“As mountain bikers, it is our nature to search out the next great stretch of trail. That’s exactly what motivated us to head up to Montana last summer,” says pro rider and filmmaker Joey Schusler. This incredible footage, captured by cable cam, shows Shawn Neer and Jubal Davis tapping into the thrill of fast, dusty singletrack riding just outside of Whitefish—an emerging hub of mountain biking activity. “In mountain biking many of the best trails are in the forest—and it’s hard to get a shot that runs long enough to allow the viewer to really get up in the action, to feel what it’s like. The cable cam is the perfect tool for this kind of shot,” says Joey. For this shoot, they set up five different cable lines, the shortest at 500 feet and the longest at around 900 feet. “You can have it going 20 to 30 mph and passing just six inches off the ground or from trees on either side. That’s not something you can do with a drone.”
Below, Joey tells us more about these beautiful trails and how he got this thrilling footage.
>> Footage by Joey Schusler, Craig Grant, John Reynolds for Yeti Cycles
Had you been to Whitefish before? For skiing or otherwise?
Joey Schusler: I had never been to Whitefish or the surrounding area before, but was throughly impressed with the riding both at the resort and in the surrounding area.
Are a lot of ski resorts, like Whitefish Mountain, opening up their trails for lift-assisted mountain biking in the summer?
Joey Schusler: Yeah, it’s definitely becoming more commonplace for ski areas to open up a bike park during the summer. As mountain biking has grown as a sport massively over the last decade, ski resorts around the world have really begun to embrace spinning the lifts year-round.
How do the lifts change the experience?
Joey Schusler: We like to mix it up. Half our days were spent outside the bike park on the surrounding trails, pedal-assisted and under our own power. Half our days were spent on the lift, discovering the terrain the bike park had to explore. With the lifts, you obviously get a whole lot more descending in a day, which really allows you to hone your skills—just as in skiing.
What makes the Whitefish area superior for mountain biking? Seems like you considered moving there—must have been good!
Joey Schulser: Whitefish has a really mellow vibe, which I love. It still has a quaint feel to it, especially in the summers. The bike park has been crafted with pure care and skill and is one of the most fun I’ve ridden. The mountain is steep, too, which helps make it a wild place to ride.
What trail is in the clip? What ability level is it considered?
Joey Schusler: The trail we shot the cable cam on was a trail about 45 minutes outside of Whitefish, I forget it’s exact name. It was intermediate level I would say, with some advanced features. It’s one of those trails that is super fun for all ability levels as it flows incredibly well.
“In mountain biking, it’s hard to get a shot that runs long and allows the viewer to really get up in the action. The cable cam is the perfect tool for this kind of shot.”
— Joey Schusler
GETTING THE SHOT
How choreographed was this ride with the cable cam? Did your riders map it out with you so you could string it up?
Joey Schusler: It definitely took some serious coordination to run the cable cam, but luckily we had five days set aside just for cable cam shots and a super dedicated team to make it come to life.
The hardest part of setting up the cable cam is finding a suitable location for it. Obviously it has to be in the trees, but open enough that you can find a long corridor to string it up. On this shoot we set up five different lines, our shortest being 500 feet and our longest coming in at just around 900 feet.
We would do test runs when the light was bad in the middle of the day, so we would nail it when the evening light started to trickle in. Often we would switch from one line to another in a single session to keep the flow going and get a variety of shots. There were definitely a lot of retakes, and one near-miss with a camera coming too low across the trail in front of the riders…
How long did it take to set up? How do you control the camera?
Joey Schusler: The cable cam system needs two people to operate. John Reynolds was controlling the forward/backward motion and speed on the actual cable cam, while I was controlling and monitoring the camera. It took a lot of communication between the two of us to get it just right—and a lot of set-up time to dial in all the systems we were utilizing.
How many times have you used a cable cam on a shoot? What do you like and dislike about it?
Joey Schusler: This was the first time we had ever used the cable cam, which was a bit nerve-racking. I’ve since used it on three to four other shoots and have since dialed in my skills with it even more.
It’s such a unique tool to show mountain biking. In mountain biking, many of the best trails are in the trees—and it’s hard to get a shot that runs long and allows the viewer to really get up in the action. The cable cam is the perfect tool for this kind of shot. I especially love how close it can get to things. You can have it going 20 to 30 mph and passing just six inches off the ground or from trees on either side. It’s ability to go fast and get close to stuff definitely lends to the unique nature of all the shots. It’s not something a drone could do in the trees and close to the riders and the ground like this. The cable cam is really the best and only way to achieve these shots.
Which section of the trail is the most fun for the riders? What about for the shooters?
Joey Schusler: The riders favorite section of the trail was the step-on, step-off jump. It was a pretty technical and unique feature that they couldn’t get enough of it. It was also our favorite shot to film.
GEAR AND FOOD
What kind of bike is best for these trails? What other gear should you use?
Joey Schusler: For trails like these, a standard trail bike is the best tool for the job. The riders were both riding on a 5” suspension Yeti Cycles SB5c. For this type of riding, an open-face helmet and light knee pads are the norm. Both riders were also clipped in with SPDs pedals.
What do you find is the best way to stay fueled and hydrated on a shoot like this?
Joey Schusler: In the middle of summer, we were definitely burning through food and water while out shooting. We brought loads of hydration mix and high-protein snacks to keep us charging all day long! We had some big days with often an early morning shoot, followed by an afternoon of rigging and planning for the evening shoot, and then a shooting until sunset. With long summer days, that meant massive days out in the field getting the job done.