Brian Foster legends mug RD
4 Jul 2015

Re Print: Legends - Brian Foster

“I’M OUT OF THE COMPETITION ERA AND INTO THE BARBECUE ERA.”

fitbike merritt

Interview, Intro & Photos by Rob Dolecki Originally published in DIG 90 - ‘The Legends Issue’ September 2012

November 1988, Thanksgiving weekend. The biggest BMX race of the year, the ABA Grands. Thousands of racers from all over the country attend, primarily from the West Coast. The 16 Expert main event lines up; an unknown East Coaster makes up one of eight on the gate. From start to finish, a skinny kid in the Wheel Power jersey takes home the win, stylishly beating the other squirrely, muscle-head factory team stars. It was at that point this rider would get his first taste at national attention from the BMX media, which included scoring a photo from that race in the world-renowned BMX Action magazine.

Twenty-four years later, Brian Foster has been around the BMX block and back. From going on to win amateur racing titles in the early ‘90s, to almost clinching the coveted ABA Pro title in ’95, to drifting away from racing and taking an X-Games gold medal in dirt jumping, to entering street contests, to filming multiple video parts that documented him riding everything from trails to parks and street, BF has done it all, other than maybe pursuing flatland. And with some riding hours in a parking lot, I wouldn’t put it past him to excel at that either. The state of Maryland has produced one of, if not the most talented all-round riders ever, and his past proves it. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: tracing back the roots of it all, Brian also sits at the top of the influential totem pole in modern day bike riding. When it comes to the style spectrum and the way people ride today, there’s no one else who’s had more of an impact. It’s an influence that has spanned two decades and will trickle down for generations to come, whether tomorrow’s Internet sensation may realize it or not.

And today, at forty years old, Brian continues to do his thing. Due to a string of setbacks following BF’s knee surgery that resulted from a crash at The Dream Line dirt contest this past autumn, it’s been a bumpy road to recovery. The more he’s hurt, the more time BF has to dedicate towards landscaping his yard, and thanks to all the recent down time, this year his yard could pass for a Better Homes and Gardens feature.

Coming back from that kind of an injury and feeling one hundred percent again is never an easy process for anyone, especially when you break past the dreaded age barrier of the four-zero. But with a new parts sponsor on the horizon, and solid backing from the ones that continue to stand by him, don’t expect Brian to limp away defeated anytime soon, or probably ever. During this autumn Brian’s backyard may a see few weeds sprouting up, and the grass a little overgrown at times, but it’s for a good reason. Brian will be on the bike, as he always has, even if it’s just deep in the woods at a few of his favorite riding spots.

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The more things change... young BF with some big bars on his whip. Photo courtesy of Brian Foster's box of old photos.

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Having fun at a Scrap contest a week before the biggest race of the year. Circa '93. - Photo courtesy of BF.

Brian also sits at the top of the influential totem pole in modern day bike riding. When it comes to the style spectrum and the way people ride today, there’s no one else who’s had more of an impact.
- Rob Dolecki
Brian Foster TRLS 7.2012 1 RD

Brian’s still rocking eight-inch rise handlebars on little kids’ bikes, over the Butcher jump in 2012.

So what have you been up to? You’re level four now, as Clint Reynolds would say.

Level four, yeah. I turned forty a few weeks ago.

Is anything different?

So my first session since forty, I jumped off on my feet and kind of tweaked my knee enough to where I couldn’t ride for a week. That’s been the story lately. I don’t know if it’s the forty year old body, or every once in a while it’s just a string. The knee surgery started it. I had that done in November, after doing it in September at the Dream Line contest. Because I’m not in California anymore, you kind of gotta take the normal doctor route. There you go down to San Diego and get surgery two days later. Here, I had to wait a couple of weeks to get an appointment, two more weeks to get an MRI, two more weeks to schedule surgery; it was a month an a half before any real action was taken. In California it’s so much more popular like with motocross, and people getting hurt, so there are doctors kind of on call. So I started riding again in March, rode for a couple of weeks, knee swelled up and doctor said it wasn’t strong enough. That set me back a couple of weeks. Rode for a couple of weeks and went to Empire Of Dirt, crashed there and hurt my groin. A groin, what is that? I was useless; I couldn’t lift my leg. That was three weeks, jumped off and hurt my knee, the same one. It’s getting better, but it’s not a hundred percent. It heals the same, just takes longer.

