Friday, March 15, 2013

Mueller Bio Sessions - Part 2 (the wonder years)

It was the era of checkerboard slip-on Vans and very short corduroy OP shorts.  MTV played music videos 24/7.  Madonna was “Like a Virgin”, Van Halen was “Hot For Teacher” and Run-DMC and LL Cool J were bringing hip-hop into the mainstream.  Skateboarding was rad, but there was something new coming up on the scene in the early to mid 80s, and it happened to coincide perfectly with my early teenage years.  It was a revolution in the history of biking - it was Freestyle BMX.  Instead of riding around a dirt track in a race to see how fast you were amongst your competitors, you hung out with your friends all day practicing, learning tricks and searching out new lines - to see who could get the raddest.  I was starting to feel it on my team murray x20c:

The kids in California were at the forefront of taking freestyle to another level.  The magazines were the lifeline to that action, so much so that during this time it seemed like BMX Action and BMX Plus had started to cover just as much, if not more BMX freestyle than actual BMX racing. I believe it was in April 1980, that Tinker Jaurez made the first freestyle shot on a BMX magazine cover, and the majority of cover shots had switched from showing racers to showing freestylers through ‘83 and ’84.

Eddie fiola:

Michael Dominguez:

We anxiously awaited the arrival of each months magazines to see the likes of Eddie Fiola, Michael Dominguez and Brian Blyther soaring through the air at the AFA’s King Of The Skatepark competitions.  It was sort of a long distance relationship between the southern California kids and the rest of the nation.  We all dreamed of what it would be like to ride in big vert cement bowls or do flat land tricks on the boardwalks of Venice Beach in the hot sunny southern California weather.  We survived in our cold weather climates by going to the elementary school tennis courts to practice our flatland tricks, and by  building larger and larger quarter pipes in our driveways. 

"So much were the ways at the start of freestyle BMX similar to the ways of the spawning of freeride mountain biking.  The causes, the manifestations and the results coherently agree. People like to get rad on their bikes, there is no denying it.  We span the generations with the same radness, we don’t adhere to any particular rules, we seek out lines that put a smile on our face, we become one with our bikes.  Whether it is on wood, asphalt, concrete or dirt the mission lies inside of us.  "

A lot of the tricks today that are a regular part of a freestyle mtn biking run were originated by us back in the day while riding on 20” mag wheels; can cans, no footed can cans, bar spins, tail whips, double tail whips, no handers, 900s etc... all originated during this time.  But, we had no foam pits to “work-up-to” pulling off our first barspins or tailwhips.  We would just practice over and over again in our minds, visualizing how it would work; and finally upon gathering together guts enough - we just went for it. 

I remember after mastering 360’s on the quarter pipe (to fakie landing), the thought of  “what if I just rotate a little further” came to mind.  After going over and over it, 360 after 360, I finally mentally visualized where my back wheel would land if I just spun it a little harder.  A most momentous day came when I realized I could just land at 450 degrees and spin the last 90 on my rear wheel to ride out.  I think it only took me a couple of tries.  The thrill of the moment in pulling some of my first 540s had no equal.  This was in an era when there weren’t too many riders even pulling them off.  I also was known for my fully clicked lookbacks and my fully extended top-sided no-footed can cans:

Speaking of the origins of tricks, there is even a fun bit of historical nostalgia in my name.  We would often ride with our neighborhood skater friends at their half-pipes, sometimes trying to mimic their moves on our bikes.  One fun trick to do was the back-side footplant, which on a bike, is a can-can footplant.  I loved doing these to see how far I could extend the bike behind me.  I think it was Michael Dominguez though who was the first to do these on a bike in public.  However, I was supposedly one of the first to do a “rock-and-roll” on a bike (landing on coping on front chainring, to 180 back in).  My riding partner Jeremy Alder did one of these at a contest somewhere and when he was asked about it, he explained that it was a trick that I had been pulling off, and he named it a “fufanu”.  It is crazy to say that I invented “fufanus” as I was actually just doing “rock-n-rolls”, but it is a legit story.  The twist of it though, is that later on Dennis McCoy started landing back wheel on deck to 180 back in, and sort of  “stole” or let’s say “migrated” the name “fufanu” to mean his trick. 

The competitive nature of the friendships you form early on is the thing that makes you a great rider. 

