Opinion: When Does Risk Outweigh the Reward? How Red Bull Rampage Changed Our Perspective 88

It's Saturday night following the 10th Anniversary of the Red Bull Rampage, and I just came across a photo of Paul Basagoitia giving the camera a big thumbs up from his hospital bed. Paul was on the run of his life, nailing his line and bagging tricks with the best of them, when things went awry and he landed a little (okay, a LOT) too deep on what is probably the biggest step-down in MTB history. And then he crashed hard. REALLY hard. The crash where you're going 40+ miles per hour and high side before falling another 20 feet to packed dirt kind of hard. So hard that a mortal like me can't even fathom crashing that hard because I'd never find myself in that situation to begin with.

Paul is currently in ICU - basically the worst place you could ever wind up in a hospital - fighting to regain feeling in his legs after shattering his T12 vertebrae and undergoing nine hours of surgery.

*Gulp*

This is a heavy photo, Zink, and I know emotions were running high. It's time to speak up. Who are those "horrible people?"

Seeing Paul's thumbs up photo inspired me to write this piece, though it has been on the back of my mind for several years.

I remember being a grom watching New World Disorder something (I'd remember the number, but at the time they were all a glorious blur of awesome in my adolescent mind), and being blown away by this new guy on the scene who dirt jumped so damn well. He was throwing combos and variations no one else was doing at the time, and he seemingly came out of nowhere. Little did I know, just months before Paul had won the first ever Crankworx Whistler slopestyle event in 2004, on a borrowed bike no less. He went on to win many more competitions and set the pace in the dirt jump/slopestyle scene for a few years.

Over ten years later Paul is still a contender. He's as Pro as you can get. The man knows how to ride a bike, and he can ride one damn well. He's also a stand up character. And today I'd like to make a case why guys like Paul are being short changed, big time.

I have attended Rampage four times now, and last year I had the honor of being part of Paul Bas and KC Deane's shared dig team. As we stood on top of the mountain, I watched the two from behind as they choose a line down. They decided to stay far rider's right, sneaking behind the backside of the upper cliff before dropping down a hundred feet or more into what would be a 50+ foot canyon gap above the bottom ridge. With a line chosen, the hard work of sculpting something remotely ridable began.

We decided to start with the hardest part first - digging a five or so foot wide path into the side of the mountain that led into a large, precariously placed drop and a catch berm. This was honest to god back busting hard work. We toiled for hours to gain an inch as the mountain battled back against us, unyielding to our tools. Each time the pick axe landed it struck hard rock that made my hands sting as the impact buzzed through the handle.

The hours of slaving away went on, and on. All the while with our backs turned to one of the biggest cliffs I've ever stood next to. I was honestly scared shitless every time I swung the pick axe or threw a shovel full of dirt. Call me a pansy, but it was too much for my senses to handle. It's absolutely terrifying out there.

You saw Claudio Caluori's helmet cam - he rides all the rowdy World Cup courses at speed - well, Rampage doesn't even compare. The exposure and rawness of that mountain are something you have to see up close and in person to believe. Unlike many of his videos, Claudio's screams in the Rampage preview are real. He very likely did lose sleep about being asked to ride down it.

Renowned Red Bull Signature Series host, Sal Masekela, said it himself during the live feed. He "would rather take on Jaws tomorrow or a backcountry scenario with unstable snow" before dropping in on Rampage.

So where am I going with this? Rampage is gnarly. You get that. That's what makes it so awesome. But would you believe me if I told you the riders often can't even afford to pay for their travel to the event, much less pay for exorbitant hospital bills should they land six inches off line?

I remember Tyler McCaul coming in 5th place in 2013 and telling me that he could barely cover his whole trip with his earnings. In 2014 Kyle Strait was awarded $4,000 for his 4th place result, leaving just $1,000 take home after his expenses for two weeks in the desert. At an hourly rate that's probably worse than minimum wage. This year Cam Zink made just $3,000 for his 6th place finish, and the pay scale falls off fast after that. Many riders in the Top 10 couldn't even cover their gas expenses with the pennies they made for their efforts. Perhaps the biggest of all, the riders are not covered by an event insurance policy. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

This is MADNESS.

How can Red Bull do this to the best in our sport in good conscience? It's literally costing the Pros money to hurl themselves down the gnarliest mountain Red Bull could find, and they're not covered if they fall.

That's blatant exploitation. Seriously. And it's to the point where riders are facing more potential for worse injuries. Riders must bring their own insurance to the event, and are then required to sign a liability waiver freeing Red Bull of any responsibility.

This is the part where my mind wonders how this even became possible. Surely at some point in our sport's history the money was good enough to make it worthwhile, to make it enticing enough to these super talented riders to even consider trying it. I mean, it had to have been, right? Or perhaps it never was and this has been an issue for many years? Regardless, Red Bull hasn't kept up with the pace of the sport, rider progress, and growing risks.

Attention, validation, and recognition, it seems, may be the real driving forces behind the decisions the Pros make. Perhaps that's the society we live in, where standing on a podium, another hundred Facebook likes, or a video's final view count is sometimes more valued than anything else, though there's surely more to it.

The 2015 Red Bull Rampage had an invite list of 42 riders. At least seven of those riders found themselves in the hospital. That's 17%, or nearly one out of five who were badly hurt. In 2014 it was worse. Those numbers aren't good. Would you hit any drop on any trail with those odds of wiping out hard? Hell no you wouldn't.

