So there's something in the water here in Utah, and the Mormons, and blah blah blah”….just kidding! For as long as I've been coming to Salt Lake City it's always been a place in BMX known for being hyper-focused on creativity, but why? Well, my theory on it has always been that the current key players are all alumni of the street school of Elf, the guy with the camera, and therefore the guy responsible for showcasing the scene to the outside world. For example, back in the day Elf saw something in a scrawny kid with a green front wheel and decided to film him despite some heavy questioning from the powers that be of the era. This decision and a little guidance eventually led to two very memorable Shook and 5050 sections from the one and only Tate Roskelley. The same could certainly be said for Brady Tweedy, a younger guy whose eye for spots 100% wouldn't be the same had he not met Elf. In fact, you can watch all his sections past to present and literally watch his taste for setups get better and better with each part. The other huge contributing factor in my opinion is that Salt Lake just as a place is kind of a small, tight-knit community filled with overly-friendly and very productive humans. I think those sentiments kinda trickle down into the BMX community as well. Basically it's like, if you're a dick and you don't know how to have fun, or incapable of hanging out with Elf and riding cool spots, or you just don't get it, you'll eventually get weeded out of the crew. So what are you left with here in Small Lake City? A bunch of great friends who in a sense never really grew up, yet they all have way more work ethic and brains than most other scenes who are constantly boasting how “out here" they are and all that corny bullshit. Pair those brains with a healthy dose of light hearted attitude and "I bet you a dollar" type ideas and you're sure to come away with some phenomenal riding footage. Just like Beringer and Fuzz before them… Elf, Tate, and Brady are all sort of carrying the torch for team Utah in today's BMX landscape. Not only am I super honored to have them all in my video project, Headlights, but more importantly, I'm honored to call them all my friends. —Mike Mastroni
Photos by Jon Tinsley
Interviews by Jeff Zielinski
If freestyle were a kingdom, Tate Roskelley would sit on the throne. His knack for continually coming up with abstract concepts on his bike and then to be able to make them happen is simply amazing. The progression of Tate's conceptual trick riding was on over drive with the filming of Headlights.
Goals, direction, inspiration when filming a video part…
I always approach a video project wanting it to be better than the last. My direction usually follows a subconscious melting pot of ideas that sometimes manifest themselves into an actual possibility. Those "possibilities" usually lead me to improving at a spot and hopefully walking away with a clip. That feeling inspires me to keep going, but more often than not I find myself battling every little thing.
What was your approach to filming Headlights?
Having a few video parts in my resume doesn't exactly make things easier with people maybe expecting something, but at the same time you have a rough blue print in mind of how to make it work. I always want to expand on previous ideas and hopefully sneak a few completely new concepts in there. After we got about 10 clips or so I knew I was on to something. After that I started building on it clip by clip with the objective of making it my best section.
Your style of riding is so unique that it takes someone who really understands and appreciates what it you're doing to make sure it's filmed correctly. Mike Mastroni has always done an amazing job of documenting your riding. Can you describe the dynamic you guys have?
Obviously this wasn't the first project Mastroni and I have worked on together. From a riding stand point, Mike understands how hard it is to be "creative" and he gives me the freedom to experiment on the spot without being too concerned with the overall outcome. On more than one occasion he would have just the right input while bouncing ideas. Often times I would try to explain an idea and even though I know Mike didn't exactly know what I was visualizing he would simply say "that sounds sick, let's try it!" It was vital to my creative process to know nothing was too "out there" to try and film. Although we're good friends, filming for a project like this with time restraints and hurdles can be stressful. We both got to see each other go through little meltdowns and the mood wasn't always light and fun, but nothing worthwhile comes without suffering. Mike would usually come into town for a week or so at a time, the first few days were usually the smoothest due to the fact I had some fresh ideas to play with. But after the ideas either became a reality or didn't, we were usually left with a few days of driving around in the van just trying to make something out of nothing and that wasn't always easy. I guess you could say I was happy to have him come into Salt Lake and JUST AS happy to see him leave town after filming… [laughs].
What is about SLC and all the creative riding that comes out there?
