ANDREW JACKSON UK:
Photo: Andrew White
The Albion is a free, independent bi-monthly BMX magazine available in bike shops and other selected stores throughout the UK and worldwide via subscriptions and as a free online download. It offers a guide to the present, a review of our past and a look at our possible future, through original and unconventional articles that cover the whole spectrum of BMX.
Drugs In BMX
Soapbox - The Future of Southbank
Pumped BMX - A Lesson in Entrepreneurialism
Colts: Cory Wiergowski
A Long Story Short - Jimmy LeVan
Roofies: One Lap and No Crap with Sean Burns
On The Shoulders Of Giants - Dave Mirra
Style Is The Difference - Jeff Kocsis
Taming A Beast - Ben Hennon
Life Lessons 002 - Barcelona Sex Shows
Strays - Photo Section
Aggro Rag & The Hoods
Vol: III Issue #13
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NOT FOR RESALE The Albion BMX Magazine is avalible at all good bikes shops. and selected stores. See thealbion.cc for more details. Logo and icons designed by Ross Teperek. This issue is typeset using the Plantin font family, designed by Frank Hinman Pierpont in 1913 and the (NB) Neubau Typewriter font family, designed by Stefan Gandl. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form without premisson from the publisher. The publisher cannot accept responibilty for errors in articles, advertisments or unsolicated manuscripts. The opinions and words of authors do not necessarily represent those of the publisher.
alex valentIno & ashley charles
united dInero frame - Invest cast technology dropouts - Invest cast technology seat clamp - cnc machIned head tube logo - debossed logo downtube gusset - alex valentIno & ashley charles sIgnature colourways - 100% seamless Japanese 4130 cromo constructIon - heat treated headtube, bb & dropouts - removable brake mounts & guIdes - 2.35” tyre clearance - tt sIzes: 20.5”, 20.8”, 21” & 21.2” - ht angle: 75.5 degrees - cs length: 13.25” to centre / 12.9” slammed - st angle: 71° - bb heIght: 11.8” - standover heIght: 8.5” - weIght: 4.9 lbs - colours satIn black satIn blood red (alex valentIno colourway) Flat grey (ashley charles colourway)
Troubled WaTers It’s gettIng rough out there. somethIng Is rockIng the boat. PeoPle are fallIng out, others are clIngIng on. There have been conversations behind closed doors, amongst industry heads and media folk, that BMX is on its arse. There’s talk of getting the knife out of the drawer to cut another hole in an ever-tightening belt. Riders getting cut, ads getting pulled and whole teams disappearing into a fog of uncertainty. Undoubtedly it’s unnerving, but as the old saying goes, loose lips have sunken ships, and with that in mind, it’s easy to see that it could all quite easily be nervous talk between a few guys involved in the business side of things. If anything has gotten us out of the industry doldrums for this issue, it’s the riders within its pages that we’ve spent time with and written about. On page 52 Dave Mirra talks about a career that not only made him a multi millionaire, but also placed him firmly in the upper echelons of BMXes Hall of Fame. Somewhat similarly, if
not in a totally different direction to Dave, Jimmy LeVan [P.34] talks about his hellrasiing past in BMX and how in his own way, he paved the way for future generations to rider faster with the music turned up to eleven. Jeff Koscis [P.70] shows that style is indeed the difference when it comes to his approach to street riding and Ben Hennon [P.82] shows that whilst he might have settled down, he shows no sign of doing the same with his riding. Whatever is happening in BMX right now, we’re not immune to it here at The Albion, we’ve taken a couple of knocks, but it hasn’t set us off course. We’ve stayed focus on what we think we do best, and that’s putting out a magazine that accounts for our uncertain – yet extraordinary times, past and present.
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@DEMOLITIONPARTS PHOTO: J.KOSMAN
One and Done with David Grant Words and Photography by Daniel Benson
“He rides like he’s from the 90s” was what I heard Darryl Tocco say referring to David Grant. It took me a moment to work out what he meant. I’ve been a fan of David’s riding for the past couple of years - that casual style and unusual height blending together to create something all his own – but I’d never really considered it in the way that Darryl described. But he had a point, something I’d missed. It was only after riding with him in person, as he became the newest member of Almond Footwear’s team in Miami, that Darryl’s words made sense. David would loaf around for most of the day, but when the perfect set up arrived, he stepped to it with a confidence and a style that gave more than a nod to Dave Young and that one and done, do or die mentality that had kids jumping from their shed roofs over a decade previously. There are some things will never get old, never become dated. And the simple tricks done big are exactly that.
ÂŠ 2012 Vans, Inc. Photo: Windy Osborn
Everybody Hates A Cheat
Everybody hates a cheat Doping and drug taking in BMX Words by TiM MArCH illustration by CHris WrigHT The subject of performance enhancing drug use in BMX racing may well be a well kept secret, or if you are on the other side of the fence its worst kept secret. Given a history where BMX racers in the not too distant past have been caught using steroids (Eric Abadessa-Michael Kapes-Daniel Galea-Stephen Wong) and more recently the performance enhancing supplement on the banned list DMAA (Ramiro Marino), these facts give a clear indication that some racers are doping. Maybe in Ramiro’s case unwittingly, as DMAA is available in an over the counter supplement called Jack3d, nevertheless it is still on the list of banned substances.
For a sport that requires very little endurance but great strength and explosive power (at least 90% of Elite BMX races are won in the first straight) cheating has an appeal all of its own, and it’s not one I agree with. One can understand why it happens. Temptation in life exists for all
How much testing there is happens to be is very important. Right now the only real testing goes on at the UCI controlled European BMX Champs, The Worlds (a one off race) and the Olympics. Other than that it’s pretty random and extremely rare, especially at the National events that are run by each country. Given that these substances can leave the body very quickly (up to five days) it’s relatively easy to work out a way to use the system to your advantage. Every year an Elite BMX racer will know his or her race schedule
of us on all levels. If the gains are financial the incentive to cheat becomes even greater, so here lies the rub. Right now it’s happening somewhere, done by somebody, who does not care about other riders who aren’t cheating, who are training incredibly hard without drugs, working methodically and honestly and who quite rightly would be justified in not wanting to race with anyone who is not playing by the rules of the game that have clearly been set out. It’s obvious that there’s not enough testing going on. Even if there was, the drugs keep evolving and so does the method of detection. So like in chess, if they are smart, the drug user is always one step ahead of the game, just like the legal highs that are for sale that are ahead of the law. How can you ban something if you don’t know what it is?
So what is it that’s so bad about these drugs that you have to make them illegal? And when they are made illegal and there are tests in place, why are some people caught and others not?
"Where does it leave the kids who start riding their bikes as youngsters, who want to be Olympians, Elite racers, Professional Athletes and even X game gold medalists? Will they need to dope to get to the top of their sport?"
Doping and drug taking in BMX
A recent online article on the The Come Up at the time of the Olympics in 2012 by Adam Grandmaison mentioned an article he’d read about a steroid guru whose clients included X Gamers. Adam also recalled an earlier interview with Kevin Robinson where he asked “if all vert riders did steroids?” And Kevin not being able to give a clear answer to that question. Whatever the truth is regarding that matter – and how commonplace it could possibly be in the ‘freestyle’ side of riding - what is clear is that drug taking/doping has to be considered to be happening right now in BMX racing. They are starting to test in professional surfing and some other ‘extreme’ sports as they align themselves closer to guidelines set out by WADA (World Anti Doping Agency), which could be a sign of testing creeping into competitive street, ramp and dirt riding in the future.
in advance, where the breaks are, what races they want to peak for where their season will peal and trough. Planning a cycle of steroids and/or other performance enhancing drugs will be quite straightforward to roll out. Given the current red-hot climate regarding performance enhancing drugs in road cycling, in contrast BMX testing appears to be virtually non existent when it matters most. During the off-season and in between long breaks in a race schedule the opportunity to train hard makes sense, recovery becomes a vital component of any racers regime. Anabolic steroids and HGH (short for Human Growth Hormone. Originally removed from aborted baby fetuses in the Arnold Schwarzenegger era but now synthesized) are amazing at enabling you to workout harder and more frequently than you ever could without them. And providing you’re eating a diet that will enable your body to make full use of the additional hormones you are now taking, your strength, muscle size and bone density will be increasing rapidly, as will recovery times from body destroying workouts. In a relatively short period of time you could potentially become 20-30% stronger than if you weren’t supplementing your training with these drugs.
"so like in chess, if they are smart, the drug user is always one step ahead of the game, just like the legal highs that are for sale that are ahead of the law. How can you ban something if you don’t know what it is?"
Everybody Hates A Cheat
Professional sports ruling bodies are going to have to ask themselves some hard questions. Some don’t ask that many at all, Football, Rugby, Tennis, Motocross to name but a few. Why don’t these sports have progressive and regular drug testing programs? And if they do why are they not made public? Probably the main reason will have to do with damage limitation, if drug taking were proven to be commonplace it damages the business side of the sport, sponsors leave, as we’ve seen in professional cycling. What seems to be a current trend is similar to what the UCI are now accused of in regards to the pro tour, which some commentators have alluded to be a cover up of sorts, where they try to keep everything in house and out of the media. That hasn’t worked for pro cycling or athletics, so these other sports on the fringes of testing, like BMX, will either have to keep their heads stuck in the sand or risk a big shake up in the not too distant future. For anyone to be caught using drugs the testers have to know what irregularities in body mapping and what drugs they are looking for. As this evolves year on year it’s almost impossible to stay one jump ahead of the game and unless you’re being tested around every month at a minimum, the chances of getting caught are very low. With private doctors administering the product and keeping tabs on your blood profiles on how to pass a drugs test and/or clean your system prior to a drugs test, all bases are covered. Even more shocking are the facts that the tests you undergo as an athlete are able to be replicated by your own private doctor who can tell you with a great deal of confidence whether the performance enhancing drugs you are taking or have now stopped taking are showing up in your body, this in some cases can be done just five days before you may be tested in competition. Enough time to make huge gains on performance and keep those gains. You can see the temptation and why one could feel the system could be cheated. Lance Armstrong was amongst many others who thought the same.
When I started racing BMX bikes in 1981 no racers were using steroids, but there was some use of amphetamines and marijuana. By 1985 it was a different story, the fact that a lot of AA pros had become gym rats during this period came as no surprise - getting stronger makes you faster. What was also clear was that on the West Coast of the USA, BMXers were hanging out with in gyms with bodybuilders who were entering MR Olympia. The connections were all there for steroids to start to enter into BMX, the question was who was using them. As there were no tests in the late 80’s everyone was just guessing but some had a good idea. By the 90’s a few tests in the US cropped up, one such test caught out an unsuspecting Brian Foster who was the fall guy for a test that was meant to catch steroid users out, but all we found out about Brian was that he liked to smoke weed now and then, Poor BF. Marijuana is still on the banned list and Brian was unceremoniously banned from racing while the steroid users who slipped through the net carried on regardless. But underlying all these stories is a simple, final question that needs to be asked. Where does it leave the kids who start riding their bikes as youngsters, who want to be Olympians, Elite Racers, Professional Athletes and even X Game gold medalists? Will they need to dope to get to the top of their sport? Is that what their parents, friends and trainers will have to tell them? It’s a tough call to make. But what will always be clear has to be this: Performance enhancing does not mean heath enhancing. These substances are toxic taken in large quantities, they can in some cases be life threatening and in the respect of living a healthy, everyday life, probably aren’t performance enhancing at all. If you choose to compete and the rules say you cant take these substances then you have to play the game fairly. As we all know well enough, everyone hates a cheat, even the cheat themselves.
Soapbox: The Future of Southbank
Soapbox: The Future of Southbank
Words and Photography by Daniel BenSon
I’ve never been a fan of riding Southbank. I can’t do that much there and I find the gaze of passing tourists a little off-putting, so I was surprised when I found myself getting angry and a little nostalgic when I heard that Southbank as we know it, could soon be a thing of the past. Plans are afoot to redevelop the site, with the hope of improving access to the Hayward Gallery, Purcell Rooms and adjoining Queen Elizabeth Hall via a more obvious and direct route from the Thames path and the inclusion of a giant glass box, with the intentions of bridging an apparent void between the buildings and ground level. Much can be said about the harsh angles and lines of the Brutalist Hayward Gallery and Purcell Rooms. Personally, I think they look amazing – in need of a clean up maybe, but the old rhetoric of ‘nothing is too good for the people’ that many Brutalist buildings adopted from socialist ideologies can be seen in its futuristic aesthetics, a welcome respite to the baroque, European and red bricked architecture that repeat themselves along the river as it passes through the city. While much of the argument lies in how the redevelopment will affect the architectural heritage of the buildings, the real issue I see is what’s happening in the undercroft; the area that we know collectively as Southbank. What is now our famous BMX and skateboard spot will be replaced by the types of chain shops and restaurants you see a few steps away beneath the Royal Festival Hall. What was built as public space will be turned to private space, spaces where money and the countless ways of extracting it from your pocket becomes the reason for being. I understand that many critics of the current state of Southbank see the skaters, BMXers and graffiti writers as a problem, but surely it’s not too hard to see how these groups of kids from all different backgrounds, some local, others regularly meeting up from areas as far apart as Roehampton and Walthamstow, represent something heterogeneous that’s intrinsically part of how a city should function? The debate here isn’t solely about the loss of a spot like Southbank,
the debate is much bigger and worrying. It’s about the loss of variety in our cities, the loss of truly public space. It’s why the centre of Manchester looks like the centre of Liverpool and why the Thames will look like the Tyne. As Rowan Moore recently wrote; “The plan seems to be, in other words, to make the Southbank Centre resemble Terminal 5 or Canary Wharf or any moderately upmarket shopping mall you can think of, where steel and glass frame a predictable retail offer. It will also further the transformation of the southern side of the Thames into a long strip of importuning and pitching that starts at the tawdry fringe of the old County Hall and continues past the London Eye. Here, anything left open for wandering or reflection is seen as a missed opportunity for exploitation.” I’m by no means a naysayer when it comes to redevelopment and understand that it’s often private finance that funds projects that can be seen as (and often are) beneficial to a city’s redevelopment, but we need to be aware of the wool being slowly being pulled over our eyes, how public spaces, built with taxpayers’ (our) money (as was the Southbank Centre, funded by the London County Council back in the 1950s and 60s) are slowly getting taken away from us and turned into private space, with almost nothing, other than the chance to spend money, given back in return. What seems so ridiculous about the loss of such an influential and historic spot like Southbank is in what the building’s purpose was actually for – a cultural centre for the contemporary arts. Surely the performance of skateboarding and BMX has much more relevance than the inclusion of yet more shops in an increasingly bland and segregated section of London? Whilst I don’t plan to ride Southbank any time soon, I gain some pleasure in knowing that it’s there, a small oasis of creativity along an often drab and increasingly privatized grey river and a rite of passage for any rider moving to or passing through London. It seems that my faith in a City Council to upkeep their allowance of such activities at Southbank appear to have been naively misplaced.
Pumped BMX A lesson in Entrepreneurialism
Words by DAniEl BEnson
I think we can all admit that at some stage, whether we’re old or young, to having a desire to make a living from BMX. When you’re young especially, the thought of having to spend eight hours a day, five days a week, away from your bike seems like living hell. So we pick up our bikes and our cameras, or log into our computers, or start printing our own tees, or making our own parts, with the hope that some day, we might just be able to tick over on just enough to escape the nine to five world. The reality is often a little less rose tinted. With so many people pissing into the same pot and expecting steady wages to flow out of the top of it, we end up getting saturated with guys trying to get their soggy foot in the door throughout all aspects of BMX. Adam Hunt did things a little differently. He stood back and had a think about it then tip toed around the pot, found the side door, walked right in and cornered a market that nobody else had even thought about. He created Pumped BMX, an addictive game for iPhones and Androids. On a snowy Saturday lunchtime, The Albion had a chat with Adam about how hard work, clear vision and an original idea are all part of what it takes to make something profitable and enjoyable in BMX.
Albion:What gave you the idea to create the game? Adam: I’d had the idea for years to be honest, it was one of those rainy day ideas that I’d think about a lot but never do. Well, until I finally did do it. There’s an old game called ‘Dirtbike’ that had a little motocross bike and you could draw your own levels and tweak the bike power and stuff like that, so I made the bike really weak and drew trails in that. I emailed the guy begging him to change the character to a BMXer - I was about 15 I think - but he never did! A brief, what, 15 years later and I finally got around to doing it myself. So that game was really the major influence in you doing it? Were you surprised that in that time nobody had noticed a gap in the market, so to speak, or that there was even a market there in the first place? Yeah for sure, ‘Dirtbike’ was flexible enough to make it what you wanted it to be, so I guess the levels I made in that were basically the prototype for what Pumped would finally be. Yeah I really thought someone else would make it, it seemed pretty obvious to me. Although having said that, it took me a pretty long time to get around to it. When I first started testing out the game there were a fair few ‘and no-one has done this before!?’ type remarks. Maybe it’s one of those things that are only obvious once it’s been done?
I guess that’s like all the best ideas... Yeah, maybe. As for the market, it wasn’t something I really thought about at the time. I just wanted to make the game I wanted to play 15 years ago. I mean it’s got to be said that this must have been a pretty profitable venture for you? [laughs] Yeah I’ve done alright out of it, but it’s not like I’m a millionaire or anything. I did a hell of a lot better than I was expecting anyway - my goal was to get back the money I spent on it. On release day it somehow climbed up into top 25 apps in the App Store, so I made my investment back in a few hours. Albion: Can I ask what the investment was? Yeah no worries, I put about £1,500 in for licenses, artwork and audio. I’d imagine it took you a while to get it going? How long were you developing it, once you decided to go ahead with it? It took me about a year all in. I didn’t push myself too hard to start with but towards the end I was getting home from my normal job and doing another eight hours on the game, I was
"When i first started testing out the game there were a fair few ‘and no-one has done this before!?’ type remarks. Maybe it’s one of those things that are only obvious once its been done?"
pretty shattered by the end. I’m generally a bit of geek but I’d not done any serious programming before, so the first couple of months were spent desperately reading books and doing tutorials. I’d read a bit, write some code until I was stuck, read a bit more. Rinse and repeat. The downside to all that is that I was constantly working with old code. By the end of the year I’d developed at least some sort of programming skill, but I was still working with the code I’d written back when I didn’t have a fucking clue! So that’s been interesting…
I bet! So did your day job have any relation to what you were doing with the game, or were they -or still are two totally different things? I’ve had two different day jobs over the year, general geeky stuff, tech support kind of things. It was quite hard to concentrate on ‘real’ work, I don’t think I’ve ever been so focused, so I kept moving on. I posted a development video of the game that got spotted by my current employers, so they got me in and gave me a job. That was pretty awesome, it’s not the kind of job I’d ever have got before the game, I’m really grateful for that. I now get to play with new technologies, test out awesome gadgets before they come out, that kind of thing. It’s pretty sweet! Wow, sounds like a made up job, like a boob inspector, or beer tester. [laughs] Well that’s the best bit of the job anyway, the bit I like to focus on. I’d still rather be a beer tester. Wouldn’t we all... So the game never became the day job? Not yet. I’ve been toying with quitting and making games full time, but I kind of like the freedom that comes with doing it as a hobby - I’m not chasing rent money, I can happily keep working
until the game is finished, and I don’t have to worry about making the games ‘accessible’ - I can make them exactly how I want them. I like to think part of the reason Pumped has done so well is that it’s made for BMXers, there are no compromises. If I’d been making it full time maybe I’d have been tempted to make it a bit easier, taken out the pump/boost mechanic, added some sillier tricks. I had about three months of testing Pumped on trails riders, damn they were picky.