You had double-knee surgery over ten years ago.

Yeah, and no setbacks at all. When the doctor was working on my knee (this time), he said it would be about three to four months. We’re at seven or eight months and it’s feeling good now. (Laughs) It seems like when you’re younger six to eight weeks means four weeks, and now six to eight weeks means twelve weeks. (Laughter)

Has it been mentally rough with the streak of crap happening to you?

Yeah. So the first day you’re back (from an injury like knee surgery) you’re sketchy as all hell and it just doesn’t feel very good. Each day you ride you are more in control, you can pull back a little harder, you can go a little higher. I think you need to ride like that for a month or two to get your confidence back. I don’t think I had that yet in the last eight months. I think I just need a decent run.

I’m used to seeing you go through sections at trails effortlessly all the time, every time whenever and never pull off. Recently it’s like, “Wow, you actually are human.”

My first session in a while was at Posh. You have to roll in being like, “I’m going to hit that set and pull back.” It took me twelve tries to get through Chillers. I bet I didn’t pull out of Chillers twice all of last year. Some people showed up later and got to witness the battle I was having. J-Bone was like, “I never seen that before.” I can’t ever remember riding that poorly… you’re just riding the wrong way. I think when the trails are of that caliber, there is one way to ride it. The only way to ride it is fully relaxed, going as high as you can. The funniest part of the day was about two hours in it felt like the lips were really buck-y this year. Once I got comfortable, the bucks went away. I was riding the jumps in a way they didn’t want to be ridden. (Laughter) Everyone has that session the first day of spring where you’re just kind of sketchy. I think what happens, as you get older, you have one of those sessions and you just call it. It’s like, “Alright, I’m not very good anymore.” If I didn’t make it through those first two hours, it was kind of like, party’s over. (Laughter) I don’t want to ride bikes if this is what it’s going to feel like. But two hours in you’re feeling more comfortable; you’re not sketchy anymore. My first session at Catty this year I hit Roller Run; I never hit Roller Run in my life. (Laughs)

I remember it was about seven years ago, you going to Catty Woods for the first time ever, and you went through every section first try.

When I think about that, it doesn’t make any sense to me. It was later in the day. I remember that day; I followed Dave King. Dave had squeaky brakes, so I would just follow him and I had no idea what was coming, but if I heard his brakes, I would grab brakes. He was in front of me so I could see if he pulled back hard; in an effort not to run into him I have to pull back hard too. I remember making it through all the lines, then for the next hour I tried to do the lines myself, and I had no idea where to go. (Laughs) I want to get comfortable again.

If you were at that level before, you can get back up to it.

I’ve been comfortable on my bike… I haven’t had an injury streak like the one I just went through since I was twenty-nine.

In an interview from 2007 you said if you had a good injury like blowing out a knee it would be bad. What do you have to say about it today, now that it actually happened?

It could have been worse, but it definitely freaks you out a little bit. It was bad. (Laughs) With loss of confidence you start questioning, “Should I be doing this?” The other day I went to pull out on a big set and my brake cable broke. I kind of splattered into the landing and had a sore back. My wife was like, “So how high were you when you jumped off?” I looked at the roof, and I thought, “I pretty much just ran off the roof.” And because I didn’t want to land on my knees, I landed on my ass. On the drive home, my back’s hurting, and I’m thinking, “A forty-year-old dude does not need to be flying fifteen feet through the air.”

Brian Foster TRLS 7.2012 2 RD

Who says a forty-year-old dude does not need to be flying fifteen feet through the air? Brian Foster, defying his own logic.

“Trail Nazis are going to be sick, but 1201, Trailblazin’, Seek And Destroy, all those videos... I never saw. I was just racing; I just wasn’t paying attention.”

- Brian Foster

In an interview from 2004, a question was asked on how much longer you can ride at the level you are at, and you replied, “Ask me in five years.” What do you have to say now?

