Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Evolution of Red Bull Rampage

After first hearing about MTB free ride pioneer, Josh Bender, a couple days ago, this seemed like a good clip to go with for today's Sunday morning post.  There are a lot of crazy things you can do on bicycles.  Check the world speed record posts a couple weeks ago, to see some of the craziest.  But one of my personal favorite types of riding to watch these days is Red Bull Rampage footage. 

It all starts with a huge chunk of rock and dirt, out in the middle of nowhere, like the back country of Utah.  Then they let that chunk of rock and dirt erode for about 100 million years, into a steep, crumbly, ridge-lined, chute filled, huge drop blessed, formation.  Then, about 32 years ago, a couple guys invented Red Bull, because somebody has to sponsor this insanity.  They built that up until mountain bikes got stronger, and a guy named Josh Bender, showed people these insane natural escarpments were rideable... sometimes. 

Then about 2002, somebody decided to hold a contest on this crazy terrain.  That's when this clip above comes into play.  Thought this clip is three years old, they give a good, quick look at the history of the Red Bull Rampage, and the insane progression that's happened over about 15 years. There's still some weekend left... shouldn't you be gettin' that bike out after watching this?  I thought so.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Josh Bender: The craziest guy you never heard of

Here's another crazy video that popped up on YouTube, since I've been looking all kinds of bike riding for this blog.  I never heard of Josh Bender until last night, when this clip showed up in my feed.  I've watched pieces of the Red Bull Rampage, quite a bit them, lately.  That's the event where the top crazy downhill free ride mountain bikers are invited to show up at some big, burly butte somewhere in the desert.  Utah seems to be the main place.  The riders and their teams figure out different lines from the top of the mountain, and have a couple weeks (I think) to dig out the lines, build jumps, and fortify the landings to some huge drops.  Then the handful of riders get a couple of runs each, to try and put together a line that's huge, progressive, gnarly, and filled with tricks.

I'm not a mountain bike guy, I'm a fat, old, Has Been BMXer who likes watching where the BMX and mountain bike world has gone in recent years.  It blows my mind how insane riding is these days.  But I know, from being around BMX freestyle fairly early, there always has to be a pioneer.  Somebody has to go first.  And often, it's one guy, or one woman, that has some idea that even the most talented riders of the day think is completely freakin' nuts.  I met some true pioneers in the 1980's, people like Bob Haro, Tom Sims, Dave Vanderspek, Rodney Mullen, Mark Gonzales, and A.J. Jackson.  Each one of them either invented an action sport, or took one into an entirely different direction.  Now I know Josh Bender is another one of those people.

The weird thing about watching this is that, even though I was a mediocre BMXer, even at my best, I actually did some small drops back in the day on my BMX bike.  A friend who rode motocross for fun took me out to some MX trails in Hollister, California in 1986.  One spot I found was a dried out pond where I could bunnyhop off the road around the top, and into a steep downhill.  That downhill worked into a small dirt cliff, and got higher and higher.  The way it was set up, I could keep dropping off a little father down the road, and gradually work up to a bigger drop.  After half an hour, I was bunnyhopping off the top, dropping past an 8 foot high, vertical dirt bank, landing 10 or 12 feet down from the top.  It was a blast, and I totally different type of riding than I'd ever done.  The landing was soft enough to provide some cushion, but not suck my tires in. At the time it just seemed like something fun an different to try.  I only did it because I was able to slowly work up to a bigger drop, which fit with my riding style.  I would have never dropped a vertical drop that was an all or nothing scenario.

I'm sure many other riders did similar things as well back then.  Downhill "bonzai" jumps were a big part of early BMX racing.  Those were big, long drop offs to a downhill landing.  I once had BMX pioneer Scot Breithaupt tell me about how he actually went off a bonzai jump in a BMX race, and he jumped completely over another rider's head, and landed in front of the guy.  I knew Scot was crazy, and a very skilled rider, but he also told some tall tales.  I took that story with a grain of salt.

At the race that weekend, Scot not only introduced me to the guy he jumped over, who confirmed the story, but another old school racer sitting nearby said Scot had once jumped over his head in a race as well.  So good sized downhill drops have been done on bicycles for many years.  But nothing like the  jumps we see Josh Bender doing in these videos.

In the late 80's, I worked at Unreel Productions which made videos for Vision Skateboards, and also Sims Snowboards.  In those days, snowboarders were starting to do big cliff drops, mostly in the back country of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, as well as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and a bit later Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia.  My main job at Unreel was dubbing videos for the whole Vision/Sims empire.  I made copies of all the raw footage that came in from cameramen, and also any finished videos anyone needed a copy of.  One of the best parts of that job was that I saw all the video coming in and being edited.  I remember seeing the early snowboard cliff drops, 10-12-15 feet drops, which seemed pretty crazy in 1988 and 1989.  Then I saw more footage as cliff dropping became a thing, and over a couple of winters, drops went from 15 feet to 20 then up to nearly 40 feet.

Around that same time, mountain biking was gaining steam, and full suspension bikes were becoming a thing.  As I watched some snowboard footage one day, I wondered why mountain bikers weren't doing cliff drops.  Not 40 foot drops, but 6-8-10 foot drops.  Watching this video below, I realized the sport was still trying to find itself back then, as cross country and downhill were diverging into separate genre's.  In addition, the bikes may have had suspension, but they just weren't made for the kind of abuse cliff drops would put them through. 