It obviously helps that you’re a BMXer. Saying that, I heard you’ve thought about branching out to other sports? Is there nothing similar in, say snowboarding or skateboarding? Not that I’ve found so far. I have thought about it, it’s a pretty simple concept to move over to other sports. I’ve struggled a bit with that though, after being so motivated while making Pumped BMX, I started working on a skiing version and I just couldn’t bring myself to do the work. It felt like a money grab rather than something I really wanted to make, so I’ve shelved that for now - maybe next winter, if this one ever ends. For now I’m working on a follow up BMX game. Sounds exciting, well I think it’s quite a good story of how you can think outside of the box, a lesson in entrepreneurialism, how you can take a different path and still make something that riders like and use, that isn’t the usual path of pro rider, filmer, company owner, photographer and so on. Yeah for sure! Obviously when I was a sprog I always wanted to be a big name pro, then I toyed with photography for a while, did a lot of filming, just looking for a way to work in the industry. It’s pretty odd to be contributing to the scene or community with a video game, but pretty sick too.
on DVD and digital download
Available Mid march
Cory Wiergowski Cory Wiergowski, where do I start? He looks like Blanka from Street Fighter and has no problems putting away two litres of coke during a meal, but that’s the stuff I saw right away. After time, I couldn’t help notice his motivation, and when that’s mixed with the unique way he looks at riding, I couldn’t think of anyone who encapsulates what I like to see in a rider better than Cory himself. He thinks about what he’s doing, not what other people have already done and what you get from this is a constant flow of original tricks. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, chances are you’ve caught some of Cory’s riding in one of the many web edits he’s put out recently. As he tiptoes the line between ‘pro’ and ‘am’, he continues to ride in a way that follows his own path. — Devon Denham
Photography by Devon Denham anD Derek riggs
Cory Wiergowski â€” 29
[a] Handplant, Phoenix, Arizona
30 — Colts
[b] Flair, Phoenix, Arizona [Photo:Derek Riggs] [c] Wallride to Rail Hop, Long Beach, California
JASON SUCHAN:What’s it like coming from a small town in the middle of nowhere? What do you think about the people you left behind back there that will never leave the little area they grew up in? CORY: I grew up in Wisner, MI, until I was 18 – go ahead and try to find it on a map. The closest skatepark was over an hour away that I would get to ride once a week if I was lucky, but my parents were super supportive when I was a kid. My mom would drive me to the skatepark every week until I turned 16 and my dad helped me build backyard ramps. I had an 8ft wide semi trailer with ramps in it to help survive the winter. If you live in the middle of nowhere and have nothing to ride don’t bitch about, change it and go build something! As for kids around my parents’ house that I grew up with, they’re all a bunch of hicks and jocks that I didn’t get along with back then, so I don’t really care to see them ever again. I was literally the only BMX rider where I lived, all my homies lived an hour away. BMX-wise, growing up sucked. When I moved out of my parents’ house when I turned 18 I told myself I would pursue my dream and would never go back. Moving closer to everyone else that rode in Michigan was the best decision I ever made, I immediately
started progressing so much every day just because I was riding with my friends every day. Every weekend we would take trips no matter what, and once we’d been everywhere in Michigan we started going to other states and so on… So that’s how it began.
NICK BULLEN:Why do you do box jump shows? I just like riding BMX, whether it be street, park or dirt, I just like being on my bike. Street is my favorite because in my opinion it has the most options and possibilities. Since I’ve moved back to Michigan from Arizona I’ve been fortunate enough to make money on the side doing box jump shows with Ron Thomas and the National Guard. It’s awesome, I love it. I guess in a sense, it’s sort of my day job. JASON GOVAN:What motivates you every day to keep riding and progressing? It seems like a lot of people get distracted from it and just disappear? New ideas, new tricks and new spots keep me motivated. The feeling you get when you land a new trick… I don’t really understand how someone couldn’t enjoy that feeling? I think
Cory Wiergowski — 31
people that get over BMX are just dudes that lost that drive to find that feeling or have simply run out of ideas. I think I’ll probably have enough ideas in my head to keep me busy for another ten years, easy. Some tricks need a certain street setup to get them done and I fucking love that. Travelling city to city just to find the right spot to get something done is the best feeling. I’ll never just wake up one morning and not like BMX any more. The day I quit riding is the day I’m ready to die.
ALEX BURNSIDE: If you could change one thing about BMX, what would it be? I would make it more of a family, kind of how it used to be. If you and your friends saw another BMXer, he immediately would be part of your crew for the rest of the day and you’d have fun and that’s that. Now it seems like if riders see another BMXer they won’t even look across the street because if he joins them it might screw up their filming mission! [laughs] It’s just funny how everyone – sponsored or not – act like they have some low key business filming mission. [laughs]… Give me a break! We ride little kids’ bikes; it’s not something to take too serious in the first place.
DEVON DENHAM: I know you have some strong opinions about the BMX community in terms of speaking your mind. How do feel about this? Yeah, it sucks that probably more then 50% of the ‘men’ behind the BMX industry act like high school students. Every little thing you say people get mad about it, everyone thinks you’re just supposed to be this happy little poster child. I wish it was all right to just call out people you’re not fond of, but if you did you’d probably get blacklisted by one of these industry dudes trying to play god. If I did find out someone was talking shit on me, would I try to ruin their life? No, I would brush off my shoulders and continue on with life. I wish everyone could be like that, but there will always be drama. It’s not just BMX, it’s like that in every industry. I’ve fucked up before by talking shit on people and I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t just say whatever you want about whoever you want. But I’ve seen dudes get straight kicked out of BMX before because they fucked around with someone’s ex-girlfriend, that shit is fucking stupid. I mean, you probably shouldn’t screw around with someone’s ex-girl, but how fucked in the head do you have to be to try to ruin someone’s professional career because of that?!
[d] Forward Slider, Irvine, California
"i think the best decision i ever made was telling myself to stay motivated, to always be travelling and getting to meet new people"
Everyone makes mistakes, I just wish team manager / industry dudes would give riders second chances. Never judge a book by its cover and remember that we’re all fucked up in the first place, why else would we ride BMX bikes?
DEVON DENHAM: At this point in your life what do you think it means to be a pro rider? Does the label of being flow, amateur, or pro mean that much to you? A pro rider to me is simply someone that helps a company by being marketable, like if a bunch of kids start ordering parts because you run them or buy stuff because you’ve advertised it. Then again I could sit here for ten minutes listing ‘pro’ riders that are disrespectful assholes that do nothing for the companies they ride for and are just good homies with the TM, so I don’t know… ZACH KREJMAS:You’ve put out roughly three full edits in about three months, how do you find the energy and drive to put out so much content on such a consistent basis? Whereas a lot of riders know what they like to do, and take their tricks to different set-ups / into different variations, you seem to be the exact opposite of this. Every edit you put out is full of moves we’ve never seen you do before. I think if somebody films for three months for an edit they just use their best clips and scrap the rest. That’s what I do as well, but I go out to ride and film almost every day, not because I’m a hungry hippy, but getting filmed is when I have the most fun on
my bike because I seem to push myself the most that way. I’m not being cocky, I just feel like I’ve just been blessed with having good spots in front of me on a daily basis and good filmers around to match. If everyone had that they could do it too. I’m also super picky about what I film at spots, because I don’t want to film something that I’m not going to be satisfied with down the road and because of this I don’t really ever have too many clips I want to scrap. I also hate repeating tricks in edits so I try to film something a little different at every spot – I don’t even really like repeating a trick that I’ve already filmed once before. As for the energy and drive? I guess when all you dream about is BMX it’s easy to wake up and go out and do it.
GREG MOLITERNO: I’ll never forget meeting a hungry, longhaired Cory Wiergowski and Nick Bullen in Arizona a while back, you’re both doing pretty well for yourselves now.What were some of the best decisions you made to get where you are now? [laughs] Hungry hippies indeed! I still have a very long way to go, but I think the best decision I ever made was telling myself to stay motivated, to always be travelling, and getting to meet new people. It definitely keeps you motivated because you’re not seeing the same thing twice that often. Moving out of Michigan for the winter every year is also a good decision. If you have the opportunity to ride street all year round, you definitely progress a lot more.
Amongst other things, Jimmy LeVan is:
An artist, A bike rider, A skateboarder, A punk, A believer, A crewmember on Road Fools 1, A chasm jumper at Backyard Jam, A conqueror of the Austin Church Gap, A trendsetter in fashion and style, A judge at XGames, A friend of Mat Hoffman, A teacher of BMX riding to three naked Playboy Bunnies, A torchbearer for rider owned companies, An attendee at Tony Hawk’s birthday party, An escapee of a straight jacket, An eyeballer of Nicole Richie’s shaven pussy, A host on a TV show, A designer of a pro model shoe, A comatose for 16 days, A flatliner four times, A choker of a doctor, A witness to the afterlife, A passer of sanity tests, A speaker with God, A loser of his sense of smell, A discoverer of new dimensions, A conspiracy theorist, A traveller, A drinker, A smoker, A mess, An actor, A philosopher, A poet, A singer, A songwriter, An inspiration, A legend, And a finder of Dildo Sticks
A Long Story Short
With his leather jackets, tight shirts, skinny jeans, punk-rock and racer-street-style, Jimmy LeVan kicked the door right open. ‘Pre-Jimmy’ there were baggie jeans or a pair of brown Dickies and emo hoodies: ‘Post-Jimmy’ there was whatever the hell you wanted. He looked like the guy your mom didn’t want you to hang around with – flamboyant and extroverted – and rode at the pace of the music he listened to. It was fast and exciting, and to those mid school kids growing up in the nineties, he made you put in that extra crank, buy that Dead Boys record and go out riding in some fruity outfit and not give a fuck what your friends thought. For many he was more than just a riding influence – he was the whole package. That’s not to say Jimmy was the first to bring a rock and roll lifestyle into BMX, but he did it with such authenticity and straight up balls, that the constant gaps and brave rails set a whole new bar. That was 15 years ago, and that bar has barely raised an inch since. For Jimmy to still be here, pedalling at gaps and grinding handrails in 2013, it’s nothing short of a miracle.
Words and Photography by STEVE BANCROFT
While externally he may look as weathered as Sonny Barger’s leather waistcoat, and his voice may be more than a touch on the raspy side, inside Jimmy’s veins runs the very concoction of hedonistic innocence that makes BMX worth being around. He still has that sparkle in his eye, and he still looks at the world with an infectious child-like sense of wonder. Even though he has near-on 40 years of breakneck life experience under his belt – whether he’s gunning handrails, stretching mid nineties jumping tricks or screaming his head off in his band – his daily outlook is as fresh today as the day he was born.
A Long Story Short
And speaking of those very first moments when Jimmy popped out into the world: for the first two whole days he was a healthy and happy and normal kid, but that’s as far as it went on the normal front. While still in hospital, just three short days after being born, young Jimmy received his first concussions. As a nurse was carrying his innocent newly-born self down a corridor – thanks to a momentary lapse in concentration – Jimmy’s head accidentally got bonked on a fire extinguisher. It was to be the first in a long line of bonks on the head. After as few as six major concussions – no matter how good or famous – in some contact sports players are forced to retire on medical grounds. After that many knocks to the head it’s deemed that an individual’s brain has been permanently affected and their judgement has been clouded to the extent it is too dangerous for them to carry on sacking quarterbacks or headbutting baseballs at a professional level. Jimmy is now on 27 concussions and counting. Has it affected his brain: probably. Did he learn backflips over a set of doubles at 39 years old and is he a hell of a lot of fun to be around: definitely.
was going to end up as a singer in a punk band and a professional hell-raiser. His unique voice is the tap on a barrel of 30 years’ worth of BMX stories from all corners of the globe, and its whiskey-drenched rasp undoubtedly makes each one of them all the more enthralling. With his obvious penchant for story telling and no shortage of source material, as we sit low to the floor in his grey Audi TT, speeding all around southern California looking for spots and bars, the combination of cigarette smoke, a blurry landscape and his gravely tone make for an encompassing ambience that wraps around you as you move back and forth in time through his classic tales. One of my favourite stories captured on the Dictaphone is from his time spent partying in Hollywood, and it ends simply with, “and there it was, standing upside-down, just three feet away from me: Nicole Richie’s shaven pussy.” Another top-ten conversation logged on file was about “the weird early nineties” and his time spent living in poverty with a sleuth of early legends at the infamous POW house in Westminster, California. “When I was living there, there was Dave Clymer, John Paul, Mike Griffin, Chris Sales and some more. That was a house where the people changed month by month, it was always switching up, it’s hard for me to remember exactly as I’ve bashed my head so many times. We had some cool ramps, people used to kill it, both drinking and riding. Rooftop would be there and a bunch of little locals, we’d all have jobs working for one of the little local’s Dad’s moving company. We’d do moving for a while and most of us worked at ODI screwing in the bar end pieces. And we had this job where we sat at stop lights and counted how many people turned left, how many went right and how many went straight, me
"After that I was a little four-year-old kid running around with a voice like a demon vampire" But it wasn’t just Jimmy’s head that was prone to accident at an early age; his vocal cords too were irreversibly damaged when he was just four years old. When we’re on the freeway sitting in traffic, I ask him why his voice was so gravely: “My voice is so fucked up because when I was a little kid, my babysitter had one of those little English soldier nut cracker things, where it breaks the nuts at Christmas and the broken shells go in one half and the nuts go in the other. Well it was up on top of the TV which was taller than me, so I just reached up and grabbed a handful of shells by mistake and started eating on those – I started choking and going all blue and black and shit. They had to rush me to the hospital and I was already in a bad way, so they didn’t have time to put me under, and when they were all down in my throat taking the nut shells out I moved my head around and the shells scratched my vocal cords. After that I was a little four-year-old kid running around with a voice like a demon vampire.” I think that little incident was the making of Jimmy. I mean, with a voice like that it’s almost inevitable he
and Dave Clymer sitting in the car all morning... just weird shit like that. We had a homeless heroin addict that we’d let sleep on the couch if he did some tidying. The house was a mess, the nineties were a mess, a weird mess. One time we were looking around in the beat-up shed that was out back, people used to stay in there some times, and we found these bundles of sticks held together with elastic bands and wrapped up in Saran-wrap, there was lube on them... Dildo Sticks.” His involvement with BMX started on a little Huffy Pro Thunder back in 1980 when he was nine years old, and from ’84 onwards he travelled the country racing the Nationals. His Mom got behind BMX from the get-go and she would drive Jimmy and his sister to all the races and even opened her own travelling BMX shop called Moto Moms. Jimmy was on her shop team which was co-sponsored by Elf, he started off as a promising racer but as time went by he found himself drawn ever-more to the fast growing – more exciting and less competitive – dirt jumping aspect of BMX. In his own words, “I started off real good at racing,
then I started to slump off. I was always more of the jumper guy. They always did the dirt jump comps at races. I always did better in them than racing, and that pushed me more towards concentrating on that and jumping more. I’d ride the DK Dirt Circuit and the ABA King Of Dirt back in the early nineties.” In his late teens he started to travel around more, spending the winters away from his native Louisville, in the warmer climes of first Orlando and then Huntington Beach and Westminster in California. In the late eighties / early nineties BMX was dead. After the first bubble burst there was no sponsorship money and not much going on in general with the sport, but out of the ashes, thanks firstly to the efforts of Mat Hoffman and company and then to the first wave of rider-owned brands spearheaded by S&M and Standard, BMX began to drag itself out of the post boom doldrums and into a healthy grassroots movement seeped in DIY ethic all set to a punk rock soundtrack. And it’s against this backdrop that Jimmy began to gain notoriety, first as a badass dirt jumper, then as a street pioneer.
A Long Story Short
During the week I spent with Jimmy, we drove all around LA, we rode trails in Hollywood and ditches in Santa Fe Springs, we took a trip down to San Diego and rode University Campuses and yet more classic So Cal dirt. At 39 years old the gaps and rails might be a bit shorter but his boundless energy and enthusiasm haven’t skipped a beat. Each evening would inevitably end up drinking Kentucky Bourbon in some bar or another. And each morning would start with a tall double coffee, five Ibuprofen, a Five-Hour-Energy shot, three cigarettes, followed by a high-speed drive to go ride. The music in the car is on loud – just like with everything in his life – just like the doctors explained things would be after his last serious brain trauma – it’s turned up to 11. His unlikely little car is littered with CDs, they spew out from every orifice – the side pockets, the glove box, the centre console and the sun visors – each one is scratched to shit and each one contains pure uncut punk rock. Fuelled by long drives, cheap coffee, light cigarettes and heavy hangovers, the music was turned down regularly as we recorded our conversations. Jimmy is an undisputed legend of BMX and I had a lot of questions to ask, so in his own words I let him roll off a few of the countless stories that have cemented Jimmy Levan’s place in the BMX hall of fame. Just keep in mind when you read the words, they were spoken in voice like that of a male version of the girl from The Exorcist. We start off talking about what he’s most famous for – big, dirty, full-speed gaps. “With big gaps, even after injuries, you never forget how to do them. You always remember to how to pedal and you always remember how to bunnyhop – so you just pedal fast and hold on. Just try to tuck it and not do an Evel Knievel back wheeler. The faster you go the less harsh the landing, your momentum goes forward not down. When I see people going slow at drops and gaps, I just think ‘what in the hell are you doing?’ To me going for distance makes more sense because you’re going faster.” “With the Church Gap on Road Fools, that was my first trip to Austin. Joe and Taj told me about it, they were like, ‘Hey Jimmy, we got something for you.’ So we went to take a look at it a couple of days beforehand and we set a date to get it done by. I went back and took a couple of run-ups, but I was with Joe Rich so I had to use his law, which is you can’t have more than three run ups, you have to go on your third, any more than that and you’ll psyche yourself out. So I just said, ‘Let’s do this.’ I looked at it, and with stuff that scares me I have my own little ritual, I sit on my bike up at the run up and I count from 10 to zero backwards, and when I hit zero it’s time to go, no matter what.”
