Freeriding , which was formerly known as play riding or riding natural terrain in the hills, has been making a big comeback lately and seems to be gaining more popularity in the industry and among riders these days.
Street skating, backcountry snowboarding and backcountry skiing have increased the exposure of skateboarding, snowboarding and freeskiing thanks to some of the most skillful athletes in those sports. That has ultimately led to those athletes getting paid to make a living doing what they love to do while developing a subgenre within their respective sport.
In freestyle motocross, though, freeriding is not anything new. Not yet its own officially recognized sport, freeriding holds importance amongst the riders and helps build their street credit. It's good to use freeriding, combined with social media, as a way for a rider to establish his name and affix a tracking light on himself amid the motocross industry's wider radar screen.
This is the case for Lance Coury. Part of the new breed, Coury didn't get the opportunity available in the earlier days of FMX when qualifying competitions led to the big events. Nowadays, breaking into the big-time events comes by invitation only to elite riders. Taking advantage of the new social media era, Coury is focusing on continuing to grow and establish himself amongst his riding peers that his talents are the real deal.
"I feel like your everyday rider can connect more with pro riders riding in the hills, versus riding ramps," Coury says.
XGames.com recently spoke with Coury to discuss the challenges of reaching the next level of FMX.
XGames.com: So what is it about riding in the hills right now that seems to have everyone so excited? It seems like the Instagram era has made everyone a freerider.
Coury: I think at the end of the day, both riding ramps and freeriding are pretty gnarly. However, riding ramps has gotten to a point where you have to be either the gnarliest guy out there, doing the newest tricks, or else you are replaceable. Where in the world of freeriding, it is a much more accessible way to ride for your everyday dirt bike rider.
The coolest part of it all is; the average person can connect more with us riding in the hills versus seeing us riding ramps. They can actually go to those hills we are on, whether it's Ocotillo [Wells], Beaumont, etc., and they can do smaller jumps working up to the bigger ones, like we do. They can understand and relate to what we're doing. They are able to relate to those pictures posted on Instagram and in return, get more stoked to go out and do it themselves.
I am not saying freeriding is in any way easy. From the small bumps, to the big hits, freeriding forces you to show your bike skills in many ways. You have to be a good, talented rider in order to handle the natural terrain. So it takes more than just balls, it takes balls and talent. Having the talent to ride outdoors shows what level you are on riding a bike, and the veterans of FMX out there know what it takes.
We rode on a film trip recently and you did really well, is there any correlation between that and your racing background?
Definitely. I've practically been on a bike since I could walk, so it is second nature to me. When I'm on my bike, it's just natural. Riding from such a young age allowed me to learn to control my bike in any situation. Freeridng is about controlling your bike. When we were riding on the film trip, some instances brought me back to being 15 years old, and hitting a kicker, which could throw you left or right, and having to be able to control your bike is definitely something I learned from a young age.
What excites you about riding in the hills the most?
Riding in the hills is exciting for a couple of reasons. One, you're going out riding with your buddies. Second, every time you ride, it is a different experience. The jumps change, the terrain changes, and there is always room to go bigger. At the end of a good day of riding, everyone's proud of each other and there is an overall good vibe out there.
How important is it amongst your peers nowadays to be respected as a good freerider?
Yes, it's very important to have that respect, otherwise you are categorized as just a ramp kid. If you are labeled as one … you just don't want to be.
Do you think having that credit or reputation can lead to increased exposure or increased sponsorship deals?
Definitely. I think that the magazines, Motocross Action, Racer X, Transworld (the three heavy hitters in the industry), would rather post a photo of you hitting a dirt jump in the hills than a ramp shot. I think the average person reading those magazines would rather see a person hitting those jumps in the hills.
At the end of the day, the more media of you that is out there, the more happy your sponsor will be. The more their logos are seen, the more valuable you are to them.
How much weight do you think social media is going to play in supporting that model of creating content to put out in the media, in hopes of increasing your value?
I think the Instagram world, the Twitter world, as well as the Facebook world have all helped everyone's careers. I can do something cool and within 2 seconds the world can know about it, you know. And with that, chances are sponsors logos are in the picture or video I post. The majority of people have a social media site, so they're going to see what a rider, or myself, puts out there and trust me, sponsors know about it.
By doing so, people are able to correlate what they see to what they will possibly purchase. For example, if a young kid sees a photo of me riding my Suzuki Hart & Huntington bike, and then goes to purchase his first dirt bike, the possibility of him remembering me on a yellow bike, and buying a Suzuki, are better because of the world's access to social media.
Can you give me any examples of social media benefiting you in some way through a sponsorship deal or a film trip invite?
Yes, it has. Social media has allowed me to put my progress in the sport out there for the public viewing. Whether it is viewed by fans, or a possible sponsorship, it has made me accessible. It is a great way to stay current in the sport, and fresh in people's minds.
And, I think if you are current, you definitely get more people calling wanting to go ride with you. For example, recently I was invited to Twitch's Dirt Bike Kidz film trip. He must've seen some sick ass s--- I just posted and needed my style in his video, you know?
I know ultimately your goals are to have the credit of being an accomplished X Games competition athlete but in between those select few invites, how important is it to you to be out freeriding?
Well, I know when I did a couple X-Fighters, and Dew Tours, some of the courses had a lot of small technical jumps that went into the ramps. With that being said, the more practice and opportunity you have out there freeriding, the more you'd be able to control your bike with those obstacles. The better rider you are, the easier time you are going to have riding that course, getting to those ramps, turning those corners, and being smooth. Being in those competitions is not just about what you do in the air, but how you handle the course as a whole.
Where do you think freeriding is going down the road?
I think all riders want to see freeriding progress as its own sport. If it were to become, say, like the world of freeride snowboarding, freeridng on a dirt bike would let the riders have more control of their careers in a way that they aren't dependent on being invited to an exclusive event.
I mean, there is a handful of snowboard athletes that have a solid career just on venturing out on film trips, etc., breaking boundaries around the world with new innovations, bigger tricks, things that create headlines and write the books of history in their sport.
I believe the same thing can be done in the world of freeriding on a dirt bike and I don't think the events should be the end all of a career if the rider is capable, passionate and talented on a bike.
I rode the Great Ride Open and that was a two-week trip, with six different spots. There were four or five riders on that trip and to this day, whatever event I go to, be it a Supercross race or FMX event, I'm known as Lance from the Great Ride Open. People know it because they watched it so much. Kids love that show, and whether it was racers, surfers, whoever was watching Fuel TV, they watched this show and they appreciated us riders jumping 200 feet over a mountain. People want to see that!
So there's no reason why dirt bike riders can't do that if we get the outlet to get it out there. There would be no reason why people wouldn't watch it.
You raised a good point, there's a total of four (summer) X Games a year that last four days, that's 16 days out of the year you can watch FMX, what about the other 349 days of the year?
Well then it's clear to see how important and relatable freeriding is! The other 349 days of the year that FMX riders aren't seen performing, we are out there, in the hills, just like you. We are practicing, having good times on our bikes. Those times could definitely be captured for the worldwide audience who also love moto and action sports.