Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Buns Out Downhill BMX Series

I grew up about 45 minutes from the legendary Corona BMX track. Like a lot of tracks back then, it was basically a semi-groomed fire road, steeper than it had any business being, given the brakes and frame technology that was--or, more accurately wasn't--happening back then.

Here's some footage of it from On Any Sunday II, which you'll find after the most awesome moto noises/no-footer flying W's to banana seat ballsack rides/best Schwinn Stingray power wheelie in the world footage from the original On Any Sunday:

Buns out jammin'!

The point of view footage was filmed by none other than RRS sponsored Kevin "The Corona Kid" McNeal, who went from the zenith of winning a gold T-top Trans Am for being National #1 Pro, to the nadir of living in the bushes next to the legendary Sheep Hills jump spot. Last thing the interweb wind whispered about him was "Mexican prison."
Anyhow, I had a T-shirt with a Bob Haro drawing of Corona on the front of it I bought at Redlands Schwinn (one of the "R"s in RRS) when I was a wee tot--McNeal was on it, buns out jammin'. I could see the track from the freeway when we headed west on family vacations, but I never got to race it. Closed before I had a chance.

I did, however, get to race the Yucaipa track, which was actually two tracks. The regular track they raced every weekend, and the "European" track, which was usually saved for double and triple points races. While slightly more modern than Corona, the Euro track was nonetheless a balls out gnar gnar SoCal hill bomb with the first berm carved like a corkscrew into the side of the hill, not piled on top of it. Another RRS rider, "Dangerous" Dave Gianunzio owned that track--he frequently beat half of his class by a straightaway and a half. The guy wasn't super fond of brakes. He had a rep as a huge stoner and rumor had it his mom got busted on a child endangerment rap for giving him weed. Who knows? Who cares? He was definitely a hometown hero in a town full of BMXers. He went on to test bikes for both SuperBMX and BMX Plus! Here's a photo of him in Plus! gear on his quarter pipe, which was called "The Columbia Launching Pad":
Style? For fuckin' miles, yo. You'll notice that the ramp wasn't made with a continuous radius, but sort of "planked out" with sections of ply. Kink City. My older sister saw him hang up on it during a lunchtime demo at Redlands High and go straight to the pavement on his face.

Anyhow, coming up when I came up, I've always been enamored of the wide open, flowing down the side of a mountain, loose dirt, mud pit, fall away jump, rutted, "Hey, is that a rock the size of my foot?" type BMX track. Modern tracks, as an FYI, are smoother than silk, often with asphalt berms and spray-fixer tacking the surface down just so. Overall, they're faster and way more technical than the box bar era tracks. For one thing, there are rhythm sections, with jumps packed in so close that you can't pedal over them--you've got to pump. I love this type of stuff, too. It takes a crazy amount of bike handling skills and cojones to get through a 2012 BMX track with speed.

That said, when Joe Kid on a Stingray dropped a couple years ago, with the early racing footage and berm warfare type action by bad boys like the above mentioned, pre-Tijuana prison Kevin McNeal and the Rick's Bike Shop guys, I got a hankering to go back to the future, if you will. What if a bunch of grown-ass men with little bikes and less sense found a weedy hill or a disused fire road, a few joints, a few cases of crappy beer and went elbows out every now and again? There have been all kinds of rebel race series for cyclocross--DFL and Soil Saloon come to mind--but none for BMX. And by "race," let me be clear, I'm talking about the races we used to have at the local jump spot, Haunted Hills, before my nuts dropped. Kid shit. "Ready, set, go!" shit, or maybe a rubber band start. More crashing than racing. A controlled fall. Or a not-so-controlled fall. Race for the best scab.

I don't want to fuckin' train, is what I'm saying--I want to party. Party like it's 1977, you know? Cross ups all day long.
Take a second and listen to Dennis "The Red Baron" Dain and Ernie Alexander talk about Soledad sands:


Here's some back in the day footage of the Red Baron:
Maybe even better than gettin' that extreme lean on is the ripped up, duct-taped Levi's and size giant tennies folded over tiny KKT rat trap pedals. Giant knobbies that you actually need for traction. Real dirt on a course for dirt bikes--not a broom in sight. Puttin' the MX back in BMX.

