Dirty Dozen: Russian Freerider Kirill Benderoni
This weeks Dirty Dozen is with Russian rider Kirill Benderoni.
Who? Well, I'd never heard of this clarinet playing, hardtail hucking, Josh Bender inspired, freerider from Moscow either until an old video of his from 2010 pinged across the Twittershpere.
I watched it and thought; "What a nutcase!, he needs to get sponsored, clarinet playing or riding either will do!"
If you haven't viewed it yet, have a watch of the video below first. The quarry step down at the 6.15 mark is pretty bonkers!
Name: Kirill Benderoni
Where do you live: Moscow, Russia
First things first, is Benderoni your real name or in tribute to Josh Bender?
I wasn't born Kirill Benderoni, so yes, that was a kind of tribute to Josh. It was the beginning of the 2000's, and pretty much everyone who started hucking out there was named Bender, including me. There were lots of guys called "Bender" around, and when it came to editing of our first biking video in 2004, I had to choose another nickname for the titles. My brother suggested Benderoni, and I liked it.
Kirill's 2010/11 edit, the one with the humungus quarry gap.
Like a lot of folk I liked your ghetto edit, it was a refreshing change from the norm and highlighted your determination and positive attitude, plus the fact that you're doing huge gaps on a hardtail, oh and the fact that you can play the clarinet!
I guess you're talking mostly about my 2011 vid, I never thought people would like it. I just had some footage I didn't know what to do with, and decided to make such an edit. My videos popularity is speculative. The latest edit only got about 50.000 views on YouTube and about the same number on Pinkbike, so not that much in comparison with someone like Danny MacAskill.
I know very little about the riding scene in Russia, it’s a huge country, but what are the riding opportunities like where you are? What sort of riding is popular, dirt jumping, Freeride etc?
The Russian dirt jumping and street scene is strong enough, Pavel Alekhin who won the White Style yesterday, proves it. We also have some strong XC riders. Talking about other riding styles, have you heard anything about Russian DH racers, for example? I guess no. (Ed: only a guy called "Serge" who used to compete at the DH and 4x Worlds on the same bike). We don't have any legal bike parks in Russia, and most of our big cities, where people can afford a bike, are thousands of kilometres from any mountains. Freeriding tends to be the least popular riding style in Russia, although there are many people here who call themselves 'freeriders'
Can you tell me how you got into riding bikes? What age were you, what was your first bike? Who were your hero’s when you were growing up?
I was about 12 years old, and I learned about mountain biking from some vids of 1990s DH comps shown on TV. So, first I wanted to become a downhill racer, but then my priorities changed. My first bike was a Merida Kalahari, I got it as a birthday present in the very end of 1999. A man who influenced me the most in the very beginning was Josh Bender, that's for sure. The things he was doing back in the day looked really cool, in spite of his obvious lack of riding skills. Bender really changed my view on mountain biking.
How would you describe your riding style?
I would like to call it 'big mountain freeriding', but one who rode in the mountains two or three times in his life can hardly be a 'big mountain freerider'. So, I don't even know, it's up to other people to describe it.
I've got to ask about the clarinet, what age did you learn to play?
As far as I remember, at the age of six. I can play guitar and small wooden flute as well, and I'm also learning trumpet and blues harp. I used to play piano, too.
Kirill learning a Suicide Flip in the snow.
Do you have foam pits or skate parks to practice your tricks? How did you learn the front flip for example?
We don't have any indoor skateparks here, and there's only one foam pit in Moscow at the moment, but it's an outdoor pit that doesn't function in winter. So, the best way to learn tricks in wintertime is jumping into a pile of snow, and that's how I learned front flips a few years ago. Watching other riders' videos is a big help, for sure. Tricks have always been my biggest problem, though, I've been doing dirt jumping for many years and can only do few of them. I must be one of the poorest dirt jumpers in the world.
The quarry jump in your video was a bit bonkers. Do you have any fear approaching big gaps like that or are you totally confident about your abilities, feel the fear and do it any way?
Everything depends on the exact drop or gap, but going big is always a scary thing. I'm always feeling the fear while getting ready for a big jump, but once I get on the bike and go for it, I forget about the fear. The main reason for the fear is a lack of confidence, the more confident you are, the less fear you feel.
Talk us through some of the injuries you’ve had? We’re fortunate in the UK to have the NHS to look after our broken bones, what’s the Russian health system like?
I had a few, like many other riders. I broke my right collarbone three times, I broke two fingers and my nose, I had a few concussions as well. I also had a trouble with the meniscus this autumn and couldn't ride for more than two months due to that. We have the NHS here, too, and it works if the injury is not too serious and if you don't need surgery. It can hardly cover any complicated cases, though.
Tell us how you hooked up with DMR? The Bolt seems a perfect bike for you, rides like a hardtail with a bit of bounce.
It happened about a week after I had launched my 2011 edit. I got a letter from Russian DMR dealer, velomirshop.ru, and now I'm a member of DMR international team. The Bolt is rather unusual, it's neither a typical slopestyle bike, nor a classic freeride fully. It's something between. The frame proved to be very strong and tough. I really like it.
Has sponsorship had any major impact on your life? In the video you say how there was a time when you stopped chasing the “sponsor dream" and just started riding for fun.
Being a freerider while living in a completely flat part of the country is not easy, you have to travel to find some better riding areas. That was the main reason why I wanted to be sponsored. I tried very hard to get sponsored for a long time, and the only thing I got was a pair of jeans that I won in a kind of video contest, back in 2009. But once I gave up and stopped trying, I got a few sponsorship offers. Sponsorship is a big help, now I don't have any problems with bikes and equipment and can get some extra money for filming and travelling. I've always been riding for fun though, and I always will.
So tell us, what’s this big 70ft step down drop you’re going to do? Where, when, how?
I won Russian Red Bull battle of ideas, you know, that's a kind of online contest, and the winning idea is to be realised with the help of Red Bull. My idea was to do the highest drop ever jumped on a bicycle - probably a drop off some high building to a man-made landing. The guys from Red Bull haven't contacted me yet, so at the moment I can hardly say anything about this jump's date or place.
What does the future hold for you? What are your plans and ambitions? Will we be seeing you at Crankworx? I heard that you’re eager to take part in the Red Bull Rampage?
The latest edit.
Oh, I don't like talking about plans, life is so changeable now. Crankworx and other slopestyle contests are for cool guys who are doing flipwhips and truck drivers on every jump, how can I compete with them? Red Bull Rampage is my favourite contest of all times, I still remember watching videos from Rampage 2002 and 2003 on VHS. I tried to get the invitation to this contest in 2010 and in 2012, but failed. Maybe this year they will include me in the riders list, we'll see.
Can you tell me a Russian joke or funny story?
A bear was walking in the forest and saw a burning car. 'So cool' he thought, then got into the car and burned down with it. (Classic Russian joke, might have got lost in translation.)
Thanks very much Kirill, any final words, anybody to thank?
Traditionally, big thanks to my mom, friends, riding buddies and sponsors: DMR bikes, Manitou, Five Ten, Fox Head Russia and Velomirshop.ru. Good luck to everyone and thanks for spending your time reading this.
More Dirty Dozen here.