"I'm excited by the feedback I'm getting from it. The biggest compliment I get is everybody says it's unique, and that's important because a lot of stuff out there on social media is just rehashing other stuff." — Rich Moore, aka Semi-Sendy
Like many around the country, Rich Moore has found solace in the saddle amid the pandemic. He has also found a following for the YouTube videos documenting his pandemic-fueled mountain biking escapades.
Essentially growing up on the mountain bike trails near his childhood home, Moore's first love is cycling, a sport he first picked up when he was 8 years old. More than a decade later, he picked up a camera as an homage to his dad, an amateur photographer, but his two hobbies didn't immediately click.
Living in Asheville in his late 20s, Moore started his own photography business, primarily hiking out in the inky predawn to capture the sun waking up Pisgah National Forest.
"I would always see these scenes that were so dynamic in nature and I really wanted to capture more than just the still image," says Moore, who now runs a professional video company called Feels Like Film.
It didn't happen overnight — or in the woods.
Moore, who'd transitioned to whitewater paddling by that point, began documenting his runs in his whitewater canoe.
"I'd just go out on these adventures on these mountain creeks and pack a camera, and I started putting things together. The last few years of doing that, I became pretty well-known in the whitewater community," he says.
Pretty soon, he transitioned his skills and sport yet again, this time focusing on rock climbing. In 2019, Moore shot and directed a professional documentary for local climbing-focused media company Steep South about Denny Cove, the relatively new premier climbing destination in Marion County.
Then, in March 2020, the world screeched to a halt and his consulting and commercial work dried up.
"I need to be constantly engaged, constantly learning and doing new things," Moore says, but COVID-19 precautions meant it could be unsafe to shuttle to and from the water with his fellow paddlers or use the equipment left by other climbers in the region's cliffs. So, he loaded up his girlfriend and his bike and headed back to the trails.
A how-to series wasn't the initial goal, he says.
"We were going off the beaten path and thought, 'We should share this with people. These trails are kind of falling by the wayside,'" says Moore. "For whatever reason, people took to what I was doing."
Inspiring conservation and community has always been the focus of his work. Himself, not so much. "I never wanted to be in front of the camera. I do not like the sound of my own voice," he says with a laugh. But an unexpected experience with the Denny Cove documentary gave him the confidence to try.
With an editor's cut forcing a last-minute redo of the end of the film, and without the budget or time to hire a voice actor, Moore had stepped in.
"I did the voice-over and hated it, but everybody else loved it. Even the Access Fund was like, 'Yeah, we want you to do voice-overs for our films,'" he says, referencing the national climbing organization that was a partner in Denny Cove's acquisition.
Having personally turned to YouTube videos like "Seth's Bike Hacks," filmed by Asheville internet/mountain biking sensation Seth Alvo (known as Berm Peak), Moore knew what resonated with him — and Alvo's 2.2 million other subscribers. So he went for it.
"People who are kind of getting into the sport are really interested in learning and watching things about it, and they really like watching people they can relate to, something they feel is attainable and they can watch the progression as the months go by," says Moore.
Though he's been riding since childhood, the series has pushed him out of his comfort zone. Formerly a long-distance rider, he now focuses on gravity trails and is getting into downhill racing, something he never thought he'd do, he says. He's also taken on projects, like applying a bike wrap, that previously intimidated him.
His goal is to encourage others to not be afraid to try new things, whether that means tackling the trails at Raccoon Mountain or taking bike maintenance into their own hands.
"It's just an 'average joe tries to do it' video series," he explains. " I show them my mistakes. I had no idea people would like that."
Moore's initial goal was to get 1,000 subscribers in the first year. He's already got almost 2,000.
"Every time I go out now [to ride], people recognize and talk to me. I almost never ride solo now," he says.
YouTube handle: Semi-Sendy
His handle is actually a joke among his community of open boaters, who quip that they're semi sendy — or better known for their fun-loving nature than for firing it up, since they choose to paddle in canoes rather than kayaks.
Number of subscribers: 1,800
Most popular video: "The Single Best Upgrade" (10,000 views)
Personal favorite: "She Has Gotten So Fast" (1,700 views)
"It's a special one to me, but I'm biased because she's my girlfriend," he says.
Time it takes to craft each film: 1 week. Moore does it all: sets up the shots, rides by, resets the shots, rides by again; and, of course, all the editing.
Current project: Documenting the progress at Walden's Ridge Park
"With a big project like that, especially with trails out in the woods, if people don't hear about it for six months, they don't think it's going on or they lose interest," says Moore.
New goal: 50,000 subscribers, and then 100,000
"It's a lofty goal to get to that point with YouTube to make it a career, but I'm certainly going to try my best and grow as much as I can to either make that happen or perhaps start working with somebody else who is an outlet for this sort of thing ... like Pinkbike," he says.