Almost

The other day I was riding my bike and saw a name on a contractor’s truck.  The last name reminded me of a person I worked with at my first job. This story came back to me.

When I was in high school I worked in a nice restaurant.  Well, nice for York, PA anyway.  The employees were high schoolers, college students and full on grown ups.  It was an interesting mix and I got to see real lives of people beyond my peer group.  We all got along for the most part and were a good crew.  Occasionally, someone would have a party and we’d get together after work at some apartment or house.

On New Year’s Eve going into 1985 I remember we got out of work around 1 AM and went to Flossie’s house.  She was a cool woman, probably around 40 years old.  She had a nice little house with a raging party inside.  She had made beds everywhere upstairs so people could sleep over after getting properly liquored up in celebration of the new year.

Beth was a 17 year old table busser and she had already been drinking by the time she got there.  Walking into the party, she was handed champagne and quickly gulped down a couple of glasses and then switched to beer.  The music was blasting and everyone was dancing and snacking.  I saw Beth with a bottle of Jack Daniels and she was swigging it between dance moves.  She was getting pretty sloppy drunk.

After an hour or so she realized she had enough.  I helped her upstairs and led her to the bathroom.  After a few dry heaves, nothing came up.  She went to lay down in one of the bed rooms as she really couldn’t walk anymore.  I tucked her in and went back down to the party.

A short while later, one of the waiters from the restaurant, a slimy 50 something year old man with bad hair, crazy teeth and perpetually smelling of Winstons went upstairs.  Rob saw Beth laying in the bed and couldn’t pass up the chance.  He sat on the edge of the bed and caressed Beth’s face.  He started touching her body while she was passed out.  Beth awoke with this pudgy, middle aged man laying on top of her.

She could barely focus and was so drunk she could hardly move.  Rob was kissing her face and saying to her, “What’s the oldest man you’ve ever been with?  You need a man with experience.”  She didn’t respond.  She just stayed pinned under him, so drunk she couldn’t quite understand what was happening to her.  She was completely helpless.

I happened to go to the upstairs bathroom and caught a glimpse of what was going on in the bedroom.  Bursting in, I grabbed Beth’s hand and said, “You have to come downstairs and dance to this song!” Rob rolled off her and I hustled Beth down the stairs carefully.  She was barely walking.  I got her to the living room and I danced as she tried to stagger to the rhythm of the music.  Halfway through the song she mumbled “Thanks”.

Nothing was said of the incident after that.  The closest thing was a week later at work, Rob got a quiet moment with Beth and called her a “Party Pooper”.

Looking back, as adults, we see this differently than I did as a 17 year old.  Was this an attempted rape?  Was it sexual assault?  Was it misogyny?  Was it a power imbalance?  It could be all those things.  While trying to define this incident, I must let you know I left out a key part of this story.

Beth doesn’t exist.  Neither does pudgy gross Rob.  This story happened but it was to me.  The adult was a nasty woman named Mary with too much blue eye shadow.  It was a woman laying on top of a passed out 17 year old young man.

Now, as you were just trying to define what this incident was in your head, take a minute and think about the fact that the victim was a male, not a female.  Does that make a difference in your gut reaction?

As a man, I’m acutely aware of women at my kids’ school seeing me as a potential predator.  This comes from both the parents and the staff.  I see it at stores and restaurants.  Their stares and questions infuriate me.  I have to swallow the fire in me and just let them be.  Just because I have a dick doesn’t mean I want to stick it in you or your child.  What I wouldn’t give to be able to unload on them about how I was almost raped by a woman when I was a teen.  It was a fucked up situation and I’m so glad my best friend happened to see me and drag me out of the room.

Statistically, our children are safer now than when we were kids.  Unfortunately, the media loves a good horror story and scaring the public gets ratings.  I’m not saying there aren’t bad people out there and one child getting harmed is too many.  Let’s just take a moment to reconsider how we view people, male and female.  How do we view ourselves based upon how we view them?

 

 

 

 

 

By brettdownsconspiracy

Lucky Penny

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When I was five I lived two blocks away from this bank conveniently located at a 7-11 store.  My dad would give me my allowance on Saturdays, a dime and a nickel.  The goal every week was to find a penny so I could get the small 16 cent Slurpee, cherry of course.

