The Wild West
The Wild West
Taking the left-hip option, classic berm-slider air by Kyle Jameson.
Utah is considered by many mountain bikers to be the final frontier of freeriding. The terrain found in the southwest part of the state is easily accessible; the only limitation seems to be your creativity. For the last decade, the world’s best riders have been visiting the areas in and around the towns of Virgin and Big Water to mine out large lines and gnarly moves.
Nico gets the first tracks of the morning to start the day off.
To celebrate the release of its products in the USA, the Reverse Components’ Shovel and Shred squad—Nico Vink, Kyle Jameson, Damon Iwanaga and Christian Regal—spent a week revisiting the Wild West. We caught up with team rider Kyle Jameson to learn more about the allure of the area that keeps big-mountain-riding’s elite returning year after year. Kyle has ridden in the Red Bull Rampage and also worked as a builder and judge of the elite, invite-only freeride event. He understands what it takes to thrive in this wide-open environment. Keep reading to get his insight, as well as to learn more about the first-ever Rampage qualifier event that he will be co-hosting later this year.
MBA: Do you remember your first trip to Utah?
Kyle Jameson: Yeah, I definitely remember it. I’ll never forget it. It was Rampage 2004. My mom took me out of school, and we road tripped to watch Rampage.
It always feels fun when you can pull off an oldschool tuck no-hander.
MBA: How many times have you been to Virgin for Red Bull Rampage?
KJ: Two times to build for Brandon [Semenuk]. Two times to compete. And now three times to judge.
Thinking about what silly things we can get up to at the end of a session.
MBA: How would you describe the terrain near Big Water?
KJ: It’s similar to Virgin—with big cliffs—but with more accessible, open and carve-able faces. It’s more natural to be able to get into lines that you don’t actually have to use a shovel to create. It’s the closest thing I have found to powder riding, like snow-boarding the mountain. You can hit chutes, bumps and jumps but still have open turns to carve. It’s pretty unique and remarkable what can go on out there.
The Shovel and Shred family acting silly.
MBA: Tell us about the Shovel and Shred team. Can you explain Nico Vink’s mentality?
KJ: Nico is fearless. He brings a mentality that is very productive. He’s super motivated. Being motivated and fearless is a great mindset to thrive in these conditions. If it’s pouring rain, he’ll still ask, “So, what are we going to do?” Then he’ll suggest going out to explore and won’t be scared of getting stuck in the mud. If a line looks too scary, he’ll still walk down it—and chances are, he’ll find something rideable. Anything goes with Nico.
Nico mid-dig and most likely talking smack.
MBA: What does Damon Iwanaga bring to the desert?
KJ: Damon is the most entertaining human to watch ride a bike. He just goes so big off everything. Just like Nico, he’s down for anything. Nothing scares him, and he always has a smile on his face. Damon goes huge and fast. He’s fun to have around.
Bikes are smiling.
MBA: How was it to have BMX rider Christian Regal along for this trip?
KJ: It was awesome to have Christian around. He’s extremely talented on a BMX bike but doesn’t know much about mountain biking yet. He’s only been riding mountain bikes for about a year. We got him way out of his comfort zone, but he was able to adapt quickly. We’d tell him, “Dude, you got this. Little bit of front brake here, little back brake here, and do this and that,” and he was able to go with it. He trusts his instincts and experience bike riding. It was cool to see him open the pages of freeride mountain biking.
KJ gets first tracks down a cool snake run.
MBA: How would you explain Christian’s learning curve?
KJ: Steep. You have to learn fast. He’d watch us go and then ask questions about anything he wasn’t sure about, like tricky rock ledges or blind landings. But, it gets to the point where you just need to put yourself into the motion and figure it out. We were stoked to see him ride his first chute, then his first big drop. Nico, Damon and I remember the first time we did that stuff, so it was almost like reliving our first time. Christian just jumped right into it. We all started at page one, but Christian started at page 12.
Party train down the face.
MBA: Speaking of learning curves, can you tell us about the Rampage qualifier this fall?
KJ: You talk to anyone involved with Rampage, at any level, and the idea right now is that we need more of this type of big-mountain event. And, we need a way for the younger generation that doesn’t have an in or invite yet. Carson Storch and I have access to this awesome venue where we hold the Fest Series event near our homes in Bend, Oregon. It’s not anywhere near what Rampage is, but if we can build a course that shows big-bike skills and bike control, then it’s at least something in the right direction to provide riders a platform to be seen and become a Rampage athlete.
Damon interprets the snake run with his own unique punctuation.
MBA: Do you feel it takes more than just a video edit to be considered ready for Rampage?
KJ: Yes, it’s hard to really showcase your skills in a video edit or on Instagram. But, if you have an event where you can come out, practice, get in that contest mentality and throw down, then it can show what a rider is capable of doing. And, if we do a live feed, too, then everyone can see it. With an event, we can help get some riders on the map. And, we also hope it can inspire other event promoters to bring back this style of big-mountain event, like [Châtel] Mountain Style, Monster Park or even Whitestyle that are almost extinct.
Dropping into a chute with trademark ridiculously fast speed from Nico.
MBA: What types of features will be on the Rampage qualifier course?
KJ: We’ll try to encompass everything from on/off boxes, wall rides, berm sections, technical rollers and double lines to massive jumps. It won’t be like you’re riding down razor-edge-sized cliffs like Rampage, but you’ll still have to put your bike in specific places, carry speed, slow down accurately and use all the technical skills that would separate the joeys from the good riders.
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