For the first time in its decade-long history, Red Bull Hardline is leaving home and heading for Tasmania. The world’s fastest downhillers will land in Maydena Bike Park — or rather fly above — with a purpose-built course under construction as we speak.
But it’s not just about the elite riders, as the Bike Park is using Hardline as a springboard to relaunch Gravity Fest, a week-long mountain bike festival running from February 20-25, 2024 — this is the week after Cannonball MTB Fest in Thredbo, road trip anyone?
- Flow Destination Hub | Maydena, Tas
- Best Mountain Bike Trails in Tasmania | Where to Ride on the Apple Isle
What is Red Bull Hardline, and how did Maydena get the hosting gig?
Dyfi Bike Park in Wales has hosted Red Bull Hardline for ten years, and Maydena will be the first time the event has been run anywhere else. It’s been called the hardest downhill for the bravest riders in the world and combines a race against the clock with drops, jumps and gaps that would Humpty Dumpty-fy a mere mortal.
“I love watching something like Rampage or the Crankworx Slopestyle events, but it’s kind of hard to wrap your head around the level of the tricks that the athletes are doing now. It feels so far removed from what us ordinary people do on a mountain bike ride. The cool thing about Hardline is at the end of the day it’s a race, and that’s something that has a lot more relevance to the general mountain bike population — it’s a bit easier to understand,” says Maydena and Dirt Art head Simon French.
Coming off the back of hosting one of two Aussie stops of the Enduro World Cup, French tells Flow that he had been in talks with Red Bull for some time about Hardline.
“I’m not even sure it was raised by one side specifically. It came up in discussion, and we all agreed it was something worth having a look at, but we didn’t really ever think it would come to fruition. A few months after that, it all started getting a little more serious, and then we had a few different site visits from Red Bull and their broadcast team. And then it was on,” says French.
In the UK at Dyfi Bike Park, Dan Atherton is the driving force behind the design and construction of the course, however for the Maydena event, Dirt Art has the reigns.
“We’re designing it (the course). Dan isn’t actually coming down, but Gee (Atherton) and some of his construction team will be here to have a bit of a look at the course and see if they have any input,” French tells Flow.
Tell us about the Hardline Maydena course
According to French, with the topography of Abbotts Peak, the course has to run on the eastern side of the bike park, essentially riders’ right of everything except for the wilderness trail. It will be a completely new trail, though it will interface with a some of the existing singletrack, and jump over the top of others on the way down.
“There is really only one area on the hill at Maydena that works for that type of course that has the elevation and can sustain the gradient all the way through,” says French. “It’s really just placing those final big features, but it’s very much a Maydena course.”
The course covers 550m of vertical drop and starts up near Zen Master — formerly known as Zen Garden. Up there, the forest is open, and there are dramatic views of Mount Field National Park.
Hardline gained a fandom not just through the unique format but also the scale of the features the riders need to survive on the way down. According to French one of the key things they need to match is that scale, however they aren’t trying to plonk the Dyfi Hardline course on top of Maydena.
“It’s quite a bit longer than the National Downhill, for example; it’s (the Hardline course) an additional 150m of elevation. But we’re working to bring the race time into pretty similar to what Nationals were — so mid-three-minutes,” French says.
“It’s definitely going to look different, but the way a lot of the features flow are actually pretty similar to Hardline UK where you have steep rocky terrain at the top. Then through the middle of the course, it’s quite fast-paced and there are severe jumps and things like that. And then the big big stuff down the bottom is quite similar to the UK like the quintessentially Hardline features, like the stupidly big road gap,” says French.
As it stands, the current deal is for Hardline to run at Maydena for a minimum of three years — though talks are already underway to extend that — the course will be a permanent fixture at the Bike Park — though it won’t be accessible to the public for obvious reasons.
Who has been invited to Red Bull Hardline Maydena?
The list of riders invited to Red Bull Hardline Maydena has yet to be announced. We can speculate about a few folks who will most definitely be on that list. However, following the quagmire Red Bull created for itself with the cancellation of Formation and another dudes-only Rampage, French said in no uncertain terms, “There will be women at the 2024 Hardline Maydena, assuming they accept their invite.”
We pressed French for any hints he may be able to give us as to who has made the invite list, but he said it was all under lock and key until the official announcement — which will be soon.
“What I can say is that there will be a strong contingent of global level riders invited — your core Hardline athletes — and the intention is certainly to get all of those athletes involved. In saying that, we also want to have a really strong local contingent, and we have been working with Red Bull to guide the athlete selection process at a more local level — and by local, I mean Tasmania and broader across Australia, and to a slightly lesser extent New Zealand.
“I expect we will have a strong local contingent involved, and having spoken to a few of them, they are pretty excited,” he says.
How do you spectate Red Bull Hardline?
French tells Flow that Hardline will be a ticketed event as part of Gravity Fest, which will get you in the door. Given that the course is separate from the bike park, the course will be accessible by bike or by foot, and they’ll have maps to get you to the big features and shuttles will be running.
“We’ll have a big event hub at the road gap — there are a number of features there. It’s the same location as the current downhill road gap, just a whole lot bigger. That entire area is going to be redeveloped, so we’ll have a bar and a DJ at that on-hill event hub,” he says.
French says there will be well-organised and flagged pathways for people to walk or ride around the venue to get to the best parts of the course.
Hardline Maydena resurrects Gravity Fest
In the before times, you may remember Gravity Fest, there was racing, a King and Queen of the Mountain event, kids events, live music, and good times.
So, with Hardline coming to the Bike Park, Maydena is reviving Gravity Fest with a new and improved format over five days.
“What we think is so cool about Hardline is that people can come down and not just engage in Hardline but also come down to ride their bikes and have a bit of fun. Some of these big events aren’t particularly participation-friendly for your weekend warrior. We are trying to blur the boundary between a high-level spectator event and something you can come down and get involved with on and off the bike.
The Natty will be opened for the Maydena Cup DH. The course has been revamped and left to marinate to increase the speed and bring it up to a World Cup standard. This will be a rare chance to actually race this trail, but also to do so alongside some of the best downhillers in the world.
Rather than trotting out yet another whipoff, Gravityfest will have a Jump Jam hosted at the park’s new freeride zone. Competitors will be given a time slot, and judges will pick winners in three categories — Maximum Steeze, Fattest Whip and Best Trick.
Gravity Fest will also bring back King and Queen of the Mountain. This event is a race from the summit back to the bottom. It doesn’t matter how you get there or what trails you ride; whoever can descend all 820m of Abbotts Peak the fastest will be coronated as Maydena royalty.
There is something for the mini-shredders too. Kids Fest has a full program of racing from the lower mountain trailhead on Sunday — complete with a pair of downhill courses, one focused on flow and the other on technical riding. There is no minimum age, with categories ranging from U5 to U15.
Of course, being a mountain bike festival, there will be live music, a beer garden, and great food — we’re particularly excited about the Mexican and Margs bullet point on the schedule.
French tells us SRAM Technical University will be running sessions, and they are working on a few others with Maydena’s industry partners.
For more info and to get your tickets, head over to the Maydena website.
Photos: Ryan Finlay / Maydena, Sam Dugon / Red Bull Content Pool