Big Mountain Freeride Through
The Slopestyle Lens
Syzmon Godziek Talks Rampage
Story by Ryan Cleek
Photos by Ryan Cleek & Red Bull Content Pool
Big-mountain freeride has evolved significantly since the early 2000s. Before freeride inevitably became a legitimate genre for sponsorships, bike brands largely only supported racers who competed between the tape, as that was a measurable proving ground for their value as sponsored athletes. In today’s sport, legit, pro-level freeriders come from all sorts of different backgrounds, whether from competing in the dirt jump or slopestyle contest world, or simply from regularly dropping jaw-dropping social media clips. One rider who is on the rise in the big-mountain freeride world is Poland’s Szymon Godziek. A full-time slopestyle competitor by trade with a background in dirt jumping and skatepark riding, he’s no stranger to Crankworx slopestyle podiums or stomping “world first” tricks (Google it). The 2021 Rampage marked Szymon’s fourth time competing on this unique terrain. Most recently competing in the 2019 Rampage, this year’s event returned to the site of the 2017 contest, yet it was Szymon’s first time navigating this particular Rampage site.
In between shovels of Utah’s finest soil, I caught up with Szymon as he was putting the finishing touches on his line. He gave me some inside intel on what it’s like preparing for this event while living on the other side of the world, how his riding has progressed since first competing at the Rampage, and where he sees the event going in the future.
RAMPAGE IS THE MOST UNIQUE MOUNTAIN BIKE CONTEST IN THE WORLD. HOW DOES ONE PREPARE FOR AN EVENT THAT’S UNLIKE ANYTHING ELSE?
That’s right, so I do my best to prepare at home in Poland prior to arriving in Utah. One of the most important things is preparing my body for a whole week of digging, which is super hard on my body. I do a lot of physical training, because I want to be able to ride after all of the digging.
At home in Poland, I just try to ride my downhill bike as much as possible prior to the event. I also ride a lot of motocross as well. My goal is to ride all types of terrain on full-suspension bikes to get me used to rugged terrain. This is especially important to me, because all year long I am riding a short-travel slopestyle bike doing slopestyle events. So, prior to Rampage it’s important for me to get used to riding and doing tricks on my downhill bike.
Also, I always come to Rampage at least a week early so I can get used to riding my downhill bike and familiar with the dirt in this zone. Some of the local guys are really used to this terrain, and there’s nothing like it where I live.
My dig team is also from Poland, and we all flew over here together. For one of the guys, this is his third time building for me here at Rampage, so we have a plan going into this year’s event.
AS A TOP SLOPESTYLE COMPETITOR, WHAT IS YOUR SLOPESTYLE SEASON LIKE IN COMPARISON TO RAMPAGE (ASIDE FROM HAVING A FRONT BRAKE…)?
I typically do the FMB tour events, but again this year there aren’t many because of Covid 19. In a typical year I would do 10 to 15 slopestyle events on that FMB tour, and then put time aside to ride my downhill bike and prepare for Rampage. So, this year, there was a lot of time to focus on Rampage!
RAMPAGE HAS EVOLVED A LOT FROM ITS EARLY DAYS. HOW WOULD YOU SAY THIS EVENT HAS CHANGED DURING YOUR FIRST RAMPAGE UNTIL THIS YEAR’S EVENT?
That’s easy, I would say it’s become cliff jumping on bikes! From just the few years that I have ridden at Rampage, I’ve seen the jumps, drops, and landings all get much bigger every year.
We see more slopestyle tricks and riders in this freeride event, which is cool to me, because I come originally from dirt jumps and skatepark riding, so that’s the style of riding I’m familiar with.
Everything is packed hard with shovels, so it’s more like big mountain slopestyle. Some of the guys still do the crazy, steep, raw chutes. But, most of us have built jump and drop lines down this mountainside so we can throw tricks.
YOU SAID EVERYTHING HAS GOTTEN BIGGER SINCE YOUR FIRST RAMPAGE. IS THAT TRUE FOR YOUR RIDING AS WELL?
