Words by Taj Mihelich, founder of Fairdale Bikes.
I was a BMX pro for almost 20 years. In that time riding bikes was absolutely everything to me. I poured all my physical energy, creativity and focus into it. My riding wholly consumed my life. It was a great experience that took me all over the world. It showed me what I could accomplish if I focused on just one thing. It’s strange though, I wouldn’t exactly say it was a ‘fun’ way to spend my life. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but ‘riding’ had become such an extension of me that it was way more than ‘fun’ to me. It had become everything good and bad in my world all rolled into one.
Out on my bike was the only time I really felt like me. Calloused hands, bruises and cuts constantly reminded me that I was a BMXer. Almost every thought I had was focused on somehow pushing my riding forward either on a creative or physical level. A ride down the street would send my mind into overdrive. Can I manual from here to there, is that handrail rideable, can I jump off this, is that a new trick brewing in the back of my mind?
One day at the peak of my BMX career I found an old 1950s grandma cruiser hanging out of a trash dumpster. It was somehow both repulsively dorky and magnetically beautiful at the same time. I took it home and with a little BMX-mechanic brute force got her going again. Keep in mind this was at a time in my life when I was such a hardcore BMXer I was embarrassed to even be seen on a big-wheeled bike, let alone a rickety step-through grandma bike. With a big metal basket up front I started taking the bike to the grocery store. The bike had an immediately profound effect on me. On those leisurely grocery-getting rides through neighborhood streets I found my world suddenly quieted down. Smiling was irresistible and I felt a simple and humble calmness I couldn’t explain.
In time I realised that this old clunky cruiser had stripped away all the pressures and expectations that I had loaded on to my BMX bike. For the first time in memory I was riding a bike with no desire to see how fast it could go, or how far it could jump. My mind wasn’t pushing me to look for new ways to ride it or obsessing about how to link obstacles in my path together. I was just simply rolling along.
Every one of us in the bike industry fell in love with that feeling at some point. The problem we face is that it’s so easy to lose track of it. We start looking for the next ‘high’ on our bikes by trying to ride them farther, faster or harder. We get caught up with technology and how we can make our bikes stronger and lighter. And of course the very act of working in the bike industry sometimes makes us lose sight of how simply joyful the act of riding the damned bikes can be.
The bike I rescued changed my life completely. I started being able to channel some of its simplicity into my BMX riding. That gave me a new confidence to enjoy my BMX on a more base level, which made me a better rider. Sometimes simple is better, even when it comes to BMX tricks. More than that it opened my mind to a whole world of cycling. I started seeing all the different kinds of bikes as paint brushes in an artist’s tool box. Each one had its purpose, but they were all at their core building on that same simple feeling I found riding my garbage bike.
Fairdale Bikes are distributed in the UK by Triton Imports.