Never Too Old for BMX

 

The first quarter of this year was when I made my slow return to riding my BMX bike again. Our new place is less than five kilometers from a park where local BMX riders hang around. While my riding sessions haven’t been as regular as more than 20 years ago, I once again become aware and interested in the country’s and international BMX scene. And I can see that BMX sport continues to evolve. BMX riders are now more daring and the new tricks they can do are just unreal. My favorite flatland isn’t the flatland that I used to know. Good signs that behind the seemingly common fixies, MTB’s and Triathlon bikes, BMX too has become just as popular.

To prove that local BMX is gaining grounds, riders in the Philippines have been celebrating BMX day. It isn’t clear though when it first started. Even Google doesn’t offer a definite answer if, when and where the first BMX day originated. But July 23 seems to be the D-Day. So on Saturday riders of BMX bikes in the country gathered together in their respective rendezvous. Fans and pros alike pedaled around in numbers in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to celebrate. Knowing the potential of this sport, I would have loved to be part of this celebration.

Back in my younger years, we never had an annual BMX day event. In my days, every weekend is our BMX day and, for the lack of Facebook and social media, I only know that our team was the only BMX freestyler (hint on the term) team in Bacolod City. I even would bet that in the city’s BMX community anyone would recognize the name Linear Radicals. We were a familiar sight in the Bacolod City Lagoon—bikes were allowed inside back then. People stop and stare when we start jamming around. We would make heads turn when we do impromptu tricks in the crowded streets during the MassKara festival. There was even a time when we packed our bikes in a small pickup truck and headed somewhere far north to be part of a town’s fiesta. There was another team who did the racing event but ours took over the stunt show. Modesty aside, for once, we were famous in our own rights.

Not me, not my pic. (Image from the web.)

Fast forward to 2016, the BMX scene changed a lot. Think of heavy black rotary phone versus sleek smartphones. Change was rad. I remember the first time we saw on Betamax the first time an American perfected the tailwhip air on a vert ramp but locals nowadays can pop one from a bunnyhop. It is just unbelievable to see that the BMX flatland tricks my generation once do are now considered basics. The scuff tricks are now used to progress to far more technical rolling tricks. Even young riders nowadays would transition from one trick to another through a short squeakerson, front yard, backyard, or funky chicken. And did I mention they do all these brakeless?

My own old  bike turned brakeless.

While the BMX flatland tricks have become more complicated, the BMX parts and its setup is the opposite. It is now common to see totally brakeless bikes which means brake levers, calipers and detanglers are starting to be obsolete. BMX flatland riders also now prefer chainwheels with only 25 teeth and they have also set the seat lower than before. With lesser and smaller yet better parts, what’s left is the basic bike that is less cumbersome thus making it an effective street or BMX flatland bike. Despite its simplicity, prices do not come cheap. Popular price range is 10,000-20,000 pesos.

The BMX sport will surely get better and bigger. In the Philippines alone, popular riders like Paulo Gepulango (proudly from Bacolod) and Renz Viaje, who in the recent years joined an It’s Showtime contest, continue to inspire new generations of BMX flatland riders. There’s also this promising BMX team in Bohol who made me realize that there’s more to this place than just its Chocolate Hills and tarsiers—I would definitely try to find where they hang out if I get the chance to travel down south.

Philippine BMX flatland videos always zap me back in time when all we care about is BMX (yup, I’ve skipped classes for it).  Every time I see one makes a part of me a very young boy eager to get on a bike to see if I can pop a wheelie for starters but another part an old man conceding that what these young lads do aren’t for me anymore.  By the way, those guys I hang out with in Tanauan are half my age so I guess I could claim to be their father of BMX. Regardless, I think nobody is too old for BMX so I will remain to be a big fan of this sport and would like to continue seeing more of it. To old-schoolers and young BMX riders alike, more power.

 

This was also posted on Flatmode Philippines (Official). Paulo Gepulango is this FB page’s admin.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Almost on tip-top shape.)

 

 

Old School Flatland, Anyone?

I have found my second lagoon. In my younger years I hang out a  lot with my friends in Bacolod Lagoon to kill time with our bikes and to test ourselves if we can mimic what we saw on BMX Trix 101. I can’t recall if it’s on Betamax or VHS format, definitely not on disc, but it’s the only video source we have back then–YouTube wasn’t around yet. I continued with freestyle until before I got married in 1996.

