I’ll start off by saying that I love Christian Rigal’s Still United part. I suggest giving that a watch for sure. Having known Christian as a serious rail slayer has made his recent transition into MTB all the more interesting to me. How did this happen? Either way, I’m stoked that he’s stoked.
Click below for a Q&A with Christian about his transition into MTB. Don’t worry, he’s still stoked on BMX.
At some point around early 2018, we started seeing clips and photos of you shredding MTB on your Instagram feed. Seeing as most people are familiar with you as Christian the rail slayer, please explain how this transition into big bikes happened.
Haha. Well I’ve been a huge fan of MTB videos for the past 5 years or so, I think it was the ‘One Shot’ segment of Brandon Semenuk from the ‘Unreal’ movie that caught my eye and instantly made me a fan. It’s always something that looked so fun, but I never had any MTB friends growing up so I was never really exposed to it much. Not to mention how expensive they are, haha.
But the first time I really got to shred some MTB’s was earlier this year after a street trip to Nor Cal with Dennis Enarson and Nathan Williams. We got to go ride a really rad property with Brandon Semenuk and some homies on his fresh new Rampage Downhill bikes and it was insane. Nathan and I had no helmets and the 3 of us had absolutely no clue what the hell we were doing but it was the most fun ever. I don’t think any of us have ever laughed that much riding bikes, it made me feel like a little kid again! After that day I was hooked for sure and knew I had to drop in and get a bike. Thanks to Brandon for the most epic and memorable session ever as well as helping me get my first bike a few months later!
Is it a stretch to say that you grew a bit bored with BMX, or did that play a role in all this?
I’d say that’s a stretch for sure. I think I just kinda burned myself out a bit with how I went about my riding/filming video parts, combined with all the injuries and being a filmer for a living was enough to take a step back. I was so focused on looking for spots, getting clips, and filming the homies that I never really rode for fun anymore. I was literally just riding while I was being filmed, and that’s it. After the ‘Still United’ video was done I found myself pretty happy and content with that video part and where I was with my riding in general. I’m all or nothing with everything in life, so if I was going to film another part I’d want every clip to be bigger and better than the last, I just don’t think I’d survive another one, haha. But breaking my ankle the day before filming Brad Simms for ‘Real BMX’ was the final straw in me taking a step back from pushing myself on a BMX bike. Now I just ride BMX for fun all the time and film some little insta jibs here and there, I love it!
Sending it on any kind of bike is always fun, how do the 2 disciplines compare to you?
Oh man, that feeling is what get’s me so hyped to ride, whether it’s a 20 stair rail or a massive jump, I just love to push and scare myself on a bike. I think the BMX mentality I have from doing scary shit and filming video parts has helped a ton, but it’s so different at the same time. My MTB homies always give me shit when I’m sweating something because they see me do way gnarlier stuff in BMX videos, but I’m in my comfort zone in the streets.
When it comes to MTB’s I still feel pretty out of my element. It’s a pretty indescribable and scary feeling to drop into a steep and scary chute or some massive jumps for the first time without knowing what to expect, you just really have to trust yourself, your bike, and your abilities. Things just feel way more out of control on a MTB, haha. BMX has some similar situations for sure, but it’s hard to compare the two. I don’t think anything will ever feel as gratifying as landing something in the streets that’s literally do or die, or finally pulling a trick you’ve been trying for 3 days, that’s a pretty unique situation with a huge wave of emotions. As corny as it sounds, I’m just a fiend for that adrenaline rush, it doesn’t matter what kind of bike i’m riding.
Judging by your apparent stoke on social media, it seems like you really dove into MTB once you were hooked. Is this a fair statement?
For sure, and it honestly couldn’t have come at a better time because things with BMX were slowing down, but I still had a productive and motivated mindset to ride, film, and shoot photos, I just didn’t want to push it on a BMX bike anymore. Everyday on a MTB is something new, different and exciting for me, so I think it’s safe to say I was hooked, haha. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but it truly feels like I’ve started riding BMX all over again. It’s brought me to so many places I never would have gone or known about, introduced me to a rad new group of people, and given me a fresh new motivation to push myself, be creative, and ride my bike everyday.
Did hopping on a bike with suspension come natural to you, or was it awkward at first?
It definitely wasn’t natural by any means, haha. For a while I would always get the holy diver nose dive from pre-loading the suspension too much off the lip, so figuring out how to jump was a bit of a learning curve. You definitely don’t have to be as dialed on a MTB as you do with a BMX bike when it comes to jumping, and the suspension helps you get away with murder sometimes. But the speed and size of the jumps is what really changes everything, that’s been a weird one to get used to. I rode moto for a couple years during high school so I felt comfortable ripping down trails, I just never really hit big jumps before, and I’ve been brakeless for 13 years haha, so I have a lot to learn and get used to. But suspension or not, I think growing up racing for a bit and riding trails was the most beneficial, I can see that when I take my BMX homies out to the jumps, the dirt dudes pick it up quick!
What bike do you ride?
