Saturday, July 26, 2014

A fresh start



Here's the AFA Socko Finals from 1987.

Life's a wild ride.  I've had a lot happen in the past couple years since I took down the original version of this blog.  Then I started it again.  Then I moved the blog over to Wordpress for a while.  It looks better there, but I'm more comfortable blogging here on Blogger.  I'm picking up about where I left off, in 1987.  I worked for the American Freestyle Association (AFA) that year.  So here's the AFA finals to get you back in the mood of 1987.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New location

In yet another new start for this blog, I've moved the blog over to wordpress.com, which looks a little better and gives me more options as a blogger.  Check it out here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Drama

So here's the deal...  My laptop crashed a couple weeks ago, and I had to sell it to buy minutes to keep my mom's phone turned on.  That was a mistake.  Now I finally made it to the library to get in a post or two, and the library computer here won't let me embed videos anymore.  Really lame.  Obviously, since this is a blog that's largely text, I can just keep writing if I can get to the library, but Ilm going to try to find some computer that lets me embed videos.  My personal drama is ongoing.  No money, living with my elderly mom, and unable to find a job in the super slow job market here in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina.  So the blog is on hold for the moment until I can find a decent computer to use.  If I can't embed videos, then I'll just start walking the 3 1/2 miles (each way) to the library and write text only posts from now until my life completely crashes down, which will be in the next two or three months with all the current drama.  One way or another, I'll keep this blog going as long as I can.  I can't tell you all how bummed I am that I had to take down the original 500 posts of this blog last fall.  I'll try to build it back up to that, no matter what the obstacles and how long it takes. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Rise of BMX Freestyle book

I'm out of the loop on a lot of stuff, so you probably already know about this.  A guy from the U.K. named Dominic Phipps has written a book called The Rise of BMX Freestyle.  It's coming out soon, and here's an interview with Dom talking about his background and the book.  It's 144 pages, backed by Haro Bikes, and covers the era from 1978 to 1986.  Sounds like a cool book.  Check it out. 

Minimalist BMX Concept Bike



Here we have a a Spanish language photo compilation of the new minimalist BMX concept bike by Nikolay Boltachev.  I think I got that name right, I couldn't find the original web post I saw for the bike this morning.   Anyhow, he's a Russian designer looking to take the ol' double diamond hardtail BMX bike down to its most basic form.  I can't say I'd want to ride one of these things, but it would look cool hanging on the wall as some kind of BMX chic art piece in a super trick garage/man cave next to my bar, pool table and Lamborghini.  Yeah, I'm dreamin'.  And so was Nikolay.

Personally, I've seen "the bike of the future" show up every year or so for 30 years now.  Guess what?  BMX bikes, the real BMX bikes used by real riders look nearly the same as they did when I got seriously into riding in 1982.  The seats are lower, bikes are stronger, and there have been a lot of functional changes.  But the old basic "double diamond hardtail" frame design, as Chris Moeller and McGoo once called it in a zine, is still with us.  Does that mean all these crazy future designs are stupid?  No.  Designs like this hubless art project aren't going to revolutionize BMX, most likely, but thinking outside the box by people outside the industry helps shake things up a bit.  Linn Kastan of Redline put out a bike with a one blade fork in about 1989.  Some kids actually raced them.  But the idea didn't stick because BMXers like to jump and do tricks, and that fork couldn't handle sketchy landings by bigger riders.

So while I'm pretty darn sure this IS NOT the bike of the future, I figured it was worth a blog post because designers and engineers are needed to dream up new ideas, most of which don't work.  A perfect is example is what happened the first time my dad went to a BMX race with me at the sketchy Fort Boise BMX track, which was built in a drained sewer pond.  My dad was a design engineer and mechanical genius.  After watching a pretty typical local race for an afternoon, my dad said, "They need to build these bikes out of carbon fiber."  His engineer brain went wild designing "the bike of the future."  It was exactly what I'd seen in BMX Plus! not long before.  By then I knew those bikes were ridiculous.  I burst my dad's bubble.  "Dad, what would one of those futuristic carbon fiber BMX bikes cost?"  His brain did some figuring.  "About $5,000," he answered.  "No BMXer can afford that," I replied, rather cruelly, I might add.  My engineer dad was bummed.  The rest of the ride home was silent.

