This shot was originally a sequence of Dave Voelker cranking uphill and blasting a tabletop into the corner of Lucia Avenue and Torrance Blvd., literally a walk away from my former house in Redondo Beach. I initially recognized it because photographer Windy Osborn was panning with Voelker as she shot the sequence, and the last slide shows the sign for the White and Day Funeral Home, which is still in operation today. The curb is no longer a kicker to jump. Hell, it may not have been when Voelker was riding it either. That dude just knows how to blast. And those Dyno sweatpants, well I may have had a pair or four…
Larry's Donuts, a donut shop located on Torrance Blvd. just east of Prospect Avenue became my 'white whale' while living in Redondo Beach. The spot, a bank with a dumpster box that eventually served as place to disaster for Dennis McCoy, had long since been demolished, but I had no knowledge of that and spent days looking, googling, searching for the damn place. Eventually, I wised up and asked Jason Pitschke @lotlifebmx (but I'm saving that story for the eventual book/magazine thing), so I won't go into detail here. It turns out, the spot is gone, but the adjacent buildings remain, and they were but a short bike ride away from my house on S. Helberta, basically right under my nose. I will detail out the day-long story I went through with Jason, but for now, I stumbled onto this photo of Woody Itson testing the 1987 Diamond Back Hot Streak at the banks, and was able to basically replace the 1987 version of the background Verizon building with the 2015 version of the building (look close in the bottom right corner). There are more trees now, and the original location of Larry's Donuts is now a parking lot for hospice care in the South Bay, but cancan nosepicks are still cool.
Even though we're less than a month from 2016, I can assure you that the photo on the right was taken in 2014. But it still feels like an eternity ago. My life has changed so much in such a short period of time that I'm left wondering why I was wandering around Torrance in the fall of 2014, looking for marked up curb cuts in office parks behind hospitals. The answer is this: more R.L. Osborn photos from the early '80s shot in front of the former Wizard Publications building at 3162 Kashiwa St. Also, I'm completely out of R.L. Osborn stories, so in this instance, I'll just talk about being sick the past few days and living a life punctuated by Benadryl. Or I'll just go take a nap instead. Seriously, I slept 10 and a half hours last night and it was glorious…
In 1986, Redline Bicycles dropped their top freestyle pro, R.L. Osborn. He went on to sign with a newish bike company from Rutherford, N.J. named General Bicycles, which reportedly paid him a salary of $100,000 a year. With connections to the magazines of the time (his dad was the publisher, his sister the photographer) and geographic proximity to the offices, R.L. did what he knew best and started promoting General Bicycles to the masses. But he never rested on his laurels or seemed to take advantage of his familial connections at the magazine — he rode, a lot, and progressed originally with the trends of the time, adjusting to rolling tricks, street riding and changing anti-uniform styles. In 1987, General unveiled their first run of complete bicycles, and of course, R.L. Osborn ensured that the lower end General R.L. Osborn Hustler Pro bike was featured in the March 1988 issue of Freestylin' Magazine. 'Bike test' is a loose term for the feature, because it's R.L., Chris Day and Craig Grasso all riding their personal bikes, with one unridden photo of the new complete bike taking up a page. Instead, it was three of the best riders of the time doing progressive moves on street and flatland with the likes of Spike Jonze and Windy Osborn behind the lens. Here, R.L. Osborn pulls a switch-footed handlebar grab backwards wheelie to fakie whiplash in the parking lot along Harbor Drive in Redondo Beach. I rode the same lot more times than I'd care to admit, and I always remembered that loose bike test whenever I passed that parking garage. General Bicycles didn't make it to 1989, and R.L. disappeared from BMX just a few years later. I still kinda miss them both.
So I had to cut NYC rider Jason Leder's head off — it's something I never wanted to do since I spotted the first photos of him in Freestylin' Magazine in 1987, but for the sake of Instagram squares, it was necessary. From what I can gather, he got enough photos in the magazine that Schwinn's Yo! program took notice, sent him a bike and started sending him to AFA contests around the country, including the AFA Masters in Austin, Texas in the spring of 1988. And then Windy Osborn took him to the most inopportune sidewalk in all of Austin to shoot a backwards decade photo. (Seriously, it's a sidewalk on a heavy trafficked bridge.) I went by there earlier today, and all I could think was that the skyline had broadly changed in less than 30 years. This town is a mess, I'm partly to blame, and I wouldn't be surprised if I end up back in Redondo or Hermosa because of it. Also, it's cold and windy today, so ignore my whining.
Between Freestylin' Magazine's coverage of the AFA Masters at the Austin City Coliseum in May of 1988 and the 2-Hip King of Vert in Austin in July of 1988, I became acquainted with the non-competition riding scene of Austin, Texas. There were ditches, wallrides, fountains to jump out of, parking lots to be ridden, and lots of locals that were good at all types of riding. Of course, back then, a teenage kid in New Jersey had to wait for his favorite editorial crew in California to travel to Texas, report on a scene, get back to Torrance, write, edit, develop, layout, proof, print, et al, before getting the actual magazine in the mail some five to six months after the magazine's initial trip to cover the competition in the first place. And of course, I was more interested in the non-competition photos shot while the Freestylin' crew were on their various excursions. Basically, they knew that the comps were just an excuse to explore a new place and show the true side of bike riding. Dave Voelker arrived in Austin to compete in 19 and over expert ramps. He got fourth place in the contest and then shot this no-footer out of the fountain on the University of Texas campus with Windy Osborn. It's been burned into my brain ever since. I think the wait for the magazine was worth it.
Who woulda thunk it? Ron Wilkerson has a brother named Sean that also rode and was featured as a sponsored amateur 'Spam file' in Freestylin' Magazine sometime in 1987. I don't think he got too much coverage past this one two-page profile, but he definitely visited Torrance Beach once upon a time and busted out some tweaked no-footed cancan endos. Towards the end of my tenure in Redondo, this became my go-to riding spot, and I am eternally grateful that I shared the pavement with so many legendary names in a parking lot overlooking the PV Peninsula. (Sometimes I don't have the greatest story to create surrounding these things, but that was one of my favorite spots to ride ever…)
On the left is Pete Augustin tire bonking the end of a rail atop the International Pier in Redondo Beach in late 1987 shot by Spike Jonze, and my photo on the right from the same location in mid-September of 2015. Pete Augustin was/is an enigma to me. After spotting the first photos of him in Freestylin' Magazine in 1986, I could sense there was something different about his persona and his riding. He wasn't about to stand in line, wear a uniform and do the trendy tricks of the time. He shaved his head and he had tattoos. He seemed to have trouble keeping bike sponsors, he didn't do great in contests, and when the first street competition finally arrived in early 1988, he was quoted as saying, 'This is not really street — it's an obstacle contest.' I get the feeling he was more at home cruising the streets, jumping curbs, hitting wallrides and exploring the streets of Hermosa and Redondo on whatever bike he could get his hands on. And because of that approach, he became one of the first true street riders without having to put a label on himself, pushing BMX in to a more organic place, away from quarterpipes, uniforms and definitions. Also, he's doing a friggin tire bonk on a rail in 1987 — a trick that most people can't comprehend even now.
I moved to Austin several months ago and got drafted into a few more jobs than I had signed up. July arrived, and all indications of a vacation from work disappeared. I had arrived in the last few days of January and had pretty much worked from there straight through until the middle of October. And then it dawned on me to take a week off while I could, so I did that. Continue reading Armed Robbery Attempt: Oct. 14, 2015