Bike (USA) - - Grimy Handshake -

‘Chain­saw’ Smith, who orig­i­nally had been slated to be part of the film (and will be the sub­ject of a spe­cial trib­ute seg­ment).

“Both me and Joe have a lot of his­tory with th­ese rac­ers, and we’ve seen amaz­ing things from them at the races,” says Aaron ‘Mono’ Bartlett, di­rec­tor of Cre­ative Con­cept and a long­time Steel City co-con­spir­a­tor with Bow­man. “But th­ese rid­ers aren’t re­ally fo­cused on look­ing good for the cam­era, so we wanted to take them away from the races and put them on cus­tom-built tracks in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, so they can truly show off their skills.”

One of th­ese cus­tom tracks, cre­ated for Bruni’s seg­ment, took the troops to the main is­land of Madeira, an archipelago

to the south­west of Por­tu­gal. Scouted and laid out with the help of Bruni last Au­gust—just weeks be­fore he won his sec­ond-ever World Cham­pi­onship in Cairns, Aus­tralia—the line fea­tures mul­ti­ple jumps and rhythm sec­tions de­signed to help Bruni demon­strate his fluid style.

“We had so many ideas, and it was tak­ing more time to fin­ish it than pre­dicted, so we were get­ting a lit­tle wor­ried,” says Bruni. “But the lo­cal guys at (moun­tain bike tour com­pany) Freeride Madeira had helped us scout, and they were su­per stoked on the whole thing. So, they ended up fin­ish­ing half the track with shov­els.

“In the end, it wasn’t ex­actly like a ma­chine-built track, but it had a re­ally good dy­namic, and I thought it was sick.”

De­scend­ing on Madeira just a few weeks af­ter Bruni won Worlds, he and the Steel City team hit the ground run­ning, film­ing his en­tire seg­ment in eight days.

“It was so cool to ride on a track I helped de­sign, and I could only en­joy it,” says Bruni. “With all the jumps and rhythm sec­tions, it let me try things I wouldn’t do in a race and helped show the flow of the trail.

“DH rac­ing is just about speed, and when you’re go­ing fast in a race, you don’t see any­thing spe­cial on the trail.

But when you’re go­ing a bit slower you can just play more and have more of a ride. Hope­fully I’ll look way bet­ter in the video than I look in a race.”

This is pre­cisely what Steel City hopes to achieve with “Gam­ble.” By tak­ing th­ese rac­ers out­side the strin­gent con­fines of race tape, where their skill is con­veyed to fans in split-sec­ond in­cre­ments, they’re able to slow things down and cap­ture the nu­ance of their tech­nique in more atom­istic de­tail, says Bartlett.

“In the races, we see rid­ers for only three to five sec­onds at a time, and we’re un­der a lot of pres­sure just to get the clips,” he ex­plains. “But to get qual­ity clips that will re­ally do th­ese guys jus­tice takes a lot more time to film.”

Wran­gling this cast of com­mit­ted pro­fes­sion­als—and spend­ing a week with each of them in lo­ca­tions around the world—has been a her­culean ef­fort, with rid­ers and filmers strug­gling to align sched­ules and squeeze in most of the film­ing dur­ing the off-sea­son.

“It’s been dif­fi­cult, but our back­ground on the rac­ing cir­cuit and the close re­la­tion­ships we’ve built with th­ese rid­ers has re­ally helped us,” says Bow­man. “They trust us and know that it’s go­ing to be a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort.”

In Bruni’s case, such friend­ship and col­lab­o­ra­tion were key to his par­tic­i­pa­tion.

“Mono is a real friend,” he says. “He was do­ing videos for Lapierre when I started rac­ing, and he’s seen me grow up. He’s been cap­tur­ing the highs, lows and in­juries of my ca­reer all this time, and he knows me re­ally well. I know he will only do things in my best in­ter­est.”

Still, for Bruni, film­ing a com­plete seg­ment for a 50-plus-minute movie was not with­out its frus­tra­tions.

“It was pretty hard be­cause I was do­ing some things I’m not used to do­ing,” he says. “And it was a bit frus­trat­ing be­cause I had to keep stop­ping, just when I was start­ing to feel the flow of the track. That is some­thing I’m def­i­nitely not used to.

“I also had to keep push­ing my bike back up the hill, and af­ter five or six days I was so fuck­ing tired,” he adds. “By the end, I had blis­ters on my feet and was go­ing so slow that the lo­cals started push­ing my bike for me when we were chas­ing the golden light.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence gave Bruni a new­found re­spect for the work of freerid­ers, both in terms of film­ing stress and the types of ma­neu­vers they em­ploy.

“It’s to­tally dif­fer­ent from rac­ing,” he says. “We ride the same bikes, but it’s two dif­fer­ent sports. DH rac­ers do a lot of things you can’t see, like rid­ing the bike at its lim­its on the speed side, not the air side.

“Freerid­ers are more on the style side. They do much more vis­ual things in the air, and they film so you can see the whole thing. I look at (Bran­don) Se­menuk, who is the sick­est rider ever, and I’m like, ‘Why is he do­ing this?’”

Though Bruni and the other rac­ers in “Gam­ble” strove to high­light their unique strengths, they also tried to re­main true to their rac­ing pedi­grees.

“I stayed pretty nat­u­ral,” Bruni says. “I wanted to stay loyal to my rac­ing and what I re­ally know how to do best. I would never try to flip a jump. In the end, we are faster than the freerid­ers on the ground, and they are more rad than us in the air.”


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