Years later, I would soon find myself on my twenty-year old Haro bike, stepping on its pegs, figuring out if I can still do either the scuff or rolling tricks that I like to do. And I still can. I am now in the midst of the new generation riders—and I’m lost in their lingo and the names of the famous riders they know. These guys use bikes with small sprockets, low seats, and mostly brakeless. I have an old school setup. One remarked that my Spintech detangler is now only available on eBay. My freestyle bike is the heaviest. But yes, I am among the few here who can do flatland. The rest do street.

I am now on my third week of mingling with whoever is at the Tanuan plaza–yesterday we transferred to their other location as a political campaign was ongoing. I have a list of routines to recover but I was able to do a satisfactory frontyard yesterday and I got a short clip of myself doing a backwards forkwheelie. Need to avoid skinny jeans though.

***

To be with other BMX riders is already almost home but to speak with others in my own dialect makes it a lot better. I did not expect that here in Batangas I would meet others who are from either Ilo-ilo or Bacolod. The guy who can do time machine is from Ilo-ilo while the one from Bacolod (he’s here for a vacation) rides with one of the current popular riders, Paulo Gepulango, who happens to be a friend of a Facebook friend. My FB friend is the son of one of my best friends and BMX teammate. Then last week, I was in bike shop whose owner and their mechanic are from Negros Occidental, too. Small world?

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (I need a bike rack so I can take Marcus and his wheelchair with me.)

Gone too Soon

Early part of this year has been full of news of death of celebrities whose names have been all too familiar with me as they have been part of my generation’s pop culture. There’s the iconic singer David Bowie, Glen Frey of Eagles, and the actor who played villain roles, Alan Rickman. I thought everyone in their sixties are dying but today one broke the trend and probably the saddest and tragic so far.

Dave Mirra was found dead and reports tell of an apparent suicide. Mirra who is an icon in the BMX world continued to live the life that others like me could only dream of. At age 41, he is known to have transitioned to be an active triathlete. From the Rad years to his own Playstation game and up to Facebook I was one of those who witnessed his full life, well, until I read the Facebook post on Lad Bible about his untimely death.

Suicide sucks but will always remain a mystery. It is easy to judge those who did it but we will never would understand why, even despite accomplishment and fame, they would rather end their own life. Rest in peace Dave and we pray that God bless your family and kids.

***

Mood: 7/10 Honks! (A day of happy and sad news.)

BMX day

 

My mind is stalling. Time I guess has slowed down a lot today, that right now I can’t think of anything to blog. I already had my siesta which if according to the four mind states I should already be having some sort of creativity brewing within my gray matter after having the alpha and theta states. Now, I’m entering delta. I find it also so unbelievable as I actually had a lot of ideas flying inside my head while I was doing my early morning run – that’s the problem with relying on jotting/doodling notes. Well, at least I’ve got some other things to blame other than myself.

So left with no choice but to kill time, I allowed myself a few minutes of playing the Mafia application in Facebook, and another more minutes of wondering if I was about to argue with the real McHammer in Twitter. Finally, I decided to randomly check for what’s happening in WordPress.

I think you miss one spot right here, Dad.

I think you miss one spot right here, Dad.

 

If there’s something like a BMX god, then I guess he must be indeed with me today; because although I have totally forgotten (probably out of disappointment that the persistent rust has consequently caught up with my chrome-coated bike) that I have tried cleaning my decade-old BMX this morning with my ever curious son, it once again manifested itself by leading me to a blog site which shows this nostalgic video. Disclaimer: I have never ever had performed freestyles wearing those hideous shorts. Hahahaha.

 

 

Mood: 2/10 Honks!

The Rain and the Road

 

I can’t seem to get enough with having memory recalls every time the rain falls. Several days this week have been rainy and each time presents new random memories.

Baptismal…by Rain (Duh!)

Thursday. I commute to work on my motorcycle. Unfortunately, when the time came for me to head back home the sky went dark and the threat of rain soon became a reality – my first time to get caught while on a motorcycle. I was almost soaked by the middle of my trip and the laptop in my backpack forced me to seek shelter. While waiting for the rain to stop, I was unconsciously having flashbacks of days when times like this don’t seem to matter. As long as we’re with our bikes, sunny days and rainy days seem to be just the same. I miss the carefree days when we’d be racing in the rain and bunny-hopping puddles oblivious to the dangers such as riding without a helmet or any other body protection. Back then it was just our bikes and us, no worries. No pain, no gain.

Safety is an alien word.

Safety is an alien word.