Now I also must acknowledge that the sport itself is insane. It used to be that doing a backflip was a big deal, but not anymore. Now you have to find the biggest damn cliff or widest canyon to jump, and you had better do it with some style and a big trick to boot. God forbid you slip a pedal.

Another valid perspective is that no one forces the riders to compete. That's true, there's no gun to their head. Riders know the prize money before they accept their invitation, and they know the risks involved. If they can't afford to go, they don't have to go.

Shawn Spomer, who also writes here on Vital, reminded me that every year since Rampage began in 2001, a lot of the riders have been financially at ends with only a small handful making a living from mountain biking. Every year they knew the consequences. Every year the riders wanted to push themselves. Was 2015 any different? If anything, in 2015 all the riders have the history of disgusting crashes and lines to weigh their lives against. In 2015 they could probably make the most calculated decisions about competing being worth it.

Maybe the Pros are stoked for the opportunity and arena to push themselves. Maybe they fully agree with me. While Cam McCaul was announcing he said, "We all know the risks out here." Then Nico Vink stated - despite not even being able to really look at it because it was so steep - that he had to try his line because he'd regret it if he never did. That sounds more personal than Red Bull-influenced. No one wants these guys to risk their lives, but maybe they are okay with it, regardless of publicity/money/success? In some sense their lives have basically ramped up to the things they try to do at Rampage.

And then there's the FEST Series... a place where the riders hit the biggest jumps on the planet, again under their own free will. One key difference is that they do it in a safer environment, free of corporate pressures and time constraints, free of a live feed, and free of making someone a big pile of money. A friend recently told me, "We all want to feel like super-humans, and thanks to bikes sometimes we can." This is especially true in this instance.

So is it Red Bull's fault? No, it's not. That's not what I'm trying to get at. This is bigger than that. Yes, the Pros choose to do it, but what pressures do they face? At what point does passion no longer outweigh the possible outcome? Shouldn't their basic needs be met, including full coverage in an accident?

To add, the event has gotten to the point where every rider has to build some incredible and unique features to do well. You can't just ride down the mountain anymore. That's not nearly rowdy enough for the cameras. As a rider you have to bring a big build crew, which in turn means persuading your buddies to join your dig team.

Sounds like a dream, right? Building rad lines at Rampage? Think again. Shear exposure, smoldering temperatures, a risk of dehydration, sore muscles, blisters, snakes, and scorpions aside, these buddies will need to work 12 hours a day for six plus days in a row for nothing - because the vast majority of the riders can't afford to pay them. The diggers do it out of passion and love for their rider buddy whose "big day at Rampage" has finally come. The diggers are an often forgotten but major component of every rider's performance. "Privilege" only goes so far, and unfortunately lodging, food, and transportation don't pay for themselves. The riders do their best to make it happen for their build crews, but it's high time Red Bull properly acknowledges this crucial component.

Well then, why do it? I reached out to several riders in preparing this opinion piece. What Cam Zink said to me summed it up best:

"You do it for yourself, first and foremost, and there's a lot to be said about that. You're not going to do it just for the money or the fame. But if you are at a contest and someone is making money off of your efforts, your risk, and you're not really benefitting, that's where you run into a bit of a snafu. Rampage is perhaps Red Bull's biggest stage. It's one of their most viewed events ever, second only to the Stratosphere project with it's multi-million dollar budget. We're putting on a huge show for them, and someone else is getting the vast majority of the benefit in this scenario."

You surely noticed that Zink and others decided to bow out of a second run. Why is that?

In the end, how many hundreds of thousands millions of dollars of product are going to be sold on the backs of these riders? How many ads are going to be made from the photos and video clips? How many eyeballs are going to see their logo over and over again as the public watches in awe? It's time for Red Bull, and really every company that exploits the riders skill and courage (including Vital MTB), to share that benefit.

What really angered me about this whole situation wasn't the dollars though. As press, when we sign our papers to get approved for a media pass, among the many legal clauses we agree to is one stating that we will never post a photo of a bad crash or a rider's condition after the fact. It's literally the first clause in a two page agreement. Why not? Why the hell can't the public know what happens out there? Why must it be shrouded in secrecy? Rampage is no walk in the park. What you're asking the riders to do is a life or death situation. There's no hiding that. We understand keeping things quiet out of respect for the athlete and their family until the time comes if/when they want to tell the world, but Red Bull attempted to sweep this one under the rug. They stated that Paul was just fine and told the announcers the same (who in turn unknowingly told the public), when in fact he's fighting just to feel his legs and feet again, let alone walk. You only get in a medical heli evac when you're badly injured.

Red Bull's action in this instance was just plain wrong.

So I ask the mountain bike community this, is Red Bull a sport savior? Them rescuing the World Cup downhill live feed and sponsoring other big events may lead you to believe so.

Johan Hjord, another Vital writer, reminded me that Red Bull has had a very positive influence on mountain biking as a sport, and I hope they will continue to do so. Their image and what they do for some riders does indeed go beyond the event, and pretty much every time you see an athlete with a Red Bull helmet they are excited to wear it for the recognition, care, and paycheck that it brings with it. They even support spinal cord injury research.

Even so, if Red Bull (and other companies) truly want to further the sport, they need to start by ensuring that ALL of the guys that put their lives on the line are taken care of when tallying up their bottom dollar, regardless of the event. We're all partners in this together.

