Nitro Circus‘ Revolution Day has arrived and Jed Mildon has flipped the BMX world upside down yet again by one-upping his triple flip with yet another rotation. But Jed wasn’t in this alone, while Jed was working on the quad flip in New Zealand, fellow Nitro Circus rider and friend, James Foster, (who has a few firsts in BMX, including the triple whip in 2005) was also hot on the heels of pulling a quad at Travis Pastrana’s compound. These parallels in progression were recognized by Nitro and the idea for Revolution Day was born. We caught up with Jed and James for the full scoop on this historical moment in BMX history.
How did this race for the quad flip even begin?
Jed: Once I landed the triple flip I knew straight away a quad was possible and wanted to do it. When James got wind I was sending it four years later he wanted in and Nitro turned it in to a battle between us to get it done.
James: About a year ago Travis [Pastrana] and some of the guys at Nitro were talking to us about it, asking us if we thought it could be done. My initial thought was, "Yeah, I think it's possible, but it would take a giant ramp and would take an incredible amount of work to figure it out". That turned out to be a massive understatement. I went to Travis' to test a 14′ tall takeoff he had Nate Wessel design and build. The idea for the trip to Travis’ for me was to just go "see what was possible" on that ramp, I ended up figuring out a bunch of new tricks (to the airbag) including the quad. Although, we learned that we had to change the ramp [for the quad]. At the same time, Nitro was working with Jed to do a quad in New Zealand. Nitro came up with the idea for Revolution Day, and we started working side by side trying to make it happen, Jed in NZ and me here in the US.
Describe the ramp needed to pull off a quad flip. And how crucial is it for it to be just right?
Jed: The quad flip ramp is insane. It's a 21ft tall box jump. Where you land on the landing makes the jump a step down. This was a crucial part in being able to rotate the fourth flip as safely as possible.
James: Everything is crucial. The size of the transition compared to the speed you're coming in at, and the takeoff angle at the top are the two main things. The initial ramp Wessel came up with was 14 feet tall and went to a 65-degree angle at the top. The ramp I do triple flips on in the Nitro show is about 8 feet tall so we figured 14 feet would be big enough--I was wrong, we needed to go bigger. I had to jack it up to 17' tall (which put it at 75 degrees) and I was able to get quads around, but it was inconsistent and I was starting to "G" out--my legs were giving out--in the transition. So Wessel and I talked and we decided to make the transition bigger so I could go faster, but still go to the 75 degrees that was working for me, and it ended up being 21' tall.
What were some of the complications with getting the ramp right?
Jed: In New Zealand we made 15 different take off ramps. We went through so many because we were traveling at near terminal velocity on a BMX bike trying to go as big as possible so I could spin four flips. In the end we had a 27' tall, 9m radius ramp. Same radius as Moto 75' only it was extended to 27' tall.
James: Once Wessel and I came up with the new ramp, I helped him build it and it was actually pretty much perfect right away. I did later end up adding a straight 1 foot extension at the top that continued the 75 degree angle, which gives you more time to get the pull right when you're coming off the top.
While you guys are friends, what was it like knowing that there was someone else actively trying the trick the same as you?
Jed: Most of the project I wanted James to land it so we could be done with the project and move on. So I was excited to have James there with me wanting this almost unreal dream.
James: It was pretty cool, actually. I helped Jed as much as I could the whole way through, we both wanted nothing but the best for each other. I even helped him figure out custom frame specs for him to get a bike together that would spin quicker.
The original idea was for you guys to try them at separate locations, Jed in NZ and James at Pastranaland. Tell us about that turning point when you guys dropped the idea of separate ramps and decided to join forces at Pastranaland...
Jed: When I couldn't get the weather window I needed on the Franklin farm we decided to move the ramp closer to home. We packed it down moved it and began the rebuild. During this process I decided it was silly we were competing against each other. So I asked James if I could go use his ramp with him. He let me so I stopped NZ construction on the second location.
James: It was a cool idea that ultimately had way too many variables to work. Weather, time, us both being ready on opposite sides of the world and the weather needing to be perfect etc... It just didn't work. I tried it that original day we were both supposed to go for it at the same time, twice, and got super close both times. I broke two ribs on the second try, and went back six weeks later to try it again, and ended up breaking two more ribs on my first attempt back.
Jed, how many quad flips do you think you "landed" on the airbag? And for how long were you trying it before you pulled out the airbag and landed it rubber side down?
I landed 20/20 the week leading in to it so my confidence levels were through the roof. I physically tried for nine months and mentally prepared for four years to learn the quad.
Physically what was the hardest part for you about the quad flip?
Jed: Definitely the fourth flip. It was like going up 100 levels of commitment. So, so hard to figure out! Once I figured it out, it was reasonably safe to commit to. It was a matter of snap and tuck up then wait for the landing while continuously assessing where I was so I still had around four bail out positions if the rotation wasn’t there off the lip. Normally if I don’t get the snap and tuck right I’ll let out to spin two or three flips depending how bad the snap went. I figure that out as it's happening through feel.
James: The hardest part was putting so much into something, designing the ramps and landings and figuring it out and doing everything to make it possible, knowing I can do it and make it happen, and having still not landed it. My ribcage is pretty screwed up now, but bones heal. The physical part is frustrating because I can't ride when I'm hurt, but it doesn't bother me otherwise.
James, how close were you before you were sidelined from injuries?
I had the trick from day one. It was just a matter of building the right landing and me getting the distance right. Every attempt I tried, I had the rotation, just some other issue, like my first try I drifted to the side a little and missed the landing because the first landing was not what it needed to be. It wasn't wide enough or steep enough. I would have pulled that first attempt if we had made the landing three feet wider. Second try I pulled a little too early and came up a couple feet short. If I had a few more feet distance wise I would have pulled the second one. Third attempt I had the rotation and the distance, but I dropped my shoulder because I thought I was coming up short, fell hard on my shoulder and separated it and broke two more ribs. The third attempt was bad timing and a bad idea though, it was the beginning of winter in Maryland and I was coming straight off an injury, with no practice to the airbag at all because the landing was already built.
Overall, what was the price you had to pay injury wise?
Jed: Just a couple KOs in the airbag when I didn’t rotate enough [laughs].
James: Ten broken ribs and a separated shoulder. I broke five ribs on tour with Nitro in Australia right before we were supposed to go back out to Travis', and re-broke another when I came up short on the airbag landing when I was only 70-80% healed from that injury.
Of all the things you tried/pulled on a bike, how does this compare?
Jed: It's up there with the Chinga flip--double flip tailwhip--that's still the hardest trick I know. It's the craziest thing I've committed to. The quad flip is in its own league. It's such a great feeling trick. The timing in both the quad and the Chinga are really similar.
James: It's different. Well, it's similar to the triple flip, but different to anything else. It really is an incredible feeling, though. You're in the air for 2.5-3 plus seconds, which is more time in the air than anyone on any bicycle has ever had, (except maybe Mat Hoffman on his giant quarter). So we really were in uncharted territory as far as BMX bikes are concerned.
James, are you still planning to land a quad for yourself?
Absolutely, 100 percent. I put everything I had into making this happen and I want to finish what I started.
Do you think it's possible to keep going and push it to five?
Jed: Of course it's possible, good luck, though! [Laughs]
James: Almost anything is possible with the right setup, but I don't see it happening. Which is why getting to do this was such a big deal to me. Don't get me wrong, anything is possible, but knowing what I know about triples and quads, I don't know if anyone will ever have the resources (or the desire) necessary to make something like that happen. Time will tell I suppose.