Digbmx  Chad Osburn Bmx 1
15 Apr 2016

Seeing Street Transitions - The Chad Osburn Interview

So you’re one of those motocross guys? That explains a lot...

Kink etnies

Interview and Photos by Andrew White / Red Bull Content Pool Additional photography by Rob Dolecki

What do you get when you mix one part Sean Burns and one part Eddie C, incubated in pool country, and with a solid noggin? Not the best way to introduce Chad Osburn, but then again he's a rider that you really needn't read about, only watch (ideally in person). 

DIG's been stoked on Chad since the first bits of coverage started coming from Kink, and we couldn't wait to finally meet up and do a piece. What we saw and learned was that he's a supreme dude. Great at both handling business on a bicycle as well as family life back home, Chad's not out trying to max his social stats, only to chase the thrill on a bike.

We're really stoked on this interview, it came out far better than we could have imagined. If you want to get some true insight on one a good dude in BMX right now read on.

Digbmx  Chad Osburn Bmx 3

Always a treat to work with a rider who’s equally passionate to make a still photo the best it can be in this modern age. Chad did this rail hop a couple times to get the position just right, which I didn’t feel bad for directing since he told me which angle to shoot a photo the day before! © Andrew White / Red Bull Content Pool

Where’d you grow up?

Fresno. I’ve been there my whole life until recently when I moved to Dallas. Fresno’s between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it’s an agriculture based town you’d say.

How’d you get into BMX? What was your first exposure.

When I was five my parents got me my first motorcycle, a little Honda Z50 and I started riding that like crazy up and down the neighborhood. They took me to a circle track race and I did pretty decent for first race and that got me hooked on two wheeled stuff. I started racing a lot. I always rode my bicycle normal and almost every racetrack would have a set of BMX dirt jumps. I’d see people riding their bikes jumping little crates with wood onto a dirt landing. I was always riding my bike, just trying to imitate what we were doing on the racetrack. It wasn’t till I was fifteen did I realize there were bicycle tricks. My friend showed me a bike video and that’s when I really noticed what BMX was. Up until then it was doing can-cans and no footers and no-handers. Everything that was dirt jumping.

Then I realized Fresno had a skatepark and so we started going at six in the morning. Slowly we started seeing more riders then… yeah. That’s when I noticed it. I didn’t know what BMX was till I was really old. I was just doing dirt jumps all the time. Seeing how far I could jump.

So you’re one of those motocross guys? That explains a lot.

Yeah. 

So when you switched to BMX did it seem smaller? There’s the guys who jump massive doubles on a motorbike and they get on a BMX and they think ‘Oh it’s just a 25 foot jump.’

Yeah, when I look at a setup, everything in my head says it looks doable. The scale of things is way different. [On a] racetrack the average jump is 30 feet. So on a bike you’re used to that distance- it’s just a matter of leg power to get over it. That’s the real obstacle. But the fear thing, I think motocross definitely transitioned or helped that.

Were there any specific BMX riders who influenced the way you took your motocross background and applied it to BMX?

I mean, honestly in the beginning no. When it was me and my friends I didn’t have internet, no cell phone, nothing, and I didn’t own any BMX DVDs so it was pretty much just me and my group of ten friends backing each other up. But there wasn’t one thing I was watching over and over trying to imitate. 

Back to the question, there were influential riders who changed the way I rode after I was jumping dirt jumps. When I began paying attention to BMX media it was 2007-09. Eddie C was my top influential rider. Sean Burns. Eddie solely cause his bike looked amazing. He made it look really good; the smoothness made me look at BMX thinking you could make it look really good. With Burns’ riding I could relate cause he could just do big stuff all the time. I thought it was the most BMX thing ever to me. He was roasting and making landings that were super hard look smooth. To me, Burns is insanely smooth.

He’s all about the art of landing. You’re not just a deadman jumping off a roof, there’s a technique just like there is to land on the back of a box jump.

Yeah, that was really cool to me.