When I originally wrote this piece I was a bit teary eyed and furious over Paul's condition, and I intended to end it with a call to action for the Pros. The next time they found themselves on top of that mountain I wanted them to boycott the live feed, to refuse to drop in until their needs were acknowledged and met. To let the seconds, minutes, and hours tick by as the world patiently waits. I wanted them to make the corporations sweat a little while the cameras were rolling. Now I find myself looking at the bigger picture...

I don't know what the athletes in other major action sports are making and what benefits they receive, though I hope to hell that it's better than mountain biking. If it is better, mountain bikers deserve to be treated on the same level. But even then, even if those needs are met, I want you Pros to consider for a moment if it's still really worth it. Is it? Honestly? Because in our minds your lives are worth so much more.



It's time we raise the troops and rattle some cages - and I'm going to need your help doing it. I'm talking to you, riders, and to you, spectators, and to you, companies who truly live and breathe mountain biking. Help spread the word and help make the reward more worth the risk. This all points to a bigger picture, and unfortunately Red Bull falls at the brunt of it. The bottom line is that our Pros, our heroes, deserve more.

To Paul, Jeff Herbertson, Antoine Bizet, Tyler McCaul, Nico Vink, Tom Van Steenbergen, Carson Storch, and the others who were injured at Rampage, know that the entire mountain bike community is pulling for you. Hang in there and keep those thumbs up. You'll all be back on two wheels in good time. Don't rush your recovery though, because the way things stand right now, it's simply not worth it...

Show your support for Paul by sending him some encouraging words on his Facebook page. A donation fund is in the works. We'll keep you updated on his progress. Zink says Paul is in better spirits today and that surgery went as well as it could, but your help and support are still very much needed.

- Brandon Turman



UPDATE: June 23, 2016 - Red Bull Announces Several Changes to Rampage for 2016

UPDATE: October 28, 2015 - Red Bull responded to this article and some of the key questions/concerns raised by it. Read more in our follow up piece here: Red Bull Steps Up, Basagoitia on the Mend, Positive Changes for Rampage and the Bike Industry Ahead

UPDATE: October 20, 2015 - Red Bull posted a short article about Paul's crash, his current condition, and provided a link for community donations. They state:

"Five-time Red Bull Rampage competitor Paul Basagoitia was injured during his run at this year’s finals. He was taken to a local hospital where he continues to be monitored and receive treatment. Paul and his family wish to inform everyone that he is in a stable condition. Our thoughts are with Paul and his family at this time and we wish him a complete and speedy recovery.

You can find more information, as well as make a donation to the Paul Basagoitia fund, at road2recovery.com.

Paul — the two-time Crankworx Whistler slopestyle winner and first rider to land a double backflip in natural terrain — famously burst on to the scene in 2004 like no other rider before him. He entered his first slopestyle on a borrowed bike and claimed a massive upset victory over the sport's current heroes. Innovating the flat drop tailwhip among other unique combinations, Paul has been known as one of modern mountain biking's most prolific contributors to the progression of the sport ever since.

Paul's unique line at this year's Rampage was no different, challenging the judge's highest-scoring terrain, and traversing the course's most exposed southern boundary. After landing a backflip that led into a 360 and a one-handed step-down, Paul crashed on the runout of a large step-down jump further along the course.​ Paul was immediately attended to by on-site medical staff before being transported to a hospital."

Read the full article here.

UPDATE: October 19, 2015 - Road2Recovery has started an official fund to help Paul with his medical costs. Donate here. Even if it's a small amount, every little bit will add up to a big difference.

UPDATE: October 19, 2015 - From girlfriend Nichole Munk: "His chest tube that was put in to assist with access to his spine during surgery was removed today and he is such a fighter that he is already looking forward to rehab! This is all new territory for us and we are flooded with information right now, but he will beat this! Thank you to all the riders, sponsors, friends and people involved with the event that have shared their support."

UPDATE: October 19, 2015 - From Cam Zink:

Create New Tag
88 comments
  • Fuzz

    2/14/2016 12:19 PM

    I watched the videos and thought to myself how are those guys alive? It's nuts where they have pushed this sport. If my child was a pro-mountain biker, I would be bummed. The risk/reward ratio isn't there for me.

    I want to comment though that I doubt Red Bull makes millions off these events like you suggest, or that a post that gets 100K shares is worth that much. I think advertisers pay around $50 for posts to instagram accounts with tens of thousands of followers.

    I think the real reason that Redbull doesn't insure riders is that Redbull doesn't make enough money for them to make a profit AND insure riders. Downhill MTB is a tiny sport. Yes, it's growing, but compared to something like tennis, swimming, MMA or another fringe sport, it's probably several orders of magnitude smaller in terms of audience size and the value of those eyeballs to advertisers.

    The idea that putting on a comp like this once a year is a big money maker for Redbull is probably false. What are their margins? 50 cents a can? What would a comp like this cost? 2 million? Are they going to sell an extra 4 million cans by doing this comp? If there are 400,000 downhill mountain bikers are we all going to buy an extra 10 cans of Redbull after seeing this video and therefor cause Redbull to break even? We can argue about the numbers, and I just made all those numbers up, but I bet they're ballpark.

    If Redbull didn't do this competition, they could put up even more ads in magazines or whatever and sell only slightly less cans, right? My guess is that Redbull loses lots of money on most of the comps they sponsor and every now and then makes a ton of money on one competition when a video goes viral, and in the aggregate does okay.

