Red Bull Rampage brings together the most elite freeride mountain bikers in a creative showdown. This display of insanity takes place on the most rugged, steep and unforgiving terrain. Tucked away in the red rocks of Virgin, Utah, the unique competition allows riders to build and create their own mind-blowing lines and drop the biggest cliffs, hosting by far the most innovative and intense mountain biking in existence. John Campbell of the ROAM team sat down with 2018 Rampage rookie DJ Brandt to discuss the experience both on and off the bike. Check it out below!
I’m sitting in a conference room with 25-year-old freeride mountain biker, DJ Brandt. He’s wearing black skinny jeans and a grey t-shirt. His 5-panel hat is on backwards, sunglasses hanging from the collar of his shirt.
DJ Brandt was a rookie selection for the 2018 Red Bull Rampage, an invitation only freeride mountain biking competition, one of the most unique extreme sporting events in the world. Red Bull Rampage features some of the best freeride mountain bikers from around the globe, and this year, DJ was called up as a wildcard selection.
“I’ve never had to drop into something that I’m testing for the first time and felt like alright this might be the last chute….you literally have to hold hands with death when you’re doing that stuff”
Truth be told, DJ grew up essentially playing cowboy. Wearing wrangler jeans and racing horses at the rodeo, mountain biking was not initially on his radar. How he became such a big name in mountain biking seems to be just as much a mystery to him, as it is to me. But circumstances aside, he found himself motivated by the type of mountain biking that few have had the courage to try, let alone compete in. Downhill and freeride mountain biking see gnarly downhill lines that require speed and precision. Slopestyle courses with +90ft jumps. Then, of course, there is Red Bull Rampage which simply put, is like riding your mountain bike off a cliff over and over again without falling.
DJ seems to have always taken the path less traveled, which was even more evident in competition at Red Bull Rampage. Riders at Rampage are required to construct their own course. While the start and finish are identical for all riders, the lines they ride are completely different. At the 2018 Red Bull Rampage, fifteen riders went left, the other four, including DJ, went right.
Besides DJ’s tenacity to push his limits, there is a deeper narrative. In our conversation, it was very easy to get caught up in his profession. More interesting however were the values he holds close to his heart, such as hard work and taking care of the places he plays (DJ was a member of the conservation Corp. growing up). Additionally, one thing he made very clear, to perform at such high levels, happiness is the true key to his success.
DJ’s first year at Red Bull Rampage didn’t end up the way his fans would have liked. Following a cracked rib before the finals, he found himself unable to make the podium this year. Regardless, DJ was ultimately satisfied with his performance. After all, being invited wasn’t a mistake, but instead, a testament to a self-built career from start to finish.
A month after graduating from high school DJ moved to Denver in search of new opportunity. At the time mountain biking was a side gig. He soon became a welder working 40-50 hrs a week, making time for riding his bike at night after work, and on weekends. He was the most dedicated of weekend warriors. His hard work would eventually pay off when Mongoose decided to sign him to a team deal, a true turning point in his career as it would allow him to train and ride full time.
For the remainder of 2018, DJ plans to take a break from his bike and get some snowboarding in. In his free time, he plans to put a lot of effort into learning more about eating clean and keeping up with his gym routine. For 2019 he intends to come back hungrier than ever and fired up for his first event. But first, he says, it will be nice to take a break and give his nerves a rest from the constant adrenaline rush that is freeride mountain biking.