Flight Path - Reece Wallace goes Huge in Utah
Reece Wallace traveled south last winter to build and film a video in Virgin, Utah, with hopes of earning an invitation to Red Bull Rampage, the world's premier freeride event.
After missing out on an invitation last summer, Reece felt he had something to prove. So he spent almost a month in the Utah desert, along with his crew, building features in preparation for this video—followed by an additional two weeks filming. This is the result: Flight Path.
We caught up with Reece to talk to him about the project.
First and foremost, Reece, insane video, props. By far your gnarliest riding to date. Let’s chat about this video. What was the motivation behind making this project happen?
Thanks a lot, happy with how it turned out.
My motivation for this project boils down to pushing my limits. Originally, my plan was to do this video last spring and use it as a Rampage submission. However, when I broke my back filming my North Shore video it pushed back the possibility of going until this year. It’s been brewing in the back of my mind to do this project for almost two years now.
Utah’s the perfect place to push myself and riding—unlimited landscapes, easy to build [compared to home], and resonates with where I want to be in freeride mountain biking. If you want to get some lines or tricks, and can put in the effort building the stunts, it’s doable.
A lot of people felt you were robbed after not being invited to Rampage last year, can you elaborate on that?
Ah cheers. Yeah, that was rough on me. I was really hoping to compete last fall, practicing a lot, and trying to prove myself through video. When I didn’t receive an invite, or even one of the five alternate spots, it hurt. Some sleepless nights over that one. Anyway, come fall I was feeling back to my normal self—I even went down to Rampage to watch and cheer on the boys. Afterwards, I decided I wouldn’t let someone else’s decisions determine my worth as a rider. I was exhausted in trying to prove I belong in Rampage. I put too much weight on the invite and it stripped the reason why I wanted to do it in the first place. Now, I’ve changed my outlook and I’m back to basics. I want to do gnarly moves and film videos for me. I push myself because I want to, because I’m capable, and because I want to be the best rider I can be.
What was the hardest part of making this video?
The weather. We encountered some freak weather systems which made things tough. Anything north facing [new Rampage site/zone] was covered in snow and frozen, and everything south facing was muddy slop. We couldn’t drive my truck more than 5 feet without getting it stuck. This meant we had to walk into every zone, and were extremely limited in areas to build. In the first week, we must have spent 20-30 hours just walking looking for zones. This meant hiking in each day where you’d normally be able to drive to. It also meant while filming we had to be weary of an exit plan in case I got hurt in some of these remote locations with no vehicle access.
While building, 80-100 kph winds were standard as we were battered by winter storms. We’d stack a lip, come back the next day and it was eroded by wind. There was a lot of rebuilding.
To top it off, the day Matt was scheduled to fly in to start filming there was a flash flood and winter storm. Everything was soaked then covered in snow with no end in sight. At this point, I had spent a month in Utah building, done almost no riding and zero filming, and had to go home. I was pretty discouraged.
Wow, that sounds like a crapshoot. What happened next?
It was just a waiting game with the weather. The hardest part of building all these stunts was knowing what I wanted to do on them, and having to wait two months to do it. The stress of waiting is always worse than actually doing it. Two months later, it was game on. We flew back to Utah, spent five days repairing all the winters damage, and began filming. In our 13-day window of filming, we clipped eight days and five were written off due to wind. I’d be on the roll-in at sunrise waiting for the wind but it wouldn’t stop howling. The weather there is relentless.
You produce the videos—what does this involve?
Besides building and riding, I oversee the overall direction and theme of the video, as well as coordinating all the logistics such as build crew, accommodations, budget, filmmaker and release strategy. In terms of the actual video, Matt Butterworth [filmmaker] is the wizard behind it all. We typically discuss ideas and angles beforehand and bounce them off each other. Matt’s one of my best friends so it feels natural working with a homie you ride with on the daily. After the shoot, Matt lays it out on the timeline and we go over it together. I’ll give him a sense of what I’d like to see, and he runs with it.
"Flight Path," what’s the title about?
I’m in the process of getting my pilot's license and it’s been a big part of my life this year. After building each day, I’d hit the books and work on my ground school. Flying’s always been a passion of mine and I’m stoked it’s included with the retro plane graphics at the beginning. Plus, the run-in to the big jump at the start was almost the length of a runway, ha ha. My knowledge in aviation weather forecasting also helped us with the shoot in terms of determining wind speeds, direction, and what the weather was doing. Flying offers a similar sense of freedom to riding which is why I love it.
How does riding in the desert for this project compare to your last North Shore video?
