The Connor Lodes Interview
"...you gotta pay your dues."
Intro, interview, and photos by Andrew White
Connor Lodes, and that’s LO-DIS for the record, is an exceptionally talented bike rider and iPhone video game addict. I’m not sure the exact name of the game he fancies, but it has some sort of car racing premise. After spending nine days with him in Barcelona, I began exclaiming when I glanced over to Connor and saw him aggressively manning his phone like a WWI Red Baron behind the yoke of a biplane, “You’re still playing that fucking game!” Connor would laugh and agree it’s ridiculous, but continue on. And I’d move on because I really didn’t give a shit. Connor is a supremely nice guy, and I just enjoyed busting his chops about his phone because I really had no other complaints with the guy.
Connor earned his place in BMX. Through years of dedication, he juggled working a job bussing tables at the Hard Rock, and keeping on top of the progression that his roommates at the Markit house were able to do unhindered by work responsibilities. It shows. When Connor is on his bike you can tell he’s appreciative of where he’s at. And when it’s time for him to get down on a spot, he calls moves out and knocks them out. There’s never ego involved. And the stuff he does on a bike is really impressive. His humility in relation to the things he does on a bike is really amazing.
Connor’s in a really good place now. He’s 24, already has a bangout section in this year’s Nora cup winning video, and has a solid base of sponsors. He’s motivated, hard working, and easy to get along with. You’ve no doubt seen his Markit part, most likely seen some photos in magazines (including the one DIG did in issue 89), and can see his latest edit that dropped in conjunction with this interview. Don’t sleep on Connor. He’s well rounded and will surprise you with the diversity of his skills. He’s a solid bike rider. I’m not sure if he’s a good video gamer though.
Do you correct people when they say ‘Loads’?
No I just go along with it, sometimes I correct them if they’re standing right there I’ll say ‘Lode-es’.
Pick and choose your battles.
Exactly. I dealt with it growing up in school so I’m used to it. I don’t get mad or anything.
What was it like growing up in Moraga.
Moraga’s up in Northern California in the East Bay area. It’s a small little town in the valley, thirty minutes east of San Francisco. It’s a really small town, it’s like the safest town ever. There’s no crime or anything like that. You didn’t need cops, the biggest crime is a bike at the skatepark.
Was that good or bad? Was it so safe that it was boring, or was it more of a utopic spot?
It was definitely boring. It was one of those towns where there was literally nothing to do. When I was in 8th grade they built the skatepark, but before that there was literally nothing. They had a bowling alley but then that closed down. Other than that literally nothing to do. So if you’re kickin it around all day you had to find stuff to do like go to the forest and run around or hike.
You used to wrestle, that was your sport growing up?
Yeah my brothers were into it so I got into it so I got into it. But in high school it got too serious. I tried it for a year but then said fuck it I just wanna ride.
Have you ever used your wrestling skills in a fight? Have you ever been in a fight?
I’ve been in one fight and I used my wrestling skills to take a guy down. Not really though. I don’t fight and get myself in those situations.
Was there a BMX scene [in Moraga]? How were you first exposed to BMX?
My brother used to race with his friends and that’s how I first really found out about it. So I wanted to ride because of [him]. Then I met Christian Rigal when I was in 3rd grade, and ever since then me and him rode bikes, and yeah, here we are. Pretty crazy.
I always think it’s interesting how there’s a lag between when riders are first exposed to BMX, and when they see their first credible BMX magazine or video. Was there a first impression you had of BMX after you had been riding? Like see a photo of Van or something and think this is way cooler than I thought?
Honestly man, I can’t even remember a time like that. It sucks to say. I honestly just looked up to this guy Steve Taiariol who was the local pro from the town. He was sponsored by S&M and DC and he was the nicest dude ever. I just looked up to him and wanted to be like him, you know? I remember seeing Etnies Forward and seeing Ruben’s part and being like, whoa. Him and Taj’s part were ridiculous.
Was it difficult growing up in such small scene? Did you always feel pressure to get out of there or were you content with the town?
In a way I always wanted to leave and ride different stuff. Moraga was so boring. I felt like I definitely needed to get out of there.
So tell me how you left.
I would take the bus with my friends and ride down this one hill in town and…
No, like when did you move out of Moraga. What was your exodus. Did you and Christian move down [to SD together]?