I’d sit and look at this concrete slant and think about it.  Even though I had just learned to ride my bike, I knew this was something special. The angle beckoned to me.  On the top side was a driveway with the wall creating a curb so cars wouldn’t drive over.  I looked at this bank from all angles and somehow knew that I wanted to ride my bike on it.  I had no idea how to get over the five inch high curb at the top and knew the kink at the bottom would surely cause pain if I rode straight down it.  Approaching it straight on to ride up it like a jump was out because there was no way I could pop a wheelie that high.  A couple of times I approached it at an angle, lifting my front wheel an inch or so only to feel the tire bonk and bounce back to the parking lot.  I just couldn’t figure it out.

After high school, I moved to Philadelphia and wasn’t too far from where I had learned to ride as a little kid.  As soon as I learned my way around, I went back to the old neighborhood and rode down the little alleyway, hit the sidewalk jumps and went back to 7-11.

As usual, cars were parked in the lot but there was just enough room.  I cranked hard a couple of times and charged the wall.  I lifted my front wheel and met the slope perfectly, carving an arc I had dreamt of for 13 years. I swooped up watching my front tire come within a couple of inches from the top.   Rolling off the wall, I quickly looped back around and I put in an extra crank and rode right out to the elusive driveway at the top.  A whole body smile of satisfaction came over me.  I looked down at where I had just been and knew that I had somehow fulfilled a destiny that I had been leading to all my life.

With a quick hop over the curb, I dove back into the bank.  This time I knew how to lift my front wheel and bend my knees to make the transition from the concrete to the blacktop smoothly.  With a whoosh, I sped into the parking lot and rolled across.  I stopped and turned to look back at what I had just done.  I felt warm inside, complete.

As I was enjoying this moment, one of the store employees came out wagging a finger at me.  “You can’t ride your bicycle on there!” he shouted.  I just looked at him.  “Yes I can. I finally can”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By brettdownsconspiracy

Bike of the Year?

(Thoughts while riding yesterday)

Want to know exactly what is wrong in the bike industry?  This bike just won the bike of the year award from Velo News.

http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/12/bikes-and-tech/2015-velo-awards-cannondale-wins-road-bike-of-year_391267

 

 

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Please pay attention to what is ironically, the bottom line :

“Prices range from $4,260 for the 15-pound Ultegra model to $12,790 for the sub-13-pound Dura-Ace equipped Black Inc. ride.”

I understand that the best of the best equipment is always exciting but seriously, how many are they going to sell at $4200 much less at over $12K?  Is this bike really going to impact cycling in general in anyway?  In my opinion, the bike of the year is probably selling 1000 units a month via Wal-Mart.

A couple of years ago I wrote an entry about what the bicycle industry was getting wrong.  https://brettdownsconspiracy.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/asking-the-right-question/

Not to beat a dead horse but the best way for the bike industry to grow is through getting more people on bikes, not making bikes most people can’t afford and have no need for.  Bike companies and shops make money selling “bread and butter” bikes- those priced under $600-$1000.  Those are for the new rider or casual rider.  These bikes are the way people can be introduced to cycling as an activity, transportation, exercise or sport.  If those bikes are dialed, the rider will enjoy his experience and continue riding.  Another bike rider created is the future of the industry.

It’s time to stop being short sighted and invest in the future.  This means taking care of the entry level rider, making the experience better and working toward cycling infrastructure.   By making bikes accessible we can profit both monetarily and as an industry.

It’s a hell of a lot easier to sell ten $100 bikes than one $1000 bike.  It makes more sense to serve 9 more customers too.

 

By brettdownsconspiracy

The Creek Jump.

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The woods I grew up near were probably only about three or four acres.  The creek flowing down the center was the main artery splitting the road side from the apartment side.  There was a wide trail, almost enough for a Jeep to drive through that was my main thoroughfare as a kid.  There were some off shoots leading to hills or the creek that were very choppy but the main trail was smooth enough for my Huffy Thunder Road bicycle.  I spent a lot of time in these woods, riding and hiking.  In the winter when the creek would freeze over, we’d hike the ice all the way to town.  Of course we fell through and the bread bags my mom made me wear between my socks and boots never quite did the trick to keep my feet dry but I didn’t care.

