Stevie Schneider at the Freeride Fiesta in Mexico
Grüß Gott Beinand… Grüß Gott... Greetings to my column
I've been incredibly lucky to visit magical places, to meet people I can't imagine living without, and to have adventures that have helped shape me and who I am. The key to all these experiences, enchanting moments and relationships was... my bike.
With this column, I would like to share with you the adventures I've had this year. I hope it will inspire you to set off on your own and create your own exciting stories.
This issue is about the Freeride Fiesta in legendary Mexico.
To brush up on my rusty jumping skills a bit before Mexico, I decided to visit one of my French jumping buddies. Alex Valls lives just outside of Paris and he's the brains behind the sketchiest spot I've ever seen.
He says it's all easy, but when you're doing a 20-metre step down, where you have to brake for your life in a landing no more than 2 metres wide, because otherwise you'll shave trees, bushes and other vegetation, I like to stick to just the sketchy description.
"Luckily" I had the sore throat of horror at the time, so I had an ideal excuse to avoid the step-down. I spent most of the time pretending to do some shovelling to improve the spot.
After a couple of days, my throat improved and we visited the spot of my good friend and now Rampage veteran William Robert.
Great landings, less messy runs, and virtually no limit on what you can do. The perfect conditions to get rid of my quitter's attitude, settle into my new fun ride and rebuild some of the confidence on the bike that I seem to magically lose every year after the winter break.
After what felt like 250 test jumps, I found that dusty confidence somewhere in the back of my mind and was mentally ready for Mexico.
The faint smell of rotten eggs as we landed at Guadalajara airport gave me a reassuring feeling, knowing I was in for one hell of a good time with my hombres.
Juan Diego, aka Johny Salido, is the mastermind behind the event. Together with his partner, Tobo Gangster, he organises the event which has grown considerably over the years.
As an invited rider, you stay at the family's lake house on Lake Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico. You’re literally immersed in a different world, with wakeboarding, water ski boats, a hot tub, volleyball, a pool, and more bells and whistles than any other hotel. (Note: It’s best not to dive into the lake as it can drastically affect your bowel movements).
The last few years I was the only Austrian, so it was even nicer that there were so many of us this year, including my beloved friends, Nadja and Luca, the Ruso Bros, Marco Haderer and Jakob Rest.
Directly after my arrival, the vitamin D and "I don't need a sun hat or cream" got into my head to such an extent that I immediately suffered sunstroke.
To get the event off to a "calm" start, we visited the event's main sponsor on the first day. Fortaleza Tequila produces Tequila in the traditional way. After this informative excursion about this magical agave drink, I learned that tequila made in the traditional way makes you incredibly tipsy and that you can quickly forget what you have learned.
The next day we visited the course. In accordance with the motto "bigger is better", the course was enlarged. The jumps looked even more impressive with a hangover.
Despite my morning ritual of meditation, yoga-like fidgeting, and Wim Hoff breathing, nothing changed in my sorry state. Despite my hangover, I was still relatively relaxed and confident about everything, including the 20 metre metal ramp in the middle of the course, which was decorated with two skulls on the side to make it look even more inviting.
Concerns aside, it was time to ride, and apart from the metal ramp and the following boner-log, the whole course was pretty good to ride. Hats off to Nadja for pushing herself and the freeride level of the Austrian ladies.
After the first few laps, as always, the rumours started among the riders about speed and the notorious wind. Some say you have to be much faster, others say you have to brake much more, while others, including some very well-known riders, say they don't ride the course at all.
Being an old munkler, I'm not immune to the rumours, and when it was my turn to jump over the metal ramp… well, how can I describe it? I should have listened to those who told me not to be too slow. I’m a whopping 3 metres short and once again lived up to my Mexican nickname "El Gato" by ducking and rolling smoothly. It actually helps me to fall on a feature like this that I have respect for beforehand, as it lets me know that it's just a jump after all.
A damn big jump that shoots you like an elevator into the penthouse or the basement of the cellar. Everyone was justifiably afraid of the cellar. So when my Swiss "Siach" Vitor Buchli overshot the kicker by far, the kicker got its own evil aura among the riders.
After the first few days on the course, the first injuries began to make themselves felt. The bike repair shop, physiotherapists, and nearby hospital were busy, and the injured were mainly found in the tent of the event's main sponsor.
To lighten the mood, a holiday was announced and we were all transported to the nearby volcano Nevado de Colima. Up at an altitude of almost 3600 metres, this is the best trail I have ever ridden. When you're racing down there with Sam Reynolds, Olivier Cuvet, and Johny Salido, screaming and laughing through your tears, you don't realise how much dust you can actually inhale.
We spent the evenings banging on pinatas, riding a plastic bull in a bouncy castle, or drinking "micheladas" - the Mexican beer cocktail and my personal favourite roadside drink. WARNING, the raw shrimp served with this drink are not recommended, as the cold chains and hygiene standards in the alleys of Mexico don’t necessarily match ours. If you eat the shrimp anyway on a "no risk, no fun" basis, as I did, you can expect it to whistle back through all your holes.
Back at the Freeride Fiesta course, as every day, the good old wind was waiting for us, which only gave us a late evening window to ride. That evening we had a stunning sunset session where I had the first and only top-to-bottom laps of the week that felt like pure flow.
The following public day was all about “Pinche Vento”, Mexican for shitty wind. It makes it incredibly dangerous to ride those big jumps, so the Freeride Fiesta turned into a Freeride Siesta.
Despite the wind, there were over 2500 happy visitors at the event, enjoying a motocross show and the many side events, or indulging in the agave juice with the riders.
After the wildness of the event, I had two weeks off in Mexico. Together with my girlfriend Laura, Johnny, and Tobo, we visited a midget wrestling event, Cenotes - the famous bright blue water holes, the pyramids of Chichen Itza, camped on a volcano and got carried away by the Mexican way of life, "muy tranquil".
If you also want to go to Mexico and need some insider tipps send Stevie a message @stevefuckingschneider