The Family Bike Ride bicycle gang sacked up and bought tickets for the big show down in Virgin Utah this year. Red Bull Rampage has been pushing the boundaries of mountain biking for the past 12 years, and is one of the most hyped bicycle events of the year. It was a no brainer to get down there and witness the madness first hand; an opportunity that might not come again (there’s talk of a venue change).
Packing up Carlos’ Mexican muscle truck in Merritt full of bikes, camera gear, and camping gear, we headed south and quickly decided to revisit Post Canyon in Hood River, OR. Dylan and I camped at Post Canyon last summer, and were keen to get back and ride some favorite jumps and see any new features that had been added over the winter. We pulled in to the upper parking lot well after dark and decided to camp in a different spot, across the road and right next to the jump line. Scrambling around in the forest with headlamps, we were stoked when we discovered a rebuilt jump line and a new bigger jump line right next to it. I dreamt all night of dirt jumping.
The next morning we barely ate, slipping into our cold riding gear as quickly as possible in the frigid mountain air. Before long we all had our bikes up at the top of the jump line and were sessioning. It didn’t take long to warm up on the old line and get randy to rip up the bigger jump line right next to it. It started with a fun step down into a huge left hand berm that shot you into a big step up. The line was easily 10 jumps long but we struggled on the first three jumps for a while, over shooting the jump after the step up. Just going for it, Dylan found out you could overshoot and still cruise through the rest of the line. I got pretty amped when we figured that out. Soon, the cameras came out, we were filming and guinea pigging my new DIY steadicam.
I shuttled the boys for a lap on the upper trails and then we all blew open the barndoor-backdoor line. It felt pretty rad to get right back into riding bikes so quickly after taking it easy most of the summer. We left Oregon on high and cruised down into Utah with even higher hopes of shredding at rampage.
Driving straight through the night we took 4 hour shifts and arrived in Virgin at 8AM Friday, ready to rip. After a confusing conversation with some volunteer traffic marshals and a triple lap around the no-intersection ho-dunk town, we decided to drive out to the old site where we knew of camp spots by the creek. As we crested the hill and those famous rugged red cliffs came into sight we realized we weren’t the only bros choosing to camp out at the site. We made another confusing lap through the tall brush down by the river before pulling into a nice campsite where we would call home for the next three nights. People were whooping and hollering all across the valley and the energy was uncharacteristically high for 9 AM in Mormon country. Building on our all-nighter energy we quickly set up camp and rolled down the hill back to the RV site to meet up with Nat and Trey for a ride. We made a new pal, Sam, loaded up and headed out to Grafton in Rockville, just minutes down the road.
Grafton started off as a pretty up and downy trail and the team wasn’t psyched, but after a 10 minute hike-a-bike, spirits flip-flopped as the trail changed to all downhill. The route down was spectacular with breathtaking vistas in every direction, but the technical trail was quick to tear our eyes from the scenery. Packed with huge pedal-grinding boulders and bar-snatching bushes, it reminded me of Moab’s Jackson mixed in with some nasty Sedona shrubbery. Sam flatted out and pinned it down to the bottom with all the remaining air he had. We dilly dallied a little checking out a cool canyon gap that you could air across to the right or hip drop to the left. I regret not trying it out then and there but I was being cautious because I wanted to ride the rest of the trip and not kill myself the first day in Virgin.
Mother Natalie prepared some parking lot salsa and chips that were life changing as we laid out waiting for the retrieval convoy to return with the vehicles. We made our way back to homebase and had some more eats and lounged around a bit. In the late afternoon we pedaled on up to the old rampage site situated just across the street from our waterfront camp spot. The hills were teeming with riders of all shapes and sizes, dogs, music blaring, RC copters, lifted trucks, fire pits and people yelling “Rampage!” more frequently than Brad Ewen. It was a 15 year old boy’s metal mullisha wet dream. Although there are still some big features, the biggest have eroded away over the years of inactivity, and nothing compares in size and steepness to the lines at the new site across the valley. We fiddled around for a while riding some of the lines we tried the last time we came to Virgin, before navigating our way through the crowd and up to a really fun line that ends in a hip. There had to be 20 people hiking or riding that line at a time. It sort of forced you to not case all of the jumps like a kookie Canadian. The sunshine fizzled out and we slipped on back to camp to slide into some warm clothes and prepare for the evening. Canned beans, shower poaching, tall tees, gun stories, and new friends were on the menu Friday night, not to mention the delicious left overs and burgs that our homies Jac and Kelsey dished up at the Zion RV party park. Tomorrow would be qualifiers and we wanted to get the most bang for our loonies so we hit the hay early.
Saturday morning after eating our weight in camp-bacon and egg soup, we shimmeyed on down to the meeting spot and picked up a friend or two, slapped on some wristies and trudged 4 miles out through the desert to the
festival Rampage site.
The weather was glorious for qualies and golden boy Graham Agassiz, from Kamloops, BC, came out on top with a flawless run that included a huge nohander over the 73ft canyon gap. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing laps at the old rampage site. That night we hunted crawdads in the creek, jumped a campfire on bikes and met some cool folk from the southwest.
I figured we would go party sunday night with all the rockstars after finals, so we tore down camp early in the morning and wolfed down some eggies and bacon all before the daily commute out to the site. On the ride out we passed Ethan carrying the TAPcouch on his back; what a trooper.
You could say people were amped for finals. Nearly an hour earlier than the day before and parking was already full and there was a steady stream of two-wheeled traffic out to the site. After our recon mission during qualies the day before, we had a pretty good idea of where the sweet spots for viewing were and made like it was our job to be at those spots for opportune viewing of the event. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate as well on Sunday and finals came to a close midway through the second runs. But not before some death defying maneuvers were pulled off, and some that weren’t pulled off as planned. See the photos and captions below for what I mean:
Following the somewhat dismal finale, we went into Springdale for some eats and to fix my rear wheel. We ended up not getting into the RedBull party and headed back to the now-quiet and less crowded campspot at the old rampage site.
We eased into our monday, taking our time to pack up, and then headed back across the street to film now that it was less crowded. I like to think I got a few banger shots, but film doesnt really do that place justice. You cant tell just how windy it is atop those knife-edge ridges, or how difficult the hike is up over razor sharp cliffs in the midday heat. Dylan and Carlos threw down, sending a big road gap line. Topping off the trip, we got to do two top to bottom ridge runs with Ronnie Renner and Cam McCaul. Look out for Renner’s GoPro video, you might see us in the dust behind him.
**UPDATE** new footgae from the trip:
more photos here