Yeah, Christian moved down when he was 17 or 18. He got a camera and started to film down there. I graduated high school when I was 18 and knew I needed to move down to San Diego. My brother moved down here with his friends who he raced with. So when they moved down my brother didn’t really ride at the time but his roommates did. So they went to the skateparks and I’d always come down here and visit them and go ride the skateparks with everyone in San Diego. That’s when I met Dennis and Steve Woodward and Hoang and Albert, I was 15. Then two or three years later all I wanted to do was move down there since they had the best scene down here. They had the coolest stuff to ride. I knew I wanted to move down here so right when I turned 18 stayed the summer at home and on August 25th I moved down here. I’ve been here 6 years now.
You’re loving it obviously?
It’s seriously made everything happen for me. All my sponsors, everything riding-wise is because of moving down to San Diego and being able to ride with everybody and being exposed to photographers and videographers. I tell people all the time it’s the best living with Christian and Dennis. They’re always motivated to film and ride and have a good time. It gets you in the mode.
So you moved there, and you’re working a normal job, and you’re riding with Christian and all those dudes?
Yeah. That sucked in the beginning cause I had to wake up for school or work at 7, and all my friends would get up and ride all day and I get home and I’m tired and just want to chill, and they’d be out riding and having a blast. But I’d make it happen, I’d go ride all the time when I could.
Was that difficult to have to work when all those guys didn’t have any work responsibilities and could ride all day?
Yeah [it] wasn’t really hard, but sometimes I’d get pissed off at work and then come home and be pissed off and they’d be like, yo man don’t be so pissed. And they just didn’t know how it is. It’s not like it was a crazy hard time, but it was one of those things where I was like damnit I wish I could just wake up and ride and not have to work. But it wasn’t a crazy big deal.
" I hate how BMX is so labeled these days. Street rider, ramp rider, dirt rider. No dude, I’m a bike rider. I ride everything. I love it, I grew up riding everything."- Connor Lodes
How do you think that your work ethic affected your being a pro right now. It’s obvious that you appreciate it more having to work and have pro responsibilities, and now you’re at the point where you can just be a pro bike rider. Do you ever see other bike riders, like the whiz kids who get hooked up young and never have to work, do they seem a bit more entitled? You know how to work and have responsibilities?
Yeah totally. There’s so many times I’ve seen people get so bummed that they have to get a job or something like that, or they’ll refuse to get a job cause they’re young and stuff and they think they don’t have to work. Dude, it bums me out cause it’s like, yo man you gotta pay your dues. You gotta work in life. People just don’t give you stuff, you gotta work for it. There’s times when people just complain about their jobs or having to do something, or not wanting to do something for someone else. I’m like, man just do something and be a good person and work. I fully think it helps me out as a pro now because I don’t take anything for granted, I love everything that I have. I appreciate it much more.
It definitely shows that you’re working when you’re on a bike. Obviously it’s enjoyable, and the adventure trips to Spain or wherever are really awesome and we appreciate that, but when you’re out on a bike, you go to a setup, and you say what you’re gonna do, and you’re not pressuring the filmers and photographers, you let us do our job. You then do your job and bang it out. There’s a big difference from my end from people who are pro in the sense of their talents on a bike, and there’s the pros who are working professional representatives of BMX/their sponsors.
Totally. If a photographer’s lighting isn’t right, I want that photo to be right and I want them to be happy too, so I’m not gonna be like oh this fuckin photographer is so slow and doesn’t care. I just want everyone to be happy with what they do. And video too, I want that clip to be as good as it can, so if that lighting isn’t good right then, I’ll wait ten minutes for the sun to come out and the lighting to be poppin. I’ve learned that over the years, don’t rush that kind of stuff.
When did you start getting recognized by sponsors? How does your riding start to take off?
I think it was pretty much the Demolition video for me. We got the word we could film a part, so me and Christian decided to do a split part. So we rode and filmed everything like normal and got what we did. We were stoked, it was our first video. I remember Allan Cooke watched that video and put me on Premium after that, and I was like whoa, that’s crazy. Like holy shit. That was fuckin crazy. After that, I started shooting photos and filming more and going on trips with them in the beginning. Kind of took off from there.
How did you get on Demolition, was that through Dennis?
No, I actually got Dennis on Demolition a long time ago. I got on through Steve that local pro I was talking about. He was on S&M and he left and went to Volume/Demolition as a sales rep. They were looking for younger riders at the time-I was 14- and they asked Steve for recommendations. Two days later they sent me a box. It was crazy.
14 years old and you get a box from Brian Castillo.
Straight up. A Volume and Demolition setup, the whole kit. It was nuts. Demolition day 1. Been with them almost 10 years now.
Growing up, you looked up to Dennis, right?
Oh yeah, forever.
