Dan Atherton shares his Red Bull Hardline history
founder of Red Bull Hardline and track-building genius
“We were scouring around and saw this mountain with the huge waterfall next to it. It had huge elevation, incredible terrain – everything you could possibly want on a mountain for a downhill track. As soon as I saw it, I knew we had to conquer it.”
Explore the course
“Visually, the start is stunning – it's right next to the waterfall, it's the peak of the mountain and you can just about see the bottom, so it makes it very exciting.
“Originally it started a little bit higher, but it was quite pedally. In keeping with the event, we moved it down to make it more fast-paced. There's no warm up or easing into it.
“Technically, it’s one of the hardest bits. There are no big jumps or drops but it's a raw downhill track where the green, natural rocks are always really slippery. Also, it’s really dark in the first section of trees after Camberlands, so your eyes are always trying to adjust.
“The most daunting thing is that you know you've got this crazy track ahead of you. From the moment you leave the gate, you're riding that whole top section with that in your mind. You try to picture everything that's to come, and how you can deal with it.”
“Visually it's so stunning – it's next to the waterfall, it’s at the peak of the mountain and you can see the finish”
“The most daunting thing is you know you've got this crazy track ahead of you and you've got to nail every obstacle”
2018: A long time coming
The Rock drop, the Cannon and the Step Up
“When looking for the track, there's normally only one option that links in everything and luckily it was possible to get from one of the biggest rock drops on the mountain to the Step Up.
“The Rock drop is one of the hardest things on track – it has a steep entrance, an off-camber take-off and a heavy landing.
“Next up is the Cannon. The size, speed, impact of the weather and fact that the room for error is pretty much zero definitely makes it the most scary jump on the track.
“After this big step down, you literally round one corner and go straight into the Step Up. It's pretty relentless. In 2019, it was ridiculous to see how comfortable everyone was on it – it made you realise how far the sport has come."
Dirty Ferns, Waterfall Edge and The Bowl
“Three of the course’s biggest features out of the way, there’s no let-up as you get thrown into a rock-littered single track where boulders are scarred from pedals that got a bit too close.
“As a rider, it’s just you against the mountain at this point. If you’re going for the win, it’s where you can pick up crucial time, but it’s also where attempts can come crashing back down to earth.
“The biggest rock garden in the world complete, it’s time for three back-to-back biggies. Dirty Ferns, Waterfall Edge and The Bowl have mellowed over the years, but each offers a technical challenge for riders – from blind landings to exposed air time.”
The Road Gap, Out of the Woods, the Final Fly Off
“You want the course to be getting harder as you go, and these last jumps definitely do that. You’re quite far down the trail, your bike is covered in mud and you’re aware of how heavy it is.
“Initially, there was a boulder field where the Road Gap is. We were going to build it out of dirt, but Rach’s boyfriend suggested using timber. It was pretty bold. I've never built anything like it and wasn't totally sure it would work. The first time you hit it, you're really nervous. There's no pulling out – it’s always scary to know you're 100% committed.
“The last feature is the Final Fly Off, which has changed over the years – the finish needed to step up to where the rest of the course was, which it definitely has now. Physically it's a really hard, harsh landing. That always makes riders nervous.”
“It's one of the few jumps where there's no pulling out – that's always scary to know that you're 100% committed”
“Your best weapon of choice is your straight up race bike set-up. Slack head angle, bit more space in the reach, long wheelbase"
“You ideally want the course to be getting harder and harder as you go down. Those last jumps definitely do that”
2018: Kade comes of age
Meet The Winners
The following riders did more than just survive Red Bull Hardline; they won it. Each of them pushed the boundaries of downhill mountain biking in the process. Here are their names, and the bikes they rode to victory...
The 2011 UCI Downhill MTB World Champion beat the Atherton brothers to top spot in the debut event, pulling a signature whip over the Final Fly Off.
An accident-riddled practise left race day restricted to just the survivors. Despite a crash in the build-up, Cunningham still blew away the rest of the field.
The freeride and dirt jump specialist made Red Bull Hardline his own, qualifying fastest and preventing 2015 winner Cunningham recording back-to-back wins.
The Sheffield shredder tamed the most difficult Red Bull Hardline yet, putting in a performance that oozed speed and control in testing and treacherously wet conditions.
After two punctures, one injury and a measured 4th place, the two-time UCI Downhill MTB World Champion finally won his own event by a whopping five seconds.
The Stoppie Sunday king has never finished off of the Red Bull Hardline podium, so it was only inevitable that he would become the event’s first-ever double winner.
Giant Glory 27.5
The 8” Maestro suspension helped smooth out the big hits, while an aluminium frame had been completely redesigned around 27.5” wheels – an emerging trend in 2014.
Trek Session 9.9 DH 27.5
The most successful World Cup downhill bike of all time didn’t take long to master Red Bull Hardline. At sub-15kg, the carbon fibre-framed bike flew down the course.
Pivot Phoenix DH Carbon Saint Bike
The lightest bike in the pits (14.45kg), the only thing not carbon were the aluminium handlebars. Carbon rims added stiffness and confidence going into big jumps.
Santa Cruz V10
Maxxis Shorty tyres provided huge amounts of traction in the wet, in the slippery conditions. 50/01 Marshguard helped prevent loose mud affecting visibility.
Trek Session 9.9 29
29” wheels marked a shift to big wheel bikes, bringing a higher top-end speed and improved traction. A seven-speed cassette offered range while saving weight.
Pivot Phoenix 29 Pro Saint
A cutaway saddle allowed Kerr to run a low saddle without impacting rear wheel clearance, while tyre inserts in the rear boosted protection against blowouts.
Red Bull Hardline has come a long way since started – it has always been one of the hardest tracks in the world, and it only gets harder.
For 2021, the course is tougher and bigger than ever, and there are some new features that will really push the riders to take their riding to the next level.
Be sure to tune in to Red Bull TV this weekend, 24-25 July, to catch all the action from the Dyfi Valley.