What is Red Bull Rampage? Well it's a freeride mountain bike event held in Utah, USA, where the best mountain bike athletes in the world try to make it down frightening mountainsides and ridges in one piece. At the same time, they must impress a judging panel by doing seemingly unimaginable tricks and carving a line down the mountain. It's the most spectacular event to participate in as a mountain biker – and if you're lucky, to watch on site as a spectator. This event has been going since 2001 and there have been 14 editions since.
Why should I watch?
Red Bull Rampage is a competition that goes beyond sporting borders. It's the ultimate action-sports competition, where a rider’s skill, mental fortitude and physical capacity on a mountain bike is tested. The event shows us what can be done on two wheels and inspires us all to think bigger and push the limits of bike riding. As ever, you can watch everything on Red Bull TV.
To get an idea of what Red Bull Rampage is all about, watch the Red Bull Signature Series episode from the 2019 event below:
Red Bull Rampage
Download the free Red Bull TV app and catch the MTB action on all your devices! Get the app here
What are the rules?
The rules are pretty simple – ride down a mountain to the bottom of it, in one piece, in as spectacular a way as possible. The mountain doesn't have a natural route down, so you may have to transverse it and jump across sections to find your way down. The rider will have to determine a line down to the bottom that best suits their style. The terrain the athletes ride on is dry sandstone dirt, while the mountainsides are full of cliffs and near-vertical chutes. This is in no way just a simple ride down.
There's no timing in Red Bull Rampage and it isn't a race against the clock. Instead the riders have to impress with their line choice down the mountain and how creatively they do it. The latter involves how technical the riding can be or whether the athletes perform tricks on the lines they create on the mountain. For example, a backflip off a mountainside is one way of dropping down to a new section of a rider's chosen line.
If there's no timing, how is the winner decided?
On finals day, riders get two race runs to ride their lines down to the bottom of the mountain. They're judged on those lines by a panel of judges and receive a score at the end of it. The athlete with the highest scored run wins the event. If there's a tie, the rider with the highest score of the two runs added together wins.
These are three main criteria on which judges base their scores on:
- Line choice: The steeper, gnarlier and more difficult the line choice, the more points scored.
- Airtime and tricks: The amplitude of the jumps, added tricks and nailing the landings are things that will score highly and give lots of points.
- Fluidity, style and speed: The smoother, faster and more aggressive, the higher the final points will be.
Judging at Red Bull Rampage
What's involved in finding a line down a Rampage mountain?
The riders can choose their own different lines down the mountain. When arriving at the Red Bull Rampage site before the event begins, the athletes will scope the mountain for a route down. Nothing is manicured for them, however, on what's a rugged mountainside with many imperfections. So the athletes spend just under a week leading up to the event digging and shaping lines/jumps on the mountain to make their ride as smooth down as possible.
A rider is allowed a team of two mates to help him dig, but isn’t allowed any power tools or external material, except for sand bags. Generally there are three days of just digging at Rampage and an additional four days to get on their bikes to test lines and jumps. In those latter four days, they can continue to dig and reshape lines. Sometimes athletes join together to share the lines they'll use in competition and so can pool their digging resources together.
Dig life at Red Bull Rampage
Rampage changes locations to keep things fresh
Rampage gets held near the little town of Virgin in Utah, but the mountains on which the event takes place are generally changed every few years. This is to give the riders a blank canvas to start afresh and ultimately carve out new lines from nothing. We're now on to the fifth different mountain location in the area around Virgin.
Previous venues had large manufactured ramps and drops from which riders could do big tricks off, but this is no longer the case, as the organisers wanted to go back to the basics of freeriding. Now the riders use the natural features of the mountain to build jumps, drops and berms – a purer and spectacular form of freeriding. The current location on which Rampage takes place came into being in 2018.
What sort of mountain bikes are used at Rampage?
There's no mountain bike in the world that's purely designed for the kind of pressures that Red Bull Rampage will put bikes under. Riders typically use mountain bikes with long travel, with the downhill bike invariably being a rider's weapon of choice. Frames are usually aluminium, due to them being more resilient and harder to break, but carbon is beginning to make inroads, as riders prefer the weight savings that material gives. The bikes and their assorted components have to be light as possible so they're easy to spin and kick around in the air. Tyres have to be high-pressure pumped to roll fast and avoid punctures.
Who's crazy enough to compete?
Red Bull Rampage attracts athletes from all over the MTB spectrum. Freeriders, downhillers and slopestylers all want to be part of the toughest mountain bike event of the year. A roster of 20 to 21 riders usually form the starting list of a Red Bull Rampage event. Most of these are invited riders. Some are pre-qualified from the previous year’s competition and some are new, exciting wildcards. Most recently, three spots on the final competitor list have been made available via a qualifying Rampage event called Marzocchi Proving Grounds.
Previous winners of Red Bull Rampage:
Notable on the roll call of winners are two legendary mountain biking athletes in Brandon Semenuk and Kurt Sorge. Both are three-time winners. Kyle Strait has won it twice.