    From inside the industry, I think it's hard to see how small mountain biking is. From outside the industry, I think the reason that riders don't make much money is obvious: there isn't that much money to go around.

    Riders do it for the love and not the money. It's not weird that these guys can be the 10th best in the world at something incredibly dangerous and hard, like mountain biking, and get paid much less than the millionth best public school teacher or assistant manager at a chain restaurant. It's a market signal.

    Young men do stupid things. These are consenting adults doing things that are not rational. Which is why I hope my kid becomes the 500th best pro golfer rather than 5th best mountain biker.

  • bturman

    10/28/2015 12:21 PM

    UPDATE

    Red Bull responded to this article and some of the key questions/concerns raised by it. Read more in our follow up piece here: http://www.vitalmtb.com/features/After-the-Crash-Red-Bull-Steps-Up-Basagoitia-on-the-Mend-Positive-Changes-for-Rampage-and-the-Bike-I,937
  • BrianBuell

    10/28/2015 10:30 AM

    A day late and a dollar short as usual while this quick moving world rolls on. I've digested a lot of information since the event(I attended) and have privately discussed this matter with some individuals, even had dreams about it. As an athlete that has competed/managed at the highest level and has tasted some level of success, I feel like I have a moral duty to comment on this issue from my perspective.

    What's my worth?

    I always aspired to be the fastest person down the mountain. I wanted to win! The lifestyle surrounding the sport kept me involved and interested. In the beginning I worked throughout the winter, and found a flexible summer job so I could compete. Over the years I got better, started to understand how to be a professional and eventually managed a national level team. I understood what a partnership was and how to provide a service in return for support and product. That was the main concern, just receiving enough product and support to be remotely successful. It took me a long time before I realized that I was selling myself short as an individual and didn't understand my true value as an athlete. I was uninformed and uneducated as an athlete, and was part of the problem as I risked my life, for a free ride and some minor financial support. This mindset created the current status quo. Why should sponsors include a salary, insurance and other benefits, when the majority of top level athletes don't ask for them!

    This process took over eight years of competing at the pro level for peanuts, sure I enjoyed it and I was having fun, but, I had this realization of self worth as an individual seeking support for the 2015 season.

    To create a salary baseline I wanted to see for myself what others in my profession at the same or higher level were being compensated, so I bluntly asked many of my peers and the results were revealing, and all across the board. Athletes being represented, or that knew how to communicate well with their partners were creating a living for themselves, but this was the minority. Many of the sports elite were just happy to receive product, travel and support. They didn't realize, like myself, that we were devaluing not just ourselves, but the sport as a whole. I advocated to all of them that it was important to realize their worth, and to not settle the next negotiation cycle. Better yet, seek out someone with knowledge, and have them represent you as an athlete. Create a budget, show your potential employer how it stacks up, as many partners don't understand the financials.

    I don't want to get long winded, so I'll wrap it up and keep it simple. Athletes across the MTB spectrum have to value themselves, plain and simple. If they do not, the risk will always outweigh the reward at the pointy end of the stick.

  • ianjenn

    10/24/2015 8:12 PM

    Brandon,

    I have read this a few times. I am wondering why Red Bull doesn't place all the competitors onto the companies insurance plan for the 1 week period? This would at least cover the medical aspects.....

    Also the dollar figure to insure these guys even at this event is a pittance compared to running a F1 team for the weekend....

  • colcio

    10/22/2015 2:44 PM

    Here is a good, funny post on what Red Bull Rampage is : http://www.mtbtreks.com/quick-guide-red-bull-rampage-free-ride-mountain-biking/

    These guys don't really give a monkey about safety, millions, and what people think about the risks. They do it for glory and honour , and they'd do it even if they dad to pay themselves for doing it. If real skills and hard work were paying, it would be them, Olympic wrestlers, gymnasts, and a few other athletes making real money, not fat old geezers hitting a golf ball. But unfortunately it's fat, old geezers that make rules in this world.

  • Jeremy_McLean

    10/23/2015 12:14 PM

    1. "They dont give a monkey about saftey" why do they wear protective gear. Why do riders become depressed when they are not able to ride because of injury.nobody likes injury and risk its just something thats involved in the sport.

    Dont make overly simplified statements that make the sport look stupid or caveman like. Cycling is a passion that has risk and with that reward. They arent looking for a cheap trill but rather to exceed and surpass their goals that differ between athlete.

    2.wrestlers and gymnasts both require balance/speed and strengh; of which are harder and more costly to develop due to injury and natural limitations. Of all natural sports(ie without bikes or cars) the best athletes in the world are sprinters and marathon runners (the most straining mentally and physically)

    3. Golf is a dying sport, however it is one of the top five sports in the world in terms of participation. Its more mental than physical and is impossible to master. No you dont have to be a fat old geezer to golf but you have to sacrifice your life to be good at it. If all sports could be mastered in 10,000 hours golf would take 5x that. Fyi golf is an olympic sport.

    Dont bash other sports

  • colcio

    10/24/2015 3:07 AM

    I think you misunderstood me here a little bit. Where did i indicate this sport is stupid or caveman like ? Generally speaking they don't give a monkey, cos this sport is about danger. Nobody wants to be injured, that's for sure, but they probably worry more about injury putting them out of the next competition. To me they have one of the biggest pair of balls.