In the summer the woods were my adventure zone.  There was a big hill with a rope swing, a creek full of minnows, frogs and the occasional snake.  Hell, a couple of times I even found tattered issues of Playboy Magazine. I looked at them with the confused eyes of a child, not really understanding what I was seeing but just excited because I knew I wasn’t supposed to be seeing it.  Barbie Benton was my first crush but I digress…

I had seen Evel Knievel’s half assed attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon and even though it was a failure, I was inspired.  I had a bike and the creek was calling to me.  I found a bend in the creek, almost ninety degrees to the right that looked like the most promising spot.  The outside of the bend had eroded from whenever the water was high and created a bank about four feet tall, which was just a couple inches below my height at the time.  The inside of the bend was at water level and sandy without too many rocks.  Eyeballing this spot for a while, I slowly started creating a runway by moving branches, rocks and pulling weeds.  I’d work and try to stomp down a path with my size four Chuck Taylors but it never really came together.  The brush and undergrowth were just too heavy.  Still, I remembered the spot and thought about it as the Summer turned into Autumn and then Winter.

The next Spring, I was riding down in the woods and decided to check out the jump.  I could see little traces of the previous work I had put in but old man Winter had been on my side.  Since it was still early in the Spring, the undergrowth hadn’t started in earnest and I knew that I had to get it done.

With an expert eye, I stood on the high side and looked at the creek.  The water was running at a good pace yet it was clear enough to see the rocks at the bottom.  The bank side had about two and a half feet of water that turned into only an inch or so before the other side.  I scoped out my landing spot, looking for hard packed sand and no obstructions.  My path was as good as it was going to get and like Evel, I took a few run ups to check my speed.  It was probably about a twelve foot jump to land safely.  From launching myself down flights of four or five stairs I knew I could get the distance if I could get the speed.  I turned around and went back to the starting point.

Mustering up all the courage a nine year old can find, I mashed down onto my pedals and began my approach.  Handlebars rattling as the front wheel seemed to find every root and rut on the way, I pedaled with determination.  I was going too fast and knew there was no holding back and in an instant I was gloriously flying off the miniature cliff and over the cold rushing water.

The glory of my launch was short lived.  I was heading down.  I wasn’t going to make it.  The splash of my bike was explosive but nothing compared to what happened next.  Somehow, I had managed to land with my sprocket over a head sized rock about half a foot below the water.    The bike stopped dead. Now anyone with an understanding of momentum knows that just because the bicycle stopped, doesn’t mean I would.  Crouching my legs like I would for any landing, when the bike stopped it had the effect of bouncing me as if I had landed on a trampoline.  My death grip on the handlebars didn’t budge but my feet soon found themselves flying over my head.  By the time I had spun three quarters of the way through a front flip my hands gave out and I drifted away from the bike, landing flat on my back into eight inches of ice cold water.

I immediately sprung up, shocked at what had just happened.  I was wet and cold so I tuned and grabbed my bike, dragging it to the intended landing spot.  While finally on the other side, I did what any good kid would do, inspect the bike for damages.  The Thunder Road didn’t come with a traditional chain guard but a metal ring attached to the sprocket that was slightly bigger than the area covered by the chain.  This ring had folded over until it was touching the chain.  There would be no more pedaling until I could get if fixed.  I picked up the bike and started home.

On this long walk of cold, wet defeat, I thought about what went wrong.  It didn’t even occur to me that I was lucky not to be hurt (one of the blessings of being a child).  When I got to the main path, I sat on the bike and pushed off the ground with my feet to roll the best I could.  I got back home and quickly stashed my bike, went to my room hiding my wet clothes in the bottom of the hamper and put my sneakers upside down on the radiator, hoping Mom wouldn’t make me go back outside in my wet shoes.  The fear of her finding out what I did was way worse than any hesitation I felt toward the jump.

That creek jump was the first challenge I ever really had think about and wasn’t sure if I was going to make.  Looking back, I’m amazed at how calculated I was in all aspects.  I thought it through but still wasn’t positive I’d make it.  I did, however, want it.  I gave it my best shot and came up short.  I never did go back and jump that creek but it had my respect.  About thirty years later I’d be riding with some friends and we joked about how we were just “hucking and hoping”.  Yeah, that’s what I do.

