Here's what sets a Red Bull Rampage bike apart from your everyday MTB
It takes a certain type of bike to be able to take on the huge hits and brutal Red Bull Rampage terrain. Find out what makes them so special.
© Bartek Woliński
If you've seen any photos or video from Red Bull Rampage, you'll know that it's no ordinary bike ride. Indeed, almost every line at Red Bull Rampage is the sort of thing that you'd think would be impossible on a bike. However, these are far from regular push bikes. Red Bull Rampage bikes might not have engines, but the engineering that goes into a whip for this event is every bit as high level as that which goes into a MotoGP™ bike or Formula One car.
We took a tour of the pits to find out exactly what it is that sets a Red Bull Rampage bike apart from your everyday DH bike. No bike in the world is designed for Red Bull Rampage and this means that parts get broken more quickly than they would on a normal bike. Having fresh and fatigue-free parts before the event is important.
Check out the bikes being used by the athletes in the 2021 edition of Red Bull Rampage below:
Red Bull Rampage bikes have a lot of suspension. Cushioning those massive hits is a priority, pedalling efficiency isn't, as gravity does the speeding up and riders spend more time braking than pedalling.
Unlike a normal trail bike, where pressure is set to give a plush ride on smaller bumps and absorb bigger hits occasionally, Red Bull Rampage bikes have much higher pressure in the shocks and very little rebound in order to deal with those really big hits. As one mechanic explained, "this is more about absorbing those big hits than traction on the small stuff." Red Bull Rampage riders can expect to use all 200mm of front and rear travel when landing those huge drops.
Despite appearances, gravity does still function normally at Red Bull Rampage. On the steeper upper section of the course, riders will need to control their speed in order not to overshoot landings. For this, they rely on hydraulic disc brakes with huge 200mm rotors to maximise braking performance, as the rotors heat up quickly at the high speeds generated in those big chutes.
If you think you can work out the value of a bike by the number of gears, think again. Red Bull Rampage riders often run very few gears that are very tightly spaced. Runs are gravity-assisted and riders don't really need a gear they can pedal in.
While they might need a few pedal strokes here or there coming into jumps on the bottom of the course, riders won't be changing gear much, if at all. For this reason they run closely spaced gears, so that should the chain comes off one gear, it lands on another easily and there's no huge change in chain tension or pedal speed. All riders also run only one front chainring and a chain guide in an effort to minimise the risk of chains falling off.
Wheels and tyres
All those huge gaps and drops rely on the integrity of the wheels and tires to land safely. Red Bull Rampage bikes' wheels aren't actually that different to those on the bike in your basement, just a lot more robust. Where many riders in other forms of mountain biking use tubeless systems that eliminate the inner tube and fill the tyre with puncture-sealing fluid, Red Bull Rampage riders often opt for inner tubes like you have at home.
While the tubeless systems allow for lower pressure, more traction and fewer punctures, Red Bull Rampage riders tend to favour the higher pressures they can achieve with tubes, as this reduces the likelihood of having a tire blow off a rim on a hard landing. The bikes in the pits before the event were running around 35psi in order to keep the rims and the rocks of the Utah desert apart.
If you see a Red Bull Rampage rider sitting down to pedal, you could be forgiven for thinking that they'd borrowed a child's bike. Saddles on Red Bull Rampage bikes are generally run very low in order to keep them out of the way of riders during their runs. The saddles are necessary (you really wouldn't want to land a big jump on a frame tube), but they're generally small, well padded and really more for protection than actually sitting on.
Although most high-end bike frames are carbon nowadays, this isn't always the case at Red Bull Rampage. Weight isn't a priority here and instead riders often pick aluminium frames that are a bit more resilient and can handle the abuse that they receive being dragged up and ridden down the mountain.
Of course, most of these frames are custom painted, as befits the best riders in the sport. Each bike speaks to the personality of its rider. See the custom decals and paint jobs on some of the bikes being used by 2021 Rampage participants below: