I grew up in Catonsville, a suburb of Baltimore, MD, where jumping curbs was one of my favorite daily activities. When we were young, we were pretty lucky to have a lot of places in our neighborhood to ride. There were the middle school jumps that consisted of an old elevated railroad bed without tracks, with transitions on either side, with several half-pipe type lines that hit the lip, either to flat landing or if you were good enough, all the way over to the other side. Behind Westchester Elementary there was a big wood half-pipe in the woods which had way too much vert; and was hella scary. Behind the military cemetery there was the infamous “v-hill” (aka “uncle sams trails”), which was a sunken railroad grade, again sans tracks, with 20-30 foot walls on either side that formed a really big half-pipe type line, with landing to flat, out of the other side. The rumors were that the best older locals could jump over cars at that place, though unfortunately I never got to witness that. We also had a transition behind the 828 Bar that was an asphalt bank in between two parking lots of different heights which was one of my favorite stomping grounds. Then there was the bus terminal down in Paradise that had opposing hills on either side of its turn around area; trying to dodge the busses or the cops at that place made for some seriously fun memories. Our days were spent searching out the radness, trying to hit as many of these places as we could.
By around 6th grade I started hanging around some of the better riders in my neighborhood. I remember taking the banana seat off of my first huffy pro-thunder so that it would look like a “real” bmx bike and also getting a better stem for it so the bars would stop slipping, thanks mom:). It was then that we started building our own quarter pipes. While learning our kick-turns and below coping airs, I ultimately ended up cracking that frame as my skills progressed. A classmate of mine Kevin, had gotten out of bikes and had a different model pro thunder that he never used. It just sat there on his patio and he was cool enough to let me borrow it until I was finally able to convince my mom to get me a new ride.
It was actually on Kevin’s yellow pro-thunder that i started pulling my first aerials!
On weekends my older brother Paul and his friends would load up their motorcycles and head out to the dirt pits by BWI airport. Paul was always nice enough to let me and some neighborhood kids come along with our bikes. One of the worst emotional depressing moments that I can recall during this time in my pre-teens was when Paul was loading up and asking me if I wanted to go, but having to say “no”, because I had basketball, baseball or soccer practice later that morning. In addition, my little league baseball games were on the fields at the middle school right next to the old railroad bed jumps. I remember absolutely hating the idea that I was sitting on the bench waiting for my turn to bat and just over my shoulder, the jumps were visible, and my bike was leaning against the fence:(.
Manifesto: “It takes a whole lot of time to get rad during a baseball game, it takes a few pedal strokes to get rad on dirt”.
Eventually I realized that I couldn’t take it any longer and quit all the mainstream sports that I was enrolled in, for sake of freestyle bmx; I had caught “the bug” and there was no going back. Thank god, my mother eventually fessed up and purchased for me one of the more popular rides of the day, a “Team Murray x20c”! I was finally a part of the “cool kids” and was ready to roll, chromoly and all!
we were talking a genuine bona fide quick change sprocket, with actual allen bolts! I was the frickin’ man!!!