Digbmx  Chad Osburn Bmx 2

DIG is always stoked to see this move on street. Handicap hop table in the last bit of summer twilight. © Andrew White / Red Bull Content Pool

"Starbucks never called me back. The Fast food place never called me back."

- CHAD OSBURN

So what was the first BMX media you got a hold of? Video or magazine or was there a moment when you first saw legit media? 
That’s one thing that bothers me, is I can’t remember the exact content it was. But it goes back to my friend Cody in his room, he puts on a video and it’s a dude riding BMX. I could say it was Aitken cause it was in that era, but it was a dude roasting a turndown and I was like oh man that’s crazy. That’s not a one footer or a no hander, that’s maneuvering your bike it’s so crazy.

Based off your timeline, you’re young enough that you’re on the cusp of where you could be 100% web videos, you didn’t need a DVD if you’re really getting into it in 2007.

I was all about magazines though. I subscribed to Ride BMX, I still subscribe, I don’t think I’ll ever not. Same with DIG. I used to go the Barnes and Noble’s by my house and pick up Ride. That was huge cause we didn’t have internet, my parents didn’t want internet in the house.

Digbmx  Chad Osburn Bmx 9

Chad Osburn, Red Bull Metro Pass trip, DC 2015. © Andrew White / Red Bull Content Pool

"Street riding seems like it’s only stairs and rails, but in my head street riding has so much transition..."
- CHAD OSBURN

So you’re riding bikes, living in Fresno, you graduate high school then start working at a bike shop?

Whoa! There’s a lot that happened between Junior and Senior year cause that’s when I started having kids.

Tell me about that

I’m just going to ramble if that’s cool. When I was in Junior year of high school, riding was all I was doing. That’s when I was 16.  There was one park that we rode and it didn’t allow bikes. We’d ride 30-40 minutes every day there. Then shortly after that the huge Fresno BMX park started being built. It’s all 9-10 foot quarter park. It’s the biggest BMX park in the nation, it’s insane. We couldn’t wait till it was built. We didn’t have much to ride except that.

Once we got to Junior year we all started dating but still stuck together. One day my now-wife Lacey comes up and says I’m gonna have a kid. So I walk in to tell my parents, and my dad says it’s a serious matter and you need to get a job so I said OK. I wanted to prove them right that I can do it so I started sending out applications everywhere. 

The day my daughter was born was the day that the Fresno park opened, the big concrete park. I was literally holding my daughter. I knew I needed some money for diapers and the city actually fronted $5k for the pro purse, so I told my wife I’m going to go and I’d really like to do well so we can get a start. At the time I didn’t have a job, nothing. Starbucks never called me back. Fast food never called me back, the bike shop was over staffed. So I got to the contest and end up getting second place and got 1,200 dollars. It was amazing. Right as they were giving me awards the supervisor for parks and rec offers me a job to staff the park that day. 

At the time I was super emotional. I just had my first child, I didn’t have a job, now I just got a job and did well in the contest. It was an amazing day. I got straight back to the hospital and tell Lacey what happened. I told her I won 1,200 dollars for baby stuff. With that [job] I was able to ride while I was on the clock so I just rode. That’s all I did, working forty hours a week. It gave me the ability to afford an apartment in high school. I was married in high school, living in an apartment and just trying to be the best parents we could be at 18 years old. And being able to ride, that was amazing.

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Digbmx  Chad Osburn Bmx 7

Washington DC DIY can-can south of town. © Andrew White / Red Bull Content Pool

You handled that situation, it seems like you did everything right seeing how you are today. It’s pretty cool. What a crazy thing to get a job with the city. Government job getting healthcare, and getting to ride on the clock. Seems amazing.

Yeah, and at that time I think that’s what changed what I thought. When Lacey told me we were having a kid I was like oh it’s going to work. We were neighbors since twelve, we were best friends. I just told her it was going to work and ever since then I had the attitude that it can’t fail. We care about it so much. When I got a job the day of the birth the money helped with a down payment on the apartment it was like, wow.

Was there ever a moment when you considered stepping back from BMX in a way to preserve your parenting ability? Was there ever a conflict there?

