your friends have created from nothing but a shovel and your own sweat. That’s definitely what makes it worth it.
What words of wisdom can you leave for a younger generation?
Grab a shovel, stick it in the dirt, build your own fun.
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