I was trying to write a blog post this week with the pressure coming from my publisher/editor-in-chief/my wife. But with me having a flu (I haven’t had one for almost a year) my lazy bones took over. My mind stopped functioning, grammar worsened and my gray matter preferred holding the TV’s remote instead. I tried to fight back by reading a book, Digital Fortress, but every time I sniff I get distracted and it left me no choice but to put it down often. I had to cancel badminton and gym sessions as well and confined my activities within our sofa, bed, sofa, bed and the ever attractive TV.
Luckily, TV shows lately are quite new, at least for me, and I enjoyed most of it. Last night’s Amazing Video’s episode: Stunts Gone Bad had my sadistic side pumped up as I was laughing my heart out while skateboarders and BMX’ers crash and burn. And just before I went into deep sleep, I heard David Letterman mentioning that Kevin Robinson achieved a 27-foot ramp flight. I know he must have been clueless who first set the 25-foot mark. Only an avid BMX’er knew about that—and I was one of them.
So today I tried to go back to a book review on Mat Hoffman’s book which I’m very sure I have posted. However, I almost freaked out when I can’t find it on my multiply.com site, Blogspot and even here on WordPress. I don’t know, but I got quite confused and began to suspect if the TRANSLTR really exists. Haha. I got it all mixed up now. TRANSLTR is a fictional (is it really?) powerful machine capable of intercepting emails (or blogs?) and other electronic signals that may have the sinister intention towards Uncle Joe’s government. Thankfully that’s fiction, thanks to Digital Fortress. Intercepted by the TRANSLTR or just stuck on my files, here’s the book review.
Once a rider, always a rider. In the old school days, everyone in our group knows at least one bit of Mat Hoffman. We were into BMX flatland back then and despite Mat being famous in the vert sessions, no one really cares. Anybody who is rad, we idolize.
My wife got this from a book sale section in SM Dasmarinas while I was having my caffeine fix in a Dunkin Donut shop. Little did I know that the espresso load will become a warm up for what I’d be reading for the next hours until a few days more. The book sent adrenaline rush all over my body, it was as if I’m just in front of Mat Hoffman’s life as it unfolds. If I could have gotten myself on a BMX at that very moment, I would have delivered a couple of my favorite old school routines just like I did way back in late high school. Perfect trick or not, it wouldn’t have mattered.
The energy that the book brings is infectious. Reading Mat Hoffman Ride of My Life (with Mark Lewman) from start to finish sent me cringing, smiling, sighing or just plainly amazed—very amazed.
Nostalgic BMX daydreams, of course, come in every now and then in between pages. An ex-BMXer like me just can’t stop it. Needless to say, my BMX experiences weren’t even near Mat’s. In his ramp scale, mine is just a mere tiny curve past flat bottom. Yes, it was just that. Even then, my riding years gave me great memories, not to mention bruises and countless embarrassment. “No pain, no gain” as we always used to say.
The 311-page, hardbound book comes with a great compilation of awesome photos—just in case one wonders what in the world a can-can is—which covered almost every aspect of Mat’s life. Here I learned that he was just five years old when he started riding—horses first. But his need for speed and flight developed in no time. Mat was destined to be the Condor.
Influenced by his older brother, he soon got introduced to motorbikes, ramps and their roof. Yes, you read it right, roof. Riders, or riders in the making, have different perspectives of common everyday things: a roof is to ‘air time’—when I was a kid I jumped a couple of times from our roof top into piles of leaves. (If only I had a bike at that time.); an innocent hand rail is to grinds; a plywood sheet is to ramps; a dry swimming pool is to jam sessions and the list goes on. Mat’s list is one that most of us just can’t predict or let alone imagine.
Mat’s skills eventually got him into a manufacturer-sponsored team and went into either doing demos or competitions, starting as an amateur. (I was surprised to learn that during this time Dennis McCoy, another BMX icon, was already doing pro.)
Of course, his honeymoon with the bicycle scene didn’t come without any hitch. This was when the BMX recession happened. But it was also when Mat proved his love and passion for the sport. Instead of just quitting like everyone did, he founded Hoffman Bikes so he could manufacture bikes at his own specification and in his own backyard—he was 17 years old then. Soon enough, this backyard industry grew to become one of the biggest in the BMX business.
As his riding skills and confidence progress he started inventing—no, this doesn’t involve lab work—sick and original tricks, one of which is the famous 900. Think of it as two and a half bike turns while on vertical flight—just one turn or a 360 already requires superb bike skills.
Another thing that no one can take away from Mat is his famous, over spec ramp and the amazing height that he achieved from it. That ramp was 21 feet high and he was able to get another 25 feet of vertical flight from the coping which made more believers and, as expected, some skeptics. Until now, no one has come close to that feat. Not one even dared.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves bikes especially BMX as one will surely enjoy reading about the evolution of tricks, bikes, apparel and riders’ skills. Fans of the Jackass will appreciate this as well. By the way, an advice to non-riders: avoid randomly picking and reading the pages as one might end up thinking that he’s reading a medical book or a maniac’s death wish. The long list of Mat’s injury, mostly from doing his bike stunts, is enough for someone naïve to place it alongside a surgeon’s or nurses’ reviewers section. And lastly, while reading this book having an air sickness bag right behind may be a good idea.
Postscript: Now I remember, I sent this review as an entry to Philstar’s My Favorite Book but it looks like they wanted it to remain just my favorite. Hahaha. I’m thinking though that not much people can relate to this book anyway. Besides, BMX riders prefer the streets and I bet that they’re unlikely to pick and read the Philippine Star—and this makes me a “has been.’ Ti abi.