Video & Photo Story: Discovering What It Takes To Race Red Bull Hardline


Red Bull Hardline, a fresh perspective on the difficulty of Downhill mountain bike racing. It puts our crazy, yet niche sport into the mainstream. We first saw Hardline in 2015, with the concept and track developed by Dan Atherton you can believe it's no easy ride. Over the past four years, we’ve watched this event develop year after year, not only in terms of the track and spectator numbers but more of the world's best riders attempting to take the win.In 2018, Erik Irmisch (IRM), World cup racer and YT test rider got invited to compete in hardline. There was no doubt, he was going to give it 100%. IRM has competed in over 25 World Cups, proving he’s no stranger to a challenging track or race conditions, although as many riders will tell you Hardline isn’t comparative to a World Cup. Below we chat to IRM about his journey leading up-to Hardline, during and what influenced one of the hardest decisions of his career, the decision not to ‘drop in’ to ultimately get an insight into how hard Hardline is.
bigquotes I was lucky to get invited I guess, it's a huge honour! At the same time, it's a pretty gnarly feeling as the event gets closer. For me, it was a massive challenge and learning curve but I couldn't have asked for a better 30th birthday present!Erik Irmisch
The World Cup season had just been wrapped up, only a week after World Championships, 20 of the worlds best downhill racers were invited to this prestigious race. The track in Dinas Mawddwy, Wales, isn’t for the faint-hearted. A combination of classic technical downhill features, massive free-ride features and often a lot of mud makes this one of the most challenging MTB tracks in the world. The schedule is pretty relaxed, with riders choosing to ‘session’ the huge features over the conventional method of full runs.
bigquotes My favourite part is the chilled atmosphere, the camaraderie between all the riders sessions during practice. People are having fun but at the same time you can see in everybody's eyes that there is a mental game going on!

Many riders including IRM favour the relaxed atmosphere. Between swinging axes when conditions were too hard to practice to signing posters for the fans, there's plenty of good times on and off the bike in Mid-Wales.
bigquotes To me it’s the most mental thing I’ve ever done. It's something completely different compared to other downhill races. It's difficult to stay focused and cut out all the external factors trying to screw you up. Of course, riding your bike down that hill is no easy task either!

bigquotes There's not just one or two hard sectors, it's just one big sector! World Cup tracks are made to go as fast as possible nowadays. Of course, there are gnarly sections but at the same time there is bike park stuff. There is no bike park at Hardline.

Hardline has a history of bad weather, like most events in the United Kingdom. Conditions are known to turn to the polar opposite rapidly and leave track conditions typically British. The race is yet to be won by a rider from outside of the UK. Is this because British riders are accustomed to these conditions?
bigquotes During the last practice session I wasn’t feeling confident on track. The track was soaked, rain was pouring down, I could barely see a thing. I hadn’t even hit the finish line jump, which happened to be the biggest jump at Hardline. I didn't really know what I was doing up there and felt more stiff than ready for a full run against the clock. Another factor was injury, I couldn't risk an injury because of some RnD obligations at the YT headquarters.
IRM unfortunately pulled out of Hardline just before qualifying for a multitude of reasons.
bigquotes Next time I race Hardline I’ll be more relaxed because I’ve got some experience on the track and at the event. My bike setup will be different as well. I will be more focused on working that full run out, which wasn’t achievable this time around.
Photos: Rick SchubertMENTIONS: @YTIndustries