The Future of Freestyle Motocross?!?

Tom Pagés - Front Flair
Date: 21/09/2016

Freestyle Motocross planted its roots in the 90's and looking back now, the sport has progressed much further than anyone predicted. Here we are now around 20 years later and although the sport has had its up and downs, the progression has never really stopped.

A Quick History
When the right-side-up tricks became too mundane for the wild motocrossers, and they grew tired of spending all day on the track and getting into shape for the tough battles at the MX and SX races, the backflip changed the game and opened up new possibilities to take the sport of FMX even further. Right side up tricks would be seen upside down and after the hardest was conquered the double flip brought the sport to new heights and underlined that without a solid package of flip-combos, as an FMX rider you had a hard time making a name for yourself. Some riders decide to choose a different route by focusing on freeriding to keep their sponsors and delivered unbelievable movies from surreal locations around the globe. While they conquered the freeride section and focused on getting bigger on the classic tricks, the majority of FMX riders tried their luck by contesting the the big events and making some cash there. Others dedicated themselves to shows and demos to make a living out of their skills, feeling that they may not have the trick arsenal to battle the top riders at the major competitions.

Estimated 100,000 spectators watched Red Bull X-Fighters Brasilia, Brazil in 2011 © Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool

How the big events influenced the sport
While X-Games had FMX on and off the schedule, the Night of Jumps Series has been a solid competition platform for riders in the past decade. The goal for any competitive rider was always to win one of these big events, but with the number of events being reduced in the past year, the question arises:

What´s the future of FMX?
In the past year the major competitions have tried to give the sport a new drive by changing parts of, or even the whole event format completely. Mechanical ramps have inspired success at some of these big events, allowing bigger tricks to be performed, while others refused to have those ramps at all. We have seen 'Resi-Landings' and even airbags brought to the table to ensure rider safety on the gnarliest tricks.

As you would expect, these new developments caused more than one discusssion in the scene and the quotes below from riders and those in the know clearly show these differing opinions.

Robbie Maddison jumping the Corinth Canal © Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool

Does all that paint a complete picture?
How should we describe the direction guys like Ronnie Renner - who set World Records on Quarterpipes - or daredevils like Robbie Maddison give the sport every time now and then?
Those individuals bring a total different approach to the sport and as we have seen with their projects in the past they fascinate and bewilder more than just the regular FMX fan and bring attention to FMX / Freeriding on a whole different level.

Let´s see what the riders and some key people out of the industry have to say about the future and you can build your own opinion. Feel free to write to us at telling us what you think.


Tom Pagès in the Red Bull X-Fighters Pit © Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool

FMX Innovator Tom Pagès predicts this:

"Evolution of FMX will go through motorcycles and ramps essentially I think. Riders will work more on their bikes to reach better performance. I imagine also that landing areas will evolve as well. In the future, we might see more "soft landings" as RESI in competitions. If landings are getting softer, with airbags for instance, riders will go higher and try bigger tricks. With more security on landings, they might take additional risks in their tricks. Ramps might be bigger too, which will allow riders to go higher, much more than now. Tricks will have more rotations in all directions for sure: front, on the side as the 720.In the future, I will be lucky enough not to be part of it anymore as that sport will be even more insane than now (ahhaha). If I had the answer about future, I wouldn't have kept it for myself and do it now!"


Martin Koren showing the crowd in Chile how a backflip looks © Juan Luis De Heeckeren/Red Bull Content Pool

Martin Koren has done it all: The biggest events, Red Bull X-Fighters Jams in more than 25 countries and he knows to go big in the back-country as well. Here are his words of wisdom:

"FMX has always had two sides to it, entertainment and competition. Each of these have been continuously developing. The Nitro Circus opened a new door to the future of progression in freestyle motocross. It is the highest level of circus entertainment in general. This type has distanced itself from sport and is pure entertainment and new ramps find their place to make mind-blowing tricks possible. The general crowd doesn't care how a front flip is performed. They want to be entertained with amazingness and that's perfectly fine. More crazy ideas will be coming up to fill the arenas. As for competition, sports media will always want to follow results. Your hard core fan will always want to have a Champion at the end of the season to see who is the best of the best. For competition to stay pure, the courses need to stay from the roots with standardized ramps (including dirt jumps of course). Sounds boring, but that's what keeps majority of the Olympic sports alive since 776 BC. You can't have a real winner when there is an obstacle on the course that favors one guy on a real competition. The judging system in all events has been debatable for years and this needs to change, so results are clear to riders and fans. The new Intel processors that are in testing and were first introduced at Red Bull X-Fighters in Madrid could be the key."