To be honest in my head no. After I had my daughter BMX never took a front seat, ever. I did it when it could fit in. This is pretty much my schedule for three years. I would work at the skatepark so I was able to ride every day. When I got the bike shop job I would work a 40 hour workweek, then after I would put her to sleep and take care of what I needed to do, then go ride an hour or two a night and get sessions in that way. I’d be riding from 11-1 [at night] just to ride. It’s just how it worked. 

Then wake up early and take care of the kid and do it all again?

Yeah, so crazy, I don’t know how I did it. I’d average waking up at 6:30 every morning. But it’s so exciting you don’t really see it that way.

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Digbmx  Chad Osburn Bmx 8

Chad obeying an absolute rule on street to never pass up a good backside. © Andrew White / Red Bull Content Pool

Jumping ahead, you’re now a pro. How does that work traveling? Do you have to turn down trips?

The way I look at it, every single time I get asked the question I always tell I couldn’t do it if it wasn’t with Kink and Jay Roe as TM. I look at him as a really good friend and he understood my situation so well. Darryl Tocco was the one who suggest me on the team initially. Jay came down a couple months later and asked me to be on the team and I let him know that I have a daughter and probably going to have another kid. Traveling is going to be kind of tough sometimes. He said I want you on the team and we’re gonna make this work.

Pretty much the way it works is… it is hard. I want to go on every trip. I’m fully motivated. But the way Jay and I worked it out is there will be certain trips I’ll be more productive than others and Jay knows that. He knows that if it’s all flat ledge trip or shop stop with Subrosa rails, he’s going to offer it to me but not expecting me to jump on it. I told him I could maybe do four trips a year, and he hand picks them. 

We just got back from Costa Rica. It was amazing, all street and transition. I think that’s how it is. It is hard though, I still work a full time job and luckily I work at a job where I can leave whenever I want cause they understand what I do. 

How did Kink come about?

I was still working at the city and at that time the budget was cut drastically, the action sports program. So I had to find a second job. I started working part time at the bike shop. Herb Bauer BMX, they are really dedicated to BMX, it’s almost a full time BMX shop which is really rare. They would have shop stops, and video premiers as much as they could. Fit was coming through and doing a shop stop for Fit Trippin DVD. Darryl happened to be filming that trip and came up and randomly and asked if I was riding for anybody. I wasn’t thinking about [sponsors], I was just focused on working and paying my rent.

So you were never trying to be a pro?

Honestly maybe before the kid, but as soon as the daughter came into the world all of the competitiveness went away. BMX turned into my getaway. Instead of sleeping like some parents, I was riding and it was my stress relief. It made me fully happy. It probably made my riding better cause I wasn’t forcing tricks and getting frustrated.

So when Kink came about it just came naturally?

Yeah. Actually Van Homan came up and asked me the same thing [about FIT], and I was like that’s crazy. I was freaking out. Van! I had never talked to anyone in the industry, never been involved. If it was just a free T shirt that would have been insane! Darryl down the line told me - it was at the time when Cult and Fit separated - Van thought Kink could do more with me at that time cause Fit was in a weird area. So Jay came down a few months later when the Kink house was going on, they came to Fresno and met me in person and I guess they were cool with it. Sean and all the dudes said it was cool.

You gotta go through Sean with Kink.

That’s what cool with Kink. We’ll get a text saying what’s cool with this guy? It goes through the whole team before anyone gets picked.

Osburn  Rfdrop  Az  Adj

A desert drop-in highlighter hued highlight for Chad. Originally published in the DIG photo issue #93, March/April 2013. Photo by Rob Dolecki.

"There was a church in Arizona that Dolecki shot. That was pretty scary. "

- Chad Osburn

BMX is so insanely street heavy. People wouldn’t have a park clip in their part. But there’s hybrid riders like you, or Kris Kyle. What’s your thoughts on the current state of BMX?

