Many extreme riders live life on a razor’s edge. Sometimes, it’s the razor itself that can change a life’s course. For Al McBeth, four-time distance-jumping world record holder from Abbotsford, B.C., the release of the Polaris RZR in 2008 changed everything.
“I was an ex-dirt biker, getting up there in age and seeing the injury list of my friends and myself,” he said. “I jumped in a RZR at a buddy’s event and took it for a quick burn and knew instantly that life had changed. It was just such a fun little machine.”
Not only did McBeth buy a RZR and begin racing, he created a business, Concept Distributing, that manufactures and distributes UTV parts.
“I started building my own parts because none of the parts that we were buying out of the States were working for us,” said McBeth. “I started winning races. Everyone wanted our parts. It’s been a snowball effect since then. We’re selling a lot of roll cages.”
Al McBeth is the owner of Concept Distributing, a company that manufactures and distributes UTV parts. — Photo courtesy Al McBeth
McBeth isn’t some high-profile figurehead for Concept Distributing that the company latched onto in order to sell more merchandise. He’s immersed in every aspect of product creation and implementation.
“I don’t just have a business and have other people do the work—I work in it as well,” he said. “That gives me an advantage when we’re out there doing stuff. I have firsthand experience of what needs to be fixed.”
A hop, skip and a jump into the record books
All of the technical expertise and hands-on experience that McBeth has amassed in the shop and in the driver’s seat has propelled him to heights—literally, in this case—where no other UTV rider has ever been. He has accumulated four UTV distance-jumping world records: two for ramp to dirt (198 feet [60 metres] and then 223 feet [68 metres]), sand to sand (154 feet [50 metres]) and snow to snow (148 feet [45 metres]).
“When we broke the first record, that was magnificent,” McBeth said. “At that point, I was just a guy from Canada. People had heard of me but didn’t know if I was for real or not. That was a big landmark. It opened people’s eyes.
“That was broken by another guy and I reclaimed it at 223 feet. It’s a huge jump. We’re jumping over helicopters. That would be my best. We’ll be going farther on that one fairly soon.”
Al McBeth has six Polaris RZR XP Turbos, including two S models. — Photo courtesy Al McBeth
As ambitious as that record was, the most daring and risky record for McBeth was his icy encounter in unpredictable circumstances.
“The snow record jump was one of the sketchiest things that we’ve ever done,” he said. “That was a leap of faith. I didn’t even know if I would make it.
“This wasn’t an ice jump, it’s a snow jump. It’s not packed down. On the ground, it gets soft and hard. The snow has so many aspects to it. I was running paddle tires and just givin’ ’er with the elements of the snow. The crowd was there and there was no backing out. I mashed the gas and figured what I was driving would keep me safe no matter what happened. That one was rad.
“I don’t know if anyone has even attempted a snow jump since then. It’s so hard to do. There’s a lot more behind the scenes to a snow jump than anyone can even comprehend.”
That’s a lot of G-forces
The dynamics of prepping for a momentous jump are intricate.
“It’s a whole process,” said McBeth. “Jump design and car design are one entity. You start with a thought and you design it. For the 223-foot record jump, I kind of knew the approximate distance we needed to go. We built the takeoff and landing ramps to the specifications that I figured we needed and then built a car that I figured could take the forces. We experience G-forces coming down from 50 feet (15 metres) in the air that are literally shearing transmissions in half when they land.”
Even if everything is lined up just right, something can always go wrong.
“I’ve failed more than I’ve tried,” McBeth said. “There’s learning involved. I’m not always right. The big crash on the record jump, that was the last big attempt I did. That was just a tiny miscalculation in the air. It’s something that we had been trying at 65 miles per hour (105 km/h). It didn’t work at 80 miles per hour (129 km/h). It sent the car into a firmer loop. It was a huge crash. We touched down at 223 feet at 80 miles an hour from 50 feet (15 metres) in the air. The G-forces were out of this world.”
The impact from that miscalculation broke McBeth’s shoulder blade and caused internal bleeding. The collision could’ve crashed his career or, at the very least, knocked him out of action for a significant period of time. Thanks to his body’s Wolverine-esque superhuman regenerative abilities, McBeth was able to recover at a rapid pace.
“I heal super quick—always have,” he said. “I was going to the doctors every week and they couldn’t believe how fast I was healing. It doesn’t even make sense. I was able to do a full month of intense recovery. I jumped in a race car a month later and went to race in the Baja 1000.”
To infinity and beyond
McBeth has managed to walk the fine line of a razor’s edge better than most. There’s been a hiccup or two here or there, sure, but the man has emerged relatively unscathed and continually sets the bar higher and higher in terms of distance jumping and the business he owns. The crazy thing is, he’s not finished yet. Not even close.
“What you’re going to see from me in the future is new limits that have never even been thought of before, let alone accomplished,” he said.