For 8 hours on Thanksgiving Day in 2012, I received no emails at all and I still tell that story like it's the best thing that's ever happened to me. That has nothing to do with this photo of Jess Dyrenforth in downtown Austin 360 nose picking a spine ramp, but I just had to vent about email somewhere. Apologies. Jess Dyrenforth was a unique one to say the least. He came from the U.K., he adapted early to mini ramp, street and everything in between, and then he disappeared to become a professional inline skater/inline skate magazine publisher when the bottom fell out of BMX. Circa 2001, I end up in Bangkok, Thailand with Jess Dyrenforth to do demos for the Asian X Tour. He was inlining, I was riding a BMX bike, and I remember wanting to hate him for leaving BMX behind, but I instead just quizzed him about the old days and how things were, and he was super cool about it. A day later, he jumped on my bike, pedaled at an 8-foot quarterpipe, and perfectly nosepicked the ramp first try. I was impressed. Last year, I looked him up in Southern California, and he's since become a holistic health teacher that specializes in a lot of massage techniques that could benefit from the rigors of everything he's experienced in BMX and inline. Again, I was impressed. I know everyone takes different routes in to and out of BMX, but I thought Jess's story was pretty cool and still respect the man's skills on a BMX bike.
Craig Grasso stalls a no-footed abubaca on top of a shopping cart at the Fatburger Banks on PCH in Redondo Beach, as shot by Spike Jonze in 1988. And below is not the actual bank in the Grasso photo but it's the bank that would be under Grasso's foot in the original photo, near the back of the building. (I tried cropping the actual bank into this square and it just looked like a random piece of pavement, but I can assure you that it's the same location.) These days, I feel like modern BMX is all about the trick being pulled on video, with style, execution and the various characters within BMX taking a backseat to the trick getting done. And that approach kinda sucks. I want to see the characters in BMX, I want to see the various styles, and if it comes with a sick new trick, even better. Freestylin' Magazine understood that, and pushed Craig Grasso's riding and personality onto the readers because he wasn't just there to pull the trick — he was a character, with style, that was pushing BMX in a new direction. The homogenized Insta BMX generation of today have no idea.
Admittedly, this location looks completely different between 1988 and now, but look at the bricks lining The Strand — they're exactly the same. This was shot in Hermosa Beach originally in 1988, and after seriously studying photos of Rick Moliterno riding a Hutch Trick Star in an older how-to from 1986, I recognized the yellow awning above Park Carter's back wheel. I then googled the signage, found an address and ultimately stumbled onto the location thinking to myself that this couldn't be right. But, the red bricks on The Strand match up perfectly and I'm going with it. I don't ever know what became of Park Carter, but the trick was insane, so the wardrobe and bike setup was eventually emulated by myself at age 14. I never did figure out how to do backwards Miami hop-hops though. I may be wrong here also, but I think the same dude also did one-footed scuffing puppets, basically sitting on the headtube, scuffing the back wheel with his other foot off, which blew me away.
In 1988 and 1989, Craig Grasso was part of the first generation of BMX riders to be documented pursuing a 'new' discipline within BMX: street riding. Because he was progressive, stylish, rebellious and not afraid to smash up a good sprocket, the editors of Freestylin' Magazine naturally turned their cameras on him at every obstacle Grasso adapted his riding to, including this bank to rock in Hermosa Beach, California, as shot by Spike Jonze sometime in late 1988. By the early '90s, Grasso had faded from the scene but his influence remains to this day. In fact, I even did a sweeper on that bank to rock to pay tribute (made tougher by the railroad ties at the bottom of the bank.) A few years back, Grasso fled on foot from a routine traffic stop in Vermont and was then caught by police in NYC. From what I can gather, he spent almost two years in prison, turned to Jesus and entered into a rehabilitation facility. My whole time in Redondo and Hermosa, I felt like I was chasing Craig Grasso's ghost. I think it's pretty cool that he's confronting his own.
Scot Breithaupt died over the weekend. He created organized BMX racing, designed the first BMX tracks, created SE Racing, co-founded BMX Plus! Magazine and even had a hand in creating a better stem (called a “gooseneck”) to clamp early BMX handlebars more securely before BMX bicycles were even a thing.