If not for collaborative competition, our sport would be no where.  Luckily I lived in Catonsville, just down the street from the Alder brothers - Jeremy, Joe, James and John (yes 4 “J” names), who had the perfect driveway for practicing and who were all into getting rad in their own way.  We learned our tricks, we got good, we played “H-O-R-S-E”, we propelled each other and we were the best kids on bikes in our neighborhood and nobody could touch us.  Even more lucky was that the classic old school bike brand Hutch BMX was located in Baltimore as well, not too far from us down in Arbutus. 

Most freestyle competitions of the day were sanctioned by the one and only American Freestyle Association, or “AFA” and usually were out in California somewhere.  Hutch set out to change that by forming the “NFA” or National Freestyle Association.  They formed a series of competitions that where based more locally in our Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania region.  Ironically Jeremy had always placed his brand loyalty to “GT”, which was based in California, and who sponsored “The Original King of the Skateparks” rider, Eddie Fiola.  Where as I had developed a loyalty to Hutch, especially because at that time they sponsored my favorite rider, Michael Dominquez, who was fastly approaching Eddie as his “King of the Skatepark” adversary.  Eventually Jeremy got a new GT Pro Performer, and I a Hutch Trickstar, to complement the rivalry.  We went to all of the NFA competitons.  Jeremy ruled the ramps class.  Joe and I would take turns beating each other in the flatland class and I would usually win the overall(ramp and flat combined).  Eventually there weren’t too many people that could touch us at those comps, we spent a few years filling our shelves with trophies.

We also liked to go to freestyle shows whenever they came to town.  We had already gained a lot of peer relationships with everyone that rode in the Baltimore area at that time (because we had all been competing with each other at the NFA competitions).  Upon arriving at a trick show up in northern Baltimore (for some reason the Alders weren’t at this one) we all took turns throwing down our flatland moves.  When the ramp area opened up we migrated and started to practice our airs, even though these were the ramps for the trick show.  The “star” rider was running a little late, and I was starting to boost it a little bit.  There weren’t any good ramp riders amongst our peers on hand, but I had been learning a lot from riding with Jeremy and at this point was as half-good on ramp as I was at flatland.  I was getting some air, but was tending to land to flat bottom (the ramp had a little more vert than my home ramp).  Needless to say, I was definitely getting higher than anyone else there.  Then came the time when the most revered rider of our day, the legendary Micheal Dominguez finally had shown up.  He had just switched from Hutch to Diamond Back, which was (and still is) a mainstay in current BMX culture, but had up until then been new to the freestyle side of things.  But they scored the best rider of the day, and he was here to put on a show.  He went about his way of warming up and practicing low airs.  I continued to ride and was sharing the ramps with him back to back.  He was landing smooth on his “practice” airs, and I was landing to flat on my best 5 foot out attempts.  Either way, I still would say that I have no better memory in my childhood, then this.  Sharing ramps with Micheal Dominguez back then, was like shredding trail #30 with Aaron Gwin or flowing treys line down cedar stump with Brandon Semenuk today - No Fucking Joke!  He was one of the raddest founding forefathers of a lot of bikings current day tricks.  He was the man, he was and still is a legend.  His raw talent and ability to throw down during heated competitions made him the most sought after star of the day, and this riding era.   I also remember asking him how he liked his Diamond Back compared to his Hutch, and he told me that “ doesn’t matter what bike you ride...”

The 4 or 5 years I spent riding with Jeremy and Joe were the best riding workshop I ever had.  If you really think you will be good at something, you give yourself to it 24/7/365, and that’s the only way you will bring it to another level.  When you do something only once or twice a week, you will always stay level, stagnant and non-progressive.

Upon entering the 1985 NFA Grand Nationals in Timonium MD, I truly got to see the most astonishing sight I have ever seen.  Michael Dominguez boosted an air into the rafters, and the entire audience went into hysteria and I experienced the deepest sort of inner chill imaginable.  A whole sheer shrilling effect came over my body.  In current vernacular, I was saying to myself OMFG!!, upon witnessing what was truly the highest air I had ever seen.  On top of that we got to witness HUGE Fakie airs, 540’s over the channel, boy was stomping it. 

I was the very first rider pictured at the start of this video - doing a one handed, one footer x-up kick-turn (although please don't watch it all, or more of the parts as they are all  pretty lame...)