Yes, it’s the same for me as everyone else who’s trying to compete. As other riders go bigger my line has gotten much bigger, too. Since we’re throwing slopestyle tricks, the lines are becoming smoother in many ways to get the speed for the tricks and the landings.
RAMPAGE IS ALL ABOUT BUILDING A CHALLENGING LINE TO SHOWCASE YOUR SKILL SET. WHAT WERE THE KEY SECTIONS OF YOUR LINE THIS YEAR?
Some of the riders competed here in 2016 and 2017, but it’s my first time here. There are only so many lines down from the top, so I had to ask some of the guys if I helped them build if I could ride sections of their lines. I asked Ethan Nell if I could ride his hip jump on the ridgeline off the top, because that was a big jump in that section which I wanted to hit. I wanted to have my line be fast down the ridge top to bottom, all before the key part of my line, which is the big drop in the middle. That’s the biggest drop I’ve hit in my life, so I’m certainly pushing my limits here. In the finals, I threw a 360 off of that drop.
IT’S BEEN 20 YEARS SINCE THE FIRST RAMPAGE WAS HELD. BIKE TECHNOLOGY HAS COME A LONG WAY SINCE THEN. WOULD YOU WANT TO RIDE THIS MOUNTAIN ON ONE OF THOSE OLD BIKES?
No way! That’s just scary. It was insane watching guys like Bender launch off of those drops on crazy bikes to progress the sport, and now I’m meeting him at Rampage myself. Crazy stuff all the way around. I look up to those guys from back in the day for sure, but would not want to ride their bikes.
THE RIDING AT RAMPAGE HAS EVOLVED WITH THE BIKES. IN THE OLD DAYS OF THE EVENT, IT WAS LARGELY SKIDDING DOWN RAW, UNGROOMED TERRAIN AND HOPING TO MAKE IT DOWN THE HILL IN ONE PIECE. NOW, THE LINES ARE VERY INTRICATE WITH THE INTENTION OF GOING BIG. TEN YEARS FROM NOW, WHAT DO YOU THINK THE RAMPAGE WILL BE LIKE?
I would think the riding and tricks would get even more slopestyle influence. The judges, the fans, and spectators want to see tricks, so give us the terrain to do that means more groomed terrain for jumps and landings. Even this year, Brandon Semenuk was riding a single-crown fork so he can do tailwhips and barspins, and that’s something I’ve never seen at Rampage before.
I think him doing new dirt jump and slopestyle tricks on this utah terrain is going to open a new chapter of riding for future Rampages. I definitely think you’ll see more guys coming from slopestyle and with single-crown setups to try their hand at this event in the future. I definitely think the future of Rampage will continue in this direction, as it’s exciting for both the riders and the fans, versus the old days of riding just trying to survive riding steep, loose lines.
AS A RIDER WITH A SLOPESTYLE BACKGROUND, WOULD YOU BE HAPPIER FOR IT TO BE MORE SLOPESTYLE, OR DO YOU LIKE THE DIFFERENT CHALLENGE IT PROVIDES?
I like to keep it different from what I do on dirt jump bikes. This year we have seen a comeback of single crown to Rampage and for the first time ever a tailwhip drop. That was also a winning run which in such a combo is history in the making and will inspire a lot of people. First ever mountain bike movie back in the day at home when I was 15 yr, was New World Disorder 7. In the first segment, Cam McCaul shreds so many insane spots in the desert going single crown with x-ups on drops and many, many more bangers like barspin to tailwhip on a jump with sick music Skid – Monkey Business. One of my favorite segments!
All of that definitely makes me stoked to build a new freeride bike.
WILL WE SEE YOU WITH A SINGLE CROWN AT RAMPAGE IN THE FUTURE?
For sure not in the closest future. To me Rampage is all about pushing myself in how big I can go on a bike. For all those big drops and gaps I will keep my bike with double crown. The single crown wouldn’t be too bad, especially for me as a guy who comes from Slopestyle and know all the tricks – it would open so many new possibilities and I think it would be safer for me, cause instead of going for huge drops I would focus on tricks on a bit smaller features – probably you would see me doing a backflip barspin to no hander in my run and a tail whip too. But that’s not how I see myself in the next edition of Rampage …I am stoked to try bigger drops and land those spins!
