The engine howls on the hot asphalt. The front wheel of the motorcycle lifts to the cheers of a handful of young people from the neighboring district of Maurepas. A “wheeling”, the queen figure of the “stunters”. At the end of the summer day, four friends come, like almost every evening, to ride mechanics with their motorcycles on this straight line, forbidden to cars.
On the borders of Longs-Champs, between meadows, ring road and grounds of the Rennes Students Club (REC), they say they are not disturbing anyone. “We can barely hear them,” confirms an employee of the rugby club. Since the death of their friend, accidentally mowed down during an “urban rodeo” on a motorcycle on the Insa campus in Beaulieu, at the beginning of June, the young riders have kept a low profile. Bruno, 18, is part of this group from Maurepas whose hard core represents a dozen people. He prefers the term “cross bitumen” to that of rodeo. A way to legitimize this “discipline” which is a hit across the Atlantic.
Athletes or delinquents?
“I knew the deceased person, says the young man. I was not there, but according to several acquaintances, the victim took a step back when the motorcyclist passed. The motorbike did not make a figure because there was a 6 year old child on the handlebars”. A dramatic combination of circumstances that the investigation will try to elucidate. In the meantime, this drama has highlighted a practice that has been on the rise for a few years, especially in Rennes. What motivates these young people – mostly boys – to risk their lives for a few thrills? What is the reality of this phenomenon in the Breton capital? Why is it getting so big? The answers to these questions are complex and go far beyond the image of delinquency frequently associated with this practice.
Those who engage in this practice are among the economically, sociologically and culturally dominated people.
From the outset, the “crossbitumeurs” interviewed assure us that their goal is not to “piss off” the world, but to “feel free on their motorcycles, with their friends”. Behind the feelings, there is also an important desire for these young people to socialize, according to Ali Aït Abdelmalek, sociologist at Rennes 2. “The approach is not individual, they function like a tribe. Rodeos are part of the construction of identity. As society’s view of these young people is very negative, they act collectively to restore their image and show that they exist”.
Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram…
To achieve this, boys use the omnipotence of social networks. The young bikers of 30 years ago hoped to have three words on the TF1 newscast. Today, notoriety is measured in likes on Snapchat, TikTok or Instagram. In Rennes, the small cross-bitumen community posts its stories there daily with a rap background. An unfailing music-motorcycle pair. The most inspiring example for crossbitumeurs, that of the rappers-bikers the Daltons. The Lyon collective has accumulated millions of page views on Youtube by exhibiting “artistic performances” combining stunt figures and hip-hop music.
In a more commercial vein, Jul also uses the vein of cross bitumen to sell his sounds. With four million albums sold, the Marseille rapper has become the idol of a generation. And, bad luck for road safety, the kid has a habit of staging motorcyclist exploits. As in his latest clip, Superstar, in which young people circulate at breakneck speed, without helmets, on the avenues of the Marseille city. “I lift the bike, I take risks from the Prado to the obelisk,” sings the star. Enough to give lots of ideas to its millions of fans.
Urban rodeo at the Cannes Film Festival
Proof that the rodeo phenomenon is taking on a new dimension, it has just gone from bitumen to the red carpet of the Cannes festival. For the first time, the event on the Croisette honored the discipline during its last edition in May by presenting a film simply entitled Rodeo. A biker since she was 19, director Lola Quivoron did not hesitate to put her foot in the dish in an interview with Konbini in May: “Accidents are often caused by the cops who chase them, who create a form of precariousness, which pushes the riders towards death. We talk about urban rodeos, wild rodeos, it’s worse, because it makes you think of being wild (…)”. Words that particularly shocked the police – who moreover no longer have the right to chase the riders – and the political class, especially on the right.
Still, the director asked a real question: that of the social representation inherent in the practice. Crossbitumeurs are often downgraded, notes Ali Aït Abdelmalek: “Those who engage in this practice are among the people dominated economically, sociologically and culturally”. An accumulation of handicaps which exposes them more easily to “symbolic violence” on the part of the “dominant”. And the rodeo becomes, according to the researcher, a way for these young people to obey a “new social norm”.
