Last Summer Mike Hopkins spent 10 days in the backcountry outside Bralorne BC exploring first descents and sick new lines in addition to testing some of the 2013 Mountain Bike line for The North Face... Here are some of the best images from that trip and his blog update from last September post trip.
It’s been way too long! No excuses. First up, what happened to summer?! Some how September snuck in the mix and I’m not sure about you, but I’m not so happy about it. Summer’s been treating me too well, making me not all that interested in the winter months that stand on the doorstep. Perpetual summer bring it on!
The answer to waltzing away from Crankworks early lies in one magical little word … Bralorne. For months I have been working on a project alongside The North Face and Sherpas Cinema, and on August 17 it was time to put that plan into motion. I packed the truck, prepared for 8 days of camping, and made my way to Kamloops to pick up the other athlete who would be saddeling up for this adventure. While putting this project together, it was suggested that we bring along another rider so I wouldn’t be standing atop these massive lines fearing for life itself all by my lonesome. And so, I made the natural choice and brought along someone I had never met. I made the selection off what I had learned on the internet (not always the best way of making a decision, but in this case it was dead on) and after hitching up a couple ATV’s I picked up Matty Miles and we made way of the mountains.
On the Eastern edge of the Coast Mountains lies layers of peaks seemingly undecided in which direction to reach. Some tower skyward, others have given way to gravity and pressures of time, beginning their slow top-down degradation. This tectonic playground is home to one of mountain biking’s most exciting environments. It is one of the only places that truly blurs the lines between skiing and riding a bike. We traded the confides of trails for steep open faces and tight coulouirs of rock. There is only one way I can put it into perspective… It’s what Alaska is to skiing, but for biking. The goal of this project was explore the uncharted potential of the area, and chalk up a few first descents. And oh buddy, did we accomplish our goal. I could write a novel about this trip but I won’t. I am just going to dangle the carrot. Having Shperas Cinema, the most talented production team in the game covering all the angles, and Blake Jorgensen capturing each turn of the excursion moment by moment, it would be rude for me to lay all the details of the trip in a spoiler blog. The film and imagery we captured even blows my mind so I figured we better do it justice with a proper release. Although you have read this far so instead of leaving you so the least I can do is give you a couple insightful tasters… Insanely Beautiful Landscape, Float Planes, Snow, Alpine Base Camp, scaling sketchy rock walls with Bikes, fastest moments ever on a bike (and my back brake was fully locked), Helicopters, 2500 ft. first descents, escaping lightening stroms, flipping quads, bush whacking, Snow Roads, Breakfast laps, carving, roosting, countless “High-Fives”, close calls, Gnarly drop-in’s, epic sunsets, the most scenic bathroom of all time, feeling like a pioneer, wicked crew … Trip of a Lifetime!! The Carrot has officially been dangled.
Huge Thanks to Everyone who saw this trip through, especially The North Face, Sherpas Cinema, Blake, Matty… insanely stoked!
The International Mountain Bicycling
Association (IMBA) creates, enhances and protects great mountain bike
experiences. Our local groups — IMBA's mountain bike chapters, clubs and
patrols—help care for the trails you ride by donating nearly a million
annual hours of volunteer service to public lands. We work in
partnership with land managers, conservation groups and other
recreational users as we promote sustainable trail building and riding
practices. IMBA is a membership-based 501 3 c non-profit organization
with programs in North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and elsewhere.
Learn more by visiting www.imba.com or facebook.com/IMBAonFB.
The North Face is a member of IMBA and provides additional support for special events and the Subaru IMBA Trail Care Crew--traveling trainers who teach sustainable trail building, lead volunteer workshops and work with land managers on specific MTB projects around the country. http://www.imba.com/tcc
It feels so good to be back in Canada! Holy a month on the road is pretty much the limit. By now the tales of Rampage have been spun and told, and let’s just say (for lack of better phrasing) it was one hell of a ride… on all fronts. The first hurdle, how does one get down to the event, fly? naw too easy. Run? hell no, way too hard, I’ll leave that noise to Dean Karnazes. Road trip? Three dudes stacked on the bench seat of a 1995 Ford F-150 named “big Red”… I think so! The contingent of bench seat brothers consisted of The Nutany (Andre Nutini) and Karl Malone, Maloon (Liam Mullany). 22 Hours, cramped quarters and thousands of scenic miles lay ahead. Our trip down was all business. Put the foot to the floor and get there. In Salt Lake our single vessel road show upgraded (literally) to a caravan, as the lovely folks at Cruise America served up the XL RV instead of the Standard we ordered. Bonus!