Clinton Moore celebrating his Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour Win in Abu Dhabi, UAE in 2015 © Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull X-Fighters champion Clinton Moore predicts that jumps will get bigger and tricks more complex, but that innovations such as cheater ramps and heavily modified bikes will undermine the skills of the very best riders.

"We'll start seeing a few more inventions like the Foot Hook or Flip Lever inventions. The bikes will be heavily modified to perform certain tricks and become much lighter than they are today," Moore says. "I also think it will turn into a much higher risk sport with new 'Do or Die' tricks being landed every year. It might have to turn into the age of Resi Mats (soft padded landings) to counteract the risk vs reward change. FMX has a huge potential to grow for the better, we will just need all the riders and organisers to steer the sport in the right direction. Once technology starts to improve, you might start seeing some riders enter on electric motocross bikes, you never know. FMX has a huge potential to grow for the better, we'll just need all the riders and event organisers to band together and steer the sport in the right direction."


Sebastian Wolter in his garage ©

A former FMX pro and now Dirtbiker Mag Editor in Chief, Red Bull Romaniacs competitor and all-round motohead, Busty Wolter is excited about the scope for progression FMX still has.

"The future of FMX is gonna be exiting! I am part of the FMX scene from the very beginning and people always asked, "What will be next, what can be next, haven't we reached the limit?" But as in every action sport, there are creative riders who are willing to think ahead of time and put in a lot of work to make their visions happen. We got the Backflip, then Backflip combos, then body varials and guys like Tom Pagès have brought the quarterpipe to new life. So even though I will not be able to tell what the future will bring trick-wise, I am convinced that the riders and riding level will keep progressing. Nowadays it is a very thin line on which they move, the danger is getting higher, the technicality of the tricks is getting higher, so progression is getting a bit slower. But we have the best riding level ever. In the 'cheater-ramp' discussion I have a clear opinion: I don't like them and I personally hope that we don't see them in competitions. Of all the guys who have tried their luck on the Frontflip only one man has mastered it, Jacko Strong. Now you bring in a mechanical ramp and it seem like everybody can frontflip that thing, even do big combos. I wanna see bike skills, style and creativity to decide for a win, not a smart ramp-engineer. I am fine if we bring new ramps to make new tricks possible, but for a competition these ramp dimensions should be available to all the riders in time, so they can go and try their luck on it. But these ramps should not have any mechanical parts in them."


Brian McCarthy going big on the Pala Quarter ©

Brian McCarthy calls himself a Budget FMXer and is one representative of a group of yet-unknowns with great potential to have a massive break-out very soon. He somehow represents it all, his bike-skills are rooted in MX racing and he is willing to bring it to the next level with no sponsor support:

"Right now everything is getting bigger and bigger on a huge level. In the past 5 years we saw body varials and other progressive things. So the evolution continues, but the risk for the reward is pretty high too. There is still lots to do on the bike and ramps to push even more progress now. I think the sport will take the path BMX took. You have 3 types of riders: the tech riders, big flow riders and massive trick riders who can go big just anywhere. If it is (natural) terrain or built up stuff does not matter anymore to those guys. I´m in between a trick and a big air rider. Both suits my style, so this is how I ride. Simply my style. Going down two routes means I have to work on a couple of things, which I'm doing at the moment to be ready for the future."


Matt McCall with Danny Way & Brian McCarthy ©

Matt McCall from TrickFactory Ramps has built most of the ramps everyone has seen at big events and has been involved in just about every gnarly daredevil project. After 20 years of pioneering ramp evolution, the American knows what he's talking about:

"I have built lots of normal size ramps, a few strange, experimental ones and one-off ramps. Lately the mechanical ramp that allows the frontflip has been added to that so it´s a very difficult question. Let´s focus on the mechanical ramp and what comes with it. For me, the events that use that type of ramp are show events. A track with only classic ramps and with no mechanical triggered ramps are competitions and no shows. Even if it sounds strange to say this as a ramp builder, but my heart is in freeriding, bringing big tricks into the hills. I like the show and what the guys do with the crowd and the almost choreographed moves they do, but I would like to see more progression in the area where the sport came from. Some would call it big stunts others just freeriding, whatever... I want to see the guys progress more in their natural element. I want to see them out there pushing themselves and having fun with their friends and bring the sport through that to another level. That´s where I would like to see it go..."

Feel free to write to us at telling us what you think.