Sunday, October 02, 2005

trials and errors

Trials has never interested me, to be honest, but it surely seems to be classifiable as “hardcore” if no one wants to do it. Maybe the hybrid / new discipline of “urban assault” or MTB street has replaced trials. Street for BMX Freestyle replaced vert and flatland. Evolution or devolution? You could argue either way.
Trials, to me, is the mastery of a BMX skill set of about six maneuvers circa 1983. As such, Trials has always looked dated to me. Which is not to say that rad things don’t get done (Ryan Leech, for example), but that from a BMXer perspective, simple things are being done in a big way.
Trials probably takes a lot of practice. MTB street and jumping does not. Again, the parallel with flatland. Flatland is honestly too hard to be fun. Indeed, the riders seem to need to appropriate a discourse of “art” to justify their pursuit (i.e.; suffering for your art). BMX street / park is so much easier, and the rewards come quicker. I saw a 15 year old kid last night almost pull a 360-tailwhip, one week after he learned a tailwhip, which was two weeks after starting to even try tailwhips. Ridiculous.
BMX, as a culture of progression and a sport, is strong. As an industry, it has been down for about three years. This means that a 15 year old that can do 360-whips has very little chance of getting sponsored. There are simply not enough sponsorship positions right now, so the 2000 kids in North America who are better than some sponsored pros will probably not get hooked up.
Some think that the industry has stabilized at this lower level, and that it will remain consistent / constant. The peak during 2000 – 2002 was simply a case of fad / overhype.
Of course, nobody should care about the industry. If it really is all about the riding and participation, no one should even be reading this.
By the way, I sold all three of my BMX bikes since the last posting. As my new one won’t go together until mid November, my only bike is my 24” bmtbx.
Hey, that’s a nice new label. But redundant. One B, perhaps. No mountain (MT) for me. That leaves B and X. I’m over the X side of culture, so that leaves B. Bicycle. Hmmm.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Oh god the fatigue

It's obviously been a very long time since I've posted. It would seem that the reason is the usual blog problem of the novelty wearing off. In fact it's more serious: The novelty of the whole bike seen has finally, after all these years, completely worn off for me. In fact, in my sub genre of trials, it seems to have worn off for a whole bunch of people of my generation, all at the same time. I have just posted to the North American Trials organizers mailing list (essentially dormant since March) that we should discuss 2006 and possibly bring the series to an end. For my part it is now taking the greatest effort to rouse from my torpor and try to do any organizing.

This is a serious problem for trials. We still aren't attracting manuy (any?) new event organizers, so as my generation retires, there is no one to take over and the sport is dying fast. There seems to be some activity on the internet, but it's very equipment oriented, so one suspects it's mostly tech weenies who love talking about bike parts, but aren't actually riding enough to be generating their own scenes.

I'm wondering how other action sports are doing in general right now. Is there still good energy in BMX? Clearly events like metrojam are going strong, but how is it overall?

Friday, August 19, 2005


My favourite rideable object in Montreal has been destroyed! There is a small, really quite sad skatepark at Jarry Park (where all the big tennis tournaments happen here) that is about 15 years old. In one neglected corner, there was a 4 foot tall, 12 foot wide too-shallow quarterpipe that was my safe little retirement ramp. I went there on my cruiser yesterday to find that the city is in the proces of destroying or redesigning the area. Some local kids muttered something about basketball courts. My fear is another fecal bolt-down skatepark.
My ramp, which is surfaced in metal, has been pushed around and semi destroyed. The right-side six feet now features a wave-like blockage due to the rolling up of the ramp surface. The other side has a speed bump of sorts.
Here's where the goodness of my new suspension-equipped hybrid comes in. On my big bike, I can roll right up that speed bump, do basic fakie tricks (abubacas and nosepicks), and re-enter with minimal difficulty. My bmx is not all-terrain enough for this new monstrosity. Hmmmm.
So I got one last session in, thanks to the cruiser.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

