Last weekend I was at a community festival at Bayside Park in Chula Vista, CA. Among the food stands, local community tents, the antique car exhibit, and sales tents for such recreational items as inflatable stand-up paddleboards, there was one exhibition area featuring bicycles, a BMX cycling demonstration, to be repeated about four times that day.
My grandson Jackson loves anything that moves at a high rate of speed and has just a touch of danger attached, so naturally we watched, along with my son Jon, Jack’s dad. After all, I like all kinds of bicycles, and Jon’s a good sport. The next show was coming up soon, so we hung around.
The exhibition space featured a couple of quarter-pipe ramps designed for jumping and stunting along the railing at the top of the larger one. There was a large open space beyond the shorter ramp for landings, though the riders had to avoid a fire hydrant and its two protective yellow-painted pipes. On the far side there was a table with a mike and a couple of speakers.
Soon enough the show began. Four riders came roaring in, one by one. Each did a simple jump by riding up the high ramp, then down and up the jumping ramp. They soared high above the ramp on a steep trajectory, and came down gracefully, exiting around the corner of the exhibition area onto one of the park drives, effortlessly jumping the curbs as if they weren’t even there. The riders were similar in build: on the short side, wiry, and of course with well-muscled arms and legs. Some wore long sleeves and pants, others opted for t-shirts and perhaps shorts. As they were introduced, we learned they were all from around Chula Vista, and that one competed internationally in BMX events. Not surprising, since the sport began in southern California (where else, really?) in the early ‘70s. The announcer (who later rode, and was one of the best), introduced each rider, and explained each jump.
The bikes were, I judge, BMX Street-style bikes, with one gear, no cables, foot bars on both axles for certain tricks, thick sturdy frames, wide wheels with many spokes, and heavy, heavy tires. (None of those effete 23 mm racing slicks here! They’d blow on the first landing, and their expensive wheels would be pretzels.) BMX frames are built in a flattened diamond shape, with low seat and high handlebars. All this allows for lots of standing and easy body movement in airborne stunting.
These guys were experts, and the show was thrilling. They soared high over a volunteer spectator standing atop the jump ramp. They did no feet, one hand, no hands, and “superman” jumps. They spun the bike around under them, two whole times in one case. They spun the handlebars around. They balanced on the rail on top of the big ramp. They finished with 360° backflips, one after the other, every one perfect and smoothly landed. They were super. We screamed our applause. They came around the crowd, handed out a few posters, and signed them and everything else, from caps to t-shirts. They high-fived the kids standing in front. One of them grinned and replied in kind to my enthusiastic “thumbs-up.”
We all loved it!
©2015. Arnold J. Bradford