The world went through some turbulent times in 2016. We saw a staggering number of great musicians and celebrities pass away, there's a new controversial figurehead in the White House, and we suffered the worst act of terror on American soil since 9/11 in Orlando—along with rampant acts the world over—just to mention a few things. Fortunately for us in our little BMX bubble, things weren't so dismal. The progression of riding shot through the roof this year—we've got 17 year-old Johnny Raekes doing smith-to-nose-to-double barspins, and then Dennis McCoy just turned 50 and he's probably doing 540s in Kansas City right now. We also saw a bunch of incredible videos come out this year, everything from the epic travel the world pieces like Still United, Illustrated, and Transmission, to the local scene projects like Dollar Bet, LFS 2, and Monster Mash. Yet we certainly experienced our share of lows, as well. Overall, it was an ebb and flow with highlights and tragedies. Here's our Top 10 of 2016 Moments in BMX.
Billy Perry's Waterpark Fiasco
I'm sure that when Billy Perry and his friends jumped a fence for an early morning session at a closed water park this past Thanksgiving they never would have imagined the shit storm they had in store for them. Billy's video from the session went viral, it got aired on the local news, and somewhere along the way the property owners saw the video and now they're in legal trouble. In hindsight, with Billy documenting every step of the way—from the car ride, to jumping the fence, to the actual session—to share on his vlog for his huge YouTube following, it's pretty obvious it wasn't the best idea. They were literally "caught on tape" as the saying goes. As I write post this, Billy's video has garnered 8,669,773 views—which makes it one of the most viewed BMX videos on YouTube. With the drive to get more followers and get the most reach possible through social media that is so prevalent today, Billy's story—although an extreme example—is an eye-opener for how, when, where, and what we should and shouldn't share for potentially, the whole world to see.
Scotty Cranmer's Crash (and Recovery)
Regardless of the circumstances, crashing and the potential injuries that come with it are an ugly reality of what we do. Despite all of the insane things Scotty Cranmer has done over the years, he's always been an extremely calculated rider. Scotty was a victim of a freak accident. While riding away from a trick, he hopped over a bush and his front wheel landed in an unseen hole and he couldn't get his hands out in time. He ended up suffering several facial fractures, a cerebral hemorrhage, and damage to his C4 and C5 vertebrae. Although he wasn't wearing the full-face helmet we've become accustomed to seeing him wear, thankfully, Scotty was at least rocking his skate style helmet the time of his crash. But ultimately, if it happened to Scotty—one of the most gifted riders on the planet—it could happen to anyone. On a positive note, Scotty's condition is improving every day and he's been able to give us updates via his every growing YouTube channel. And despite the magnitude of his injuries, Scotty's recuperation has been nothing short of amazing. And above all, the outpouring of support from the entire BMX community has been heartwarming, to say the least. All of Scotty's sponsors, his YouTube followers and fans, friends and family, and above all, the Road2Recovery foundation have all done their part in raising awareness for Scotty's situation and giving him the support he needs to get through this. Please take a moment and hit up road2recovery.com and give a donation for Scotty and make sure to follow and show him support on his YouTube channel, too.
Nathan Williams' Overdue NORA Cups
Always a groomsman and never the groom… Nathan Williams has been in the running for a NORA cup a few times over the years—for Street Rider, Video Part, and Reader's Choice. He's undoubtedly been considered one of the greatest street riders in the game for years now and it felt like a victory for all of BMX to finally see him up on stage, not once, but twice in 2016. Seeing Nathan finally getting his due recognition with the Number One Street Rider and Number One Video Part cups was truly a NORA Cup highlight this year.
After being the preeminent brand for street riding for at least a decade, Animal pretty much went dark for a minute. Up until around this time last year, there was a lot of speculation about what was happening with Animal. Products were scarce for a few years, some long time riders/employees moved on, and the rumors began to spread. Needless to say, it was a rough time for Animal. Then from out of nowhere they dropped a bomb with the Animal House video last December, and they followed suit with a slew of new products soon after. It's been full steam ahead for Animal ever since—with a heavy push on social media, a grip of new videos dropping, and they picked up a bunch of new riders. The culmination of the comeback of the year was their new video FACTS, which did a damn fine job of showcasing Animal's new generation of team riders. It's a fact, Animal is makin' moves again!
T1 Ramp Getting Torn Down
The secret is out, Austin, Texas, is awesome and everyone knows it. Gentrification has been slowly tightening its grip on the last bastion of weirdness and character that Austin is known for—the East Side. Ugly boxy houses adorned with stainless steel accents and concrete floors have been popping up left and right for a few years now. But these changes finally hit a direct nerve with BMX when the property that T-1 had occupied for 14 years was sold to a developer to build a hotel. The rampant gentrification of Austin had finally caught up with BMX. But unlike a street spot getting leveled, this was the fuckin' T-1 ramp. People traveled from all reaches of the globe to ride there. Some would say it was the heart of the Austin BMX scene. The T-1 ramp embodied everything that makes Austin so great in the first place—a sense of community, spirit, and an unrivaled display of the DIY ethic. An entire generation of BMX grew up with that ramp, and now it's gone. They say time will mend a broken heart. And if I know anything about the long standing Austin locals who helped make the scene what it is today, their spirit will prevail.
