DVD REVIEW: Federal Bikes FTS | Ride UK BMX

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DVD REVIEW: Federal Bikes FTS

A Violently Brilliant BMX Video

A dark and disturbing vision of society.  A dystopia. Rich Forne’s rioting, violence-filled dystopia.  That’s what FTS is…  But it’s also a BMX film.  And it stands for Fuck This Shit.

Rich Forne paints this picture of a distorted social situation through some dramatic footage, with images of protests and police cut together very successfully.  Riot police, CCTV, gas masks, it’s a bleak vision of the future.  All the more scary because it could be possible.  The fact this narrative was created from existing scenes makes it feel even closer to home – is humanity that fucked?  The way the whole idea comes together as a theme gives context to the riding sections, like what the riders are doing is part of the cause.  They’re fighting the fight.  It suggests to me an idea that the riders have equal rights and power to police.  It’s an uprising.  Like, fuck this shit, let’s police ourselves.

From the opening scene with Lacey and Bruno in panic as the ‘FTS riots’ reach a climax worldwide, you know the next 50 minutes are going to make interesting viewing.  We watch Vice News playing out dark stories, and it’s Lacey and Bruno who decide to step up and say let’s go.  These two are the ones to represent Federal.  They’re ready to fight, ready to do battle, a fitting metaphor for the conflicts of street riding.  

It’s probably the most intense BMX video intro I’ve ever seen.  If you thought the trailer (above) was dramatic, hold tight.  Packed with crashes, it’s pretty much pure violence.  Building to a crescendo as the wailing voice and dramatic chords of the soundtrack climax, the riders go to war in the streets.  Street riots and street riding, hand in hand. 

“Street riots and street riding, hand in hand”

The drama of the intro blends seamlessly as the song mellows out into Bruno’s section.  Three songs strong. Every imaginable 180, 360, half cab, full cab, regular, opposite…  Bruno is an absolute machine. The second song sounds more easy going but it shows more of the struggle with injury and security – FTS.  Pure technical rail riding and an amazing use of spots.  

Bruno kicks into his third song with a renewed sense of drive.  Heavy clips come thick and fast, with smart use of pegs at some cool set ups – in Valencia, with ledges both sides, a tight line that ends in a solid ice hard 180, then we see a nicely chosen ledge manual to a rail for a smith 180.  Quickly we see a host of two-bang setups that work really well.  And worthy of mention is the 180 to fakie ice to 360, an unexpected blinder!  

It’s not all peg work though, there’s a wonderful spin move at the legendary Brooklyn Banks, and it’s always rad to see Bruno going big with wallrides.  Some of these are serious.  Nollie wallride over a rail was a particular highlight.

The scale of the filming process is impressive, seen in the variety of spots shown in Bruno’s part.  And the wacky people interacted with (some absolute scenes in here, like in the ‘Lost It’ edits).  That scale makes it work extremely well as an opener, you can see from the start how much time and effort was taken to produce this video.

A recurring image in the B-roll is the FTS tape.  Not just a gimmick, it seems the FTS tape was used while filming to make a boundary between the fighters / riders and the public / police.

Ryan Eles appears.  His intro, a wonderful, classic song to accompany heavy slams.  I have to confess not knowing much about Ryan Eles until now, but he delivers a solid section.  After Bruno’s triple song part with different music styles, this straight up hip-hop led section works a treat.  There’s even a flat rail clip that’s so good, it deserves to be on a DVD. ‘Eel Boy’ has the tooth-crank combo absolutely in the bag, seen in a few interesting variations.  The crank to ice on a small kinked rail was great, crank to pegs hard on a serious double kinker was amazing.  The banger seems well deserved, as does the ring pull on his victory beer. 

“The riders are part of the cause. They’re fighting the fight.”

Enter Smelko, enter more violence.  Dude even has a gun in one clip.  Looks like he broke himself off but still delivers a rad section – and I loved the tune for this one.  Looped jazz sample hip hop vibe. Smelko has been killing it for ages, a very capable rider.  Ice bonk 360 on the cast iron obstacle leapt out, then the steps manual combo – fakie manual fakie pegs…  What a spot!  Smelko keeps going and we see some heavy rail clips on strange setups and a crazy mix of regular and opposite side grinds.  As I said, a very capable bike rider!