    " the best athletes in the world are sprinters and marathon runners (the most straining mentally and physically)"

    Dude, this statement tells me that you know about sport as much as my 8 year old son, if not less. Sprinters and marathon runners might be the best at what they're doing, but the most straining mentally and physically ? You made my day, I'm still laughing Runners' over all fitness is nothing to be proud of. Poor balance, coordination and flexibility. In general they don't have tools to survive wrestling warm up. Their over all fitness and mentality would not last 2 minutes in wrestling conditioning workouts. On the other hand any national level wrestler will complete a marathon. The only thing marathon runners and sprinters are good is running a marathon and sprinting.

    I am not bashing any sport, golf involves a lot of skill too. I just think some athletes deserve a better payments than the other.

  • mjvande

    10/21/2015 8:12 AM

    (Comment removed by moderator. Reason: Off topic.)

  • philhami2008

    10/21/2015 8:21 AM

    People like you are what's wrong with this sport do some real research or choke on some fleshy sausage. Without mountains there are no mountain biking why would we ruin the habitat we love to ride in there's more damaging done by house back riding than mountain biking and actually the talks built have been shown to slow erosion and show me a vshape rut caused by a mountain bike I'll show you an idiot in the mirror the website you use it's not credible

  • Oz_Taylor

    10/21/2015 8:22 AM

    Quite possibly the most inappropriate place to post this nonsense.You sir need a life. You could start by buying a mountain bike.

  • BrianBuell

    10/21/2015 10:40 AM

    Not the time or place to post this nonsense. But since you did...

    Hey Buddy, I don't need to provide links to studies and blabber on and on about an opposing view regarding your post. Mountain biking is a healthy lifestyle, one that has probably saved more lives than its lost. If it wasn't for mountain biking I wouldn't be the person I am today, I wouldn't have married my wife and I certainly wouldn't have seen the world. Mountain biking has done so much for me, I'm so grateful for that.

    I wish the best for Paul and for a full recovery, I'm sure he has no regrets about living his mountain bike life and I respect him so much as an athlete and competitor. Paul, today I ride for you bud!

    Lets enjoy our experiences, and learn to share the path to happiness.

  • DubC

    10/21/2015 11:25 PM

    Exactly Todd - Mike Vandeman is a convicted felon for assaulting MTB'ers. He has been threatening bay area mtb'ers and spreading lies for years.

  • Kelly

    10/20/2015 10:30 PM

    These athletes need to value themselves more. What are they worth? That is the question they need to answer collectively. If Redbull wants to sponsor them, then the athletes need to come up with their price, collectively. Redbull and the other sponsors would have to negotiate with these athletes if they demanded appropriate sponsorship. These athletes need agents representing them. Come on boys. Get organized! Value yourselves!

  • tdoe49

    10/20/2015 1:27 PM

    I do not understand why these "professional" athletes let themselves get fucked over like that. These people really are super humans to me. Redbull makes more money off these riders every day than any of them will make in a lifetime. Rampage is the biggest, most gnarly event every year. These riders have talent no actor or movie star could ever attain. But they're treated like average Joes with big balls. Its like their chasing a dream that isn't even there right now. I think if red bull wants to keep blowing up the event the riders should be treated like kings. The event would be nothing without them. I know they all have their own sponsors (which by the way, why aren't they providing [first class] transportation, lodging, and insurance for their riders putting their lives on the line to represent their coorporations?) but if redbull wants this even to be great the riders should be able to to focus on one thing; riding their line, and having a good time. Why go through all the stress of getting to this event, and making it out, if you get home and have just dug yourself a hole? I dont know about red bull, but if i was in charge of a probably billion dollar company, i would never ask over 40 riders to come and ride my deadly event unless i was going to provide them VIP service. Theyre all PROFESSIONAL athletes. They should ALL be MAKING money to SHOW UP to this event. I dont know what the winner made but $4,000 for a 4th place finish in this kind of event is a JOKE. /rant

  • bizutch

    10/20/2015 1:32 PM

    You're in sponsor denial. Realize that YT had 4 riders who were there on their US sales teams bikes. They gave them free bikes because they just opened and probably don't even have a budget to speak of. 4 riders on free frames...that's the extent of that sponsorship brother. Maybe a cheap hotel room.

  • SpokeApparel

    10/20/2015 9:07 AM

    Awesome to see Paul sitting up.

    BT's article covers a ton of arguable topics. Respectfully, the majority of the comments do not address what insiders seem to know (either factually or instinctively). You aren't going to see a publication run with an opinion piece like this unless something seriously stinks. And you aren't going to see an ambassador like Zink throw a major event brand under the buss unless something is foul. Whatever caused this article (and Zink's call-out) is greater than insurance coverage, greater than someone getting "hurt" in a contest where they knowingly assumed the risk, and greater than prize money.

    The only reason I am inserting myself into this conversation is because I believe in these two guys. I know what they are doing is coming from a place of actionable concern. Something's gotta change and it seems that someone may have let something happen that should not have happened. This should concern spectators, athletes and sponsors alike. Of course, I could be wrong. But I don't think I am. Read between the lines guys.

  • Lastmissouriexit

    10/20/2015 7:41 AM

    Will Olsen was killed in early August at the Crested Butte EWS. There was much sadness and compassion expressed throughout the MTB community, but not the outrage that is following Bas' injury. What's the difference? More money? Hardly. Lower risk? Hardly. The absence of a hi-def video of the incident? Perhaps.

