Sipping on a beer on a Friday arvo a few days after the 1000km drive back from Sydney to our home base in Brisbane, I can’t help but think that even after nearly 40 years of riding a BMX bike how cool BMX still is, and how events (shows?) like the XGAMES thrusts it to the forefront of the minds of thousands of people, potentially drawing more riders in. More refreshing was to see that there were hardcore BMX riders and fans in the crowd to witness these guys ply their trade and passion at Sydney’s Olympic Park and not just a bunch of moto fans passing the time until the best whip comp started.
A tag on a post on Facebook by FATBMX, who were looking for locals to cover the event, led to
myself and Mitch from LUXBMX jagging media accreditation to cover the “Games” for FATBMX, with the bonus that Dave “Dillsy” Dillewaard from the shop would be judging the BMX events. This in turn led to hanging out with legends like Cam White and Van Homan, and an insight into the workings of the event. Even for a die-hard racer it was cool to hear these guys talk about the sport, its challenges, the future and the out and out passion they have for BMX. With the event well and truly over and the immediacy of who won, who lost, having died away, what stuck out in my mind the most after sitting back and observing 3 days of extreme sport is the tightness of this BMX community and even though the riders are competing against each other, there was genuine stokeness when a run was stomped. As a racer, it was so refreshing to see this comradery at a BMX event as there is a clinical air around BMX racing these days brought on the continual angling for “that place”. It reminded me of the more carefree days of riding a BMX bike in the 80s, with race meets of the modern era in Oz being maelstroms of anxiety as riders and parents constantly worry about being on the right pathway rather than letting the kids just ride their bikes.
It’s no wonder that BMX racing is disappearing into the shadows of the child it spawned many years ago as the (mostly) non-competitive freestyle disciplines tower over it. The sense of fun, play and freedom underlies this type of riding that thrives on a lack of rules and discipline. And without these constraints, the riding evolves exponentially and entertains large crowds. It wasn’t all plain sailing though with some of the dirt riders struggling with the less than ideal set up, but considering that the dirt building crew had about a day to get the jumps up and running due to unseasonable heavy rains in Sydney, all things considered they did an incredible job. And I’m not just saying this because I’m patriotic and Cam (who I’d never met before) kept feeding me Pirate Ales on Saturday night. Okay, might be slightly biased, but everyone had to adapt and ride the exact same jumps. For me, all the riding was incredible. To see this stuff on a screen, and to witness it up close, was humbling for someone that usually rides a bike on a buttery smooth course with tarmac berms.
Street is a style of riding that I never quite got. Like most casual freestyle fans, it’s always been the big gaps and drops that grabbed my YouTube attention, with the techy stuff washing straight over my ignorant head. But to sit a few feet back from the street course that Saturday afternoon and absorb the nuances and economy of movement again shifted my perception of a realm of BMX riding I’ve not really paid a lot of attention to. A little to foreign for someone that’s more used to charging like a bull, than being creative on a bike. And sure I knew who Garrett Reynolds and Dennis Enarson are, but now I have an incredible appreciation of their handling skills they have and can only dream of the sense of feel they have through their bike when riding. Like any professional, the guys out on that course make everything seem effortless and easy. We know it’s not.
Sunday and the Big Air is on what feels like way too early, even though it’s 12 o’clock… Mitch and I stand by ourselves in the “media section” (quotations referring to our dubious title for the weekend) to watch warm up and Matt Hoffman is a few feet away. I resist the urge to bug him for a photo. By now I’d watched the qualifying and am somewhat blasé about the tricks being pulled, but the previous afternoon as we sat a few feet from the street course, we watched Morgan Wade just blast out of the quarter in practice runs creating a surreal experience as the sun set. BMX nirvana for sure.
The crowd seems pumped to see the Sunday final go down and Vince Byron has a fan section in the stand decked out in hi-vis and another Aussie takes the win. I could stand there all day and just watch those guys float off into space on that quarter tweaking tables in an old-school sort of way. Guess I’m kind of old fashioned.
That night at the ESPN wrap party we feel like impostors as there’s real media here, but sink a few beers and white Russians courtesy of the open bar because it would have been rude not to. There’s a conversation about Tokyo 2020 with Jason Watts and the possibilities that it presents for freestyle, without a hint of irony. It’s an interesting topic and I can’t help drawing a parallel timeline in my mind of the transition of racing took when incorporated into the Olympics in 2008. LUXBMX is a shop deeply rooted in freestyle, owned and staffed by diehard freestylers (except me), so it’s been intriguing to be part of the crew these past 18 months during the time freestyle was announced as a medal sport for 2020. Racing was definitely divided by it (more so with the big hill versus the little hill) with the salty old guys not that juiced on it and predicting its Olympic death after 2020. But with freestyle being fractured (for better or worse depending on which BMXer you listen to/follow) into so many disciplines, I think that it will have a minimum negative impact, and nothing but positives for BMX over all. I can’t help but compare it to surfing where, and I’m totally guessing this percentage, 95% of it is non-competitive/recreational, and the other 5% hardcore competitors.
What one does doesn’t really affect the other, except for maybe setting trends. With BMX racing, it’s 100% competitive, so what happens at the top, directly affects what happens at the bottom. Who knows? If your country wins a freestyle gold, there might be a release of funds to build more parks/trails/pump tracks. If the rider is local, the local government is more likely to jump on that gold medal train. Toot toot, more parks for you. There’s been millions of dollars spent on the Olympic Dream here on Oz based on the possibility of that medal with new tracks and 5/8m hills.
Ironically though the XGAMES were held in Sydney Olympic Park, but there was no park competition. 10pm hits with the harsh reality that drinks just jumped to 12 bucks and we head back to the hotel to continue the party, but with it being Sunday night in Western Sydney, choices are limited and we don’t really have enough tatts to be out this late in Parramatta. We split as we have the drive back the next day and Dillsy nearly drunk all of the beer in Parra the night before so he’s not really firing on all eight cylinders. XGAMES was a blast and the buzz behind the scenes was that ticket sales etc excee ded expectations. They got super lucky with the weather and I think the stadium was the perfect size to hold it. Here’s to hoping it’ll be back next year.
X-games Sydney day 1 is a wrap. For the first time in action sports history, xgames touches base in Oceania and the weather gods weren’t on the builders' side. The Xgames crew battled through an excessive amount of unforeseen rain which made preparations tough. After a couple of changes in the day schedule, day 1 kicked off in traditional xgames style. On the Programm was Bmx big air and dirt qualifying as well as bmx street finals.
The California skateparks crew once again did an insane job on the street course which got dried up by the Sydney sun before finals kicked of at 4:15pm. With a 10 rider all star lineup the show was set. Combining riding styles of Dakota Roche with Dennis Enarson and Alex Donnachie could only