Introducing Moto X QuarterPipe
The inaugural Moto X QuarterPipe competition will debut on Sunday, June 7, on the final day of X Games Austin 2015. What's the format? It's a best trick contest: Competitors will take two runs each and be scored on technicality, smoothness and innovation. The best score counts.
Quarterpipes are hardly new to the world of action sports -- they've been used in BMX, skateboard, skiing, and snowboarding for years. Freestyle motocross riders, like France's Thomas Pagès, have been hitting quarterpipes since 2007 at private riding compounds.
The QuarterPipe setup is still being confirmed for Austin, but the plan is to have three quarters for competitors to use. Riders should be able to hit one to the right, one to left, and one as a transfer. All landings will be on dirt.
Pagès, 30, will be the strong favorite in the new discipline. "Tom started hitting the quarterpipe a lot a few years ago, and it motivated people," says 2014 Red Bull X-Fighters champ Josh Sheehan, who's also competing in the event. "He wasn't the first to hit it, but he was the first to add rotations. He's the one who perfected the flair and flair combinations."
An innovator and risk-taker, Pagès' winning run at the 2014 X-Fighters in Madrid featured two impressive tricks on the quarterpipe. He landed the first bikeflip in competition as well as a flair 540 Tsunami.
Pagès' tricks don't stop there, either. He learned the alley-oop flair on the quarterpipe over the winter, and he recently built a brand new carbon bike -- 33 pounds lighter than the standard competition bike -- that helps him execute the toughest tricks. He has competed five times at X Games in a combination of Freestyle, Best Whip, and Best Trick, with a best finish of fourth place in Best Trick at X Games Los Angeles 2012.
One of Pagès' biggest competitors will likely be Levi Sherwood, 23. Sherwood has been turning heads since he won the Red Bull X-Fighters stop in Mexico City in 2009. He's the son of a former speedway racer and was on a motocross racing path before becoming serious about freestyle at age 13. He's competed at X Games three times, winning silver in Moto X Freestyle in 2010 and 2012.
Returning to X Games for the seventh time is Jackson Strong. In 2011, the fearless Aussie became the first to land a frontflip at X Games, leading to Best Trick gold. He won Best Trick in 2012, too -- this time with a body varial.
"I have a couple of ideas that haven't been done," says Strong of his XG QuarterPipe plans. "I think with the progression of the quarterpipe, we really have to look at BMX. I'm looking to BMX because I don't want to copy someone else."
Strong plans to land a new trick to dirt a few days before XG Austin and will release it on the Internet.
The hottest freestyle rider on the planet right now is Josh Sheehan, 29. In April, the Australian landed the first triple backflip in motocross history at Travis Pastrana's house in Maryland. Sheehan started incorporating the flair Indy on the quarterpipe into his run at the end of the 2014 Red Bull X-Fighters season. While "Sheeny" has a quarterpipe setup at his house in Australia, his early season focus was on the triple backflip. He will be coming to Austin straight off the Nitro Circus tour.
And don't forget Taka Higashino. In 2013, Higashino won his third straight Freestyle gold at X Games Los Angeles, becoming the only competitor besides Travis Pastrana to score three XG Freestyle titles.
Higashino doesn't have the same quarterpipe access as Pages, Strong, and Sheehan. He's had to travel back to Ibaraki, Japan, to train. Unlike backflip combos, where riders can add variations comfortably once they learn the basic rotation, advancing on the quarterpipe is trickier.
"Everything you do changes the rotation of the flair [the basic quarterpipe spin]," says Sheehan. "If you take a hand off or add a variation, it changes everything."