It was really 2004, that long ago? That’s actually accurate. For the last couple of years I’ve been saying two more years at a time. Now I’ve downgraded it to one year at a time. I know I can ride well next year, but it’s going to get to the point where I still want to ride, but not professionally, I guess? There’s no pressure, but there is an obligation. If I’m getting checks I feel like I need to go to work a little bit. At some point I won’t be getting checks anymore, and I won’t be a professional bike rider anymore, and it will just be a hobby. I kind of feel it changing. When I got hurt at Empire Of Dirt I kind of felt a responsibility to go out and ride. Could I ride? Maybe, it would have hurt like a mother. I was lying in bed the night before the contest thinking I gotta suck it up and ride the contest. At some point, like three in the morning, I’m like, “Why do I have to ride? I’m going to kill myself if I go out and ride tomorrow.” It was the first time I realized, “It would be great if you did, but you don’t have to do anything.” If you’re not in the right state of mind, you’re going to get broke off. That being said, I got broke off having the time of my life at the Dream Line contest. The good thing is, the day that I got hurt I was riding at the highest level I’m capable of. That made the getting hurt a little easier. I know the dudes that I came up with kind of disappear. Then they show up in the Anthem II Friends Section. (Laughter) I’ll have some clips in the Anthem III Friends Section when I’m forty-seven. (Laughter) I know I will gradually become a hermit. In five years I bet I only ride like four spots. Two sets of trails and two concrete spots. I think it’s a comfort thing.

I agree; that’s how I feel about my riding. It’s always amazing to me watching dudes show up to somewhere for the first time ever and completely kill it right away.

I think that is exactly what a pro rider is. There are so many local heroes. I even know them from spot to spot where you ride with a kid, and he is really, really good. Then you’ll see him ride somewhere else, and it’s like, “Wow.” When you ride foreign stuff, sometimes you feel stupid. I think the best places to ride, it takes a couple of days to get used to it. I think like Burnside and FDR, you feel stupid the first time you go, but if you watch a local ride and can pick up on their lines… anytime I ride a new place, I hope the best local is there, just to show you how it’s meant to be ridden. Otherwise it’s like a puzzle and none of the pieces fit.

When was the last time you did a gate start?

The downhill X-Games in the summer of ’03. It doesn’t even make sense that I used to pedal so much.

It’s quite a paradox that you prefer not to pedal at concrete parks or trails, but you used to race.

Maybe you are only allowed to pedal so much in your life, and I burned it out at thirty-two. I don’t want to pedal at all. And doing that at FDR is tough. I don’t have a desire to talk shit on it, but the X-Games, I guess the name of the game is you gotta do tricks. Trick on the wall, pedal across the flat bottom, trick on the wall... And so on.

“If I go MIA, I’ll probably be in the woods, cut-off jeans, no shirt, and a helmet.”
- Brian Foster

And it’s at a concrete park built for the contest.

I’m sure if you rode that thing and didn’t pedal, you’re going to get fifteenth place.

I know it’s all subjective, but that kind of sucks regardless.

You watch it, and I guess it’s a trick contest, so the most tricks wins. The kind of riding that I want to do, there’s a barbecue going on, someone’s drinking beer. No one is pedaling across the flat bottom; if it’s a trail thing maybe some one footers, a few 360’s at the end of the day. I’m out of the competition era and into the barbecue era. (Laughter) I know I’m not the only one who feels like you shouldn’t pedal at a concrete park. There were kids on scooters the other day, and this one kid pushed across the flat bottom and he got heckled. (Laughter)

If one day, scooter etiquette surpasses bike etiquette, that’s going to be a sad day for bike riding. OK, so you had the cover of issue 5 of DIG doing a no-foot can; how is your life similar back then compared to now?

The only things that are the same is that I still ride, and I’m still with Jen (his wife). Relationships and BMX, it seems volatile.

Keeping a long-tem relationship going almost doesn’t seem to be the norm in BMX these days; how have you pulled it off?

There was a time where I think between twenty and thirty you travel like a madman. That’s just how it is. It got to the point were she was in school and I was still riding, I don’t know. It’s a tough gig to maintain a relationship and live the BMX lifestyle.

They clash pretty severely at times.

The travel, and the getting hurt thing. You call home, and, “I broke my arm.” She has to put up with me when I’m high on painkillers and just out of it. I do know that it takes some work, and it’s definitely not for everybody.

Brian Foster FRAMEFROMDIGCOVER RD

BF and the frame he was riding on the cover of DIG issue 5, circa '95.

It definitely takes qualities in the person on the other end that not everyone possesses.

