INTERVIEW: Tyler Bereman | Features
The interior of the campervan is filled with the soft hum of a portable compression kit pumping iced water around Tyler Bereman’s injured ankle.
Seemingly oblivious to the pain, the 28-year-old is focused on preparing a peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich, meticulously laying out perfect slices of the fruit to finish it off.
For someone who seemingly thrives on chaos and wild times, the attention to detail, even on something as nondescript as a sandwich, shows a different side to the Californian. Despite his fun-loving, laid-back and cavalier persona, Bereman is something of a perfectionist.
Regardless of whether it’s his riding and whip technique 15m off the ground, or the way he makes his lunch, he looks at everything through a microscope. Maybe that’s why he was able to win or podium at every event he attended last year after returning from a 10-month injury layoff. Maybe that’s how he’s been able to reinvent himself from struggling pro racer to one of the most respected riders in the world, with style second-to-none.
Riding dirtbikes is in Bereman’s blood. Inspired by his father, Randy, who raced in the early 2000s, Tyler Bereman began riding at four. As an amateur, he battled with the likes of Justin Bogle, Justin Hill, Jessy Nelson and Gavin Faith before progressing to the Seniors in 2013.
The ensuing three years featured a laundry list of injuries, punctuated with the occasional result, with his best being a sixteenth at the A3 round of the 2013 AMA Supercross Championship.
With the number of injuries and knee reconstructions climbing, Tyler Bereman always seemed to find himself behind the eight-ball. “Basically my racing career was riddled with injuries,” he says. “I had some bad luck or came into seasons under-prepared, and I spent a lot of time on the couch trying to chase the racing dream. It got to the point where I was spending all the money I was making just to get to the next race. Then I’d get hurt again, and that constant cycle took the fun out of it.”
His last year of professional racing saw him team up with good mate Darryn Durham on a privateer set-up they called the “East Coast is Toast Tour”, where they’d race, drive across the country, have fun, and document the shenanigans on a series of YouTube videos that caught the fans’ attention.
Looking back, Bereman confesses he could’ve probably taken his racing further if he’d thrown himself into it 100%, but has no regrets for wanting to have a life. “Of course I feel like I could’ve done better with my racing career but that comes down to a lack of preparation and motivation,” he readily admits.
“My only goal was to get into the Main Events, which is a big accomplishment in its own right. But I let my goals settle there; I became more of a gate-filler, and I wasn’t really prepared to push it any further.”
As Bereman started rolling down the shutters on racing he found himself drawn to freeriding in the Southern California hills with his mates and undertaking film projects. Not only did this give him the opportunity to express himself and his creativity on a dirtbike, but it was a damn sight more fun, and less pressure, than lining up on a startgate in front of 50,000 spectators.
A few months later, Tyler Bereman found himself in the Monster Cup Best Whip contest, and walked away with an impressive fourth and a qualifying ticket for the 2017 X Games Best Whip comp. Suddenly, a new career path had opened up for him.
“All these contests just started falling into my lap,” he grins. “It’s crazy the way it all worked out, but these contests such as Best Whip and Quarter Pipe allow guys like myself to make a living doing what we do best.” One look at Bereman’s medal tally over the past three years proves just how successful his switch has been – he’s collected two out of three Best Whip podiums and has featured on the Quarter Pipe dais three times.
CATCH MY WHIP…
The transition from pro racer to whip and freeriding specialist has meant the Californian has had to refine his style and add a set of whips to his resume. “When I stopped racing and started hitting ramps, I’d stand up into the ramp and ‘racer it’, but I got stuck backwards and upside-down once, and crashed hard,” he explains. “That scared me and I had to figure out how to seat-bounce the jump instead. Altering my technique fully changed the direction I felt whipping, so I’ve had to work on getting my old whips to the same level. My right leg is pretty f*cked from injuries, and I can’t seem to keep my foot on the ’peg, which is why you always see me drop my right leg when I whip that way.”
So how does he get his whips so damn big? “I run 13-51 gearing and come into the ramp really slow compared to everyone else,” he elaborates. “Right before my front wheel hits the ramp I decompress, drop the clutch and give it everything to loop the bike out.
“When you do that, you can guide it back in smoothly. Sometimes you come in a bit nose-heavy, but if you trust the bike and stay relaxed, it usually comes around pretty sweet.”
Coming from a racing background, it should come as no surprise that the Seat-Bounce Whip is still his favourite, and the strongest of his whip variations. However, to be competitive in whip comps these days, you can’t hang your hat on just one style; you need to have mastered the conventional Seat-Bounce Whip, the Turndown and the Turn-up, both to the left and right.
“The whip game has elevated to such a level, especially at contests, that you need every style as big as possible,” Bereman says. “That shows more diversity, and that’s the way the sport is heading and needs to be. Every time I train or ride, I literally cycle through all three styles of whips over and over again: Seat Bounce, Turn-down, Turn-up, Seat Bounce, Turn-down, Turn-up. That repetition has helped me refine and progress my skills.”
