Nitro Circus Live: The Work Behind The Insane Backflips

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Last year, cousins Ethen Roberts and Gavin Godfrey became the first – and second – to land a triple backflip on a mountain bike. It was an accomplishment almost a year in the making but one the Nitro Circus members knew was feasible – especially since both had done it previously on a BMX bike.

Both Roberts and Godfrey are used to going airborne on a wide variety of bikes but to become the first two athletes to land the trick certainly didn’t come without trials and tribulations. With a hunger for adrenaline and a self-proclaimed case of ADD, the two riders simply couldn’t stop until they accomplished their mission.

After a heavy dose of touring and practicing on the Nitro Gigant-A-Ramp in Southern California, the two returned home with one thing on their mind – and built an 11-foot tall ramp, with a dirt landing. But a mountain bike is much different than what they’re used to riding.

“With the mountain bike, you have to use more of the ramp – and you can’t lean back as far or you’ll hit your butt on the tire, which will just lead to a bad situation,” Godfrey said in an interview.

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It’s those kinds of risks the duo faces almost every day while touring the world, and sometimes their attempts don’t finish with the same kind of happy ending as the triple backflip. Each rider has had his fair share of injuries.

For Roberts, the most severe was a shattered collarbone, while Godfrey has suffered broken ribs and a broken collarbone – all for the sport’s progression. Both of their collarbone injuries were suffered almost a month apart, which Roberts admits kind of made planning easier.

“It’s kind of a blessing and a curse when we get hurt,” the 24-year-old Roberts admitted.

Now in their third year as members of Nitro Circus, the two aren’t afraid to use their flipping experience on all different kinds of contraptions – like children’s big wheels and even more unusual bikes. And because they cannot sit still, they’re always looking for the next big trick, along with something new.

“The problem is we get so antsy to come home and do things we want to do,” Roberts added.

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Related: Nitro Circus’ Jed Mildon Lands First BMX Quad Backflip


With Nitro Circus Live currently on hiatus before its upcoming 25-show Fall North American tour, Roberts and Godfrey have a wealth of time to try and iron out the next dazzling trick. The world of action sports has progressed mightily in the last decade, which 21-year-old Godfrey believes is thanks in part to ever-changing technology that not only helps fuel the duos enjoyment, but helps them entertain.

“The new [ramp and landing development] technology is crazy,” Godfrey said. “It’s unbelievable how you can progress so safely. We’re doing tricks now that you would legitimately see in a video game.”

Their love of the sport and raw talent has certainly made both athletes plenty of friends on the tour and while Roberts is excited to perform for his hometown fans in Salt Lake City, Utah, he admits that when they’re traveling from city to city, both he and Godfrey don’t always visit the typical tourist traps.

“It’s really cool to see the history of every city we visit but we like to find the things you don’t normally see in the cities – like skateparks or local dirt jumps. That stuff is more interesting to us than going to the Smithsonian, or like a museum, to try and keep our attention span a little longer.”

There’s little doubt that these two guys eat, sleep and breathe what they do – a blend of flips and mind blowing tricks. So, with the triple backflip on a mountain bike in their repertoire, can we expect to see it when Nitro Circus Live brings its 1920s three-ringed circus – complete with elephants – to town?

“We haven’t done it in the show, just because, for us on mountain bikes, we need a bigger scale setup to do a triple backflip. For a BMX bike it’s a lot easier to do it on an 8-foot jump,” said Godfrey.


Ed Miller is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.

Photos courtesy of Nitro Circus Live