Totally different. Building stunts in the forest is more work and can be more dangerous riding them. The trees, terrain, rocks and roots dictate you to how big you can go. It can take weeks to build one stunt. In the desert, however, you can build stunts as big as you’re willing to go. This was the appeal for me coming down to Virgin. It's also an entirely different bike set up. For free ride stunts at home on the shore, I have to run a similar stiff set up, but also low tire pressure and open low speed compression to accommodate for how wet, bumpy, and slippery the terrain is. This means you gotta be spot on in terms of landings or you'll flat or peel the tire off.
The 360 at the end was huge. What did that feel like?
I’ve done a lot of 360 drops, but nothing this big. It was about 32 feet down, but only 15 feet out—quite plumby. I had to go really slow and just trust my pop to make it to the landing. It felt crazy seeing the red cliff bands fly past my peripherals while spinning.
What goes through your mind before one of these moves?
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I think I take more practice runs than most riders, but I like to know whatever I’m trying there’s a high likelihood of landing it and this eases me. I’m definitely not a ‘huck-n-pray’ type of rider—I like to control as many variables as possible to eliminate as much risk as I can, similar to flying. That said, there’s definitely an element of ‘just send it’, albeit calculated, as I’m rolling into the stunt. Trusting your abilities, being confident, and conquering this fear is what makes it so fun.
Any close calls or crashes you had during the shoot?
No crashes, but one close call which could have been really bad. When I hit the big jump back in January to test it out, I started at the top of the roll in with no brakes and greased it. When I tried it again in April, I went in with what I thought was the same speed and overshot it by about 50 feet. The dirt had obviously packed in a lot and was running much faster, turning a 70-foot jump into 100-120 feet. Luckily, the landing was almost 100 feet tall, so I still caught tranny and rode it out. That said, when I flew 30 feet over top of the knuckle and saw the landing disappear below me, I immediately went into shock as I thought I was dead. As soon as I landed, it felt like I was electrocuted and was unresponsive to Matt and Alan running down the landing to see if I was okay. Never experienced that much adrenaline in my life, not a pleasant feeling.
Is Rampage your main goal with this video, or is it something else?
Rampage is still my goal, but not my only one. Creating rad videos is my first priority. Here’s hoping I can get a wildcard spot with this video. But if not, I still made a video I can be proud of.
Tell us a bit about your bike set up for this shoot
Stiff and slow. I run a custom-tuned DVO Onyx DC fork with a stiff shim stack, slow rebound, and max psi. I also run the Jade rear shock with a 550lb spring, custom-tuned shim stack, and 50 psi over max. I run 35 psi in my tires, as well as my brake levers almost flat to help with harsh landings to keep my weight back. I removed the frame bumpers so I can turn the bars more for spins, but beyond that the bike is pretty much stock.
Is there anything else you wanted to do in this video, but didn’t?
Honestly, at the end of the shoot I wasn’t pleased with my performance. We had built seven features for this video, but with the weather we were only able to film five. There were also a couple tricks I wanted to do but couldn’t get enough practice with the wind. I wanted a different trick on the big jump, for example, but only had two successful practice jumps before flipping it and the wind starting again. That’s the way it rolls down in the desert. I think being a good rider means being tough on yourself, but also knowing when to walk away. Looking back at it, I was too deep in it to appreciate what we had done at the time.
If you do get into Rampage, what type of line could we expect from you?
I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, but something similar to this video I think. Big drops, exposed, jumps, and fast. Obviously I’d have to scope the landscape and see what terrain was still available, as this is the determining factor. I rode Rampage in 2015, and there was almost no real estate left in terms of new build areas as it was my first year at a second-year venue. It would be the same story this year for me, so we'll see. It would be rad if first year guys on a second year venue had some additional days to build, but I'd say it's unlikely.
Favorite and least favorite parts of filming?
Favorite: Finding the zone and beginning the build, as well as stomping the trick
Least Favorite: Guinea pigging
Anyone you’d like to shout out?
Giant Bicycles for supporting film and freeride. Alan Mandel and Liam Wallace for crushing it on the builds, as well as Brian Feister for helping out. You guys are beasts. Matt Butterworth for going above and beyond with the film/edit. My other sponsors Industry Nine, Muc-Off, Shred Optics, DVO Suspension, Maxxis Tires, Chromag, and Sombrio. Mitch Chubey for letting us use his drone, Jaxson Riddle for letting us store our gear at his place, and my wife Katrina for putting up with me being gone all winter.
Thanks Reece. Here's hoping we see you in the desert this fall!
Videography & Photography by Matt Butterworth
Additional Photography by Alan Mendal