The Freerider, Part 1 - Rampage Regrets

Aug 22, 2020
by Mike Levy  




We catch up with The Freerider on the side of a desert mesa, wind howling and helicopter waiting for him to drop in for what could be his last appearance at the world's gnarliest mountain bike competition. It's been a tough few years, but he knows what he has to do...



It's not like The Freerider hasn't been here before, standing over his bike while the flags snapped in the wind like dozens of angry bullwhips. Listening carefully, he swore they were saying, ''You better not go yet,'' which was in direct contrast to the walkie-talkie toting course marshall giving him the thumbs-up like this was no big thing. Really, a thumbs-up? Like it's simply a matter of cruising down to the valley floor, a few thousand feet below this ridiculous inflatable, energy drink-flavored start gate that somehow hadn't been blown off the mesa yet. If it did blow off, he thought for a split second, maybe they'd tell him to not drop-in.

Another cheesy thumbs-up, just in case The Freerider hadn't seen the first three. And that goddamn helicopter. And this goddamn wind. And especially that goddamn step-down that he'd already greased a few times but had yet to spin. It seemed like only last year that he could have won this ridiculous competition by straight airing it. That definitely wasn't last year, and there's no way that'd even make the highlights this time around.

It's been a while since The Freerider was also The Man - maybe six or seven years if he was honest with himself - and things were more complicated these days. Actually, it's just the tricks that were more complicated, and the small fact that they were being done by ''kids,'' The Freerider would say without intending any offense. It's just that to him, a late-thirties, always limping legend, they were literally kids. The Freerider was in complete awe of how the latest wunderkinds could, despite being only a few years older than his own son, seemingly add as many variations as they wanted while in the air. Truth be told, The Freerider couldn't even name half the things these kids were doing, but he did know that his own performance was worth around half the points.

The Freerider was currently scared shitless atop a five-foot-by-five-foot shelf on the side of a crumbling red mesa, but it hadn't always been like this...






The Man used to employ a simple equation to determine if he was riding well: Amplitude = N, with N being his score. There wasn't anything else he needed to know or do, besides maybe getting a bit sideways or, if the lip was just right, remove his hands or feet before rushing to get them back on. In his glory days, going huge and going first made him The Man. Sure, Linda wouldn't let The Man have blonde highlights anymore, but he swore that it was just a year or two ago that he was spending most of his strangely large paychecks on gutter glitter and mid-range sports cars.

It was more like a decade ago. And fine, a used Porsche Cayman isn't exactly major league, but The Man could afford his own house and property - full of jumps, of course - by the time he was in his early twenties when he met Linda, his wife. The injuries had already been stacking up by that point, but so had the money; The Man was earning well into the six figures back in the early 2000s, and traveled the world on other people's dime to do something he loved: Party his brains out. As an added bonus, he even got to ride his bike in some amazing places.

He eventually lost track of how many magazine covers he was on, but most of them are still up on his garage wall. They'd be in the bedroom, too, if f*cking Linda would let him. The Man eventually sold the Porsche and bought a four-door truck for his growing family. Then, in what was clearly a subconscious I'm-not-ready response to the incoming second child, he lifted it so high off the ground that no one in his family could get into it.

The Man could have "retired" a few years ago to a marketing gig that he would have been terrible at, but things had been looking up. His knees were finally fixed-ish, and the shoulder hadn't popped out for months. On top of that, he had re-signed with his long-term bike sponsor. Sure, his paychecks went from six-digits to "You can sell the bikes when you're done with them,'' but all The Man had to do was spin that goddamn step-down to show everyone that he was still, you know, The Man, and not just some nearly-forty-year-old freerider.





The Freerider doesn't regret selling that bright yellow Porsche but, perched high up on the side of a desert cliff, the only thing outweighing his fear is the regret he has for not taking that marketing job.

But The Man has been here many times before; helicopter at eye-level, what felt like 40mph winds, and a live feed streaming the metaphorical size of his cajones around the globe. The Freerider might not have highlights or an eyebrow ring anymore, and he might be in his late-thirties with one kid and another on the way, but The Man still has the biggest of cajones.

The wind dies, just like he knew it would, and The Man gives the cameras a thumbs up as he rolls into his line.