“Did I know I was gonna do that Church Gap? Well, I knew I was gonna try it and I knew I wanted to make it, so I just went as fast as fuck. But actually, when I made the turn around the sidewalk past the church, it drops down one step, and as I dropped my pedal clipped the step, I paused for a second and thought about stopping, but then I was just like ‘Ah fuck it! Let’s go!’” “The biggest gap I ever did was in Seattle, for an Odyssey poster in Ride US, it was a drop from a parking lot down into a bank. I knew I was gonna do it and I was a little stressed. I knew it was gonna either end with me being stoked-as-hell or me being dead, so that morning at breakfast I made four phone calls, I called my mom, my dad, my sister and my ex-girlfriend, just to call up and say, ‘Hi, how you doing? I love you.’ I didn’t want to scare anyone, so I didn’t say what we were up to, it was just because if I didn’t make it then I was pretty sure I was gonna die. After that I just went there with Keith [Mulligan] and just did it.” Driving around California sat next to Jimmy, I couldn’t help laugh. I looked at myself in the vanity mirror and then I looked over at him behind the wheel. We didn’t look the same, he was more punk and I was more hippy, but he was the reason I was sat there. That might sound obvious because that’s who I was there to interview, but what I mean is that he was the reason I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life travelling around and riding bikes. I couldn’t think of words to explain to Jimmy what I was thinking, he may have thought me a fag if I’d tried. Jimmy is my BMX, he’s everything that got me addicted to riding bikes – he’s free, he’s loose, he’s fun, he’s different, he’s genuine, he’s scary and he drinks like a fish. I sat there trying to structure my point, but gave up trying to think of ways to tell him and just sat back and enjoyed the Evergreen track that was playing loud from the stereo. He breaks my concentration with another tale about what Music means to him… “Music is everything to me, as much or more so than bikes. I’ve been going to shows since I was a little kid, when I was ten I went from classic rock to punk rock, then when I was 14 I went to my first punk show, King House from Louisville – Danzig used to produce them. I have friends in a lot of bands, I probably know more musicians than bike riders. I was travelling to go to BMX stuff and comps and trails and the same time I’d travel to go watch shows and hang out with music friends. Music has always been a big influence, even if it was something scary, I’d just put my favourite tunes on and just do it – it made things feel right.” Without skipping a beat, we move onto the subject of extra terrestrial life. As he starts I think of the Road Fools One stop at the alien landing site at Roswell, with a grinning Jimmy stood beneath the city limits sign. I always thought it seemed like that part of the trip was a detour just for Jimmy, maybe a thank you from the Props guys for all the insane shit he’d done throughout the trip. “My first tattoo is of an alien getting beamed down. People’s first tattoos usually mean something to them and mine means a lot to me. We are not alone in this universe, and that is proven by simple math, and if you think any different then you’re not too smart. There are multiple thousands of millions of galaxies, and all the trillions and trillions of stars in those have planets going around them, it’s almost mathematically impossible for us to be the only life. So you just gotta realise there is life elsewhere. Man, I don’t believe in every UFO sighting, but I do believe there is life elsewhere.” “If you look at old stuff in Peru, they’ve found two or three hundred ton stones stacked perfectly on top of each other with all inscriptions and carvings on them that are so dialled we can hardly do them today, and they’re 11,000 years old, how did
people that long ago do that with no technology? So yeah, there’s definitely been alien life here, either that or there was a previous demised civilisation that got burned out, buried out, wiped out.” “My dad passed away last year, he used to share my views on aliens and extraterrestrial life, when I was young he always wanted me to study, but back then I wasn’t much of a student, he wanted me to shut up
them, but everyone has them. Each dream might only be two or three seconds long, when I was in a coma the dream I had lasted six years. There was a bunch of different ones, once I was living in California, another I was living in New York. I kept thinking that people were drugging me because some days were totally normal and some days everything would look totally normal, but others would look like the world was shot in Super 8 film.”
"With stuff that scares me I have my own little ritual, I sit on my bike at the run up and I count from 10 to zero backwards, and when I hit zero it’s time to go, no matter what"
A Long Story Short
and learn, but I was ADHD and I was the always the kid with a BMX magazine between his books.” We pull over for petrol, a fresh pack of smokes and some more coffee. The guy at the counter looks familiar to me, and as it turns out he knows BMX and recognises Jimmy. The two of them chat for a while and as we walk out I ask Jimmy if he got the attendant’s name, to check if I knew him from somewhere. He paused for a minute, before looking at me, “Shit,” he said, “he did tell me but I’ve forgotten already... damn my beaten brain” he shrugs and we get back in the car. His comment reminds me about the time he died four times. I bring it up and press record: “I feel like I broke a mirror and I’m having seven years of bad luck, it peaked with my last major head injury, a frontal lobe contusion. I was on an Odyssey trip – back before they dropped me for being too old – and we were waiting on some dudes to load up in New Jersey. They lived high up on this hill and at the top of a windy driveway, while we were waiting for them I was playing around skateboarding down the hill. I bombed the hill three times and then I broke the ‘one more time’ rule. I’d packed my board back into the van and was ready to go, but then Chad Shackleford the filmer goes ‘Dude, Jimmy, just do it once more for the camera’ and like an idiot I pull my board back out and bomb it again. I’m flying down there and as I get towards the bottom I hit this rock, it flipped me over and I hit my head and that was a 15 day coma during which I actually flat-lined and died four times.” “While I was unconscious I walked towards a white light and I talked to a higher something. Now, I’m not a part of any of the 286 man-made religions, but after that experience I’m no longer afraid of death because I know there’s somewhere else to go, and it’s very comfortable and it’s very nice – so don’t be afraid of death. If anything, I’d say I believe in karma.” “In the 15 days I was in a coma for, in my brain I lived for six years. Every night every single person has 250 to 350 dreams, you might only remember a few of
“One day I woke up and I was on a mountain, there was no sign of human life at all, I get walking along this little path. I was walking a long time, at least six hours and then I noticed it was getting brighter, I was surprised by this as it had been light all day and I’d been walking a long time, it should have been getting dark, not light, but it was actually getting brighter. So I was like, ‘Oh shit, I’m walking towards a white light here – I’m dying here. I turned around and ran away from the light as fast as I could, and I ended up having the best conversation of my life with this voice that spoke to me. When the voice talked the sky all lit up red and orange and purple, but when I spoke it was just blue. I had the best conversation of my life right then, it was me explaining why I wanted to stay, why I wasn’t ready to go into the light just yet. I told the voice that I wasn’t ready to finish; I just wanted to go back to my earth life and finish some things off. It was a long in-depth conversation and at the end of it I came out my coma – when I was not supposed to.” “I was supposed to be done. The doctors had been telling my parents that there was a 95% chance I was going to die, and if I did manage to be in that 5% and pull through, then they said I would be mentally handicapped. And I ain’t claiming to be normal, but I ain’t that. So it all worked out good and now I know that death is okay, and it’s actually damn sweet and kinda pretty too.” “When I woke up from the coma I was handcuffed to the bed, both hands and both feet, the police had done that. I wasn’t aware of it but it turns out that I’d come round three times before and I’d been ripping out my IVs and my brain tube and trying to escape the hospital. During those episodes, once or twice I reached up and grabbed the surgeon by the throat. Now I’m no big dude, no weightlifter guy, but brain power gives you a lot of strength and they had me in one of those bed straightjacket things, and I managed to sit up and rip out one of my arms and started choking-out a surgeon – and that’s why the police handcuffed me.”
42 — A Long Story Short
“I don’t have any recollection of doing that. Afterwards, because of that, by law I had to do these 12 psychiatric classes, and I learnt a lot. After the first one I was stoked as hell and they signed me out by number four, they said I had my shit together and I was okay. And that was good because they were expensive-ass classes, even with my health insurance, four classes cost me $8,000 bucks, just for the psychiatry. In one of the classes I basically had to take a seven-hour test to prove I was sane – and I passed.” Listening to Jimmy talk about death and having conversations with colour-changing omnipresent voices isn’t as trippy as it may come across on this page. He talks with a unwavering sense of conviction – he did experience these things and they are part of his life now – but while they may be sincere, the words are never too heavy and every sentence is delivered with a light-hearted acknowledgement that life is just one trippy ride anyway, so you might as well let crazy things happen to you. I look out of the window once more letting my mind toy with the ideas Jimmy just presented it. I notice we’re driving very fast, I’m not bothered by it, but it makes me think to ask about pedalling fast, so we start talking about bikes once again: “I don’t do gaps because of my ego, it’s just what makes sense to me. I grew up riding, I was a pretty good racer, so you just use what you know to have fun with, and I know pedalling and going fast. I know how fast I can go, so when I look at I gap I know whether I can do it or not. I just do gaps because they look fun and look like something I want to do.” “I’m 39 years old now, and all my sponsors have dropped me. I’m not bitching on anyone though, all my sponsors helped me out in the past, so I’m not moaning. But the good thing about having all your sponsors drop you and kick you to the curb is
that now it’s not a job riding bikes, you don’t got to worry about getting this clip done or that photo shot for that project, it just lets you get more stoked on BMX again. It’s gone full circle to me, now riding bikes is back to just hanging out and having a good time – just like it was when I started.” And talking about starting afresh, that brings us round to Metal Bikes, the infamous company Jimmy started way back in 1998. It’s a project that has been on the back burner for the last couple of years, but now, with Jimmy having gone full circle in his riding, he’s back behind the wheel once again, and if he drives it anything like how he does his Audi TT, then we can be sure to see them kicking out exciting stuff in the future. I’m glad Jimmy still rides, I’m scared what will happen to BMX if people like him disappear. I wake up on his couch on the morning I have to leave. My flight’s in a few hours and I need to get my bike packed and start heading to the airport. I walk up his stairs and knock on the door of his bedroom, I hear his throat make a sound like a fucked speaker. I open the door and he’s lying in bed. I look around the room, it’s like an Aladdin’s cave of the best memories BMX has ever made – his Road Fools leopard print shirt hangs on the wardrobe, Metal Bikes prototype parts litter the shelves, the walls are covered with original artwork from well-known friends all over the globe, a picture of him and Dave Young and Ice-T sits crooked on the wall, next to it is a Polaroid of him and Macho Man Randy Savage from years gone by. I look over and he’s sitting up in bed, tattoos on show, bleached blond hair sticking up. A handshake and the slightly crazed twinkle in his eyes packs me off out the door safe in the knowledge that at least that ‘someone like him’ is still gonna be staying weird and making stories in BMX for many more years to come.
Covert rooftop operations with sean Burns and Kert petersel
Roofies: one Lap, no cRap Photography by Sandy CarSon Words by Sean BurnS
he last half decade I have been missing out on a lot of ledges, rails, and little fun session spots. I’ve caught myself getting too busy looking up instead of straight ahead when searching for new spots to ride.
Some people say that riding roof ’s is not street. Who defines street? The Internet forums? If it’s not in a skatepark, or in the woods... and no one built it purposely to ride bikes on, then it is street my friends. Whether that be grass, glass, sand, piles of trash, concrete or even rocks... that is street riding; it’s whatever you make of your surrounding terrain. Sometimes they’re might not be anything in your town to ride. But if you have mastered dropping off things over shoulder height, they’re might be a few more spots than you thought you knew about. You don’t necessarily have to be a gap master to ride these things either. Not every roof set up is “to flat.” I’ve ridden some roofs that had more spines and hips than some skateparks do. The only problem with this aspect of riding is authority, the general public and straight up homeowners. I personally try to avoid riding people’s homes, it’s a little disrespectful even if you are doing no damage, but sometimes you see a set up though that you just can’t pass up. I just hope the people aren’t home. Ideally it’s best to find roof set-ups at business’s that are closed on Sundays, or abandoned parks and warehouses. Although you might want to check how secure those abandon ones are before you go bouncing around on them. Some people take the renegade “anything goes” approach and it kind of seems to just work out. Take Kert Petersel for instance, there are not a lot of rideable roof ’s in Estonia, so when he comes to America for 90 days at a time, he takes advantage of it, bouncing around from roof to roof like Mario and Luigi. If someone is home, it doesn’t faze him – he’s getting on their roof anyway. Your best bet is to ride people’s homes during the week. Monday through to Friday, from nine to five. Most likely those homeowners are at work during those hours and you can get away with it. If you’re caught in the act and you haven’t gotten your bike on the roof yet, you can get away with simple excuses like “my friends cat ran away, he’s on your roof somewhere and we’re trying to catch him.” Then go onto describe what the cat looks like in detailed description. A real stupid excuse you can use if they’re being total dickheads is pull out your cell phone and say “there’s good reception up here!”
"Kert and I are dumbasses because we wear all black, striped shirts, fingerless gloves and leather. Who wouldn’t think we were robbing their fridge for hamburgers?"
If police show up, just be honest and tell them you were going to ride off the roof. Half the time they’re stoked on it and relieved that you are not a burglar. Kert and I are dumbasses because we wear all black, striped shirts, fingerless gloves and leather. Who wouldn’t think we were robbing their fridge for hamburgers? The least conspicuous you are the better. I can’t imagine what people think when they see us on their roofs in leather and sawing their trees down. We look like Mad Max vigilante landscapers.
one Lap, no Crap
one Lap, no Crap
50 — roofies
"you really want to avoid old people at all costs. Sometimes they are too tired to pick up a phone and call the police, but some are old and senile enough to pick up a shotgun or machete and point it at you."
You really want to avoid old people at all costs. Sometimes they’re too tired to pick up a phone and call the police, but some are old and senile enough to pick up a shotgun or machete and point it at you. Old folks homes are a bad idea. You also don’t want to give a guy a heart attack. If the set up is rad enough to the point that you don’t care if they are old and have weapons, just be quick and get it done. One lap, no crap. Another major factor you want to avoid is town centres in the suburbs. A lot of the spots we find are on the outskirts of cities, or heavily settled suburbs. Town Centres seem like a good place to ride roofs but there is always that one citizen on patrol. They write down your license plate, take cell phone pictures of you and then exaggerate to the police that you are stealing copper from air conditioners on top of the roofs - supposedly that’s a common crime. These town centres are littered with citizens on patrol. They live boring lives so their only entertainment is other people’s misfortune. People will tell you that you are going to go through the roof. Bullshit. If it’s sturdy enough to walk on, it’s usually sturdy enough to land on. I have seen videos of kids going through
roofs, but the roofs must have been made of rotted pizza wood. Amongst the hundreds of roofs I have ridden I have never gone through one. Be smart and check how sturdy the support beams are. Shingles are usually laid in wood underneath, making it hard to tell. Jumping up and down on your feet is the best tester. The black tar roofs are a gamble. It could be rot underneath and you’ll never know until you land on it or ride over it. The soft rubber top black roofs are always guaranteed to be solid but they suck ass to hop off of. It’s like laying a carpet over a sand dune. This is all depending on where in the world you live. If you live in Belgium you’re probably screwed. No roofs for you. That European clay tile shit sucks; you can’t hop off it or land on it. If you do decide to search out and ride roofs on a daily to weekly basis or even at all, the best advise I can give you is to make sure that your bike is solid. The last thing you want to do is ride off a roof with a pair of cracked forks. It probably sounds absurd to say that you could ride roofs on a weekly or even daily basis but if you actually look up instead of straight ahead and keep your wits about you you’ll find a whole load of rad spots up there on those roofs.
The dave Mirra inTerview
On The ShOulderS Of GianTS Dave Mirra is an easily respected man. From his caring mild-mannered demeanour to his fierce competitive streak to his steely resolve, he is about as well rounded as any man has been. For nearly a decade he was BMX’s poster boy, appearing on millions of TV sets across the world, and in his career has won more medals, trophies, plaques and cash than any rider before him. But even though he’s the biggest global celebrity to ever come from BMX, his feet are planted firmly on the ground and my experience of staying round Dave Mirra’s house was no different to staying with any of the other hundreds of riders I’ve stayed with over the years: there were plenty of bikes hanging around, there were posters on the walls and we stayed up late drinking and talking about BMX. Sure the bikes had won gold medals in front of millions of people, and the posters were mostly of himself pushing the limits of the sport, and the wine he was drinking probably cost more per bottle than the weekly food bill of an average rider, but those differences are just circumstantial – the point is, with a penchant for fun and a firm grip on his youth, Dave Mirra is just like any other BMXer. Coming from humble beginnings, Dave’s rise to the top hasn’t been all plain sailing – from fist fights, to car wrecks, to beer bellies, to broken hearts – his journey has taken tremendous compassion and determination. Earning the title of ‘BMX’s Most Decorated Man’ has taken true grit. And even though he is immensely proud of his success, he credits much of his achievements to building on the efforts of those who came before him, and he’ll be the first to tell you how he’d be nothing had he not been standing on the shoulders of giants.
Words and incidental photographs by Steve Bancroft riding photographs by BraD McDonaLD, Mark LoSey and Steve BUDDenDeck
Meeting The Miracle Man Dave Mirra has long been referred to as, ‘the most decorated rider in the history of BMX’. So when I arranged for him to pick me from my rundown $39 dollar-a-night motel on the outskirts of Greenville, I pictured him screeching up in a rally car looking like a golden Christmas tree – sparkling in the warm spring sunshine like a white version of BA Baracus.
on the Shoulder’s of Giants
But of course the reality of such a media-hyped preconception was very different. Sure, the truck in which he pulled up to the foyer looked like it cost more than the entire franchise of Days Inn, but as he got out to help me with my bags I was both somewhat relieved, and somewhat disappointed to see a regular sized man dressed like any other regular sized guy.
coming.” Again I breathed an internal sigh of both relief and disappointment: relieved I wasn’t going to get hurt in a car wreak and disappointed that we weren’t going to get a police escort through specially closed off streets. We talk about The Albion and we talk about the half Iron Man triathlon event that he’s just got back from out in California. Although he talks freely in a relaxed manner, there’s a certain aspect to his voice that makes every sentence he says, no matter how trivial, sound unquestionably believable. And when the sureness of his voice teams up with the fiery glint in his eye – I’d agree with any words he spoke... If he weren’t so damn nice and normal, he’d make for a great cult leader. Hell, he had me signed up and drinking the Kool-Aid after the first five minutes.
We shake hands and I climb up into his oversized but understated Ford pickup. As we exchange pleasantries I can’t help but notice how muscular his arms are – they’re not particularly big – just defined to Pop-Eye-like proportions, and with veins so prominent I fear they’ll explode. As we engage in conversation about our plans for my time in town, I feel like putting my hand up to guard my eyes, just in case one does let go and squirt me in the face with whatever concentrated concoction of protein and hardness might be pumping around inside.
I’m both amazed and happy at how freely the conversation is flowing. Back in the hotel, before he picked me up, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t know what to say. That morning, as I sat on the edge of the lumpy bed, I noticed that the socks I was pulling on were Puma ones. I remembered from my rushed last minute research that Dave is sponsored by Puma now. I felt slight relief by this coincidence, safe in the knowledge that no matter how awkward our first meeting could be, if I got really desperate and had to break a silence, we could always talk about my socks. Luckily for both of us the conversation rolled out like we’d known each other for donkey’s years.
Keen not to come across as intimidated I manage to keep my hands in my lap and settle for a slight anticipatory squint. It’s agreed that the first thing we should do is get some food – Dave’s been training hard in the gym all morning and he feels like a couple of glasses of red wine. The roads are wide and clean and after a few minutes driving past the manicured lawns and wellpruned hedges of what is an obviously affluent neighbourhood, we pull up outside the restaurant he and his wife eat at most days.
Dave’s wife Lauren turns up and I can’t help but feel guilty as – still groggy from having flown in the night before from a week of smoking cigs and drinking with Jimmy LeVan – they sit opposite me radiating health and fitness. My baggy eyes and wheezing lungs seem accentuated by their fresh faces and talk about afternoon work-out schedules.
Like the well-mannered gent he is, he holds the door for me and we walk inside. The waitress who seats us is hot: around 30 years old, trim, with cute glasses and an air of sophistication about her. There was something about the way she greeted him that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. With his shaven head and chiselled jaw line, maybe she was just flirting with a random good-looking guy? And maybe – with him being a local and with
When we finish up eating, he asks for the cheque. The meal and drinks come to just under $100. Forgetting who I’m with for a second, I raise my eyebrows in exclamation and half expect the usual bill-splitting arguments and forgotten-wallet-excuses that are synonymous with BMXers eating out. But Dave kindly offers to cover it and after thanking him gratuitously, I offer to get the next one, quietly hoping – but not really expecting – it to be a lot less.
"I never said I wanted to be anything. I just loved it and did it everyday and looked up to those guys"
America being the home of the faux-service-smile – I could have imagined it, but I doubted very much if her manner would have been any different if Barak Obama himself had walked in. Inside it is a homely, honest kind of joint that, according to Dave, has a great selection of Merlots. We take our seats and he talks me through what’s good on the menu. As we place our order – with the also overly-courteous and obviously humbled waiter – I’m surprised to hear him order a bottle of wine all to himself. I was a bit shocked: I knew Dave was famous and I knew he had a lot of influence in Greenville, but for a second I actually thought he was above the law and could drink drive around town to his heart’s content, completely free from fear of prosecution. And I guess I must have given off a disapproving gesture or something as, with a smile, a shrug, and an explanatory tone he looked at me and said, “My wife’s
After lunch Dave and Lauren have some errands to run, so I head for a roll around over at Dave’s warehouse – The Animal House – which he now rents to the impressively, but not so heavily, decorated pro BMXer, Daniel Dhers. Whether it’s your cup of tea or not, watching Daniel ride that place is breathtaking, and if the simile didn’t confuse me so much, I’d liken his riding to playing Dave Mirra Freestyle on the PlayStation. Dave is just back from a week in California and is keen to spend some time with his wife and two young daughters, and with most every other pro BMXer out of town for Simple Session, I spend the night back in the amount of comfort that $39 dollars gets you. Alongside Mat Hoffman and Jay Miron, I grew up with Dave Mirra as my favourite rider, and if I wasn’t still pickled with alcohol from a week with Jimmy, I would probably have been really nervous meeting him for the first time. But either
Dave Mirra â€” 55
[a] Turndown, 2-Hip contest, Newport Beach, CA. January, 1990.