well I'm ba a a a ack

Geez, it’s been a while.
In Montreal, we have only a few skateparks, and they are all these horrible bolt-down things. They pave an area flat, and then bolt down piss-poor cement pre-fab ramps. Horrible. I’d rather not ride at all. The main problem in Vancouver is choosing which of the forty parks to ride.
My 24” has been ridden on average 29 out of every 30 days since I got it. Which is not to say I prefer it for performance / stunts, but that I’m trying to stay away from BMX tricks and the associated body punishment. As a commuter machine that can do stunts if I need it to, it is almost perfect. Almost, I say, because it is so heavy. I need to switch out the Atomlab Trail Pimp rims for something much lighter. Maybe 1.5” slick tires too. But then I can’t abuse it. Hmmmm.
Why exactly are the MTBers running such fat tires on their street bikes, anyways? I’m on 2.00”s, and I’ve been contemplating 1.85”s. 2.5”s look ridiculous to me, not to mention heavy.
Silly part swaps on my Norco Two50 to make it more BMX: the DMR cranks and chainwheel for Primo Hollwbites with a MacNeil sprocket (the DMRs were chromoly, problem-free and lighter; the Primos squeak), and switching out the DMR 2.2” semi-knobbies for 2.0” Specialized freestyle-type tires (again, the replacements were heavier). I’m happy with the setup I have, to be sure, but I’m a bit embarrassed that I was moved by subcultural allegiance over functionality.
I think the rear end of my frame is twisted already. As I voided the warranty on the Norco within 4 days of getting it (chopping up the frame), I think I’ll just ride it this way. Good thing I have disc brakes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More Leeside

We had a meeting today about leeside, the next level. It seems there needs to be an intermediate soltion where the city makes some improvements to the tunnel and we get a budget of about $20K for obstacles only. Hopefully if this goes well there will be a lot more money later for an improved facility.
Given the budget limitations, one idea is to use existing concrete structures we can borrow from the city, or beg from cement companies. Such things could include jersey barriers, Indycar wall blocks and big pipes. It remains to be seen if we can make a reasonable park out of such things. I'm asking people at the city about what sorts of concrete things they have and I'm pondering what sorts of common concrete structures could be adapted into a skatepark.

I need to ponder, not why the BMX world has a sense of irony, but why the mainstream has no sense of irony whatsoever.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Length matters

Yes indeed, the disc brakes better than my U Brakes (on chrome plated rims) when it is wet. Then again, my BMX isn’t allowed in the rain.
I’ve been playing with the “modulation adjusters” on my brake levers (Avid Speed Dial), trying to figure that out. I still prefer the feel of my U Brakes (the snap-iness), but the quality of the final grab / lock of disc brakes is hard to argue. I’ve got a detangler on now, too.
I have no child, and I’m evidently on sabbatical with regard to my dissertation.
As for the irony issue, it goes back to which of us is the snowboarders and skiers. Although BMX is pretty mainstream / jocky / conservative nowadays, the magazines are still run by the guys that went through the time in which BMX freestyle was an “other”, or outside or alternative activity. Think of it this way, BMX is run by Nirvana, and MTB is run by Mariah Carey. The newschool urban assaulters may be relatively hardcore within the world of MTB, but they still look and act like suburban, mamma’s-boys poseurs to BMXers. So, yes, the BMXers are more immature, but they come from the outside, and maybe this means irony is better understood.
Think of it this way: MTB has moved from straight / conservative towards outside / hardcore. BMX Freestyle was hardcore, and has moved in the opposite direction. You’d hope that we would meet in the middle and get along, but tribalism gets in the way.
Still. I think there is hope. Think back to 1990: kids either liked rock music or rap. Never both. Now kids are over the distinctions. So, maybe we’ll all just be bike riders as kids are now music lovers.
I have ridden my BMX twice in the last six weeks since I received my cruiser. I think the cruiser is the right bike for me now. Which is not to say that it has replaced my BMX. It’s just that I’ve quit riding freestyle, and my new bike is a fun and comfortable commuting machine. It does weigh nine more pounds than my BMX, though. Maybe I can convince Jim to make me an aluminum frame.
Again, an inventory of what I’m riding: Take a 2005 Norco Two50, shorten the rear dropouts / wheelbase by 1.5” (slammed), change the tires to smaller (but heavier?) Specialized street tires, change the seat / post / clamp (MacNeil Capital), change to Primo Hollowbite cranks and a MacNeil Sprocket (plus new chain), change to sealed KHE graphite flatland pedals, Solid BMX stem, WTP Osato grips, MacNeil Bar Ends, and add an SST long-travel Oryg setup (but with a sealed aluminum Odyssey GTX-R detangler). Grind off the excess dropouts and cable guides, cut down the seat tube, and paint it one layer of flat black Tremclad. It will weigh about 34 lbs. So all I kept was the frame, fork, headset, wheels, bars, and brakes.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Bah. I think 22" wheels would be the worst of both worlds. In trials we have 26" and 20" and it seems to work well. About your u-brakes: The disks work a whole lot better than any rim brakes in the wet.

So my life is extremely boring right now because all I do is work on my thesis day in day out. Ben is 22 months old now and fascinated with all bicycles, so I'm looking forward to when he can start riding. I'm sort of on a riding hiatus right now I guess. So Wade, you are a great expert on culture and communications. Can you explain to me why, when you look at BMX and MTB magazines, you quickly realize that BMXers despite being undereducated punks, have a way more sophisticated sense of irony than the entire MTB industry?