Freeride is Dead - Long Live Freeride!
After returning home from a Canadian riding adventure, Tristan made an abundance of exciting plans all with the clear goal of riding big jumps and showing what freeriding can look like in 2023. In this story, he takes you on his journey, both in his campervan and along his voyage of experiences.
Losing yourself, exploring new paths and seeing failures not as defeat but as valuable experiences is an essential part of every person's maturing process. Regardless of how many inspirational quotes you digest from the thinkers of the day, how often you watch videos of apparent successful people or absorb the stories and advice of friends and family, allowing yourself to be placed into preconceived categories lays the foundation for building unnecessary boundaries around you that don't actually exist.
Due to my strong tendency to not stay in one place for long, I quickly realised after my unforgettable trip to Canada that a new, even bigger adventure was my next goal. Together with my mate and my converted Transit van, I set off over the Easter holidays to explore Spain and escape the German winter.
My freshly rebuilt Yalla! was not only going to get covered in the finest Catalonian dust from the Pure Riding Bike Park, but also experience the challenges of the first-class jump lines at the 4Riders Bikepark. Initially, I was unsure whether my relatively large full 29” downhill bike was right for steep trails and jumps. But from the very first moment, I felt the excitement that I love so much - Riding jump lines with a big bike.
On the way back from our two-week Spanish adventure, a visit to Royal Hills near Toulouse, France was on the programme. As Flat Out Days in Slovenia had been cancelled, the Royal Fest Line was the closest destination to experience the vastness of big air for the first time. After we’d mastered the first few jumps leading up to the lily pad feature, we took on the bigger jumps. But based on the weather forecast, we knew that we only had this one day before the rain would arrive.
Despite the persistent wind, there were always short windows of time when we could ride. Unfortunately, I missed one of these windows and was hit head-on by a strong gust of wind. The next thing I remember was the face of the paramedic in the ambulance. With aching hands devoid of skin and a broken shoulder, we had to end the trip early.
At first, the French hospital couldn't confirm that my shoulder was broken. In the end, however, an MRI forced me to face the truth. Due to hairline fractures, there was a risk that, worst-case, my shoulder could break again at any time. Initially, this didn't sound so intimidating that it should stop me from riding. My list of planned summer adventures was still long.
After about eight weeks, which was characterised by a kind of semi-depression from not riding a bike, I finally found myself in Schladming with a great group of people around me. Even if I had my doubts at times, riding bikes is simply the best!
After returning from Schladming, I was in a lot of pain and realised that it might not have been the best decision to start riding again so quickly. So, I gave my body another break, spent more time with my family and reflected on the days gone by.
At the same time, I made some adjustments to my Yalla!. With my relatively short height of 175 cm and my desire for a more playful bike, there was no looking past moving to the shorter chainstay. I also had the opportunity to test the bike with a mullet setup. Especially in very steep sections, I noticed that the rear wheel felt much more agile.
With the new bike setup and shoulder still healing, I set off on my summer holiday to Portes du Soleil, the perfect place to put the Yalla! through its paces. Steep chutes, full on DH tracks and big jump lines were the perfect recipe for a summer to my liking.
I had originally planned to film my first edit after my trip to Spain. But unfortunately, that was impossible. It was important to me to produce not just any MTB edit, but to create something that showcased my skills on the bike and above all conveyed the feeling of good times and being free.
For the edit, all the stunts and trails were built together with friends during night-time sessions in the woods. A rock roller had been in my head for three years. So I had the idea of riding it one day. The feeling of hearing my mate's tyres, who looks a lot like me, sliding over the rock for the first time, and the confirmation that the rock was as rideable as I had imagined, was simply indescribable. My video production isn’t cancelled, just postponed for now.
At the end of September, accompanied by a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, I slowly reflected on the season gone by. Some of my mates continued their journey on the EDR circuit, others joined the road bike group rides and others spent their evenings in the local pub.
I couldn't place myself solely in any one group and yet I was a part of all of them. This feeling of not fitting into a particular category and the inability to explain to outsiders why I was jumping out of my bus or chopping logs out of the ground in the snow are aspects that, in hindsight, together with the experiences I gained from the season, had me finishing my coffee full of contentment.
Words: Tristan Bulant
Photos: Peter Walker