Mildon vs. Foster: The toll of landing the first-ever quad flip on a BMX bike
In case you missed the world premiere on NBC last week, Nitro Circus released Revolution Day to a national audience, chronicling Jed Mildon’s and James Foster’s quest to complete a quadruple backflip on a BMX bike.
And, as would be expected, the nine-month project took a heavy toll on the riders’ bodies, especially Foster’s. Originally, the two riders set out to complete the quad flip on separate sides of the world—Mildon in his native Taupo, New Zealand, a small lake town on the north island; Foster at Pastranaland, Travis Pastrana’s action sports compound in Maryland. (Pastrana also heads the action sports media collective, Nitro Circus.)
Both riders perform on the Nitro Circus Tour as it rolls around the world, showcasing action sports to a live audience. And both were really the only two riders qualified to attempt the trick, as they’re the only ones to ever land three backflips on a BMX bike.
But landing a fourth proved to be a bigger project than anyone involved had expected. Mildon—the eldest of six children who basically helped start a BMX revolution in his home country—ran into weather issues during a wet New Zealand spring. In the program, his team is seen trying to dry the ramp in Taupo with a blowtorch just so he could get practice runs in. Halfway through, it was decided that Mildon would join Foster in Maryland to try to complete the project, which was dragging on.
It was a tough pill for Foster to swallow. “It kind of sucked for me,” Foster says. “I did everything, beginning to end. I helped design the ramp with Nate Wessel, welded half of it myself, tested it, got it to work, attempted the quad three times. Then I got hurt.”
And that was really the story of the project for Foster. He couldn’t stay healthy. Foster was originally injured at Pastranaland in October 2014, breaking his ribs on a quad flip attempt. He re-injured himself in December, breaking two more ribs and separating his shoulder in an episode he attributed to “bad timing,” as he felt he forced things in poor East Coast weather. Then in March he broke five more ribs on the Nitro Circus Tour. In April, he attempted the trick without being fully healed before hurting himself again. Then Mildon completed the quad flip the next day.
“I was pretty upset and frustrated by the whole deal,” Foster says. “Trip Taylor [the show’s writer and producer] was there the whole way along with everyone else at Nitro. They knew the whole story (and how much I put into it). Of course I expected it to be me to land it first. Trip did a good job telling that story. It was pretty much as it was and they made it pretty dramatic.”
Mildon, though, is an extremely talented rider in his own right, first landing a triple flip in 2011. He had been working towards the quad ever since and took his lumps as well during the project. He says he suffered several concussions and a compressed spine during the program’s filming. “What James and I did, everything we put into it, we really didn’t expect it to take that long,” he says. “It just shows how crazy of a trick it was.”
Mildon is also quick to credit Foster’s work, both during filming, and in an interview after he stomped the quad. “James was really able to articulate to Wessel what we needed during the work on the ramp,” he says. “I actually feel like James [was there] in spirit the whole time. He was the one who dialed in the ramp. I actually felt kind of [bad] for him.”
Mildon and Foster have been friends for nearly a decade. And miraculously, their friendship was able to survive what turned out to be a pretty intense competitive environment. “I don’t hold anything against him,” Foster says. “It wasn’t like he was taking anything away from me. He wanted to do it as much as I did. Nitro just wanted to get it done and they didn’t care if it was me or him. We’re still super-good friends.”