56 — on the Shoulder’s of Giants
way, it made me smile that no matter how big or rich or good or famous he is, in person, Dave Mirra is about as down to earth and humble as any man I’ve met. And despite the dodgy Days Inn bed and the sketchy guy banging on the wall next door, that positive affirmation made me sleep easy. The next morning, as I sat wondering what the bed is going to be like at Dave’s place, I’m not even fazed that the socks I pull on are DC ones. I pack up my stuff and head down to the foyer. Again Dave picks me up in his truck that resembles an Off Road UFO and we drive the half hour into the country to his house. As we get close he nods his head and says, “that’s me up in front.” The road we’re on cuts through an vast expanse of well cared for grassland and at the end of it, sat all by itself, is the most extravagant house I will ever set foot in. Cubist, enormous, yet still ambiguous, the multilayered building is nothing short of a modern day palace. We come to the end of his own private road and follow the driveway around the back. We drive past not one, not two, not three but four garage doors and pull up next to his gratis high performance Subaru. “Come on in” he says with the same tone a postman would use to invite you into his cosy bedsit. If you ever needed more proof of Dave’s dominance in BMX, then this house would surely appease even the most sceptical of critics: you don’t get to live in a house like this by being ‘good’ at riding a bike. From the outside it’s impressive, but on the inside it’s nothing short of surreal. The ceiling in the main living area is as high as the vert ramps on which it was sort of made – with room to air one too. The looming walls are decorated with modern art and upwards of 15 BMX bikes. More bewildering than the actual size of the place, is just how on earth he managed to get all those bikes way up there – I liked to think he flaired them up there himself off a kicker made from the dining table. After spending the day hanging out by the lake and rummaging through all the trophies in his garage, he opened a bottle of red, I cracked a beer, and we sat down at his breakfast bar to record an interview about how he came to end up living in this big ol’ house with a garage full of gold.
The Butterfly Effect Just like the fictional – but nonetheless awesome – Rocky Balboa, David Michael Mirra’s rise to the top was a million to one shot. If he hadn’t have been riding his bike in the parking lot before a Haro Bikes show at Wayne’s Bike Shop in 1987, if he hadn’t have nailed a perfect double decade just as Ron Wilkerson & company pulled their van in, then things would almost certainly have turned out very differently indeed. Up until that fateful day Dave had enjoyed a happy, but fairly unremarkable childhood. He grew up in a small town called Chittenango in New York, about 20 miles east of Syracuse. With a population under 10,000, it was as typical ‘Small Town America’ as you could imagine. Back then he just went with the flow and did whatever it is kids do in a town like that: basketball, kickball, football... His first bike was a little one with 16” wheels. He learnt to ride it like everyone else does: by trying and falling and getting back up and trying again. Over time his wheels got bigger and his balance got better and before long he was ripping it around the neighbourhood jumping off old fence posts propped up on bricks. Although unclear where the streak came from, Dave was competitive from the word go, and it’s clear from the way he explains it that the seeds for success were self-sown at an early age – “I was a loud and small and cocky little kid. I’d like to say I picked things up pretty quick and I was the same way on a bike. I’m grateful for being cocky, thank god, I mean, people can say that it’s not cool to be cocky or whatever, but I know it got me through some difficult tough times, especially when back then people didn’t appreciate BMX. “A ton of people rode BMX bikes in 6th and 7th grade, but after that they were done. After that it was girls and cars and I was a joke. Added to that I had a 6th grade teacher that made fun of me in front of the class for riding BMX, he said, ‘So what, have you got streamers on that thing?’ making fun of me for something I loved. So if I didn’t have that cocky attitude, I probably would have crumbled. But I was a confident little kid who believed in
what I did. That was my force-field to stay strong. Was I tougher inside? Probably not, but I had a tough shell. I don’t know where I got it from, but that was me.”
In ‘87 General Bikes came past his town on tour. Fred Blood, the Team Manager, was impressed by young Dave’s skill level at such a young age and small size. Fred offered him a co-sponsorship deal with the local shop, Lindy’s Bike Loft. But that first deal for discounts on General Bikes wasn’t to last for long. Back then Haro had what is arguably the most coveted and influential BMX team ever assembled, and a few months after General, his idols stopped by on tour at another shop nearby, Wayne’s Bike Shop. On board that tour where Ron Wilkerson,
Getting hooked up on Haro was his big break, of that there is no doubt. But even if he was just a little kid with a double decade back then, it wouldn’t be long before he stepped onto the contest ladder and started ticking off rungs. That same year Dave entered his first freestyle event, an AFA contest in Columbus Ohio. His dad drove him there and Haro paid for his entry and accommodation... he came second-to-last. It may not have been the most explosive debut the BMX world had ever seen, in fact it was probably the joint second worst, but that didn’t matter to Dave, “I didn’t care about where I placed, I got to hang out with all my heroes from the magazines, that’s all that mattered to me. I remember in the hotel room, I saw all of Dennis’ Adidas shoes lined up and I was blown away. I used to look up to him and I tried to dress just like him.” But his dream of riding with his heroes on Haro was shortlived. Not long after the Columbus AFA they cut their team, even Dennis McCoy lost his ride. So the next year, 1988, when Dave entered his second contest in Wayne, New Jersey, he was without a sponsor, and with a less-than-impressive track record. But while on paper he may not have been worth a poke, in the time between his first contest, Dave Mirra had been riding hard. He pulled out a flawless run in Flatland,
The pioneering pros of the day, Ron Wilkerson and Dennis McCoy were who Dave looked up to and he’d spend his days riding his bike, reading magazines and dreaming of some day riding like his idols. But even with all the admiration he had for his favourite pros, at no point did Dave Mirra ever set out to be a professional rider, “I never said I wanted to be anything. I just loved it and did it every day and looked up to those guys.”
The Wonder Years
His mum and dad divorced when he was young and, although he found racing fun, he couldn’t get to the track as often as he’d have liked, so he settled for riding BMX around the neighbourhood: from the minute they got out of school until it was too dark to see. Dave lived with his dad who was a VCR repair man, he didn’t have a curfew back then, or much supervision in general, “My dad wasn’t strict, he’d just say, ‘Listen guys, you can do what you want, but if you do something wrong, then it’s you who’s gonna deal with the consequences, not me. So make your choice.’ So I wouldn’t get grounded if I did anything wrong, he just put the ultimatum out there, and it made you think twice. And it also gave me a lot of time to ride.”
They couldn’t believe their eyes and hooked Dave up on the spot. A week later, not one, but two bikes showed up at his house. Dave and his friends were blown away, in a short space of time he’d gone from getting cheap bikes, to getting two free bikes from his all-time heroes. As he’s keen to stress, pulling that double decade at that precise place in time, was a defining moment in Dave’s rise to the top, “Man, I think about this all the time... what if I hadn’t have pulled it? It wasn’t a consistent trick for me. What if I’d just done one decade and flailed off to the side? Who knows where I’d be?”
The first competitive BMX events he entered were on a racetrack when he was ten years old. Out of the two races he went to he got a first and a second. And why does he think he did so well on his debut, “A lot of people went to the track but they didn’t ride like we did. Back then my passion for BMX was already for life, not just for a few weeks.”
Brian Blyther and Dave Nourie, at the time they were a selection of the best riders in the world. When they pulled in to that demo, out the window of the van, all three of them saw a tiny 13 year old kid fire out a perfect double decade – a trick that none of them had done yet. That kid was, of course, Dave Mirra.
and an equally flawless run in Ramp – he got first in both in 14 Expert and he walked away with the first trophies in a cache that would go on to be the biggest collection of BMX silverware in history. Like a grasshopper after sucking on one of his cans of Monster Energy, the jump in his progression was terrifying. The next contest, back in Columbus, he got first and second and the one after that at Charlie’s in PA he got a first and a first. It was the start of a roll that – despite a few hiccups and glitches along the way – would span the next 20 years.
Although now riding for GT, at this point Dave still lived at home with his Dad and worked a job washing dishes. But while he didn’t get paid by his sponsor, they kindly gave him the Benjamins to build his own vert ramp. And again, with that facility on his doorstep, he jumped up the progression ladder like a cat on fireworks night. As his airs got higher and smoother he upgraded from a neon bum-bag, to a full on Life’s A Beach backpack of tricks. He was still looking up in lustful admiration to Mat Hoffman, Dennis McCoy, Joe Johnson and Mike Dominguez, and he was so
on the Shoulder’s of Giants
"that was when I could just show up and it was easy to win. I was just relaxed and confident and I knew what I had was good"
At that Charlie’s contest in PA, Dave was introduced to the Plywood Hoods, a talented group of riders who were the vanguard of flatland progression. Impressed by Dave’s skills he was invited to stay and ride for a week, and at just 14 years old and over five hours away from his home, he took them up on the offer and spent his time there filming and riding with the likes of Kevin Jones and Mark Eaton. The resulting footage came out in Dorkin’ 2 – the second instalment of the infamous Dorkin’ In York series – as his first ever video part. And as the self-perpetuating cycle of media exposure goes, that video was another stepping stone en route to bigger things. Bigger Things After that section came out Dave’s riding took a shift skyward. Excited by where the likes of Wilkerson and Hoffman were taking vert riding, he monged off his Gut Levers and Pinky Squeaks and started getting radical. After spending the winter riding his friend’s eight foot by eight foot barn ramp, still aged just 15 and resembling a midget who’d stolen a cruiser, he entered his very first vert contest, the 1989 2Hip King Of Vert at Woodward PA. Despite there being no age groups and despite weighing in at less than a single Vision Street Wear sticker (and subsequently having to pedal across the flatbottom to maintain any kind of momentum) he qualified for the finals and ended up eighth. And that was his entry to the big league, from there he started travelling more and meet more people. Through a good word put in from Dino Deluca, he got hooked up by GT, “I had a dishwasher job at a restaurant, and on my first day at work I rode down to a payphone and I talked to the GT Team Manager, Ken Boyle. He was all like, ‘Whadya need kid?’ And I let him know sizes and everything and man, the stuff I got from GT was insane... bikes in boxes, cranks, leathers, jerseys, everything... there was no money, but all the product, and they’d fly me to all the contests.” And the first one they flew him to was the King Of Vert in Irvine, California, where he got to spend a few memorable nights in the infamous POW House. That house has a lot to answer for... playing home to a eclectic mix of drug addicts, pissheads and professional BMXers the POW house acted as the first drip on a Petri dish. And from there the sordid, sweaty, poverty stricken, awesomeness that is The BMX House, spread like wildfire the world over.
hell-bent on riding like them, in a calculated and methodical manner, not dissimilar to Dr Frankenstein, he studied videos of his heroes and dissected their riding to create his own utopian hybrid style. And by Jove, it worked. By analysing videos of them and himself he meticulously fine-tuned his riding until he was happy with his creation. His self-inflicted experiment in social engineering worked a charm and the outcome was a style of riding that would ultimately go on to supersede all that had come before him. In 1992, Dave took the last formal step to becoming one of the best riders in the world: he turned pro. A little while before the contest, Mat Hoffman had invited him out to his house in Oklahoma to hang out and ride. He was made up, “I looked up to Mat so much, this was the guy I’d read in the magazines was ‘The Best Bike Rider In The World’. This is back when Mat changed the sport. He came in and just crushed it. He took what the guys did before him and he built a whole new way to ride.” When pushed to explain in his own words, just how exactly, Mat had changed the sport, he goes on, “He had such an aggressive style. He went super high and he stretched things out so far. Then he started putting multiple tricks in one air, I think that was a big contribution. And then obviously there was the flip fakie and then the flair, that was just huge. Mike Tyson and Michael Jordan came along in that same era and I used to compare Mat Hoffman to those guys, between the three of them they changed boxing, they changed basketball and they changed BMX. Just to be at his house was immense, but then he said to me ‘Hey, I’m starting a new bike company, do you want to ride for us?’ I was honoured and said yes and he flew me to the Jeff Philips contest and that’s where I turned pro.” Butting Heads With The Beast Dave was ultra competitive, of that he openly admits, and by competing at the top level of any sport – where any elite group of fiery individuals hung out – rivalries were a given. And Dave would go on to have some of the most notorious rivalries in the BMX history books. But in his own words he, “wasn’t arrogant, I was just cocky. I didn’t think before I spoke, I was confident in my ability and I just had a lot of energy. If it was a contest, then I’d make a friendly bet that I wouldn’t lose, it was just one of those things. But during the contests I wasn’t cocky, I just had a lot of mouth as a kid, but in terms of contests, I believe I was a humble competitor.”
Dave Mirra â€” 59
[b] Barspin, Gravity Games, Cleveland, Oh, 2002.
When I asked him what Jay Miron was up to those days, we both knew it was a loaded question, “Jay was riding for GT back then, kicking ass,” right off the bat, when mentioning Jay, there was an obvious tone of respect in his voice – “he got on GT right after I left and then he got on Hoffman a year after me, in 1993, and then shit started getting crazy.” Jay and Dave were two of the most dedicated, fearless and talented gladiators BMX will ever know. Throwing in everything they had, and pushing each other to the limits and beyond. By the mid nineties stories of their battles on the vert ramp and street course would become that of folklore. Some of their on-deck experiences were so heated that the winner would simply be the one who could still walk when the contest was over.
on the Shoulder’s of Giants
Back in the days of those early BS events, the pro contests reached a point where they were more like medieval duels than displays of bicycle prowess. The bikes were big, envelopes were being pushed and the safety gear was being put through its paces. With only four pros consistently taking part in pro vert comps, the mood on the deck was tight but hostile. With such a concentrated crew of motivated athletes, there was no other way for it to be, and it was only a matter of time before tensions would boil over. Back then Mat Hoffman was taking BMX to the masses, hitting the road with a portable ramp and his show team of hot-headed and progressive riders: The Sprocket Jockeys. The ramp was made of metal and had zero flex, a point reinforced when Dave went through six wheels in two days, “that ramp was stiff as fuck, if you hung up an inch it would blow your wheel clean out.” Whether you were a BMX rider or just some Tom, Dick or Harry from Hicksville USA, watching a Sprocket Jockey show back then – when freestyle BMX was still being formed and new progressions were happening on a daily basis – must have been an awesome sight to behold. None of the Hoffman riders got paid a wage at the time and riding in the shows paid $100 per day, “we used to really go for it, we’d push each other, and Jay especially would be renown for laying it all on the line. Just in a normal show, out of nowhere, he’d fire out the biggest flairs, straight up, BOOM! And that was back when no one really had them dialled.” In 1993, the Sprocket Jockeys vert team consistent of the same four riders who would be battling it out for the top four spots at the BS contest, Jay Miron, Dennis McCoy, Mat Hoffman and Dave. Through living, travelling, riding and competing together, to say the relationships between that quartet became strained would be like saying Dave Mirra’s house is ‘quite big’. And it was at a rained out show at the Dallas State Fair, that Jay Miron and Dave Mirra had their first fight, “It was at the end of ‘93. Me and Jay Miron were getting in to a bit of a head-to-head battle and things were getting weird around that. When Jay joined the team he moved to Oklahoma City with Mat, and they became better friends, and it got to the point where I wasn’t really getting the benefit of the doubt. It was at a rained out demo, and I just said, ‘Why are we putting our shorts on? It’s a rained out show, why are we dressing up?’ and Jay just didn’t like that. We’d gone head-to-head enough before that, so it was just at boiling point. It didn’t matter what it was, it was just time to vent it out. Jay hit me a couple of times, and he was my friend for a long time before that, so I wasn’t gonna hit him back. I just picked up my things and drove home from Texas. I just said “I’m outta here.” And although he would stay on and ride the last contest of the year with a Hoffman shirt on, driving away from that show signalled the end to Dave’s time riding for Hoffman Bikes.
A Minor Set Back And that’s when he got an ultimatum from his previous sponsor, GT. Woody Itson, the team manager at the time, told Dave that if he was willing to move out to California then they’d give him a paid spot on the team. Then, on December 19th 1993, while he was still thinking the deal through, he was cut down by a cruel twist of fate. While crossing the street one day, he was hit by a drunk driver going 45mph. Left with a fractured skull, a blood clot on the brain and a fractured shoulder, it was the shattering of not just his bones, it was the shattering of his dream. He thought his career was over. It looked unlikely he’d ever ride again. He was in hospital for two weeks with the doctors keeping a close eye on his brain, hoping the blood clot would go down. If it did he would make a fully recovery, but the doctors warned him, if he was to hit his head again after that, then next time he wouldn’t be so lucky. The clot did eventually dissolve and Dave started a long road to recovery, but with his being the steeliest determination in the whole of BMX, it was just six months before he was feeling good and back on his bike. Initially he was eager to pick up where he’d left off, moving out to California and riding for GT. He defied the doctors and made the drive out west with his girlfriend of the time. She stayed for two weeks and then, as Dave was due to go on tour for the summer, she went back home to New York. But the situation was far from rosy, “She went home and I just didn’t feel good about it. I was like ‘Man, she’s cheating on me with her ex-boyfriend.’ And it messed me up. She was my childhood sweetheart from high school, the girl you just always loved. So I couldn’t get into it and I didn’t want to be out in California, so I left Huntington Beach and drove 45 hours straight back to Syracuse in my GT50 with no AC.” It was to be the start of a downward spiral that would see Dave question where he was heading in life, “between head injuries and girl troubles... I just wasn’t into it. I was off my bike for six months and over that time you begin to change your thinking... if you don’t do something for long enough then you’re not really gonna miss it. There was no one riding in Syracuse, and contests were still rare. I moved into an apartment with a friend and I started drinking a lot. I gained 30lbs. I was really confused at that time. I didn’t think I’d be riding any more.” At a low ebb and at a loss of what to do, this certainly wasn’t the future he once dreamed of. Then he got a call from his brother. Tim had recently moved from New York down to Greenville, North Carolina, with his then girlfriend. He told Dave about a public skatepark they had down there with a sweet spined mini ramp. It was the kind of phone call he’d been waiting for. Sensing the chance to turn things around and drag himself out of the dreary quagmire he’d got himself in, he rented a truck, packed up his things, and drove south. His girlfriend initially made the move with him, but after just two short weeks he realised he hadn’t quite ridden himself of all the lead weight that was weighing him down. So he told her in far more polite terms, to “sling yer hook, ya dirty wench!” Finally free from the encroaching darkness and with a refreshed perspective on life, the first thing he did was pick up his bike, and the second was to shift his beer belly. And after having been dealt such a rotten hand over the last couple of years, it was welcome news when he heard about a big new contest that ESPN were putting on that year. The year was 1995, and that contest was the Xtreme Games.
With big bucks up for grabs, only two disciplines and being run by men in suits, the first X Games was a strange affair and was about as far removed from the rider run BS series that preceded it as darkness is from dawn. Vert and Street were the two events and – with their fragmented runs and long on deck interludes – back then neither were the prettiest to watch: neither in person or on TV. And that’s where Dave stepped in to lend a hand. Everyone was questioning the ethics behind the corporate nature of the X Games and the men in suits who called the shots, but unlike the majority of others, rather than turning hostile and putting up barriers, he embraced what they were about and sought to work with them to better represent the sport to the masses – and in doing so he not only changed the way contests were ridden but he earned himself the coveted title of the most decorated tree in the BMX forest.
