The Industry and our Communities


Photo: Kurt Hohberger / Texas Toast 2013

Words by Henry White

If you haven’t picked up on it, I have a lot of views on the industry that many don’t like to talk about. My biggest pet peeve is the oppression we have all endured just for loving our sport. Maybe you haven’t experienced the struggle, that’s ok I won’t hold it against you, but there are many out there that will, in fact there are a lot that will. To many riders, BMX isn’t just about what you can do on a bike, it’s about the experiences you’ve had and how you translate that into your riding, aka your “style”. Which can be a beautiful thing, but that’s not what gets me riled up, it’s those who hold themselves over another because they’re not at the same riding level, it’s crap, bullying and not needed. Who cares what tricks you can do, shouldn’t we all just be enjoying ourselves and helping each other progress, after all BMX is just a leisure recreational activity right…or is it?…

INDUSTRY: The process of making products by using machinery and factories

  • 1. A group of businesses that provide a particular product or service.
  • 2. The habit of working hard and steadily.
  • In studying Community Sports Management and Leisure activities I’ve found that our industry is merely a speck, a tiny and insignificant portion of conversation that many of us would throw our arms up in disgust… I tried it, the professor was not happy. Is that the reality though, absolutely not. You see to them, we don’t rank high on their attention scale because there aren’t many scholarly riders out there, nor have we asserted ourselves in the limelight of the world as being a professional alternative to suits and ties. Furthermore, those that have sought a higher education and choose to make money in the industry get heckled or looked down upon because they’ve chosen to pursue or have created an alternative path rather than being an Athlete.

    Is this something that that the collective is even aware of? Is it something they even care about for that matter? I’d like to think that they are and do. With the current state of our industry, we’re no longer afforded the pleasure of being blind to it’s status. The manufacturers that keep our sport rolling and long supported our crazy actions, are at a point of near monopoly. Not that they are forcibly pushing out other companies, but their so established it’s become extremely challenging to create a successful and competitive endeavor. Clearly the upside is to their advantage, however this puts a lot of stress on them in the manner of support. They produce a product, we use that product and expect them to sponsor us, in that manner, we the consumers have the advantage.

    That isn’t the meat and potatoes of our conversation though, there’s much more to our industry that people are missing the mark on. The only reason these companies are doing as well as they have in recent years is a direct relation to the immediate access of their market. Through the use of social media many companies have thrived when they ordinarily wouldn’t be alive. In a generation that’s grown with social media, we have become accustomed to instant gratification. The benefit to this is that it’s created more jobs, don’t believe me? Lets look at Zack Krejmas, Miles Rogoish, or Christian Rigal, all provide services to various platforms that excel above others, and many see their work, but little credit is given to their many hours of dedication to the production of high quality visual stimulus. I still consider them professional’s, some in a dual athletic combination, others as mere contributors to our industry and our community.

    COMMUNITY: A group of people who live in the same area (city, town, or neighborhood)

  • 1. A group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc.
  • Another side of our industry that I feel is misrepresented. On a local scale, our industry is represented through groups of riders that typically have the influence of one sponsor or another. Riding in San Diego gave me the pleasure of seeing many communities throughout the county. The biggest industry influence wasn’t even a single company, but a bike shop. East County BMX in Santee sponsored the majority of the Pro-Am riders throughout the county. A true testament to the support of the shop owner, Henry Davis, he keeps all those guys rollin in style.

    When it comes to support though, we are quite limited these days. Granted, most cities have begun providing parks for action sports or if you’re lucky you live close to a quality indoor facility, but sponsors are constantly looking for the next up and coming pro athlete. The problem is getting to that skill level. Aside from attending Camp Woodward, which can be quite pricey, participants are left to learning on their own or through the how-to edits on YouTube. Which has certainly created an interesting dynamic to our industry and our communities. There’s always room for improvement though, it just requires innovation.

    In the end, it all comes down to dedication and education. If you’re truly vested in the industry, support your local community, help it grow in whatever manner possible. If you want a professional career in the industry, don’t limit yourself to being an athlete, we have plenty, get an education and bring some innovation to the table. There’s too much room for growth in our industry and we can’t be afraid of making an influence, just make sure you’re doing it for the right reason. – Henry White

    Perceptions Vol. I

    Photo: Photogallery: X-Gams Austin 2014
    Words by Henry White

    Perception: The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.: “the normal limits to human perception”.

    I wanted to include the definition just to be clear. I’ve had a running thought in my head about societies perception on Action Sports and their participants. We, the participants, all know they have it wrong, well at least my generation does, but the road then wasn’t quite as paved as it is for the next generation. Hard to realize that X-games has been around since 1994, but where would we be without them. It could be said that the catalyst of success in our industry was the X-games. It could even be said that they are our generation’s answer to the Olympics. As a matter of fact, though relatively new, BMX Racing as an Olympic competition hasn’t raised as big of an audience as the world of BMX Freestyle.