To be honest, by the time I came around to BMX, I had no idea who he really was. I was focused more on freestyle than racing, and Breithaupt had already retired from racing. Because I studied the magazines of the time, I eventually came to know and respect his huge contributions to BMX: He paved the way for freestyle pioneers such as Bob Haro, R.L. Osborn, Mat Hoffman and many more, and he pushed everything as far as possible both on and off a BMX bike. Continue reading
It’s hard for me to believe that I even met Erin Donato as a young teenage kid sometime in 1989, when she had a co-sponsorship from General Bicycles and rode a Fred Blood pro model, but I’m old and it happened and all these years later, Erin is still riding. For years, when I lived in the New Brunswick, N.J. area and Erin lived not too far away in Bound Brook, we rode together almost religiously at the infamous Rutgers football stadium parking lot. We rode together so much that we barely talked, but we had an unspoken arrangement in which seeing each other riding at that parking lot motivated the other one to get off their ass and keep riding. It was a good time. I ended up moving away and finding riding spots that were closer to my house, and eventually our time together faded into the past. I think we last rode together in Jersey City sometime in 2011, and we haven’t really spoken since. A few days ago, Louis Orth connected with me and gave me a heads up that Erin was releasing a new video. It turns out, Erin ended up buying a house with a double wide garage, kept it empty for riding purposes, and is continuing to progress on her bike. Her style hasn’t changed, she’s pushing techniques she developed into new territories, and she’s probably embarrassed that Louis even compiled this footage, edited it down and released it. Erin is a true classic and this was a welcome surprise to watch this week.
X Games is done and I'm finally getting my life back to a degree, so these things are going to start back up. Actually, I need to do 12 more before I reach 50, and then I plan on compiling them into some sort of book/magazine this summer tentatively called 'Off The Deep End.' It will be nerdy but I need a project to work on and this seemed like a good place to start. Anyway, this is longtime Freestylin' editor Andy Jenkins @bendpress throwing a boneless off a picnic table on the side of Wizard Publications in Torrance. I'm not sure how most other readers of Freestylin' felt about skate content in a BMX magazine, but it fostered a love of skateboarding in me that remains to this day. I even started wearing skull and crossbones Life's A Beach shorts over my pants after seeing this photo, but luckily that look did not remain to this day. Also, I couldn't help but notice that the Wizard Publications building has the exact same door when I visited in late 2014 as it did in 1986…
It’s been pretty quiet from Dave Voelker over the past few years. Now 48, engaged to be married and with two kids, Voelker remains legendary in BMX circles for his early BMX contributions in vert, park and street, but after completely shattering his patella over two years ago, he’s been off the bike. As a full-time demo rider, that means Voelker can’t make money and support his family, and because his medical insurance reached a cap, he is now paying out of pocket for his medical bills.
Voelker arrived on the BMX scene in the mid ’80s. Emerging from Santee, Calif. with sponsorships from the GT/Dyno camp, Voelker’s riding was and continues to be a phenomenal brand of 120% on everything in his path. Voelker went higher, clicked further and saw lines that no other rider recognized. Voelker was moved to full factory status by Dyno in 1987, but remained an amateur, racking up vert wins in the American Freestyle Association Masters series and enjoying a wealth of coverage in the BMX media. Continue reading
Following successful collaborations between the iconography of pizza imagery and BMX brands such as MacNeil, Subrosa, FBM and Deco, Southern California BMX brand Stolen Bike Co. has decided to expand beyond pizza-themes into more authentic Italian cuisine.
Beginning in 2016, Stolen will release a new complete bike in collaboration with the Olive Garden Italian Kitchen restaurant chain. The model, dubbed the Caprese, features Olive Garden ravioli grips (featuring ‘Ricotta’ rubber) and Pivotal style seat, along with a meatball-emblazoned 25-tooth sprocket. Continue reading
As a young BMXer in the late ’80s, you pretty much went one of two ways in regards to bike choice, favorite team and clothing options: GT or Haro. (Redline and R.L. Osborn were a close third. No offense R.L., but the RL-20 ll had a five-inch head tube…)
If you went the Haro route, you most likely rocked Haro leathers, rode a Master or a Sport, and looked up to riders like Ron Wilkerson and Brian Blyther. And if you went the GT route, you rocked a Pro Freestyle Tour setup, wore Dyno shoes and emulated riders like Eddie Fiola, Josh White and Martin Aparijo.
I loved Haro, but out of necessity (my local shop was a GT dealer), my first legit BMX bike was a GT Pro Performer. So the walls of my bedroom became a growing catalog of GT ads, and the GT Demo Tape (also featuring the Dyno team) was pretty much on repeat for most of 1988. I bought everything I could GT-related, and sought autographs from riders like Dino Deluca, Brett Hernandez and Eddie Fiola (before he left in 1988…) Continue reading