Dave’s approach to riding contests was so calculated it verged on clinical. On the morning of a big contest, if practise started at 10am, then Dave would be out on the course at 7am. He’d sit there and stare at the ramp, or the street course, just being in the moment and visualising what he was going to do. While it was not unheard of for him to ride a big contest with a hangover, for the most part he kept his preparation the same, “The best thing you can do is stay consistent, you just have to be headstrong and not let the pressure of the situation you’re in change what you normally do. Maybe you’d have two glasses of wine not four, but still just relax and just do what you know.” He would train at his highest level, and of course take things seriously, but at the same time Dave never put any pressure on himself to win, “I don’t think you get to be the best in the world by wanting to win. You get to be the best in the world
"So what? He built a bigger ramp and went faster at it? Great! that’s just physics"
No matter how much was on the line, no matter how many medals, trophies, cars or bars of gold bullion were up for grabs, Dave never had any special routine to prepare for a contest. He didn’t sleep with his lucky socks on and neither did he wave burning incense and chant naked around a severed goat’s head, he simply relied on the work he’d put in, “When you start to think about winning, that’s when you lose. I was comfortable, and confident and happy, and it seemed that the more comfortable I got, the more I won. I’ve always said it, ‘It’s not who wants to win the most, it’s who’s not scared to lose.’ I’m not scared to take those chances, and the easiest wins were probably the ones I didn’t care about. It’s when you want to win so bad, that’s when things go wrong, you put too much pressure on yourself and you’re too tight. You don’t ride every day like that, so why do it when you need to ride your best.”
Decade Of Domination Between 1996 and the early 2000s, no one could touch Dave Mirra. Riding a wave of confidence and gold medals (and even a gold plated bike), he was in a league of his own, “That was when I could just show up and it was easy to win. I knew how to win. It wasn’t that I knew anything better, I was just relaxed and confident and I knew what I had was good. I just learned not to change myself based on emotions: if you see someone else ride and you think they look awesome, you just need to stick to your plan and you’ll do better than basing your run on what they’re doing.”
Dave’s sustained reign on the top step of BMX contests coincided nicely with one of the sport’s more prosperous and potentially lucrative times. With the backing of big brands and newly tapped ‘TV Money’, as well as winning medals, plaques, trophies and cups of the most wonderful shapes and sizes – he was earning a shit load of cash.
And at the beginning of the next year, with his newly discovered tactic employed, he began winning every street contest he entered. Dave set the precedent and it soon became apparent that if anyone wanted a shot at a gold medal they were going to have to follow suit. And follow suit they did... in droves. Rather than just airing up and down, back and forth they followed Mirra’s lead and started introducing opposite airs and alley-oops into their run so they were flowing the ramp and using the full width. And as a consequence, in the space of a few short years, vert went from looking ‘scary and awkward’ to ‘majestic and artistic’.
When I ask him if he ever got caught up in the moment and broke his own rules, he answers, “Sure, there were times when I thought, ‘this is gonna to be a big one... gonna have to step it up’, but I’m usually calm enough. You’ve got adrenaline flowing because you’re putting yourself at risk: you’re going to ride at a high level and if it doesn’t go right you know you’re going to get hurt. You’re committed, and when you’re committed and it does go wrong, then the consequences are going to be bad. You just need to keep that out of your head.”
by being the best you can be and that way there’s no limits and you just keep pushing. You use other pros before you to develop your style to be the best you can be, and if you have enough heart, you tend to be better than the guys that came before you.”
Back then BMX was a bit of a huckfest. Granted the airs were monstrous and the tricks were burly, but with plentiful crashes and lots of time spent sat on the deck catching one’s breath – it was awkward to watch at best. So in a similar approach to that of studying videos of himself and dissecting his riding, Dave took a step back and looked at what he could do to improve both his own runs and the presentation of the sport in general. And his conclusion was thus: flawless non-stop runs. “I asked myself, if I was watching this on TV, would I want to watch someone sitting on the deck catching their breath or pedalling on the flat to get back up going, ‘Hold on, wait a minute, I gotta get my breath’ I said ‘Nah, I’m not into that’ I said ‘You know what, I’m not sure where this is going to go, but I’m going to take it serious and I’m going to do flawless and continuous runs.’ I didn’t want to stop and rest. I wanted to look like an athlete.”
62 — on the Shoulder’s of Giants
[c] Flair, Woodward Camp, Pa, 2002.
The Gravy Train Some people shy away from revealing figures when it comes to money and how much they make, but Dave is a realist, and he talks about it comfortably. There isn’t even a hint of arrogance in his voice when we broach the subject, “I couldn’t believe some of the deals I was getting back then. I’m not bragging about making that money, it just is what it is, that’s what it was like. That was in the heyday. It’s changed a lot now though. It’s not like that any more for anyone.” In his biggest years he’d clear $2 million, and that’s just for sponsorship, not including prize money. And as a couple of examples of the kinds of gigs he’d get offered, he once got paid to go to an Axe party – the deodorant body spray – and just to
ten years ago, and now it’s got pneumonia’ – And I don’t mean now, I said that a few years ago when it all started to change and people were like ‘You can’t do this, or you can’t do that. We’re starting a new company because of it.’ And it got to the point where you couldn’t be proud to pull off an amazing new trick because it wasn’t deemed cool. You could no longer be proud of the goals you accomplished – and I just didn’t get that. It’s great to be anti-corporate or whatever when you’re 20, but it’s different when you have a family and kids and you have to pay bills.” “For a time in BMX there was just a bunch of people telling other people how they should live their lives, and I wasn’t a fan of that. They act like they’re so smart and wholesome, and it’s just not what BMX was about when I was younger: BMX was about having fun. Why are you on my nuts? When BMX went
"Someone said that once, that Jamie “retired me” from vert. that’s a joke"
Enjoying his competitive peak between 1996 and 2002 it was around the middle of this period that fundamental changes began to take place in BMX. Where until this point, for the most part, BMX was just one-big-happy-freestyle-family, just before the turn of the century a shift started to take hold. Fuelled by a desire to ride on their own terms and not have to answer to or be ‘exploited’ by ‘the man’, a new wave of rider owned companies arose and with it the importance of big money contests and new tricks dropped off significantly. A divide was taking place with one side leaning more to the soulful pole of BMX and the other to the more competitive one. Just by being in the public eye, scrutiny is inevitable, and when I press Dave on the origins of the defensive tone in his voice he reminds me of a time when a certain well known rider, who for a time used to share the decks with Mirra, wrote a letter to a magazine complaining about the influx of corporate money into BMX and calling him out specifically. Put into more manageable, but less informative terms, it was the beginning of the war between ‘style’ and ‘tricks’ – an essentially pointless and ultimately unwinnable war. With a conflict of options like this, it was inevitable the most prominent guy in the sport was going to get called out sooner or later, “You know what I said about this, Joe Rich was a good friend of mine back in the day, and Taj too, and I said, ‘Joe and Taj gave BMX a runny nose
If the gateway that is ‘Dave Mirra’ had a counter on him, then the number of new riders who accessed BMX through him and then went on to be influenced by core brands, would be a significant and interesting figure to know. But, even though he’d had thousands of kids pass through him, he never asked to be that portal, “Yeah, that wasn’t me pushing for that. I wasn’t like ‘Hey, put me on TV’ – They just wanted to tap into a new market, and they chose me to help them do that. I was never a self-promoter, when I’m cocky it’s only ever with my own abilities. I’m confident in my abilities because I work hard, but I’ve never been like ‘Buy my shit!’” Mutual Respect Dave Mirra lent himself well to TV, he was charismatic, fiercely competitive and he made bike riding look good – and as a result a whole host sponsorships and endorsements came flooding in. But although his position at the top was well established, he needed to be alert and vigilant to sustain his seat on the throne. Throughout his career he had to fend off numerous rivals who all wanted to knock him off top spot and eat the pie, the two most notable of which were Jay Miron and Jamie Bestwick.
The Nose Bleed
From his snappy answer to my question about what a Slim Jim actually is, I can only assume that he’s had some previous stick for the affiliation in the past, “Did I eat the things a lot? No, but I was a kid who came from nowhere, they were based in North Carolina and I believe the days of only endorsing things you believe in are now, back then it was different. Back then you wouldn’t let your ego get in the way of your wallet.”
from Big Box companies to more rider owned, dirtier and grass roots companies, it just seemed hard to be proud of what you did. It went into a weird phase. I always thought there was room for everything and I wondered why everyone was on each other’s shit.” The often over-looked aspect of this argument is that Dave Mirra was undeniably responsible for exposing BMX to more kids around the world than anyone else, ever. Be it through milk cartons, computer games or television sets, his was the public face of BMX for nigh on a decade and it was beamed into millions of homes around the globe. He was a bright and positive face backed up with a success story of steely grit and raw resolve – the American dream – the perfect figurehead to engage with impressionable young Americans. And after those young Americans had been inspired and bought bikes and leant the basics and started picking up magazines, that’s it, they’re in – whether they choose to do no-handed 360s over spines like Dave or live in the woods and dig trails like a happy hermit – either way they’re trapped by BMX for a lifetime of cut shins and funny looks. And surely that’s a good thing, no matter what your personal stance on BMX may be.
show up for a couple of hours he was paid $35,000. Another time, he spent 45 minutes filming for a Wendy’s commercial and got paid $100,000. You want another one: right, for placing one sticker on his helmet, Slim Jim used to pay him $400,000 a year. And his most profitable contest was one X Games where he won $150,000 in one weekend.You wanted figures right? How do you like them apples?
As we’ve already heard, Dave and Jay’s turbulent relationship stretched way back. Those two hard-headed riders had come up through the ranks together and had plenty of heated encounters along the way. Both determined and similarly talented, off their bikes the two gave each other distance, but when forced together onto the cramped confines of the contests decks, years of pentup hostility and rivalry would be unleashed. Jay was willing to lay it all on the line to knock Dave off the top step of the podium, and Dave obliged by doing everything in his power to defend his crown. They were like HeMan and Skeletor, and the street course and vert ramp turned into a coliseums for these two gladiators to duel. The crowds and TV cameras loved it. It made for more than just compelling viewing, these two giants going at it hammer and tongs was like watching a firework show in a zoo.
on the Shoulder’s of Giants
But it wasn’t just the TV cameras and crowd who benefited from their blood-thirsty battles, “from a professional career standpoint our rivalry was pretty fucking cool too,” he says with a note of proud nostalgia, “we fist fought and we competed. Was it always pretty? No, but it was cool, we respected each other. Me and Jay... I love the history... we were just hard-headed guys, we had two fist fights and we battled it out.” After their fight at the Dallas state fair back in ‘93, their next physical altercation came in a hotel in Bristol, Connecticut, before the start of the Dave Mirra Supertour, “We were in the bar drinking and he pushed me over on my chair. I was like, ‘What the fuck man!?’ and he hit me. And he stood there and said, ‘Com’on, go ahead, hit me!’ and I said, ‘Dude, I’m not going to hit you!’ and then he came walking up the hallway towards me and we just started going at it. It was a brawl. People were coming out their hotel room doors to see what was happening. It wasn’t pretty.” When I ask Dave about the underlying issues behind that fight, he replies, “We just didn’t get along. If you don’t hammer it out right away, shit just builds up. Who knows what it was? There was jealousy mixed in and we were drunk. It all just built up for nine years.” From the outside their relationship may have looked like a messy bitch-spat fuelled by jealousy and a desire to be the best, but for both Dave and Jay, underneath the rivalry was a deep-seated mutual respect, “I loved riding against Jay, he was an awesome rider and a great competitor. I respect him and I respect his riding. He pushed me and I pushed him, and that was it. Things between us are cool now, the last time I heard from him he was replying to a voice mail I left him and he was all shouting down the phone, ‘Fucking Mirra dude, we lived it man!! We really had it back then!!’ It was cool to hear his voice, because that’s Jay. I wouldn’t trade our history for anything and I’m sure he wouldn’t either.” After Miron, the next soul with enough bravado to launch a challenge against the reign of the Miracle Man was Jamie Bestwick. With a white-hot competitive streak and a burning desire to be the best, Jamie wore his heart on his sleeve as he took the fight to Mirra in his own backyard. With Dave being the ‘All American Hero’, this was an away fixture for Bestwick and the odds were stacked heavily against him from the start. I asked Dave if back then, if they were both on top of their game, who would get gold in a contest, “If I rode my best... I’d probably take it. Usually I won when I rode my best, and vice-versa with him. When you have two riders like me and him on the deck... one of us would crack. Back in the day, if we both rode our best, I think that would be a tough one to judge. Nowadays, Jamie is just unbelievable though.” Jamie has gone on to become undoubtedly the best vert rider of all time, and there was a time back when Mirra still rode vert where Jamie started to give him a serious run for his
money. I asked Dave if it was because Jamie started to beat him that he stepped down from the vert ramp. And by the tone of his response, he’d have well as blown a raspberry, “I know people love that story and would like to think I quit because of Jamie, bit it’s not true. Someone said that once, that Jamie ‘retired me’ from vert. That’s a joke. No one retired me. I think Jamie has always been an exceptional vert rider, and I think me and him brought a similar progression to the sport, but back then I just chose to focus on street. I had a vert ramp in my warehouse, we never rode it, we always rode street. I started racing rally cars for Subaru and I just stopped practising on vert. I rode street 95% of the time, so why would I compete in vert. I just didn’t have the urge to do it. I loved competing against Jamie, it was unbelievable. I love competition and I knew there was plenty of that in street. And most riders, like Jamie, only focused on one event, so why was I going to focus on two? Those days were over. Things were separating, there was no one spanning two disciplines at the top. At that point Jamie was the better vert rider, I wasn’t riding like I used to ride, I just chose to focus on one event. I don’t get paid to be mediocre, so why would I choose to be mediocre in two events when I could be great at one. Vert was just my least favourite and the most dangerous. Jamie has gone a long way with it and I give him a lot of credit for still pushing hard when he doesn’t have to.” It’s both a political and honest answer that stands up from all angles, and it’s hard to argue with, unless maybe you’re Jamie Bestwick... The Birth Of Hot Air For the most part, Dave’s main rivalries were played out in the public arena – the unbiased platform of the vert ramp and street course – but there was another quieter one going on behind the scenes between him and Mat Hoffman, the Grandfather of modern BMX. Maybe Mat didn’t like the fact that it was him who raised BMX out of the ashes and worked so tirelessly to built the sport on new foundations, and that it was also him who at first acted as mediator between riders and the mainstream media, and his problem was that it was ultimately Dave who got all the attention and admiration. That’s just unfounded speculation on my part, but whatever the motivation, it seems there was some underlying reason why Mat Hoffman decided to use his film, The Birth Of Big Air, to publicly attack Dave Mirra on an uneven playing field. After being somewhat harshly represented on Props Road Fools 11, Dave was no stranger to the twisting abilities of the media, but he felt this particular attack to be unfounded, and worse than that, a missed opportunity to tell a far more important and awesome story. In the film Dave is called out because of a DC ad from 2001 that claimed he had set a new World Record for Highest Air. I’ll let Dave take it from here; “the record I broke was for Danny Way’s Super Ramp. No one ever claimed I aired higher than Mat when he rode his 21 foot tall quarter pipe.” That sentence alone should be enough to clear up the misunderstanding, but just to make sure the record is set as straight as a die, Dave offered further insight into the saga, “The record was for Danny Way’s Super Ramp, with an 18 foot quarter pipe – 16 foot transition with 2 feet of vert – and Kevin Robinson did 15’5” on it at the MTV Sports And Music Festival and the adjudicators from Guinness were there and that was set as a World Record. I left Adidas in 2001 and signed with DC, they wanted to do something pretty cool to announce ‘Dave Mirra on DC’ and Danny Way had his Super Ramp set up in San Diego. They asked me if I wanted to ride it. I’d never really had an interest before but I said I’d be up for it.”
[d] Invert, Dew Tour, Portalnd Oregon, 2009.
66 — on the Shoulder’s of Giants
[e] Backflip drop in, Dew Tour, Orlando, Fl, 2009.
“Kevin Robinson had the World Record on that ramp. It had nothing to do with Mat’s air on his 21 foot tall quarterpipe towed in by a motor bike – a bigger ramp, bigger air – it’s not apples-to-apples. So I did that and went higher than Kevin, and I actually handed Mat the poster with the photo of me doing it. I was psyched, I just wanted to show him I rode it as I knew he’d ridden it, just like I rode his 21 foot tall one back in the day. What Mat was doing on that ramp was insane, it was awesome, but riding it didn’t interest me at the time. But when I showed it to him, Mat took it wrong, and you can’t control what other people think or do.” “It kicked off for a while after that with people claiming I ripped Mat off. A long while after that I agreed to do a Big Air Contest. That was 2008, and before the event, Jeff Tremaine [co-creator of Jackass] and this film crew wanted to film these interviews. I did it and I said, ‘I want to 360 flip the gap and flair whip the quarter, that’s my goal, and we’ll see what happens.’ After the interview they were all like “Hell yeah, Dave that was rad!”
didn’t stray too far. You do have to question who’s around you, though. I’ve never been a supporter of ‘yes’ people and I was hanging around with some people who didn’t do a lot for me and reflected badly on me, and you have to keep that in check. I was never too big though, BMX was never big enough to get you completely out of wack.” Towards the end of his ‘decade of domination’ the pressure of being in the public eye really started to take its toll and would go on to play a significant part in his ultimate decision to step away from the sport, “The more I got in front of people, the more I didn’t want to ride. I’d get more self-conscious, there’d be more expectations and I’d feel like I had to prove something. My problem was, I couldn’t differentiate my level of riding, I couldn’t go out and ride and have fun at a contest. I’d have to be on it, and if I didn’t feel like being on it, then I didn’t feel like riding. I just couldn’t adjust the throttle. But that was more just me being self-conscious. I didn’t want to ride mellow because I didn’t want people to think I was no good.”
"I wasn’t arrogant, I was just cocky"
“You find yourself analysing everyone’s agendas, and when you do that, you’re paranoid.You get a good feel for people, but having to question everyone and not always wanting to rely on gut instinct... it was crazy man, to the point where I didn’t want to be in it any more. To the point where I am now, like the triathlon I just did, I loved being a face in a crowd – an anonymous competitor.” Internalising Competition
Tough At The Top With great success comes an inevitable amount of inflatory pressure on the ego – from both internally and externally – and I asked Dave if he ever felt all the years of attention and winning going to his head, “Well I lived it. I’d buy bars out and celebrate for X Games. Yeah, I did some stupid things, things that I wouldn’t do now. But that’s just being young. Overall I was pretty good. I’ve never been an arrogant person, but there are trends for successful people to get like that, and thank god I
And that’s where Dave finds himself now, an anonymous competitor fighting against no one but himself. I ask him how he’s found life outside the limelight, “It is a bit weird. There was obviously a time when I was used to all the attention and being in the mix, and now I’m not... I love it though. I’m a dad and as cliché as it sounds, I live my life through my kids now. I love stepping away. Life’s a trip, the way I look at it is: I’ve got two life sentences, my first one is just coming to a close, and I’m excited about what I’m going to do for the next one.”
There are two sides to every story, and if the side in The Birth Of Big air is one of them, then let this be the other. But before we move on from the topic, and with a view to having the last word, it’s with a cheeky smirk on his face that he adds, “If I really cared about defending myself, if I did decide to do the highest ever air, then I’d like to think people know I’d do it properly.”