The sport has evolved since he was The Man, and he knows that amplitude doesn't out-score the incredibly complicated tricks being done by his competitors... Unless he takes it even further. Stay tuned for the next installment of The Freerider to find out what happens.




76 Comments

  • 322 3
 You can't build a house without a foundation. For all you guys who were there at the beginning, blazing the path, giving kids something to aspire to: you are, and always will be legends, and when it comes time that the younger generation is faster, or more stylish, or smoother, we'll always remember that the younger generation stands on the shoulders of giants.
  • 101 2
 Fuck yes.
  • 8 0
 Dude exactly well said respect to the ones whom paved the way! Really loved the crankworx recaps last weekend. The most hyped I've been to ride
  • 28 0
 Amen.

@mikelevy - I think there should be a Movies for your Monday solely devoted to the likes of the older generation video snippets.

Extracts from the likes of NWD, Sprung, Drop In TV etc. Something to educate the younger generation on where the spot has come from. Oh and also educate them on what good music was Smile
  • 3 0
 @jlawie: @mikelevy What he said! That Mt.7 Psychosis video from the early days of pinkbike with Mötley Crüe's Kickstart my Heart as the soundtrack...watched it so many times it's etched to my brain. I literally visualise the footage (Helicopter & all) everytime I hear that song. There's another BC road trip video too that was rad...with a groovy soundtrack...can't recall exactly...please help me out!
  • 2 0
 As a dad of a few groms as described.....we said! Rather them choose giants, speed & style over some of the antics other sports industry "giants" are portrayed these days.
  • 1 0
 Respect for my fellow grom
  • 63 1
 Levy did you really write my biography without my authorization? Hope you left the real cripy parts out of your manuscript or else you'll hear from my lawyers.


Seriously - I love this kind of fictional stuff - Very refreshing.

MTB culture has sometimes been lacking in panache & imagination these last few years...

Please make more space for this kind of content in Pinkbike.
  • 42 0
 Thanks for the kudos Smile Always fun to do something different!
  • 3 0
 @mikelevy: would love to see more of story driven stuff like this. Reviews are nice and all but they never invoke that emotional tug that motives u to get out and ride like these narratives do.

FYI - it was a little Audi I had, not a Porsche Wink
  • 5 0
 Amplitude > tricks
big mountain free ride, take me back to NWD 5
  • 5 0
 @mikelevy: for someone who seems to take a cavalier, almost abstract, approach to pronouncing words on the podcast you sure do write real good. This is excellent, more please.
  • 1 0
 @subwaypanda: abstract approach to pronunciation! Absolutely love that mate!! Haha Smile
  • 4 0
 @artistformlyknowasdan: stoked you liked it. There will be more Smile
  • 6 0
 @subwaypanda: Abstract approach haha! I’ve never been great with pronunciation. I think it sounds like I’m joking but that’s just they way they come out Wink
  • 37 0
 This style of writing has been the only thing I've been missing on PB. Thanks for entertaining and making me want to write better!
  • 6 0
 Love writing reviews but they’ll be a bit more of this soon. Glad you liked it Smile
  • 20 0
 Freerider in his late 30's? I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum - beginner in his late 30's!

