(photo credit:Murphy Lee Moschetta)
Over the last few years I have come to realize I’m no longer just another BMX guy. I mean, I still ride BMX all the time but I’m not one of the guys. I’m the old BMX guy. Seems there are more and more of us these days. Some got off the bike for a number of years and decided to get back on. Some, like me, have been riding the whole time. It’s really an interesting place to be and I can’t help feel like something is familiar about it.
Back in the 80’s, we were lucky to be a part of the first wave of freestyle. You’ll often hear old guys talk about how great things were “back in the day”. Honestly, I think it has more to do with the age we were at. As teens, people get infatuated with things and start to define themselves by the groups to which they belong. We were the Freestylers. It was exciting to find ourselves at the beginning of a new sport. For some of us, we got to help define what the sport was. We made up the tricks. Back then you could come up with a handful of new moves every month. Today, we get a handful of new moves a year by everyone. I’m not talking about another whip or spin added. I mean a completely new position or move. We were The First.
Today as one of the old guys who kept riding, I realize once again we are the first. The first generation of riders not to stop when life, relationships, work, kids or whatever else got in the way. We are continuing to push the limits. We have no idea how long people can still do this. Eventually our bodies will give out and we’ll have to stop, but for most of us, the limit isn’t in sight even if our own mortality is.
When we all started riding as little kids, we got into it because it was fun. Every jump or trick was important and we felt it. We couldn’t do everything but we enjoyed pushing ourselves. Eventually, riding became important to many of us with contest, shows, sponsors or video parts. It became a job, an obsession. It was still fun but there were other motivations behind why we did it. Riding took on a whole new purpose. Eventually, most of us left the “pro” life behind and what I’ve noticed is that riding has come back full circle as to why we do it; simply for the fun. Our riding doesn’t have to have purpose anymore. We do it because we enjoy doing it.
It’s uncomfortable as hell to ride as an old guy. All the moves you did effortlessly are difficult or damn impossible anymore. We have to pick and choose carefully. Putting limits on ourselves goes against everything we grew up doing. I half jokingly tell people I can’t do tricks for fun anymore. Yeah, I’m sure I can still do a one handed, no footed 360 but I don’t do it. If you offer me $500 to see it, I’ll bust one out but it’s not going to be just for fun anymore. I’ve got too much rust and too much to lose.
One salvation about being the old guy is that there is a certain liberty in not having to constantly progress and be better. Just getting out riding is enough. Some sessions are spent doing things I learned 30 years ago or like tonight, spending 60 minutes on a move I’ve never done before. Cruising around the skatepark enjoying the carve, relearning an old trick or trying something new is all it has to be. No expectations, no pressure. It’s not that I’m not trying anymore. Hell, I’m trying about as hard as I ever did. It’s about enjoying the moment, perfecting the art. Not doing it all, just doing what you feel. With decades of experience to rely upon, our skill set is well formed and we can catch a groove in ways we couldn’t as up and comers. Riding is more refined these days. Guys like Simon Tabron or John Yull have purposefully stopped doing many tricks just to focus on a personal journey. While it seems limiting, they are finding new boundaries inside their box and becoming better at what they do than they ever were. BMX has become whatever we want it to be.
Some of us old guys still compete and push ourselves to be top riders. Others stay hidden in the woods or their back yards and private spots. Chasing the dream of being a pro rider is behind us. Chasing the dream of being the best rider we can be is still very much alive. The same dream we had when we blasted off the curb for the first time. All the accolades, contests, shows and achievements don’t mean anything while we are riding. We are in the moment and it’s the same moment as when we were 14 years old.
So I offer a tip of the hat to all the other old guys out there still riding their BMX bikes. Keep leading the way. To all the young riders out there I offer one bit of advice. Next time you see the old guy in the flannel riding, don’t snake him. Let him take his run first. He’s got to make the most out of the runs he has left.