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I've talked about it many times before: I am from the old school. I don't ride "old school" but sometimes it can be a term of affection for those of us who yearned to wear neon colored factory uniforms and pull hopping tricks to the theme song of "Rad" in our youth.
I really loved those days: I was a kid and nothing worried me. Well, some things worried me - like having a crush on an unattainable girl or getting good grades... but that was it. And riding? It was awesome.
I would get home from school around 3:00pm (of course, riding my BMX bike to-and-from) and we'd session along the way. After stopping at each kid's house and tossing our backpacks in the front door, we'd go back out and ride more until 5:00pm. On the weekends we'd ride all day. We'd ride and ride and ride and ride - without a care in the world.
Those days are over. Well, kind of...
Of course, this is not a diss on you old school riders. There's nothing wrong with rocking your old bike and doing old tricks. It's when the old school riders start making pejorative remarks about today's riding:
Look how stupid bikes look with those slammed seats."
"Flatland is all spinning nowadays and there's no style to it."
"All kids do in street today are barspins. How lame."
"Look how lame those kids look with their skinny jeans and no brakes."
"All bikes today look the same. No creativity in BMX anymore..."
...and the shitty remarks go on. From grown adults.
With this mentality, you're not "old school" - you're just old. Riding BMX today is incredibly interesting. In comparison to the 80's and 90's, what the sport offers today surpasses what we had back then in many ways. Here are my Top Ten reasons why I believe riding today is a hell of a lot better than riding back then:
1. Bikes, Frames and Components. Everything about today's manufacturing processes are far more advance than what they were in the 80's and 90's. Parts are stronger, lighter and made of better materials. Brake cables don't snap. Bearings are sealed. Threadless headsets are the norm. 990 brakes actually work. In comparison to the quill stems, snapping brake cables, stripped, threaded 2" long pegs and crappy, side-pull brakes... we have over 30 years of R&D to bring us the best technologies available. BMX bikes are simply better made, stronger, lighter and offered in an array of different geometries to match the type of riding you do.
2. As an adult, I can afford stuff. I'm a working professional and I make a good living. Compare that to the $3.25/hour I was making at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk during the late 80's, bike parts didn't come very easily. The big stuff were usually Christmas or birthday gifts. Some small parts - we either stole or recycled. Our bikes were weird hybrids of BMX parts and mountain bike parts to get them best we could. Now, if something breaks, I make a well enough living to be able to replace it. Back then, I was just a kid with a Summer job, eating McDonald's 75¢ hamburgers.
Now, I have three really nice BMX bikes and drink gourmet coffee.
3. Social Networking. Some people are critical of social networking, but look at what it offers: instant BMX news, events, coverage, videos, photos, discounts, updates, product releases, etc. Back in the 80's and 90's - we had to wait a month for a magazine came in the mail to find out what was happening. And, if your town didn't have much of a BMX scene (like mine), it was even worse. I know now what is going on - not just locally - but around the world. I can learn about events and attend them - or host my own and invite others.
While 'zines and such were fun to get, the process was slow and often times resulted in missing out on a lot of things. I have connected with so many cool people through social networking whereas before I wouldn't have that opportunity. Social networking has its drawbacks (like trolls and outright negative people), but I have had a great experience with Facebook, Instagram and an array of online forums.
4. Internet Videos. Was I was a kid, everything was on VHS tape. Sometimes, we had to record over other things to make a copy of a riding video. Sometimes, it was a recording of a recording of a recording. And after it has been copied enough times, the quality was so poor, it was awful to watch. In fact, one of the pirated tapes I had, had 3 seconds of Ron Jeremy giving it a go to some 80's porn chick in the beginning. Being the disgusting horny teen I was, I didn't mind, but it is a clear commentary of how difficult it was to get video footage of riding back then.
Now, riding videos are here and now - totally accessible in high-definition at any time of day, from any part of the world, on a device I carry in my pocket. Add the ability to create your own videos and share your own photos with affordable cameras and digital editing software, this raises the bar of production quality. Videographers and photographers are always trying to produce the best quality video and photos they can, with little out-of-pocket expense.