Some of the stunts I’ve pulled off in my day. One time I think Jen was supposed to be finishing up her Masters degree. It was the week of finals; she was writing papers, doing all this crazy stuff. We had two dogs. I was just staying out of the way, cooking meals. Someone got hurt on Road Fools 14, and with less than twenty-four hours notice I get a call, “Hey, you want to go on Road Fools?” I didn’t think twice; I was like, “Yeah!” (Laughter) I told Jen, and she was stunned; she was like, “Are you kidding me? You are going away for ten days?” When Stew calls you and you get asked to go on Road Fools, you don’t say no. So, it’s just the traveling and the injuries.

Back to Sheep Hills and the cover.

I remember shooting the photo. Nowadays when you do a photo shoot, a photographer comes, sets up, and has an idea what you want to do. Back then the photographer would just stand on the jump, and people would just session. He (Bart de Jong) was just blowing through film. I remember it was a right hip, and I didn’t know how to do no-foot cans on right hips. I kind of did one, and it end up getting used. If you go and watch a video (of trails) from back then, you understand why people weren’t wearing helmets. The landings were four or five feet tall. Now they are twelve feet tall sometimes. It doesn’t feel any different; it’s in proportion. It feels normal. But it got to the point where a lot more people are getting hurt. Posh pictures from fifteen years ago, the jumps were tiny. Jumps have progressed since then, but not a lot of people like to session the thirty-five footer. I think the trails have progressed imagination-wise. Things aren’t a six-pack; there’s a lot of turns, hips, berm lips. To me that’s kind of what it’s all about.

People would get bored of straight sections.

It doesn’t sell though. It doesn’t translate to the public, and that’s probably good. I don’t think trails could handle a huge popularity surge. To me trails are the form of riding that makes the most sense to me. I think if people outside of BMX saw trails they would freak out. There are some landings at Catty that are fifteen feet tall. I don’t want trails to get any bigger. I like a challenge, when a section is technically difficult, but not when there are forty-footers in there.

You’ve ridden trails all over the world, some of the best ones, some of the worst ones. In riding a place like some of the spots in Bethlehem, where they are predictable, are they almost safer?

Anytime I go to trails somewhere else in the world, I can pick them apart right away. I think there is a trail building style. When you go to trails outside of the Eastern Pennsylvania realm, they are different. I also see people come to Pennsylvania, and they over-jump something by ten feet and they’re like, “Why are the jumps so short?”

Do you miss going on road trips like Road Fools?

I feel so negative. (Laughter) I can’t ride for twelve days in a row. I don’t know if it’s getting old, but it’s hard to ride that many days in a row. This is terrible; I’m not really that into trips (anymore). That’s crazy to say.

In issue 23, in your DIG interview from Road Fools 9, you said a trip like that, being around different types of riders helped you learn more in a week than in the previous year. Ten years later are you content with what you do, or do you still crave learning new things?

I don’t think I have the desire to learn anything new. I’d like to go higher, I’d like to be more in control, I’d like to get smoother… I’d like to iron out my riding. It’s like a trick thing. There was a time when I kind of wanted to keep up on the progression of any type of riding. I don’t see putting pegs on again. I still see street setups that I like, but they are always wall rides or something with a backside. That being said, I don’t really ride around (town) anymore. I’ve lost that aspect of riding. I drive to the trails, the skatepark, and drive home. I see how riding around is something I need to do more often, just to be in tune with my bike. That’s the one thing I’m going to take from this interview. There’s a spot near where I live. There’s a wall ride gap that’s opposite for me that I’ve never done. It’s something that I know I could do, it’s just never came about. I went there a couple of weeks ago and there were tire marks. I was like, “Damn, someone beat me to it.” (Laughter) That was my wake-up call for getting my spots on lock.

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The wheel Power days. Turns out style really is permanent. Circa '85. - Photo courtesy of BF.

Over the course of your entire time riding, you’ve seen it all: racing, street contests, ramp contests, dirt comps. What do you make of it all?

Once you look back on it, it’s weird. Contests in general, they take something and kind of put it on a stage. You take trails, you put bleachers on each side, and it turns it into a circus a little bit. The newer street contests are weird to me. It’s weird they build a setup. They build a handicap hop, they build a shed and putting graffiti on it… it’s cool to watch but it’s just weird. It was never weird to me when I was doing dirt-jumping contests. At one point I was in full uniform, full-face helmet in a dirt field riding a really terrible jump. If the jump rutted up, it rutted up. No one ever fixed a rut back in the day. There was one X-Games where they took orange spray paint and spray-painted the edges of the rut, so you knew where the rut was. (Laughter) Nowadays I’m like, “Why didn’t we just take 20 minutes and just fix the rut?” I’m not trying to be the bitter old man. None of it makes sense to me anymore except some good concrete and trails.

