How I Landed a Backflip-720 on a Downhill Bike

Joshua Griffioen is a daredevil with big aspirations

Nivedan Kaushal, Arts & Culture Editor // Illustration by Kyle Papilla

“I’ve broken my left collarbone four times. I’ve broken my hip. That one was fun. I’ve broken – not sure what it’s called – my left ass bone into four different floating pieces. Broken my wrist once. Definitely damaged my ankles – they click when I walk.” Joshua Griffioen, a second-year Communications student, is one of only six people in the world with documented footage of landing a backflip-720 on a downhill mountain bike. Since 2015, Griffioen has dedicated every riding season to learning this trick. “The first summer I tried it, I kept going until I had a concussion and I couldn’t go anymore. The second summer, I kept going until I started coughing out blood.”

While backflip-720s are somewhat common in the dirt jumper and slopestyle community, Griffioen was attempting the trick on his 38-pound, dual-crowned downhill bike. As Griffioen launched from the jump, he threw his head back and down to initiate the counterclockwise, upside down aerial fury. “When you start spinning, you almost black out. You don’t know where you are, but your body can feel how far you’ve spun and how much time you have left to land. It’s only the last quarter of a second where you know,” he said. After crashing more than 40 times over three summers, Griffioen finally landed the trick on Canada Day this year.

Born to a father who cycled Vancouver Island tip-to-tip in 24 hours, the 19-year-old daredevil’s wherewithal earned him the nickname Hillbilly Hucker in Abbotsford. Griffioen, however, is more concerned with self-exposure than glory. Aiming to become a sponsored athlete, Griffioen has been compiling original footage of his spine-tingling tricks to captivate cycling companies. He dreams to compete in Red Bull Rampage, an international freeride mountain bike event held near Zion National Park in Virgin, Utah. Eventually, he plans to use his communications degree to launch his own mountain bike company.

“You kind of question, ‘Why am I doing this if I could die?’ But you do it anyway.” Griffioen credits his success to friends and the online mountain biking community whose influence continually pushes him to try gutsier tricks. Even the kitty decal on his 2013 Specialized Demo fills him with motivation. “I just look at that kitty and I’m like, purrrr. And then I go jump ‘cause cats are good at jumping I guess,” he laughed. Nevertheless, Griffioen is anxious to complete his highlight reel before mid-October. Scared of breaking his already cracked ribs, he plans to film himself doing a double-backflip over a cabin in Kamloops for the final clip of his reel. Backflip-double-tailwhip and a double-backflip-720 are next up on the list of tricks to learn. “Life is too short not to go big. When you’re already so hooked to the sport, you feel like it can’t end there,” he said.

Follow Josh on Instagram @joshuagriff_mtb

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