Red Bull Outliers, one of the hardest of hard enduro motorcycle races, is back at Olympic Plaza on Aug. 26.
Calgarians will have a chance to take in a revamped course this year, which race director Shane Cuthbertson says will be better for both riders and spectators.
Among the changes is a course that has greater risk and reward for experienced drivers, putting their skills against easier but longer distance sections, and changes that keep amateur riders off some of the most difficult professional rider levels of the course.
“The course is actually two different courses. Amateurs [and veteran riders] get a little bit of an easier course. Then for the experts and pros, we send them into the really hard stuff,” said Cuthbertson.
“The difference was last year it was one course for everybody, and we had a lot of crashing. It kind of slowed the competition down a little bit, so we’re just looking to make it more racier this year, and have the competition going instead of a survival to get around.”
The competition features four classes of riders: amateurs and veterans, who are the everyday riders not competing professionally in the sport, and then the expert and professional classes for the riders who do.
“Amateurs are just your basic blue-collar riders. They’re from 16 years old, and I think we have competitors upwards to 60—men and women—and they’re just the enthusiasts of the sport. They are the people that are usually out riding in the woods and having fun,” Cuthbertson said.
“So they see this event and they want to come out and challenge themselves because we basically bring the woods to the middle of the city. But the obstacles that we create, they don’t get to specialize in this stuff.”
The professional classes, said Cuthbertson, are the riders who train specifically for hard enduro racing events, and frequently travel internationally for competitions.
“They trained for this stuff specifically and when you see the differences between the amateurs and the pros, it’s amazing. The pros make it look like nothing,” he said.
Winners from Calgary’s races will determine the seed and pole positions for the Red Bull Outliers races in the Badlands on Sunday.
For more information on points standings and live results, see www.redbull.com/ca-en/events/outliers.
Changes to the race course this year
Race practice begins at 9 a.m. at Olympic Plaza, and races start at 11 a.m.
Some of the obstacles like the log staircase and tire alleyway remain the same, whereas other parts of the course have changed to fit the more outdoor theme.
Gone are the garbage bin jumps, instead replaced with a pair of log ramps that Cuthbertson said that he himself is scared to try as a jump.
"I'm too chicken to actually jump it so I'm excited to see some of the pros come out and do it," he said.
Last year's finishing obstacle wall has been replaced with a wall ride, something that he said was four years in the making.
"I've always been a huge fan of wall rides. I think it's just such a cool thing for dirt bikes to be able to get up on that wall and stick it. I've wanted this feature for 4 years, and I finally talked them into building it for me so I'm pretty excited about that," Cuthbertson said.
He said he expects the amateurs, along with the pros, will really enjoy that addition to the course.
The change came about to improve rider safety, Cuthbertson said. Last year saw a number of crashes at the finishing obstacle which held up racing on the course.
He said that as a result of course changes this year there was an expectation that there would be more laps put in by racers, and more racing for fans.
Katie Hall-Leah, who is competing in the expert class this year, said that the key to taking on the course is to commit fully to the obstacles.
"You got to just trust what you know, trust the bike, and just execute," she said.
She said that she thinks the changes this year will make it easier for riders to complete the course, given the lack of tall obstacles.
"This year, it's all on ground level. So even though that's just a visual thing, it'll still make a difference for a lot of people."
Race fan experience changing for the better
Cuthbertson said that off the track, the experience should be better for race fans.
There will be more food options this year with food trucks, and as a first for the series in the downtown, fans of hard enduro racing and Red Bull will be able to buy merchandise on site.
"One of our major sponsors this year is called RIDE 509, they'll have a truck down here with Red Bull merchandise and their product as well, which is pretty cool because we didn't really have many vendors last year," Cuthbertson said.
He said it helps to build the sport because it helps people get a deeper connection to the competition and to the riders, and to become unofficial ambassadors for hard enduro.
Fans will be able to meet and greet the riders at the paddock on Macleod trail, across from City Hall. For fans who want to catch all the riders at once, they will be parading from the East Village to the race paddock at 8 a.m.
One of the big names to look out for this year at Red Bull Outliers is Canadian Hard Enduro racer Trystan Hart, competing in his home nation's race in the world cup series.
"Super excited to have him and there'll be a ton of people cheering him on," Cuthbertson said.
"But this year we have actually more pro riders in the mix. It being the second year of the of the events on the Hard Enduro World Championship Series, there's more riders that have been able to come over."
Cuthbertson said that means some of the racers who just competed in Romania for the previous stop of the series, along with more American professional riders who were unable to attend last year because of the pandemic.