Théo Erlangsen was one of three South Africans that featured at DarkFEST 2020. Neil Evans had a quick chat to him during practice.
Photo: Eric Palmer
‘Down to earth’ isn’t necessarily how a big-jump rider wants to be described, but it’s hard not to use that description for Théo Erlangsen, the likeable South African with an ever-ready smile… (FYI, his first name is pronounced ‘Tay-oh’)
Erlangsen rides for Monster Energy and Fox and is young enough (22) to be exploring three gravity-themed disciplines as he builds what is sure to be a richly layered riding career – Enduro World Series (EWS), UCI World Cup Downhill and Extreme Fest Series, of which DarkFEST is a part of.
He obviously listened to his parents and completed a B Comm at Stellenbosch before becoming a pro rider. He’s no doubt proud of what he’s achieved and where he is currently as a rider, but disguises that well with a thick layer of modesty when answering questions about himself.
But talking and doing are worlds apart, especially at DarkFEST, where Erlangsen just takes in his stride attacking – and completely acing – DarkFEST’S massive jumps with the world’s most revered and respected big-jump riders.
It didn’t just happen for Erlangsen though. He started off helping build the DarkFEST jumps when it first arrived at its current home in Stellenbosch in 2018. Once he’d befriended General Sam Reynolds and his deputies, Erlangsen soon convinced them he too could huge-jump, and was drafted into the ranks of a very elite corps… See a more indepth 2019 interview with Erlangsen on Pinkbike here: https://www.pinkbike.com/news/getting-to-know-world-cup-racer-and-fest-rider-theo-erlangsen.html
“This DarkFEST line has the biggest jumps in the world, including that 90-foot sender,” he said. “It was a big step up for me because last year the biggest jump was 70-foot. For the metric-educated South Africans, that going from 21.5 metres to 27.5 metres! Pace out six metres to see how much bigger that really is. Then pace out 27.5 metres and feel insignificant.
“There was no real way of preparing for that progression other than committing and believing that enough/more speed would get me across that gap,” he laughed.
As someone that only started doing jumps in my 50s – the benefits of youthful risk-taking long gone – I was keen to hear about Théo’s jumping technique:
“I lift the front wheel marginally on take-off to ensure the bike doesn’t dip or ‘dead-sailor’ and I use the gyro effect of the front wheel to stabilise myself in mid-air on a jump. But the speed at which you hit these jumps is the biggest factor as this determines your trajectory (based on the jump curvature) and distance.”
Follow Théo on Instagram: @theo_erlangsen