Drew Bezanson poses with his new slopestyle bike. Image by Mitchell Hubble / Red Bull Content Pool
Only a handful of athletes have successfully pulled off 'the crossover', competing professionally in more than one sport's discipline.
Back in the late ‘80’s, it was Bo Jackson; the multi-talented hero of North American pro-sports who played both baseball and football at their highest levels, and one of the few athletes to ever be named an All-Star in two major sports.
In the world of action sports, athletes like Shaun White have claimed X-Games medals in snowboarding and skateboarding vert – and even taking a shot at competitive surfing.
Now, Drew Bezanson intends to join those ranks as he enters the world of Slopestyle Mountain Biking this season with the goal of competing at Red Bull Joyride at Whistler this coming August.
There’s no doubt that it will be a tough road to Whistler, but there aren’t many people out there more suited to the challenge. Read on as Drew talks about his plans for the upcoming season, the challenges he’ll face and if he will really leave BMX for good...
What made you decide to seriously consider competing in slopestyle MTB?
What really made me want to compete in Slopestyle MTB was the courses. Every Slopestyle course was exactly what I love riding on my BMX; big dirt jumps, flat drops and step on step off features. Then Crankworx sent me a tweet last summer when Uncontainable dropped saying I should compete at Red Bull Joyride next summer – I wasn't sure if they were kidding or not, but I’m going to take it seriously!
Let's talk about Uncontainable. That was a quest to go even bigger and defy the limits of conventional BMX parks… did you foresee slopestyle as the next step during that project?
No, never did I have mountain biking in mind while doing Uncontainable. That was just something I wanted to do for myself, I just wanted to ride bigger versions of what I love to ride on my BMX and push my ability.
So what is your ultimate goal taking on the world of Slopestyle?
My ultimate goal is to come in and be competitive while having fun. I just want to take full advantage of the opportunity I have before me.
Any predictions? Do you think you’ll do well in the contests, or have any advantage over the competition with your BMX background?
Yeah, I think I’ll be able to do pretty well with my background in motocross and BMX. I think from racing motocross, it will help me be a bit more comfortable on the courses and larger bikes. But from the BMX side, I think it will help me in the way I look at the courses and the ideas that come from having ridden BMX my entire life.
What do you think will be your biggest challenges entering the sport? What will you need to adapt to?
I’ll need to get more comfortable with the different types of course, features beforehand. They are a bit different, and there aren’t too many places you can go and ride a full slope course.
How long have you been paying attention to slopestyle MTB? Are there any athletes that inspire you?
I’ve always watched MTB growing up. I had a lot of friends that rode, but I really started paying attention to slopestyle in the last four or five years. Once I got to know some of the riders like Brandon Semenuk, Brett Rheeder, Brayden Barrett-Hay and a few others, it was fun to follow them and root for them and watch where they take this sport.
So is this the next major step in your career? Do you feel like you have outgrown BMX altogether?
I will never be able to outgrow BMX, that’s impossible. It’s my number one passion. My love for bike riding is just growing that much more and I’ve realised that I enjoy riding every style of bike.
How are you planning to prepare for your first contest, and what does the qualifying process look like?
My preparation leading into my first contest will just be a lot of seat time on the bigger bike. Figuring out which tricks transfer over easily from BMX and work well with the bigger bike will be my main focus. I’ll definitely try and do a few trips to ride similar course setups to the ones that will be on the contest circuit to try and get my feet wet.
Drew Bezanson tunes his new slopestyle bike. Image by Mitchell Hubble / Red Bull Content Pool
This week, Drew will visit Crankworx Rotorua on a recon mission to get better acclimatised with the contest scene and competition. But in order to earn a spot in the start gate and compete with the best slopestyle athletes in the world, he will need to prove he can hang just like any other rider climbing the ranks on the FMB World Tour.
In order to qualify, his first stop will be the Swatch Rocket Air from April 29-30, which is a wild card event for the Crankworx Les Gets contest later in June. A win at Crankworx Les Gets could qualify Drew directly for Crankworx Whistler and Red Bull Joyride. Otherwise, he will have another chance at the Colorado Freeride Festival from July 28-31, which is a direct wild card event for Red Bull Joyride.
palmer really did the most sports at the highest level. bo jackson was rad, no doubt...but......
in all reality, who can claim they competed and beat the best in snowboarding, skiing, mtb dh, and sx?
plus he won the pikes peak race.and didn't he smoke everyone at the long beach grandprix celeb race?
he should have got the indy car ride back in the day.
would have love to seen 'the evil king' school the indy club.
when it comes to raw talent, there are not many that can throw down with shaun palmer.
just curious, more money in bmx or mtb for top athlete?
its never been the easiest sport to get into it terms of equipment cost (BMX bike compared to skateboard or micro scooter), there is a steep learning curve and issues with access - in the States there are BMX bans at a large number of cement skatepark due to outdated liability laws. Here in the UK the kids are getting skateboard, scooters or just playing console games, there are few new riders
If no young kids are getting into BMX, the sport becomes hollowed out as the older riders eventually stop riding due to age, commitments or injury
I kinda am weary of BMX'ers flooding over that want to just win stuff, I really feel like Rogatkin came over initially because the competition was just way too heavy to be top notch on a BMX bike. Somehow or another he got to see Crankworx Whistler in person and might've seen it as an opportunity he knew he could come out on top of... although I'm sure now that he's been on big bikes and little bikes he's well aware that mountain biking is the greatest discipline of biking (:
How do you think freestyle fixed gear riders are doing 720s? They learned it on their bmx and could easily adapt it to their fixed gear bike, which is less easy (but still easy) to adapt then to mtb.
