Behind the scenes: The stories behind 5 viral bike videos

January 12, 2016                 7m read time
Martin Totland

We've all frittered away a little free time at work by watching the latest viral video. But what really goes into those YouTube-famous clips? We wanted to know more, so we tracked down the riders featured in five viral bike videos to find out about their experience. 

When Deer Attack


On Dec. 14, 2014, Silas Patlove, 40, was riding his bike down Alexander Avenue from the Golden Gate Bridge towards Sausalito. Silas was cruising at about 30 mph along a winding, gently sloping road, when all of a sudden a deer jumped into his path.

“I remember hitting the deer. I guess I got knocked out because I don’t remember about 15 seconds before, or a minute or two after,” Patlove said.

The impact was head-on. Silas went flying and landed on his flat on his back. “I had no broken bones, only a mild concussion, and a few scrapes and bruises. I was pretty amazed.”

Shortly after impact—and the video cutting off—an ambulance was summoned. Patlove, who worked in emergency medicine, knew that the impact could have played with his perception. In the ER, he found himself "seriously considering the possibility that maybe I had had a seizure or some other bizarre medical event that had caused me to crash, and perhaps I had imagined or hallucinated the deer.”

After reviewing the video to confirm that the deer was, in fact, real, Silas noticed a few frames showing his GPS flying off into the brush. He later went back to the spot and found it lying in some weeds.

“That saved me a couple of hundred dollars,” Patlove said.

But even if he hadn't found his GPS, the crash ensured that he had the funds to replace it—Patlove licensed his footage to a social media management company and made some change off its more than three million views on YouTube.

Don't Play "Follow the Leader" with This Guy


A naturally-occurring strip of white rock that stands out against Sedona's red rock mountains, the White Line quietly dares people to brave a ride along an almost vertical cliff face. Michal Kollbek is one of the few who has heeded the call.

“I always look for new challenges. I knew about this line for a few years and always wanted to ride it. We came to Sedona for a three-day trip, so I checked out the spot on the first day and only walked it a couple times,” Kollbek said.

Accompanied by Marshall Mullen, who captured the wild ride with a drone, Kollbek knew that even the slightest loss of traction could send him tumbling more than 100 feet down the mountain.

“I changed the air pressure in my tires to maximize grip, stiffened up the bike's suspension, and I lowered the saddle height. I walked it one last time and then I was ready.”

The potential risk involved was not lost on Kollbek.

“Conquering this ride was all mental. I was confident with my skills and knew I could execute it. The key was to block out the scary thoughts about the potential danger, so I just focused on the trail and not on the terrifying space around me,” he said.

Forget Parking Your Bike—Parkour Your Bike


When it comes to wizardry, a wand is just one way to work magic. Tim Knoll, though, does it with a BMX bike. He first became known for a video featuring tricks he'd invented, footage that racked up over 8 million YouTube views...and that led to his participation in this viral clip.

Produced as a marketing piece for Ford’s electric cars, the video features several riders tearing up San Francisco. Knoll’s background helped him out in becoming a talented rider:

“Before BMX I was a gymnast when I was younger and that background has always influenced my ability on a bike and what sorts of tricks I do, especially in recent years. I have several tricks that nobody does,” Knoll said.

Knoll’s dexterity and incredible balance requires a lot of effort, for sure, but it wasn’t the biggest challenge during the shoot.

“He [Devin, the director] kept wanting me to smile while I did my tricks, which I never do because while I'm concentrating and exerting a lot of physical effort during tricks, the last thing I think of is smiling,” said Knoll.  

And while famous landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Embarcadero played a supporting role in the shoot, one in particular stood out to Knoll:

“My favorite was doing the bike limbo under those semi-trailers. We had to leave that spot immediately after I cleared all 11 trailers because we were getting kicked out...”

Evel Knievel, Without the Engine


Kelly McGarry’s silver-medal run at the 2013 Red Bull Rampage contest would be spine-tingling enough, but add an enormous backflip at the end, and it's downright astonishing. McGarry clears a 72-foot gap, and although he had practiced his run, the backflip was improvised on the spot.

“The Big Flip was definitely the most challenging and scary, there was so much time in the air and I had to try and slow my rotation down!” McGarry said.

At 6’5”, it’s easy for McGazza (as he’s known) to build up a lot of momentum in a backflip like that—sometimes enough to crash. To prepare for gnarly runs like the Rampage, McGarry says it’s good to be strong, but not too big:

“Strength is very important for mountain bike free ride, you need to have overall body strength to take the big drops and hard landings as well as be able to take crashes and remain uninjured. But it is important to not be too bulky and muscle bound so you can move fast on your bike and be flexible for tricks and style.”

But there's a hidden layer to this video: if you listen closely you can hear McGarry singing and humming as he’s riding, something he does to keep his focus.

“I was singing to myself in the clip, I still do it when I am riding something gnarly or just riding fast, it makes me feel like I am in a mountain bike movie or something!” McGarry explained. “I was nervous but I deal with the fear by breathing deeply before the run and actually when I am doing the run too. I just try to forget it’s a competition and imagine I am just riding with my buddies!”

King of the Mountain


Lofoten, a mountainous landscape in the north of Norway, is the backdrop for this stunning bike video featuring several Norwegian BMX and mountain bikers.

Didrik Dimmen, a Norwegian BMX rider, explains some of the challenges involved:

“It was a unique experience to shoot in Lofoten. The landscape is so powerful and beautiful, but still very challenging. We were there for a month but only got two hours on one of the last days where the weather conditions were good enough to shoot at the dirt jumps at Flakstad. And the bad weather conditions made the construction period much slower than expected… But we kept at it and got some of the coolest shots in the history of biking.”

Dimmen hasn’t been to Lofoten since 2012 when they shot the web series (Lines of Lofoten was released as a 5-part series) but would love going long as he could bring his bike.

“It’s at the top of my list, undoubtedly. One of the sickest places in the world!” Dimmen said. However, due to the remoteness of the location and the unpredictability of the weather, “Going there to ride your bike is a little bit too ‘lotto,’ you’ll never know what kind of weather you’ll get. But I’d love to go back as a tourist sometime!”

Martin Totland

Martin Totland is a journalist and photographer from Norway. He currently lives in San Francisco and has worked in countries around the world, including Thailand, Mozambique, and South Africa. When he's not studying journalism at UC Berkeley, he's either cooking, reading, or working on his powerlifting techniques in the gym.

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