‘My Whole Year Revolves Around Rampage’: Talking Freeride with Reed Boggs [Interview]

Photo: Peter Jamison

At only 25 years old, Reed Boggs is still quite young, but he’s clawing his way up the freeride ladder as sure-footedly as he makes it down the steep and dusty ridges in Southwest Utah. In October of 2021, Boggs nailed third place at Rampage, his best result yet after crashing out in 2017, placing 13th in 2018, and 11th in 2019.

Boggs envisioned a spot for himself in freeride early on in life. He hails from Ohio, unlike the majority of Rampage contestants or most professional mountain bikers. As soon as he earned a high school graduation cap in the Buckeye state, he packed his bags and moved to Southwest Utah to train for Red Bull Rampage full-time.

We caught up with Boggs to hear about how he became a freeride mountain biker from Ohio, how he handles the pressure at Rampage, and what life is like as a pro freerider.

What was it like growing up in Ohio and how did you get started on bikes?

I come from a BMX and motocross background so having those two disciplines in my background is pretty awesome. Because BMX, you have all the tricks, the tight transitions, I learned those fundamentals first. And with motocross, high speed, big jumps, learning how to get your speed down and time the length of the jumps is pretty important. So having those two backgrounds morph into mountain biking is like the perfect mixture.

But growing up in Ohio, I didn’t have mountains, not many bike parks, it was just skate parks and dirt jumps. So as I got into mountain biking more, I was like, “Man, I need to be out in Utah or California or somewhere out west where I can perfect this craft that I want to pursue.”

So I graduated high school, moved out to Utah and just thew myself into all the Rampage terrain, which at first, I couldn’t even ride King Kong. So that was at age 18 I moved out here (Southwest Utah). I would just start small — and there’s stuff for everybody out here — with a five foot step down and five foot flat drop, and each day, just start checking things off the list to ride King Kong. I had to have all these different skills to ride it, because it’s exposed, it has drops, it’s high speed, it’s steep. So I had to ride all these different features to ride that one trail. Then I started loving King Kong. My dad would shuttle me up and down.

So I just focused on freeride and that’s what I did. And the past couple years, it’s starting to pay off because I have all these skills and I’m using them in my Rampage line. And yeah, 2021 I got third place. So it’s been a long road for sure, especially coming from the flatlands of Ohio.

Where did you spend time riding in Ohio?

In high school before I moved out to Utah, I started riding at this place called Rays Indoor Mountain Bike Park and I would go there every day after school and I ended up getting a job there before I moved out here. So riding that place I was leaning off the BMX bike and riding the hardtail more, but I was still riding BMX-style jumps.

It sounds like you spent some time at Woodward Camps during summers and met some big pros early on?

Yeah, I started going to Woodward when I was 14 and that was just a summer thing. And Ronnie Nepolitan was a big hero of mine. Kevin Robinson would be there with his family. Jamie Bestwick was always there. And then I met Drew Bezanson, which was cool because I think I was 16 or 17, I was still swapping from BMX to hardtail and Drew Bezanson had a hardtail and BMX too and was swapping back and forth, so we would have conversations. For me, it was full-on hardtail after Woodward.

And Nicholi Rogatkin, same thing with him, BMX/hardtail. As we got a little older out of high school, I thought mountain biking was the way to go if you want to have a career in this. It’s longer lasting, there’s 40-, 50-, 60-year-olds mountain biking. There’s not 60-year-olds BMXing. So from a young age, we definitely saw where it was gonna go, and if you want a career, you want longevity, so we thought mountain biking was the best route to go and it was way more fun because you can ride all different stuff.

Boggs had an escaped tube on his first Rampage run of 2021 but came back strong on run 2. Photo: Mike Cartier

You and Nicholi formed a good relationship early on, is that right?

Yep. From a young age. He was like a pro before I was from BMX, so he had all the sponsorships, and just some insight for me on how to keep going as a pro. So I would take that and absorb it and run with it.

From a young age, me and my dad didn’t know how to get sponsors or go to these events or just be a part of the scene. It was super hard and foreign to us, so having Nicholi in my corner being good friends with him, helped pave the way.

How did you end up first digging for him at Rampage?

He got an invite to Rampage and was like “Yo, I know you were thinking about moving to Utah. You want to come dig for me at Rampage and see what it’s like?” So this is before I moved to Utah officially, I went out there and dug for him and Ethan Nell was his digger as well, so we created this three-way bond of just good friendship, good riding buddies and everything. We helped Nicholi build that line in 2015. I knew I wanted to move to Utah but that really solidified it.

What kind of things did you learn digging that put you on a trajectory toward Rampage?

Having creative thinking. You can make your own trail. Rampage is having a vision — okay, go build it. Hopefully it scores well and if it doesn’t, take that in and use it for next year. Being a builder at the beginning is very beneficial because you get to see Rampage not as an athlete. And then a couple years later, I am an athlete now and I see it from that side. So I’m seeing all sides of the competition and it helps you put together a run and compete, because it’s a very high level out here.

Boggs sending at the 2019 Rampage.

Is there also a process of putting your time in there or building trust within the community?