Check this footage of San Diego's legendary Rancho, which, despite not having a whole lot to speak of by way of jumps or banked turns looks like a goddamned blast:

Sidehacks! Feathered hair! Let's do this. As far as I know, no one's doing an unsanctioned, ding dong dumbass BMX race series. I chalk this up to the fact that people hear "race" and, if they're feeling it, they head down to the local track. Which, considering the technical skills needed to navigate a legit track, can be quite intimidating.

In terms of location, private land would of course be ideal. If anyone has some or knows someone who does, well, let's hear it. In terms of reality, I was thinking somewhere in the section of the China Camp loop at the end of the Oak Ridge trail into Peacock Gap--downhill, some hairpins, a couple jumpy bumps but no real jumps...huff and hoof it to the top, haul ass down three times. Golden Gate Park has some "Authorized Vehicles Only" trails near Middle Drive that could be strung together. I know no one reads this blog, but give me some ideas here, people.

Without private land, jumps are going to be an issue. You can't just go digging shit up on trails you're not even supposed to be riding. Maybe lug out a couple plywood wedges and stick them at strategic locations. Ultimately, it'd be awesome to maybe make a rebel trail that's wide enough to do this on somewhat regularly, but people it'd take a particular type of rolling hillside without too many trees--we're not going after singletrack here.

Bikewise, I'm all about "run what you brung," and letting anyone ride who wants to, with a few caveats:

20 inchers are preferred, strictly to instill the proper fear factor. Railing a downhill on a modern trail bike with 4-6 inches of travel is not going to make your asshole pucker like doing it on a fully rigid bike with, let's face it, tiny ass wheels. 24s, 26s, and even 29ers can play, I suppose, but that shit better be a hardtail or you're really missing the point. If you show up on a full squish, it better be a Webco monoshock or a Kawasaki BX200.
Grocery getters, beach cruisers, actual old school bikes, retro new school bikes, street BMX bikes, legit modern race bikes...let's not get too anal about it. Just don't show up on a M9 and wonder why no one's remotely close to you.

Gears? Please: not if you can help it. We're not doing any climbing here, folks. Downhill, black out with your sack out. Take a look at Saddleback's legendary Bonzai Hill, and you'll get the idea:
Absolutely no clips. Legs must be hung out at every possible opportunity. It doesn't matter what you ride so much, but old school BMX must be the prevailing aesthetic of the race:
Lycra will get you...I don't know? Trash canned? Berm busted? An atomic wedgie?

I think it'd be rad to do a series of 3-5 races over the summer, with BBQ party action after/before/and during, but I'd be happy to get ten people together just once, to be honest.

Let's shoot for something between this:

And this:


Something that'll feel like this:
But look more like this:
Everyone's a fuckin' winner!
Or a weiner. Maybe we should look way off the beaten path so the main event can be buck ass naked. Perhaps that should be the punishment for lycra: you've gotta bare ass it the rest of the day.

Like all my cockamamie ideas, I'd really like to pull this off, but once I dig into the next 50 hour work week, it'll probably disappear into the fog of my clapped out memory. Take it under advisement that if you've got a shred of gnar shredding in you, I'm going to do my best to bug you about this idea.

Let's see if we can all end up in a Mexican prison after this one, or, at the very least, sleeping under a bush trailside.

3 comments:

Hammerin Papa J, wanderer, explorer of space and time said...

I. Am. DOWN.

Danny said...

Damn. I lived in Redlands back in 80. My brother hung out with Dave. We were just talking about him a few weeks ago.

And the track in Yucaipa. I remember riding that track right before they closed it up and tore it down. Everytime I go by there I always see that track (in my head).

There was a shit-ton of BMX going on around there back then. I just got back into the sport. I'm building an 81 goose. Gotta relive that shit somehow.

warthog said...

Kevin McNeal lived in the bushes at Twin Palms in Riverside, not Sheep Hills.