Never Too Old for BMX

 

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.

Not me, not my pic. (Image from the web.)

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?

My own old  bike turned 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.

 

This was also posted on Flatmode Philippines (Official). Paulo Gepulango is this FB page’s admin.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Almost on tip-top shape.)

 

 

Old School Flatland, Anyone?

I have found my second lagoon. In my younger years I hang out a  lot with my friends in Bacolod Lagoon to kill time with our bikes and to test ourselves if we can mimic what we saw on BMX Trix 101. I can’t recall if it’s on Betamax or VHS format, definitely not on disc, but it’s the only video source we have back then–YouTube wasn’t around yet. I continued with freestyle until before I got married in 1996.

Years later, I would soon find myself on my twenty-year old Haro bike, stepping on its pegs, figuring out if I can still do either the scuff or rolling tricks that I like to do. And I still can. I am now in the midst of the new generation riders—and I’m lost in their lingo and the names of the famous riders they know. These guys use bikes with small sprockets, low seats, and mostly brakeless. I have an old school setup. One remarked that my Spintech detangler is now only available on eBay. My freestyle bike is the heaviest. But yes, I am among the few here who can do flatland. The rest do street.

I am now on my third week of mingling with whoever is at the Tanuan plaza–yesterday we transferred to their other location as a political campaign was ongoing. I have a list of routines to recover but I was able to do a satisfactory frontyard yesterday and I got a short clip of myself doing a backwards forkwheelie. Need to avoid skinny jeans though.

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To be with other BMX riders is already almost home but to speak with others in my own dialect makes it a lot better. I did not expect that here in Batangas I would meet others who are from either Ilo-ilo or Bacolod. The guy who can do time machine is from Ilo-ilo while the one from Bacolod (he’s here for a vacation) rides with one of the current popular riders, Paulo Gepulango, who happens to be a friend of a Facebook friend. My FB friend is the son of one of my best friends and BMX teammate. Then last week, I was in bike shop whose owner and their mechanic are from Negros Occidental, too. Small world?

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Mood: 3/10 Honks! (I need a bike rack so I can take Marcus and his wheelchair with me.)

Gone too Soon

Early part of this year has been full of news of death of celebrities whose names have been all too familiar with me as they have been part of my generation’s pop culture. There’s the iconic singer David Bowie, Glen Frey of Eagles, and the actor who played villain roles, Alan Rickman. I thought everyone in their sixties are dying but today one broke the trend and probably the saddest and tragic so far.

Dave Mirra was found dead and reports tell of an apparent suicide. Mirra who is an icon in the BMX world continued to live the life that others like me could only dream of. At age 41, he is known to have transitioned to be an active triathlete. From the Rad years to his own Playstation game and up to Facebook I was one of those who witnessed his full life, well, until I read the Facebook post on Lad Bible about his untimely death.

Suicide sucks but will always remain a mystery. It is easy to judge those who did it but we will never would understand why, even despite accomplishment and fame, they would rather end their own life. Rest in peace Dave and we pray that God bless your family and kids.

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Mood: 7/10 Honks! (A day of happy and sad news.)

Ride Of My Life

Prelude:

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.

That’s me doing a backyard at Bacolod’s lagoon when it was still legal to do it.

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.

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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.

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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.