I met Dan Coller on an Etnies/Blackout trip that passed through Rochester back in 2012. This was at at the tail end of the “Lil Dan” days where he was transforming from eager local to pro prospect before everyone’s eyes. With one of BMX’s most renown rider-owned brands based in his hometown, it’s almost as if Dan was born & bred to ride for Kink. Fast forward five years and your boy is a full fledged pro rider, traveling the world and living the dream.
But sometimes life gets real and tries to throw an inordinate amount if bullshit your way all at once. Its times like these when your true character is defined, not by how you coast through the easy stuff but how you navigate rough waters.
When Dan came to Austin earlier this year, life had dealt him more than a few shitty cards, but it became quickly apparent that he was dead set on rising above the circumstances. It was a pivotal point and he stared adversity right in the eye and vowed not to let it defeat him. Things could have gone a lot of ways, but with a clear mind and a sound vision, Dan Coller is making Positive Forward Progress.
What brings you to Austin?
It was time for me to get out of back home [Rochester]. It seemed like a downward spiral of just bad luck and rough events. I didn’t want to let it bring me down and it was just time to go somewhere. And I just got in my car on January 3 and decided I was going to drive to Austin. Kink always has me traveling on some good trips and Eclat’s got some good ones coming up this year, but this was all on me. I really wanted to do something for myself and I think it’s really important to do that instead of waiting around for someone to buy your plane ticket or pay for your gas to be somewhere.
Do you feel like this was an escape from a harsh reality or the beginning of a new chapter?
I would say this is the start of a new chapter. I don’t need to escape reality. It was time for me to do something more positive for myself. I don’t think being in Rochester,New York, especially in the wintertime when I can go out and ride every day and be productive, that it’s healthy for me to stay up there right now. Don’t get me wrong I do love home but, I think it was mentally healthy for me to come down here and be productive. That’s when I’m at my happiest so I knew it was time to move myself forward.
How important was it for you to start this new chapter with a clearer outlook?
Being lucky enough to have the pro BMX rider lifestyle and shape my life however I really want it, I want it to be moving forward in all senses. I don’t want to get stuck in a rut where I feel bored or feel like i’m staying somewhere because I don’t have to. I’m fortunate to be able to do whatever I want. And I want to make every penny I make count and always be doing something, not just for my sponsors obviously but for myself. When I look back in 15 years, I want to be able to say that I did everything I possibly could with myself and my career and didn’t miss out on anything because I was lazy or didn’t try.
Do you feel like this is one of the first times in your life where you feel like your outlook is shaping your reality, instead of the other way around?
Yeah, I would say that just going through tough times and seeing other people struggle and people I love struggle, I didn’t want it to defeat me or bring my mentality down. If anything, I think it taught me more about who I am and just pushing through the hard times to make them count for something. I think if my life would have stayed with things being smooth, like my life is awesome and I’m not at all saying I’m not grateful for everything I’ve had, but going through tough times has made me more motivated person and I wouldn’t take that back.
What do you feel like your driving force is right now?
The desire to have the happiest most fun life that I can. Good times or bad times, I want to be on my bike, I want to be filming. That’s my passion and my hobby. I want to use this fortunate spot of being a pro bike rider to be able to do more and see more, take care of myself better and just add longevity to everything that I can.
You’ve always seemed calm under pressure, not sweating the big stuff as much as most people might. What’s your outlook as far as the confidence in doing big shit goes?
Basically, when I film a clip, I put myself in the mindset that I’m going to do it no matter what. Big stuff’s not supposed to take, and honestly can’t take, as many tries. So I don’t let myself sit there and think about it. Like the 36 stair in the Eclat video, it was like before noon, I hadn’t even done a bunnyhop yet. I ran up to the top of the set and was like, “If I sit and stare at this, I’m not going to do it”. So I literally told my friend Jake, “hey hit record I’m going in a circle and I’m jumping”. And I did it. And that’s how I try to do most things. I mean, it doesn’t always work out that way, obviously I take run-ups, but it puts me in a lot better spot mentally if I just go for it. Because me sitting there stewing about it is not going to help, I know I’m going to go for it either way.
Darryl : Do you think your popularity within the industry or with kids has suffered because of your style of riding? Do you think kids and industry dudes don’t really get it sometimes? I mean, you ride like it’s 2001…
Yeah, I think it definitely has suffered. Getting older, I want to do what I want to do and I don’t want that to change because of the image of BMX or because of what other people are doing. With my life in general and my riding, I’m going to be me. If I can’t be me, I’m not going to be happy with what I’m doing, so I’m going to stick to doing the big shit I want to do.
Darryl Tocco: You’ve sustained your short pro career so far strictly by filming video parts, do you think that’s going to be enough to keep you in the game five years from now? Because it doesn’t seem like shits really going that way…
I don’t. And I don’t want it to be enough. I don’t want to be someone who puts myself in the box of only being able to do video parts. I really want to start doing contests and stuff like that. And no offense at all to anybody on the YouTube scene, but I’m going to stay away from the vlog thing. It’s not my thing and it’s not where I want my career to be…
How do you keep from letting the status of a pro rider go to your head? How do you keep yourself grounded?
I feel pretty low on the totem pole still, to be honest. (laugher) I just look at the BMX lifestyle and what we do in general as a really fortunate spot to be in. But we're not doctors, we're no curing cancer, you know? We are really lucky to get by being who we are. I look at people changing lives and to be that's huge. But this? I couldn't imagine getting ego from this. And if I do, someone slap me for it! (laugher) But I don't forsee that happening.
You seem to have a good connection with a lot of kids, how important is that relationship to you?
I think the one on one, talking to kids, is honestly the coolest and most important part of getting to be a pro bike rider. I feel like most BMX riders are not celebrities, you can get back to kids, it’s not hard to answer all the kids talking to you. Just do it. I’ve talked to some and feel like its made a big impact. And to me, that is the biggest thing that I’ve done in my career. Like I said, it’s not whatever big stupid rail or ledge I’ve grinded, it’s making a connection with certain kids and helping them through their hard times. We are just people who have worked hard to get where they want to be and they can do the same thing.
What do you say to a kid who’s maybe having a hard time, whether it be at school at home or whatever?
For BMX kid, BMX is your escape. Go ride a dirt jump, ride a skate park all day. That’s been my escape my entire life or anytime I’ve been stressed about something stupid or something serious, is just to go ride. Be one with yourself, that’s the best way to think straight through whatever you’re dealing with.
It seems like you’ve avoided the worst case scenario at this point in your life, what do you see as being the best case scenario over the next year or so?
I think that me driving out here laid the groundwork for what I want the rest of the year, which is great. I have a few trips coming up the next few months, which is great. They’re all one after another, constant. Then after that, I think I’m just going to get back in my car, just drive around, go where I want to go, visit friends, go ride with people in different places all over the country and just make the most of this year.