It took another 10 years, and a crazy young guy living out in the Utah back country, to make big cliff drops into a thing.  Now I know, and you do, too, that guy was Josh Bender.  Here's another video I found, 26 minutes long, from 2009, and filled with burly drop after drop after drop.  So here's a longer look at Josh Bender, the guy who led the way, opened the door to what we now know as the Red Bull Rampage and some of the craziest bike riding anywhere. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


This is Andrew, Block Bikes shop rider, Lancaster local, and a young guy who likes to have fun on wheels, and sometimes off wheels.  I met him when Rich Bartlett, the Block Bikes owner, took me along up to Woodward West about a month ago.  Andrew came with us, to session all the good stuff at Woodward for a long evening.  Rich and I didn't know it, but Andrew was on a mission that night, he wanted to land a solid backflip into the foam pit.  It was buggin' him, it was stressin' him out.  His first one got kinda stuck upside down and didn't go well.  But he got it together, took a deep breath, and hucked one all the way around.  Progression.  In the last minutes of the session that night, Andrew got his flips pretty solid into the pit, and the stoke was evident.  Mission accomplished.

In this edit, which he shot himself,with a couple added camera people (I shot the flip), and thought out and edited, Andrew tries out a bunch of fun things.  He sessions the trampoline, a scooter, his BMX bike, a quad ATV, a motorcycle, and a side by side.  More than anything, I realized Andrew's having a lot of fun (between the inevitable bails) when he's not here in the shop.

Hey, tomorrow is Friday, the weekend is near.  I hope you have as much fun this weekend as Andrew had in this video.  It may give you an idea of what to spend some time doing the next few days.  I need to keep an eye on this kid, I have a feeling there's more cool videos on the way.

Four guys, four customized bikes, and 250 miles of abandoned railroad in Patagonia

Since I've been doing this blog for the last couple of months, I've come across all kinds of bicycling adventures, besides the typical BMX street and MTB downhill videos that rank high on YouTube.  One bike trek idea I keep bumping into is rail biking on abandoned railroad lines.  ABANDONED is the key word in that sentence, you don't want to do this on active railroad tracks.  If you do that, you'll wind up like the cartoon coyote after chasing the road runner.

This video caught my eye a couple days ago for a few reasons.  For one, it's another rail biking video, which I thought was interesting to start with.  Second, the background scenery is beautiful.  Third, it's in Patagonia, Chile, a long ways away from here.  Fourth, it's a long trek, these guys set out to ride 250 miles, along a rail line known as El Trochita.  Last, these guys are all retired, they appear to be in their 60's.  When they bill it as the "adventure of a lifetime," they mean it.

The video is nearly 25 minutes, which is a long watch in today's busy world.  It's mostly shots of them riding down the tracks past their video camera.  But it's cut together fairly well, and they meet some interesting locals, and local wildlife, along the way.  It's a cool little video, and a type of bike trek most people probably haven't heard of.  So here's a look at rail biking, yet another type of adventure you can have on your bicycle.  This is a good little video to chill with a beer and watch after a long day.  Or something like that.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Odyssey Tourism Bureau: Australian BMX street, park, and kangaroos

Here's some guys from Odyssey tearing it up in Australia. Zen minimalist blog post today, that's it.

Oh, and this blog, barely 10 weeks old, just hit 5,000 page views last night, thanks to Slash and Fergie, you know, long time BMX icons.  Cool beans.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Slash was a BMXer

If you've been alive at any point in the last 33 years, you've heard this song.  Yesterday someone had a post on Facebook with the Guns 'N' Roses BMX T-shirt on it.  So I commented that Slash was a BMXer.  Someone else came back with this interview (below), that I'd never seen.  I knew I had to post it, it's pretty cool.

There was a story, way back in the 80's, just after Guns 'N' Roses hit big time, that Slash an Duff met each other at a bank, while riding their BMX bikes.  No one was sure if it was true, but it was cool at the time.  GNR was as big as could be, and BMX freestyle was a tiny, weird little sport.  It was cool to think this guitar hero had been one of us at some point.

Then a year or so later, there came a rumor that Brian Blyther, and one or two other riders got back stage at a Guns 'N' Roses concert, and Slash walked up to them and said, "Hey, you're Brian Blyther."  I think I asked Brian about this once, and he confirmed it.  Brian, call me out if I'm wrong.  Anyhow, it was another cool story, tying one of the world's best known guitar players to BMX and freestyle.

Many hears later, I saw a photo or two of someone jumping, from like 1978, that was supposed to be Slash, but you couldn't tell for sure.  Then, yesterday, somebody shares this interview, and here's the man himself, talking about his days as a hardcore BMX biker in his early teens.  Pretty cool little interview.

Here's a little bonus footage of Slash goofin' around with his bike on tour, not sure if there was beer involved, or he was just rusty from years of not riding much. Thanks Jared Cyr for posting this clip on Facebook.

Get your guitar wherever you can find a good deal.  Get a new BMX bike at:

Monday, June 17, 2019

Crankworx Slopestyle insanity from Innsbruck last weekend

Three completely freakin' insane runs from Crankworx Slopestyle in Innsbruck this past weekend in Innsbruck.  David Godsiak.  Emil Johansson.  Bret Rheeder.  There's nothing to write.  Just watch the clip.