Salt Lake has become known as a hot spot for creative riding. Just the history of riders like Fuzzy, Beringer, and Aitken set the bar pretty high. There is not a set guideline you need to follow to fit in here, but if you want to stand out you've got to find your own little niche. Videos like That's It, Killjoy, and Dollar Bet have completely different styles that all complement each other. Filming alongside Shawn "Elf" Walters and Brady Tweedy really helped me remember to just have fun and be myself.
Can you describe a typical Salt Lake session?
A typical Salt Lake session is full of screwing around and experimenting. The vibe is usually light and humorous which is vital to being creative. I've heard that laughter is the quickest way to get the brain in a free flow state that allows subconscious ideas to pan out. And there is no shortage of laughing, talking shit, and making stupid little riding bets. Nobody is trying to be the "best." We're just a bunch of dudes who truly love riding bikes.
How do some of those ideas come into fruition?
Each and every idea that turns into a trick has a different way of becoming reality. One day, I had a cone trick idea and went to a spot with a trick in mind. It didn't work, but it was a blessing in disguise. Later that day we were going to get a Brady Tweedy clip and drove by a construction site with a way better setup for the trick (the feeble where I knock up all the traffic cones). Looking back, it was one of those moments the heaven's gate opened up and blessed me with a clip.
The day I got the golf ball clip was another day things just went my way. Mike came into town with very short notice, so I didn't really have anything in particular in mind. We had to kill some time before hitting another spot, so I mentioned to Mike I could try to get it, but wasn't sure if it would work. After trying for about fifteen minutes it worked perfectly, so perfect that I thought Mike kicked it in and didn't believe him until he showed me the replay. After that we went to another spot that Brady wanted to film, while he was setting up I started playing with a tennis ball Mike had in his van. I had seen a clip of Zac "Gat" Hewitt catching a tennis ball in his spokes after his friend kicked it. In the post he did a funny little taunt (which my friends and I thought was hilarious) so I was planning on posting it on Instagram with a little taunt back, however Mike saw what I was doing and insisted we film it for the video. In general, I would say those two clips were stand out clips and its rare I get two like that in one day.
Which clips took the longest?
That's really hard to say; obviously the wheel falling off took a really long time. I was in my own little world and kept trying over and over and over again. Shout-out to Mike for being down to film that. It was actually the last clip we filmed and I think we both knew it would be the icing on the cake if we got it. There were multiple other tricks that took forever. I can recall at least 10 tricks that left me mentally and physically drained, but in the end the torment paid off.
Which clip are you most happy with?
I would say without a doubt the tire to rail clip. The funny thing about that was I originally went to the spot with a milk crate and the tire; the plan was to swerve around the milk crate and then dodge the tire before grinding the rail. Kind of a subtle joke since I use a lot of props throughout my section. However, when we got to the spot the joke was on me. I realized I could flip the tire up and the spot had the perfect slight downhill to the rail, I know a lot of people aren't used to seeing me grind rails so it was a perfect mix of creativity and surprise. I battled getting the tire to line up just perfect for over two hours, but finally with light fading, I was able to get up over the tire and onto the rail. It felt great riding away from that.
Brady Tweedy made the move from Idaho to Salt Lake close to five years ago and it didn't take him long to come into the fold and adopt the creative SLC street ways. When you see Brady take his powerhouse style to the streets, you'd assume he was from the East Coast if you didn’t know any better. He joined the project later than most, but he quickly made up for lost time.
Your section from Dollar Bet was how a lot of people first heard of you. Was that your video part?
Yes, that was the first big BMX project that I was involved in. Before that I filmed a little edit when I first moved to Utah. Shout out to Paul, Jordan and Jantzen for filming that one.
Tate said you're the latest to carry the torch in Salt Lake, which is pretty cool to hear. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, I'm definitely not an Olympian [laughs]. There are way too many amazing riders in Utah for me to be the one with the torch. I appreciate the recognition, though.
You've filmed for projects with Elf and Tate in the past, how was it working on Headlights?
Working on Headlights was tough because I didn't have that much time to film and days I did we had to get multiple clips a day, which is hard. I got to go out with Tate and Elf a couple times to film and I got to ride with Demarcus Paul and Jake Seeley, which was awesome.
Opposed to filming a part for a sponsor or a local/crew video, what are your thoughts on filming for something like a Ride video?
