The Second-to-Last Samurai

Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla has been spending a lot of time planning exotic, worldwide adventures for himself and the rest of his Samurai crew–Colin Winkelmann, Heath Pinter, Jason Enns, Edwin DeLaRosa, and Dave Osato.If you’ve seen Back for the Very First Time, you’ve gotten a little taste of what he’s into, and he promises The Samurai’s next video will be a lot more wild.

Is what you’re doing now with the Samurai something you always wanted to do? Was it your goal to do it this way?

No, it just kind of happened. I didn’t really have a plan. I just got fed up with doing the things I didn’t want to do until I kind of strong-armed my way into doing this, or just made things available for myself. The whole reason I started Samurai was so my friends and I could do what we wanted to do. We could continue to get coverage to make our sponsors happy, but get to do the other things we wanted to do that maybe the “regular schedule” of BMX interferes with.

When did you start the Samurai?

It was officially the beginning of 2003, but I’d always done trips in the magazines. I was always giving the footage away and we’d make it an etnies trip or whatever. Then I decided we should just do our own and then we can really do what we want. Now if it sucks, I have no one to blame but myself.

Mike peg-stalls a fence on the Samurai’s Alaskan trip last year.  credit: Keith Mulligan

You put out the first video recently; did you teach yourself how to do all the editing?

I’ve had a computer forever, so I’ve always just edited little things out of footage I had. It’s not that hard, really. I did the DVD too, with help from Mike Ocoboc. I’m psyched on it. I didn’t want to make a video that was too serious, but I didn’t want it to be a goof-around video either, and I didn’t want it to be just a road trip video. I wanted to make a video that showed the kids that bike riding was just fun. It doesn’t matter what tricks you’re doing, it doesn’t matter where you’re at or what you have to ride; it’s all about being with your friends and hanging out. It’s not some soul-searching thing where it’s like, “It’s so good digging out the dirt at the bottom of the pool,” because that’s the stupidest comment ever. There’s nothing better than showing up to a pool and it’s empty.

Are you planning a second video?

Yeah. Filming starts in February. We’re going to New Zealand for the first trip, we’re going to try to go to Mexico City, I’m going to try to catch wild boar, we’re going to go snowmobiling in Colorado, we’re going to go all over this time. This video will have so many extra features that are completely not bike-related at all. There’ll be some surf stuff, snowboard stuff...

Do you think people care about that stuff?

The people who don’t care about it, all they have to do is not watch it. It’s the bonus stuff, in addition to the bike stuff. We’re doing it anyway, so if kids want to see it, they can see it. It might open their eyes to other things they might be interested in. There’s so much out there that I was unaware of when I was younger, and now that I’ve gotten to see the world a bit... As much as bike riding has become a huge part of my life, there’s so much to my life that isn’t bike riding.

What other stuff would you want to do with Samurai, if you could do anything?

I don’t know if we’ll really make much product. I don’t have anywhere to put it, so I’m not going to make it. I have a small garage. Samurai will never make bike parts. No frames. Maybe we’ll make a patch kit. It’s just one video a year--that’s what you can guarantee from Samurai. We may just make one-offs that, as soon as we get the stinkin’ Web site going, you’ll be able to buy. Like right now, we have the Dave Osato signature golf balls for all you golfers out there, so if I haven’t shanked themll into the woods by the time the Web site is up, you’ll be able to get some of those. I’d like to hold semi-contests, like jams; a lot different than what’s going on right now, but it’s all a matter of sponsors, and a matter of time, because my schedule’s really filled up. I would like the Samurai thing to be... I don’t have any huge plans for it, but I want it to work out so we can do whatever we want to do. I have a lot of ridiculous ideas that I’ll keep to myself because they’re a bit much.

Rooftop’s into doing limited-edition stuff for the Samurai. Case in point: the Dave Osato signature golf ball.  credit: Kevin McAvoy

You’ve just started another project...

