What do you do when you want to go mountain biking and can’t find a decent trail? If you live in Russia, you take your bike to the local shopping mall and find a downmall race. All it takes is a few months of planning, several hours of building and plenty of time racing along a radical trail that includes jumps over rails, bumps, and downhills that send you flying down escalators.
The mountain bike event is known as a downmall race, which converts a shopping mall into a mountain bike course. The Russian version of the race is an annual competition held each year at a different mall in Russia. Now in its fourth year of competition, the race on June 24, 2017 will take place at a mall in Vladivostok, a major port city located near Russia’s eastern border with China and North Korea.
Russia’s 2017 Downmall race attracted more than 30 bikers who pedaled along a 750-yard track that spanned four of the floors inside the mall. Racers had to traverse wooden obstacles constructed specifically for the race and mall obstacles such as benches, escalators, and more. According to Vocativ, race directors spent months planning the route, creating a course that was challenging for the racers, exciting for the onlookers, but still safe for competitors and the crowd alike.
The Russian downmall race isn’t unique to Russia. This style of competition is gaining in popularity across Europe and South America. Europe has a variety of individual races and even a series of Downmall races that bring competitors to a handful of malls in Europe. In 2016, the Downmall series raced in Hannover, Berlin, and Frankfurt in Germany, Budapest, Hungary; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Prague, Czech Republic. Event organizers in 2017 have hosted three Downmall races in Budapest, Frankfurt, and Prague.
These Downmall races are part of a bigger movement in the mountain biking community known as urban downhill racing, which brings mountain biking away from the mountains and into the heart of a city, and is a great outlet for pro riders looking for some adventure in the off season. Besides mall events, urban downhill racing events include wild rides down narrow streets, flights of stairs, ramps, with obstacles like shipping containers adding to the fun. This style of racing has attracted enough of a following that races are now held worldwide. There’s even a very competitive series, the City Downhill World Tour, which has been hosting races since 1999 and wrapped up its latest circuit at the end of 2016.