 Star Toll way

Friday was another rainy road trip. After dropping by work earlier than usual and then driving to Sto Tomas, Batangas to meet my wife’s brother and his wife – both meeting being urgent and stressful somehow – I decided it’s a perfect time and reason to hit the long road again to relax. Thanks to the scarcity of the road signs and markers in the Star Toll way, I miss the exit to Lipa which was initially our destination. That one made me go straight towards Batangas City as the rest of Star Toll way’s well paved highway made me do 120 KPH with almost no effort at all.
Wet drive in Batangas.

Noon time?

That long and fast drive sent me back to a mixture of memories and imagination. I began to remember Kuala Lumpur’s road wherein Mercedes Benz and compact cars are as ubiquitous as our Jeepneys; I also recalled my dreamlike trip from Wisconsin to Madison which until now I can’t believe I was there for a moment in my life; of course, my playful mind won’t complete the process if I can’t link one experience to a TV show or movie – this time it reminded me of disaster movies. The whole horizon was covered with thin nimbus clouds that it seemed like it wasn’t noon time by then and the surrounding setting was just surreal.
 
Will Maxs chicken taste better here?

Will Max's chicken taste better here?

After lunch and a mall stroll in SM Batangas, we headed back by around 4 PM. The ride back turned out not to be uneventful. We had a near miss accident when some guy placed an improvised spike on the middle of Star Toll way. Good thing that I notice the guy doing something fishy and I remember from some motoring forum threads that this modus operandi is being done by some vulcanizing guys to get customers. I was doing another 100 KPH then, if that punctured our tire I hate to believe it but some funeral homes will for sure profit from that a**hole’s enterprising scheme.

Sta. Rosa Exit

Believe it or not, this is SLEX.

Believe it or not, this is South Luzon Expressway.

That Friday wasn’t made to be SSDD. After dropping Noel and Lani back in Sto. Tomas, we took another route home to Cavite. I’ve had enough of bad roads and I actually won’t mind another long drive as long as I know the way. So we took the Sta. Rosa exit instead of Carmona – this one has been in construction for a couple of months already and even to those familiar with it may seem dangerous especially at night.

Obviously, our public servants are on a drinking spree again.

Segment of Carmona Road. Road repair almost invisible at night. Beware.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere in the middle of our trip and while tuned in to Magic 89.9’s Friday Magic program, I heard a familiar name greeted by another familiar name. Hahaha. My wife sent an SMS greeting for me over the radio. I always find that sweet and that seems to keep my cool while driving. She’s done that several times actually but at a random interval which surprises me every time.

The last time we passed the Sta. Rosa route was more than a year ago and we had our cute Kia Pride that time. Nothing has changed so far but at least it’s better than keeping my eye open for road under repair signs (or the lack of it) in Carmona. An obvious improvement though is noticeable right after we reached Tagaytay. Now, at least large parts of the road have a dividing line between two lanes. Years ago, one has to drive with wide eyes open and lights in full beam to “survive”. At least, some of our public works officials finally (!) acted upon this problem. I’m just wondering though who (or how many) got into an accident for this to happen. I just hope he’s a politician.

Rookie Rider’s Day Out

 

Almost a week has passed after I bought my motorcycle and I’ve ridden it only once inside our village. It was one quick ride and I’ve been craving to do more. However, since the day after that I had to report to work and rain has been pouring since then, that left me no choice but to lock and cover it up in front of our yard until today.

This morning, weather hasn’t improved and it isn’t exactly what I call a motorcycle-friendly day – it’s gloomy and the threat of rain is looming over the horizon. But the call to take another ride took over my worries of getting wet. I felt a sudden mix of anxiety and excitement once I got home after dropping my wife off the shuttle bus stop.  After parking my car I prepared for my maiden motorcycle ride.

And so from the very start of the preparation alone, I was awaken to the world of MC riders; little by little I experienced what it is like to be taking a ride out of the comfort of my car. Here’s my log for today’s ride:

1.       MCs are meant to be started and left idling for a few minutes before taking it for a ride – It’s not unnecessarily wasting gas but it’s a requirement to warm up its engine unlike cars that you can start and step on the gas right after.

2.       I wore (needed) shirt, jeans, sneakers and a helmet (which I got free from the MC dealer).  These are the minimum – although one item in the newly debated LTO guidelines state that a leather jacket is a must.

3.       A P500 in your wallet is more than enough for a full tank.  I have a full capacity of only 3.7 liters or P200 worth of gas. That’s just sweet. I’m yet in the process though of figuring out how far 1 liter can go.

4.       Signal lights do not automatically turn off after executing a turn. Don’t forget to manually switch it off or you’ll be giving wrong signals to the vehicles behind you.