THE INJURY COUNT
As mentioned, Bereman is no stranger to injuries or pain, especially when it comes to knees or injuries to his right side. He’s broken both collarbones, his right femur twice – including one compound fracture – his left ACL once and his right a staggering four times. When you consider the rehab time for an ACL is an average of six months, he’s probably spent two-and-a-half years on the couch recovering from knee injuries alone.
One of Bereman’s worst injuries occurred at the Day In The Dirt at Queensland Moto Park in 2018, when his bike ran out of gas on the up-ramp of a Step-up before the event had even kicked off. The impact was catastrophic; he broke both big toes, his third metatarsal, disintegrated the navicular, snapped his talus right through his heel and once again tore his ACL. Even now he has five screws holding his ankle together.
“My right-hand side seems to be a magnet for injuries, but that was one of my worst, for sure. It was a long road back from there,” he says. “Throughout the 10-month recovery my goal was to be ready for X Games Minneapolis, even if it was just to show up.”
Six weeks before the biggest event of 2019, Tyler threw his leg over a bike, but couldn’t ride more than twice a week due to the pain. Then, two weeks out from X Games, his injuries turned a corner and he put his head down and began grinding in earnest for both the Quarter Pipe and Best Whip.
Incredibly, Bereman entered the festival more focused, hungry and prepared than he’d ever felt. “It was like ‘I’ve gotta take a shot at a podium or fight for wins’,” he recalls. “I knew, especially in Quarter Pipe, that I had to give it absolutely everything on the last couple of jumps.”
Despite his lengthy recovery, Bereman soared to silver in Quarter Pipe and gold in Best Whip, making a statement that he was well and truly back at the top of his game. “It was unbelievable, that feeling. My initial goal was just to be there, and to walk away with two medals was the icing on the cake.
“I did everything in my power leading up to the event and was prepared as much as I could. That night was basically a demonstration of my hard work and tasting that gold medal got a lot of demons off my shoulders.”
The results kept coming: three weeks later he placed third at the Nitro World Games Quarter Pipe, then quickly backed it up with a brace of bronze medals at X Games Norway. Two months later he rounded out a hugely successful contest season with second at the Monster Cup Best Whip. “If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be on the podium at every event I entered in 2019, I would’ve told you that you were f*cking high,” he laughs. “It goes to show that hard work and grinding pays off.”
Bereman will be the first to tell you that the digital age and social media have done wonders for his career and celebrity status. Before the days of Instagram and Facebook, riders relied solely on magazines, DVD appearances and mainstream media (if they were lucky) to build their reputations. It’s a different ballgame these days, and the insatiable appetite of the public means building a fanbase can be rewarding, provided you churn out quality content.
“I’m definitely fortunate to be in this era; with social media we’re able to freeride with our buddies, create content and film projects with my sponsors, and have it in front of thousands of people instantly,” he says. “The likes of Twitch and Ronnie Renner paved the way for us and now there’s a new breed with myself, Axell Hodges, Colby Raha and a heap of other dudes coming through.
“The industry is starting to catch on and, for the average guy out there, a big whip in the hills is more relatable and obtainable than racing an AMA Supercross or doing a Backflip Body Varial. Half the people in the crowd don’t even understand what’s going on in FMX anymore, because the level’s got so high and they can’t comprehend or relate to it.”
Social media also helped Bereman discover his now all-time favourite event, the Farm Jam at the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island.
The YouTube videos captured his imagination, as it looked similar to the rolling green hills near his home town of Templeton, California, so he sent the organisers, the Frew brothers, a PM via Instagram saying he’d love to come and check the event out.
“Honestly, the Farm Jam is my favourite event in the world, hands down,” he says. “No other event brings all these different sports – FMX, mountain bike and BMX – together for a weekend of hanging out and having fun. It’s a no-pressure environment, but that brings the best out of everyone’s riding. The Farm Jam is created by riders, for riders, and the fact that the riders judge each other, it’s effectively a democracy, so you can’t complain. At the end of the day you might get a cool trophy and some prizemoney, but the main thing is we’re all here having a good time riding our bikes in an amazing place.”
As for the future, Bereman doesn’t see himself slowing down any time soon, and he maintains he’s likely to follow in his father’s footsteps and race flat track until he can’t stand up any more. “I’m not like a pro racer where I’m going to retire at the age of 35 or whatever,” he grins.
“For what I’m doing, I’ll be older than ‘Grandpa’ Twitch before I give up jumping motorcycles. And even then, I’ve still got the whole flat-track thing that I still do with my dad. He’s still out there having a blast, so there’s no reason why I couldn’t do the same. I’ll be around for a long time yet.”
NAME: Tyler Bereman
HOMETOWN: Temecula, California, but born and raised in Templeton.
BIKE: KTM 450SX-F
CAR: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter that used to be Rockstar Husqvarna’s suspension van.
FOOD: Mexican food. I can’t get enough of it.
DRINK: Red Bull – trick question hahaha.
LAST MOVIE: Don’t F*ck With Cats on Netflix.
I LISTEN TO: Classic rock and old-school metal.
WHEN I’M NOT RIDING: I’m mountain biking with Twitch and the boys, snowboarding in winter, riding 110s, working out at the Red Bull High Performance Centre in Santa Monica, or chilling out at home.
If YOU SEE ME AT THE BAR, BUY ME: A vodka Red Bull.