WOULD YOU EVER CONSIDER GIVING UP SLOPESTYLE FOR A SERIES OF BIG-MOUNTAIN FREERIDE?
I had such a moment in my career when I didn’t want to ride Slopestyle anymore. It was back in 2018 when I was stoked on freeride, did a winter trip to Utah to film a video and try to get back to Rampage (I took a part in Rampage in 2014 and 2015 when it was a part of the Slopestyle tour). Managed to get the invite, rode Rampage in 2018 and two weeks after, I destroyed my knee which put me on downhill / enduro bikes for the whole of 2019. I was feeling uncomfortable on hardtail bikes with the knee. When I came back from Rampage 2019, I needed to go back to Slopestyle bike, cause that long brake made me miss it so much. It was a long way to get back to the level I am on today but surely those injuries made me stronger.
YOU WERE SO CLOSE ON THOSE HUGE 360’S! WE WERE STOKED TO SEE YOU WALK AWAY. WHAT WENT WRONG?
I did small mistakes on both tries… so the whole practice on the drop I was getting my speed dialed for the spin. When I spin drops, I usually do a big pop, so I was getting right speed for the proper pop. I had jumped that drop 17 times in total in the practice days haha. Making sure I will not go deep on the spin, cause that would be probably the worst crash if overspin and too deep… I’ve never spun such a huge drop before and learned one thing on my first try – on such slow, big spins I don’t pop that much as I thought… I cased the landing, because I had speed for a big pop. In my second run I fixed the problem with casing but got sketchy in the spin, due to not enough nosedive in the first part of the spin. I was trying to save it but washed out. Still happy to walk away from those crazy tries.
HOW DID IT FEEL ROLLING INTO THE 360 ON RUN 2?
Way less scary haha. After surviving the first crash, I was happy that it is even possible to crash and be OK. I knew that my idea of how slow I should spin is right and only thing I had to fix was going only a bit faster for it. So, I was feeling confident before my second run. I was sure I’ll get it and couldn’t wait to try again.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO COMPLETE ANOTHER RAMPAGE? DOES IT EVER GET LESS SCARY?
I think it doesn’t get less scary. Pushing your limits is always scary. Watching my big drop every day since the digging started was providing me with a whole bunch of different feelings. Thinking about what I wanted to do was getting me nervous no matter day or night. Most of the time, I was imagining myself landing it and celebrating in the finish line with all the people. I was also thinking about every scenario going wrong. There was no chance I could try to spin it in practice. I was sure that if I crash, I am injured and done with the contest. Before the contest I had got into a mode where I didn’t care if I get injured or not. I just wanted to go for it and make sure I don’t go too deep!
DID YOUR APPROACH TO RAMPAGE CHANGE WHEN YOU WELCOMED YOUR DAUGHTER INTO THE WORLD?
It didn’t change. My daughter is probably the biggest inspiration and motivation to do my best in everything I do. When she was born in 2017, I had the best season of my career in slopestyle. Now when she’s bigger and understands what I do, I am even more motivated to inspire her that if you want something, you have to work hard, and it will pay off.
WHAT DOES THE WINTER LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? IS IT TIME TO TRAIN, OR IS THERE A RECOVERY PERIOD POST-RAMPAGE TO CHILL OUT?
I am the kind of person who cannot chill. I have to be productive and push every day to get closer to my goals and dreams. Last winter I got into training more with motocross and felt like it gave me only positives for what I do. Days are short so I will probably try to mix riding with gym sessions – everything to make my body stronger to be able to take the impacts on the crashes. Being injured is probably the only time when I can chill out haha.
ARE THERE ANY FUN PROJECTS IN THE WORKS THAT YOU CAN TEASE?
Yep, there is one I’ve been working on since September. We have built a dirt skatepark and I’ve been filming a video on my hardtail bike!
Thanks for taking the time Szymon!
To stay up-to-date with everything Syzmon is up to, give him a follow @Szymongodziek
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