It ain’t legal on paper, but the cops let us do it
The image of the “racialized” young man from the city – and therefore, inevitably, delinquent – challenging the police on a motorbike – necessarily stolen – is much less well perceived than that of the biker who uses his vehicle in the countryside in search of sensations. The stunters, often structured in association, refuse to be assimilated to cross-bitumeurs: “In the stunt, there is a desire to evolve on its own machine. The cross bitumen is above all display. The more dangerous it is, the more fun it is, says Nicolas Marcadé, founder of the Breizh stunt riders association. There is a group effect, they film each other, it’s up to whoever does the most bullshit. The more views (on social media), the better.”
A growing phenomenon
However, beyond their passion for motorcycling, field stunters and city cross-bitumeurs share the same problem: dealing with the lack of dedicated land to make the pistons vibrate. “Either we rent tracks for one or two days for drifting, or we go to a parking lot, regrets Nicolas Marcadé. It is not legal on paper, but the gendarmes let us do it”. A police tolerance more difficult to obtain for the young people of Maurepas, forced to evolve in the city, left to themselves, without structures to oversee them. Since the death of their comrade, however, the group has moved to a less frequented place…. And less controlled. “We’re not too outlawed,” explains Bruno. From time to time, the police come to check, but they leave us alone because they know that we are not disturbing and that we are not putting anyone in danger”.
Take action against rodeos for you #Protect against accidents and nuisances.
The urban rodeo, in?, in?, or even in quad, is a prohibited practice!??
??Punished by 1 to 5 years imprisonment
??a fine of €15,000 to €75,000
??They kill and injure all year long?? pic.twitter.com/fTdnIQpCcK
– National Police (@NationalPolice) July 24, 2021
If the number of rodeos has increased considerably in France and Rennes since the start of the pandemic, the riders of Rennes are not yet there to parade in the streets, or even in the center, as in Lyon or Marseille. Admittedly, there are a few wheels lifted in the middle of the laps, on motorcycles not approved for public roads, as certain stories from Rennes groups attest. But the bikers are rarely more than two or three. In general, it is to join the spots where they meet, observes a crossbitumeur. In fact, even if the “bike life” of the Breton capital is more and more “renowned”, according to its members, it meets more in peri-urban areas or in less frequented car parks.
A structured and standardized environment
During the visit to Rennes of the youtubeur En Didi, at the beginning of June, the followers of the channel of the “master of cross bitumen” were able to see it. The videographer biker captured the figures of Rennes riders on country roads. Results ? A 10-minute report seen 4,000 times on the streaming platform. Polished images, straight-forward commentary, rhythmic editing… The rendering is almost professional, far from the image of the stupid and nasty “delinquent” attached to this practice. The influencer shows a structured and standardized environment, particularly in terms of security. “At first, the new ones don’t put on the helmet,” testifies Bruno. But at the first fall, the guys find that at any moment they can die. After all, we are not the police. We are not going to force those who do not want to wear a helmet to wear one. Same for gloves, if you fall without gloves, you have no more hands”.
If you ever try to chase me tell yourself that I don’t give a fuck, I’ll hit you if necessary
The facade speech is reassuring. However, the temptation of the forbidden often takes over. En Didi’s report begins with several wheelies in a straight line on country roads. Then, the scene moves to the four-lane, direction Saint-Malo where the riders slalom between the cars and lift the wheel in defiance of the highway code. The journey ends in the corsair city with a parade in Intra Muros.
Despite the desire of young people to legitimize the practice, the border with legality is quickly crossed. And the balance of power with the police remains at the center of the game. social. And if you ever try to drive me away tell yourself that I don’t give a fuck, I’ll hit you if necessary. Not surprising reactions, according to Ali Aït Abdelmalek: “When you’re young, you refuse authority. The practices of the ancients are questioned. Young people disobey the law and also the norms”. Problem: the practice of rodeo leads riders to take risks for themselves, but also for others.
So what is the solution? According to the university professor, the all-repressive is not enough: “It is obvious that the sanction should not be the only lever. Police investigations should be supplemented by sociological investigations”. In fact, the phenomenon has not been the subject of extensive research. As for public actors, they do little. There remains the possibility for associations to intervene. Margaux Estival, of Breizh stunt riders, pleads to leave tracks available to crossbitumeurs. “We would like to offer these young people a place where they could come under the supervision of teachers to advise them and make them discover other mentalities”. Will the death of a 19-year-old kid move the lines on the side of the public authorities? One thing is certain, Bruno and his friends are only asking for one thing: a secure and legal place dedicated to cross-country. “Everyone would come”.
letelegramme Fr Trans