The Angry Singlespeeder: Legendary Kamikaze returns as awesome, inclusive festival

Iconic event that helped define mountain biking back as Kamikaze Bike Games

Event Opinion Race Coverage

Kamikaze

Courtesy of Peter Morning/MMSA

As a teenager in the early 1990s who was completely obsessed with mountain biking, I used my parents VHS recorder to document every piece of mountain bike programming on cable TV. And since mountain biking was the ultimate, hardcore, rock star extreme sport in the early 1990s, there was a surprising amount of mountain bike programming on ESPN.

Besides the Fat Tire Journal and NORBA National events, my absolute favorite ESPN programming was the Reebok Dual Eliminator, a race that pitted two overpadded and over neoned lunatics side-by-side to race 60 mph down a volcano on hardtail bikes with cantilever brakes and 80mm of front suspension. This death-defying event was lovingly known as The Kamikaze.

The footage was spectacular to watch. Wheels exploding at full speed, blown corners that shot riders in to a mountain of hay bales, helicopters flying within a couple hundred feet of the riders to get video footage; the Kamikaze was the early 90’s version of the Red Bull Rampage.

What started in 1985 as a crazy idea dreamed up by Mammoth Mountain employee Bill Cockroft and his friends, by the early 1990s, the Kamikaze became the gold standard for extreme sports. Then one day the Kamikaze stopped and the mountain went silent, until last year.

Flip

Courtesy of Peter Morning/MMSA

In 2013 the first annual Kamikaze Bike Games brought back the legendary Kamikaze downhill along with a host of other dirt events including dual slalom, Pro GRT Downhill, a cross-country race, kids races and the crowd pleasing speed & style competition. There was also an enduro race in which I documented my very first Enduro™. In short, it was an awesome weekend of events, and it was clear the resort threw down some serious coin to pull it off. There weren’t as many people in attendance last year as I would have hoped, but I was certain word would spread and more people would show up this year.

Hecklers

Courtesy of Peter Morning/MMSA

To avoid the conflict with Interbike that hurt attendance last year, this year’s Kamikaze Bike Games (KBG) was held a weekend later, and it was clear that this move helped. The Enduro sold out all 300 spots, roughly 100 more riders participated in the Cross-Country race on a much-improved route and the downhill course was lined with a healthy dose of hecklers. Even legends of the Kamikaze like three-time winner Myles Rockwell showed up as well as the man responsible for giving downhill mountain biking its in-your-face, rock star status, Shaun Palmer.

The Kamikaze is fully back.

Follow Me

This year’s KBG Enduro event was the fourth of five installments in the California Enduro Series, and the course served up four segments which included noteworthy trails like Follow Me, Flow, Bullet, Brake Through and a run down from the very top of the 11,053 foot high Kamikaze. The course was truly a choice sampling of all the terrain Mammoth Mountain has to offer, from its characteristically loose, volcanic pumice sand known lovingly as “kitty litter” interspersed with massive embedded boulders to exhausting pedaly sections for the fit riders and manmade ramps, jumps and drops to appease the get-rad gravity crew.

Ripley

After rocking a six-inch travel GT Force demo bike last year, this year my Enduro rig has been an Ibis Ripley. Although some feel the Ripley is short on travel at only 120mm out back and 140mm in the front, my ride was sporting the new Ibis 941 carbon wheels with 41mm outer rim width and the new Cane Creek DBinline rear shock. Thanks to its twin tube design packed in a single barrel body, DBinline made the Ripley feel like a longer travel bike and the wider wheels provided noticeably improved cornering traction.

Corner

Courtesy of Peter Morning/MMSA

Mammoth is notorious for having among the loosest, sketchiest corners of any mountain in North America thanks to its volcanic kitty litter. Anyone who’s ever ridden here is well aware of the “Mammoth Two-Wheel Drift” – you practically do it in every corner.

I was fully prepared for a weekend of drifting through turns, but two things happened that provided more grip than I’ve ever had at Mammoth: the wideboy Ibis wheels and a downpour of rain an hour before the race on Sunday morning. The Ibis 941 wheels took my 2.4-inch tires and made them 2.5s, providing a level of cornering traction and stability I’ve never experienced at Mammoth before. The improvement was confidence inspiring. I’m fully sold on the wideboy wheels. They work.

The more significant aspect though was a downpour of rain the morning of the event, a Godsend for an area that’s been plagued by a summer of drought and wildfires. The only bummer was that race organizers decided to nix the Kamikaze segment. Conditions at 11,053 feet were pretty nasty, with 60+ mph winds and snow, not a good place to be standing around in colorful Lycra.

Continue to Page 2 for more on the legendary Kamikaze »

About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


Related Articles


NOTE: There are two ways to comment on our articles: Facebook or Wordpress. Facebook uses your real name and can be posted on your wall while Wordpress uses our login system. Feel free to use either one.

Facebook Comments:



Wordpress Comments:

  • scott says:

    Kurt: Do you even SS??

    Am I just slow, or do my tires have too much grip??? I ride Mammoth almost weekly (pedal up and “bomb” down) and I rarely drift.

    Did they have 80mm of suspension in the early 90s??? I remember when the Judy DH came out and had an amazing 3″ of travel, must have been in 94-95???

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*