Haz of all trades — the journey from BMX racing to Freeride MTB

Waking up in a hospital outside of Prague, Harriet Burbidge-Smith had crashed at a Red Bull Revelations four-cross event. Layed up and severely injured, she was hungry.

“I still have no memory of the crash or about 24-hours before or after, but I lacerated my liver and had a pretty severe concussion. I spent about a month in hospital overseas,” she says. “But I had never felt more excited or confident to get back on my bike; it was crazy.”

Harriet Burbidge-Smith whipping through a sea of ferns.

Burbidge-Smith has taken the freeride and gravity world by storm after a long career racing on the BMX circuit, where she earned eight green and gold jumpers and two World Championships.

Leaving the world of 20in wheels behind in 2018, Burbidge-Smith has already proven her mettle in the world of big bikes, with top-ten finishes at Crankworx on the pump track and dual slalom and posted solid performances in the Air DH.

A few years later, the Canberra native is making her way across the pond to Southern Utah to take part in the 2021 Red Bull Formation, digging and riding with the world’s premier female freeriders.


In the start chute

The first time Burbidge-Smith zipped-tied a race plate onto her bike was the ripe old age of four.

“My dad realised that they just couldn’t keep me off the little bikes we had around the house, so they found a BMX track, and it started from there — I raced BMX for the next 20-years,” she says.


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Now 24-years-old, she was soon racing World Cups and working towards a team selection for the Tokyo Olympics.

“In 2018, I did a few World Cups and got okay results, but I ended up being selected to do four-cross World Championships (in Val Di Sole), and I thought it would just be a really cool opportunity to race elite world titles,” she says.

“I had done pretty well in BMX over the years, but I never really felt like I was part of the group. Coming from Canberra, there weren’t that many riders, and I didn’t know that many people. I always felt like a little bit of an outsider,” says Burbidge-Smith.

Haz at her local dirt jumps

That all changed when the young Aussie landed in Italy and headed north towards Trentino.

“I was all by myself, and I still didn’t know anyone, but everyone there just took me in straight away. The British team sort of adopted me, and suddenly I just felt a part of this community that was stoked to have everyone riding together — almost like a big family. I think my personality just fit so much better in that environment than it did in BMX,” she says.

Burbidge-Smith would go on to take fourth place in the event and found herself at a crossroads. She had devoted her life to BMX racing and pushing towards the Olympics, but her enthusiasm was waning.

Leaving BMX behind allowed Burbidge-Smith to tap into a new vein of creativity

“I was looking for other aspects of the sport to satisfy my creative interests. I’m not saying that it can’t be done with BMX, but I was struggling to find it,” she says.

And then fellow Aussie Dani Beecroft convinced Burbidge-Smith to come to Whistler for Crankworx. There she found the same sense of community that had drawn the young rider in at four-cross Worlds, and the event illuminated a path forward.

“It’s not just racing; it’s not just riding your bike; there is so much you can do with it (mountain biking). I remember watching Dirt Diaries and thinking, ‘wow, you can go out there and do literally whatever you want and make something that no one has ever done before — there’s just no limit,'” she says.


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Welcome to Jurassic Park

Burbidge-Smith is driven by creativity. It’s clear to see scrolling through her Instagram (@haznationbikes) or her YouTube channel, which dates back nearly a decade. The act of riding is only a tiny piece of the puzzle for the Canberran, and it’s no surprise in the search for expression she has gravitated towards freeride — a jump paints a blank canvas for the rider and the builder alike.

“My second favourite thing after riding is digging; it’s almost like meditation for me,” she says. “If I’m stressed, going out in the forest and digging by myself for a few hours; not only is it something that I love, it’s also something that correlates exactly with this other thing that I love — the just go together hand in hand.”


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Just before Covid-19 brought the world to a screeching halt, Burbidge-Smith started on a personal project, Majurasic Pines.

“There are some jumps close to where I live, they used to be good, but nobody had worked on them in a while. So I started going out by myself and doing a little bit of digging, and some other people just started joining in. It turned into a daily thing for me through Coivd. I would go there in the morning, and then ride, and come back and stay until like 8:30 pm,” she says. “It’s pretty much what progressed my dirt jumping skills to the level they are now.”

Majurassic Pines has gone from something Burbidge-Smith and few friends worked on during the shutdown, to a legit dirt jump park, with Canberra based Iconic Trails bringing her on in an official capacity to look after the jumps.

Burbidge-Smith has been basing herself out of a van to have the flexibility to head to Bare Creek, Green Valleys or top-secret training facility at a moments notice.

“A big part of me wanting to do it was seeing so many kids riding at Majura and realising that Canberra either has really small stuff or huge stuff. There was nothing for progression in between.

When I was young, I could do the small jump lines, but it was a massive jump to doing the big stuff, and I didn’t have the confidence to make that leap,” she says.