  • fireant

    10/20/2015 7:00 AM

    Seeing something like this happen to a rider is a tragedy.. no one ever wants to see their hero's or friends hurt especially doing something that they love.

    I don't think putting all the blame on red bull is right though, but having a media black out seems pretty ridiculous however and that should not be allowed, and, while I agree with some of what he wrote and respect Brandon for writing that article he freely signed the contract not to post pictures etc of crashes, if it was OK to sign before then why is it all of a sudden such an issue? (if everyone in the media refused that then would RB look at safety more seriously?)

    Zink's post about Paul left a bitter taste in my mouth and only for his hashtag.. in none of the lead up in his own diary nor his sponsorship of the event (YT kicker) did he use it so why now.. unless they were under the impression RB would compensate them for injures which I highly doubt, he was happy to promote the event, and in turn that promotes him, his brand and products allowing him to get more cash for sponsorship, Just as Brandon signed the contract so he could have access to shoot and publish his work which in turn leads to getting paid and better work, now I'm not saying it's done without thought or pause but at the time it's deemed an acceptable action and only brought to question when the worst happens, RB aren't the only people who make money from this they just make the most and have the brightest logo so get the most criticism.

    When I was a kid I'd always end up doing things that were a little reckless with my mates, always pushed on by them to do more or jump from something higher etc etc and I pushed them on to do the same.. so who's to blame, me for doing it or them for pushing?, once we'd done one thing we go find something bigger or badder to do, not because we expected to hurt ourselves but because of a primal instinct to do more than we did yesterday and push ourselves further. At the end of the day we're all responsible in some way or other and to a bigger or lesser degree, either by being the one who's doing it, taking the pictures and videos or by watching it and shouting our hero's on.

    If Red Bull should cover the cost of insurance for anyone attending their event then all organizations would have to as well, Smaller organizations simply wouldn't be able to sustain that model and that would force our sport underground.. then what would happen, you'd be racing or doing jumps etc and have an injury, who do you claim off then? the bike manufacturer? the land owner?.. hell maybe you should claim off the Pro rider you saw in the video doing a jump as if he can do it then you should be able to? right?, there comes a point when you say in your head 'yes I'm going for this' and for me that makes you the most responsible party, providing you've been able to weigh up all the risks involved of course.

    Even without event's like Rampage people would be pushing themselves to do more and more, there's a huge amount of people that have suffered injuries through doing sports already, the only difference is that Rampage etc have big media spot lights on them and you're local woods etc don't,

    Risk vs Reward.. It's apparent by the article that the money isn't great so that's really a token gesture and the real reward is the feeling of making a run, pushing themselves further, and being top of their game, with extreme sports winning and the sense of pushing personal boundaries is the goal, prize money isn't all that drives people, it just allows them to spend more time thinking up badass things to do.

    Anyway that's enough rambling on :-) .. Healing vibes to Paul and anyone else who's hurting.. I hope you'll make a full recovery and get back to doing what you love.. whatever that may be.

  • xyian

    10/20/2015 7:46 AM

    I agree with Fireant. Yes, part of this blame lies with Red Bull. They're going to be the largest martyr. They're the main sponsor who likely kept this event alive. Another part of the blame has to go to the riders' sponsors. I'm certain they're pushing for their riders to enter the event for the exposure they gain. A huge part of the blame has to go with the riders. Yes, there's most certainly the glory for competing and possibly winning Rampage. But they have the choice to take it easy or go balls to the wall and really put their lives at risk.

    Red Bull is simply offering the money up front for the infrastructure, operations and ability to hold the event. It's like breaking your ankle leaving a hockey game and threatening to sue the arena's sponsor just like if you hurt yourself riding at Rampage. Do we sue Red Bull if we hit up the Rampage site in March? No. Their liability lies in making sure the event runs. There most certainly has to be some sort of holding company that is organizing the riders, judges and others, right? Or is Red Bull handling all the logistics as well? If so, then they should be offering up some sort of insurance rights for the riders(AND the diggers!!! Have you seen some of the cliff methods of these kooks??).

    I feel a large unspoken part of the thirst for blood comes from the sponsors. I'm certain YT, GT, Fox, SRAM, etc... are more than happy to help fund their riders to go to Rampage but these companies likely do not offer any sort of insurance for their riders. Why? Because riders are replaceable. Sad but true. There's always a hungry kid willing to jump off a building. I've seen it in skateboarding yet it's matured enough over the years for them to invest in their riders and offer insurance for their daring actions. It's time the sponsors grew up and offered the same even if it means a little less from their bottom line. People aren't numbers. People are what allow their products to be promoted. And what better to promote the extreme nature of your products than some meat hucking off of cliffs and your product surviving. Isn't that worth a little coin to ensure that meat can continue hucking or are people that expendable?

    A large part of this has to fall on the shoulders of the riders. At what cost should it be to attain glory? Are they that thirsty for money and fame that they are willing to take those risks? I understand...if they don't do it someone else will. I also understand wanting to progress and challenge yourself. But when is it too much. Like Lacondeguy said "It’s kind of like smoking cigarettes,' he said. 'It’s bad, everyone knows it’s bad, but it’s still kind of fun.". This is a dangerous school of thought, honestly. I'm glad there's guys out there taking the risk but at some point someone is going to die. Look at Rogatkin. In most major sports, if you're concussed you have to go and sit in silence for a bit(but staying awake) to give your brain a break, not ride down a cliff and do backflips. There need to be some regulations and protocol put into place for riders, diggers and organizers. If they don't set up protocol out there in the wild west someone is most certainly going to die...soon. You can't keep progressing beyond 72 foot jumps without that eventuality occurring.