The contest aspect?

Definitely. When you’re in it, it doesn’t seem weird. At that point, what’s the best run you can do? Then as contests progressed, I would put out my best effort and get twentieth place. When you are doing well in contests, it makes total sense. You go the contest, you do some tricks, you leave with money; this is the greatest thing ever. It gets to the point where you are like scrapping for it. It doesn’t feel good to scrap for it. Even when I watch web videos today, a lot of it doesn’t make sense.

How so?

The trends. I don’t have any dislike for any form of riding, but I’ve seen too many smith grind to 180’s, tuck no-handers and hangover toothpicks in the last couple of years. But that’s the popular kind of riding. Kids at the skatepark, I get it all the time, “Can you do tuck no’s?” I’m just like, “Oh, my god.” (Laughter) First it was just a no-hander, then people started doing suicide no-handers, and people started doing them and it was the old-school no-hander; now it’s the tuck-no.

It’s real crazy how the cycles happen.

Slam Bars. Eight- inch rise bars have been the norm. They got skinny and small, now they got huge again. Gary Ellis and Terry Tenette had the biggest bars ever; they had to be ten-inch rise bars. I remember rolling into the gate with Ellis, Tenette, Charles Townsend, and their bars were fucking huge. Some of the trends you don’t have a choice. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with a 36-13, and then I asked for a hub once, and they were like, “We only have eight, nine or ten-teeth drivers.” I’m like, “Oh, I guess I’ll have a ten.”

When Rich Bartlett did the Block video in the early 90’s, you had some clips in there riding Woodward and stuff.

Riding ramps? You know what’s sad? I’d have to watch it. I know the era. I’ve been cross-country with him a few times; he used to do race clinics (at tracks). There was a time from like ’92 to ‘02 that I didn’t pay attention to videos, even if I had a part in them. Dirty Deeds, Parrick would come to the house (to film), come to the trails, and I’m pretty sure the first time we saw the video everyone came to the POW house and we watched it in the living room. I didn’t see my Soil part until I saw it on the Anthem II bonus section. (Laughter)

That’s unbelievable.

Chase Hawk was real mad at me once. We were going somewhere and a song came on, and he said, “This is your part, this is your song from Soil.” I was like, “I never saw that.” He was like, “You had the last part!” “I don’t know what to tell you.” I must have seen it, right? Barspinner Ryan is going to freak out when he reads this. I’m sure I saw it, but I don’t remember. Trail Nazis are going to be sick, but 1201, Trailblazin’, Seek And Destroy, all those videos I never saw. I was just racing; I just wasn’t paying attention. And you couldn’t You Tube it; you needed a VHS player. Now I think I’m all caught up. I hope no one gets upset. People are going to be like, “This guy sucks.” (Laughter)

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Brian chillin’ out in the trees, without any bleachers or orange spray-painted ruts in sight.

Did riding with Rich Bartlett help define your versatility as a bike rider?

Absolutely. He rode street in a way that was just wall rides and stuff. But he was the first guy that could 360 anything. He was kind of like, “If you could jump it, you could three it.” That didn’t make any sense to me. Ever since then, I’m like, “If you could jump it, you could totally three it.” I rode with a lot of people that didn’t specialize in one thing. I remember in the racing days, when I was in eleventh grade and I was in California for the summer, in the late 80’s. One night Clymer took me to the Civic Center (in Anaheim) and it was the first curved wall ride I’d ever seen, the shorter ones there. Clymer wheelied into it and went zinging around it. It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen. I did it, and it was like, “Oh my god, you stick to it.” That was Dave though, he was kind of cutting edge. Back then there weren’t pegs. Street riding was manuals and wall rides, and jumping stuff.

How do you look at dirt contests nowadays?

Dirt jumping is now box jumping. There was a time when dirt contest tricks were tricks you did at the trails. Now dirt contest tricks are tricks you do at the skateparks. There are exceptions to the rule like Nasty and Parslow. I think for the most part skatepark dudes dominate dirt contests. If you get the most points for the craziest tricks, you don’t learn them at the trails, you learn it on the resi. Mikey (Aitken) won that contest in Utah by doing trail-oriented tricks, but that’s probably never going to happen again.

