Call us easily impressed, but even third-rate trials riders can pull moves that are jaw-dropping for the “ordinary” MTBer. Canadian Ryan Leech is a premier-league trials rider and he can do things that appear to defy the laws of physics. The “star vehicle” is a common occurence in Hollywood but more unusual in bike films. Manifesto is about the nearest thing, being produced and directed by Leech as well as starring him. Not merely starring, either – the main feature only has him in it.
You’d be forgiven for expecting that a film with just one trials rider would be a wee bit dull, but Manifesto succeeds on several grounds. First, there’s a decent variety of locations. Second, Leech is a staggeringly talented rider. And third it’s quite short, with little in the way of excess flab.
The other thing that sets Manifesto apart from other trials films is that there’s actually a point to it. It’s kind of a concept film, the concept being Leech’s eponymous manifesto: “Eliminate all set-up and recovery hops from trials riding.” For the uninitiated, set-up hops are all those little bounces before tackling an obstacle or section to get yourself on the right line and prepare for the move. Recovery hops are the equivalent at the other end – if you come off a drop or something a bit squiffy it can be saved with a little hop or two. What Leech is trying to do is to do away with all of that stuff, instead challenging himself to roll into sections, lunge and hop through them (with only one hop per obstacle) and roll out. Several segments show him tackling a section in the “traditional” way before going for it Manifesto-style, and the difference is clear to see even if you don’t know the first thing about trials.
Unlike most MTB films, none of the riding in Manifesto is particularly fast or death-defying. But Leech pulls off apparently impossible feats that are no less impressive for being near to the ground. One of our favourite bits takes place only a couple of inches off the deck – Leech rides along a railway track (no mean feat in itself) before executing a clean 180 side-hop to the other track. And then a 90° hop up to land his back wheel on a trackside handrail before dropping off the other side, all without pause or unnecessary hopping.
He’s got a great line in riding backwards too, with a couple of sections demanding rewatching to assure yourself that it’s not just the tape running in reverse.
As well as the main feature, there’s a diverting set of DVD extras including a version of the main feature with Leech talking the viewer through each section, some deleted scenes and other stuff.
Surprisingly varied, some unbelievable riding
Main feature quite short, not the most polished production
If you’re a trials buff Manifesto is a must-see – there are very few riders who couldn’t learn something from Leech. And for everyone else? Well, it makes a pleasant change from huck-it-and-hope freeride vids but for the non-trials addict it doesn’t bear endless rewatching.