Where is the line?

Last week I read an article that included quotes from each of the Red Bull Rampage athletes from this year’s event.

Last week I read an article that included quotes from each of the Red Bull Rampage athletes from this year’s event.

A few of the athletes said that the new prize money and the appearance fees made it worth it this year. If you’re not familiar with the Rampage then quickly jump on the Google machine and then ask yourself if any amount of money would have you sending it off a 60-foot drop, never mind spinning a 360 off the same drop.

So this got me thinking about how a camera, or some competition can affect our acceptable levels of risk.

I am obviously not a Rampage athlete, but, on a smaller scale, have been affected by similar types of pressure. I enjoy riding technical trails and taking some risk. In my younger days I barely hesitated before rolling off a 20-foot drop, or riding a skinny 10 feet in the air, but that was the limit. Or was it?

If one of my buddies pulled out a camera I would push the limits just a bit more for the sake of a cool photo opportunity. If I was racing I would ride sections way faster than I felt was safe in the hopes of winning. These were not conscious decision at the time, it just happened. This approach brought me many rewards over the years, but many consequences too. I have a handful of medals and a couple of nice photos hanging about, but I also have a list of injuries that fills a small notebook and I can predict the weather pretty accurately just by the level of ache in my joints.

As I got older, my level of risk diminished. After experiencing a few major injuries comes a bit of fear, so I don’t jump off as much stuff and I think a lot more before trying to ride as fast as possible. I used to say “What’s the worst that could happen, a broken bone?” and then off I’d go. These days its more like “Whoa, I could break a bone doing this.”

With that all said, I am still affected by a camera and by competition. Just a while back I was out filming and had committed to a techy line. When we arrived, I realized I had the wrong bike, it was the wrong weather and on any other day I would have ridden around, but I’d committed and didn’t want to disappoint the camera man, or maybe it was the camera I was worried about.

I rolled into the chute despite that little voice in my head yelling “back off.” It didn’t go how I pictured it. After checking to see if I still had teeth, limping me and my bike out of the trails and spending two months rehabbing my shoulder, I felt a bit of regret.

The 30 seconds of adrenaline was not worth the consequences, despite the great video footage of me bouncing down a rock strewn hill on my face.

Do these Rampage athletes think its worth it, or is it just the pressure to perform that keeps them pushing the limits? Who knows? Everybody has a different level of acceptable risk and with increased skill and ability the risk is minimized.

I’d hazard a guess that riders on the podium feel it’s well worth it, where the guys in the hospital are rethinking things a bit.

So where is the line? I think its constantly moving. The pros are progressing so fast it’s mind boggling, where us mere mortals are probably assessing risk a bit differently and depending on the day, on the conditions, and whether or not there are cameras on site, the line gets moved accordingly.


I’m James Durand and I’m Goin’ Ridn’