Bike BASE Jumping in Mineral Bottom Canyon, Utah

Bike base jump

Ride smooth, hips back on exit, pitch.  This was the thought going through mountain-biking BASE jumper Ian Flanders's mind for this unexpected shot from Mineral Bottom Canyon near Moab, Utah, which was part of the recently released Camp 4 Collective video Beat Down.  Flanders and his team approached the stunt with due respect for its potentially deadly consequences.  We rode a bike off a cliff into a rope jump a few years ago, which proved it was relatively safe to free fall with a bike but didn't tell us what would happen during the deployment of a canopy, recalls Flanders.  To mitigate the possibility of calamity, we had our rigger Marty Jones design a cutaway system that would disconnect us from the bike if anything went awry.

Landing was a particular challenge and one that they addressed with experience and careful planning.  The landings did not work out every time, says Flanders.  It took a while before we figured out the best method for putting [the bike] down.  There were a lot of awkward landings coupled with slow-motion topping over.  We wore full body armor.  While it can be done safely by professionals, bike BASE jumping adds more variables to each jump, and it isn't something I want to make a habit of.

Getting the Shot

“It was a moment of complete awe,” says photographer and mountain biker Joey Schusler.  “I was quite nervous, and adrenaline was pumping through me.  Cameras rolled and shutters clicked as the sound of tires on the slick rock suddenly disappeared.”

Schusler joined Flanders, Matt Blank, and filmmakers from Camp 4 Collective in Moab, Utah, to document the mostly unknown sport of bike BASE jumping.  “I was actually one of the mountain-bike athletes on the shoot, and Ian was my ‘stunt double’ for the BASE jumping shots.  I’m also a photographer, so when Ian geared up to ride off the cliff, I was eager to snap some photos of the event,” says Schusler.

The shoot and attempt came with careful planning for exact execution.  “This was by no means a normal BASE jump, and thus the preparation to maximize the chances for success were taken very seriously.  It was definitely a team effort. I only had one chance to get the shot I was after, so that definitely added to the intensity of the moment,” he says.

I knew I wanted to shoot backlit into the sun, as the view in that direction was stunning.  You also get a good gauge of the depth of the canyon that Ian was jumping into from the perspective that I chose to shoot from.  Setting up the jump took most of the day, so I had plenty of time to experiment with what angle I wanted to shoot from, he recalls.

After a few short seconds the thundering sound of Ian’s parachute echoed through the canyon and he sailed down for a graceful landing as we all watched on in disbelief.  Schusler photographed with a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 24-70mm, f/2.8 lens.  Select the photo for the large version.

SCC note:  Mineral Bottom Road (aka Horsethief Trail and BLM129) provides access via wild switchbacks (see the White Rim Trail) to Labrynth Canyon and Mineral Canyon, a tributary canyon to Labrynth Canyon.  The junction of Labrynth Canyon and Mineral Canyon (Mineral Bottom Canyon does not exist) is the site of the photo.  Mineral Bottom Road alongside Green River is visible on the canyon floor in the photo.