Bike stunt becomes a video sensation

HIGH FLIER: Queenstown’s Kelly McGarry completes a backflip during the Red Bull Rampage in Virgin, Utah.
HIGH FLIER: Queenstown’s Kelly McGarry completes a backflip during the Red Bull Rampage in Virgin, Utah.

A YouTube clip of Queenstown mountainbiker Kelly McGarry backflipping over a 22-metre canyon in the United States has attracted nearly 15 million hits since October.

The two-minute video, captured on a camera on Mr McGarry's helmet, shows him competing in the Red Bull Rampage in Virgin, Utah.

The professional mountainbiker finished second in the event, but won the "People's Choice" award after being the only rider to do a flip over the canyon towards the end of the run.

"When I strapped that camera on my helmet I never thought I was going to get that sort of response," he said.

"It's been good; good for the sponsors and been really cool.

"I've got a lot of emails and so many people have said to me, ‘you're that guy who did the backflip over the canyon'."

The course at the Rampage was tough, he said.

"Red Bull Rampage is one of the gnarliest comps of the year. It's a freeride competition, so it's like a freeski competition where you can pick your own line down the ravine.

"It's a pretty unique competition and it's got some of the biggest features on the whole FMB [Freeride Mountain Bike) circuit; way bigger drops than any other competition," he said.

"It's really nerve-wracking, really exposed, as you can see from the YouTube clip. It's a really nerve-wracking weekend and I don't sleep too well the night before. You've just got to get on top of your nerves, get into the zone and get to the bottom in one piece."

The 31-year-old grew up racing motocross and then BMX. He was a relatively late starter in freeride mountainbiking after completing a carpentry apprenticeship.

He has been riding overseas for the past eight years, but has been dedicated solely to competitions for the past four or five years.

"It's pretty damn cool doing something you love for a job. A lot of people want to do it; it's awesome, but it has its tough times, too. There's a lot of travel and living out of your suitcase for six months of the year can be pretty consuming," he said.

"You have to try the best you can to look after your body. Touch wood, I'm in not too bad a nick at the moment, but I've had some hard crashes over the years. I'm one of the older guys out there, too, now."

Mr McGarry, who grew up in Nelson but has been spending his summers in Queenstown for the past five years, competes in the FMB World Tour, finishing the 2013 season ranked ninth overall.

"I travel through Europe, the States and Canada. I went to Mexico and Peru this year as well, which was pretty cool."

He said the burgeoning mountainbiking scene in Queenstown was exciting.

"It's pretty cool to see. I've been coming down here for eight years and it's just getting bigger and bigger. You are seeing more and more people coming from overseas, staying the whole season to ride - like ski bums, but bike bums. It's an amazing scene and it's pretty cool to be part of."

The Southland Times