This year, Backcountry was one of the sponsors of Rampage and they invited me to be a part of their first year at the event! In so many ways, Rampage is mountain biking’s premier event. It’s watched by millions of people all over the world and is a combination of almost every discipline mountain biking has to offer. Many of the riders base their entire year, and sometimes careers, on the one-day event.
More often than not, when I say that I am a professional mountain biker, the response I get is “Oh! I saw this thing called Red Bull Rampage where they jump off cliffs. Do you do that?!” I promptly answer, “No, absolutely not.” There was a split second in my life where I was misguided and thought I might enjoy it. I say misguided because when I went to Rampage to dig for rider Bernard Kerr in 2014 and 2015, I have never changed my mind so quickly. Everything is 10 times bigger and scarier in real life. It’s actually insane.
One of the things that makes Rampage special is the Utah environment. It has kicked off a totally new form of riding and a generation of riders, like Reed Boggs, who have grown up with this type of terrain in their backyard. It’s also one of the only places where the riders get to show off their creativity and craft their own lines for the competition.
Since I was there in 2015, everything seems to have gotten bigger, narrower, and more precise. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was too scared to walk up to the top the first time I was there because I thought I might get blown off a cliff.
This year, we really wanted to show some behind-the-scenes action, which meant we got to talk to some riders and ask them about their lines. I told Thomas Genon that I was nervous for him and he told me that I shouldn’t be because “they knew what they sign up for.” I also still hope I didn’t jinx Brage Vestavik because I told him his drop was too big only a few hours before he tested it out and came up a little short, ending his Rampage hopes.
A cool moment for me was getting to talk about Grow Cycling Foundation during halftime live on Red Bull TV. It makes me feel great that I have people who believe in what we are doing and want to support us. They could have just as easily sold that spot to advertisers for a lot of money. It’s also why I love that Backcountry is one of the title sponsors now.
Typically, the competitive cycling space has felt disconnected from the outdoor world. It’s exciting for me to see these two worlds becoming more and more synonymous with each other each year. Cycling has been my gateway to so many other things the outdoors has to offer. I would have never gone on my first camping trip if it hadn’t been for a multi-day blind enduro race in northern Oregon. It’s incredibly exciting to see all of the new people getting into the sport that I love.
Red Bull Rampage is one of those events that everyone should attend at least once in their life. Bring your bike, bring your hiking shoes, go to Zion, and be prepared to scrub red dirt out of your clothes for the next two weeks as you smile and laugh about the bucket-list adventure you just ticked off.
Eliot Jackson is a professional MTB rider for companies like Santa Cruz and Rapha, a commentator at the UCI Downhill World Cup series on Red Bull TV, co-founder of the Grow Cycling Foundation, and a Backcountry Trailbreaker.
Photos by Re Wikstrom and Marcus Gracia. Top to bottom, and clockwise in collage sets: 1) Jaxson Riddle launches an indian air during his first competition run; 2) Kurt Sorge pulls a massive backflip in run one; 3) Reed Boggs does a speed check on his newly built drop; 4) Reed Boggs throws a flatspin 360 during his first run; 4) Reed Boggs finalizes his line the day before competition; 5) Digger, Ray Syron, ropes up to work on a shared landing for Cam Zink and Kyle Straight; 6) Kurt Sorge yanks a massive backflip nac on run two; 7) View of the larger features; 8) Brage Vestavik accepts the Kelly McGarry Spirit Award; 9) Tommy G hangs a foot off mid cork 360 on his second run; 9) Elliot Jackson and Tommy G; 10) Elliot Jackson; 11) Sunrise in Virgin, UT; 12) The fans