When Paul Thacker lined up for Winter X Games 14 Best Trick competition, he was on a totally different page than the other competitors. His No Flip trick was designed for Thacker to complete a backflip without touching the handlebars-from start to finish. Thacker hooked up with Bikeman Performance and Traxxas (a top player in the radio-control market) to create a sled that could propel this insane idea.
But how did Thacker come up with the idea in the first place?
"Well, when I learned how to flip I wanted it to look more like the moto guys," Thacker said. "Effortless and smooth with slow rotation and solid timing."
Thacker started off by learning how to flip without really pulling. It became such an effortless process, that Thacker began thinking he could do it with no hands if he could figure out how to run the throttle without touching the handlebars.
"At first it was just an idea but the more I thought about it the more I thought it was possible."
So he went to work on the concept. Bikeman built a two-way throttle that would work both manually and by a radio controlled servo. Traxxas came up with the servo and controller setup. Thacker says when he picked up the sled, he couldn't believe how well everything worked.
The No Flip was first practiced into a foam pit. On the first attempt, Thacker held one hand on the bars and used the radio controlled throttle. It worked flawlessly. However, the second attempt didn't go off so easily.
"I went in with no hands this time to feel it out. It was honestly the scariest thing ever. I was just hoping to get into the pit, and not pop out of the glides and fly off the side of the ramp."
Thacker's run-in went fine, but as he left the lip of the ramp without either hand on the handlebars, he didn't know what to expect.
"I had too much throttle and the dang sled almost flipped without trying."
Thacker got away from the sled before hitting down in the foam pit. On his next two attempts, he stayed on, made the full rotation and landed well enough to know he could do it onto a snow landing.
"I was willing to take it to X at that point," said Thacker. "If I was going to yard sale, it was going to be in front of the world."
Thacker says that what he's doing on the sled is relatively basic. It's all about feel. "The hardest part is knowing I have to time it perfectly," he said. "There's no brake to slow my rotation if needed. Throttle control is the same except I am controlling it with my finger instead of my hand. I try to keep my body tight and braced for the landing."
Winter X Games 14 Best Trick event was Thacker's first attempt onto a snow landing.
To us, it looked on TV like the No Flip was pretty brutal on Thacker's back. He says that while it did look brutal, it wasn't that bad. On his Best Trick run for competition, Thacker knuckled the landing and the sled bucked him off. Still seemed brutal to us.
"The only part of my body that wasn't sore was actually my back," Thacker said. During the week before Winter X 14, Thacker had a freestyle practice crash that dislocated his shoulder and collarbone. The first No Flip attempt on snow was intimidating enough. Now he had to ride in pain.
"I was a bit banged up to begin with."
Thacker has not done the trick since Winter X 14, although he has thought about it. He is planning on competing again this year in Winter X Games 15.
"I would love to come out and stick the No Flip but it's so far outside the box that even when we were bringing it this past year, I knew it wouldn't score well."
So Thacker has some new plans for Winter X 15.
"I have a couple ideas for this year for sure. I have to bring something more like the moto guys are doing," he said. "I want a shot to medal. I've been training hard all summer so we'll see what we can do."
"I would like to send a special thanks to my sponsors: Monster Energy, Slednecks, Polaris Industries, TRAXXXAS, Bikeman Performance, Oakley, HMK, Fox Shox, C&A Pro, Stud Boy, Shoei, Kicker, Caliber. Without you, none of this would be possible. Thanks so much."