The host, producer and lead athlete for the Red Bull Imagination freeride motocross competition — that will be returning to Kansas for its third year this weekend in Fort Scott — Tyler Bereman is a man of many hats. Er, helmets.
A supercross-racer-turned-extreme-freerider, the 10-time X Games medalist (who snagged a gold medal at the X-Games in Minneapolis in 2019) will need to draw from all his experiences in motocross as the event marks his first time competing back on a bike after suffering a concussion in mid-June, his fourth in the past two years. For someone with motocross in their blood like Bereman — who helped design the custom pool-bowl-style “playground” course 10 of the world’s top freeriders will compete on over the weekend — the decision to get back on the bike following his head injury was a no-brainer.
Bereman, 31, is excited to test his limits on a jump-laden course that could see riders launch themselves as high as seven stories up or fly a distance of up to 160 feet or more from flying at speeds approaching 75 miles per hour on bikes that weigh upwards of 250 pounds. Inspired by action sports like skateboarding, surfing, mountain biking and snowboarding, the course is going to be “pretty next-level,” according to Bereman.
“I’m really, really, really stoked for this year. Last year’s course was one of the craziest that’s ever been built and this year’s course is gonna trump it,” Bereman tells InsideHook. “It’s gonna be absolutely mind-boggling…like a real-life video game. I’m stoked for people to see what we have up our sleeves. With that being said, it’s pretty nerve-racking to be going into it coming off an injury. But I know my ability and my never-give-up attitude and there’s no doubt in my mind I’m gonna get through it and do the best I can.”
There’s no doubt in Bereman’s mind, but what exactly is he thinking about ahead of the event? We found out.
InsideHook: What was it like getting ready for the event while recovering from a concussion?
Tyler Bereman: Unfortunately, I had to take some time off of the bike but it presented me with the opportunity to take a step back and hit the reset button leading into my biggest event of the year. With my timeline, it was kind of up in the air about when I was gonna be able to be back on the bike so I’m keeping my expectations a little low. I did everything in my power I possibly could to be ready. So far, so good. It’s really hard to hop back in and start hitting jumps right away. I had to take it one step at a time. Hitting your head when you’re jumping big distances at high speeds comes with the territory. It’s if, not when. Red Bull linked me up with a sports neurologist and I had MRIs on my brain to see if I had any issues with brain activity. I didn’t. That was really good for my peace of mind.
IH: Was the layoff from mid-June to September the longest you’ve been off your bike?
TB: No. When you go to the grocery store and get a receipt that’s a mile long…that’s basically my injury list. I’ve had two broken ankles, two broken femurs, broken ribs, a broken collarbone, a broken arm, four broken wrists and probably 15-plus concussions over the years. I’ve also shattered every bone in my right foot and had six ACL surgeries. Each ACL surgery has meant at least six to eight months off the bike. The shattered foot probably kept me off the bike the longest. I have a lot of hardware in there. Up until this year, if I twisted or rolled my ankle, it set me back a month. I can’t walk normally even to this day. It’s something I’ll always have to deal with, but I’m gonna keep going till the wheels fall off and they haven’t fallen off yet. That’s just part of this sport. You have to deal with adversity and injuries. Pushing through those is what makes you into the person you are.
IH: What makes it worth it to you to push through the injuries and keep riding?
TB: I was born into a family that rode motorcycles and I started riding when I was four. It’s basically been my whole life and all I’ve ever known. The feeling I get from it is irreplaceable. Hitting jumps as big as we’re hitting them is the craziest adrenaline rush you can get. The feeling is hard to even describe or put into words. In action sports, it’s don’t think, just go. Trust your intuition, your instincts and your ability on the bike. The first time is always the scariest, but the feeling of it is like no other. There’s also something to be said about facing your fears and overcoming them.
IH: Have you ever thought about quitting to stop putting yourself at such risk?
TB: In those dark times after an injury trying to silence those inner thoughts is definitely tough, but it’s all about believing in yourself. I have a never-say-die attitude. I know the risks. I’ve lost multiple friends and lost multiple friends to the industry of losing their life or just being in a wheelchair and so on and so forth. I know the risk going into it, but I wouldn’t change it for a thing because it has provided me with the best life I could ever ask for. I get to travel the world and do what I love. I never try to think of the risk, but at the end of the day, if it was my time and I went doing what I love…They say, “You never work a day in your life if you do what you love.” I absolutely love what I do and have so much passion for it. It’s all worth it. I wouldn’t change any of it for a single thing.