How Rampage Riders Ready Themselves to Compete

Climbing tall trees, playing ukelele in the desert, hitting the jumps--every rider has his own ritual.

Mike Thompson inspects the course at the 2012 Red Bull Rampage.

text and photos courtesy of Red Bull USA/Kevin McAvoy

How unique and challenging is Red Bull Rampage? The best freeride mountain bikers in the world use words like “scary,” “nervous,” “special” and “very high-risk.”

For the downhillers, it’s a lot different than a typical race weekend. For the slopestyle riders, it’s much more unpredictable than a wooden transition. So the competitors are taking to an extreme range of activities to prepare for the event, from advance scouting to extra time in the gym to even parkour.

Cam McCaul: The best way to mentally prepare for Red Bull Rampage is to climb up to a high place (Greg Watts’ tree-fort works well for this) and just stare down at the ground. It’s like exposure therapy for the insane vertigo you’re about to experience at the top of the course. Also, I have a little workout program I’ve been hitting every morning. You want to be strong going into Rampage because it’s a week packed full of riding, hiking, and digging. You don’t want to be worn out by the time the finals come.

Tyler McCaul opts for a no-handed drop in the middle section of the course in 2010. (photo: Pondella)

Mick Hannah: This is a first for me so I’m just trying to stay calm. Obviously, it’s going to be huge! That’s making me a little nervous for sure, but I feel like my riding is in a good place right now. I’m just running the old fundamentals through my head, focusing on the kind of precision that’s needed to land such big jumps smoothly. It’s going to be so much fun!

Curtis Robinson: For an event like this where the risk/challenge is so high, you really have to be confident in your ability and try not to doubt yourself. I’ve been riding a lot of DH with my friends, some enduro moto, and lots of hiking and trail building to try to prepare myself for a scary time!

Andreu Lacondeguy: For me it’s just another fun day riding my bike. You know that every time you drop in it can be the last thing you do but you try not to think much about it. Nothing feels better than getting the line you want, top to bottom.

Chris Van Dine: This year my preparation has been to spend time in the desert and let it harden me up a bit. Camping with my pup, studying topos, exploring new washes and slot canyons on my moto, drinking a healthy amount of out-of-state beer and playing my ukelele. Red Bull gives me wings, but beer gives me desert strength and makes me a better singer. I wish Red Bull Rampage happened every month.


Casey Groves: Red Bull Rampage is a very high-risk event compared to most of them. I just want to build my line, ride it to the best of my ability and go home safe with a smile on my face at the end of the day. I have been riding DH trails, massive freeride jumps and the famous Kamloops ridgeline in preparation.

Kelly McGarry: It’s the scariest weekend of the season for sure, so I like to take extra time to think about features I want to hit. Approach speeds and lines have to be perfect or you will end up in the meat wagon!

Thomas Vanderham: Red Bull Rampage is a special kind of event, there is so much that you can’t prepare for. I try to just get a lot of time in on my downhill bike and be as healthy as possible going in.

Greg Watts: Mentally it’s about the same; with every contest you need to be fully focused on what you are doing. As for physically, it’s such a different riding style than I’m used to so I try to duplicate that when getting ready — riding more downhill trails to get used to the bike and finding bigger gaps and drops to get more comfortable in the air.


Martin Söderström: I definitely have a different approach going into Red Bull Rampage than the other [FMB] World Tour events. For all the slopestyle events I kind of know what to expect and know my goals for the contest. For this I don’t really know what to expect because it’s my first year at Rampage. It’s different but it feels pretty cool to go to an event as kind of a “rookie” again with not too much pressure.

Wil White: Unfortunately, where I live there is nothing even remotely close to Red Bull Rampage to practice on — no freeride terrain. This plays a huge mental game with me, knowing that everyone else is out there training while I’m stuck riding mellow trails and small BMX jumps around here. To make up for it, I spend a lot of time in the gym and cross training in the months leading up to Rampage to prepare physically for the harsh landings and impacts you sustain out there. I’ve also been doing a lot of parkour and dirt-bike riding to keep my reflexes and muscles sharp.

Tyler McCaul: I actually just got back from a scouting trip at the Red Bull Rampage site. I wanted to check it out and figure out my line so I have some time to think about it before the event starts. Going to Rampage unprepared is not something I wanted to do. At most contests you just show up, walk the course, ride it, compete on it, and it’s over. There is a lot more strategy and prep that goes into choosing and building a line at Rampage.