© Stefan Voitl / Red Bull
Freeride mountain biker Casey Brown has had her fair share of injuries – from smashed teeth to a lacerated liver – but that comes with pushing boundaries in a sport that can see you soar 50ft into the air on a bike.
The 28-year-old rider, who has also competed successfully in downhill mountain biking and the Enduro World Series, grew-up in remote New Zealand where the next town was an eight-hour hike away. Aged 11, Casey moved with her family to British Columbia where she later honed her MTB skills and would go on to be crowned Queen of Crankworx, the world-wide circuit where riders accumulate points in a variety of MTB disciplines, and Whip-off World Champion multiple times.
This weekend, Casey will take part in the qualifiers for Red Bull Rampage, an event considered the pinnacle of big mountain freeriding, where the world’s best freeride athletes launch themselves down 65-ft high cliffs in Utah following impossible lines and performing insane tricks (yep, it’s as high risk as it sounds). This year sees the first-ever qualifying event and Casey is making history as the first and only woman to be invited. Go, Casey. We’re rooting for you.
You grew up an 8-hour hike from the nearest road and spent a large amount of time outdoors. Do you think your childhood gave you an unusually good idea of your physical capabilities and boundaries?
I think having the freedom and capabilities to explore and truly be a kid without the modern day influence of ‘Barbie’-type limiting ideas of what it means to be a little girl helped me to be who I am today.
As soon as we could walk, well, we had to. There were a lot of supplies to carry in so being carried would take up needed hands. We made up fun check points along the way [during the eight-hour hike] which helped break-up the walk.
Last year you shifted your focus from the Enduro World Series to freeriding. What in particular do you love about freeriding?
I love that the possibilities are so wide open, and I get to push myself in areas that I otherwise wouldn’t have time for. I get to be more creative and self-expressive on my bike, and that to me is the true soul of mountain biking.
Part of what you do involves gaining 50ft of air on your bike. What’s your relationship with fear like?
Committing to a big lip is one of the most exciting things for me, there is so much anticipation. I for sure get scared, but it’s the best feeling when you just do it anyway.
What goes through your head at the top of something like Corbet’s Couloir* and how do you ensure you remain focused?
Corbet’s was an interesting one, it was literally the first time on that bike (I’d built it the night before and it was a sunrise shoot) so there was a bit of mystery to what it was going to feel like. I saw Cam hit it first so I had a little idea, but I ended up with more speed which put me into a line that was hard packed snow, and there was no chance of slowing down, which ended poorly for me hahaha.
*The 20ft high Jackson Hole ski run which Casey launched her bike down for a film
What does a typical day in your life look like at the moment?
It’s different every day, depending on the weather. I’m still competing at Crankworx so I have to train specifically for each event, sometimes learning tricks gets put on the back burner, especially if I’ve taken a hard hit trying something new. It’s a tough sport, my body hurts more this year than ever.
Does such a thing as a typical week of training exist for you?
No typical week exists, my life is ever-changing and I like it like that.
You need a pretty bullet-proof body to do what you do. What strength training and balance work do you do?
I do my best to go to the gym regularly, whenever I can. Always a different workout. It builds durability and it also gives you confidence on the bike.
You’ve experienced some seriously hard spills. Were there any falls you thought you might not be able to bounce back from?
I’ve taken my fair share of crashes, it’s taught me a lot but I think it’s also put a bit of extra cautiousness in my riding, I hope it’s there for a good reason.
What are your thoughts on the competitive opportunities for women to freestyle and compete in stunts/jumps – is it still lacking?
I think times are changing, the funding was the main limitation, and now companies are seeing the value in non-racing female athletes.
Red Bull Rampage recently announced a new qualifying format. How are you feeling about qualifying and hopefully lining up at Rampage?
I’m excited to see the course, it’s an honour to get invited to an event like this. I don’t feel any pressure to qualify, just a bit of nervousness competing against all the big dogs.
Who are you sponsored by right now and what are your favourite items of kit for riding?
I ride for Trek bikes, Clif Bar, Sierra Nevada, Dakine, Bell Helmets, Title components, Bannister GM Vernon, and Bontrager.
You can follow Casey’s riding via her social media: www.instagram.com/casey__brown__.