 

By brettdownsconspiracy

Jack’s bike check

One of my best friends told me that I’m doing my kids a disservice by giving them great bikes and making sure they always work properly.  They will never know the exquisite pain of trying to make a hoopty perform at a high level.  Well, I like nice bikes and since I can offer my kids something great to ride, why not?  I make sure to let them know the value of their rides and that they need to take care of them.

I’m especially proud of Jack’s bike.  It’s one of my old flatland frames so it fits him perfectly.  At age 10, a normal sized bike is just too much for him to handle.  He just left for the day’s adventures and I snapped a few pictures before he headed out.  He loves this bike more than anything so I told him we Should do a bike check.

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Frame:  2006 Haro M7, custom powder coat

Fork:  Odyssey flatland, custom powder coat

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Seat: Haro

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Pedals:  Colony

Cranks: SE

Sprocket: Odyssey MDS

Chain: KMC

Seatpost: SE

Brakes: Tektro with Odyssey straddle hanger

Seatpost clamp: Mirraco

Pegs: Black Ops plastic

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Wheels: Haro Hypno, Double wall rear, Single wall front.

Tires: Haro La Mesa

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Grips: Cult Vans (just put them on)

Bars: SE Power Wing

Lever: Odyssey Monolever Trigger

Stem:  S&M Lil’ Redneck

Gyro: Generic with Odyssey cables

What do you think?  Not a bad start for a kid.  I built it up for him before he went to Woodward this past summer.  I wanted to make sure he had a bike that would give him the most enjoyment from his week.  His thank you to me was learning 360’s.  Looks like we both won.

By brettdownsconspiracy

Dating or Ramps?

I showed up with good intentions and a basic idea of what I wanted.

Thinking that it would be a fun challenge for myself, I got my stuff together and left the comfort of home to throw caution to the wind.

I met a bunch of new people.  Some were immediately likable and some were odd.  I didn’t care because I had a bigger plan in mind.

I surveyed the area, got prepared and set up barriers.

Then it was time.  I gave it one last good look and steadied myself.  I watched the others jump in.  They were eager and full of youthful confidence.  Being older and more experienced, I decided I better err to the side of caution and protect myself.  I protected my most vulnerable parts.  After all, I’d been hurt and not fully healed.

I studied and focused what I was about to attempt.  Strange that I had butterflies in my stomach when it was something I had done a million times.  I convinced myself that I knew what I was doing and it would be ok.  My reserve steeled, I knew I would have to just commit and throw myself and not worry about the what ifs.  Just trust in myself.

There was one little obstacle first that I hardly noticed.  My experience got me over that and then it was time for the big leap.  I hardly remember the launch or the actual move of my first attempt but I do remember the harsh thud at the end.  Damn Brett, tried too hard.

Relax.

A little less next time.

Second try, not too different than the first but the confidence in myself was building after the initial go.  Halfway through I knew I was falling short, I sucked it up and absorbed the impact.  I was ok.  Just had a better understanding of what I needed to do.

I got back in the queue and felt my self assurance growing.  This time everything went perfectly.  I was conscious of each moment and spotted where I wanted to be and made myself go there.  I was smiling as I realized I could still do this.  The floating sensation was familiar.  Confidence and satisfaction radiated from my smile.  It was going to be a good day.

But that one success was over and I had to try it again. I mingled with the others for a while and felt the nerves starting to build.  I knew I had done it perfectly but my reluctance still had me shaking.  Each try was the potential for disaster but I wanted it.  I dove in a fourth time.

Everything felt fine with the set up and approach.  Once I let it fly, I was off balance and knew this wasn’t going the way I wanted.  I had been in this situation before and knew what I had to do.  I prepared myself hoping the failure would be a minor one.  It was.

But after I touched back down to earth, something gave.  Things went screwy and sideways and I felt forces beyond my control slam me.  Hard.  Suddenly I was a jumbled heap. Pain was all over my body in big and little ways.  I picked myself up and stepped aside to one of the boundaries I had set to assess the damages.

The worst pain was an old, familiar one I had felt before.  I was hoping I hadn’t made it worse.  There was also a new pain in my gut.  My chest ached with a throbbing reminder that I was still alive and this was going to hurt for a while.

Funny thing was, this time I was laughing to myself.  The pain was real and intense yet I was laughing because I had protected myself first and sure enough, it saved me from much worse injury.  Maybe I wasn’t able to do it like I used to but at least this time I was prepared and when it all blew up I knew I’d be ok.

