The first quarter of this year was when I made my slow return to riding my BMX bike again. Our new place is less than five kilometers from a park where local BMX riders hang around. While my riding sessions haven’t been as regular as more than 20 years ago, I once again become aware and interested in the country’s and international BMX scene. And I can see that BMX sport continues to evolve. BMX riders are now more daring and the new tricks they can do are just unreal. My favorite flatland isn’t the flatland that I used to know. Good signs that behind the seemingly common fixies, MTB’s and Triathlon bikes, BMX too has become just as popular.
To prove that local BMX is gaining grounds, riders in the Philippines have been celebrating BMX day. It isn’t clear though when it first started. Even Google doesn’t offer a definite answer if, when and where the first BMX day originated. But July 23 seems to be the D-Day. So on Saturday riders of BMX bikes in the country gathered together in their respective rendezvous. Fans and pros alike pedaled around in numbers in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to celebrate. Knowing the potential of this sport, I would have loved to be part of this celebration.
Back in my younger years, we never had an annual BMX day event. In my days, every weekend is our BMX day and, for the lack of Facebook and social media, I only know that our team was the only BMX freestyler (hint on the term) team in Bacolod City. I even would bet that in the city’s BMX community anyone would recognize the name Linear Radicals. We were a familiar sight in the Bacolod City Lagoon—bikes were allowed inside back then. People stop and stare when we start jamming around. We would make heads turn when we do impromptu tricks in the crowded streets during the MassKara festival. There was even a time when we packed our bikes in a small pickup truck and headed somewhere far north to be part of a town’s fiesta. There was another team who did the racing event but ours took over the stunt show. Modesty aside, for once, we were famous in our own rights.
Fast forward to 2016, the BMX scene changed a lot. Think of heavy black rotary phone versus sleek smartphones. Change was rad. I remember the first time we saw on Betamax the first time an American perfected the tailwhip air on a vert ramp but locals nowadays can pop one from a bunnyhop. It is just unbelievable to see that the BMX flatland tricks my generation once do are now considered basics. The scuff tricks are now used to progress to far more technical rolling tricks. Even young riders nowadays would transition from one trick to another through a short squeakerson, front yard, backyard, or funky chicken. And did I mention they do all these brakeless?
While the BMX flatland tricks have become more complicated, the BMX parts and its setup is the opposite. It is now common to see totally brakeless bikes which means brake levers, calipers and detanglers are starting to be obsolete. BMX flatland riders also now prefer chainwheels with only 25 teeth and they have also set the seat lower than before. With lesser and smaller yet better parts, what’s left is the basic bike that is less cumbersome thus making it an effective street or BMX flatland bike. Despite its simplicity, prices do not come cheap. Popular price range is 10,000-20,000 pesos.
The BMX sport will surely get better and bigger. In the Philippines alone, popular riders like Paulo Gepulango (proudly from Bacolod) and Renz Viaje, who in the recent years joined an It’s Showtime contest, continue to inspire new generations of BMX flatland riders. There’s also this promising BMX team in Bohol who made me realize that there’s more to this place than just its Chocolate Hills and tarsiers—I would definitely try to find where they hang out if I get the chance to travel down south.
Philippine BMX flatland videos always zap me back in time when all we care about is BMX (yup, I’ve skipped classes for it). Every time I see one makes a part of me a very young boy eager to get on a bike to see if I can pop a wheelie for starters but another part an old man conceding that what these young lads do aren’t for me anymore. By the way, those guys I hang out with in Tanauan are half my age so I guess I could claim to be their father of BMX. Regardless, I think nobody is too old for BMX so I will remain to be a big fan of this sport and would like to continue seeing more of it. To old-schoolers and young BMX riders alike, more power.
Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Almost on tip-top shape.)