Bert Ribul – the recovery of a 24-year-old Red Bull athlete from Estonia

Bert Ribul is a 24-year-old Red Bull athlete from Estonia who has been riding BMX for over 10 years now. For the past 2 years he has been dealing with some serious knee injuries and fighting to get back on the bike and climb back to the top.

Kristina Zoo


How is your knee Bert?

My knee is starting to feel pretty solid, after all that shit, I’ve even managed to ride a couple of times now. Just testing it to see how stable and strong it feels and how soon will I be ready. So far it has only gotten better.

Bert Ribul


I know you have told this story many many times, but what exactly happened and how?

Well, I was really tired after work, but still felt like I needed to have a small session. Since it was raining like crazy I decided to go to the Gruuvi Indoor skatepark with my fellow street riders. Everything was going great until I did a pedal hang five on a box, but I tilted forward and reached my free foot forward. Since I didn’t count the height of the box, my leg went all the way straight and when it hit the ground, it bent forward from the knee. There was no loud pop like many people hear, but there was pain like I’ve never felt before. I gave it a good half an hour rest and then started to ride again, but something felt really messed up in there. A month later, I finally went to a decent doctor, who diagnosed a torn meniscus among other things.

Kristina Zoo


What has your recovery mentally been like?

Mentally – definitely the hardest thing I’ve had to go through. Being 24 and not able to walk or run properly, pain on every step I take, but most of all seeing the career I’ve been building for over 10 years possibly slipping away. It was really really hard, but luckily I am a fighter when it comes to these things and I wont let an injury or anything come between me and my riding.

Kristina Zoo


What is your daily routine like right now, considering you have one?

Right now I started working again, so I don’t have that much free time. But, on every chance I get, I try to do some exercises for my knee, 2-3 times a week a hard training session and now I’ve started to do some light riding again a couple of times a week. I also changed my diet a lot and I try to live in a healthier way.

Kristina Zoo


Do you set any goals for yourself in your recovery?

Yeah, I definitely do, but I often can’t live up to them, because during these past 2 years I’ve damaged the cartilage in my knee quite a lot of  and that takes a long time to recover. It is usually believed not to regrow by itself, but mine seems to be doing so. At least the last operation showed that it had. Anyway, I’ve learned to set long time goals and I try to achieve them by slowly moving forward all the time. The ultimate goal of course is getting back on the bike and on the top again.

Kristina Zoo


Can you describe what riding feels like right now?

Right now… it is something that put me in this tough situation, but it is also the only thing that’s going to get me out of it. It’s my passion and I will keep doing it, no matter what. There are good days and bad, no matter what you do, but BMX has already given me so much, this is just a small bump on the road and I feel more motivated than ever before.

Kristina Zoo


What is the situation with Estonian flatland locally and worldwide, how can we spread it?

The state of Estonian flatland is like it is right now, there are only 2 active riders – me and Erik Laev. We are both competing worldwide in PRO class, so that is still pretty good, although I would love to see the Estonian scene grow as well.  It’s catching up pretty fast in other European countries, not to mention the rest of the world – Japan, Brazil, USA etc.
There are a couple of new faces interested in flatland and I am hoping that they stick with it. I always say: if there is anyone interested in trying out flat, I will help out anyway I can.
Later on in my life I would love to do a flat school, but right now I am focused on my own comeback.

Bert Ribul


What are your plans for the next year?

My most important plan for the next year is to get myself in good condition. I have up until about March and then I want to visit as many competitions as possible and take part of the Flatland World Circuit. Its like a year-round championship, usually consisting of 5 competitions all around the world.

Bert Ribul


Anyone you would like to thank?

First of all I would like to thank all of the hospital staff, who took my case very seriously and never gave up on me. We have the same goal – to get me back on the bike. My surgeon Dr. Leho Rips, (additional) help from Dr. Madis Rahu, nurse Aliis Laidver, physiotherapists Tauno Koovit and Mihkel Luik. A big thanks to all my sponsors: Red Bull, Jungle Rider Bikes, Vans shoes and the newest, CTI knee braces – thanks to them I am able to start riding again. Thank you to all my friends, family, my lovely girlfriend and of course Hooligan Hamlet for this interview!


Author: Kristina Zoo
Editor: Ülli Saar
Photos: Kristina Zoo and Roman Neimann