I’m writing a book. It’s going to be kind of an art project–with photos and notes scanned in from when I’m on the road–of all my adventures all year. One chapter per month. The skate tours, the music tours, the bike tours–other weird places I go and things I get to experience. A lot of the extra things we’re doing that I think would be good bonus features for the video, they’re basically being done for the book.

You do things a little differently than the typical pro rider. Is that something that just evolved over the years or is it something you tried to do?

I didn’t actually receive the form in the pro handbook of what pro etiquette was (laughter). It kind of just evolved. Never at one point did I say, “I’m going to be different and do this, and make everyone pissed (laughter).” I think I’ve always just done other things. Growing up in California, you have a lot more options. I grew up near the water, so I surfed for a few years when I was younger. A lot of my friends were skaters, the mountains were right there... Everything was a lot more accessible. In different seasons, you did different things. Bike riding obviously took over for me. Over the years, I’ve tried to do all those other things again every chance I get. It just seems like I’m being watched with a hawk’s eye and people will exaggerate the story.

A lot of people think you never ride. What do you have to say to them?

I don’t know why people think I don’t ride...I guess just because they see me doing other things and it just gets exaggerated. Last year we went to Hawaii, I did a couple contests, I did the West Coast road trip, then from June 15th to September 19th, I was only home 19 days. I was on the Hawk tour, the Sprite tour, I was in Portugal...I was gone for three months and rode almost every single day. If I come home in September and I don’t look at my bike for a month, I think I have every right to do that. I have a lot to do when I get home to catch up. If I’m on the road for twelve days, then home for ten before I go back out for three weeks, yeah, I probably won’t ride while I’m home. Anybody that lives in California can vouch that there’s nothing to ride here anyway. I like riding skateparks, and your choices are really limited here unless you want to get up at 8AM and run from the police every 35 minutes. It’s a weird rumor, but whatever. There was one time a couple years ago somebody said I don’t ride and I’m up heli-boarding every day. First of all, that would make me a very rich person to be able to do that every day. If I don’t ride for eight months and I can still put out two or three video parts and do pretty well in contests that year, then I’m the best rider ever! I should start feeling better about myself! No, that’s not the case; I have to work at it like everybody else.

Until the Samurai secure some sponsorship dollars, Mike’s mowing lawns to pay for his trips around the globe.  credit: Kevin McAvoy

What else is on deck for you?

I’ve got a signature backpack coming out from Clive, a cool new BMX-specific pack. The Rooftop 3 shoe is coming out pretty soon; it should be available in March.

I’ve seen the shoe; it’s simpler than your previous models.

I’ve always been into the techie style, but lately I haven’t been. Plus, the economy couldn’t deal with it. People aren’t buying $90 shoes. This shoe is going to be between $60-70, I think, and it’s still got gel in the sole; it’s awesome. The rad thing about this shoe is that I drew it myself. They tweaked it to fit everything, but it’s my design. Same thing with Taj’s new shoe–it looks awesome, and he drew it up.

Anything else?

Check www.thesamurai.net. It’s just a page right now, but hopefully we’ll have a lot more stuff up soon. If any company wants to sponsor Samurai trips, get in touch.1 color=”#666666″>Until the Samurai secure some sponsorship dollars, Mike’s mowing lawns to pay for his trips around the globe.  credit: Kevin McAvoy

What else is on deck for you?

I’ve got a signature backpack coming out from Clive, a cool new BMX-specific pack. The Rooftop 3 shoe is coming out pretty soon; it should be available in March.

I’ve seen the shoe; it’s simpler than your previous models.

I’ve always been into the techie style, but lately I haven’t been. Plus, the economy couldn’t deal with it. People aren’t buying $90 shoes. This shoe is going to be between $60-70, I think, and it’s still got gel in the sole; it’s awesome. The rad thing about this shoe is that I drew it myself. They tweaked it to fit everything, but it’s my design. Same thing with Taj’s new shoe–it looks awesome, and he drew it up.

Anything else?

Check www.thesamurai.net. It’s just a page right now, but hopefully we’ll have a lot more stuff up soon. If any company wants to sponsor Samurai trips, get in touch.