Do you think that could ever change?

No. Right now I think Clint Reynolds is the best trail dude around. He might not beat one person at a dirt-jumping contest. It’s a beast that created itself and has gone off in a different direction. The trails now are funny to me. The other day I had a good laugh, because people were walking around, and I saw five guys over thirty, in cut-off jeans, no shirts, sweating, and just chilling.

You’ve been wearing helmets consistently for the past few years. Van wears one now any time he rides, including street. What’s your take on that?

At the trails it’s most, if not everyone (wearing one). Trails are in the clear, vert is in the clear. Even many skateparks because they are a business with insurance. But street riding, I don’t see it. If I go out of my garage right now, and hit up a few spots, I don’t have a helmet on. To me there is a line between just riding around and riding trails. I think most street dudes just cruise around. When you’re cruising around, it’s hard to wear a helmet. It’s funny when there’s a video and someone will have 15 clips and the last two he’ll have a helmet on, because they’re the gnarliest two clips. So I guess that’s good. I stopped on my road bike to get a drink, and a guy was like, “No helmet?” I’m not trying to fall. If I think I’m going to fall, maybe I’ll put one on. It’s a fine line. All the street dudes at X Games are wearing helmets. I think it’s a good idea, but I don’t see people cruising around the neighborhood with a helmet on.

Brian Foster TRLS 8.2012 1 RD

Deja vu all over again? Not really. Only BF can make floating over a roller look so good. Catty Woods, August, 2012.

You went to a Rampage contest in the early 90’s.

I went there with Bartlett. I had learned wall rides my opposite way for some reason. When I was growing up, the wall ride in my town was the opposite way, so that’s how I learned them. I went to that contest and I was doing wall rides the opposite way. Someone said something. I tried them my normal way, and it made so much more sense. Now I could do tables out of them. I got fifth, and Ron Kimler got sixth. Taj was in there too. We didn’t know each other; years later we got to laugh about it. I went to a Scrap contest a few years later; it was the week before the ABA Grands, which as a professional athlete I probably had no business going to a skatepark contest the week before the biggest race of the year. But at that point it was what you did. It was fun. I think that was my downfall in racing. I didn’t want to train and be like the best racer in the world.

So how did you almost get Number one AA Pro?

Because I rode so much. I think the year I almost got number one I had been on a good run where I had been healthy for two or three years in a row. One day I would go ride motocross for a couple of hours, one day I’d go snowboarding, ride the next day at the trails, and then go to a race. After you do that for like a year straight, you are in full athlete status, the shape you are in is off the charts. That’s when I had a shot. Here’s a story: I was AA at a race, we raced all day, and some kid had a backyard trail setup with lights. After the race we went to the backyard for a couple of hours until ten at night or whatever. I came back to the hotel, and Gary Ellis, Danny Nelson, and a few other pros were in the lobby. They were like, “Are you just getting back now?” because the race had been over for four or five hours. “Yeah, this kid had jumps, and we rode them for a couple of hours.” The look that they gave me, they couldn’t understand why I was out there riding after racing all day. I was at the Nike Pool contest last year, at the bar after a long day of riding. I think it was Chad Kerley and Pat Casey came inside about ten at night, and I’m already a couple of beers deep, and they were sweating. What are these guys doing? They were playing a game of BIKE for a web edit. “You dudes were riding?” (Laughter) I couldn’t understand that they were out riding, after a full day of riding. Then I remembered the story I just told, and I’m like, “Uh, oh.” It’s come full-circle. I’m the guy who can’t understand.

“when I see him riding the best trails, doing the best looking things over those jumps, I think of Dirty Deeds and he gives me tickles. he is so awesome.”
 - Ruben Alcantara

Speaking of full circle, you’ve been on Fit since day one. How does it feel to go full-circle since S&M was your first frame sponsor at sixteen?

I think I won the ‘88 Grands on an Elf and it was after that I got an S&M Dirt Bike through a bike shop. I don’t even know how it worked. I think I got a frame and a jersey; that was the relationship. I ran the jersey for a couple of races.

Twenty-three years later you’re riding for the same company owner.

