“If I'd spent my career thinking I'm not going to do that in case I get injured, where would I be?” – In a telling 2022 interview, Gee Atherton reflected on his infamous 'Knife Edge' crash

Gee Atherton portrait
(Image credit: Paul Brett)

Gee Atherton was one notable name that was missing from the star-studded start list of Red Bull Hardline Tasmania last weekend. The man synonymous with Hardline is currently still recovering and rehabbing from the huge horror crash at Red Bull Rampage back in October, which saw the former Hardline winner and two-time Downhill World Champion sustain multiple injuries including skull fractures and damaged vertebrae.

The man who at times seems almost indestructible turned 39 just a few days ago. Some would say it was perhaps time to hang up his best full-face helmet and rest those battered and often broken limbs. However, as Gee revealed to me in an interview, and is also evident in his latest short film – Ridgeline IV: The Dolomites, he has no plans to stop riding anytime soon, and still aims to race downhill and continue to seek out even bigger and bolder challenges for his Ridgeline series.

Gee Atherton riding in the Dolomites filming Ridgeline IV

Gee continues to push the limits of man and machine with his latest Ridgeline release  (Image credit: Moonhead Media)

I met Gee on a visit to Atherton Bikes HQ in Machynlleth, Wales. At the time he was still visibly moving slowly and in the recovery phase after his massive crash while filming The Knife Edge. The visible scars were plain to see, as he welcomed me to Atherton HQ, keenly showing me and inspecting one of the frames for the just launched Atherton Bikes AM.200. At that moment nobody could have predicted the journey the brand would go on in what is just a few short years.

The Atherton bikes are now World Championship and World Cup winning machines. Charlie Hatton rode it to victory last year at the Fort William World Championships, and Gee's sister Rachel Atherton made a fairytale dream return winning a World Cup round in Lenzerheide, adding to her massive haul of titles that includes six World Championships. 

Gee Atherton and the Atherton Bikes AM.200 downhill bike

The Atherton AM.200 downhill bike has delivered immediate success for the Atherton brand (Image credit: Paul Brett)

As bucket list moments go, sitting down with Gee for a one-to-one chat at Atherton HQ will always take some beating, and the first thing I asked him that day, was an obvious one, the crash and how his recovery was going.

"Yeah, it was a heavy one, even by my standards. The injuries though they’re massive, and there is a big list of them, are already healing well. I’ve been walking without the crutches already and started physio in the gym. The leg can take some good weight now and my arm has got some strength in it. Everything, every day, is getting a little bit better.”

To date, the Knife Edge crash was probably the biggest of his career, and although the Rampage one is now arguably equally huge, at the time I confessed it was a pretty uncomfortable watch and asked if he had considered not releasing the footage.

"It's a difficult watch for sure, the feedback on putting it out there has been so positive, people have been so supportive. The negative side was people saying "why would you do that – it was obvious you'd get injured, stuff like that. It's easy for anyone to say that in hindsight, but if I'd spent my career thinking I'm not going to do that incase I get injured, where would I be?"

Gee Atherton and Rachel Atherton's dog Caio

Gee and I were also joined by Rachel Atherton's dog, Caio (Image credit: Paul Brett)

"When you watch (the Knife Edge crash) it just goes on for so long, I tumbled and rag-dolled down about 200 feet of the hillside. Landing on jagged rocks and slate, I sustained several big injuries – a shattered femur, fractured radius and forearm, fractures to multiple ribs, a broken nose and eye socket, a collapsed lung, and not surprisingly one hell of a concussion.

"I don't remember much after the last drop really, I remember landing and thinking it's gone wrong and nothing from there. I'd knocked myself out pretty badly. When I came round the crew had reached me and I was thinking, I've f'cked myself up pretty well here. I could see the injuries and blood flowing, limbs in places they shouldn't be.

"I was just in and out of consciousness for the next hour and the guys did all they could to keep me stable. My hand was pretty bad, I was losing circulation, I can remember telling the guys to try and sort it out, get the armor off and my shirt. I don't think I was scared, maybe just in survival mode, just surviving."

Gee Atherton in hospital after crash at Red Bull Rampage

Gee would suffer equally massive injuries at Red Bull Rampage (Image credit: Moonhead Media)

As we chatted Gee showed me the heavy scarring on his hand and wrist, clearly a major injury on its own and something you'd take a while to recover from alone. I remember thinking to myself how quickly and committed he was to his recovery.

"You have to be willing to take the consequences when it goes wrong. I knew what was involved. It’s difficult, but you know that going in. That’s just how it works, I feel I’ve been lucky with these injuries it could have been a lot worse. I’ll be back.”

Gee Atherton at Red Bull Hardline

Gee returned to grab a top ten at Red Bull Hardline later that year (Image credit: Paul Brett)

Gee of course came back in style, riding at Red Bull Hardline incredibly later that same year, even grabbing a top ten placing. He also last year attempted a World Cup – failing to qualify at Pal Arinsal in Andorra but you have to admire the effort. 

Then after filming the next and best Ridgeline to date in the Dolomites came the massive crash at Rampage, and it seems that one could have been worse. As he continues his recovery from that, we wish him all the best, and hopefully, he'll be back for Red Bull Hardline, in June, at its spiritual home in Wales, and maybe ready for just one more crack at Red Bull Rampage later in the year.

Paul Brett
Staff writer

Based in Edinburgh, Paul Brett is a staff writer for BikePerfect.com. He has been an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, initially catching the mountain biking bug in the 1990s, and raced mountain bikes for over a decade before injury cut short a glittering career. He’s since developed an obsession for gravel riding and recently has dabbled in the dark art of cyclocross. A fan of the idea of bikepacking he has occasionally got involved and has ridden routes like the North Coast 500, Scotland and the Via Francigena (Pilgrim Route), Italy.

Current rides: Marin Alpine Trail 2, Ribble 725, Cube Stereo 160

Height: 175cm