At this contest, the Alder brothers and I were exceptional local favorites for our classes.  It was quite the nostalgia that at the contest I got to meet and be photographed by John Ker.  Yes in 1985, and he is still around today as the main MTNBIKE Action photographer and editor. 

Around 11th grade, fall of 1987 we started to get too good for our own good.  I was blasting consistent high airs.  The marker pole at the top of our ramp grew from 5 and a half feet to 6 and a half feet, then finally to an 8 foot pole.

My airs where consistently at the top of the 6 and a half foot pole, when we finally went to the 8 foot pole.
I was blasting 7 foot airs all day.    When trying to max it out, would get to the top of the new 8 foot pole.  The Alders where a little taken aback, as I had seemed to be surpassing the radness level of their driveway.  

At that time there was a new kid on the competition circuit by the name of Matt Hoffman.  He was starting to get some recognition, but we were on par with him then, and there was a contest in Long Island New York that we were preparing to shred against him at. 

Unfortunately everything came to a crashing halt the wednesday before the comp when I “hung up” BIG TIME upon re-entry from a 7 foot air, on our 8 foot ramp, which means 15 feet above the asphalt driveway,  my face headed directly too and landed at the bottom of the ramp jaw first, with no protective gear. My jaw had been pushed back into my head, and I was conscious but on the verge of black out.  I can remember one of the neighbors taking me to Saint Agnes hospital, as my conscious state got more blurry, and remember the sheeted off area where I was in the ER, as I finally blacked out. 

My jaw was broken in three places as a result of that crash.  Jeremy still did the trick show we were performing in that saturday, as well went to compete against Matt Hoffman on Long Island that sunday, (he got second, behind matt) but he mentioned that his knees were a little bit shaky, after seeing my demise(which probably was a good thing...).

This injury was more than a simple - wait 2 or 3 months to get better to start shredding it again.  It was a monumental crash of great horror, and made me feel like nervous jello on a ramp.  I don’t think I ever got past the fear factor of going higher than 5 feet out again on a vert ramp.  My freestyle BMX career had just come to an end on that very day.  I was too scared to try to go high again.  I missed over a month of school and sank into deep depression, and continued to forge notes and subsequently skipped school for another month, while I sat at home and was unsure how I was to get stoked again.  I didn’t.  I was lost....    My whole life came to an end - and I was so sad, so so sad.  Having your jaw wired shut for a month ain’t no fun deal either.  Think ice cream shake for every meal:( 

Eventually I had to deal with going to school again, which I fucking hated.  I fucking hated everything.  The joy of my existence had gotten swept from underneath me and I did not know how to deal. 

I went on to be a wimpy rider who still had a lot of skill, and after getting my license, I wouldn’t hang with the alders anymore, instead I would go to the Landsdowne Skatepark and hang out with the skaters and flow some easy lines.

Then eventually it was cool to move to the beach down in Ocean City, MD with my father after his retirement.  Not only to cruise the boardwalk, streetstyle and listen to Metallica on my walkman cassette - but to eventually get into body boarding which saved my ass (in that when you crash you just land in water, not face first onto asphalt). 

Jeremy and Joe went on to get sponsored by Haro and hit the big time.  They both pioneered benchmark tricks on ramps and flatland respectively.  They toured with famous riders and competed against some of the biggest names of that era. 

Jeremy actually pulled the first published bar-spin air in all of biking history.  He is currently now a teacher and a catholic priest.  It suits him well, as he was holy...

Thanks to oly dirt for giving me a home here, on my mission to continue to get rad...

First bar spin air link  =

Jeremys bio =

And the pre amble ( Mueller Bio  Sessions Part 1) can be found at:


  1. Incredible story, John. Thanks for the post. GREAT read. Made me reminisce about my days thrashing around town on my BMX bike. Thanks for being here.

  2. Wuttup, OG John! Thanks for sharing. I'm impressed by your place in biking history, but even more so that you're still killing it and having fun with it to this day. Inspirational for sure!

  3. Ive riden with you, your no "wimpy rider" Hahaha, dude this a great story. Thanks for sharing it. You grew up in a rad time.

  4. John, this story is inspiring to say the least. You are fucking rad and I am glad you are a local and contribute to this blog. Shred on.