Now, two weeks later, I wake up with the soreness still with me.  I notice it all day long.  It’s slowly fading and I’m getting back to life as it was before without the constant reminder of my unsuccessful leap.  Many people would be hurt like this and give up trying.  I know that some day I’ll do it again.  What can I say, it’s worth it to me.  I don’t regret getting hurt because it feels so good when it all comes together perfectly.

Or maybe I just don’t know better…

By brettdownsconspiracy
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Stopping to go forward.

I’ve previously written about how during my divorce years I lost the ability to ride flatland due to my over active anxiety.  There was just no focus on what I was doing.  If I rode at all any tricks were either on autopilot or not pulled which took away any motivation to ride.  A couple of years ago I finally got some peace in my life and found I was able to once again click into flatland mode.  The concentration came back.  I had gotten very rusty and lost some tricks but I could be creative again on my bike and have fun.

Over the last couple of weeks there have been some personal issues in my life that had me spiral back into anxiety and depression. Honestly, it scared the shit out of me.  I didn’t want to go back to that dark place.  I saw too many huge problems that were out of my control.  Any focus on the task at hand was impossible.  I realized I needed to climb out of the hole I was digging.

Around all of our homes there are plenty of what I call “two minute jobs”, the little things that have to be done but since they are so small they are easy to ignore.  Well, since my anxiety was killing my ability to focus on big things I started knocking the little ones out.  After two weeks I can sit back in my home and look around and see all the small changes making my life a bit better.  Home is getting more peaceful and we all need that in our lives.  It makes me feel better but there is still the question of riding.

I woke up early Tuesday morning and dragged my ass out of bed.  Within 15 minutes I was on my CX bike and going down the road.  I had no destination in mind but I knew I needed to get some exercise and burn off some energy.  My brain was racing as I pedaled hard and fast as if I was trying to out run my worries.  After my ride I felt better that I had at least gotten out but the stress was still with me.  I realized I needed to try to learn to relax my mind as well as my body.  I started reading up on the bigger issues that were bothering me to educate myself and better understand them.  It helped and by Friday I was ready to try to ride flatland.

Again, I found myself out of bed and getting on my bike before work.  I went to my flatland spot, took some sips of the water I brought with me and started.  I realized I had no idea what I wanted to do so I thought of one particular combo and decided to do it ten times.  As I was finishing I thought of the next combo.  Ten times.  I found my mind drifting and waning toward my problems.  I also noticed that when that happened I couldn’t even begin to pull my trick, reach my goal.  I made a conscious effort to focus on what I was doing at that very moment.  It helped.  I ended up doing about five different combos ten times each.

At the end of my session I was covered in sweat and went over to my water bottle to get a drink and wind down.  I laid my bike on it’s side and sat on it as the water tumbled down my throat.  I could feel the beads of sweat dripping down my body.  Suddenly, I felt a stinging sensation on my leg.  I looked down and saw a black tire burn mark with blood splattered around it.  I hadn’t even realized that I had done that.  It made me smile knowing that I had been focused and in the moment.  I didn’t feel the repeated tire rub against my leg.  I didn’t notice I was bleeding down toward my sock.  I had shut down my anxiety and stress and been in the moment.

In the shower I was cleaning my leg and my worries started coming back to me.  I realized I was able to let them go.  I don’t mean ignoring them, but just putting them where they belong.  Once again the bike taught me a lesson that will get me through life. Even though a shower wouldn’t heal the wound, I could let my anxiety rinse down the drain like the black mark and blood from my leg.  Just like riding, a peaceful mind takes focus, determination and is within our reach if we make a determined effort to find it.

By brettdownsconspiracy

The Right Tool for the Job.

Another big box showed up at my door this past weekend.  Isn’t that always fun?  Even if you know what’s in there, it’s still got a tinge of Christmas morning to it.  I opened it up and there was a new bike frame inside.  This is a new model that hasn’t even hit the stores yet.  Yeah, being in the business has it’s occasional perk.  It’s a BMX frame for skatepark use.  Well, that’s what I’m going to use it for.

