MORE KIDS SHOULD ADOPT THIS RADTITUDE
There’s so much fun and radness in Freestyle BMX. Yes, this is the heartfelt opinion of this editor. And he totally hates it when fellow cyclists gleefully say shits like “BMX is dead”. Sadly there’s some truth to it … and also some hope within. This Rad Ed shares his views.
For some years, with the demolition of some neighborhood skateparks, we see a dwindling in population of BMX Freestylers on this island. It didn’t help with the implementation of laws restricting brakeless cycling and “karens/kens” being extra vigilant when it comes to kids on wheels around the neighborhood. Then came the Covid bug and the world kinda went slow-mo. That slow-mo period saw some spiking in cycling sport adoption and bicycle sales as a whole (mountain biking, road, urban and even BMX). People needed something to do, some excuses to get out of their houses and some reasons to spend their money. They are buying bicycles. But there were less social interactions compared to pre-Covid days. Kids bought their BMXes, and they played a bit, and then they discovered that some tricks are not as easy as it seems. So the bikes were left in a corner to collect dust, or went straight up to online marketplaces.
BMX is still dead?
Some time passed and the bug toned down. A new skatepark and some BMX/skate facilities popped up. It’s time.
BORN FROM THE STREETS: HISTORY OF FREESTYLE BMX
The BMX sport could be traced all the way back to the mid 70s when kids modified their bicycles and used them to tackle street obstacles and skate bowls. At that time, there weren’t any BMXes around, these jumps and tricks would be considered outside of the bikes’ intended use. Some kids would also ride their bikes to dirt tracks where they would use their bicycles to do what dirt motorcycles would do. Fast forward to the early 80s, Freestyle BMX entered the scene with a purpose-built frame that is designed specifically for performing tricks (instead of winning races). Other manufacturers saw the opportunity and the official term “Freestyle BMX” was coined! Events, magazines, movies, street art, BMX pros, fancy brands and lots of marketing followed. A culture was borned.
Along with the sports itself, the emotions, art and everything else this community lived by became a culture for street sport. Freestyle BMX is more than a sport, it is a lifestyle where we constantly think out of the box, get creative, challenge our own limits, create social bonds, motivate and coach fellow riders and enjoy a sport together.
HINDRANCES TO ENTRY?
How tough could it be to pick up this sport? Some might think it’s as easy as just buying a bike and you’re in. While we agree that buying your own BMX is the first step, there are other factors to consider. At the same time, we also wish to highlight that these “hindering factors” are not all that tough to overcome. Some common barriers to entry include:
- The sport of BMX is subdivided into many sub-disciplines: Race, Flatland, Street and Park. All of them uses BMXes of different geometry and strength to enhance performance of their respective sub-disciplines. As each type of BMX’s usage is quite specific, it makes crossing from one sub-discipline to another less convenient than what the public would perceive.
- Getting dialled in each individual sub-discipline usually requires full commitment from the rider. As such, it is unusual for riders to excel in multiple sub-discipline.
- For students, BMXes could be expensive to purchase.
- It is more cumbersome to commute on public transport with a BMX (bike bag needed and you might get stopped by nasty staffs)
- BMX freestyle tricks requires a lot of effort and time (aka commitment) to master. It also requires a lot of space, preferably away from crowds.
- There hasn’t been a BMX blockbuster movie in a long while. Not joking. Superstar influence on sports pick-up rate is real.
- The smaller population has a downward chain reaction with regards to merchandise and sponsorships. It’s a pragmatic truth to life. The bigger you get, the more people will notice you. When you don’t see sponsors’ marketing or mall showcasing merchandises pushing the sport, it falls into obscurity gradually.
Ed: This is where I would invite comments from readers to agree, disagree and add in points contributing to the “Hindrances to Entry” to BMX Street
All said, did you notice that if you have the INTEREST to pick up Freestyle BMX, all the above would not matter anymore? Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The good thing about street sports is that you can actually practice the sport anywhere.
Of course, the usual concern from the masses would be safety issues for both riders and general public. On this aspect, riders need to exercise responsibility. The better we are at showing we are a responsible lot, the more places we get to ride at.
Skateparks are great places to keep the riders and skaters at a safe place to practice their sports. With the opening of the Lakeside Garden Skatepark, the riders from the west side of Singapore would now have a better place to practice their sport. The island seems well covered now – Xtreme Skatepark at East Coast Park, Somerset Skatepark at the central / city area and Lakeside Garden Skatepark at the west. And we now have an indoor facility at the west side that welcomes BMX – United Skate at Science Centre Road.
With the announcement of the more Sports-in-Precincts and cycling parks projects by respective town councils and official offices, we should be seeing a gradual growth in adoption of cycling sport. Eventually, more would revisit or wish to explore the fun and challenges cycling could bring them. And what better way to get those foundations dialled than to pick up a BMX?
THE BMX LIFE
Our sport started off from the streets. It is a tough sport no less. We have X-Games, FISE, Redbull etc to keep us inspired. We are attracting the folks with the right stuff. If the community grows cos of a great BMX movie or some global marketing push, it’s a bonus. Conversely, if it remains at our current pace, we’ll continue loving this small and tight, yet rich subculture just as much.
Freestyle BMX is fun and it’s a lifestyle! The sense of achievement when you mastered a trick, or when your buddies gave you kudos for a trick well pulled off is … beyond words. It is also one of the best way to grow up with.
Learning tricks and fundamentals on your own could be a downer and interest would fizzle off fast. With the stage set for a better BMX scene ahead; socialising and finding your riding group, engaging a good coach and spending time at the skateparks would be a breeze. This would help beginners move up the learning curve fast, and get to appreciate the culture in its true essence.
If you love challenges, want to be a healthier, fitter, mentally and emotionally stronger person than you are now, love the street culture for its fun, art and free spirit, we want you! Newbies welcome! Pour in the art, the tricks, the radtitude. The streets (and skateparks) are our playground.
Photos and opinions by Bikezilla