I got my first BMX bike when I was barely a teenager. I think I picked it up in grade 9. It wasn’t the bike I wanted, but it was the bike that the guy at the store convinced me to buy. It was an RPM Turbine, made by Norco. It didn’t have the flash or pizazz that the other actual BMX bikes had, but my parents were paying so I didn’t have the choice.
I rode that thing quite a bit. All of the parts were a bit different from the parts on my friends bikes, which meant that they did the job, but they didn’t do the job as good as they could have. Adequacy was the descriptor for that bike. It was merely a bike. I rode it anyway.
Flatland was the genre of riding that I wanted to get into. There was a local icon that was featured in the newspaper at the time, and I felt inspired when I saw him ride. I cut out the newspaper photo of him and put it on my wall. It was recycled a long time ago, but I remember the photo quite vividly.
Flatland was one of those things that seemed to be really easy to get into. All you needed was a bike (even my adequate bike would do) and a little pad of concrete. Luckily for me, there was a little basketball court up the street with some asphalt. At the time the asphalt was smoothe. It was the type that got sticky when the sun beat down on it in the summer. It was good asphalt; the last time I checked it out there were all sorts of cracks and it wasn’t sticky at all. It was aged. It was my spot, though.
The first trick that I tried to learn was something called an endo. Basically, you squeeze the front brake and then the rear end of the bike lifts up. The key is to try and get the back end up high and to hold it for a long while. That was the way to master that trick. I started off going to the basketball court for ten minutes. Then fifteen minutes. Eventually I was able to stay for about a half an hour. I never really mastered the trick, though. I could do it OK, but it wasn’t the trick that I wanted to learn. I wanted to move on to different things. Some might say better things, but a rudimentary trick is just that. Actually, all of the rudimentary tricks are just that. You learn them and then you move on.
Although the endos (and other easy tricks) have come and gone, I’ve learned quite a bit from those days. I know what its like to be alone on a concrete or asphalt pad, pushing myself over and over. I know the feeling of not being able to do something, working really hard, and then being able to do it. I don’t imagine that everyone learns to feel that, and I feel like I’ve been able to translate that feeling into countless ways that have benefited me greatly.
I’ve been riding for a long time now. I think I’ve reached the point in life where I’ve been riding for longer than I haven’t been. I don’t remember what it’s like to not have that feeling as a part of my life, but there are times when I’m reminded of the fragility of that feeling. Today, a little kid rode in the spot where I was riding. He was working on the same sorts of tricks I once worked on — balancing, endos — and it was refreshing to see. I felt like telling him to keep with it and eventually it would pay off.
I felt like if that were me, some years ago, I would have told myself that message. I stuck with it, and it definitely paid off.