Fixed Gear Bike in a Video Game or 3D Illusion?

Watch as cyclist Josh Boothby navigates an intricate ramp course on his bike. Or does he?
By Kevin McAvoy

Fixed gear freestyle is a relatively young sport, which means that the riders are constantly pushing the realms of possibility, learning new moves and techniques that have never been done before. Northern California’s Josh Boothby is accustomed to pushing those boundaries, but a recent project took him into completely uncharted territory, which you can see in the video above.

Art, illusion, and fixed gear riding combined to bring a mostly two-dimensional course to three-dimensional life. Boothby rose to the occasion, and it challenged his own perspective on riding, which would undoubtedly serve him well in the upcoming Red Bull Ride + Style fixed gear event (which he won in 2012). Unfortunately, Boothby was injured on a recent filming trip to Thailand and will have to sit on the sidelines for this year’s contest, but he still gave us some insight to his experience on the “Fixed Perspective” film shoot.

What did you think when this idea was presented to you?

When I first heard about it I was kind of skeptical, because I didn’t understand what they meant by “3D visual.” They said [the camera] was like 30 feet up, so I thought they were going to be building some gnarly scaffolding and there were going to be multiple levels. Then I showed up and was blown away by how they took the art side of things and flipped the script and made a course look 3D from above.

Fixed gear cyclist Josh Boothby films for a Red Bull project in Pasadena in 2014
Josh Boothby filming on 3D perspective course © Marv Watson/Red Bull Content Pool

When you saw the layout in person, did you have any doubts about pulling it off?

The first day I showed up on set was a 15-hour day, just trying to map out routes; I really had to practice on it. The director wanted me to really understand that I had to “sell” the illusion when I was riding the course -- hitting all the angles and looking like I’m riding up or riding down.

What did you think when you saw the first playback?

I actually brought my friend with me, because I knew I was going to need some help. I thought it was going to be way too tight to ride, but I had him ride the course while I was watching on a TV monitor and that was all it took. I understood the visuals at that point; then it was a matter of figuring out what to actually do.

I had to go through at least a 15-step process with the director to get one line down.

Other filming projects are about featuring the tricks you can do, but this was more about using your bike skills in a whole new way. What was that experience like?

At contests and for video parts, you just try to go out and do your best, maybe unveil some new tricks. For this, I had to think about the choreography. Planning out lines multiple steps ahead so I had everything figured out. I had to go through at least a 15-step process with the director to get one line down. We wouldn’t like how it looked on camera but we did like the functionality, so we had to make the two work together.

I’ve never choreographed anything in my life; I’ve never tried to stage anything like that. He showed me that you can choreograph riding, and it will work really well as long as it’s done right.

Fixed gear cyclist Josh Boothby films for a Red Bull project in Pasadena in 2014
Josh Boothby walks the 3D perspective course © Marv Watson/Red Bull

Do you think this experience will affect your riding in the future?

It’ll definitely help me with contest runs and video parts. Now when I get to a course, I’ll immediately be looking for how I can link everything together, and how I can work out all the timing. It makes me want to go out and choreograph a whole video part, where I’m looking for set-ups and locations where I can do specialty tricks that only a fixed gear can do.

How does this compare to other projects you’ve been a part of?

I’d like to say I could compare this to other projects I’ve done, but this is really the first of its kind for me. I’ve never heard of any collaboration like this; I’ve never seen something like this being ridden on a bike. Usually it’s a video game…

You show up and you think you’re ready for something and it’s a complete 180. You take what you know of your abilities and skills as a rider and you put that toward the objective, to broaden your horizons and open up your true potential as a rider.

What else is coming up for you?

Red Bull Ride + Style happens May 10. I get back from a trip to Thailand and I’ll go to Woodward to train for that. [Ed. Note: As mentioned above, Josh was unfortunately injured in Thailand and now won’t be able to compete.]

Fixed gear cyclist Josh Boothby films for a Red Bull project in Pasadena in 2014
Josh Boothby © Marv Watson/Red Bull Content Pool

What do you do to train for an event like Red Bull Ride + Style?

Some people pick the trendy tricks they like but I try to open up a new box, a new array of tricks. Every year I try to bring a new trick to Red Bull Ride + Style. Even if it’s not something super crazy, I just try for something new. So I’ll start putting more miles in on my fast bike just to get my legs in shape; most of the year, I just ride street and some ramps here and there.

When it comes to Ride + Style, I step up my game and go to Woodward to practice the flips, grinds, spins… just to make sure my tricks are on lock, rather than be like, “Oh yeah, I did that once, hopefully I can do it again.”

How important is Ride + Style to the U.S. fixed gear scene?

It’s the premier event of the fixed freestyle scene and the fixed racing scene.

For more on Red Bull Ride + Style, check out the official event page.

For more on Josh Boothby, check out his athlete page.

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