These days, Nanaimo’s Ben Glassen can do a backflip on his mountain bike. Then another, then another, each one a perfect, safe landing.
Surely, there must have been a period of cringe-inducing crashes, right? How does a coach even begin to teach something like that?
“That’s the weird part about this sport,” Glassen said. “No coaches. No training, really. It’s kind of just go out, trial and error, and spend the time on the bike.”
First he’ll go over to Whistler and practise performing the trick into a giant foam pit built just for that purpose. Then it’s up to Parksville to try landing it into a sand pit. Then come the dirt jumps at Nanaimo’s Doumont trails.
For Glassen, it’s all preparation for another season on the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour, about to get underway.
The 21-year-old Nanaimo District Secondary School grad piled into a sponsor’s van last year and travelled to some of the North American tour stops, going as far as New Hampshire. He was happy just to make it to any finals. This year, Glassen would like to get to all the North American tour stops, and he wants to place high in his finals.
“I’ve really been progressing and learning lots of new tricks at a really fast rate. I’m really excited about it,” he said. “So I think I’m going to be very competitive.”
He bikes in the professional division, but going pro is easier said than done. Landing his backflips and 360-degree spins in competition is part of it, but sponsors are ultimately looking for exposure. In the YouTube generation, that means riders need to get footage of themselves navigating trails and jumps – “shredding” – in secret locations, then produce videos set to music their parents hate.
It’s both sport and showmanship. And Glassen is better at both, now that he can backflip his way down even the trickiest trails.
“The scary part about backflips is just that first flip, when you actually get to dirt,” he said. “I was feeling in the right mood and I did the first one, got that over with and it was like, ‘Oh, that’s not too bad.’”
BIKE BANTER … Glassen is seeking travel sponsorship and can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.