Maybe that’s the full-circle thing. I guess I started out on an S&M then went to the circus for fifteen years and then now I’m coming back to where I started. Me and Chris (Moeller) are around the same age. It’s just good to have people in my corner that I can relate to. It’s not like a business guy who doesn’t understand, or a younger guy who wants me to be more productive. Some new guy got a job at Primo and he made the decision to cut the old dudes. At first I wasn’t bummed because I thought they weren’t doing well, but then they picked up a bunch of new dudes. I kind of just got replaced, so that stung a little bit. I’m to the point now where I can have honest conversations with people; here’s what I can offer.

Was Schwinn your peak money-making days?

The Schwinn/Airwalk days. That was just from outside money. All these corporations (sponsored the team), they had all this money to spend, so the riders got paid well. Nowadays it seems to come from energy drinks. Bike companies have never been able to pay people super-good. You just have this window, and that window for me was for four or five years. I guess you just don’t take it for granted. At some point you make a couple hundred bucks a month, and then if you’re in that bubble you make good money, then you go back to making a couple hundred bucks a month. (Laughter) Yeah, those were the days.

How did it feel to have an action figure?

I still have a box full of them, just to have. It was kind of weird. That whole process is weird. They took this laser scanner and scanned my head. It’s funny; my little head even has a receding hairline. (Laughter) And that was like when I was twenty-eight, but I still had a pretty big forehead. That’s when you’re traveling all the time, weird stuff is happening. “Hey, you need to do this. You need to get suited up for your action figure.” You’re in a meeting, and they’re deciding whether your action figure is going to have jeans, or kneepads, or whether his helmet is removable or not. It’s good times. I’d like to make that kind of money for goofing off all the time.

DIG-90-all-covers-all

All four covers of the DIG legends issue. Forever influential and still killing it were our only criteria.

You’ve been going to school.

I started last fall, which is crazy in itself. I’m going to go full time this fall. And it still freaks me out. I don’t really see being forty-five and making decent enough money where I can sustain a living. My choices were go work in the BMX world, which part of me feels like you need to live in California; seems like it’s easier when you’re there. So now I’m going back to school. I think I want to do something physical therapy-related. I’m really interested in being supportive of people getting better. I’ve encountered a lot of negativity (in the past), “You broke your ankle. Well, you probably shouldn’t ride anymore.” It wasn’t until I was out in California where you run into some really supportive doctors. I would even get to the point where I was getting stitches in the middle of my knee, and the X Games were coming up. The doctor was real psyched, “How many days do we have?” He put in more stitches than needed, and just sturdied it up a little bit. I want to be supportive of BMX, without being just inundated with it. I think if I got a job working at Fit tomorrow, in ten years I’m going to be fifty, working in a warehouse. I stacked my classes up heavy on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday so I can ride on the weekends. The contest I got hurt at, I hung out with the medic all weekend, picking his brain. I think I’m reluctant to say, “This is what I’m going to do.” I’m sweating just talking about it. If I could get paid well to ride until I’m sixty, I would give it a shot, but it seems like I make less and less every year. I don’t even go to contests really anymore. I don’t want to have to scrap for it. If I’m going to spend a weekend not making any money, I might as well just go to the trails. Get a sixteen-inch sub, a gallon of water, and go hang out at the trails for six or seven hours. I don’t want to exit the sport beaten down. Sports are interesting to me. You watch the guys who are great, and you watch the guys who got out too early or stay too long. I watched Brett Favre go through his last couple of seasons and he left the field limping, ankle was purple, hip bruised, just defeated. I don’t think there is any getting out at the right time. You don’t want to embarrass yourself. I feel nervous going to the big Red Bull contests. They’re jumps I’m not familiar with; they’re really big. I don’t mind embarrassing myself in the woods with my friends, but not on TV. There’s a weird BMX mentality where you fall, you get up and you go do it again. I remember Van and I were on a road trip a year or two ago, and I tried a tailwhip and it didn’t come around and I ate shit. I tried another one and landed one footed, tried another one landed one footed, and I called it. And he was like, “What? You gotta go get that.” I’m like, “No, I don’t.” We got an amazing crash clip, my knee is sore, and I’m moving on. I feel insensitive saying that when he’s sitting at home with a broken leg. (Laughter) If you feel a hundred percent on your game, things shouldn’t be going wrong. There have been times where I was chasing a clip, and I knew I got it. In the same breath, there have been times I’ve rolled in and wasn’t sure if I got it. I don’t think BMX’ers have a good gauge for it. It’s weird. I’ve seen people trying stuff, where it’s like, “Just give it up; you’re killing yourself. You’ve already tried it ten times and haven’t been close yet.” And as soon as I get those feelings in my head, they pull it. But that’s the only clip you see in the video. You might see one crash clip. I think video parts should have a number in the bottom corner of the clip; how many tries, how many weeks. BMX is very, “You got that shit.” The whole playing with fire thing, that’s half the fun. It’s a gray area.