I try not to make it too serious because filming is fun for me. But when Mike asked me to really film stuff for the video I knew I wanted to get stuff done that has been on my mind for a while.
What's it like working on a project where you have to wait for the filmer to come into town, as opposed to having the filmer be local and basically be on a call whenever you’re trying to ride?
I try not to let that bother me, but when you have to sit and think about a setup for a long time it makes it way more scary to go film. I always have a list of spots I want to get to, so I chose the ones I liked best for when Mike was in town so we could go and bust out as many as possible. I think one day we filmed four or five clips.
What was your approach to filming for Headlights? And what's it like working with Mike, someone who really understands the creative process?
Really just film stuff that I was truly stoked on and could have fun with. We are always bouncing ideas off each other at spots or just when we're chilling.
You were sort of a late addition to the project, what was it like trying to throw a section together in only a few short weeks?
Mike and I are pretty decent at that because for my welcome to Volume video we did the same thing [laughs]. When I go out to film something it's what I want—I don't want to have leftover style clips—if you know what I'm saying. And thankfully my job kinda gets it and they let me have time off to film projects.
You seem to get hurt a lot. We’re you healthy for most of the project?
Yeah, this was a rough year for me. I broke my arm finishing Disco Stew, I slammed a tree riding MTB and bruised my kidney and spleen pretty bad. I was peeing blood after that one and just a bunch of little annoying things that held me back from riding. I could have started earlier on Headlights, but I bruised and cut open my palms pretty bad one day, but other then that I was chilling.
Tate mentioned that you had to go back multiple times to get that clip where you rode over that giant rock—he also said that he had never seen you have to make repeat visits to get a trick. Was that the hardest clip for you?
That night might have been the hardest one for me. After an all day of riding we went there and I was tired and sore already, but I wanted it. After a while of slamming into the rock, popping a tube, and "Dan Kruk-ing" my bars (no hate, love you Dan) a few times, I mentally and physically couldn't do it that day. After another full day of riding we went back and went at it with a different approach and I finally committed to going over the top. Tate and crew were waiting with a nice crisp cold beer for me [laughs].
Were all of your clips filmed in Salt Lake?
Yes, Salt Lake and surrounding towns.
Have you ever found a spot in Salt Lake that Elf didn't already know about?
I really don't think I have.
This isn't really Headlights related, but I think a lot of people may not know that you're actually from Idaho. What brought on the move to Salt Lake?
I am from a small town in Idaho called Blackfoot. There was no potential to grow, but I still love it there, though. I knew from previous trips to Utah that the BMX scene was insane and I wanted to be apart of something like that.
Since moving to Salt Lake, how has riding with Tate and Elf and the rest of the squad influenced you?
The whole squad definitely influenced me. Everyone just has a different way at looking at riding. Between the spot appreciation and spot usage coming from Elf. Tate showing me the ways of being creative on spots such as the couple of teeter totter grinds I have filmed. The whole squad has always been the sickest. Everyone is just down to get out and try to get stuff done or just go out with no direction. They've definitely not only influenced me as a rider, but as a person too.
How is it for you finding new spots or coming up with new ideas after having filmed in SLC for a while now?
This place is chalked full of untouched spots. New ideas are always popping up because you can drive by or look at something a thousand times and with progression will help you think of something completely different on a old spot.
This is more of a topic than a direct question… Although you the tick all the boxes for the seemingly mandatory Salt Lake City truck/trailer clips and general creative spot finds, I think what makes you standout from a lot SLC footage I see is your eye for more cutty east coast style bumps and tiny steep wedges landings.
I have always loves the east coast crusty style riding—always using the spots to their fullest. Animal videos always got me stoked. It's hard to pick one video or one rider, though, because I feel like I have ridden all styles—from trying to get tech skatepark lip tricks to dirt jumps and box jump stuff. I just find that raw street stuff is the most real riding for me. Don't get me wrong, though, I still love riding it all.
You spend a lot of time riding mountain bikes, which is interesting because your BMX style is pretty raw street, but you’re also at the trails doing tables and moto whips… What’s it like switching back and fourth between the two? Does anything carry over from one to the other?
