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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Pastrana’s Double Backflip and the State of Freestyle MX

Many of our readers undoubtedly caught at least some of the X Games 2006 coverage on TV, and if you didn’t, by now you’ve surely heard about Travis Pastrana’s ground-breaking double backflip on Friday. Although Travis has landed a double before while practicing at home, Friday was the first time the trick has been successfully attempted in competition.

What does this mean as far as the evolution of the sport of freestyle motocross? This year’s X Games saw huge advances in both ‘balls to the wall’ tricks like Pastrana’s double flip, and more technical tricks like Matt Rebaud’s side-spinning nac-nac ‘underflip’. But Pastrana has set the double backflip as the new gold standard, and it’s certain that the other top riders will be racing to be the first to duplicate Travis’ feat – especially if, as many expect, Travis retires from two-wheeled competition this year to concentrate his full attention on rally racing.

If past experience is any indication, that means the next few months will see a flurry of serious injuries among riders attempting to master the double backflip. This is likely to continue until at some point the trick becomes ‘routine’ (as single backflips, and certain basic variations of such, now are) and the top competitors move on to seek yet another, higher level of freestyle’s evolution.

The double backflip has clearly taken the danger level of freestyle competition to a new high – in an interview on the Racer X web site, Pastrana claims to have seen Nate Adams praying for him just before he rolled out to attempt the ground-breaking stunt! This leads one to believe that rather than continuing to evolve ever more dangerous tricks, requiring ever greater levels of commitment, and with ever more serious consequences in a crash, freestyle may go in a slightly different direction.

What direction am I talking about? Matt Rebaud’s extremely technical flip/spin variation, mentioned earlier, is a perfect example. Rather than becoming a contest of ‘who has the biggest balls’, I wouldn’t be surprised to see freestyle evolve as an ever more artistic form of expression, where creativity and technical riding prowess are valued over pure risk-taking.

Of course, I could be wrong – now that Pastrana has ‘done the double’, there will no doubt be someone who endeavors to attempt ‘the triple’. However, we hope that if the sport does become more and more technical, rather than more and more dangerous, that the fans can appreciate the competitors for the incredible skills of bike control they display, rather than merely for being ‘crazy’.

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