5. Online Shopping. I remember asking my mom to call Trend Bike Source to order stuff for me. Before she had a credit card, she paid C.O.D. ("Cash On Delivery" for you younger folks). Sometimes we had to fill out a magazine tear-out, mail it with a check, and wait 4-6 weeks for delivery. You wanted a new frame? You waited. Or, you went to the local bike shop and almost always be disappointed that they didn't carry what you needed.
While this arguably "builds character" by promoting a patience virtue, I enjoy being able to order bike parts online and get them within a week. And with competitive shipping rates, discount codes, sale items, etc. how can one not realize how great it is to make a purchase from your cell phone or tablet, at any time of day, from any part of the world?
6. Many of our freestyle heroes of the past still ride today. I can go to my local skatepark and hang out with Ron Wilkerson. I can send Dave Nourie a private message on Facebook. Maurice "Drob" Meyer and I are personal friends. I had a discussion with Mat Hoffman about GoPro cameras last April. Eric "Pee Wee" Evans and I share a laugh on Facebook at least a few times a day. Pete Brandt kills it on the daily at Clocktower. James McGraw is constantly progressing in flatland. Yup - these guys still ride, and ride really well. So, we aren't missing out on anything in 2014 (well, maybe factory uniforms). But these aren't the only guys riding, today. What is happening in 2014 is absolutely incredible in terms of the level of riding.
7. We get to look up to new freestyle heroes. The level of riding in 2014 is insanely good in all niches of BMX. Flatland, street, dirt, vert and even racing - all are amazing. Tricks today were unimaginable 20-30 years ago. Kids are growing up with an extremely high standard of riding skills to work up to. If you can't appreciate the level of riding kids are doing today, and respect it and cheer it, then you may possibly be an asshole. There are many riders I look up to today for inspiration, such as Charlie Crumlish, Erik Elstran, and these kids who call themselves the "Foot High Ledge League". So, while these young whipper snappers may be half your age - there's no reason why one should not look up to them as riders.
9. No distractions i.e. GIRLS. I am a married man, and my wife and I have a good marriage. My wife appreciates my love for riding and gives me the space and time to enjoy it. I work, pay my bills, spend time with family and ride. My life is much more settled, and it's great. In contrast, I see what my young friends are going through with their young girlfriends - moaning about how they can't live without "her"... come on, dude... you're only 20! But alas, I remember how it was back then, because it was a girl that contributed to me quitting BMX back in 1992. It was very distracting and emotional and awful.
Now, when the distractions and stress come, I am mature enough to handle it without it leading to me quitting riding.
10. I now view BMX as a gift, not a given. I love and appreciate every time I get on my BMX bike. I don't feel I truly loved riding when I was a kid. I knew it was fun and I knew I was good at it... but in terms of the appreciation I had for riding - I don't feel I had the maturity or perspective I do today.
I know - as a street rider - my BMX days are finite before it truly becomes too painful to ride at a progressive level. Therefore, when I ride, I go out with the intent to progress and learn. To study the riders of today and really try to be as creative as possible.
The only thing holding me back in BMX are my nerves and my skill set. But those can be overcome with study and progression. I also understand my limits, and know what I am capable of doing and what I'm not capable of doing, so therefore, I'm not trying to ride vert, big park stuff, gigantic dirt jumps or anything else I feel uncomfortable with. Therefore, my progression is not frustrating, but fulfilling.
These days, I ride BMX on the weekends and I go out for 3-5 hours at a time. Sometimes more. I don't drive unless I'm going to another town. Generally, I step out the front door and start pedaling. I love every second of it and not one is taken for granted.
If you're a salty "old school'er" and tend to dis the direction BMX is going today - stop it. It isn't healthy for the community. You are alienating yourself from the current scene and truly missing out on the incredible things BMX offers today. There's room in BMX for all of us - and there ain't nothing wrong with a bike with no brakes and slammed seat.