It is way harder to go from riding MTB to BMX, but once you do it a few times it feels normal. I can take some of my BMX tricks over to MTB but not the other way around. I can rail a berm and it gives me the same hype as getting a solid BMX clip.
Is it true that you ride around with a loaded gun on you?
Well, it is not loaded, but the magazine is full. I have my concealed carry license. You never know what can happen when lurking around in sketchy parts of town. I have been leaving it in my truck when riding lately because I don't want to grind some handrail and get in trouble for destruction of property and having that with me. I could lose my license and go to jail. I'm from Idaho, what to you expect [laughs].
With plenty of experience on both sides of the lens, Elf is a veteran video part rider who is only getting better with age. He's got that telltale Salt Lake City originality mixed with a raw riding style and ever-evolving eye for spots and his section in Headlights was a perfect storm of all the above.
Following up your last two video parts, from the video you made, Dollar Bet, and then your Animal section, how was it filming for another full-length—where you could just focus on riding and not have the responsibility of filming?
Well, those last two projects were pretty chill and I took my time with both and there was no deadline. When Mike originally asked me about having a section I was going to turn it down because I knew there was a deadline and I’ve never filmed a full part in less than a years time. I knew I would be hard on myself to come through with a part I was proud of and wasn’t sure if I could handle it with traveling for work and all. I thought about it a lot and decided I did not want to let this opportunity pass me by. So I told Mike I was down, but really wasn’t sure how much footage I could give him. Originally he was thinking for me to have a split section but I could be wrong on that.
Your section is raw street at its finest, but the fact that you're over 40 and riding like that makes it even sweeter! I think your section is going to inspire a lot of older riders—myself included. Who or what inspires you to keep doing what you do?
Thanks. I have always been inspired by any rider that utilizes spots with a unique eye. Just like a lot of riders I see a new section from a dudes like [Mark] Gralla or Lino [Gonzales] and I get motivated and want to go ride. Honesty, age has never been a factor to me. Riding means as much to me as it ever has and I’ve never let my age decide what I can and can’t do. I keep myself healthy and try to keep stress to a minimum so I think that has helped my mindset and body through the years to keep going. One of my favorite things to do that never gets old is throw on the headphones and cruise into the city by myself grab a beer and some food and ride a little more.
With two of the people you normally rider with, Tate Roskelly and Brady Tweedy, also having parts in Headlights, I'd imagine filming probably felt a lot like working on some of your previous videos?
Yes and no. Mike would make trips to SLC to film and sometimes it didn’t work for all of our schedules so some of the time I would go out with just Mike to get a clip then call Tate while he was at work to rub it in [laughs]! Also, I’m really not used to working with someone as good at filming as Mike so it was a little different at first getting used to the angles needing to be perfect, but I knew the end result would be worth it. I was pretty much gone for work when Brady got all his clips so it was cool to come home and see all the work he put in.
How was it having dudes like Jake Seeley, Biz, and Demarcus come into town and see how they interpret the spots around you?
Jake was the only one I was able to ride with in SLC for this video. He definitely saw a lot of things in spots myself and others had not. I was really glad he got that gap to tires down the rail at the hospital. I’ve been showing riders from out of town that spot for probably 20 years [laughs]. There’s a cop there all the time so it makes it a hard one to get. One day I watched him go in on a line for a while at a spot and his persistence and energy was very impressive. I’m pretty sure he was crazy sore the next day. It helped me get an idea at the same spot and ended up being one of my favorite clips. Demarcus has been here a lot on other trips so I've got to witness him ride and kill spots that nobody else can. It's been a long time since I’ve been able to ride with Biz, but I’ve been admiring his skills from a far for years!
Do you have a favorite clip you filmed? If so, why?
Probably the hop over feeble that stepped down where I was between the ledge and storage unit. I kind of get obsessed with certain types of grinds and I had been looking out for this type of set ups. I’ve know of that spot for years, but never realized its potential until recently. I really enjoy going back to old spots and figuring something out.
Which clip took the longest?
I feel like nothing took ridiculously long. Probably the stair feeble I kept getting stuck and wedged in between the ledge and storage unit. I got worked a few times on that.
Minus one clip in Denver, did you film your entire section in Utah?
