Darren Berrecloth, a.k.a. the Claw, has seen a hell of a lot in nearly 20 years as a professional freeride mountain biker.
The Parksville native has ridden some of the most challenging terrain in the world on his way to winning the Adidas Slopestyle Championship and many other competitions.
But nothing could match his gnarliest ride ever—screaming down a mountain in his ultimate ride in the Tatshenshini wilderness, which abuts the borders of Alaska, Yukon, and B.C..
In an interview in the Georgia Straight office, Berrecloth conceded that 100 feet into the 1,000-foot ride down the line, he was clearly out of control. What made things even freakier were the boulders that he had to navigate around while travelling at speeds reaching 90 to 100 kilometres per hour.
By the time he safely reached the bottom, the bike's brake rotors were blue from the heat. Normally, they're silver. It was that kind of ride.
"Your instinct kicks in and you rely on everything you've learned on your bike," Berrecloth said. "You get into your flow mode—it's like fight or flight, almost like someone would react if they were going to be attacked by a grizzly bear. You don't even think; you just do."
The footage of Berrecloth's epic ride appears in a new Red Bull TV documentary, Riding the Tatshenshini, which is available to Telus customers on Optik TV in HD and 4K via channel 707. It will also appear on the French-language TVA Sports 2 channel on Thursday (October 26) at 8 p.m.
The film combines spectacular footage of the North, including the world-famous Tatshenshini River rafting mecca, with some of the most daring and scenic freeriding ever captured on video. Four generations of mountain bikers went on the 260-kilometre journey, including freeriding industry godfather Wade Simmons, who's from Kamloops.
The two other riders are Americans: slopestyle pioneer Tyler McCaul and young phenom Carson Storch. Along the way, these elite athletes encounter a breathtaking array of wildlife, learn about the Indigenous history of the region, paddle by an iceberg, and fish for monstrously large salmon in Alaska's Alsek Lake.
At one point in Riding the Tatshenshini, Storch declares: "This is the coolest place I've ever been."
But it's also ground zero in feeling the impact of climate change. Berrecloth was particularly affected when he stood in an area where a glacier had existed 100 years ago—and was photographed back then. Now, the retreating ice field is a couple of miles away from that spot.
He added that in 20 years, some glaciers will entirely disappear.
"That was my firsthand experience to see, wow, how big this meltoff really is," Berrecloth said. "The fact of the matter is all the ice is melting. You have to experience it while you still can."
Fans of mountain biking not only see these athletes from a distance in the film, but viewers also get to experience the spine-tingling feeling of their mountain rides, thanks to the use of GoPro cameras. Adding to the drama is the realization that there's not a hospital or an ambulance anywhere near the area where the four are riding.
Berrecloth revealed that they chose their locations after flying over the area in a helicopter. He said it looks pretty simple from the air, but it's far more challenging actually making one's way down a mountain line. The boulders also don't appear nearly as large from the bird in the sky.
So how does Berrecloth assess risk?
"As you get older, you get a little smarter," he replies. "But obviously, it can bite you in the ass at any time. You just take it with a grain of salt."
Nowadays, people have a tendency to avoid taking risks or allowing their kids to take risks. But Berrecloth see the upside of facing danger, saying he thinks people need to scare themselves at least once a day.
"It creates very good endorphins in your body," he said. "Boom! It gets you alive."
Berrecloth also sees value in learning how to manage fear and using it to make educated decisions. This is the theme of his next film, which he said will "dive right head first into fear".
And when it comes to freeriding, he said, "if you're not scared, there's something wrong. Either you're not pushing yourself hard enough or there is something really wrong...you might be missing a few frickin' marbles in that basket of yours."
Berrecloth is remarkably articulate and funny, which is probably why the producers at Freeride Entertainment used his quotes so liberally in Riding the Tatshenshini. But at this point in his life, the freerider has no plans to hang up his helmet and enter the broadcast booth.
He's having too much fun travelling the world, seeking out thrilling mountain-biking locations, and capturing them on film.
"The general mission of the trip was to motivate people to get outside and enjoy this beautiful place we call home, whether it's bike rides, skiing, hiding, or a crazy adventure like the Tatshenshini," Berrecloth said. "The Tatshenshini is available for everybody."More