The FTS book, stacked with amazing photography, limited to 500 copies. Available via federalbikes.com from 15th July.

James Cunningham.  Stylish man.  Yet again, FTS battles with security.  He even gets chased by a familiar looking Israeli chap with a baton…  James is a hell of a ramp rider and has translated some of those skills and high speeds into his street riding, and the result is pretty astonishing.  An absolute banger of a section.  Cracking tune for it as well, by Bauhaus.  Big fast wallrides, gaps and spins are the speciality here.  It’s clear to see that James was on one filming for this part.  

There’s some legit technical skill as well, like the tooth over, and the bonk manual ice 180…  But it’s mainly a high-paced tour de force.  He makes it all look good, too!  Could this be a breakout section for James?  I would argue yes!  Those downside oppo whips are too good.  There are some wild gaps to wallrides, a notable one at a London cobbled boob spot that has been wanting to be done for a while.  There are some so committed that he lands heavy nose first onto the wall…  But speed will carry you through.  James Cunningham, speed and style. 

Joe Jarvis has been riding at a high level for a long time…  But this section has to be his biggest recognition so far.  An unfortunate injury during the filming process means we mostly see Jarvis through already-clocked VX footage at first.  It’s heavy stuff though, Joe seems to relish big set ups and can be seen in ‘send it’ mode for a lot of these clips.  Big, fast moves that can’t be messed with without pure focus.  The VX stops and we cut into HD footage, now things get serious…  Heavy rap tune, heavy rail moves.  I’ve heard some light complaints about his choice in trousers and handlebar angle, but you simply can’t argue with what’s being done here.  Damn good bike rider.  Those last few clips would have seen some jaws dropping at the premiere, that’s for sure.

“Lacey’s style is intense, violent, determined”

Anthony Perrin steps up to the plate amidst various police scenes and a fairly sketchy interaction with a ratty street man.  FTS tape in full effect, Perrin comes in quickly with his smooth, precise work on a really nice mix of set ups.  Variety is key and shows some incredible skill from the Frenchman. 

It’s a triple song, epic part from Anto.  As you’d expect, that final song is when things get really mental.  Fittingly, it’s by Justice, a French band.  Crazy nollie rail moves, high speed gap grinds, barspins snuck in wherever possible, gnarly front peg moves…  He’s got the hang of it!  Apparently this part was close in the running for the banger section of the video, and it’s easy to see why.  Perrin put in a huge amount of work to stack so much heavy footage.  It’s by some measure the best I’ve seen from him – extremely impressed.

Lacey is the last to do battle.  But who else could close a Federal video?  Lacey’s style is intense, violent, determined.  His attitude dictates this be the final section.  Lacey fans will be satisfied with this part – all the huge 360 drops and toothy hangers you could want.  There’s also a healthy measure of curved rails in here, it seems like he sought out the best curved setups he could and then absolutely milked them!  Again, jaws on the floor. 

FTS is a violently brilliant BMX video.  Rich Forne has created something pretty bloody intense here, with incredible street riding shown off within a cleverly narrated context.  For the most part, Forne gives us time to process the riding clips, with extra weight given where needed.  Sometimes it’s good to have a barrage of ridiculous riding coming at you, but sometimes it’s nice to – literally – slow it down so we can appreciate the complexity of what’s happening.   Forne manages this balance throughout FTS, crafting a cohesive viewing experience from what must have been an enormous amount of footage.  But then again, we’re all quite used to seeing Rich Forne’s work, so we’re familiar with his style.  Perhaps if this was the first time I’d seen a video by him it would be a different experience.  In any case, FTS is a triumph, which is a good word to write after watching all those unsettling riot scenes.  It’s something for BMX to be proud of.

FTS is available through federalbikes.com from 15th July

Photos above by Eisa Bakos, Toby Goodyear and Rich Forne


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