Motocross is a sport that’s very much out of sight, and out of mind in Scotland. Growing up, the only mentions of it seemed to be driving past an old quarry, the sport mentioned in explanation of why there were so many cars, trailers and cordura-clad people tinkering with motorbikes in the muddy ditch that served as a guerilla car park. These days, the sport is a million miles away from this image – inclusion in events such as the X-Games (both Summer and Winter), huge sponsorship deals, all in addition to major race series across the world mean it’s a sport that now registers on the public conscious, and has a staunch following amongst enthusiasts. That said – MX, in any form, is still far from the mainstream.
To capture the imagination of the general public, you need spectacle, and freestyle motocross (FMX) has it in spades. The epic nature of the sport means a knowledge of the discipline is in no way a pre-requisite to enjoying what’s on offer, but the problem, as with any sport that finds itself in this situation, is how to attract these new spectators in the first place – the answer in the case of FMX, and specifically in the case of Red Bull, is to bring FMX to the fans … even if they don’t know they are yet.
Red Bull has a serious penchant for events that are more than a little inventive, ranging from the Rampage, a huge freeride mountain bike event, where riders pull huge tricks off equally enormous geological features in the middle of the desert, to Flugtag, where teams compete to build and fly the craziest flying machines, to the Air Race series, where the pilots and their craft are a considerably more suited to the job. Amongst these many different gatherings, one thing is common – the spectator (and in some cases, the participant too) is left in no doubt that they’re witnessing something special, and of course, that it’s Red Bull behind it all.
Their approach to FMX is little different, as a cursory glance at the event’s website will tell you: five countries, five cities, a dozen riders, huge jumps, and bigger tricks. With the UK leg of the tour, the organisers have chosen the old Battersea Power Station as the venue, and are aiming at an appropriately epic crowd of 17,000 people to gather there to see the culmination of the series, and the crowning of the tour champion. Throw into the mix Cambridge’s very own Chris Birtch – one of the riders shredding the Square in Glasgow – and it’s bound to be an astonishing event.
For Glasgow, the tour’s demo riders were in full swing, with the solitary jump proving to be a launch platform for some unashamedly impressive style. Huge backflips, seat grabs and cliff hangers littered the two sets, winding up passing shoppers with a baptism of FMX fire, and drawing them in to see the rest of the demonstration, and to hang around afterwards for photographs, t-shirt signings and of course, the obligatory free Red Bull. As a taster of the possibilities of the main London show – which on the basis of the display seem virtually limitless – you could do little better.