We arrived in Virgin, 3 days before the beginning of the event. Rampage is as much about building and creative vision as it is about the actual riding. My plan was to get the jump on things, put a solid effort into building early, and leave the days leading into Qualifiers for riding and getting comfortable with my line. This year my approach was to find a line that I was actually going to smashing good time riding. I wanted to find something that fit my style… fast, flowy, and well, big. Somehow every Rampage I find myself gravitating towards the biggest jump on the course. This year was no different. The “Granola Cruncher” is a 68ft step-down that caught my curiosity, and I couldn’t shake it. Liam, Andre, and I spent two and a half days sweating through the reconstruction of the in-run and lip, but once we put on the polish, it was a thing of beauty. Huge, but too much fun to overlook. At the end of those first desert dig days it was definitely a treat to stagger our dirty carcusses back to an RV. Big Thanks to The North Face for that!
Rampage is a beast that stands all alone. Before making the trek down South I spent a couple days in Whistler riding with Vanderham and Gully, and we came to the general consenese that there is no real way to train for this event. Just ride as much as possible and carry that confidence into the desert. The simple fact is that your run at rampage is like nothing you’ve ridden all year. Take the biggest hits you’ve done, mix it with a ridge-line or chute boasting career shattering exposure, and toss a handful of wind in there to mess with your melon… and there you have it, a run at the world’s biggest mountain bike event.
I have competed in Virgin since it’s rebirth in 2008, and first impressions are always the same, ”Oh shit what have I gotten myself into… again”. But after a couple days in the sun, dehydration takes it’s toll on your sensibility cells and your prespective shifts. Lines appear milder, drops smaller, jumps move from scary to fun. In 48 hours, the venue goes from overwhelming, to a full blown playground.
Like I said before, this year was all about committing to a line that was fun. I found that line, got the grunt work out of the way early, and had a killer couple days just riding before the real show began. It kind of felt like I was just riding on home turf. I was camping with good buddies, and my Dad and Brother drove down from B.C., so it kind of turned into a really sweet riding trip. This was my bro’s first time to the event and I think it’s safe to say within the first 3.5 seconds at the venue his mind was blown. He was super fired up. My Dad is on the same page, but being the parent he has his concerns. He usually translates anxiety into endless conversations with total strangers. I swear, you get that guy nervous in a crowd and he could throw a party that would dwarf the event. Talented Talker that one is.
When Qualifying rolled around I was more than ready. I had lapped through my line ten plus times and the only missing piece was the “Granola Cruncher”. I had done numerous speed tests, and was confident that I had it covered. It’s such a conciquential jump that I chose to leave my guinea pig hit till my Quali run. Just in case things did go sideways, I didn’t want to miss out on the entire event. There was a lot of hype around it, mainly because it was a monster, but I felt pretty comfortable with it. I had a few people watch my speed and we came to the standing that overshooting wasn’t going to be an issue. With that I headed up from my run.
Going into Rampage I didn’t just want to do well, I wanted to do really well. This competition embodies my style of riding, so naturally I wanted to put it down. My Quali line was dialed and I had a few burly additions I was going to make for finals. I was slated to drop second to last in the first round. In the start I mentally went over my run multiple times, calmed myself down, and rolled into the gate. When I dropped in it was exactly the same as the days leading up, Fun. I never once had that sense of competition, I was just focused on my line and was having a wicked good time. The drop before the 68 footer is pretty sizeable and coming off that felt so damn good. I greased the landing and generated more speed than I had in my previous tests. I knew I had the pace to clear the big fella so I relaxed a little. 30 feet before the jump I scrubbed over a small long-and-low that spit me over a road. This gave me an unexpected burst of acceleration. Instantly I knew I was too fast. I would have hit the brakes but with the jump so close I couldn’t afford to try and ditch speed and shoot off the lip awkwardly. Instead I went back to the assumption that I wouldn’t be able to overshoot, and boosted. In the air I was like “Ahhhh Yeah this is sick!”, and then I saw the landing disappear below me. The moment before I landed I still thought I could muscle through the impact. I knew I was deep on the transition but it wasn’t till I hit that I realized I had cleared the entire thing. Position-wise I landed perfectly, both wheels impacted at the same time, but there was no hope. I was 20 feet long, the final tally was 91 feet. I blew through my travel, my body wrapped around the frame and I got ejected! I actually saw a slo-mo screen grab where my helmet is in my front wheel, full Gumby. Lying on the ground all I was trying to do was breath. My chest hit my stem and gave me a serious winding. Weezing on the ground I was waiting for the pain of broken to set in… but it never came. Once I caught my breathe I just kind of hung out while the Paramedics did their checks. All I could see through a mass of legs and arms was my Dad staring at me with a shoe in his hand. It looked like one of mine but there is no way that could be. I crank my shoes super tight before every run. Sure enough when they finally let me stand up, my left foot was shoeless. You know you’ve taken a beating when your kicks make an exit. I waved to the crowd and staggered down the hill to base camp, where I sat in a daze and contemplated a second run. In the afternoon the wind picked up and I called it. I wasn’t in any condition to be on a bike. Other than some serious bruising, swollen ankles, a warped front wheel, and bent pedals, everything was fine. I will say, I am getting real tired of competing with Zinc for the events gnarliest crash. I’d say we’re both due for a clean event. Maybe next year.