I think BMX is in a good spot. I might be narrow minded cause that’s the way I look at it. I’m gonna ride everything in front of me cause if I don’t ride it then I’m not riding. I don’t have much time. I’m not going to pinhole my riding to one area where I go somewhere and I can’t ride. I like riding so much that I would never want to restrict myself from a certain spot. If everyone else is having a great time laughing I don’t want to be sitting on a curb being left out. As far as other people, if they’re afraid to film at skateparks, then that’s just them restricting their own riding. Not being able to enjoy ramp riding. 

I’ll go to the skatepark and see kids riding the street plaza when there’s a dope bowl. They call me a ‘ramp rider’ and I’ll laugh so hard cause they’re in a skatepark. You’re a BMX rider that’s all it is. 

Street riding seems like it’s only stairs and rails, but in my head street riding has so much transition, like trees or pools. Pools to me is like, even though it’s a transition it’s the most pure form of street riding. You search for the spot, you waste so much gas searching, you have to clean it, trespass, make sure people aren’t home and if they are you only get a twenty minute barge. To me that’s total Seek n Destroy. It’s what skateboarding and BMX is all about.

You think that’s just in your DNA coming from Fresno?

Yeah, cause all we did was ride street having only one skatepark. I relate to the pool riding too cause of dirt jumps. Preserving the spot as well, having to clean it which is really similar to digging. You can’t blow out the spot cause it will get plowed. It’s the same thing as a pool. You can bring your friends but not someone who will bring ten friends. 

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

Dang dude that’s crazy cause honestly I could say the loop, but that just worked so once it was done it was done. I think I’ve sweated things more. There was a church in Arizona that Dolecki shot. That was pretty scary. 

"I like riding so much that I would never want to restrict myself from a certain spot. If everyone else is having a great time laughing I don’t want to be sitting on a curb being left out. As far as other people, if they’re afraid to film at skateparks, then that’s just them restricting their own riding. Not being able to enjoy ramp riding."
- Chad Osburn
Digbmx  Chad Osburn Bmx 4

Spot usage. Wallie in the heart of DC. © Andrew White / Red Bull Content Pool

What would you say is - to rephrase my question - what’s your proudest achievement on a bike? Either a part or photo or trick. If you were to go to someone who knows nothing about BMX and shamelessly said here’s the coolest thing I’ve done.

I think in my eyes, this edit I did with Darryl. It had my kids in the beginning, I forgot what it’s called. It has Chris Doyle in the beginning talking about his perception of me and then has my riding and my family in it. To me that’s the coolest cause it’s more in depth than just the tricks. Darryl put it together so well I could show it to my family and they appreciated it. [Kink] sent me to Canada, Baltimore, the trips leading to that video were so worth it and cool. At that time I had never been to the East Coast and so there were a lot of memories going into that video. Also the loop. That was fun.

With no helmet! Do you ever ride with a helmet?
You know I just started to with my son in the morning. He went up to me, we have a really small skatepark in Dallas where I live, he said ‘Dad why you not wearing a helmet?’ I was like… cause I’m dumb. And he kind of laughed, then took his helmet off on the spot and started riding! He’s three now, so I was like that’s not cool. But when I’m not around him I don’t. I think it’s cause of habit, I’m not used to it being on my head, so when I have it on it’s a distraction. but that’s a lame excuse as well.

Any big plans for 2016?

Actually RELIC will be dropping a signature stem which I am honored to be a part of and so excited for people to check it out. And I've been messing around with some seat designs with Dave Fortman from Kink as well. Trying to bring a slim seat option back in the game! Looking forward to riding the US Open which is probably the best contest ever and I'll be going to Fresno and LA a bit more than this past year. Stoked to see what else the new year brings! I couldn't do any of this without the help of the best companies and people who are behind them. Thank you to Kink bikesRelic partsGsport wheels, and etnies.

Digbmx  Chad Osburn Bmx 5

© Andrew White / Red Bull Content Pool

"Pools to me is like, even though it’s a transition it’s the most pure form of street riding."
- Chad Osburn
Phxpools Osburn Drksde 2 D88 Rd

Phoenix Pool session, originally published in DIG 88, May 2012. Photo by Rob Dolecki

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