Acclaimed trial biker rolls through Emerson

Red Bull athlete educates and levitates on campus

by Lucas Frankel / Beacon Staff • September 17, 2014

Thomas Oehler jumps over five Emerson students.
Courtesy of Sam Nipatnantaporn, Emerson Channel Sports
Thomas Oehler jumps over five Emerson students.
Courtesy of Sam Nipatnantaporn, Emerson Channel Sports

Students laid on the ground in Boylston Place earlier this month, anxiously waiting as world champion trial biker Thomas Oehler boarded his bike.

Oehler pedaled toward the group and then propelled himself and his bicycle over the line of at least a half dozen students.

Senior journalism major Terrena Scannell was in attendance for Oehler’s performance.

“It was really impressive. He was on a tricked-out expensive bike jumping over six or seven people,” Scannell said. “He was funny, really cool, and did a good job promoting himself and Red Bull.”

Oehler, who has been a Red Bull sponsored athlete for the last 14 years, answered questions in professor William Anderson’s marketing communication class about how the company uses athletes to promote its product.

“He brings to the class the central way in which Red Bull goes about the whole process of marketing the brand,” Anderson said. “Creating that relationship and connection with people, particularly young people who fit ideally into Red Bull’s target audience.”

This is the second year in a row Oehler has visited Emerson.

“[Visiting college campuses] helps him connect with a younger audience that Red Bull really wants to get connected with,” marketing communications student Brandon Stoffers said.  “A lot of college kids look at what he’s done as something they want to get involved in.”

Oehler credited Red Bull for teaching him how to take his career to the next level.

“Red Bull helped me to get professional,” he said.  “When I first started, there was one thing on my mind, and that was riding, riding, riding.  I didn’t care about anything else.  They taught me a lot about sports marketing, how to market yourself, how to promote yourself.  For me personally, it was like school.”

According to Oehler, the art of trial biking is simple. He described it as riding bikes over and around obstacles on a specific course without having your feet or pedals touch the ground. The goal is essentially not to fall.

Oehler began trial biking at the age of 12 in his native country of Austria.  He said he was inspired by seeing pictures of legendary biker Hans Rey in magazines, as well as having the desire to ride his father’s bike.

“(Hans Rey) always had little workshop instructions in magazines so I just tried to copy that,” Oehler said.  “My father bought a motor trial bike.  I was actually riding trials on his motor bike which was way too big for me.”

As Oehler’s career began to ascend, Red Bull started taking notice.  That was when Oehler realized how much his hard work was paying off.

“(Being with Red Bull) means you’re proven,” Oehler said.  “It’s like a stamp.  You know Red Bull only gets the top athletes in all disciplines so you know whenever you get the sponsorship from Red Bull, that’s a big deal.”

Oehler was named World Champion in 2008 and stopped riding competitively soon after.  He still performs all around the world and has continued to build his brand.

Despite all of Oehler’s marketing efforts with Red Bull, he said his main passion remains with the bikes, “My personal focus is still riding the bike and having fun with it.”