    So why is it that society still views it in a negative light like it’s not as big and popular as the NFL, MLB, or NBA? I would blame the marketing, we’ve all been labeled, typecasted even. “Extreme-games”, it’s all in the name, marketed as such because the participants and viewers are not boring! We tend to exceed the normal limits of behaviors set by societies perception. Say what you will about the radical fans of traditional sports, I’m not knocking them, but show me a sport that has just as many if not more viewers that are actively participating in that sport. Our personalities have a tendency to be loud, outgoing, and adventurous types, clearly exceeding the normal limits of society. For us, you could even say that our game never ends, we are an industry of constant progression, and continual motion.

    The beautiful thing about society is that it’s not linear, always changing in one direction or another, thus far my generation and those before me have been witness to an amazing evolution. With each decade new technology, a new mastery of balance, and amazing architecture that was beyond our wildest dreams and never considered ridable. Quite an incredible journey it’s been seeing as our industries roots date back to some gnarly downhill SoCal backyard races. By the way, if you haven’t seen Joe Kid on a Stingray, you’re blowin it!

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m tired of society seeing our industry as nothing more than a dangerous activity. Sure, the next generation will have it better, but what about now? I guess we just have to live it, and show them the unlimited possibilities, though they’ll probably never get it. For those that do, we embrace you, and encourage you to join our ranks and get to pedaling!

    Misguided perception or not, we stand together as a strong community, and we should all be damned proud of it!” – Henry White

    Perceptions Vol. II: 3 Bikers Walk into a Bar

    Photo: Eddie Welsch
    Words by Henry White

    I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and riding with some spectacular athletes throughout my life. Whether it was my best friend Dustin Brakke who got me into riding, or shooting pics and vids of the legend Van Homan at a local bike shop tour stop for Fit, you tend to notice a lot about the traits of BMX athletes. As I discussed in Vol.I of Perceptions(BMX Union) the outside world tends to dismiss us because of our loud and boisterous attitudes, as always, it’s what they tend to overlook that has them at a disadvantage. Our outgoing, adventurous personalities combined with our incredible networking skills are vital in our success within the industry. Many outside our industry will have this forced upon them in college or are lucky enough to be natural at it. There’s no doubt it’s because of these traits that our numbers have grown incredibly since it’s inception, regardless our industry has remained and continues to be comprised of relatively small communities. Within these communities, almost everyone knows one another or has at least heard of each other, a trait you won’t find in traditional sports until you get into collegiate athletics, even then you have to break out to be noticed.

    Breaking out: an often difficult step necessary to make it in an industry. A universal concept in all sports but in BMX we only encounter it in our search for sponsorship. Today’s generation an athlete often starts out as an individual, getting a friend to shoot some video, being sure to tag all the companies whose products they support before posting it on social media. Then, if lucky, the networking and talent will pay off and they’ll pick up that ever elusive sponsorship-everyone has heard of it, few have actually obtained it. It’s for good measure though, there are just too many riders in the industry for the competitions and companies that are leading and shaping our industry. What they put into their handful of pro riders would take too much away from the company. After all, they can’t treat everyone the same way.

    What about team team play though? A rare topic of discussion in our industry…Does that make us a tad bit narcissistic? If you’re perception of being sponsored is all about you and your skill alone, you might want to rethink your approach. A bad attitude will keep you from a sponsorship just as quick as a lack in talent. If you haven’t noticed, every sponsor has a team of riders, I know for some people it’s obvious, others…welcome to the conversation. What I’m getting at is though we are a sport of individual riders, we should embrace the idea of team competitions and concepts, X-games introducing dirt doubles is only the beginning. In fact, if you take Mark Losey’s program that essentially created a NASCAR-esque rider poll position, the possibilities are endless, his contributions to the industry are seemingly endless too. I know many are against it and some are still on the fence but it’s really a remarkable innovation for our industry. Innovations, things we need more of, imagine a competition where riders are no longer judged just as individuals but their scores contribute to the overall rating/score of their sponsor, who’s had to carefully select their pro-team for an all around competition of the many disciplines (dirt, street, park, vert, flat). Revolutionary, I know, why hasn’t it happened? No one knows.

    It’s things like this that leave me hopeful for the future. Hopeful that my peers will look past the harsh realities of the difficulty in making pro, and decide to push the pedal on their own ventures. I’ll be 32 this year, no real chance of becoming a professional athlete, my biking skills are far surpassed by the generations that lead our industry and those that are being raised as the next legends. I’m ok with that though, it will never stop me from getting on my bike and enjoying the sport, much like the adult softball and football league’s filled with drunken banter and witty conversations. Which leads me to my last thought; three bikers walk into a bar, one- a cameraman, the second- just a biker, the third- a digital media content manager. The Bartender asks “so who’s the pro?”…. All of them raise their hand. It’s this thought that helps me realize that though I might not be the best rider, I have other skills that are valuable in contributing to our multi-thousand dollar industry. Skills that will allow me to pursue my passion of riding until I can no longer hang on to my grips.” –Henry White