At 18 stairs long, well over grip height, with a rail sticking out from the side, and super slippery on top, the ledges in front of the Los Angeles Convention Center—better known as "The Staples Center Ledges" are what separate the men from the boys. One might even go as far as to say that these massive concrete blocks are a little excessive for their actual purpose, but hey, when it comes to BMX, their purpose is pretty much to be the ultimate obstacle for ledge tricks. If you have a trick dialed and you're feeling really confident with it, then take it to the Staples ledge—the El Toro of ledges, if you will. However, unlike the El Toro rails/stairs, which are in the middle of a schoolyard in a nice neighborhood, the Staples ledges are conveniently located right off the street in downtown Los Angeles, and can basically be hit at any time (unless an event is happening).
The progression on the ledges has been steadily documented in the pages of Ride dating back to 2001 with a black and white spread of Walter Pieringer doing a high-speed feeble grind in issue 59. Roughly a year later, a little uproar began over a Split ad in Ride issue 71, March 2002, featuring Ben Snowden doing a manual down the ledge at night (from what was basically the top). The ad's legitimacy was quickly questioned because the spot where the photo was shot and the position he was in just didn't look right—like as if he had actually jumped onto the ledge and landed into a manual at that spot. Ben revealed the full story of how that photo shoot transpired in an interview in the September 2005 issue of Ride, "Split was going to run an ad with [Ryan] Nyquist. I guess the deadline crept up, and he didn’t turn in any photos. The TM called me to see if I had any photos that I could bring in the next day. I didn’t have any, but I wanted to get the ad, so I said, 'Yes.' I called my friend Dave [Cabrera] and asked him if we could go shoot that night. We shot at three different ledges that night, and one of them was the Staples Center ledge. About a week prior was the first time I did a manual down it. Still feeling confident, I began warming up by jumping into double tire rides down the ledge. At the time, I didn’t know much about photography, and Dave explained to me that I was going too fast and his flash wasn’t strong enough to get a good picture. He said the only way we could shoot it was if I went slower. So I climbed to the top of the ledge where it's flat, and manualed down as slowly as I could. We turned in all the pics from that night, and that’s the one that got picked for the ad. If anyone wants to see the video footage of me pulling it, watch Aspire 3." Ben came through on his word in Aspire 3, when he not only manualed the hell out of that ledge, but he also opposite feeble grinded the adjacent ledge. Regardless of the questionable chain of events leading up to the Split ad and the amateur photoshoot, at least Ben put forth the effort to prove that he actually could do it. Interestingly enough, Ben's section in Aspire 3 was filmed and edited by the Staples pioneer himself, Walter Pieringer, and their efforts won Best Pro Overall and Best Video edit.
Ben Snowden’s Aspire 3 section, where he gets down to business on the ledges right away…
Moving on, while in Los Angles working on his Ride interview from the October 2002 issue, Edwin DeLaRosa double peg grinded the ledge on two separate occasions, first for the magazine photo and then again a few weeks later so Dave Parrick could film it for the etnies Forward DVD. The ledges didn't see any more action until 2005, when Anthony Cico Smith grinded it and scored the cover of the December 2005 issue. He had to do the Smith a handful of times because he kept barely bonking his back peg on the way off, but he eventually pulled it clean and the footage appeared in Shook's We Are Everywhere—and seven years later it's still one of the gnarliest Smith grinds ever done.
Edwin DeLaRosa’s section from etnies Forward.
Following up Anthony, in April of 2006, Sean Burns laced an icepick grind and you can see the footage in his section from the Metal Bikes video Dead Bang (which earned him a NORA Cup in 2008 for Video Part Of The Year). And shortly after, Brad Simms attempted to grind it backward. Both his and my memory are a little foggy about when exactly he tried it, but to the best of Brad's knowledge, "I think early 2007, right when I got on Hoffman [Bikes]." Brad gave it a few solid attempts, but after falling backward onto the top of the ledge, sliding down it on his back, and then falling off and hitting his head on the adjacent rail, he called it quits. Next up was Nathan Williams, who had much better luck than Brad with a first try Luc-E grind in 2008 (Ride 145, June 2008).
Sean Burn’s Dead Bang section.
The ledges saw a lot of action in 2009, beginning in July, when Mike Brennan explored a different approach when he rode along the top and did a bunnyhop barspin into it for his interview that ran in issue 162 March/April 2010. Two months after Brennan in September, Mike Hoder decided to start the day off with a bang by warming up on the Staples ledge (straight out of the car after driving for two hours from San Diego). First hit on the ledge was a successful pedal feeble, then he hopped onto it and rode down it a few times, then went for a hanger nosemanual. He miscalculated his speed on his first try, caught the end of the ledge with a quick nose, then crashed into a tree. Although he wasn't satisfied with the hanger nose, feeling pretty beat up, he decided to chill it on after that. Going back almost full circle, in December of 2009, after doing a demo at the convention center that same day, Ben Snowden hop whipped into the ledge for sequence in BMX Plus!
So what's next? It's taken 12 years for the current trick list to develop on the Staples ledge. Although the rate of progression in BMX has been blazing forward over the last decade, Staples continues to move at it's own slower pace, and when you see it for yourself in real life, it's pretty obvious why.
Finally, here’s a photo gallery recapping most of the history on the Staples ledges…