Freeride mountain biking combines aspects of downhill mountain biking and dirt jumping to create a discipline filled with breathtaking beauty and acrobatics.
Barreling down mountains at frightening speeds, riders use the natural terrain of mountain biking, combined with dirt jumps and other manmade features, to execute acrobatic tricks usually reserved for dirt-biking tracks.
The four-city tour tested the limits of freeride mountain biking on some of the most challenging terrain in the Pacific Northwest, culminating in a unique stunt in San Francisco Bay. On a specially build barge, equipped with jumps made from 1,800 cubic yards of dirt, the riders performed aerial tricks with iconic San Francisco landmarks such as Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge as backdrop.
In the Hood River Valley, along the Oregon and Washington boarder, professional mountain bikers Paul Basagoitia, 22, Robbie Bourdon, 28, and Andreau Lacondeguy, 20, started their "Weekend Adventure" riding down a trail with spectacular views of Mt. Hood from the Washington side of the river.
"The cool thing about mountain biking is you're always at the top of a mountain, so you do get those epic sceneries," Basagoitia said.
The trail also featured a steep cliff, adding an additional element of danger to the ride.
"It's not your average little trail," Basagoitia said. "You're up here at a pretty high level, which causes lots of crazy consequences. If you go off the trail, you go off the cliff so it brings in that danger factor."
The Hood River area provides a variety of terrain that suits both expert and beginner riders.
"Hood River is an awesome place, there's all sorts of different type of terrain you can ride," Basagoitia said. "You can go in the trees and ride single track or you can come up to the mountain where there are no trees and it's this cool long single track."
Mountain biking can be physically demanding on your hands and arms but doesn't require much pedaling.
"With this type of riding, pedaling really isn't an issue," Basagoitia said. "It's more about braking and about control. You've got to make sure you've got the equal amount of pressure on the front brake and the back brake at the same time or you could go over the handle bars."
From the Hood River Valley, the riders headed to Falls City, Ore., and the Black Rock Mountain Biking Area, a freeride mountain biking area with a variety of jumps, drops and manmade features.
Tucked into the dense timber of western Oregon, Black Rock challenges even the most experienced riders. "It's really dangerous but, at the same time, it's what we really love to do, and it's fun," Basagoitia said.
Basagoitia, Bourdon and Lacondeguy meticulously measure their jumps and landing areas before attempting any major aerial maneuvers. Performing new tricks and challenging themselves keeps them at the top of their sport, but they don't sacrifice safety to do so.