Excuse me for jumping into Mr. Peabody’s time machine again.
Every fall there is an old school BMX ride in Philadelphia where a bunch of kooks ride 20+ year old bikes all over the city. It’s a lot of fun once the swap meet stops and the riding starts. I try to ride a different bike each year. This year my choice is a 1994 Hoffman Big Daddy. I got this frame on eBay about 10 years ago. It was used but it was one of the good ones before the Taiwan manufacturing changed it. A couple of days ago I began working on it. I had to rebuild the coaster brake hub and dig for headset parts. I know if I have issues with the bike it will be one of these two things. I disconnected the hand brakes to make the headset work easier. When it was time to actually take it out and ride it, I set it aside for when Jack got here.
Jack loves to test ride bikes so I knew he’d jump at the chance. I made him pick it up so he could feel how heavy it is. I told him that I did my best riding on a bike just like this. He rode up and down the street doing a few hops, framestands and skids. He said he liked it. I took a turn on it and it felt like coming home again. As we were trading the bike back and forth I explained the story of the Big Daddy to him. I told him Mat Hoffman sponsored Kevin and wanted him to design a flatland frame. Kevin and I were at his parents’ house and took all the things we liked from all the other frames and put them on one. I told Jack while it was a flatland frame, guys also rode vert, ramps and street on it. It was a great overall bike with amazing balance and as Mike Devitt (then owner of SE racing and the first builder of the Big Daddy frames) said “This is the strongest frame I have ever seen. I don’t know where it could break”. Jack didn’t seem to care that much. All he knew was he liked it and it felt different and fun.
As I watched him go around the corner to jump it off some new curbs I thought of how many hours I spent and tricks I learned on that bike. Then I thought of all the other riders that did so much more on theirs. That damn frame accomplished about as much in freestyle as any other. I have done a lot of of things to make riding better as a whole and basically nobody knows about them. I’m fine with that actually. But this frame is probably the thing I am most proud of. Now I’m not trying to take credit for it and it is Kevin’s signature model but I did have a big influence on the design and geometry. I look back at this bike as one of the best frames ever in BMX and I’m sure many other riders do as well. Just knowing a good chunk of it came from my head gives me a sense of satisfaction that I did something that counts.
To see Jack ride it blew me away. Out of all the things I have ever done, I’m proudest of my three great kids. Combining them with the Big Daddy overwhelmed me. The matching red of the bike and Jack’s clothes. Past and future colliding together in the present. I couldn’t help but smile.
Last spring I wrote about my friend Steve. While I was visiting him, his best friend was in a hospital bed dying of cancer. It was a tough and emotional time. I talked a lot with him and he told me that he really appreciated many of the things I said.
Last week as I was cleaning out my son’s gear bag from a week at Woodward, I came across this sticker. Steve owns a bicycle company called FBM.
As I was leaving Steve’s house early in the morning I left him a note on his desk. I wanted him to know that even though his friend was going, they shared a great life together that defined themselves. There should be no regrets as they had done more than most people ever will. The life cut short was full. Very full. My note read:
Finding this on a sticker hit me hard in a good way. Steve got my note and made a sticker out of it. People will see this and realize that the whole BMX thing is so much more than just doing tricks on bikes. It’s life. It feels awkward writing about this as I don’t really want credit but I am proud that once again in some odd fashion I have done something good for the sport and the riders. Another random thing that leaves a mark. That’s all I really want out of life at this point. Just leave the world a better place than I found it.
And I think I know what bike the sticker will go on….