The next few days were full of pain killers and high fives. Watching Finals was super hard because I just wanted to out there, but it was sick to watch all the boys throw down. Norb’s 3′s, Brandon’s Gap, T-Mac’s pinned line, Sorgy crushing, Dorefling being a boss, Rheeder and Howey representing the young crop, everyone rode super strong and I am pumped for next year. Congrats to Kurt!
The riders are set, the course is being constructed and tickets will soon be available to witness the pinnacle of freeride mountain biking as Red Bull Rampage gets set to take stage in Virgin, Utah. After a thrilling contest at Red Bull Joyride, the final list of riders has been selected to participate, and on September 1st a lucky 1,800 spectators will get the opportunity to stamp their ticket to witness in person the throwdown in picturesque desert of Utah taking place October 5-7, 2012.
There will be a deep list of riders hailing from 10 nations, from veterans who have rode every Red Bull Rampage like Mike Kinrade and Kyle Strait, to new phenoms like Anthony Messere who at 16 will be the youngest rider in the field, and heavy hitters like Brandom Semenuk who at the ripe old age of 21 already has a Red Bull Rampage title under his belt. Three riders are coming to Red Bull Rampage with an additional goal in mind –to be crowned FMB World Tour Champion 2012. Semenuk, Martin Soderstrom and Thomas Genon all have the chance to take home the title at this year’s final event of the FMB World Tour in Utah –but with Semenuk's points advantage if he stands anywhere on the podium he will be crowned champion. Soderstrom and Genon need to bring their best game to Utah desert if they want to defeat the defending champion. Red Bull Rampage is guaranteed to be filled with suspense as fans get to watch the world’s favorite riders battle it out on this unique course.
On September 1st, fans can visit www.redbullusa.com/rampage to purchase their ticket from Event Brite. The tickets will be $15 and includes both competition days (October 5th qualifier and October 7th finals). Venue will be closed to spectators on Saturday, October 6th. Please read the spectator advisory and note the event site is remote and requires a 4 mile hike or bike ride into the venue.
For those not able to make it to Utah, there are several ways to catch the event while keeping your shoes clean. A live webcast will capture all the action on October 7th at www.redbullusa.com/rampage . Fans can also gather the family around the couch and tune into the TV broadcast on NBC as part of the Red Bull Signature Series. The event will air on Saturday, December 8th from 2 to 4pm. The Red Bull Signature Series is made up of 35 hours of one-of-a-kind programming on NBC and NBC Sports all year long. Red Bull Media House and Alli Sports, a division of the NBC Sports Group, are building the most progressive and innovative snowboarding, mountain biking, freestyle motocross, ice cross downhill, skiing and BMX events, showcased on custom courses from the inspiration of the athletes themselves. Go to www.redbullsignatureseries.com for web videos, photo galleries and see more of the action that makes up the Red Bull Signature Series.
Elevating the competition are event partners the Utah Sports Commission, Specialized and Oakley, along with Signature Series presenting partner Casio G’zOne Commando. Oakley returns this year with the Icon Sender, an on-course, custom-built feature that was the catalyst for the most awe-inspiring tricks in 2010. Through the Utah Sports Commission and the Utah State Land Trust, the event will once again return to the majestic backdrop of Virgin that has proven to be the best terrain in the world.