Later, we started talking about what BMX bikes really did need.  My dad's design engineer brain sparred with my BMX rider brain about the state of BMX bikes in 1983. A couple years later, my dad and I really got into brainstorming about the future of BMX bikes.  I was a hardcore, if if not great rider, and I knew what most of the problems were.  In about 1985,  I described problems, and my dad came up with reasonable engineering solutions. Together we thought up stronger dropouts, larger axles, redesigned seat guts, a bash guard, and stronger head tubes.  In short, my dad and I in 1983 came up with every idea that has actually happened since to actual bikes.  I'm not saying we were brilliant, I'm just saying that's what happens when you put a good engineer and a decent rider together.  You start with airy fairy ideas like the concept above, and you reel it back into the practical realm.  Then real, practical design ideas come.

So why didn't we start a bike company if we designed the real, practical bike of the future in 1983?  Becasue neither of us was an entrepreneur.  If I had had a brother who was a serious entrepreneur back then, maybe the company would have been started.  But it wasn't.  I wound up the brainiac sidekick to Chris Moeller in some of the early years of S&M Bikes, and helped design the epic BS-20 Neon, among other great things.  There's a serious inside joke for ya.  Come to think of it, before that I helped redesign the Raleigh Ultra Shock, which had the best geometry I've ever ridden, and the Auburn freestyle bike which never got made.  Then I wound up helping Moeller hawk Holmeses, Dirtbikes, and Slam Bars.

My point to all of this?  As crazy as that bike above looks, it's good to get outsiders to throw some fresh ideas into the mox now and then to see what happens.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Dave Vanderspek Part 2



Here's Vander (in the white hat)back in the day doing a little damage control after a show.  You know you had a good show when the police call a sticker toss and car smashing a "riot."

"The best thing you ever did for me... was to help me take me life less seriously.  Hey, it's only life after all." 
- The Indigo Girls, "Closer To Fine."

Dave Vanderspek came across as a goofball when you first met him.  He dressed like a crazy surfer/skater guy, giving everyone a taste of where standard BMX fashion was going in years ahead.  He founded the legendary Curb Dogs bike and skate team, which ranked among top factory teams in popularity.  He was the visionary leader of the Golden Gate Park scene, which produced a bunch of pros (Vander, Maurice Meyer, Rick Allison, Robert Peterson, Oleg Konings, and Hugo Gonzales), a bunch of great amateur riders, two magazine guys (Karl Rothe and myself), and the most controversial skateboard graphic artist ever, Mark McKee.  Dave held the first bike halfpipe contest ever.  He helped bring the much needed skateboard and punk rock attitude to the BMX world.  Clearly there was a lot more going on with Dave Vanderspek than the Spicoli-like (name three one-liners from "Fast Times"- quick!*) persona which is all most people saw.

That's all I saw for the first few months I knew Dave.  I'll be honest, I talked a lot of smack about Dave for a while.  I was trying desperately to be a super serious BMX business guy like I imagined Bob Haro or R.L. Osborn to be.  But Dave could already see that things were going to mellow out eventually.  As soon as most of the sponsors left the BMX freestyle world, we all started dressing in shorts and T-shirts like Dave, and wearing leathers and helmets for flatland was out.  Dave was several years ahead of a sport that was brand new.  I don't know if he saw the future, or helped create it by simply being himself.  Like that Indigo Girls quote above, Vander helped me learn to take life less seriously, a lesson I'm still learning decades after his untimely death.

* One liners from Fast Times at Ridgemont High:

"You Dick!"
"It's a way of looking at the wave and saying 'Hey bud, let's party.'"
"Dudes on 'ludes shouldn't drive."
"I can fix it, my dad's a TV repair man, he's got the ultimate set of tools."
"If I'm here and you're here, doesn't that make it OUR time?"
"That was my skull... I'm so wasted." ** 

In case you're wondering, "Dual and Silk" was Dave Vanderspek, part 1.

 **Did you know that Sean Penn actually used a pair of his own Vans shoes for Jeff Spicoli's character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High?  Did you know that Vans shoes sales increased from about $20 million a year to $40 million a year because of that scene?  Yup.  It's true. It's also true that Vans is owned by the huge, multi-national corporation VF, located in Greensboro, North Carolina, a city that doesn't have a single skatepark.  I was so bummed when I learned that.

Vander



Dave Vanderspek was one of the most colorful characters in the early days of BMX freestyle. That's saying a lot considering how much neon we were wearing in those days.