PREMIER BIKE PARK IN THE U.S.
Whether you’re hitting 65 mph down Kamikaze or tail whipping off wooden ramps on Twilight Zone, Mammoth Bike Park has it all. With 80+ miles of singletrack, a summit at 11,053 ft and plenty of jumps, berms and drops to feast on – plus our new Boomerang ad
“From the beginning, I didn’t have enough support,” Bender says after successfully greasing the intense chute. “You’d have photo incentives and they’d be like, ‘We can’t read the logo on the handlebar and you don’t get anything.’ And it’s like, ‘Fuck you, bike industry.’”
Westerlund, though, remembers the problem differently. “In the beginning, he was very flamboyant and talking a lot shit. He was surrounded by some people that took him in the wrong direction. And nobody wanted to show Bender breaking their bike into multiple pieces.”
Yet Freeride Entertainment’s sold more footage of Bender than any other rider—a lot of it to reality TV. We consumed him. We made him. Did we also spit him back out?
“Some would say so,” Bender softly answers pedaling back to the car. “Some would say I didn’t take the opportunities. People always ask me what I make off Rampage, and I’m like, ‘Nothing.’ It’s kind of like the purist attitude, just get it done. But I’m always looking for more support, I feel I have more to give back.”
The Confluence trail near Auburn follows the north fork of the American River in an open, grassy slope with few trees. The line is mellow enough for Bender and Currier to take turns riding with Saffron on their backs. “Get some!” He yells excitedly as Currier laps a berm with their daughter giggling.
“I didn’t really want to stop or hang up the torch until I had jumped 100 vertical feet, and jumped a 200-foot gap,” he tells me. “I got stopped short. I wasn’t able to physically do that. Now, more times than not guys are doing stepdowns. They’re not looking for the straight anvil drops. I’ve always kind of been like, a cliff for me is: How far are you going to fall if you just step off the edge of it?”
Before his injuries piled up, Bender almost did the 100foot drop for an eager TV crew, but Westerlund intervened.
“These people were calling me to go, ‘OK this dude’s going do a 100-foot cliff onto a wood transition.’ I was like, ‘You’re going to watch someone die in front of your cameras.’”
The shoot was cancelled, and Bender laments the fact no one’s stepped up to that mantle since. Also that people have shifted from riding pure, “unedited” backcountry. “I don’t feel like I have a legacy,” he answers when pressed. “But, isn’t Rampage your vision?” Krabbe asks.
“It’s one tentacle of it,” he answers. “But something like Rampage, it has its own energy. It takes so many people to pull that off. And you can still see the fear, you can see those guys scared. They’re not willing to die.”
Our last morning at the homestead, Bender watches his daughter crawl up the stairs and learn to climb. There’s no railing, but she’s moving solidly. “Yeah Saf!” He cheers. As breakfast warms on the woodstove, an unknown car pulls in the driveway and he thunders over protectively. It turns out to just be a fan who found out where he lives. Seated with his wife, the guy lavishes Bender with praise, “Seriously, man, you’re my favorite mountain biker of all time!” Bender indulges reluctantly for a few minutes, then peers back over his shoulder at the cabin. “Thanks for stopping by,” he says. “Breakfast’s on the stove, I have to get back to my family.”