Red Bull Rampage Top 7
Our Recap Of Red Bull’s MTB Freeride Fest
For 20 years, Red Bull Rampage has represented the pinnacle of the freeride mountain biking scene, showcasing some of the most breathtaking jumps and tricks in action sports. While we’ve been following closely since the competition’s inception in 2001, this was our first year as a sponsor. We sent a crew of Gearheads to Virgin, UT to spread the stoke among spectators and athletes alike, all there to seek it, find it, and, of course—send it.
We’ve rounded up our top seven highlights from Rampage, from the sendy feats to the evolving culture of the event and the gnarly red rock terrain where it all went down.
1. Canadians In Command
This year’s venue wasn’t new, so the athletes focused heavily on terrain enhancements that led to a handful of first-ever tricks—and the Canadian riders arguably stole the show. Brandon Semenuk led the charge with a groundbreaking tailwhip on a beefy drop, followed by a flip whip on his trick jump, both of which were Rampage firsts. His hybrid slopestyle/downhill bike—which generated a lot of buzz—played no small part in making these tricks possible and earning him the win.
Fellow Canadian Tom Van Steenbergen landed the best trick award with his monumental front flip over a 40+ foot step down, making it the largest front-flip in Rampage history. Unfortunately, Tom’s run ended in a nasty crash on the next feature, so we’re all sending him healing vibes on his road to recovery.
2. Rampage Legacy
Inspiring the sport’s next generation, providing a place for the community to congregate, pushing the limits of the sport—the MTB world simply wouldn’t be the same without Rampage. And with two decades of Rampage now officially in the books, its heritage and significance feel more powerful than ever, with only one remaining rider who’s competed in every event since ‘01 (the legend that is Kyle Strait).
One notable spin-off of Rampage is Red Bull Formation—another groundbreaking freeride event in Virgin that redefines the boundaries of inclusivity in mountain biking by uniting female leaders of the sport, including Red Bull rider Hannah Bergemann. Formation draws inspiration from skateboarding with a jam-style format for uninhibited progression possibilities. Find out more about Formation here, and check out our chat with Formation digger and DH rider Blake Hansen.
3. Gearheads Change A Tire In 36 Seconds Flat
In between all the hucking, our Gearheads brought some lighthearted fun with a friendly MTB tire-changing competition. But no matter how much dust, tire levers, and sweat were flung, no one could best our Gearheads’ time of 36 seconds (the best participant time was 41 seconds!). We were good sports about it, though, and still served up sweet gear giveaways and cold ones.
4. Mixed-Wheel Freeride Bikes
At Rampage, riders put the latest (and sometimes yet-to-be-released) gear to the test, providing a glimpse of cutting-edge technology from industry leaders. Contrary to years past, about half of the athletes are now following a trend rider Cam Zink set years ago: Mixed-wheeled freeride bikes. While the athletes use 26in rear wheels for flipping and spinning, watching them rip other features on mixed-wheel rigs certainly has us intrigued. Check out the new Santa Cruz Bronson if you’re thinking about making the switch.
While Semenuk secured the win with his mixed-wheel setup, Reed Boggs and Kurt Sorge claimed the remaining podium spots with full 27.5in bikes. Kurt’s beefed-up Evil Insurgent makes us wonder if Evil will ever make the Insurgent available for purchase with a dual-crown fork in the future.
5. Finding Inspiration In The Revered Red Rock
We’re no strangers to the desert, but Virgin’s endless hillside ledges are clearly no ordinary sandstone sculptures. With rolling green hills mixed into towering mesas of blended rock and dirt, there’s no shortage of views that leave its admirers awe-struck at every turn of the road. To pay homage to the breathtaking landscapes, we collaborated with illustrator Ken Taylor (@kentaylorart) to make a commemorative poster for Rampage fans.
6. Desert Gear Hacks
Whether spectating or racking up singletrack miles post-event, the right gear makes all the difference in the desert. Hydration is key for both riding and spectating, so our number one hack was a hydration bladder that keeps hands free. Staying on top of hydration was key, but we also needed somewhere to store our beers, and that’s where backpack coolers came in handy. Sun hats were also non-negotiable, and we were stoked to see so many fans repping the Goat on hats and tops to stay protected from the unrelenting desert sun. Our Gearheads turned to our Tahoe 2 Sun Hoodie for sun protection, with a UPF 50+ rating and a touch of warmth for spontaneous bouts of wind.
7. Humans Of Rampage
Spectators who come all the way to Virgin span a seemingly impossible range of personalities. A gorilla-costumed fan was seen chasing a banana-costumed counterpart down the mountainside, as veteran competitors and action sports icons looked on. Fully kitted spectators ride their bikes to the course from nearby campsites, while others brave the journey in straw hats and jeans on likely borrowed bikes. The town of Virgin also hosts fun riding for anyone, from gravel grunts, to scenic trail rides, and of course, world-class freeride. We ran into Trevor Kennison at one of the old Rampage sites, and there’s no doubt he rips on his adaptive mountain bike as hard as he does on his sit-ski.
Kendall Zylstra is a writer at Backcountry. Follow along @kzylstra22.