Where undiscovered talent meets high energy and unwavering support, it’s there that you’ll most often find a string of unlikely events that have been molded in to something spectacular.
My favorite stories to tell are the ones that start with humble beginnings and grow in to something spectacular. And that is indeed the case with BMX.
In SoCal, in the early 1970’s, during a time when kids played outside all day until the street lights came on, the motocross racing scene had a huge following of an unexpected audience, kids. Their love for motocross racing came from watching athletes do incredible things with an everyday object, a motorcycle. With everything from racing through thick, dirt courses to landing awe-inspiring jumps, it’s no wonder that these kids who had never used a computer, tablet, or smart phone were enamored with motocross.
When they decided to imitate their favorite motocross riders, as kids do, some of them took their bikes to a local dirt track to kick up some dirt. The track was called B.U.M.S. (Later known as Bicycle United Motocross Society) field, and the guy who led this small group of kids was named Scot Breithaupt. The group didn’t stay small for long. Scot took an ad out in the local paper advertising B.U.M.S. field as a place for kids to ride BMX (Bicycle Motocross). He charged 25 cents for entry and on the next Sunday about 150 kids showed up to pay and ride.
Scot was older than most of the kids at B.U.M.S. field (13 years old), which later earned him the endearing nickname of “OM” or “Old Man”, but perhaps that leg up on years gave him an advantage over the others. Or maybe it was his high energy, or his entrepreneurial spirit. Whatever it was, this 13 year old kid became the “Founding Father of BMX”, the co-founder of SE Racing (along with Perry “P.K.” Kramer), the winner of a plethora of awards, laid the groundwork for how BMX is promoted and sponsored, taught BMX bike clinics, and much, much more – all before reaching the age of 20.
Scot wasn’t the only key player to help with the rise of BMX. In 1972, just a couple of years after Scot began his promotions at B.U.M.S. field, a documentary spread through the U.S. called “On Any Sunday”. It was about motocross, but the opening scene featured kids riding their now-iconic Schwinn Stingray bikes through a dirt track while wearing kid-sized motocross helmets. It was the first time BMX really broke out of southern California and migrated in to homes across the USA.
5 years later, in 1977, after seeing the huge backing BMX was receiving, the ABA (American Bicycle Association) was organized as the national sanctioning body for BMX. Today, the ABA is still very much involved with BMX culture and events, but is now known as USA BMX. It schedules, organizes, sponsors, and promotes most of the BMX races and events in the US.
By 1982, the first BMX world championships were held, just 10 years after its nationwide debut in the opening scene of “On Any Sunday”. Around the time of the world championships, BMX welcomed a new style of riding: Freestyle. Freestyle riding was all about landing different tricks on your bike. It came with new ways to measure ability, new riders, and new bike mods. In 1981, Bob Haro, the Father of BMX Freestyle, started a traveling BMX freestyle show that really helped grow the popularity of BMX freestyle riding throughout the US.
As time went on, the following for BMX grew larger. The market for bikes, mods, and gear grew, riding clinics opened, BMX was featured on popular television channels such as Nickelodeon, and sponsorship payments increased. Everyone wanted a piece of the exposure that came with promoting BMX.
In 1995 the Summer X Games had their premier opening and BMX was a headlining sport. Having only been around for about 26 years, I’d call that impressive. Dave Mirra was a freestyle BMX rider who competed and won a medal in every Summer X Game from 1995-2009. His name is synonymous with Tony Hawk and Joe Parsons for highly decorated extreme sport athletes.
Then, in 2003, BMX got its biggest gig, a promised spot in the 2008 Olympics in China. It was truly the seal of approval for being a genuine and respected competitive sport. But really, was there ever any doubt?
Today, BMX has made a resurgence and the movement is unstoppable. Thanks in part to an unlikely, but very welcomed ambassador to BMX, NFL player Marshawn Lynch, BMX is unfolding its wings across across the USA once more.
With help from social media as well, BMX focused posts such as the Bike Life movement, Ride Outs, showing off your new SE Retro or Rad bike, and the Cycle Squad Maniacs are heavily peppered throughout major outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
With a rich background of passionate athletes coupled with today’s phenomenon of social media, the sky is the limit for BMX.
A few rad links we enjoyed checking out while writing this blog post: