While downhill, cross country and, more recently, enduro have established themselves as the main disciplines of mountain bike racing, there have been plenty of other ways to see who can ride fastest under a variety of convoluted formats. Today, we also have formats such as dual speed and style, cross country eliminator and mountain bike orienteering but there have been plenty of other left-field formats that fell by the wayside in the past 30 years. Here are five of the best and an explanation of why they couldn't stand the test of time.
Red Bull Wide OpenWhat's the format?
In July 2014, Red Bull's Wide Open was supposed to combine the technicality and speed of downhill with the amplitude of freeride and the head-to-head racing of 4X. Six riders would line up in the gates and face a course that was claimed to contain, "60’ gaps, massive 20’ berms, wallrides, and technical rock waterfalls." A 500-metre course had to be specially built in Livigno, Italy and Red Bull had a strong list of confirmed athletes attending from a wide range of disciplines (a full list can be found, here
). This was supposed to be an event that would "determine who is truly the top gravity racer in the world", but unfortunately it never got past the planning stage.What Happened Next?
Work began on the huge course but unfortunately, the local authorities had other ideas. Reports on what actually happen seem to vary but it's clear that an aspect of the track building went against the specifications set out by the authorizations and the Livigno Forestry Service called for the race to be cancelled. A look at the 90% finished course can be found on Dirt Mag, here
That was the end of the line for the Wide Open race but Red Bull got its chance to pit downhill racers and freeriders against each other on a huge course with the inception of Hardline later that year
Dual Snow SpeedWhat's the format?
Have you seen those mountain bike record speed attempts
where riders dress up like they're modelling for a 'specialist' catalog and throw themselves down a ski piste? This is similar to that but as a head-to-head race format. It was a feature of the Winter X Games in the late 90s alongside Biker X (basically 4X on snow) and Snow Downhill racing. The video above is the 1997 final between Jurgen Beneke and Joe Lawwill that includes some in-depth, aero-tuck analysis.What Happened Next?
Mountain biking has never had a successful history with the X-Games and the same was true for its Winter counterpart. The Games now mainly cater for snowboarding, skiing and snowmobile while mountain biking went the way of shovel sledding, ice climbing and snow skating and got booted from the program.
Super DWhat's the format?
Designed to capture the best bits of downhill and cross country, Super D served as an early form of enduro racing in North America. It was a one-stage, time trial format with courses between 6-12 minutes and designed to be ridden on trail bikes with some flat or uphill sections. The best way to think of it is as a less technical Garbanzo or a Megavalanche without the mass start or maybe simply, a one stage enduro race.What Happened Next?
Enduro happened next. Although enduro had been raced in Europe for around 15 years, it took a while to make it over the Pond. When it did, racers realised they could get 5 or more Super D races in one go and the longer format quickly took over. For more info on the two formats, there's a breakdown with Joe Lawwill on Bike Mag, here
Red Bull Road RageWhat's the format?
First thought up in 2001 by Giant's Jon Mesko, the Red Bull Road Rage pitted four racers on any bike against each other in a road downhill race. The race first happened in 2005 with Myles Rockwell taking the win ahead of Eric Carter and John Wicke. The event was scheduled again for 2006 but fire safety concerns caused it to be cancelled. Courses ranged from 1-5km in length with average gradients ranging from 6.5-11%. What Happened Next?
In 2008, the series moved to Europe and changed from being invite-only to open to the public. Races were held up until 2013 with rounds in France, Germany, Switerland, Italy, Israel, Lativia, Poland and more. The series ended in 2014 and hasn't been run since.
Dual DownhillWhat's the format?
Dual slalom meets downhill with World Cup racers charging down a ski piste and over jumps. What it lacked in rhythm sections and tight berms, it made up for in high speeds and big air. Dual downhill was a fixture at the first-ever X-Games in 1995, when it was still called the Extreme Games, where Robert "Fig" Naughton took gold. What Happened Next?
As with Dual Snow Speed, Dual Downhill didn't stick around for long. In 1996, the event name Extreme Games officially changes to the X Games and, although it still takes place in Newport, R.I, kiteskiing, windsurfing and mountain biking are replaced by wakeboarding.