Asteroids, Cocaine and Other Shortcomings
Words by unkown author
The BMX media paints an explicit portrait of today’s two-wheeled superheroes. Magazines, videos and even television seize every opportunity to turn big bike riding kids into a marketable image.
This is not a new concept. As a BMX byproduct of more than twenty years, I can personally attest to the influence of the media in question. When I was twelve, I wanted a red FMF Team Replica like Scot Breithaupt rode in Bicycle Motocross Action. When I was fourteen, I had my Torker set up as close to Eddie King’s as possible. Into my fifteenth year, I could have easily been mistaken for hulking pro Kevin McNeal from the bottom of the starting hill. I wasn’t hulking and I wasn’t pro, but I was dressed head-to-toe in the green, yellow and black of Team Kuwahara.
I met Kevin McNeal at some big race in the Midwest. He was friendly, more so than the other pros, and kind of hung out by himself – an easy target for a kook kid like me. I asked him about gate start techniques and foot placement on the pedals. He answered all of my questions, and I would probably still ride with my pedal in the middle of my foot if it wasn’t for him. Kevin was also known for expertise at the video game Asteroids. I pursued this training regimen as well.
Despite his loner, outlaw image, McNeal made it to number one that year. He was driving muscle cars, had his weight program documented in the magazine and was living large for a dude that used to race Nationals in a flannel shirt.
Soon after, however, Big Kev crashed hard on his helmetless head and began to spiral the drain. As of last year, he was living in a cardboard box near the Roseville track.
McNeal wasn’t the only one though. Of the original Pro BMX class, formed in the late ‘70s, at least one snorted everything he earned up his nose, one became a law enforcement officer and one poor fellow lost his way to crack. A few of those pioneers successfully made their way into the bicycle business, while others have bounced around, re-inventing the fork, the three-inch head tube or the number plate. A couple of them still manage to race, and this is good.
In their heyday however, some pros were convincing impressionable dorks in the Midwest that Dupont Zytel mag wheels were good for racing. In reality, the pros were actually riding custom-made, graphite look alike versions of the heavy, flexy mags. The company finally wised up and cashed in by selling the graphite mags as well, for an unheard of (at the time) $250 a set. I should have known better, having broken five teeth off my Addicks graphite sprocket a year earlier (Kevin McNeal rode them), but I wanted graphite Tuff Wheels more than I wanted to lose my virginity, and at sixteen, you might imagine that I wanted to lose that pretty badly. Freestyle took over the BMX limelight by the mid-80s, but its biggest stars were not exempt from this tragic path either, with many ultimately taking the low road back to momma. The freestyle kids were even more impressionable. Take certain pro rollerskater who decided to get into BMX freestyle. He entered the Pro class, went on tour and was in the magazines promoting his signature model bike. He could seriously do three flatland “tricks” (they weren’t very tricky). The company he rode for had less right to be making freestyle bikes than he had to be riding one. Big, non-BMX companies were cropping up and trying to lasso every kid on two wheels (sound familiar?) with strap-on radios, wheel covers, fold-down fork standers and bolt-on apparatus for every protruding frame tube. Companies like Vision started with good intentions (good skateboards and shoes) and after a rise and fall that included cow print pants, skull berets, button down Gator print shirts and an annoying little character called Psycho Man, ended up unable to fill one of their tie-dye hip sacks with loot.
Pete Augustin may have been one of true pioneers of street riding (and still rules, by the way), but in 1987, he was convincing kids to buy into the Bad Boy Club. Others who didn’t hold up as well as Pete, guys with hippy street styles and big flatland smiles, ended up living on the streets of San Francisco or making their living cleaning floors.
Dizz Hicks’ spiked arm bands and Sammy Hagar fro sold some bikes for CW in 1986, but kick turns on the short ramp have a limited appeal. There was a period of time, however fleeting it may have been, when kids were buying what these images were selling. It was only a matter of time before shit was weeded out, and what a bunch of shit there was.
The best thing to happen in the 80s came on January 1, 1990. BMX and freestyle were barely producing a pulse. The ‘80s were done, the kooks were gone and the only people involved were the ones who cared in the first place. These guys did it for the right reasons and the ones who stuck it out are the ones who are runnin’ shit now.
Ten years later, BMX is huge again. Stupid companies are making stupid bikes. Trails kids are getting paid by mountain bike companies to do what they would be doing anyway. The temptations are all around you: Mountain Dew, backflips, kickflips, kickturns, Speed Stick, Stick Em Up, lookdowns, turndowns, Learys, X-ups, X Games, X wives, helicopters, flatties, fatties, flairs, farts, lawnmowers, locomotives, Slim Jims, sunglasses, fat asses, Y frames and aluminum forks. Why ask why? Don’t Die Wondering. You owe it to yourself to think before you buy.
“…and make no mistake
all they want is your money
and all they need is your numb nod of approval
and all they demand is your silence
are you going to hand it to them?”
from the Born Against song, “Born Again” (I love quoting punk songs)