Big part of that, just being out here. There’s a lot of guys that come from California and will just stack clips and put it out there, because the Rampage guys are seeing that. That’s what I had to do: social media, putting it out there, showing everybody that you can ride this stuff because it does open people’s eyes.

So it’s definitely like showing everybody that you can ride this stuff, that you’re motivated, you’re dedicated to the freeride side of mountain biking, because there’s no qualifier really. There used to be Proving Grounds, but anymore it’s just video submissions, so you really have to portray that you want to be here and be a freerider.

What kind of video do you have to make to show that you’re a Rampage contender?

You want to showcase speed, control, that you’re hitting huge gaps, huge drops, as well as some tricks. You don’t have to be doing triple tail whips, but you need to 360 a drop of backflip a big step down, because that’s Rampage. Or ride some really steep stuff, fast and in control, but really you sort of have to have everything into one two-minute video of all your bangers and send that in and hope for the best.

Last year I was hoping to compete and I was doing that, making videos, Instagram — everything for Rampage and I still didn’t get the invite. I was on the alternate list. And I got the call like a week prior to Rampage. People were pulling out, getting hurt.

So you might not know until the last minute, even though you’re dedicating so much time to try and get in?

Nowadays, my whole year is revolving around Rampage. With sponsors, what I do during the summer, what kind of videos I’m filming, it’s all for Rampage, because it’s such a high level that you want to do your best there.

I’d like there to be more of the Rampage events. You know, what if there was a series later in life? That would be amazing, but it’s just very hard to mimic the Utah landscape and that’s why it’s been out here for 20 years.

How do you keep your confidence up ahead of an event like Rampage?

Everyone’s different and what works for me is not caring so much about it. I just treat it as another day riding my bike — focusing on yourself, not worrying about what other riders are doing.

In years past, I was definitely tripping out over myself, I was doubting myself, like “oh, can I really do that?” I just try my best to stay confident and calm because that’s when you’re riding the best. Just treat it as another day riding your bike. It’s so hard to explain, but everyone has their own way of dealing with high pressure situations and for me it was just listen to music, chill, have a conversation — not about biking, about anything else.

Photo: Mike Cartier

Did getting over the anxiety from earlier years came from more time spent there and competing?

Yep, it’s just a learning process. Getting hurt before my first Rampage ever. That year in 2017, I was a grom, riding all the time, anxious, worried way too much about it. Now a couple years later, I’m a little older, I have more wisdom behind me, I’ve learned a bunch more about the event.

Take Brandon (Semenuk) for example. He’s been competing for a long time and he has that formula down and he just does that every year. So I’m trying to find that formula. I think I’m almost there. I learned so much this year, that I’m coming in swinging for 2022 and each year, if I keep getting invited back in I’m only gonna be learning more and more.

How did the Yeti partnership come about? With a brand that’s focused on enduro, was it surprising in any way to work out a partnership with them?

Photo: Peter Jamison

Yeah, that was a shot in the dark actually. I was out of a frame sponsor and I was talking about bringing a brand into freeride that’s not really into freeride. Let’s bring someone new in and see if I can ride their bikes and kind of be their athlete.

And Yeti came to mind. I’ve always been a fan of their bikes, they’ve always been a boutique brand to me and a solid company, but they didn’t have a downhill scene or a freeride scene. But I would always see their bikes, and I can take one of their bigger bikes, the 165 at the time, and I could ride with that. The suspension is so good, nowadays, you don’t need a full 200mm of travel for anything really.

So I went to them and I gave them my resume, my proposal, and they accepted it and said “let’s try this out.” They gave me a two year contract and we didn’t know how it was going to go. It was a shot in the dark for both of us I think. And that was 2020 — no Rampage. And then 2021 came around, and boom, podium. So it was awesome to be that guy to bring Yeti into Rampage on an enduro bike. I was getting some shit for that on the internet, but I made it work and I wouldn’t change anything about the bike right now. It works perfectly.

How do you organize your training to where it feels like it’s beneficial for progress in freeride, especially with only one competition per year?

I don’t do much training off the bike, it’s more just riding. I’m in the gym once or twice per week, but it’s mostly just riding. Being a freerider, you don’t need that crazy cardio that a downhill racer would need, right? For a freerider, you just need the skills, so you just need to be on your bike a lot.

What also helps me too is yoga maybe once or twice a week. Not all year ’round, but definitely around Rampage, yoga once or twice a week. But what comes first is riding, so you want to be as best as you can on your bike so seat time is everything for me.

In a Yeti podcast, you mentioned dropping 60-foot drops regularly. Do you think the key to progression on features like that is pushing yourself through discomfort so that it becomes more comfortable?

Yep, scaring yourself. Scare yourself once a day. Just because it makes you go out of your comfort zone and you need to do that when you’re competing. When you’re ready to drop in your Rampage run, you’ve gotta just flip that switch — boom, you’re out of your comfort zone, send everything you got. So when you’re out riding and having fun on a casual Tuesday, you don’t really want to do that because there’s nothing on the line, but you have to take that extra step to scare yourself because it’s only going to help you in the long run.

When I was a kid, I wouldn’t do that. I would always trip out, then I’d go home regretting, “Oh, I should have done that today.” No, gotta live in the moment, take advantage of the situation and go out of your comfort zone, scare yourself. Really, it will help you when it comes time to compete.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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