From the house he lives in to the lifestyle he enjoys, the perks of spending so long in the limelight are undeniable, but what none of us mere mortals will ever fully realise, is just how deep the pressures and expectations inherent in such a position of prominence run, “... both socially and competitively. They’re always going to want to pick you apart. I wish I had the skills back then to only care about the people that cared about me, no matter what you say, or how you act after a contest or whatever – whether you’re a shitty winner, or a shitty loser – those are the kind of people who are always going to be in your corner. The people who have opinions come and go, fans come and go. When you’re on top they like you, after that they like the other guy.”
“I ride street and vert and my credibility is in the medals, that was just an advert and it was based on what Kevin Robinson did not what Hoffman did. I could have used the money they spent making that film more wisely and showcased his legacy better than that. Mat’s legacy was much bigger than Big Air. If they’d spent that same money making a Mat Hoffman documentary, a story of his life, that would have been better spent. By focusing just on Big Air and my part in that, it just minimizes what he did and doesn’t do himself justice. Why would you want to narrow it down to just one ramp. So what? He built a bigger ramp and went faster at it? Great! That’s just physics. But what Mat did in the sport prior to that was much bigger and really worth making a film about. If I was going to watch a movie then I’d like to watch one about his whole life, not just a small, less significant part of it. Hell, what do I care, I don’t watch TV much anyways.”
“Someone would always be judging me, saying, ‘Right, let’s see what this fucker’s got!’ So I would fold, and I was maybe unapproachable, and not fun to talk to. I let the exposure ruin me in a sense. It was tough, it felt like I couldn’t let go. I got wrapped up in a mind-set of ‘Well, if you’re the best, then you’ve always got to be the best’ And it made me more self-conscious than I’ve ever been in my life. I started out as a cocky self-confident kid, and when I finally got to where I wanted to be, I was selfconscious. You just don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know anything, you kind of give up on wanting to be there.”
“But what I didn’t realise at the time was that I was getting played. I got set up and I was pretty bummed on that because I had people coming up to me who didn’t even know about BMX going, ‘Oh wow, we saw this movie, what did you do to that guy’ and they were bummed on me. I did that interview because I’ve always looked up to Mat, I knew what he did with big ramps and I respected that.”
68 — on the Shoulder’s of Giants
“If I had a big ego I could easily sit back and live off what I’ve done, but what I did yesterday doesn’t really mean anything to me now. Sure, I look back and reflect on it and think it’s cool, but I don’t live by it. I’ve closed that book – yesterday is yesterday, it doesn’t make me who I’m going to be tomorrow. I experience life and challenge myself in other ways now. I’m fortunate enough to be able to do that. In the off-season from rally, I train for triathlons, I get to push myself and test myself. I’m not competing against anyone but me, and I love it. That’s what makes me tick, just tapping into myself to see what I’ve got inside.” Since stepping away from BMX, he has faced an awkward dilemma. You see, someone like Dave Mirra can’t just turn off their drive to be the best they can be, it’s a trait ingrained into their very being. So no longer interested in celebrity or limelight, he needed to find something new to be the best at, but on his own terms. And by internalising competition, he’s found the perfect solution. These days Dave advances and explores his own personal limits harder than ever before, and just listening to him speak about his new found passion for pushing his personal fitness highlights just how he’s filled the void that BMX inevitably left in his life, “I trained hard for six months before the triathlon I did last weekend, and after that race I broke down in tears. I just couldn’t hold it in, and that had never happened to me, not in one contest in my life. I’ve never worked so hard for something. I couldn’t handle it, I couldn’t even talk to my wife. I just broke down. Inside it healed a lot of wounds. It made me strong inside. After that race I felt the best I ever have. It was the biggest achievement of my life.” Hearing that his next rival is going to be himself, I can’t help but worry for his safety. I can’t imagine what it would be like
to be Dave Mirra and have someone as gnarly as Dave Mirra coming after me to kick my ass. But I’m sure that however far that epic personal chase takes him, he’ll find an infinite source of the reward that someone like Dave Mirra needs. Obviously there is a new generation of talented pro riders doing great things for the sport, but not one individual has come close to filling Dave’s shoes as an ‘Ambassador of BMX To The People’. And it’s with the hope that an aspiring young reader may pick up this magazine and have what it takes to fill that void, that I ask my final question, “How does one go about becoming the most celebrated rider in the world?” and his answer is as humble and human as I’d come to expect from my time in his company, “You just have to want it enough and give everything you have. You train, you ride and things happen because your heart’s in it. I just used to look up to the people who came before me and I used to watch them, I learnt from the best, to be one of the best. I never talked about it. I never said ‘My goal is to be a pro rider!’ I just rode and when I got sponsored I couldn’t believe it, I was just in awe of the people around me and I was just living the dream. I put the effort in, I built from what those did before me and did what I loved to do, and most importantly, I was never afraid to lose.” With Dave having stepped away and no longer riding his bike regularly, BMX has undoubtedly lost one of the greatest athletes and personalities to ever grace the sport. But although he doesn’t really ride any more, he can never really leave. Dave Mirra will be a part of BMX for as long as its wheels turn. The building blocks that his legacy has left behind will act as a pair of giant shoulders for the next generation of hungry young riders to create legacies of their own. And wherever the new generation take it, for Dave Mirra, BMX will be eternally grateful.
Trey Jones, Alistair Whitton, Drew Bezanson, Caleb Quanbeck, Seth Kimbrough, Ben Hucke, Albert Mercado, Johnny Devlin, Scott Ditchburn, Simone Barraco, Tom Smith, Eric Bahlman, Paul Ryan, Lahsaan Kobza, Ryan Chadwick, Ryan Sher, Ron Bonner
STYLE IS THE DIFFERENCE A wAY OF DOINg, A wAY OF bEINg DONE Word and Photography by DANIEL BENSON Additional Photography by BOB ScErBO
he New Jersey in him presents itself immediately when he talks. He’ll tell me later, outside of his native state, that girls ask him to say ‘kawfee’, like he’s one of Scorsese’s wiseguys. “Coffee”, he’ll tell me, “they like the accent, like when you guys come over here from the UK.”
Style Is The Difference
[a] Steep Wallride, Miami
We meet in Miami on an Almond Footwear trip. On the first evening, we stop at East Side Pizza, just off Biscayne Boulevard and a short walk from our motel, a place that reeks of infidelity and bedbugs. The indoors often moves outdoors in a climate like this, so as Jeff puts his stamp of approval on a size 13 slice of pizza – a habit of all east coasters I’ve met – a TV sits on the counter playing Pawn Stars to a few quiet tables of Floridians. Jeff smokes through a couple of cigarettes and drinks a beer. For the East Coasters and Englishmen, we feel like dogs stretching their legs after waking up in the sun. “It’s co-sis, not kos-cis”, Jeff tells me on the second to last day. “Does it bother you that everyone gets it wrong?” “Fuck yeah man…” he replies, as I follow him around a convenience store in Downtown Miami. He turns and nods again, whilst grabbing a drink from one of the myriad of beverage choices you only seem to be offered in America. It’s not the first mistake I’ve made about Jeff either; I’ll find out he’s originally from Riverside, California, during an email conversation as he heads west after our time in Miami. ‘You’ve hidden it well,’ I type back, as Jeff continues to chase the sunshine through America’s southwest while on a roadtrip with Bob Scerbo in the Animal Van, a car with more personality and experience than most BMXers I meet these days.
of my life. It was so much fun,” he’d tell me. I get the impression that Jeff’s had his fingers in a few pies for work. He’ll tell me about the bike shop that he set up with his family in Clifton, with the shop’s sticker placed proudly in prime position on his headtube, to working in pest control and construction. “The energy and the mindset you get from doing something like manual labour, I feel that, for me at least, that transfers into riding. If you’re having a good workday, I’ll have a good riding day.” “But don’t you feel tired?” I reply. “Yeah, but I ignore it. I’m really good at ignoring things. I think I’ve mastered that skill. I have no expectations when I go out riding. I don’t think too much about it. I’d rather show up at a spot and if I’m feeling it, do whatever it is there and then. I don’t want to wait a week until the weather’s better or a filmer’s there, I’d just rather do it there and then, otherwise I’m going to go to work and just dwell on it and that stuff puts me off. I’d rather get it done and move on. If I keep reminding myself that I’m just out riding, I’ll stay relaxed and things will come naturally… I feel that, if you’re good at riding, you’ve figured something out. It means that you could be good at lots of things. Your mind is telling your body how to do something complex… It’s a skill and I think that be applied to other things. It’s why you see these BMXers who can jump on a skateboard and skate.” “Do you think that’s the same for everybody?” I comment, knowing that I’m one of those guys who struggles to learn anything other than the stuff I leant at 18. “Yeah, I think so. Like if you spent as much time playing pool as you do trying to learn new things on
"I have no expectations when I go out riding. I don’t think too much about it. I’d rather show up at a spot and if I’m feeling it, do whatever it is there and then."
I notice a confidence in Jeff right away. I don’t think it’s something he’s grown up with, but something he’s developed. He has the ability to strike up conversations with anybody, from the guys fishing in the canal by the motel, to security guards and shopkeepers. He seems to jump at the chance to harangue the motel owner after bedbugs are found in the room. “If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from working in pest control,” Jeff tells me, “is when to spot bedbugs. You gotta take that shit seriously otherwise before you know it, your whole house will be full of them.” He has no problems telling potential guests as they pull into the forecourt about the infestation, leaving families of Disneylanders to reverse out onto Biscayne with perplexed looks on their faces. I try to join the dots and think maybe it has something to do with working in sales at Animal. “It was probably the best nine months
your bike, you’d get really good at pool. It think you might have to have a certain mindset to begin with, but riding a BMX shows that you have that ability, that level of concentration.” Jeff’s commitment to riding is plainly clear in his riding. It’s rare to see so much bike control, at once a trail rider’s technique and a flatlander’s precision, and that doesn’t come easily. I can picture a young Jeff riding Bloomington Ave in his hometown of Clifton, New Jersey, with the silent bright lights of New York City only 12 miles away in the distance and Jeff just putting in that extra ten percent, that extra hour, extra day, extra session. I really don’t think there’s any mystery to why riders get better than others other than time in the saddle. Support and location are definitely factors, but what it essentially boils down to is you working out your
[b] Kickout, El Paso, Texas
Style Is The Difference
I couldn’t think of more fitting words for someone like Jeff. You watch how he’s doing what he’s doing more than what he’s actually doing, so a small 180 and a huge wallride somehow have the same appeal. When used badly, I think a BMX bike can become an ugly object, you notice all its angles and protrusions. Occasionally it looks like the bike is in control of the rider. You never see this with Jeff – he makes the bike flow. You catch a glimpse of him riding in the distance, or for a brief second on a video and you know it’s him, that’s all you need. Style isn’t something that’s spoken about as much as it used to be, we seem to be losing something that made so many riders original to the ‘flip in, flip out’ mentality that swept through
For all his control, Jeff’s riding is surprisingly off the cuff. To put it frankly, he’s a photographer’s nightmare. When he’s ready, he’s going: if you’re not set up, then tough shit. On two occasions he did what we were planning to shoot while I was still setting up, just because it felt like a good time to do it. I didn’t expect it, but in retrospect it’s a trait I’ve seen in riders who ride in a similar way. It’s all about that moment, that feeling, regardless of if the trick is big or not. I think it also has a lot to do with filming regularly with Bob – Jeff would say that “Bob films everything” from the smallest to the biggest tricks, and I think that puts him at ease when it comes to going for the big stuff in front of Scerbo’s camera. For the most part, I’m shooting the stuff that could be dangerous and the unfamiliarity
‘Style is the answer to everything a fresh way to approach a dull or a dangerous thing. To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it.’
skateboarding in the 90s. The old rhetoric of ‘it’s not what you do, but how you do it’ seems to have been turned on its head to ‘it’s not how you do it, but what you do.’ During one rare rainy evening in Miami, I bring up this question of style in his riding as we sit sheltering beneath a tree, looking up to the monorail that cuts in and out of the buildings of Downtown Miami like a highwire act. “I don’t want people to go ‘damn, that was scary’, I’d like to think I could do whatever I’m doing again, it’s not a one-off thing. I want it to look good and not crazy, so a 180 off a kerb and some big wallride both have the same kinda feel to them.”
own ability and pushing that. Jeff seems to know exactly what his body and his bike are doing at all times and that in itself is a pleasure to watch, it’s something I couldn’t put any better than Jack Kerouac…
‘Style is the answer to everything a fresh way to approach a dull or a dangerous thing. To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it.’
[c] High Peg Grind, Miami
Style Is The Difference
78 â€” Style Is The Difference
[d] Quick 180 after a pole jam, Miami [e] Over vert pegs, El Paso, Texas
"I loved Garrett Byrnes in criminal Mischief. It made me think that you can blast a quarter and it just feel nice and that can be enough to satisfy you, that riding can be something I can do into my forties if simple things can make you content with riding."
It was only recently that Jeff got hooked up on Animal. Growing up around such an influential company and seeing Animal grow from its humble beginnings in the same town as him, it’s a dream hook up, like getting signed to play for the team you’ve always supported. “Where Ralph grew up, where his parents lived, it’s probably a five minute pedal from my house. I grew up seeing Ralph, Bob and those guys riding around when I was real young. I mean,
It’s easy to get a chip on your shoulder with riding, to feel like you’re owed something. As Jeff would say, “everyone is good these days”, so you get more people thinking it’s their turn for a piece of the cake. There’s an amount of humility with Jeff that keeps him level. He’s not the type of guy that would think just because he’s got a pro wristband he’s going to get his dick sucked at Simple Session. Jeff doesn’t act like a professional rider in any way, and I mean that as a compliment. He’s realistic, pragmatic even. He tells me he hates the idea of being in debt to anyone and loathes the idea of being under the thumb of the banks with bad credit, and I think because of these characteristics, he’s never really lost sight of what riding should be about, and it’s people who think like this who invariably end up riding the longest. Even at 24, Jeff talks about the future like a 30 year old whose best years are behind them.
Work crops up on a few occasions during our conversations. I’m told all his favourite riders were the guys who held down jobs on top of riding. There seems to be something validating in a rider who can bust his balls all day at work then go out after and do the same on their bike. I think for Jeff, it’s possibly something he can appreciate more from his own situation. I’m told of the satisfaction of working with his hands, how it preps him for riding, but there’s also that element of doing something outside of riding and not relying on something you’re passionate about to make a living. “BMX doesn’t owe me anything,” he tells me, “as much as I appreciate all that I’ve gotten from it, I know it doesn’t owe me shit.”
“Think of all the stuff a contest rider has to know what to do, think of all the moves and tricks that have to be consistent. For me, being a pro means consistency, if a basketball player misses a foul shot, that’s all they have to do. Nobody’s asking for consistent behind-the-back faders, just sit on the foul line, everyone shoots the same way. Think of all the shit a BMXer has to learn? It blows my mind that ball players get paid so much and there’s so many fans, and there’s guys who can flatground whip every time and they [have to] go to work every day.”
I was lucky where I grew up, there was tons of stuff to ride all around my house, all in riding distance. Ask Bob about it, Bloomfield Ave, had some of the best stuff you could look for as a street rider. Those guys would pedal from North Arlington, a good half-hour bike ride, just to ride a coping ledge. I worked there and grew up riding with George [Dossantos] and Angel Lugo and I’d always watched the videos, but it didn’t really hit me until I was older the impact they were having on BMX as a group of guys. Once I got older, I started to notice the impact it was having outside of my scene. Growing up, it seemed like the local brand and I only ever saw it as that. I didn’t think about how the company was growing. Around the senior year at high school, I started to get really involved in BMX, I started trying to meet up with Bob… I had a lot of friends who I’d started riding with, some really good guys, but they all seemed to stop as I started to get really involved in it.” “Did you always want to ride for Animal?” “Always. It was always the team I wanted to ride for, I couldn’t think of any team I’d want to ride for more. I mean, I used to order Animal parts from Dan’s Comp, before I knew it was in the same town. I remember emailing Ralph once, asking him if he’d thought about doing a polished version of the sprocket. He emailed back saying ‘yeah that’s a good idea, maybe in the future.’ I noticed on their website that it was from the same town as me, I was like ‘holy shit!’”
and added set up time makes him a little nervous, but I always had faith in what Jeff was about to do, his bike control and consistency put you at ease. Consistency plays a big part in how Jeff rides. Another night we’re sat in a bar and watch a guy miss a foul shot in a basketball game. “He’s paid millions of pounds a year to do that, how the fuck can he miss a shot like that? That’s all he has to do, put the ball in the net.” I bring it up later, back when we’re sat under the tree on that rare rainy Miami night.
80 — Style Is The Difference
[f] Loading dock wallride, Miami
"As much as I appreciate all that I’ve gotten from BMX, I know it doesn’t owe me shit."
“I loved his [Garrett Byrnes] in Criminal Mischief. It made me think that you can blast a quarter and it just feel nice and that can be enough to satisfy you, that riding can be something I can do into my forties if simple things can make you content with riding. I think that’s why I like riding ramps, I can see that you can do it until you’re older.” As much as I agree with Jeff, I must say I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of this young guy with so much potential, someone who by default will get better, thinking about the future in the way that I see my friends, all late into or past their twenties, thinking about riding. There’s so much style, something nice to watch in Jeff’s
riding that I hope he’s one of the riders I watch grow old gracefully with riding into later life. I’ve heard that personality goes a long way, so I’m not surprised to hear the Animal Van has reached the Pacific Coast a week or so after I’ve left Miami. “I think this is the best trip I’ve ever been on” was one brief comment I receive. I can almost picture the sun on his back as I look out onto the grey skies of London, but I can’t be jealous; I’m just happy that Jeff is getting his time in the sun, in every sense of that term. I’m glad he has that opportunity – he makes riding a BMX look good, which is an increasingly rare bird these days. With Jeff, ‘style is the difference, a way of doing, a way of being done.’
H E N N O N
TAMING A BEAST
Words and Photography by GEORGE MARSHALL
[a] Down Table, Cape Town, South Africa.
ome men are more than others. Some men are stronger, pack a harder punch, bed more birds, drive faster, raise more trophies, slam more shots and travel further in their pursuit of happiness. Some men have threesomes. Some men stand their ground with their chin raised high, no matter who stands before them. Northern England’s Ben Hennon is such a man. On the contest circuit Ben is an outspoken and intimidating personality – the centre of attention in a sea of attention seekers. In recent years he has become a dominant but charismatic and popular figure. He is our alpha male, our silver back, our champion.Yet Ben has experienced popularity and rejection in equal measure. For a time his interaction with the majority of the UK scene could be summed up in a single word – hate. Dressed all in black and flipping off the crowd, he was the pantomime villain of the English scene, credible sponsors ignored him, he was an outsider, an outcast. This is the story of a black sheep from a small town in the North East of England who grew up riding with few friends and wanted to do it alone. This is a story of change – a story of love and hate. Crook
Black Sheep We return from our walk in the snow, my feet warm and dry. After lunch, Ben takes me on a drive in his white Audi A5 sports car that he shares with Andrea. The car is fast and luxurious. The lavish leather steering wheel perfectly matches a large sparkling silver watch on his wrist. He pulls up outside ‘Plaice and I’ Chip shop. He hops out of the car to join of queue of grey haired pensioners at a cash point. Seeing Ben waiting in line I realise how everything about him from his intimidating appearance, to his big watch, flash car and tight jeans all don’t fit in here in his hometown. “I definitely stand out.” He tells me as he drives like a man in a high-speed chase along the icy country lanes. “The average person in Crook just sees an arrogant lad covered in tattoos driving round like a loon in nice car. I lived in France for 18 months and Hastings for a good while. I promised myself I would never come back, but circumstances changed… I love it here but it can be a tough place. It was definitely a hard place growing up. There’s no easy ride here, especially if you don’t want to go with the crowd. I’ve always been the black sheep. Even when I was younger I tried to be an individual, and you’re always going to get a bit of stick for that, especially round here.”