5.       A jacket is needed for an early morning ride like I did. I realized midway of my trip that my nipples are getting harder with the cold wind blowing all around me. Ti abi. The LTO must have the thing against stiff rider nipples.

6.       You can’t scratch your nose or any part of your face while your helmet is on. I unconsciously tried doing it and saw some smiles by the sidewalk. That’s embarrassing.

7.       Fixing something somewhere in your crotch is a no-no.  Need to elaborate?

8.       Water puddles isn’t fun anymore. I love to go fast on these while driving my car (making sure of course that no one’s around to be reached by the splash), imagining myself in a Peugeot and trying to beat Sebastian Loeb.  Now I guess I’ll have to get used to imagining beating Jeremy McGrath instead. Just kidding.

9.       Coasting isn’t possible. My MC’s shifting pattern does not allow (or I may be wrong) me to shift to neutral after achieving a sustainable speed like in a downhill.  But then, other than being illegal according to the rule of defensive driving, MCs fuel consumption is already thrifty compared to cars (or cages, as MC riders call it) so coasting isn’t significant anymore.

I covered 32 kilometers for this morning’s ride and it felt good to be out on the road and coming home safe. It’s not actually scary as most people (usually wives and those without MCs) would say. The rules that need to be followed are still similar to driving a car except for some other things that need to be observed – such as staying visible to other motorist, giving more focus due to the obvious reason that the rider is exposed to all elements and maintaining balance at all times.  

With my introduction to the world of MCs, it opened me to a new perspective. I’m now beginning to feel empathy to those people who have no choice but to take an MC to work despite heavy rain, I now respect their space on the road, and I now understand the need for car (and any other 4-wheeled vehicles) drivers and MC riders to co-exist in order to create a healthy and safe commuter environment. Of course I still believe that education is the key to achieve orderliness and hopefully, more people will soon get educated enough to drive safely.

 

Postscript

Having holding back from telling my mother about the idea of buying an MC, I finally called her after this morning’s ride and told her all about it. I was expecting some sort of worried remarks coming from the other end of the line, but I was all smiles when I heard her say, “Ay gali? Ano ginbakal mo? Ang mga pambabayi na motor? (Really? What did you get? Those feminine motorcycles)

 I was laughing when I asked her what she meant by “feminine” motorcycles and I laughed harder when her description fitted that of the underbones –the one I currently have.  She must be expecting me having a motocross (also known today as motards) which I remember were the “in” thing when I was yet a kid. Anyway, I explained to her that underbones (and scooters) are now the trend as they are cheaper and have lower displacement – thus, lower fuel consumption; AND that they’re not just for women. (she’ll be mobbed in the forums with those remarks. hahahaha)

I was still wondering about the unexpected jolly remarks from her after I ended our conversation, and then I remember that she was the one who taught me how to ride a bike during my elementary days. I recalled her patiently holding on to me until I felt comfortable with the balance and she eventually came running along while I pedaled it all by myself.  From my late high school to college years, she  likewise never questioned my scuffed shoes, tattered jeans and tiny bruises when I was into BMX flatland.  AND she even approved when I came home with a haircut which has the word “BMX” shaved behind my head.  Come to think of it, she’s a cool mother. (Baw!)

 

 

Ride Of My Life

Prelude:

I was trying to write a blog post this week with the pressure coming from my publisher/editor-in-chief/my wife. But with me having a flu (I haven’t had one for almost a year) my lazy bones took over. My mind stopped functioning, grammar worsened and my gray matter preferred holding the TV’s remote instead. I tried to fight back by reading a book, Digital Fortress, but every time I sniff I get distracted and it left me no choice but to put it down often. I had to cancel badminton and gym sessions as well and confined my activities within our sofa, bed, sofa, bed and the ever attractive TV.

Luckily, TV shows lately are quite new, at least for me, and I enjoyed most of it. Last night’s Amazing Video’s episode: Stunts Gone Bad had my sadistic side pumped up as I was laughing my heart out while skateboarders and BMX’ers crash and burn. And just before I went into deep sleep, I heard David Letterman mentioning that Kevin Robinson achieved a 27-foot ramp flight. I know he must have been clueless who first set the 25-foot mark. Only an avid BMX’er knew about that—and I was one of them.

That’s me doing a backyard at Bacolod’s lagoon when it was still legal to do it.

