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The first-ever X Games “Real MTB” turned out to be a Real success—it had the highest number of viewers in the history of the Real series, according to Forbes.
It could’ve been the fact that it debuted during a global pandemic, when couch-bound remote-clickers were desperate for anything to binge, but we’re going to go with the fact that six of the raddest riders in the sport put on a show that even the mainstream couldn’t ignore. Real MTB hit the internet and social media waves on April 19, with each of the six athletes—Brandon Semenuk, Brage Vestavik, Veronique Sandler, Danny MacAskill, Cam Zink and DJ Brandt—releasing a 90-second edit, culminating a five-month shooting and editing window that ended January 31. The edits were then shown on network TV on April 24, where they were judged by Aaron Chase, Calvin Huth and Geoff Gulevich.
It was the first time mountain biking had made an appearance in the X Games since 2013, during the Slopestyle competition in Munich. In 1998, mountain biking was part of the Winter X Games in Mt. Snow, Vermont, when competitors rode snow bikes down the icy slope (fun fact: Andrew Shandro won gold). But according to Forbes’ numbers, which came from ESPN, the Real series turned out to be the perfect venue to showcase mountain biking, and at the perfect time. It garnered some 25 million views across the spectrum of social channels—YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat—far outperforming the 2020 editions of Real Snow and Real Ski, each of which also saw an uptick from an oversized pandemic audience. Real Snow was up 2 million views and Real Ski up 6 million, but Real MTB turned out the largest audience in the Real Series history, which started in 2012 and also includes Real Moto, Real Street and Real BMX.
Semenuk took X Games gold for an edit that artfully blended his signature style, dominant trick technicality and beautiful visuals from his longtime filmer Rupert Walker, and stills photographers Toby Cowley and Ian Collins. But with some 2.5 million views on YouTube, trials superstar MacAskill reached the largest audience, not surprising given MacAskill’s dominance on that platform, where he has an active channel and 413,000 subscribers.
Vestavik’s ender, on the other hand, racked up the most views on Instagram Reels and Tik Tok, with nearly 8.5 million views across both platforms. Vestavik, who won the silver medal, also ran away with the fan favorite award, with almost 58 percent of the vote, for an edit that combined mind-blowing skills with an equally mind-blowing build.
The future of Real MTB hasn’t been announced, but with stats like these, it seems pretty safe to assume that mountain biking has a long and secure home within the X Games portfolio.