    So, think about it. There's a lot of people to blame. But, ultimately, I feel the riders and organizers need to sit down and stop solely blaming Red Bull and own up to it together. They need to put some restrictions, protocol and agreements in place to ensure rider safety, digger safety, crowd safety and organization's safety. Otherwise, this event won't last much longer. It's not something they should let wash away after the public is done ranting this week or next. It's something that should be considered for the investment of the event. As much as I used to like watching Rampage this year was the first year I wondered if someone really would die at the event. I just didn't enjoy it as much and likely won't be as interested next year. It has little to do with what occurred but more to do with the judging, infighting and overt danger which the riders are inflicting upon themselves. I wondered to myself at what point do I determine that in my riding. For me, it's barely a 6' drop. That's about 66' shy of what these guys are doing but I also don't want to die. Yet, you could die stepping off a curb. But I have protocol wired in my brain to (hopefully) ensure that doesn't happen.

  • TBubier

    10/20/2015 8:05 AM

    These were the best two posts I have seen on this topic so far.
    IMO accountability is the main issue here. It seems to me that in our fine country people are quick to place blame everywhere other than themselves for their own actions. I think there needs to be more focus on not only the riders accountability but also the people that were assisting them aka. their build teams. The builders helped design each riders line and at any point they probably could have taken a step back and spoken up and made it known that they didn't feel the line was safe or that it was a bit too risky.
    I also think the way this unfortunate accident was dealt with immediately after was a bit distasteful by using the rampage hashtag. Seems like Cam was all for rampage until he wasn't.
    Also, I can't help but think if Brandon would have still written the opinion piece if his buddy didn't have the bad crash that he did.
    Lastly, I wish Paul all the best and hope he has a quick recovery.

  • huckleberryfinn

    10/20/2015 4:10 AM

    When bad things happen the first thing is to find someone or something to blame. Many fingers point at Redbull, after all they are organizing this gladiator show and they will keep doing it as long as its profitable and they are legally allowed to do so. I agree it sucks if the athletes feel exploited. The ones who feel this way the most are probably already doing something else, not competing or taking part in enduro etc.

    In the end of the day the competitors (who are the most aware of this exploitation) willingly take part year after year because they feel it's worth it. They know the dangers, concider the consequences, accept the invitation, they know the prize money, they decide what protection to wear, they know the sweat needed to build line they will ride, the tricks they will attempt most importantly they know how they will be portrayed in the eyes of the public if they win it or even compete in it. It's hard to put a price tag on being king of the mountain or THE idol for thousands of kids. If it doesn't seem worth it, it probably isn't.

    Redbull provides the stage and the connection for us thursty accident vid clicking viewers to be able to see what is going on in the top level of this particular sport. In this case the discipline happens to be DH MTB or Freeride what ever you wish to call it.
    If it was safe it wouldnt be what it is. COuld riding a foot wide ridge with deadly drops both sides be considered safe, not to mention the jumps? In this day and age danger is cool. For many that makes the Rampage tittle one of the most sought after as a freeride mountain biker.
    Having airbags, nets, restrictions, safety controls etc wouldn't take a way the possible nasty outcomes. That would take away the 'free' in freeride, in which gnarliness is the point in the first place.

    Having higher prize money would be fair and probably deserved, but that is not going to prevent the riders from getting hurt and I highly doubt anyone does it for money in the first place anyway. Higher prize money and travel etc expenses paid might attract more participants, but it wouldn't make it any less dangerous or the injured athletes feel any better.
    Having insurance required would be definately be a step forward, but that's not going to prevent the athete from getting hurt. Having insurance covered by a sponsor or competition organizer isn't likely going to happen since it isnt demanded by the athletes. I suppose the events could be boycotted, but there will always be athletes who are happy with the conditions and risk taking related to the skills they have.

    Creating a union guaranteeing safety or salary might somehow work in the world cup circuit, but how can it be organized or adapted to these oneoff events like Rampage, Hardline or others with this character. It's not really about money, but proving you have the best skills the biggest cojones.

    I sincerely wish all injured riders a fast recovery.

  • chyu

    10/20/2015 12:48 AM

    or you can be #POACHeli, choose the lines from top and hit it.

  • HourGlassPhotos

    10/19/2015 11:16 PM

    I feel there should be some kind of structured union that gives all the athletes a safe place to go to and find links to their needs and wants where people will work together to not only help get proper insurance for the athletes, but set up sponsorship options for athletes and give them advice on how make a future for themselves, work closely with companies to build these events and make them more structured for the athletes to a point where it's much more beneficial for all parties involved. almost seems like the UCI should become a big name partner for FMB. That will open lots of doors for athletes. Agree or disagree I would happy to hear what everyone thinks of these ideas. (I didn't think all this through) just wrote what came to mind. I have lots of ideas that come to mind but overall I'm kind of bummed that Rampage all of a sudden has this black eye because of this crash, where as we've seen multiple crashes over the years and this one sparks all the news and uprising. I wish nothing but the best of every single person and I am glad people are now trying to stepup and raise a needed voice. But in doing so remember to look at both sides of the coin both rider and promoter view points and when doing so it will take some of the heatedness out of the context and help give a better idea and clear prospective. If Redbull or any other governing party takes over there will far more rules and regulations and strict guidelines... remember what is being asked for and weight all the points with equal thought and try hard to leave the emotions at the door. Remember the name of this game is "Free Ride Mountain Biking" it has that name for a real good reason.