“You’ve got to be proactive, and you can’t just expect people to come to you, especially when you’re in a country like Australia — people aren’t just going to discover you.”

In the past few year’s we’ve seen mountain biking explode, and with it, riding destinations. Trail networks are popping up in every state, and there is what seems like a constant flow of new places for people to ride. Unfortunately, freeriders haven’t been so lucky.

Burbidge-Smith, Camila Nogueira, Blake Hansen get down to business at Red Bull Formation.

“It’s quite hard to find places to ride; there’s Bare Creek and Green Valley, but not like it is in Europe or Canada where there are bike parks with big features all over. So you really have to make an effort to find a feature that is going to progress you; at the moment, a lot of it is finding your own stuff, and doing treks and scouting missions to find things that are going to work,” she says.

Taking the trip across the ditch

Red Bull Formations was first held in 2019, gathering the best female freeride and gravity athletes to take on Virgin, Utah, the home of Rampage. The event came to be after legendary ultra-endurance athlete Rebecca Rusch went to Rampage as a spectator and asked why there were no female competitors.

It hasn’t been an easy process for Burbidge-Smith to get to where she is, but the pieces started to fall into place once she gained new insights into how her mind works.

The global pandemic cancelled last year’s event; however, in 2021, it’s full steam ahead. Three weeks before Formation was set to kick off, Burbidge-Smith learned that she had earned the all coveted invite.

Aussie BMX legend Caroline Buchanan put Burbidge-Smith in touch with the organisers, but it was up to the young Aussie to prove her worth. It took six months of going back and forth, sending photos and videos to secure her spot.

“You’ve got to be proactive, and you can’t just expect people to come to you, especially when you’re in a country like Australia — people aren’t just going to discover you. So you’ve got to be messaging, emailing, and sending people stuff and posting stuff. You’ve got to do it for yourself because nobody is going to do it for you,” she says.


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It’s this drive to keep pushing that has not only netted Burbidge-Smith an invite to one of the world’s premier freeride mountain bike events, but has also brought her new sponsors through Covid.

“Over the eight-month period where everything was shut down, I progressed my riding and the mental side of things more than any other year. It definitely showed in my riding, because I picked up more sponsors than any other year, which is crazy,” she says.

The results of Burbidge-Smith’s look inward and undeniable

In this period, Burbidge-Smith tells Flow she read as much as she possibly could, while also looking inwards and dissecting her approach to riding to hone in on how she could continue to progress.

“I was trying to figure out how my mind works, and how my body works and how I should feel,” she says.

“For me, I don’t want to look at a jump for very long; I need to hit it straight away. I know if I don’t do that, I’m not going to hit it, because I’m going to think about it too much,” she continues.


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Burbidge-Smith often trains with Buchanan who is the opposite; she likes to look at a jump and work it over in her head for a while before dropping in. Until Burbidge-Smith worked out her training partner’s approach was incompatible with her brain, it was holding her progression back.

“After a slopestyle competition, someone messaged me and said, ‘I’d love to do that.'”

“I use to say things like that all the time, and I realised the difference between those words and actions. It’s a big step, but even a few years ago, I was saying I’d love to do that or I want to do that, and now I’m not just saying it, I’m going out and doing it,” she says.

Burbidge-Smith makes jumping look effortless.

This was at the forefront of Burbidge-Smith’s mind when she received word that she had been selected for this year’s Formation.

“When I got selected a few weeks ago, I literally had zero dollars in my bank account, but I was like, okay, let’s figure out how to make this happen. It would be quite easy for me to say, Coivd is still quite bad, I haven’t got any money to get overseas, I’ll just wait for next year. But there might not be a spot for me next year, so I’ve gotta go for it and make it all happen.”

Looks like a Session! Well two Sessions that is; Haz will be using the high pivot 29er for racing and the ruby red 27.5in bike for freeride.

Burbidge-Smith tells Flow she plans to soak in every detail she can while in Utah and bring it back home to improve her riding and the overall discipline.

“In Australia, there really hasn’t been a whole lot of freeride support, or events, or exposure of any kind. There has been a little bit the past year or so with Green Valleys and Red Bull organising events like Highline, but there is still a long way to go.


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At the same time, we are sort of at the forefront here in Australia because we have both the men and the women competing in events that were traditionally only for guys, and it’s the result of just people just pushing and pushing,” she says.

After the dust has settled on Red Bull Formation, Burbidge-Smith is headed for Europe to compete in Crankworx Innsbruck before returning to Australia. On her hit list of events for the coming year is Crankworx Rotorua in November, but she tells us her plan for mandatory hotel quarantine is to take stock and target her goals for the next 12-months.

As we speak, Haz is riding in Virgin, Utah, head over to her Instagram page to follow her progress.

Photos:  Matt Staggs @mattstaggsvisuals, Stu Ross @rossposs, Catherine Aeppel / Red Bull Content Pool, James Hiscutt @jameshiscuttfilms

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