“We’ve got some chilli for lunch, made it with soya mince for you – never tried it before like. We’ll have it after we’ve walked the dogs, what size shoe are you?” Ben asks as I enter the living room, and he looks at my ripped old Vans. “UK ten”, I answer, surprised by Ben’s thoughtfulness to my unsociable diet. “I’ve got nowt that’ll fit you. You’ll have to wear ‘Chav Wellies”, he says and fetches me a second pair of socks and two plastic bags.
Days before we were in the southern hemisphere, enjoying the summer heat of South Africa. It was a two-week trip where Ben lived up to his alpha male reputation. He won all the contests, partied the latest and rode the hardest, – he was the ‘life and soul’. At his side there was never a dull moment. “Proper man meal that was, I’ll wake up tomorrow with a hard on you could hammer nails with,” he’d say after eating an entire fish that no one else would dare taste. Ben came home from South Africa with his interview shot on foreign turf, a large sum of prize money, giant cheques and trophies.
It’s 8am in the small town of Crook, within the warmth of Ben’s new home – a comfortable Victorian terrace house that he shares with his fiancée Andrea, her daughter Carrie and their two dogs; a five month old Pit Bull pup and a seven year old Parsons Russell. From downstairs I can hear Ben and Andrea verbally abusing each other in thick North Eastern accents, but the onslaught isn’t an argument of a dysfunctional couple, they’re more of a pair of flirting teenagers who like to dish it out.
Ben’s home is on the edge of town beside a beautiful frozen landscape of fields, streams and forests. “When I’m at home I walk the dogs every morning. I love it having the countryside on my doorstep. I couldn’t live in a big city.” He tells me, keeping a watch on the dogs with his piercing blue eyes. The temperature is below freezing. The ground the covered in ice and snow. Puddles are frozen over. Everything is in deep winter, everything but Ben and I, our faces with unseasonable brown tans.
I awake in a girl’s bed, aged about ten judging by the primary school photos on the wall and cuddly toys. My toes poke out from under colourful sheets. A poster of Dan Lacey hangs on the wall oddly out of place above some partly clothed dolls. With the exception of a sleeping dog nested by my hip, I am alone. “FUCKING DOOR!” a woman’s voice shouts through the wall, followed by a series of banging and more muffled Geordie screams of ‘FUCKING, ‘BASTARD and ‘CUNT. I peer out of the window to see a fresh fall of snow has fallen on the street of narrow stone houses. “Tea mate?” Ben asks in a calmer Geordie tone, poking his head into the room. “All the shouting is our neighbour – she’s mental. Did you sleep all right in Carrie’s room? You’re lucky she was at her Nan’s last night.”
Outside it is a bright and brisk winter’s morning. Ben marches across the road to a rural footpath with his dogs obediently in pursuit and wearing a pair of tough looking leather boots. I look down at my feet in plastic bags and feel a lesser man. “We’re heading up there, that alright, quite far like?” He points to a hill in distance, and I nod in reply.
[b] Tailwhip gap, [c] 450 gap Stellen Bosch, South Africa.
88 â€” Taming A Beast
[d] Smith, Hope Bay, South Africa.
"Everyone thought I was a bastard and I loved it."
“I train at the local boxing gym in town. All my mates go and we get in the ring and spar. I used to do Thai boxing, and I did karate from the age eight. I never went to boxing to learn to beat people up on the street, I did it to get fit and for the discipline. I’m not trying to show off about fighting and give it the ‘big –un’. I avoid getting into fights, but I enjoy it when it happens.” Ben says very calmly, without boasting or putting much pride in his words. “Do you want to see how good my brakes are?” He asks, changing the topic, whilst hurtling down a country lane and taking a brief look in his rear mirror. He slams his brakes on before I have chance to answer. His brakes are excellent. Despite the joyriding, I feel safe in the passenger seat. Ben handles a car with the exact same infinite confidence he exerts in every other aspect of his life. As we talk I get used to him overtaking cars on blind corners and sliding the back end on roundabouts. It was the best and worst driving I’ve ever seen,
“I was brought up to not let people push me around. I’ve never let anybody try and rule me, take advantage or bully me. Having that attitude, being different and growing up in a small
“I’ve always been good at fighting. My Dad always said if you do something enough you’ll get good at it. Being different and growing up round here meant there was no shortage. I’ve had the shit kicked out of me. I don’t think you can be a good fighter until you’ve been beat. Once you’ve had your arse kicked you’ve got nothing to be scared of anymore, no one can do it to you for the first time again.
“Throughout my life I’ve always done exactly what I’ve wanted. So many people can’t do what they want to do because they’re scared of what other people will think of them. I’ve always wanted to be free and have no restrictions…. I don’t want other people to have a hold on my life. I get that from my parents. I’m definitely a combination of my Mam’s and Dad’s personalities. People think only of my Dad because he comes to all the contests. My Mam plays just as much of a part in my life as my Dad. She’s the smartest person I know and the most driven. There’s no fucking around with my Mam. When I was in primary school three brothers gave me a kicking. Their Mam was one of the dinner ladies at the school so they got off without any trouble. I told my Mam and she just dived on her outside the school gates at home time… she kicked the crap out of her. My Mam is a fiery redhead who won’t back down to anyone. I’m the same, I got that from her.
town meant fighting from a young age. I remember at 14 being at the skatepark and some drunk guy tried to take my bike. I went home and got my Dad. I told my Dad I didn’t need him to do anything but I wanted him there, just in case I got my arse kicked. ‘All right son,’ he said and we went back down the park. I battered the shit out of the guy, even though he was a 19 and I was 14. That was the first time I beat somebody up.
Thinking back to my own school days, I find it hard to place Ben in the social ranks of the comprehensive school system. He’s neither the oddball Goth, bullied and tormented at the bottom of the food chain, nor can I see him with the jocks at the top. “I was on all the sports teams and was mates with the popular crowd but I wasn’t one of them. I wore black clothes, baggy jeans and Vans. I always had crazy hairstyles too. Everyone else at school wore Nike Airs and trackies. I got in trouble at school for dressing different. The head teacher called my Mam in and told her ‘Ben needs to conform to be like everyone else and that the school doesn’t encourage individuality’. My Mam went ape shit. ‘I want my son to be his own man. You should encourage individuality.’
all in one experience. I ask if he’s ever been in trouble with the law. “I’ve had more than my fair share of run-ins with the police over the years, mostly for driving offences. Three years ago I went to NASS. My Dad got arrested on the first day for a small amount of bush on him. The old bill take him away, he gets out and we have a big party. The day after he gets in trouble with the police again and he tries to bail them. It was Saturday afternoon and we were walking over to the park course for qualifying. Suddenly two police grabbed him. He lamped one of them and cut his cheek. The other officer grabbed my Dad and my Dad grabbed his pinky finger and snapped it in half. I got involved and about 50 officers showed up in seconds – it turned into a full on fight with the police, bearing in mind I was padded up with my helmet on. I was handcuffed, held down on the floor and lead to a riot van right beside the park course hall. I heard them calling my name for qualifying as I was being stripped searched. I was completely naked in the van. Bent over and squatting – the lot.
Yeovil court to see my Dad face six charges. He got off with just a fine, I paid that with my prize winnings, and bought him a big Cuban cigar and we drove home. Turned out to be a good weekend.”
“In a matter of minutes I’d gone from being padded up ready to enter a comp to being naked in the back of a riot van, with two cops, one with a snapped finger and one with a slit cheek. The organisers begged the police to let me ride. They found nothing on me and eventually they let me out at the end of qualifying. I was totally cold with no practice, I dropped in and just sent everything. I qualified 1st, with the police watching me to make sure I wouldn’t run off. I rode all day Sunday and got 2nd in finals. On Monday I went to
Hearing the unlikely story of the son having to bail out the Dad, it’s easy to see where Ben gets his reckless, play hard attitude from. “My Dad’s a madman, he drives like a loon as well. When I was really small he used to take me on the back of his motorbike down the disused train lines and we’d bomb off for the day. You can’t do that anymore, you’d get arrested straight away. That was my first experience of bikes. My Dad bought a CR250 motoX and I used to ride that. We’d take it up to the tracks with his mates and race it round but it was expensive so I got a BMX. Me and a local blader got everyone in town to sign a petition to build a park in the town. I learnt to ride at that one park, on an old Hoffman Evel Knievel.”
“When I was 15, me Mam let me go to London with my mate to watch the Urban Games. I went for all three days. All of the big riders were there, Bas [Sebastian Keep], Colin McKay, Dean Hearne, Ross Tanner and there was an amateur contest. I thought I’ll comeback and enter next time. The following year me Mam booked me and my Dad into a sketchy hostel next to the comp…it was horrible, so we
kipped in the car. The amateur contest was cancelled due to the weather. My Dad was like, “just enter pro, ride your bike, see what happens.” So the first contest I ever entered was a pro comp against X-Games riders… I got second.” He says laughing. “No one had a fucking clue who I was. I was riding a T1 Barcode, with a snapped wishbone that my Dad had welded back together for me. I came out of nowhere. I’ve got tingles running down my spine just thinking about.” He says shuddering. “I won six hundred quid. Josh Harrington came first I think. I was 16, I was like ‘fuck! I’ve won six hundred fucking quid.’ On the way back to the car some German guy came over and asked me to ride for Felt and offered me £350 a month. I signed the contract there and then. We drove back up North celebrating, everything changed from there on. “At the time I was studying Fine Art at college.” “Fine Art?” I stop him, surprised, unable to picture Ben painting a naked old man. “Just for chicks and that. I totally sacked that it off after Urban Games. My Mam and Dad were just splitting up at this stage. I was living with me Mam and she told me if I was going to ride bikes for a living I had to get a trade to fall back on. My Dad set me up full time with him on a carpet fitter apprenticeship. I knew could always join Navy as well, that runs in the family. My Dad’s cousin and my granddad served on the HMS Albion, it was aircraft carrier that got decommissioned a few years back.
“At 16 the older lads I rode with quit for cars. Me Dad came to the skatepark with us and would push me. He knows what I’m capable of better than I do. Like learning three bars to whip, at first I was trying bars to whip straight over the box and I wasn’t getting it. He told me to just try it in a 360 first. I pulled it third try. There’s been a hundred tricks or transfers like that. Sometimes I found being pushed frustrating, he had that much confidence in me, he’d tell me to do stuff and it would usually work out and I’d surprise myself. My Dad got me where I am today…” He says as his concentration thoughtfully drifts out of the car window. “One of The Pet Shop Boys lives in that house there, this is Tunstall reservoir, an area of outstanding natural beauty,” he says as we pull up facing the water surrounded by forest and turns off the engine. The Pantomime Villain Following their triumphant weekend in London, Ben and his Dad became inseparable but also notorious faces at the contests, none more so than at the legendary Backyard Jams. With only Tony at his side, Ben wasn’t friends with the other riders and he wasn’t there to make friends either. “I remember the first time I met Hennon,” Sebastian Keep told me one evening South Africa. “I said hello to him, and I said it would be cool to come up North and he could show me the lines at his local park. He looked and me and said, ‘You can find your own fucking lines,’ and dropped in. Back then no one knew him and everyone hated him.”
[d] Table gap, George Town, South Africa.
Ben brought an unapologetic competitive hunger and ‘fuck you’ attitude to those jams, directly shunning the camaraderie those events stood for. He wanted to win and wasn’t afraid to show it. Ben’s confident Northern swagger stood out and intimidated the more docile and friendly personalities. I ask Ben when he started to be disliked in BMX. “Pretty much straight way.” He says as we both laugh sat in the parked car. “I was hated from my first Backyard Jam. I was a cocksure Northern kid.
“During those early years I didn’t hang out with other riders, and they didn’t hang out with me. I just rode the local park with a few close mates and my old man. I never had to chance to hang out and learn about other people. It’s as much my fault for not getting to know the other riders and let them get to know me. My whole ‘fuck em’ attitude towards other riders changed when I started going on Vans trips and I became close mates with Mad Jon, Bas and [Dan] Lacey. If I'd had the opportunity to go on trips earlier my attitude would have changed sooner.”
"The first contest I ever entered was a pro comp against X-Games riders… I got second"
With growing friendships within BMX and a credible bike sponsor, Hennon found himself in an era of newfound acceptance and popularity. In a short space of time he went from being an outcast to one of the most popular riders at contests and in return toned down his ‘fuck you’ approach. It seemed BMX learnt it was wrong about Hennon, he wasn’t the arrogant arsehole we all presumed he was and he didn’t have a threesome with his Dad. “As much as I enjoyed being the black sheep of the contests, it was also good to feel like people accepted me for being myself. But I definitely didn’t change, people’s just figured me out. I won’t change for anyone.” The Trophy House Later in the evening Ben drives me to see his Dad on the other side of Crook. I enter the house to see the walls, shelves and windowsills all covered in trophies, giant cheques, magazine covers and photos. An original Haro Freestyler hangs above the sofa. “You best not call this a ‘shrine’ in your article – he ain’t dead yet… Can I get you tea?” Tony says in a stern but joking tone. I walk round the house inspecting a decade’s worth silverware. Often professional riders have a trophy wall or a trophy cabinet maybe, Ben being Ben has a trophy house. “These are all his Redbull trophies, this one is from Argentina and that’s the new one from South Africa.” Tony shows me, pointing out all the details and thought that had gone into the trophies. “Energy drinks eh? They
“I now know my attitude definitely held me back. It didn’t help me out with sponsors. I’m sure the older riders who had a say on who got on teams looked at me and thought ‘look at that kid, he thinks he’s the shit – fuck him’. I was on Etnies for years, but I never got invited on a single trip. Years down the line I found out certain riders refused to go on trips with me… without ever knowing me. People always judge me on their impression of my persona and attitude… Everyone says to me, ‘I thought you were a dick before I knew you.’ People look at me, hear some stories and think I’m an arrogant prick. Who knows maybe I am arrogant, I think I’m just confident – the two are easily confused. I’m not a bad lad underneath. I haven’t got time for people that judge me before they’ve met me. I always give someone the benefit of the doubt. People are too easily led by other peoples’ views.
In his early twenties Ben was without a bike sponsor, however his newfound alliances in the industry had friends in high places. “I got on Hoffman through Bas and Mad Jon, that was a massive change for me. Condor has always been my idol, I’d never ride for anyone else. I’ve ridden for some shit bike companies over the years… fucking hell – it’s all part of the journey.”
In hate, Ben found a source of motivation that when combined with his great natural talent took him to regularly be of one of the highest placed English riders in the Backyard Jams, yet he remained ignored by the core sponsors. “Back then it felt like I was always against the Seventies guys and that made me want to do it alone. I didn’t want to be associated with any part of a scene. I wanted to accomplish stuff because I deserved it and not because I was friends with the right people and acted how people wanted me to.
My attitude was ‘take me as I am, or fuck off.’ I think my sense of humour was misinterpreted as giving people shit, it’s hard to take it if you’re not used to it. Everyone thought I was a bastard and I loved it. It made me different. I was just being an individual and standing out, it was the same as school. The more people disliked me, the more I played up to it, and the more I wanted to tell everyone to fuck off by doing well. That’s where all the attitude and flipping off the crowd came from.”
spend money like no tomorrow. They’d sponsor a couple of flies crawling up a wall – know what I mean?” Tony remarks, shaking his head. Unlike Ben, Tony’s skin is unmarked, without a single blot of ink. “Look at this,” he says passing me a piece of paper. “It’s going to be my first tattoo, just here,” he says pointing to his forearm. The paper has crest like design with Ben’s name, the Olympic rings and the year. “2012 was Ben’s year, he did shows at the Olympics and starting winning comps. I didn’t think he’d ever top 2012, but now this year is looking even better already.”
Taming A Beast
Tony is obviously immensely proud of his son and rightly so. Ben has had more podiums than most pro riders have had free T-shirts. Contests are an environment Ben excels in. In South Africa I saw the look of euphoric satisfaction and focused determination on Ben’s face after each run. “You hear people to say they got into BMX because they wanted to do something different and get away from the conventional sports, coaches and all that. But I’m a competitive bastard, and I see that as a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to win.”
"If you told me two years ago, I’d be living back in Crook with a fiancée and her tenyear-old daughter, I’d tell you to go fish." In the past few months Ben has won three major contests in a row. He’s having more success now than he ever has in his 11 years as a pro rider. Over the past year Ben’s life has taken a sudden and unforeseen change. Ironically the catalyst for his good fortune was a slam. “I crashed hard at the ‘Our House’ [Seventies private skatepark] and rode home. My mate found me on the living room floor in a heap going in and out of consciousness. “Get me to hospital mate – I’m fucked” I told him. He drove me to A&E. I was in agonising pain and being sick. They told me to piss in tub to check for internal bleeding. My piss looked like red wine… I had a lacerated kidney, I could have ‘croaked’ [died] if my mate hadn’t found me. I didn’t have surgery. I had to lie in bed to let it heal. I spent four days in hospital barely moving. Then I shuffled across London on the tube and got the train home to rest. It was during that down time I met my fiancée Andrea. Taming A Beast “I hated Ben when I first met him,” Andrea tells me in the local pub as Ben fetches a round. “I’m a big personality as well, so we just clashed. Then I got to know him and he’s nothing like his ‘I am it’ persona.” “We really hit it off didn’t we?,” Ben continues the story. “But then I went to America for a month. Normally on a trip I would be getting smashed and chasing girls, but for the first time I wasn’t looking for it. I didn’t feel that the urge I’d always had. I was really surprised, something felt different. Once I was back riding I took Andrea to a comp and it was standard procedure – let’s get smashed. She was like, ‘you’re a professional bike rider, why are you getting smashed the night before the comp? What are you celebrating?’ She told me, ‘if we’re going to be serious you need to be serious about riding your bike. You’re never going to get this opportunity again. Stop fucking around’. That was the biggest smack in the face. She was right. I thought: I’m keeping this one.”
[f] Bomb Drop, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
96 — Taming A Beast
Ben is the first to admit he’s settled down. To his own shock he has found himself enjoying a calmer life of walking the dogs, buying engagement rings and enjoying a glass of red wine with his home cooked dinner. Typically when riders settle down, their riding follows suit – they become soft, but not Hennon. Since meeting Andrea, Ben has been riding harder than ever. “For the first time I’m totally happy with my life and I don’t feel the need to do the things I used to do to make me happy. I used to loved getting wrecked, I used to love being the centre of attention at parties, I loved partying hardest and getting the girls… I guess it’s just maturing. “I’ve settled down, but I’m also more focused. I’m no longer distracted by wanting to get smashed. I am still that guy, but now I pick my moments. Right now I just want to ride my bike. I’ve been pro 11 years this year and I’m still not at my best.” A big part of Ben’s new life is Andrea’s daughter Carrie. “She bought me a birthday card the other day for my 27th. It said ‘Happy Birthday Dad.” He tells me, obviously taking the new role to heart. “I never want to replace her Dad, it’s important for her to have a growing relationship with him, I don’t want to replicate that at all. I want to be the guy she can talk to about
stuff she can’t talk to her Dad about. I want to be there for her. “It’s all been a massive shock for me. If you told me two years ago, I’d be living back in Crook with a fiancée and her ten-year-old daughter, I’d tell you to go fish. It’s been such a U-turn in my life but so right. I never looked for it. It was never a conscious decision to make a fresh start.” Whilst on a train leaving Crook I reflect about my time with Ben. I wonder what kind of a person qualifies first in a big contest, seconds after being handcuffed, stripped searched and arrested for fighting the police with his Dad? That story for me is defining of Ben’s strong and unbreakable character. He is a champion, a rebel, a show off and a hard man. Yet there is more to him beneath his tough exterior of pin up girl tattoos and a shaved head. There is a tender side to his personality that is thoughtful, kind and caring. As Ben matures that tender nature becomes more apparent and the hated teenager that intimidated grown men at contests fades into memory. But this isn’t a tale of a bad egg who came good. Ben’s life is a story of a passionate individual who does what ever the fuck he wants, no matter what others think of him. Ben has an unconquerable spirit and that spirit is as strong as ever. He may have settled down, but he is far from tamed. The beast lives on.
