(This originally appeared in Dig issue 50, which was published just about two years ago now.)
About two months ago, myself and Mike Vincent walked into a bar in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles. (Don’t worry, this isn’t the start of a bad joke.) The bar was filled with hipsters and pro skaters and us sore thumbs, so in a vain effort to cope with our awkwardness, we made with haste to the bar and ordered up some beers. I wasn’t really paying any attention when the beers arrived, but I remember hearing, “Don’t worry, it’s on me.” And then I looked up, and to my astonishment, there stood Dave Young behind the bar. I hadn’t seen him in close to five years, but he had recognized us and insured that we weren’t going to be paying for anything for the rest of the night.
In case you’re not familiar with the name Dave Young, he’s the stuff that BMX legends are made of. He came, he saw, he kicked ass and then he got the hell out before anyone could even ask where he went to. He pioneered street riding in the late 90s, bringing speed, balls-out antics and shock to the TV screen via ‘Nowhere Fast,’ but he disappeared shortly thereafter and hasn’t really done much in the world of BMX since. He also introduced a style of dress vastly popular in BMX today, along with the ‘screw contests, let’s just make video parts’ approach to riding that’s rampant in today’s world of riding. In the simplest terms, he was ten years ahead of the BMX scene he was once a part of.
Early in Dave’s riding career, he gained notoriety first for getting a cover of an early issue of Ride BMX Magazine (at age 14, doing a huge handrail), and then later on for being a test rider for Ride as well. Dave was featured extensively in Ride’s earlier years, testing bikes sent to the magazine and usually wrecking himself on something ridiculous. But he always got back up in time to sneer into the camera lens and willfully display his battle wounds.
Dave was one of the first BMXers to adopt a ‘skateboard professional’ approach to riding. Instead of traveling the world to enter contests, Dave focused on finding new spots to shoot photos at, and also filming video sections. Yeah, there were videos being made prior to Dave, but he was one of, if not the first rider, to make his video section a number one priority within his riding, paving the way for future riders that now can get paid strictly from producing video sections and getting photos in the magazines.
Dave was also most likely the one person directly responsible for introducing the ever-controversial subject of tight pants to BMX. Dave was a product of the mid-90s San Diego hardcore scene, and if you were familiar with bands like Unbroken or Antioch Arrow, then Dave’s fashion sense wasn’t too outrageous. But in the waist size 38 world of BMX circa 1998, Dave’s all black, big belt buckle, tight panted look was definitely the exception to the rule. Dave was comfortable in his skin though, and never really seemed to care that he didn’t look like the typical BMXer. In fact, I think Dave appreciated the fact that he looked more like an alumni member of a Gravity Records band than a dirty BMX kid. Of course nowadays, the ‘Dave Young look’ is a dime a dozen in the BMX scene, so if you’re rocking a sidepipe with a big belt buckle, and your keys are hanging off of your belt loop, you best recognize where it all came from.
Dave also knew what he liked as far as bike setup went. He was absolutely in love with the first edition of the Hoffman ‘Flash’ frame. It was designed to be a race bike, but most riders used it on street or trails because it was the one frame on the market that didn’t weigh 8 pounds at the time. Dave was also very much into sprocket guards, front peg bosses and four-piece Brian Castillo bars. Towards the end of Dave’s riding tenure, he got sponsored by Kink and designed his own frame, the Kink ‘Fiend,’ which was adorned with Misfits graphics and boasted many of the same features as the Hoffman ‘Flash.’
As for Dave’s riding, where do I begin? Dave’s introductory section in ‘Nowhere Fast’ is still legendary almost 8 years after its original release. It’s one of the most amazing video sections to ever be produced in a BMX video, and it can still hold its ground within the scope of modern day street riding. It’s the perfect formula of speed, determination, gnarly crashes and outright crazy lines. And I would suggest right now that you go find a copy of ‘Nowhere Fast’ and go directly to Dave’s part if you’ve never seen it. It was so revolutionary at the time of its release that Dave enjoyed a bit of fame because of it; guys wanted to be Dave Young and women wanted to be with Dave Young. (The only reason I know this is because I witnessed it firsthand. Dave stayed with me for a while a few months after the release of ‘Nowhere Fast.’ And when Dave would walk into skateparks, people noticed, even if he didn’t touch his bike. He actually skated more than he rode during that period. And he was collecting Polaroid photos of girls he met while on the road in a metal lunch box, but that’s another story…)
These days, Dave can be found bartending in Silverlake and working on a miniramp somewhere in the warehouse district of downtown L.A. He’s been slowly building on his clothing venture Blackheart for the past few years, and he was also featured on the Tylenol action sports website named Ouch! The Website (http://www.ouchthewebsite.com) just last year. But I don’t think Dave ultimately spends too much time riding his bike anymore.
As for why Dave never really got back on the horse following the release of ‘Nowhere Fast’ and his short stint with Kink, not much is known. I do think that Dave was over the BMX scene, but also not really sure where or what he wanted to do with his life. He was always one of those people whose mind was going in 50 different directions at once, so perhaps he just felt he should move in a different direction? But perhaps this was also the reason why he was able to produce some of the most groundbreaking riding at the time. Who knows?
Ultimately, Dave’s the only person who can answer any of these questions, and I have his number if I want to call him up and ask, but a big part of me would rather not even know why Dave walked away from BMX. I’d rather just know that Dave Young left one of the most revolutionary impressions on the world of BMX, and leave it at that….
Postscript: According to friends, Dave is once again riding his bike and filming a video section to mark an apparent comeback to the BMX scene. Dave’s recent footage, which was shot for the Team Ouch! campaign, will supposedly be featured in the DVD release of ‘Nowhere Fast,’ but could not be confirmed at the time of printing. Blame Dave Parrick, he never answers his phone….