A New High

The first interview with Thomas Oehler since his world record breaking mountain bike high jump

Thomas Oehler performs on a rooftop in Vienna, Austria on July 21st 2005
© Georg Oberlechner/Red Bull Content Pool

Earlier this month 26-year-old Austrian trial bike rider Thomas Oehler set a new world record for bicycle high jump, raising the record to a new high of 2.9 metres. We asked him one question for every centimetre by which he raised the record.

You once claimed you started trial biking because you were bored. What did you mean by that?
Well, I grew up in the country, and there aren’t that many ways of keeping yourself busy. I went out a lot on my bike with my friends, and at some point we started to try out wheelies and bunny hops. We then started looking for obstacles that we could jump. When I was about 12 or 13, we discovered that there were also contests for that sort of thing. I won my second one…

So after 13 years of competition, what’s the appeal in riding towards a three-metre high wall at top speed?
Well, you can’t ride that fast, otherwise you’ll make all the same mistakes that you made in training. For example, once time, instead of clearing the palette, I went straight into it. Choosing the right speed for the bike high jump varies according to the situation. What appeals to me the most is to always look for new obstacles and ‘conquering virgin territory’. And you can’t forget the adrenaline rush you experience during a jump – because if you don’t make a clean jump all the way up, it can be a shock coming down again.

How and why did you actually start bike high jumping?
I started it because I wanted to make my shows even more spectacular. I piled two palettes on top of each other and built a kicker about 20 centimetres high. It soon became 16 palettes. When I broke the world record, which isn’t official yet, it was 20. The first attempt with 18 ended in the wall, like I said. The second time it worked, though. I haven’t actually managed 19 yet. The record was really easy, strangely enough.

Compared to the numerous titles you’ve won in trial biking, what does your world record in the bike high jump mean to you?
It means a lot to me. It’s a great feeling to have achieved something that nobody has achieved before. The record isn’t quite equal to my trial World Championship title, but it’s a very close second.

And how much higher do you think you can go?
You can’t really say that ahead of time. But my goal is to break the three-metre barrier.