Photo: Daniel Benson UK: www.cyclingsportsgroup.co.uk | USA: www.seattlebikesupply.com
w a s h i n g t o n
S / s
s h o e s
n o w
s h i p p i n g
A L M O N D F O O T W E A R . C O M
Veni,Rider: Vidi,Lee Enever Vici.
Life Lessons 002: The Barcelona Live Sex Show
Life Lessons 002
Words and Illustration by RhyS CoRen
Ever since the F-it Barcelona Vacation video came out in 2003, showing us the otherworldly street obstacles and mild winter weather of the Catalonian capital, hordes of bike riding Brits have been tripping to Spain each year like it was the 1980s all over again. However unlike the 80s, when it was all about beating the Germans to the sunbeds on the Costa Del Sol, this time it was about groups of BMXers escaping harsh winters with cheap Easyjet air fairs, cramming into hostels or apartments and cruising the sunny street Mecca. But Barcelona’s not just about the riding. No, no. You see, whilst most young Brits would choose to go to Magaluf, Ibiza, Marbella or Ayia Napa, a BMXer’s Club 18 to 30s happens in Barcelona. Therefore, in between hoping barspins on the perfect banked hips and grinding Olympic Stadiums, Barcelona trips have provided a lot of young BMXers with their first proper ‘Lads On Tour / Brits Abroad’ experience of too much booze, regretful nights and live sex shows… You know, we call it ‘making the most of it.’ On my first ever trip to Barcelona in 2004, I just so happened to be with a particularly liberal group of BMXers. Actually, that’s a bit polite. They were dirty sex pests who’d all heard rumours of the sex shows and wank booths. On our first night, fuelled by a horny curiosity, a few of us went out in search of the long and thinly shaped sex shop on La Rambla. From the narrow entrance, you could see that this place went on and on and on into the distance. Whilst aptly phallic, this layout helped filter through the most serious customers along an assaultcourse of exponentially increasing perversion. The entrance started off relatively tame with a few cock rings, playing cards and packaged sex dolls to flog to tourists. But the further back it went, the far greater the levels of nastiness, weeding out the squeamish and leaving only the most sexually serious. By the time we reached the 4inch-wide buttplugs, we began to get nervous.Tentatively, we edged our way though the last few rooms like a pack of cautious hyenas circling a kill, sniffing the air for danger, edging in, bit by bit. This was when we first laid eyes on the free-standing, leather clad, dodecahedron-shaped sex hut. It didn’t look all that impressive, but our dirty instincts told us that this was the thing we were looking for. I opened one of the doors and peered in.The inside was minimal with painted black walls made from MDF and a little LCD countdown timer with an adjacent coin slot, underneath what appeared to be
some sort of head height 60cm x 60cm window covered by a shutter. ‘2 Euros = 2 minutes’ was what it said by the coin slot, so I entered my euros, the light went out and the window shutter slowly lifted up. Through the window I peered into the centre of the dodecahedron, where a rotating plinth presented a muscular man with tribal tattoos pounding a tanned, black haired, big lipped, fake boobed girl in the missionary position. I stood in amazement, hypnotized almost, watching his balls slap her waxed bum crack for a moment. I noticed I was already down to just 1 minute and 30 seconds, then 1 minute 29 seconds, then 1 minute 28 seconds, so I pulled my trousers down and got my cock out. I don’t know if it was the smell of jizz in the room, the nervousness of having a timer run down on me like some sort of countdown clock, or the fact I was stood up, scared to lean on anything and relax and enjoy the slightly disturbing, if not arousing, view. But instead of entertaining an erection, my cock just shriveled up. Ever touched a snail’s eye before? It was like that, recoiling back for safety, or disgust; like my Johnson had its own moral compass. After my money ran out, the light in my booth came on and the shutter started to come down. But it came down incredibly slowly so I could still see the sex happening if I crouched slightly. As I peeped on, I noticed a light come on in an opposing booth and saw the face of an older, mustached man wearing a baseball cap and glasses. He appeared to be wanking furiously whilst also crouching lower as his window shutter came down too. The mirroring affect on the booth windows that had previously hidden our faces had gone once the booth lights had come on, so I decided to go up close to my window and wave to the mustached man. ‘Dirty bastard’, I thought. As soon as he spotted me, he bolted back in horror and I ran off out of the shop and back up La Rambla laughing my tits off. That was until, about halfway home, I realised I had forgotten to cover my hand before touching the spunky door handle to exit the booth. I paused… The laughter turned to disgust at the thought of all the other seedy, dirty bastard, mustached men that have relieved themselves and exited the very same booths countless times before. I wretched repeatedly during the remaining journey back to the hostel, where I washed my hands thoroughly and never spoke of the experience again.
Ollie Palmer, Secret Barn, Tiverton. 07.06.12
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110 â€” Strays [a] Greg Illingworth, 360 No Hander, South Africa. [George Marshall]
112 â€” Strays
[b] Garrett Reynolds, 180 Over Tooth. [Jeremy Pavia]
Photo Section — 113
[c] Greg D’Amico, Double Peg. [Trent Barker]
114 â€” Strays
[d] Louie Mire, Wallride [Carl Wilson]
116 â€” Strays
[e] Lloyd Wright, Feeble to 360. [Daniel Benson]
118 â€” Strays
[f] Paul Ryan, Barspin Rail hop. Cape Town, South Africa. [George Marshall]
Aggro rAg & the hoods "aggro rag was a big sloppy mess of words and photos. a delicious tome to freestyle bMX and friendship.” —Andy Jenkins, from his Foreword to aggro rag Freestyle Mags! Plywood Hoods Zines ’84-’89: The Complete Collection (2013)
Intro by Mark Noble Images courtesy of MIke DaIly
aggro rag & The Hoods
reestyle BMX in the UK fell off a cliff in 1985 – it was was a time of real drought. Pre internet the only contact and communication with other riders from around the globe was either by letter, phone or face to face if you had the cash or a sponsor to fly you to events and jams. There were a few riders lucky enough to be able to get to overseas comps but for everyone else it was snail mail or an astronomical phone bill to keep in touch. Nowadays the pros daily movements and thoughts are embedded within our lives via digital social media sites and riding is spread worldwide for the most part virally by online video edits. In the eighties BMX media was dominated by a tiny handful of magazines – by and large the best of them were published in California, the spiritual home of BMX and our veritable Mecca for anything BMX related.
[a] aggro rag: Zines 1 — 12 1984-1989
"keep in mind that when this video came out, a lot of people never saw this stuff. First of all, a lot of people didn’t know who any of us were, in a way. There were just people that knew about a video—that’s it. or people got to see it in live motion for the first time. but we would just film and do these random links. Just sort of riding, you know? Similar to what you would do in a jam circle back in the day: like, you just session. We would just do these links. It was more about the link part and the riding, than trying to get specific tricks on film." —Mark eaton, Commentary Track, Dorkin’ in york
This cherished bygone era is being celebrated again, Mike has collated all the original copies of the ‘zine together into one bound edition in book form, along with exclusive up-to-date interviews with all the people who built this truly groundbreaking scene. If you have any interest at all in where BMX came from you just have to check it out. This is our history, this was a DIY BMX scene at its creative and original best. It’s a bulky collection that needs digesting and you need to go to aggrorag.com to find out more, but before you do here are some of the highlights and high-times from a legendary era, from a legendary place, that tells the tale of an archetypal publication that we all have a lot to be grateful for.
Aggro Rag came from a place in the US simply called York – and that’s the medium-sized township of barely 40,000 folks in Pennsylvania, also known as the “White Rose City.” The fourteenth largest city in PA played host to a firebrand scene of dedicated riders who accelerated the progression of flatland
Some would argue that the kind of tricks coming from this area alone shaped the freestyle world as we see it today, and not just from a flatland point of view. ‘Cutting edge’ doesn’t even come close to describing what was coming out of the place. The guys were building the fundamentals and building blocks of BMX freestyle. In the mid eighties and with a laid-back and all-fun attitude to boot, the Yorkbased Plywood Hoods progressed flatland (using some pretty innovative rolling tricks never seen before) to a whole new level. With a heady cocktail of born-and-bred locals and part-time residents that included Kevin Jones, Lungmustard, Brett Downs, John Stapleton, Gary Pollack, Chase Gouin and Mike Daily, these riders laid down some new moves. Mike was the creative brains behind the ‘zine and he and Raybo self-published and photocopied this gold-dust in printed form. If you wanted to know what was coming from York, PA, then Mark Eaton’s Dorkin’ VHS tapes (first out in 1988 and limited to 500 copies) covered all the tricks that were going down, whereas Aggro Rag had it nailed from a print and ethos point of view. It was genius, and we loved it.
aggro rag & The Hoods
As a result of this geographical fact, (or maybe even inspired by it as a direct reaction to the Californiacation of BMX) scene ‘zines and local VHS videos were starting to crop up in other places in the US. Tiny ads started appearing in mags that advertised zines. The ads were nearly always zeroxed and hidden at the back amongst the bike shop ads, where it was cheapest. They were circulated to the riders in brown envelopes and pushed hand-to-hand at contests and jams, ensuring the drip-fed spread of knowledge of local riding scenes that just wasn’t being covered by the glossy established magazines. The ‘zines offered an insight into the dirty nub of freestyle, where the tricks were being developed away from the eyes of the sun-blessed West Coast industry and media epicentre. One such example of this 80’s DIY ethic – and perhaps the finest of them all – was the aptly named Aggro Rag, whose first issue got into the grubby hands of BMXers in 1984.
and street riding at quite a speed. Taking it beyond anything that anyone else was doing at the time, anywhere else on the planet – and soon, everyone on the planet wanted to know all about York – and Aggro Rag told that story.
124 — aggro rag & The Hoods
"Subliminal’ was big back then. I said, ‘Hey, do you mind if I put something subliminal in here?’ and you said, ‘No, not at all.’ I had a magazine in front of me and I remember snipping out the picture of Jason Parkes with the visor of his hat cut off and the sides of his hair sticking out, so I stuck that in. I remember we were totally excited that it was color. That was the gnarliest thing for back then: ‘No way! The aggro rag is gonna be in color!’ I was so excited that I was gonna do it, because I had just started working at that copy center. I was like, ‘What could get better than this? being 19 years old and printing aggro rag in color?" —raymond “raybo” J. schlechtweg, Jr.
[b] brian Peters, Miami Hopper.
hoods UNdergroUNder, JohN stAPLetoN John Stapleton first appears in the nighttime tennis courts section of Dorkin’ II (1988). The combos John pulled in the ‘Straight Outta Compton’ section at the end of Dorkin’ III (1989) are what really underscored respect for John as a Hoods ‘Undergrounder’. John’s the fellow who did the decade with his shoelaces tied together. John Stapleton’s style was characterized by innovative tricks, hard combos and (as his buddy Doug Metherell says) “that ugly-ass yellow Haro Master.”
Mike Daily:What can you say about John Stapleton? Doug Metherell: I think he definitely left his mark. He wasn’t as recognizable as Eaton and Kev, but he definitely left his mark. You could tell he rode with Kev… a lot. He was innovative. It wasn’t just like doing ‘this trick into that trick’ that everybody else was doing. He tried to make it something different. His creativity came out when he rode.
What’s ‘the double decade row’? The double decade row is if you have a car, and you get out and do a double decade first trick — you have to get back in your car and leave for the day, because you’re done.
Did you ever pull it first try / first trick of the day? Hell no. Even if I did, I didn’t drive—I would’ve had to ride back home. Speaking of rows, what’s the row about the photos with the black car in the background?
Footnote: *Arnold on Diff’rent Strokes.
"It really bums me out that we didn’t archive our footage better. We really didn’t have any intention of doing anything with these videos. It was like: Put a video together and send it out, then throw it away." —Mark eaton, Commentary track, dorkin’ in York
[Laughs.] He probably would. Have you ever pulled a double decade? Oh, yeah. Definitely. Not a lot, but I’ve pulled ‘em.
What was that one? I don’t even remember. I saw John do tons of rope-a-roni variations, like rope-a-roni where he reached down and grabbed the seat post tube. He called that the crutch. He did all kinds of stuff like the hang-5 with both feet on the pegs. Weird stuff. But there were no names for some of the tricks. Like Kev – Kev did numerous tricks that we’ve seen, that people never even knew about. There’s no name for ‘em — he just did ‘em. What else did John do? There’s so much stuff that he did that I have on video: crazy stuff, like no-handed backwards hang-5s. I don’t know how he did ‘em, but he did ‘em.
Did you ever see that happen? Oh, yeah: I’ve seen both Kev and John do it. I remember riding to Mount Rose — pedaling my ass off the whole way across town to go ride — and Kev shows up, gets out, does double decade and leaves. I’m like, “What? All right… I guess I’m riding by myself today!” That was hilarious. And I think Kev would probably do it to this day.
John’s tricks that he made up… what were they? Well, the thing is: John would never name ‘em. I know he did dick trick and tons of decade variations. He used to do opposite-peg perverted decades, and chick whips into decades. I’ve seen him do pedal-to-pedal decades—like pedal-to-pedal boomerangs, but he did frickin’ pedal-to-pedal decades! I saw John do — and this is no bull, because I got video documentation of it — I’ve seen him do triple decades in ’89. I remember he was doin’ a trick standin’ on the seatpost — doin’ a backyard — and he called that the Coleman truck. That was a midget truck. [Laughs.] Like Gary Coleman*. There was another one called Weird Al Yankawheelie…
aggro rag & The Hoods
It definitely did. I don’t know if people even know this, and I don’t even know what they call the trick anymore — it was kind of like a variation of the backyard, but from the side of the bike — John invented that trick at the end of ’87/ beginning of ’88. He called it ‘dick trick’ because after he did it, it seemed like everybody just started doing it: Every dick started doin’ it. And then it was like this total row with everybody — even Kev. I remember Kev bein’ at the end of Mount Rose parking lot and someone did it and Kev would yell, “Taaa dick!” That was one of our favorite rows.
Oh, ‘The New Yorker’. It was his mom’s car: The New Yorker. It was either that car that would take us to the comps or it was Tim’s Omega. That car was such a beast. Somehow it always showed up in photos and videos. I remember goin’ to comps and it was just me, John and Tim [Baker]. This was after you had moved to Cali. We went to comps and when people would say our names and where we were from — they’d announce, “Doug from York, PA” — and it was like a crowd of people would start watching us. Even though we weren’t anywhere on the level of you guys, it was just that whole aura of, “Oh crap, they’re from York! They must be good!” It was weird. It was like this weird vibe that we all had gotten. John really got that. John got a lot of eyes on him because he was always different with his stuff.
126 â€” aggro rag & The Hoods
[c] kevin Jones, air at brians old school. [d] Plywood Hoods, ramp Jam [e] kevin, ben and Murphy
KeVIN JoNes [Book Excerpt I of II] Kevin Jones quit BMX to break? Mind-boggling. Mind-boggling at the time. The guy had always been our ‘go-to’ for glimpses of greatness. Go to The Pit and watch him do tabletops. Go to The Quarry behind Burger King and bear witness to clicked Learys. Go to Thunderdohm and get our minds blown. Each successive time we saw him, he had a new bike with all the latest parts. And new tricks. He made our jaws drop at Dunkin’ Donuts, Argento’s Pizza and Best Products. We asked him questions and he wouldn’t answer them. He made strange noises that sounded like video games sound effects and rode away, whistling. He wouldn’t leave the scene — he’d ride. It was like we were riding with him. Kevin Jones. Kevin Scott Jones.
— maybe a couple minutes of thinkin’ about it and tryin’ it and there it was: I was already doin’ it as far as I wanted to, by then.
—Mike Daily, from his Introduction to ‘Kevin Jones: The Man. The Interview’.
Yeah. Oh, yeah. It’s everywhere you look. Yeah, just like you said: streeters and everybody do it a lot. I still do it. Probably every single time I go out riding I do it at some point. I possibly do it a hundred times in one day, for all I know. I change it up though. Like, I’ll try it — do it — into something else, or do it out of something. I just make it different somehow.
[Book Excerpt II of II] Mike Daily:What about hang-5? When was that? Kevin Jones: I don’t have an exact month for that. I’m tryin’ to think what bike I woulda been on to do it. I don’t know if it was ’87 still, or early ’88. I don’t remember much about that — the particular month or anything.
—Excerpt from the 16-page feature story/new interview, ‘Kevin Jones: The Man. The Interview’.
—Outtake from Mike Daily’s interview with Kevin Jones for Aggro Rag Freestyle Mag! Plywood Hoods Zines ’84-’89: The Complete Collection (2013)
"[I remember] going into that hotel room and eaton pulling out a cassette tape of the raW (relax and Win) positive mental attitude life-coaching motivational tape made specifically to help bMX riders win races. He drew the shades, turned down the lights and all the Hoods laid out on beds and the floor, listening to that fuckin’ thing for 20 minutes. I was tripping and laughing at the same time." —Mark “Lew” Lewman
[Book Outtake Exclusive for Albion] Mike Daily: [Harold] McGoo [McGruther] would like to know: “Hardcore commitment vs. financial realism: Why the giant conflict, and do you regret any decisions you made in the name of either one?” Kevin Jones: Not really. I don’t have any regrets with the riding. I always had the trouble of thinking about bike riding and how to make money doing it. I never really saw any way for myself to make that work the way that I wanted to. If I could have found a way, or if I knew of a way that it would work for me, then I probably would have done it. But I never really saw that working for me. Trying to ride and then somehow translate that into the money just never seemed to work. I always just knew that the riding was what I wanted to do, so as long as I kept doin’ that, then that’s good enough and somehow things will work out. I don’t have any regrets. I’m still riding. I don’t see any end to it.
It’s almost more popular than manuals, I noticed.What do you remember about the feeling of first doing the hang-5 and hang nothing? The hang-5 was cool, but it wasn’t like a big deal, really. It was like, whatever. Peg wheelies were already out so it was kind of like the peg wheelie, more or less. Kind of like a fiddle trick. Because back then when we did peg wheelies, it wasn’t like we were really doin’ a trick. It was just like a starting point, or something you’d do to do something else. Or just something to do. It’s pretty much how the hang-5 was. I mean, it was a trick, but if you just did that, it wasn’t like you really did anything. It would be like, okay: you’re gonna do hang-5, you’re gonna go forward and then go into something. You know? So I don’t think of it as a big trick. It didn’t take long. I did it pretty much instantly once I decided to do it. There wasn’t practice involved
Are you noticing how popular that is right now? What, the hang-5?
aggro rag & The Hoods
What’s really interesting about that is when you go to a skatepark now, so many street kids who really don’t have much foundation in flatland are doing hang-5 and hang nothings — no brakes on the bikes — as part of their skatepark riding. Yeah.
Were you doin’ it as fast as you wanted to? Could you go full speed? Over maybe like five minutes, I went faster and faster and faster until I was going at a medium speed, like on a slant down a hill. I didn’t go at full-speed-pedal or anything on the first day, but it didn’t take much longer.
Photo: Devin Feil
Stevie Churchill | www.federalbikes.com