Sunday morning I loaded it into the car and headed down to my favorite skatepark.  On the drive down I was thinking about my riding in the past week.  It went something like this:

Sunday: I took my 29’er out for a little ride while my son rode my single speed MTB.  I found a gravel road I want to take him on and had to get him to try the right bike for it.

Monday:  I had to take my car in to get some work done so I threw the SS on the roof, dropped off the car and hit the woods for an hour before work

Tuesday: I rode a little flatland in the evening by myself.  First session in the dark this fall

Wednesday:  Just a quick errand run on my grocery getter bike with the kids.

Thursday: Another errand run with the kids and some tricks out front with the boys

Friday: CX bike ride on the road and gravel with about 40 people at night.  Got to pull out the big light for that one!

Saturday:  Errands on the grocery getter, a good session of flatland and a cruise around the neighborhood on my new frame.

People are always amazed at all my bikes but I guess anyone who is into something has a lot of it.  What I like is that all my bikes have different uses and reasons.  I rode only BMX for years and enjoyed it the whole time.  Eventually getting into the bike business, my friends got me onto big wheels and reminded me that it’s just fun to pedal, explore and get from A to B by bicycle.  At times, each bike is my favorite.  At times I don’t want to see that bike for months.

It’s good to be able to mix things up.  I never get burned out on riding because I do so many different styles.  They say variety is the spice of life so I guess my bike collection is like Baskin-Robbins.  And who doesn’t like ice cream?

My main bikes-

Flatland bike

Flatland bike

New skatepark bike

New skatepark bike

SS MTB

SS MTB

Grocery getter

Grocery getter

29'er

29’er

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City bike

City bike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By brettdownsconspiracy

Asking the right question.

As most of you know, I’m a BMX’er.  I ride and also work within the BMX industry.  I sell bikes to bike shops and the vibe is BMX bike sales are dead.  This has shops and companies scrambling over how to increase sales and sell what inventory they already have.  It’s a pretty tense situation.  This week a dealer said he read in an industry journal that BMX sales have dropped 27%.  That’s a lot!  I remember when BMX died in 1989 and I think back to that time.  Companies either folded up their tents or diversified and went to the next big thing – mountain bikes.  Now, there really isn’t that option and just for the record, scooter sales are way down too.  I keep hearing the same question “What can we do to sell more bikes?” so often that it is beginning to drive me crazy.

Shop owners are constantly telling me the bike business, not just BMX, has completely changed in the last few years.  Mail order retailers have hit them hard.  The internet can be a curse when a customer looks at a price tag and then checks his phone for the best price.  Everyone says there are too many distributors and brands to make it easy for a shop to spend money on BMX inventory that will actually go out the door.  It gets to a point where the floor space in the shop is more valuable selling other types of bikes so BMX dwindles and consumers don’t even have the option to consider BMX.

Companies are frantically marketing their brands and riders on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other web based communication with their fans.  They spend tons of money sending riders/teams to exotic locations to shoot video for the latest web edits that are on all the social and BMX media sites.  It’s never been easier to follow a favorite rider or learn about the new latest and greatest.  The products themselves are the best they have ever been in my 30+ years of jumping my bike.  It’s actually a great time in BMX right now so it’s incredibly frustrating that the industry is in a down swing.

Lord knows the supply side of the equation is bursting at the seams but the problem issue we are facing is the lacking demand.  Some blame it on the market being diluted with too many brands.  They may be right.  This puts me in an awkward situation because not only do I firmly believe in the company I work for and their products but many BMX brands are owned or run by personal friends of mine and I don’t want to see any of them lose their jobs or businesses.  So this is a problem hits close to home.  I’ve been trying to figure out a solution that is beneficial to us all.

Somewhere between bike shop visits on the New Jersey Turnpike I realized that everyone is asking the wrong question.  The right question is “What can we do to get kids back on bikes?”. 

Last week I did a flatland show at a summer camp with a friend.  Picture 500-600 screaming kids and counselors getting stoked on seeing a couple of guys doing tricks on bikes. We weren’t doing the toughest current tricks either.  Maybe our riding looked more entertaining and attainable to the unknowing than what they see on TV.   As I rode around seeing the enthusiasm on their faces I also knew that these were the potential customers for the local shops I had just visited.  Here I was showing what can be done on a BMX bike directly to the demographic that would buy bikes.  The crowd was stoked on BMX at that very moment and there was no striking when the iron was hot.  I asked my friend how many kids he rode in front of a year.  He guessed 20,000 at various schools, camps, fairs and other events.  I realized that for a couple of thousand dollars a company could sponsor his team to put logos on the ramps, trailers, vehicles and jerseys and get a brand out there directly to people excited by BMX riding.  More importantly, it’s a way to get new blood into the market.  Where else would two grand directly reach those already riding as well as recruit new riders and their parents who buy them bikes?

