It's a Guy Thing

A Dog’s Life

By Alexei Obolensky

Every sport has its rockstar. Every sport has its playboy. Its golden child who can do it all, no matter what the discipline or criteria requires. Mountain biking has Brendan Fairclough, or as he is best known: Brendog

Before we dive deeper into Brendan, first a word on the sport of mountain biking. A far cry from once clunky bikes and amateur riders, mountain biking has grown up and moved with the times. The sport has seen a surge of popularity in recent years, from kids to mums and dads hitting trails on technical bikes ranging from entry-level pricing all the way up easily into the 10k range for a proper setup. It has, in essence, become the new golf. Don’t be surprised to hear of business deals being done on trails instead of greens as the sport blooms. 

Professionally, Mountain Biking is a diverse sport; cross-country, downhill and freeride in ascending order of rock and roll. Cross-country is more for people who enjoy trail-running or hiking and is of little interest to us here. So what do we want? Downhill and freeride – the most dangerous two aspects of the sport. On specially made or natural trails, riding up to 50mph ducking your head to avoid twigs and branches coming towards you. However, despite the recent surge in popularity – this isn’t new news; Downhill has been around for a while, picture ski slopes in the off-season. It also has a solid infrastructure of both amateur and pro events, with an F1 style competition format, with stops in the Alps, Scotland, Germany and the Canada amongst others. 

“I’m still really focusing on World Cup Downhill. I’m going to least do a couple more years of that as much as I can. I’m really desperate to get back in that top ten spot where I feel I belong and just be in the mix again.”

This explosion of the sport and the surrounding infrastructure has led to a whole host of pro mountain bikers – but Brendan isn’t your standard pro. Whilst others focus on one discipline of the sport, Brendan transcends numerous disciplines earing him iconic status in the MTB world. This is matched by his easy going and down to earth persona. However not only is he top of his game, he’s also having fun with it. He’s not only a league above, even better – he’s enjoying himself with it. After years on the world stage competing, he’s still a top 10 contender and with the level as high and fast as it is, that’s nothing to be laughed at. It’s safe to say with a pro career lasting 15 years he’s earned his stripes. From the world cup stage, to Rampage events that have defined pro mountain biking for almost two decades. However, Brendan has carved his own path, in between competition mountain biking and his own projects, yet notably as of late veering much more into his own thing. That’s not to say that he is hanging up his competition boots yet, he’ll still do the events that interest him as he says in his own words “There’s unfinished business…” – but you can tell the emphasis is having fun, and in true 21st-century form, that is creating content that is visually amazing to watch. And it’s exactly what people want to see. The world’s best, cutting loose. 

“When I was a kid I would get back from school and throw on a mountain bike movie that would make me want to ride, if I can achieve that now whether you are 20 or 30 or 60 that’s the best end result for me.”

Enter Deathgrip. A feature-length movie with Brendan as a starring role; an in-your-face, non-stop onslaught of race-pace action set against Planet Earth scenery. An idea initially penned at a World Cup afterparty (as most good ideas are) Deathgrip pushes mountain biking to a new level of intensity and documents the sport at a pulse faster than ever before. Utah, Madeira, Austria and the South African Hinterland. Its arrival on scenes premiering at London’s Soho Curzon Cinema drew gasps and applause from a packed crowd, reaffirming Brendan’s and his team’s view that they had latched onto box office worthy material. Within the Mountain Biking scene, Deathgrip has widely been heralded as raising the bar in full feature films, transcending boundaries and captivating audiences through a mix of high-quality production and world-class backdrops intermixed with honest audio captures and behind the scenes access. A true creative oasis and one that makes for compelling viewing. 

And in case you might of Deathgrip prior to this article, it being picked up by Netflix was not only a world first for mountain biking, but in action sports as skaters, surfers and snowboarders wondered how in hell Mountain Biking got there in front of the mainstream, streaming audience first. And what’s even better, as you may have guessed by the reaction to the London Premiere is that the mainstream lapped it up. Urging (?)/ Egging (?) Brendan (on) to go bigger and better with his latest project – A Dog’s Life. 

“We don’t get handed a brief by clients, there is no strict format. We are just plowing through ideas, documenting it and having a blast.” 

The primary focus for Brendan this year has been his own series, ‘A Dog’s Life,’ featuring high-end action edits, followed by longer diaries episodes delving behind-the-scenes of this iconic rider’s life seen like never before. Following on from Deathgrip, Brendan’s love of killer locations and honest behind the scenes captures take him from France, to South Africa and Madeira. Madeira, the tiny speck of rock off Portugal that is a staple favorite of Brendon’s, as well as every aspiring mountain biker across the world, offering different scenery and challenges at every turn. 

Projects have become bigger and bigger, told through the behind the scenes shots, as well as the impactful imagery you’d expect from the worlds best. However, it’s not all glamour and stunning landscapes. There’s a lot of hard work, read broken-down trucks. Read hitting a tree at 30mph. Read the constant risk of breaking ribs and puncturing lungs. Above all moving a lot of earth in remote locations to build kickers and lines, with the ultimate aim of ‘getting the shot’. 

As sure as the turn of the seasons come around, entering spring and summer, Ski resorts shut down their lifts for skiers at the end of the season and the mountain becomes the domain for yep you guessed it – mountain bikers. However, Brendan decided to visit Châtel in the French alps in the snow season with the goal of riding pistes. Now you may not think that bikes are designed for the snow, the truth is they aren’t. Day one of the trip Brendan and his local friend and guide Vincent hit speeds of 80 kph ‘ just chilling’ as the back slides out of the bikes. The speeds they hit are only countered by the fact that the pistes are wide and there isn’t that much to hit. The key is heading up before sunrise to get the early morning shot with the best light, and crucially before the resort is open to the skiers. The behind the scenes angles are insane, picture snowcats heading up the mountain in the pitch black, further underlining the James Bond levels of production this crew is up to! As it turns out, after 3 days the guys have it down, natural features on the slopes lead to big drifting turns roosting the filmers as they go.

From the Alps, it’s onto South Africa for A Dog’s Life series. Home to events such as Darkfest, now onto its 4th year where huge kickers are made deep in the south African hinterland and the world’s best are invited to send it in front of increasingly growing crowds and viral online success. It’s also the home of numerous trails open to the public, aiding the growth and accessibility of the sport. The boys are lucky enough to have a huge expanse of land to play with both farm and vineyard in Stellenbosch and are green-lit to build a custom track, the crème de la crème of mountain biking. These tracks are huge labor of love, taking weeks and months to carve out of hillsides. But the end result is worth it, sloping turns intermixed with jumps and huge sprays of dust on each corner, a by-product of the scorching South African summer. The following shots are nearly impossible due to the sheer volume of dust kicked up by the rider in front, but the boys in true fashion pull through, despite a serious amount of eating dust. It being Stellenbosch, there’ also vines aplenty. The opening shot of the boys riding between the vineyards sets the scene perfectly for the action to unfold, and by god what we wouldn’t give to have the skills to ride like that. Brendog’s mission of inspiring people to jump on a bike irrespective of age or ability is clearly resonating. 

As for where A Dog’s Life will take us next, we’re not sure but with Madeira, South Africa and snow-covered France already in the bag, we’re going to say we’re confident in the fact the future shines bright for Brendan Fairclough and out the other side of whatever new world we may be entering that there are adventures beckoning for Mountain Biking’s true original. 

If you haven’t seen, A Dog’s Life is now live on YouTube. Do yourself a favor and check it out!