"...he eyed the 3-inch step down from that marked the start of the blue trail and gritted his teeth. He could have taken the red trail, but why would he want to catch fire, explode and die in a ditch..."
  • 13 1
 Now THIS is some good writing! Love the style, 3rd person view, and I love IT! Congratulations Mr. Levy, this is THE best piece of writing I have seen so far on Pinkbike. This website needs more emotionally invested pieces, and you have just delivered a smash hit of a prologue. The imagery is one of the things that makes this piece stand out, something that writers on this website seem afraid of using, but you have hit a darn good spot, and I don't think you're going to have ANY problems with getting and keeping readers.
  • 12 0
 I’ll never forget Wade Simmons jumping over the Marzocchi truck. That was the bike starting point of my life.
  • 4 0
 The Moreno Valley step-down! So huge, even today.
  • 2 0
 May be biased by its association with my bike-riding, tail-chasing, dog days of youth, but I’d reckon that to remain one of the most iconic pictures in MTB history!
  • 1 0
 And he greased it too. Made it look like something he does every day after work. So massive.
  • 8 0
 That was awesome. Needs to made into a short film.... I love that it was illustrated by someone who was a true pioneer themselves, part of a solid foundation on which so many now stand and build on. My glass is raised.
  • 6 0
 Tbh, it’s surreal to me that Taj illustrated this. So rad. Thanks for the kudos Smile
  • 9 0
 I am literally picturing Cam Zink when reading this. Complete with the (albeit brand new 911) Porsche and shoulder injuries.
  • 2 0
 Ha! And here’s me just picturing Bearclaw over & over... lol
  • 1 0
 I pictured. Tyler "super t" miss that dude he was awesome
  • 6 2
 Let me know when you want the perspective of the Freerider at 60. Realizing the pain was too much to continue the effort, the surgeries too much for the bank account, and that the joy of riding and having fun doesn't depend on air time. The joy of riding is still riding, and the fun of life is Linda and the three kids all out of college and making a good life of their own.
  • 4 0
 I heard at one point in the late 90's when the freerider was still a grom, he happened across a Taj Mehelich video part and invented the word amplitude in his brain right there in the moment. Giant. Still under your influence.
  • 4 0
 This is awesome Mike! Doing early freeride movies and Rampages was definitely a trip and watching several generations of new free riders appear on the scene has been humbling and inspiring. Respect to all the old school and new school...and the bus drivers...giving er on their bikes! Look forward to more!!
  • 8 1
 Is it a sign of my own (lower) status that I aspire to a used Cayman?
  • 8 1
 26 for lyfe
  • 5 0
 Interested to hear the OGs take on this one. *grabs popcorn*
  • 5 0
 Oh man, such a good read! That hit my soft spot.
  • 5 0
 Agreed and a nod to the illustrator as well!
  • 4 0
 Fantastic writing Mike, looking forward to more like this. Very relatable and not just in the biking industry.
  • 5 0
 Bender? That you?
  • 2 0
 I pictured a handful of different guys that made up this character, which I thought was the fun aspect to this. Nice one Mike!
  • 2 0
 Very well executed @mikelevy and Taj.
Do you need anyone to represent you for the TV rights? This would be a good fit for Netflix.
  • 3 0
 The only fictional thing here is that he never had a Porsche
  • 12 0
 Definitely an amalgam of many from the previous generation - things seemed bigger than, even if they weren't haha
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: Think I am sensing a nod to Schley from some dusty old NWD film with that Porsche
  • 1 0
 @crash-brother: cedric gracia had a porsche, too. zink still has one.
  • 1 0
 @crash-brother: I definitely got a Zink vibe. From the injury descriptions to the massive drop 360.
  • 1 0
 Dude so many MEN!!!! Claw comes to mind instantly! But for real, so many legends! Can’t wait to here what happens to Zink next!?!
  • 2 0
 Captain Lance Murdock, I salute you.
  • 2 0
 that starting gate drop...wtf huuuuge
  • 1 0
 I thought this was the equivalent of "The Secret Pro" from over at CyclingTips!
  • 2 0
 dudeeeee that is geniusssss
  • 1 0
 That was an awesome read. I really enjoy the creative and editorial content as well as the reviews and new bike porn.
  • 1 0
 Write more and longer, Levy! When you hear someone yell "write a book" at you, that will be me.
  • 1 0
 That was awesome ???????????? More please ,and on another note , can you do a review/ test on the Kelly’s Theos
  • 1 0
 is this artist really just an AI program haha, the canadians taking over the world!
  • 2 1
 Whatever everyone else says
  • 2 1
 Hits close to home! More of this content!
  • 2 0
 really vibing this
  • 2 0
 Loved it
  • 1 0
 This is awesome! I loved reading this and imagining every bit.
  • 1 0
 Love it, more of this kind of stuff please!
  • 1 0
 Now all we need is a giant fan to blow away all the smoke
  • 1 0
 Great story. Staying tuned.
  • 1 0
 i feel personally attacked.
  • 1 0
 Well done Mr. Levy. Well done.
  • 1 0
 This is great! Patiently waiting for part 2!
  • 1 0
 Great cartoons!
  • 1 0
 Yes! Love this!!
  • 1 0
 Dick Schley
  • 2 0
 Dick Pound
  • 1 0
 That was awesome.
  • 1 0
 Late thirties. Pfft.
  • 1 0
 This is gold.
  • 1 0
 Go Taj!
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