It’s not you, it’s me

Perhaps these are some of the reasons BMX sales are down, if in fact they are at all:

It’s hard to get good at riding BMX: Garrett Reynolds or Chad Kerley or any number of good bike riders weren’t born that way. They started at a young age, put in years of work, and continue to hone their riding. Getting started in BMX and learning skills takes at least two years, and in that time, you could simply turn to….

Video games: a surefire distraction to any outdoor youth sports activity, which brings me to my next point.

Youth don’t go outside as much anymore: When I was a kid, it was “get out of the house and don’t come home until it gets dark out, then add an hour onto that,” which multiplied into “be home by 2 a.m.” when I was a teenager. I had to entertain myself, and I found dirt jumps, other BMX riders, the local bike shop (who encouraged the locals to hang out and read BMX magazines, because they knew it led to sales even if we were extreme pains in the ass) and oh yeah, riding and exploring. Even back then, in the ’80s, I knew the best curbs to jump, the smooth parking lots to ride and the one bank to wall in town. I wasn’t allowed to sit at home and watch TV and the Internet didn’t exist yet, which brings me to my next point.

Distractions are everywhere in modern day society (even away from the Internet): I’m not knocking the Internet at all, but I get a lot more done when I’m not checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the web or any other source of social media. BMX is a microcosm in a world of distractions. If a kid manages to find it, they’ve probably moved past it or forgot about it after about fifteen minutes.

And then there’s the price. BMX bikes, when compared with skateboards or scooters, are expensive. Argue all you want and tell me that the bikes are better and cheaper now, and I won’t disagree, but I will say that parents these days have less expendable incomes for their kids. And I don’t see as many kids these days getting part-time jobs as I once did when I was 16-17. And the ones I do see with part-time jobs are usually too busy checking their smart phones to be helpful. Another story, another time.

So how about those other cheaper methods of riding at the skatepark. Skateboard decks break often, and the industry, although not in great shape, can survive off of shoe and deck sales. (Broad stroke here, I know.) And scooters, well, they’re cheap and they’re easy to get good at. Say all you want about how lame they look, but anyone with any sort of balance can learn a tailwhip on a scooter in about fifteen minutes. That doesn’t happen on a BMX bike, and it takes about $400 more to achieve.

And what about that older demographic of bike rider that wants to give BMX a try? By and large, they’re probably told that “BMX is for kids” at bike shops that don’t know any better and don’t carry anything other than a Trek Jet 20″ in their shops. For some reason, BMX just isn’t perceived as an activity that adults can partake in, unlike snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing, rollerblading. I blame the size of the bike, and the perception that 20″ wheels are equated with the term “kid’s bike.”

So say a young rider manages to get past all of this, buy a bike, learn some skills and puts out a web video. What happens next? They’re subject to harsh criticism about their style, their song selection or their clothing choices on the Internet. Does this lead to that rider reevaluating their riding and trying to expand their riding into more meaningful avenues? Probably not. It most likely leads to emotional hurt, embarrassment and that same rider saying, “screw this, my video games are nicer.” I have read scathing YouTube comments on younger riders filming at their local skatepark that would’ve kept me far away from ever riding my bike again.

And I’m ignoring the fact that there probably are too many brands in BMX. But I don’t necessarily blame the very small industry on the ailments of BMX sales this very moment.

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