Street Back in X Games
After removing Street from the line up in 2015, X Games came back twice as strong in 2016 when they brought Street back and added Real BMX, as well. While "real" street riding can never be legitimately replicated in a contest course format since it inherently becomes more of a street trick contest on perfect stock obstacles. On the other hand, Real BMX puts the riders out in the actual streets for a true representation of street riding. And working in the video component is a huge step towards depicting BMX—street riding—for what it's really like to the average Joe sitting on his couch. Contest course Street or Real BMX, at the end of the day, seeing street riding included in the biggest contest of the year is a good thing—the mainstream coverage exposes new kids to BMX and it gives a handful of riders a chance to earn some decent money.
BMX Racing in The Olympics
BMX racing has been in the Olympics since 2008 in Beijing, then again in London 2012, and Rio in 2016. So although it's not new at this point, it's still a big deal. Our roots are in BMX racing and it's safe to assume that with racing in the Olympics, freestyle won't be far behind. However, where as with BMX racing, whoever crosses the finish line first is the clear winner. Just by definition, freestyle, which is subjective by its nature, is a direct conflict with the traditional Olympics style judging that is used for say; gymnastics. It's like trying to judge a Chris Doyle 360 table against a Larry Edgar 360 table, each one is a little different, but equally awesome. So yeah, who knows… but for now, it's sick to see those dudes totally hauling-ass on those huge Olympic tracks.
Harry Main and the Mafia Bikes’ backlash
Harry Main had an interesting start for 2016 when he quit most of his sponsors, including Hyper, Snafu, Vans, and Monster. However, the news of Harry parting ways with that heavy arsenal of sponsors paled in comparison to the uproar that ensued after he announced that he was riding for Mafia Bikes. Mafia operates on a direct sales only approach, as opposed to the traditional route of selling through retail—bike shops, mail order, etc. With the direct sales approach bikes are cheaper for consumer because you're removing the additional markup from the shop. Other brands in BMX offer the option of direct sale, but at a cost comparable to the bike shops and mail orders that carry their products as well. Harry's biggest selling point for Mafia Bikes' direct sales business model is that cheaper bikes will help get more kids into BMX. And while nobody was denying that cheaper bikes could very likely get more kids into riding, the main argument was that taking bike shops out of the equation with direct sales would hurt BMX more in the long term. The role of bike shops in BMX goes beyond simply selling bikes—including repairs, throwing jams, hosting shop stops with brand's team riders, and providing a meeting place for riders. Join the Mafia and go direct for less, or invest a little more and support your local shop and scene, the choice should be pretty obvious.
Sam Willoughby’s Crash
September brought one of the most profound tragedies in BMX racing history. Olympic silver medalist, multi-time World Champion, and multi-time USA BMX #1 Pro Sam Willoughby suffered an injury during a routine practice that would leave him paralyzed. Since that fateful day the BMX community has never stood stronger. The copious amounts of support and love from around the globe have been unimaginable as Sam continues on his long road to recovery. After a strenuous in-patient therapy stay at one of Colorado's premier medical facilities, the Australian BMX legend is now home in California where he and his soon to be wife, American BMX racer Alise Post, continue pushing his recovery efforts. An accident like this can rapidly alter the career of any professional athlete, but Sam has continued to show how much of a fighter he is. Now his mind has shifted from the gate to pushing towards walking down the aisle on his wedding day. We all stand behind you Sam. Strength for 91… —Jason McGuire
The Death of Dave Mirra
BMX has never been hit harder than with the death of Dave Mirra. Not only was Dave's suicide the worst moment in 2016, it was the darkest day for BMX, ever. To the outside world, Dave was the most famous and well-known BMX rider of all time. To us, he was an icon, a hero, and the reason a lot of us starting riding BMX in the first place. His death didn't seem real then and still doesn’t seem real now. I'll never forget the moment I heard the news. We lost our greatest hero, but Dave's legend will live on indefinitely. It felt incredible the night of NORA Cup this year when we gave away the first Legend award to Dave—the energy in the room was intense and it was an amazing moment to share with BMX celebrating Dave's legacy. In the wake of Dave's death, he was the first action sports athlete to be diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease linked to concussions and depression, and in Dave's case, believed to be what drove him take his own life. To quote Ryan Fudger from a Mirra/CTE article he did, "Dave inspired millions of people in his life. In death, I think it's pretty fair to say that Dave is now helping save our lives…"