  • bizutch

    10/19/2015 8:08 PM

    I hope you all read this because it's something of a "fact". I write insurance, some pretty crazy policies too sometimes, and one thing to understand is that THERE IS NO INSURANCE POLICY FOR THIS TYPE OF EVENT!!! Sure, you race a USAC bike race, you get secondary coverage that will pay 70/30 after you use all of your existing policy and that's just a bike race, not an "event" (IF YOUR INSURER DEEMS RAMPAGE IS COVERED). But that coverage is easy, simple and a large pool of risk (100's of thousands of riders). Pretty generic "racing" risk.

    But even if the event promoter or RedBull wanted to insure the riders, not even Lloyds (I've written a simple and yet wacky policy by them) will write it. See Turman's odds listed above. 1 in 5 riders would file a claim.

    So let's move past what seems like a simple solution of having the event or promoter cover them (unless you're talking about RedBull self insuring the event for $2 Million plus...that's cash in an account that's guaranteed to pay out to riders if injured, which ain't happening).

    Look past insurance. The solution will not come in the form of insurance money to piece together a shattered body. The only protections we can put in place are the better judgement of the riders who must weigh the risk of the moment with the potential for future income they might gain versus their own body, health, income and possibly their life.

    The true solution for the riders is to request the financial report from RedBull to determine what RedBull actually makes on the event so they know how much of that profit they should be entitled to. Don't ride until the riders vote that the prize money is enough.

  • FastNate

    10/19/2015 6:55 PM

    Hey Brandon,
    Where does the FMB stand in all this? They are the governing body of the FMB world tour which rampage is a part of and I haven't seen them do anything for any of the riders. They have nothing about concussions in their rule book. Also, what about the third party event management team that is hired out to manage the event? I believe they're called H5Events ( http://www.h5events.com/ ). There's many stakeholders in creating rampage and i feel the FMB and whatever Event management team who handles the event should have some responsibility when things aren't planned or looked after. (e.g.- Letting Rogatkin ride again, not having any regulations about concusssions etc). Imagine how much shit would be given to an events management team who didn't provide traffic management for a marathon. Every stakeholder who benefits from someone's pain is a shit one.

  • SpokeApparel

    10/19/2015 7:05 PM

    Couldn't agree more. Thanks for naming and calling those stakeholders into question.

  • bturman

    10/19/2015 5:24 PM

    An official donation fund has been set up for Paul through Road2Recovery. Please contribute what you can.

    http://www.road2recovery.com/cause-view/irideforpaul/

  • mfoga

    10/19/2015 5:17 PM

    One part I don't get here is so this guy spends all year riding and training for events like this with no insurance? Do other events provide insurance?

    The but that Sal said is someone taken out of context. Sal knows that at Jaws you have a vest on that you inflate on wipeout. There is a ski with a rescue board to grab ASAP. The skiing even Sal admits is with the skiing he would have an airbag to keep you on top of the Avalanche. So the only difference is the level of self preservation of the surfers and skiers. They make airbags for motorcycles why can't something like that adapted? My opinion is it would look bad, can't look cool in shorts jersey helmet and knee pads if you have to wear a suit that holds an airbag.

  • Nozes

    10/19/2015 4:22 PM

    Great writing and well put opinions here.
    But I'm somewhat shocked nobody here raised the body armour question.
    Wouldn't a simple back protector had prevented this life-changing injury?
    Back in the day Bender was doing those crazy jumps nobody else dare to try and crashed an awful lot. He wore 2 motocross chest and back protectors,one over the other.
    I'm prety sure that's what kept him alive.

  • SpokeApparel

    10/19/2015 4:27 PM

    Not in Paul's case. He broke his T12 by what appears to be a super slam to his tail bone area. Watch his run again.

  • philhami2008

    10/21/2015 1:16 AM

    From what I've seen he wasn't wearing any back or chest protectors having said that I've raced before. I had a "career ending" (if you want to call it that for me) spinal cord injury in which I'm walking because of said equipment and saying t12 wouldn't be covered is not true there are spinal protectors that cover that. Not saying that it would have lessened his injury but surely would have greatly reduced the chance of said injury or reduced severity. Protection does help i know 1st hand but am preying for the guy to recover can't put all the weight on the media source when the competitors don't wear all the protective equipment

  • sino428

    10/19/2015 3:42 PM

    I've seen the suggestion alot that Redbull provide event insurance for all of the riders. While that sounds good in theory I'm not sure that something like that is possible while also keeping the event the way it is now, with the riders having such freedom to build and ride whatever they want. As soon as one party (wether it be Redbull itself or whatever insurance carrier) assumes responsibility for the entire event the door opens for all types of new safety regulations/restrictions on what riders can do. I mean put yourself in the shoes of Redbull or the insurance company. Are they going to be ok with guys hucking themselves off 50ft cliffs with unfinished landings (Vink)? 80ft canyon gaps upside down? All while most guys are wearing minimal padding and no body armor? The only way to allow these guys complete freedom to ride the lines they want too, the way they want too ride them (which is what Rampage is all about) is to have them be responsible for themselves. It can't really work any other way. Otherwise you would have people from Redbull or some insurance company stepping and and deciding what amount of risk is too much or what lines riders can and cannot ride.