It's funny how we got here. It started last year with my son attending the short track races at PIR. He liked racing the "kiddie" races but they left him wanting more. I could understand. As they were they certainly weren't very challenging and he despaired every time I reminded how old he needed to be to qualify as a "Junior" for OBRA races.
At the time he was riding your typical department store klunker. The things were deceptively heavy-- first time I tried to hoist it up I almost dislocated my shoulder! It would be like me trading in my 24lb MTB for a 60lb bike with 37" wheels that was made out of cast iron.
So I saw a kid in the kiddie races on a super sweet little Redline bike. Narrow 20" wheels. Alloy axle nuts. I recognized it as a BMX bike but it was unlike any BMX I had ever seen and it shattered my outdated mental model of what BMX bikes were. But right away I knew that it would be the perfect bike for my son. It was proportional in size and weight. It wouldn't be a pig.
So after looking around, checking CL, asking around and casting a pretty wide net, a friend (Hi Will!) sends me an email that links to the GT bikes site. Up pops an image of the sweetest little GT BMX bike. I instantly want one.
Long story short-- a couple of months later I'm mounting a GT Power Series Expert on top of the familymobile and heading home.
My son digs it. His other klunkerz? Instantly reassigned as "Loaners".
So we go to more races and he seems to like racing more and more. But the kiddie races just leave him cold now. But I'm starting to see more kids on the same kinds of bikes. Where are they coming from?
It remains a mystery until we attend a short track race sown in Salem. Guess what? Part of it is staged on the Salem BMX track! I bump into the track operator (Adam Treadwell, all-around nice guy) and find out that there is an actual BMX race the very next night. (Oh jeez. Driving down to Salem again??)
Well kiddo is instant game. We hit the race and it's awesome. Very much a family-oriented sport. Everyone is very friendly-- A couple of folks help us out and show us how to read the "moto sheets" ("Moto" is BMX-speak for "race").
So finally kiddo get a REAL race. There are places. He come in third and vows to work up to second next week.
So we go the next week. It looked like so much fun that I decide I should give it a go. I rent a bike and helmet and I'm set.
As I rest my front wheel against the upright starting gate I get pre-race jitters like never before. I feel like I'm on a precipice of a huge drop-off.
And then the gate drops.
I'm 8 years old again, jamming my old beater bike around and around a vacant dirt lot daring myself to see how high I can go off the dirt jump.
So now I have my own BMX bike -- A Redline Proline 24 Cruiser, in red, even! -- and both me and my son are ABA members.
The bonus is that I still fit into my old O'Neal motocross pants that I wore when I was a teenage riding dirt bikes (the kind with stinky 2-stroke engines) and so I score old-school cool points.
Last night me and kiddo went down to the Salem, Oregon BMX track (Capitol City BMX). It was his second race. He wants to keep racing so we got him all signed up with a yearly ABA membership. The $45 memership fee includes a monthly magazine plus his first race was free (actually his last race was free, too, under the ABA one-day trial). Every race is $5. Just five stinking bucks!! (Take that STXC.) Plus the track is open for gate practice for the hour during registration, open for practice during the intermission between races 2 and 3 (the last race or "main") and then open again after the races for another 45 mins or so (no gate). So you get a bunch of track time, plus the three (very short) races for a measley $5. What a deal! :)
Well, after watching my son have all the fun last week, I thought I'd give it a try too. I raced for free under the one-day ABA deal and only had to pay $5 to rent a bike and helmet.
Dudes-- BMX is awesome. Those little bikes on the jumps and whoop-de-doos just don't want to stay attached to the ground. It's like they've got helium in the tires and just want to take off! It's been a long time since I've had that kind of fun on a bike where I kept thinking "Let's go again!!" Sure, I love bikes and riding and cyclocross in general, but this is just pure, simple goofy fun. Pointing a little bike and a big jump and hanging on! The berms are cool too-- zooooom!
Now I just need to get a bike of my own!
The vibe is pretty cool-- very family friendly. Everybody that I interacted with was very nice and friendly and super helpful. Kinda like cyclocross, but a little less crazy and without out the beer. :)
One thing that really surprised me was the bikes themselves. Over the years I've been aware of BMX bikes as those teensy things that I see hipster teeny-boppers tooling around on. Horrible looking things with gigantic pegs on the front and rear axle nuts that had all the grace of a blunt instrument.
Actual BMX race bikes are little packages of tech sweetness that are on par with everything that I'm familiar with in my world of cyclocross and mountain bikes. This is the discovery of a whole other world for me!