I've ridden rigid hardtail pretty much all my life, but still landed a bunnyhop 360 on my friends full suspension Kona Bass and even sticked them on a 170mm full suspension Scott freeride bike. Transfering tricks to other bikes is nothing. But the difference between learning them the hard way (mtb) or the easy way (bmx) is huge.
BMXers usually dislike anything thats not BMX and often downhill on mtb riders. Thats why it takes guts to stand up against the social pressure of all your friend and fans, leave all your BMX sponsors behind and switch to mtb, where youre not even sure if youre going to like the bikes, courses, fellow riders and the whole scene.
Generally people who are successful in BMX don't make the switch. It's mostly the people who are very talented but seem to stick underneath the top, or are getting too old to stay on top, who make the switch (Drew is an exception to this). I think if you're a top 10 bmx rider you will earn a lot more money than a top 10 slopestyle rider, since there is so much more coverage for bmx (= more money in advertisement = more sponsorship money). But if you're number 30-50 in bmx and you can adapt your riding to mtb, you'll become one of those top 10 slopestyle riders and you will make more money with MTB than with bmx with your skill level.
And yes it has happened a lot before. Just a couple of names that quickly come to mind are Darren Berrecloth, Cam Zink, Brandon Semenuk and Anthony Messere.
All riders who didn't make that top 10 cut in bmx, but switched to mtb and became legendary names.
And yes,only I know more than 15 people who can do hop whip (even on normal mtb,not oversized bmx which idiots like to call mtb).
Brandon Semenuk started with MTB, he didn't ever riding professional BMX. Nearly the same with others. Some BMXers have potential to ride big bike and big courses, some - not. It's not the same - vertical flyouts with 0.3-3 meters length air,and with tables even.And 12 meters with gaps,in a line.In bmx contest you could easily crash in a run and win.In mtb it's hard to win when you even slide your foot once.
Also the difference between jumps at pro bmx dirt contests and the average FMB contest is pretty much none. Yes mtb has some exceptions such as Crankworks, Fest and Rampage, but most contests, like Vienna Air King and Swatch Rocket Air are exactly the same size as bmx contests. Very often I even see bmx dudes huck stuff mtb riders wouldn't even ride on a hard tail. Like 5m high tail whip drops into mellow grass banks etc. Some of us think us mtb riders go bigger, becauss our bikes our bigger, but generally we do exactly the same stuff.
Can you plz name me at least 5 bmxers,who regularly do tailwhip from 5 m drop? Real 5 m drops,not drops which you fear tell you that it's 5 m.
Taking nothing away form the guy, I've met and rode with him...super cool dude, but Aaron Chase is considered one of the most technical MTBers in the sport....you put his bag of tricks in a park course against an am nobody in BMX and he'll get decimated.
Sure, slope is a different ball of wax, but there's not much to transition from if you're a guy like Bezanson who already goes HUGE....he might not be able to triple whip a big wheel'd bike, but I bet you he can already do a double whip flip...and who in MTB has that yet? Almost any sponsored am BMXer has that....which is the point Mattin is trying to prove. MTB is pretty far behind. Mst BMXers don't leave BMX cause of sponsorship or pressure from peers. But make no mistake...there's a reason your top MTB guys have a lot of money compared to your top tier BMX guys. BMX is still widely considered a child's bike or xgames novelty. MTBs are "grown up" bikes (for whatever reason)....there's more money in MTB....it's a smart move on Bezanson's part.
Also calling me names and saying what's wrong with me, for having a different perception than you is extremely low. Just shows how narrow-minded you are.
In the end, only time will tell.
I understand, like he said, there's going to be some adapting from the smaller wheels to the bigger ones...but let's be real here, that was probably him just being humble....he's probably going to SLAY everybody.
Its so much easier to learn tricks on a bmx. And once you can do any trick on a bmx, it will only take you about 3 tries to adapt it to mtb. Semi-pro bmx riders did bunnyhop tailwhips second try on my mtb while never having ridden a mtb before, and some other dude sticked a truck driver first try on his second jump.
Should be interesting.
I've seen people buy a bmx because they really wanted to learn a certain trick but failed to on their mtb. Eventually they learned it on their bmx and then got back to mtb where they could do it as well after 3 tries to get used to the bigger bike again.
Thereby coming from bmx to the mtb scene is an easy way to become pro and earn some money.
I have more respect for riders like Dawid Godziek, who learned on a mtb and switched to bmx because there was more challenge from the competition to push him even further.
BUT, Drew Bezanson is my favorite bmx rider. That dude rides so sick and I'm actually stoked to see him on a mtb.
Also feels good because as a mtb street rider I got looked looked down a lot by bmx riders (usually that immediatly changed after I started riding and they found I rode better then most of them, after which sometimes they actually wanted to try my bike).
But all in all I think riders like Drew Bezanson and Ryan Nyquist joining mtb is a good thing for the mtb scene. First of all I think it will help get more recognition from the bmx scene as their idols ride it as well.
Second of all the level of the mtb scene will be pushed, our current mtb riders will have to push things extra hard to stay on top of these "newcomers"