So today I tried to go back to a book review on Mat Hoffman’s book which I’m very sure I have posted. However, I almost freaked out when I can’t find it on my multiply.com site, Blogspot and even here on WordPress. I don’t know, but I got quite confused and began to suspect if the TRANSLTR really exists. Haha. I got it all mixed up now. TRANSLTR is a fictional (is it really?) powerful machine capable of intercepting emails (or blogs?) and other electronic signals that may have the sinister intention towards Uncle Joe’s government. Thankfully that’s fiction, thanks to Digital Fortress. Intercepted by the TRANSLTR or just stuck on my files, here’s the book review.

 ***

Once a rider, always a rider. In the old school days, everyone in our group knows at least one bit of Mat Hoffman. We were into BMX flatland back then and despite Mat being famous in the vert sessions, no one really cares. Anybody who is rad, we idolize.

My wife got this from a book sale section in SM Dasmarinas while I was having my caffeine fix in a Dunkin Donut shop. Little did I know that the espresso load will become a warm up for what I’d be reading for the next hours until a few days more. The book sent adrenaline rush all over my body, it was as if I’m just in front of Mat Hoffman’s life as it unfolds. If I could have gotten myself on a BMX at that very moment, I would have delivered a couple of my favorite old school routines just like I did way back in late high school. Perfect trick or not, it wouldn’t have mattered.

The energy that the book brings is infectious. Reading Mat Hoffman Ride of My Life (with Mark Lewman) from start to finish sent me cringing, smiling, sighing or just plainly amazed—very amazed.

Nostalgic BMX daydreams, of course, come in every now and then in between pages. An ex-BMXer like me just can’t stop it. Needless to say, my BMX experiences weren’t even near Mat’s. In his ramp scale, mine is just a mere tiny curve past flat bottom. Yes, it was just that. Even then, my riding years gave me great memories, not to mention bruises and countless embarrassment. “No pain, no gain” as we always used to say.

The 311-page, hardbound book comes with a great compilation of awesome photos—just in case one wonders what in the world a can-can is—which covered almost every aspect of Mat’s life. Here I learned that he was just five years old when he started riding—horses first. But his need for speed and flight developed in no time. Mat was destined to be the Condor.

Influenced by his older brother, he soon got introduced to motorbikes, ramps and their roof. Yes, you read it right, roof. Riders, or riders in the making, have different perspectives of common everyday things: a roof is to ‘air time’—when I was a kid I jumped a couple of times from our roof top into piles of leaves. (If only I had a bike at that time.); an innocent hand rail is to grinds; a plywood sheet is to ramps; a dry swimming pool is to jam sessions and the list goes on. Mat’s list is one that most of us just can’t predict or let alone imagine.

Mat’s skills eventually got him into a manufacturer-sponsored team and went into either doing demos or competitions, starting as an amateur. (I was surprised to learn that during this time Dennis McCoy, another BMX icon, was already doing pro.)

Of course, his honeymoon with the bicycle scene didn’t come without any hitch. This was when the BMX recession happened. But it was also when Mat proved his love and passion for the sport. Instead of just quitting like everyone did, he founded Hoffman Bikes so he could manufacture bikes at his own specification and in his own backyard—he was 17 years old then. Soon enough, this backyard industry grew to become one of the biggest in the BMX business.

As his riding skills and confidence progress he started inventing—no, this doesn’t involve lab work—sick and original tricks, one of which is the famous 900. Think of it as two and a half bike turns while on vertical flight—just one turn or a 360 already requires superb bike skills.

Another thing that no one can take away from Mat is his famous, over spec ramp and the amazing height that he achieved from it. That ramp was 21 feet high and he was able to get another 25 feet of vertical flight from the coping which made more believers and, as expected, some skeptics. Until now, no one has come close to that feat. Not one even dared.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves bikes especially BMX as one will surely enjoy reading about the evolution of tricks, bikes, apparel and riders’ skills. Fans of the Jackass will appreciate this as well. By the way, an advice to non-riders: avoid randomly picking and reading the pages as one might end up thinking that he’s reading a medical book or a maniac’s death wish. The long list of Mat’s injury, mostly from doing his bike stunts, is enough for someone naïve to place it alongside a surgeon’s or nurses’ reviewers section. And lastly, while reading this book having an air sickness bag right behind may be a good idea.

***

Postscript: Now I remember, I sent this review as an entry to Philstar’s My Favorite Book but it looks like they wanted it to remain just my favorite. Hahaha. I’m thinking though that not much people can relate to this book anyway. Besides, BMX riders prefer the streets and I bet that they’re unlikely to pick and read the Philippine Star—and this makes me a “has been.’ Ti abi.