[Words by Steve Thomas]
It’s mid-winter 2024 and Kriss Kyle and his film crew have just returned from a six-day round trip to Cappadocia in central Turkey to make his latest film, which is due for release sometime this week.
Kriss has been a lifelong devotee to BMX and has been a Red Bull athlete for around a decade, during which time he has produced some of the most artistic and beguiling BMX and now MTB films around.
Although his most famous films are his Red Bull productions, Kriss also makes material for his other sponsors and his own YouTube channel, such as his latest edit, as he explains.
“This is just my own thing (Cappadocia), I have a good film budget from Specialized and put a team together, including drone pilot Andrew Lawrence, who’s maybe the best in the world at what he does, and we all share the same passion, as do Specialized.”
Not wanting to spoil the show we’ll leave you to tune in to see the Cappadocia film, where you’ll see four seasons in one film, hot air balloons and giant dog encounters, as well as Kriss riding some of the most spectacular trails on earth in his unique way.
Out of Season, out of sorts
Although BMX has always been his first love, Kriss has become ever more embroiled in the freedom offered by mountain biking and made an MTB film a few years ago with Endura. His first major big-wheel film for Red Bull was cut during the pandemic when he rented a house in Mid Wales and then created an eerily impossible trail at the Revolution Bike Park. Unfortunately, as much as he nailed the film – he also took a major hit himself, as he recounts.
“The worst crash was probably when filming Out of Season, where I jumped off that roof and fell off the side, because I broke my ribs and didn’t realise it, and my shoulder popped out and back – which I didn’t realise either, I think it was just the adrenaline.”
Mouth-Watering MTB Creativity | Kriss Kyle Out Of Season, by Red Bull Bike
“That was the first crash where I nearly killed myself, I broke my ribs under my armpit, which was a horrible bit. You just get back up, anyone would do, and it was one of the last things for the video, and so thought 'just get it done', which I did, but it was painful.”
“The next day I went to get up, it was pathetic, I rolled on my side and couldn’t get up. My Red Bull manager said if I broke my ribs I could puncture my lungs, and we were in the middle of Wales, the middle of nowhere, so we went to the hospital and got it checked. I’d broken the ribs and had a big air pocket in my shoulder from it popping out a double whammy.”
The creative crew
Since the get-go, Kriss has worked with a close-knit team, some of whom he grew up with whilst living in Unit 23 Stakepark in Dumbarton, as he tells us.
“I’ve been working with a guy called George Eccleston, and they have a company called Monolif. George moved into the skatepark a couple of years after I did and lived with me. He was the ramp builder, and he built Kaleidoscope the Dubai landing, and the Out of Season stuff. He’s worked on every single project, and with his crew, they’re like brothers, best friends, and you need to have a laugh with it, not too serious.”
BMX Riding Dubai's Most Famous Landmarks | with Kriss Kyle, by Rachael Wight
“No matter what needs doing they’ll do it, you don’t feel like you’re at work or risking your life. It’s the same with the filming, a friend called Matty Lambert has filmed all my major films, you want someone you know will get the right angles and not screw up. He knows my riding, and that I only do a lot of things once, so he gets everything set up and done. He’s one of my best friends, we can share a bottle of wine at night and just crack on.”
Don’t look Down
Over the past few years, Kriss has made several great films, with the Red Bull Kaleidoscope being his first big-time internet hit, although last year when Don’t Look Down came out he almost blew the internet up with his riding in a skatepark in the sky.
There is a behind-the-scenes film out about the project but Kriss lets us behind the scenes in a more intimate way, as he picks up the tale that led to a vision becoming reality.
“When I first thought about it, I thought it would be easy, a bit scary, but easy. It came about because I wanted to do my skydiving license, and the plan was that at the end I would jump off the side.”
“But it was going to take a bit longer than I thought to get the license, six months, and it was also going to be pretty much a base jump, at just over 2,000 feet, and so you needed to know what you’re doing, and it was a no go. I’d wanted to do a whole film about learning to do that.”
As it turned out the project became something of a long game, and one which highlights just what goes into those few short and hypnotic minutes of the final edit.
“It ended up taking almost two years to do. We were on standby for a year waiting for the weather.”
“We’d built a wooden replica and realised, at 6.5 tonnes, nothing could lift it. We went to Red Bull Racing, and they said they should be able to make it out of carbon fibre.”
“The first time I went and rode it, I’d never seen anything like it. It was like a trampoline in places, super bouncy and fast, it was 2.5 tonnes or so and it worked, but we couldn’t actually fly it before the filming, so we had to hang it beneath a crane, and it was just bouncing around and spinning. You couldn’t ride it, it was like riding after a few beers or with motion sickness, and we couldn’t figure it out.”
Finally, the stars aligned with the thermals and it was game on.
“The day it was going to happen, it felt pretty real. We were there at 4 am and it was cold, zero on the ground, and about minus seven degrees up there. We’d never flown and tested it and didn’t know how it was going to react, how it would land, it was a big bit of kit to be swinging around beneath us.”
“I was more worried about it falling, because supposedly if it happened the balloon would have just taken off for the moon, and I think we’d be dead. I was also worried about the landing; in case it flipped, threw us out, and landed on us.”
“The riding, I wasn’t too worried about, because if I did fall out, I had a parachute on. I didn’t want to do it with a parachute because of what people would say, but there was no way in hell they were letting me in there without it.”
“It weighed more than 20% of my body weight and, although you can’t really see it in the video, the bowl was hung at an angle and going up and down, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to ride.”
The greatest hit
Although more films will follow over the next few months, his ballooning antics will be a hard cut to the sequel, and duly it stands as his most prized work so far.
“As of right now, I think I’m most proud of Don’t Look Down, the balloon one. That was my idea, which came around while I was walking in the hills with my dogs, and to turn that into reality was cool.”
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