In 2002, Frenchman Eric Barone came close to death setting the mountain bike downhill-speed record on the side of a Nicaraguan volcano. Recently, Max Stöckl tried to break it. This is what happened.
Sunday, May 12, 2002
Cerro Negro, Nicaragua
Eric Barone sits atop his customized prototype mountain bike on the crest of the Cerro Negro volcano, looking down at the vertiginous slope before him. In the remote savannas of northwest Nicaragua, the clouds of the coming rainy season have yet to arrive, leaving the skies utterly spotless.
With the peak bereft of trees or vegetation of any kind, the late-morning 105° sun lasers down directly, transforming his red, Lycra, aerodynamic bodysuit into a skintight plastic tandoori.
Underfoot, the black volcanic rock emits waves of heat, obstructing the otherwise clear view to the timer 2,100 feet below him. The goal is simple: to descend down this mountain face faster than any human has before him.
He’s focused, calm. And why shouldn’t he be? Only earlier that day, Barone established the downhill record on a stock -- or mass-produced -- mountain bike by clocking 101.68 mph.
He knows this mountain well; just get a good start, hold on tight, maintain perfect form, and gravity should do the rest. Then and there, looking down that unforgiving coal slope, Barone realizes this will be his last speed run on soil. He’s going to go ahead and break the record, and then hang up his aerodynamic helmet in victory.
Check out the July issue of Red Bulletin magazine for more of the article. To see it all, download the Red Bulletin iPad app.