Solar Eclipse Mountain Bike Ride in Chile

On December 14, the city of Pucón in Chile was the scene of the last total solar eclipse of 2020. For over two minutes the earth was clouded in darkness in daylight hours in this part of South America. Mountain bike athlete Pedro Burns didn’t want the opportunity to ride in such a moment go to waste. So what did he do?

While his countrymen and women watched the eclipse, Burns was busy capturing the moment for prosperity by performing a backflip as the sun and moon overlapped each other. Riding down Pucón’s nearby Villarrica volcano and then into dense forest, Burns times the moment right for the backflip that gives a spectacular finale of his ride. The perfect end to a special day.

Ride Into Darkness of the total eclipse with Pedro Burns by watching the video in the player above

Burns at the jump site in the forest

© Alfred Jürgen Westermeyer/Red Bull Content Pool

It was magical, I have no words to explain it. I felt that I was flying and that a different energy ran through me. It was an unique experience

Pedro Burns poses for a portrait during Red Bull Sound of Speed in Chillan, Chile on February 14, 2020.

Pedro Burns

Mountainbike Enduro

Burns wore a custom-designed Red Bull helmet for his eclipse ride. The logo and lettering on the helmet were painted with special luminescent paint. When an electrical charge was passed through the helmet, the logo and the lettering would light up bright. This effect only added to the mystique of Burns’s ride as everything around him got dark.

Burn’s helmet shines as bright as him

© Alfred Jürgen Westermeyer

A backflip at the same time that the sun and the moon meet. How did the idea come about?

I was unfortunately in Europe when the July 2019 total eclipse in Chile happened, but I was amazed like others that it was completely dark in the middle of the day. I saw the photos and video from the eclipse project of paraglider Victor ‘Bicho’ Carrera from that day. So when I found out about this new eclipse happening in December 2020 ideas began to spin in my head about capturing the moment of the eclipse while I rode my bike.

Since I always want more, I suggested throwing a backflip at the moment of the total eclipse. Although we could not see the eclipse fully because it was raining, the magic of riding under the eclipse was still the same.

Cruising down misty forest trails near the Villarrica volcano

© Alfred Jürgen Westermeyer

What were the complexities of a project like this?

My main concern was building a jump or ramp that allowed me to do the backflip well. I know how difficult such a build is to achieve.

The place where the ramp would be was also important. Not only did we have to account for what was best for camera shots [for instance shooting upwards with the eclipse in the background] but the geography of the area so I could make the jump. Luckily we got it right.

Practicing on the ramp before the big day

© Alfred Jürgen Westermeyer/Red Bull Content Pool

How nervous were you about the project as the eclipse approached?

When I returned to Pucón, a couple of days before the eclipse the ramp was ready, but it had not been mounted. I knew that for it to look good and there was still a lot of work to do. I felt the nervousness and the uncertainty of being able to get everything ready on time.

On the day of the eclipse there was so much rain. This caused a lot of mud underfoot. The ground was very soft and I couldn’t get the right speed I needed to approach the ramp for the backflip trick. Despite falling a few times on backflip trial attempts I said to the project team that I was ready.

When the moment of the truth came on the actual eclipse attempt everything went perfect with the backflip. The idea, the dream, the project had come true despite all the complexities along the way.

The Backflip in the middle of the eclipse

© Alfred Jürgen Westermeyer/Red Bull Content Pool

Tell us about the energy of the eclipse… did you feel something different as the light faded?

It was magical. From the morning we were all very expectant but with it raining like hell we didn’t know what was going to happen. I did feel a different energy though. It felt like something crazy and super powerful was happening up above. When the eclipse started it was like entering a state of meditation, of calming down, of connecting with myself and with the place.

Success equals happiness

© Alfred Jürgen Westermeyer/Red Bull Content Pool

What feelings did you have after completing a project like this?

I feel lucky to have done it and to be able to say that I threw a backflip at the eclipse. Grateful to the team, to everyone who contributed something to this project, and excited to see the final result.

  • Watch behind the scenes footage from the Ride into Darkness project here [In Spanish but English subtitles available].

Katherine E. Ackerman

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