Yep, majority of my stuff is in the downtown SLC area or just a little outside the city.
How many video parts have you filmed in the SLC area?
I’ve never added them up until now. Hard to believe but it’s 13. There are definitely clips in a lot of those sections that are not in SLC. But the majority of the footage is Salt Lake for sure.
How is it finding new spots to ride?
It's not too hard with an open mind and not being lazy—I’m constantly finding new spots or just riding old spots differently. A long time ago I started riding rails against walls because they were not knobbed and it seemed like they were everywhere. Same goes for why I like fences so much—there everywhere and there's always something to do in or out of them depending on the set up. I always joked how I was going to grind every rail in SLC at least once. Now it seems I’m more on pace to cave in every fence in SLC [laughs].
Mastroni told me stories about all the tools, ratchet straps and other assorted things you'd use to help make spots rideable. It seems like it's becoming increasingly common for spots to need a little nudge to make them work. Do you think it's because new spots are becoming harder to find or because what you're looking to ride is really specific?
The ratchet strap really comes in handy. It’s small and light to have in my bag. Most of the time when I ride fences I end up breaking the little clips at the bottom that keep it connected to the wire. When it breaks the fence pretty much becomes useless to me [laughs] so if it breaks I put the strap there to fix it. I like to keep spots how they naturally are. But if something needs fixed or cut to make it rideable than so be it. Aside from that I use a grinder and Sawzall a lot for knobs or anything else that might be in the way. I’ve made a lot of spots rideable that I have no intention on filming on but I want to enjoy the spot regardless. I think no matter what our minds will keep evolving to whatever happens to the streets and cool shit will always be going down.
And in what ways have you employed tactics to make spots rideable?
I have always disliked the excuse what if or I wish concerning how a spot is. So if you can why not make it rideable. Salt Lake is not that big and I've been riding here for 25 years. If I didn't use these tactics I would not have too much to ride anymore. I've definitely waited out businesses to close to cut things or chop huge limbs off trees or bushes that blocked a spot. I always try to clean up my mess also so hopefully it doesn't look like I was ever there.
Being over 40, you’re not only riding at what seems like the top of your game, but you’re also working non-stop, you go out for drinks a lot, and going on dates. How did you find time in your seemingly hectic lifestyle to film your Headlights part?
It goes back to what I said earlier about taking care of myself—eating right and low stress. To me it is not hectic and I quite enjoy living my life the way I want to and not the way others think I should. I do go out a good bit, but I can handle my alcohol and I don't drink too much. To Tate's dismay I can work all day, go film with Mike, then go out with the boys for a beer then get back up for work. There was a point in the summer I worked, came home and went out on an early dinner date had two beers, then met up with Mike and Tate and got two clips. I just try to fit life in however best I can and I don't feel like everything has to be an exact way. Go with the flow, ya know? I should also mention that I drink a lot of coffee [laughs].
Creativity has always thrived in the SLC scene—from Beringer, Cam Wood, Tate, and yourself… As for Headlights, the footage from SLC tipped the creative scales. What goes on up there? What is the genesis of all this creativity?
I'm really not sure how it started. I think Beringer was the original. I've been a part of making a lot of cool videos here and always wanted to showcase more of that style of riding and have always been more drawn to film riders who use their head. So the more videos we made the more I think our scene became known for creativity.
Speaking about creativity, what was it like working with Mastroni? I know he really encourages and motivates creative riding.
It was cool and definitely a new experience to work with someone who is that good at what they do. I'm used to having to direct friends how to film. He was always down for any mission I had. I'm pretty sure he quite enjoyed my consistent harassment and laughing at Tate while he tried to film a clip, as well.
Is it true that you made it your mission to have a longer section and/or get more footage than Tate?
[Laughs] Yes. Tate and I have a very friendly, but serious competition on petty much everything. So when we started he already had some footage saved up with Mike so I started talking shit about how much faster I was going to get clips. I actually don't know who won that, though. I probably did. I'll have to check on that and make him pay up.
Any new video projects from you and the Salt Lake boys in the works? Perhaps “Double Or Nothin” or something along those lines?
Yeah, I have a new project in the works. We are always out riding and filming so eventually it will all add up to something.