Brian Foster TRLS ALLYOOPTBL 8.2012 2 RD

Alley-oop table on Abe’s concrete and clay remake of the monstrous blob ramp at the old Hackettstown skatepark, after being spit out of the most intense G-force-producing berm in existence. Catty Woods.

"At some point you make a couple hundred bucks a month, and then if you’re in that bubble you make good money, then you go back to making a couple hundred bucks a month. (Laughter) Yeah, those were the days."

- Brian Foster

This is kind of uncharted territory since BMX is only like forty or so years old, but is there a cut-off for just cruising around on a BMX bike?

I remember riding when I was twenty-two and people would roll up and say, “Aren’t you a little old for that?” So long as you aren’t worried about it. When I used to go to the motocross track, there were sixty year old men jumping pretty big jumps. Suspension helps a lot. I think when I can’t physically take the impact of riding trails, I’ll ride motocross. It’s pretty cushy, but when you eat shit you eat shit badly. I think the hot spot is twenty to twenty-eight; even when you’re sixteen you are growing and getting stronger. I can only imagine someone who’s twenty-nine right now reading this. (Laughter) Thirty to thirty-nine wasn’t bad at all. Didn’t get hurt, felt pretty good.

Progressed in your own ways?

I’m light years better at riding trails. I think it gets to the point where you can argue if a fifty year old dude rides good; absolutely. I don’t think there is a limit, but at some point it seems like for your own good, you should probably just tap out. But if someone told me that at thirty-two, I would be like, “What do you mean?” You may lose a couple of tricks, but you’ll learn how to ride better. When you’re riding well, there’s no end in sight. When you’re riding bad, it’s like, “Oh, my god.”

That’s one thing that has changed for me over the past ten years or so. The highs are great and get better, but the lows are like, “Fuck, its over.” Changing it up, what’s your favorite video part of your own?

Dirty Deeds was the truest to what we were doing. It was the real showcase of the times. My Stay Fit section is on that list of favorites. The last three weeks of filming for that video was when most of that stuff went down. I think I was in a weird place between not doing well at contests anymore, and on the verge of being washed up. So filming for that, it was like I was going to do what I do. I’m not trying to do…

Smith to 180’s and tuck no’s?

And hang-over toothpicks. That part was good because it was a surprise. I think people were sleeping on me a little bit. (Laughter) American Muscle fits in there, but it was weird just the way it was set up. Everyone had a part but there were other sections that clips went to.

People still talk about that video.

I don’t think there’s a single 180 or fakie trick; I could be wrong. I’d like to have another part. I might have another project in the future.

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Are there any rumors you ever heard about yourself over the years?

Do you know something I don’t?

No. (Laughter)

I’m like, “Holy shit, he’s about to drop a bomb.” (Laughter) There are a couple of local legend stories at Sayreville that I always think are funny. There are lines that I’ve done apparently, that are not possible. There are always stories that get told, and re-told, and by the end, it’s not accurate anymore. There is some wall ride in Tennessee that I apparently did at some point. I didn’t even know what this kid was talking about. He was like, “You did this!” Nope. Rumors… don’t pay attention to them.

So what’s your opinion on when to call it a day?

There are a couple of things. When you’re not having fun doing what you do, call it. When you don’t ride at a level you want to ride, it’s not very fun. To me, being sketchy is not fun, being all tense and squirrely. It comes down to having fun and a good time. There is going to be point where it’s not my profession and a hobby. I’d like to get through the hobby phase first before it’s just straight up not riding anymore. I think I’ll know; it’ll feel weird. I remember I was eighteen or nineteen at a club and there is this balding forty year-old dude buying girls drinks, and it’s like, “what’s he doing?” It’s also like the twenty year-old kid on the scooter. But I don’t think I’ll ever feel weird in the woods, riding trails. The trails are a good place to retire. If I go MIA, I’ll probably be in the woods, cut-off jeans, no shirt, and a helmet.

Brian Foster TRLS 7.2012 6 RD

Does this look like the stylish trail flow of someone who has reached Level 4? Believe it.

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