Well I’ve got a trail bike and a downhill bike that I switch back and forth between. I’ve got a Trek Remedy 9.8, which is a dialed all around carbon fiber trail bike that’s sick for riding trails and jumps, but you can still pedal up hills with it too. For my DH bike I’m riding a Scott Gambler, which is pretty much a dirt bike with no engine, haha. It’s a big bike with a lot of suspension that’s meant for massive jumps, bike parks, and big mountain rampage type terrain, not pedaling, haha. That’s the bike I feel most comfortable on, I’m sketchy, so I need allll that suspension I can get. But I’m about to sell the Trek and if all goes well I’ll be building up a sick new trail/freeride bike soon! Both my bikes are built up with Reverse Components, Schwalbe tires, Novatec 27.5″ wheels and Sram parts. I owe a huge thanks to those guys for keeping me rolling, no way I could do it on my own!
Who are some MTB riders you are stoked on and why?
Shoot, so many different dudes for different reasons. Brandon Semenuk for sure since he’s the one that opened my eyes to MTB’s in the first place, and let’s be honest, he’s the best haha. His riding, his videos, and his passion for projects will always motivate and push my riding and my filming as well. R Dog, Kyle Jameson, Brendan Fairclough, Thomas Genon, Mat Roe, Nico Vink, Kade Edwards and Kaos Seagrave all make riding look realllllly good! The 50 to 1 crew gets me hyped to go ride, jib, and build some fun stuff, makes me wish I had a sick crew like that in SD too. The rampage dudes are all fucked haha, Tom Van Steenbergen, Kyle Strait, Cam Zink, Ethan Nell, Andreau Lacondeguy, Carson Storch, they’re on some serious stunt man shit with the stuff they do, haha. Always stoked to watch the slope guys too even though I’ll never know what that kind of riding feels like. Emil Johansson, Brett Rheeder, Anthony Messere and Owen Marks are all sick an steezy!
You’re an established videographer in BMX and are now filming MTB as well. How do the 2 compare filming/logistics wise? What are some of the major differences?
Shoot… they’re two different beasts. BMX has cops, security, pedestrians, cars, skate stoppers, and a million other things to stop or slow you down. MTB has weather, building, bikes breaking, remote locations, trekking gear up mountains, multiple bikes and a ton of other elements that throw you for a curve ball. MTB is more physically demanding and BMX is more mentally demanding. I think it’ll take me a year or so of filming MTB’s and going on trips to figure out my grove for filming, it’s been a fun and refreshing change though! Stoked to use my gear in new ways and mix what I’ve learned in the streets with what I’m learning now.
What camera gear are you using these days?
Well I literally just opened the box to my new Red Gemini! So damn stoked. I was shooting with a Red Scarlet Dragon and a Lumix gh5 for the past 4 years, but I just traded that in and I couldn’t be any happier! I shoot with all Canon L series glass, a Movi M10 gimbal, DJI Mavic pro 2 drove, Digital Sputnik lights, and a Satchler fluid head tripod. I might invest in a longer lens for some MTB projects but aside from that I’m super hyped on my setup now! Can’t wait to shoot some BMX stuff at night since the Gemini is so good in low light!
For some kid who is straight up BMX but was curious about MTB, what video would you have them watch?
Hmm, I’m still playing catch up myself, there’s been so many epic MTB films and web projects released I wouldn’t even know where to start, so I’ll just list a few I enjoy! Any of the Revel Co videos of Brandon Semenuk, Rad Company (YouTube), Motive (Reb Bull Bike), Deathgrip (free on netflix), all the Trek c3 web videos, 50 to 1 web videos, all the fest series videos and anything Rupert Walker films, haha.
How often do you get on the BMX these days and are you still being supported by the same brands?
It depends where I am and what I’m doing. On the road almost daily, I like to warm up at parks and then go ride big bikes. At home not as much, but when I’m filming BMX I ride a ton. So it’s all over the place. I still crave and need to ride my BMX though, nothing beats riding with all the homies! As far as I know, I’m not hard on my bike anymore so my bikes dialed, last time I needed a new bike United and Demolition took care of me, can’t thank those guys enough for all these years of support! Massive thanks to Etnies as well, so hyped to be rocking those on my MTB and BMX.
What was the last BMX video or part that got you stoked and same for MTB?
The Cult Australia trip got me super hyped and itching to get back in the van with the boys! I love fun road trip videos like that! Such a rad crew. As for MTB I got a sneak peak of two new Revel Co videos of Brandon and R Dog that are going to blow peoples minds! The amount of time and effort that goes into those video projects is un matched and it shows!
Any projects on the horizon you care to mention?
Yeah I’ve been working on a rad video with Thomas Genon that’ll be out this year, I’ll be dropping iTunes sections with Nathan Williams, Demarcus Paul and Corey Martinez, a few other rad projects to be announced as well as a few of me as a rider on my MTB! Lot’s of rad stuff’s in the works on both sides of the lens, can’t wait!
Thanks Christian, any last words before we wrap this up?
Thanks to you guys for taking the interest in what I’m up to with MTB’s and BMX nowadays as well as all the brands that support me and the life I live! Chainline Bikes, East County BMX, Schwalbe tires, Fox MTB, Reverse Components, Novatec wheels, Sram, Etnies, MARKIT, United BMX, Demolition Parts, Free Spirit Recreation, and Digital Sputnik. Also a huge thanks to all my BMX and MTB homies for all the help, motivation, support and endless good times past and present!
The video below was made by Christian and features him riding as well (army green bike/FOX kit)