I talked to a shop owner about shows and he said in the 90’s he hired a factory team to do a demo for $750 and after the show sold a ton of bikes because everyone was so into what they had just seen.  It was definitely worth his investment.  He’d love to do it again.   I told him that I could get a team for a show but they weren’t affiliated with a brand so there weren’t the big stars names to draw the local BMX crowd but he didn’t care.  He figured that it’s probably more important to gain new customers rather than just the few BMX’ers he already knew.

Everyone talks about internet marketing but it might be time to go back to in-your-face marketing.  BMX is undeniable when witnessed live.  Companies are already sending riders around to globe to ride in the middle of the night to produce a web edit.  How about putting some teams, factory and co-sponsored, back on the road to show the masses how amazing BMX bikes can be.  It doesn’t have to only be about the right now with a video with a limited shelf life.  This could be an investment into the future of the sport.  If there isn’t a demand-Build it!  Short term benefits will be there but more importantly so will the long term and all for the same marketing dollar.

The industry can no longer rely on a new crop of 13 year olds popping up every year to buy bikes.  We can’t rely on the big TV contests to make kids want to ride a bike.  Seeing a triple backflip on a mega ramp is like seeing the Lion Tamer at the circus to most people – incredible but not something they could ever aspire to do.  It’s time for the industry to stop being passive and get to work showing the world the amazing world of BMX in all it’s forms.  The sales will surely follow.  Mat Hoffman did it with the Sprocket Jockey shows in the 90’s.  Hell, Bob Haro created an industry when he did it in the 80’s!

Over 15 years ago I wrote about the impact the “Extreme Games” (X Games) could have on BMX.  I said no matter if it blew up the sport or ruined it I’d still be out riding in my parking lot.  Guess what?  I still am.  But it would be nice to have some new riders to ride with.

Conflict at the skatepark.

Yesterday I took my nine year old son to a skatepark. He was having fun but I kept seeing his head spin everytime someone dropped the F word. He’s a good kid and won’t hang around others if they are cursing. He just knows it’s wrong. I wasn’t happy about the situation but what can you do when you are at a skatepark.

The park was full of bikes, boards and scooters. There was a group of about eight kids on scooters that kept all riding the bowls at the same time or standing right on the lip so nobody could ride that section. It was mildly annoying for me but Jack took a slam when he was dropping in and a scooter kid snaked him. Jack was sore in more than just the physical sense.

After a while three or four black kids showed up on beat down department store bikes. They were all having fun but the scooter kids started giving them a hard time. I didn’t think much of their banter back an forth until I heard one biker say “That’s why I don’t like to come here, they’re racist.”

I went over to the kid and said that if any of the other kids said something messed up, let me know. He looked a little confused but smiled. Jack and I kept sessioning the park as the two opposing groups kept calling each other names and arguing. Jack came up to me and said “That kid is like eight years old and cursing a lot.” It bothered him to see a kid even younger than he with such a bad mouth.

A couple of minutes later, I popped out and heard the foul mouthed eight year old call one of the bikers “nigger”. I threw down my bike and went right up to the kid.

“I don’t want to hear that word. That’s messed up and if I hear any of you say that I’m going to kick you out of the skatepark.”

The kid said to me “It’s not your park!”

He was right so I countered “But I’m bigger and I’ll everytime you come here I will throw your scooter over the fence!” as I pointed to the twelve footer next to us.

His face dropped.

I picked up my bike and rode away shaking my head. Only then did I notice a black father sitting on a ledge who had seen the whole thing. He just looked at me blankly. I muttered “Sorry” as I rode by. He just looked at me expressionless as if to say “It happens everyday…”

On the drive home I talked to Jack about that and apologized for freaking out in front of him but I just can’t tolerate the N word. He just looked me square in the eye and said “You should have thrown his scooter over the fence.”

By brettdownsconspiracy