Red Bull X Fighters Nottingham Chris Birch

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Red Bull X Fighter Chris Birch speaks to Freeq magazine during the X Fighter Jam in Nottingham.

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For the uninitiated (like we were) X-Fighters is basically a bunch of crazy guys riding motocross bikes over massive jumps doing insane tricks.  Red Bull set up a jump in the Market Square in Nottingham to give the public a taste of the excitement that takes place on 14th August in Battersea, London.  We caught up with the UK’s top rider, Chris Birch, in between jams.

Hi Chris, it looks pretty spectacular out there, how did you get started in all this?
I used to work as marshal at motocross track and I was able to ride that track for free because I worked there. One day a guy turned up from a display team looking for more riders and handed out leaflets, my Dad phoned them up that day and I had trials with them a few days later at their training facility.  I was only 15 at the time and there was a ramp set up there and a lot of expert motocross riders chickened out or hesitated but I went straight on and did it. They saw some potential there and I started training with them and a few months later I was doing the motocross display team shows all over the UK, jumping over cars and through fire - basic tricks, and things went from there.

How do you train for this, it can be quite demanding on your body I guess?
It can be, depends on the size of the jump and whether you get it right or wrong. I had a couple of heavy landings out there today – I blame that on the wind.  I’m pretty big and strong and it helps, when you see some of the smaller riders, I don’t know, I’ve been very lucky, I seem to heal up good – touch wood.  Going to the gym is important, riding is important, you got to be on the bike to improve, motocross is very important for that, it’s not just about hitting jumps.

What’s the worst injury you’ve had?
I haven’t had any real big injuries, my right hand’s taken a battering and I’ve lost the tip of my index finger.  Last September I broke my hand and finger in the same accident and now I can’t straighten that finger.  The thing is, I am going to have another crash one day – it happens – it’s part of the sport.  Hopefully it won’t be a bad one but chances are I’ll end up breaking that hand again or this finger again, so we’ll fix it then, if it can be fixed.  I’ve had a broken leg but that was getting hit by a car.  I broke my collarbone from racing motocross, but apart from that I’ve been lucky.

What’s the difference between motocross and freestyle?
Motocross is on a track, it’s racing with 40 other guys.  Here it’s an individual sport; it’s just you on your bike.  We just jump and do tricks - like Evil Knievel but with tricks in it!  Jumps are getting bigger, ramps are getting longer, people are getting crazier; it’s good. 


How has getting involved with Red Bull helped your career?
Since 2007 I’ve been on a world tour promoting X-Fighters all over the world but now I’m basing myself in the UK working with Red Bull UK and I rode Red Bull X-Fighters in Battersea last year, which was a great experience.  It’s the biggest world tour in this industry, the biggest contest, the best riders in the world, and it was a big experience for me.  Because I was the only British driver I got a lot of media attention so if I wasn’t on the bike I was doing interviews.  I’ve learnt a lot from that and I’ll go back this year knowing what’s expected of me.  It’s benefited a lot; I definitely got a huge amount of press just out of riding this one event and my goal is to get on the whole world tour – to compete with the world’s best.

Is that the next step up from this?
Yea, I’d like to be on the world tour or do something different that’s never been done or which is extremely unique, and that means taking bigger risks.  These are just jams, it’s not a contest so I’m not pushing myself like I will be in London.  My whole year now is on the 14th August.  I’ll be training in France with some of the best riders in the world.  I actually train a lot with Andre Villa who’s actually winning x fighters at the moment, so we’re training together. I think that’s why he’s winning actually – because of all the riding we did at the beginning of the year!

What goes through mind at 60 feet in the air?
The first jump is always the hardest one, it’s the one that you must get right, coz it might also be your last one.  And you don’t have to do tricks or anything it’s always your first jump - if it’s smooth.  The weather comes in to play, the wind affects us a lot unfortunately, I felt it out there today. 

What’s the most important attribute to have as an X-Fighter?
Motocross, without a doubt – you have to be good riding the bike off road, at least a few years experience. We have a lot of people that love freestyle but they can’t ride a bike. They look at it and think ‘that’s easy’ but it isn’t.  If they had the balls in the first place to jump a ramp, even just a small 10 foot, or what you see out there which is 60 foot, which is still pretty small to be honest , we normally jump 75 -80 foot. 

Do you have a signature or favourite trick?
Apparently I’ve got a good style, when I watch myself on film there’s a lot of tricks I do that I quite like to be honest, everyone always comments on my style.  There’s one or two tricks I do that no-one else really does in the industry or not as big as what I do.  I get a lot of respect from other riders because they know what I’m doing is good or difficult.  To the public it might look nothing but the most important thing is having respect from other riders, you can’t have a better feeling than that, especially if you respect them, if they’re a good rider and they say you’ve done something good, you feel on top of the world.

How does your mum feel about what you do?
She’s cool with it now, she used to come and watch one or two shows in the UK but then I started travelling Europe and was away from home a lot.  They way we do it is no news is good news, if something happens, she’ll get a phone call from someone – if I can’t make it myself, apart from that, she’s alright, they generally watch it on TV at home.

You can see Chris Birch in action at the Red Bull X-Fighters in London on August 14th.  Visit www.redbullxfighters.com for more information.