What was it like to live with him, then become a part of Markit, then most recently you’re on the podium with him at Toast. Tell me about that relationship.
Dennis is seriously the best dude ever. He’ll never complain about anything. He does what’s supposed to be done. If you need to do laundry you do laundry and fold it up, it’s not like you leave it on the floor like everyone does. Dennis teaches me everything about life. How to not get frustrated with shit, and if you’re not ready to do something don’t do it- riding wise. He’s got the mentality that everyone wants- that confidence and precision. In that sense he’s taught me so many things. We’ve been friends since 14 or 15. Back then this guy Casey who lived with my brother met Dennis down here and told me about him and how he’s doing bar to wallride to whips and fucking double whips when he was 14. I was like, no way. Then I got him on Demolition shortly after. I’d come down here and ride with him and hang out with him, and we’d go up to the warehouse and kick it with Brian and stuff like that. It’s been crazy sharing a podium with him, holy shit that’s crazy. I’m speechless at that. It’s like his ramps got me on that podium. Riding those ramps everyday got me on my ramp game.
You’re now getting back into transition, you’ve been riding that a lot? I heard this so many times from pro riders that tranny is gonna come back in BMX. This whole 4 peg flat ledge street stuff, the pendulum is gonna swing back the other way. Tranny riding won’t be so looked down on. What are your thoughts on that?
Hell yeah! I grew up riding everything you know? I hate how BMX is so labeled these days. Street rider, ramp rider, dirt rider. No dude, I’m a bike rider. I ride everything. I love it, I grew up riding everything. For a while I deflated my tires and got them to 40 psi and was riding street, and it was cool at the time and I was super into it, but after I got back on ramps and was washing out I was like screw this, I’m over it. I’m going to start pumping them up to 80 and the ramps felt so good, and I just had so much fun on them. It’s fun jumping stuff and I forgot about that. Just to eye up a gap and go for it. I love it, it’s fun to me. I get bored watching flat ledge stuff these days. It’s fun watching someone just pedal at a quarter and blast it. It’s boring watching a kid do a nollie to smith to nose manual to over smith to bar two miles an hour, and you don’t even know the fuck he did. Then I see someone blast a big one footed x over a gap, like Chad Osburn or Kris Fox.
To me BMX isn't that important, I'd rather live.
So you’ve had a very notable history with injuries.
Tell me about the head injury.
That shit sucked man. Me and Christian were riding this school, and there were two short rails and two banks on both sides of the rails, and I tried to jump both rails from one bank to another, and I just cased it. No time to react, just did a cartwheel on my head. It was bad. Instantly I knew something was wrong. I got up on my butt and said we gotta go, something’s wrong. My head is throbbing right now and just ringing. I told him we gotta go. We’re leaving and there’s a fence we have to hop, and right before the fence I started throwing up everywhere. I was like what the fuck is going on. So we hop the fence and get out of there and I’m just dry heaving on the way home so much. I couldn’t throw up anymore. I got home and my mom took me to the hospital, and ended up having a cracked skull and internal bleeding in my brain. They kept me in the ICU for five days then let me go home. At the time it wasn’t a big deal, was just like oh I cracked my skull and have a little bleeding, but now that I think about it I’m like, damn I had internal bleeding in my brain. You don’t know if that shit could have stayed there. It could have been bad.
So you were relatively calm throughout the whole hospitalization?
Yeah, 100%. I’m really calm with all that stuff. But what was crazy was that for the whole five days I couldn’t do anything. No cell phone, magazine, literally just had to lay there and be. Cause I couldn’t have my mind think at all. It was nuts.
Did the doctor tell you anything about riding again?
He wanted me to take a year off. He said I could ride again, but said I should take time off. He wanted a year but I took three months off I think. Now that I think about it I should have took more time off my bike.
Do you have any residual effects from that crash?
Um, not really. I feel like I’m pretty much 100% normal. Maybe a couple little things like eating habits. I used to eat decently, but now sometimes I’ll eat a bite and be totally full, then other times I’ll eat so much. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it or not, but I’ve talked to some people and they said [head injuries] mess with eating habits.
But you don’t have memory loss or anything like that?
How old were you when this happened?
So at that point you made the decision to always wear a helmet?
Yeah, totally. It wasn’t a hard decision at all, man. That seriously sucked. It was such a shitty time. I don’t ever want to feel that feeling again, of hitting my head like that. Having that ringing in my head, and throwing up, and not knowing what’s about to happen.
Yeah, I was like what the hell man my head’s fucked up.
DIG has a history with head injuries. Our founder and editor hit his head and lost vision in one eye. And for me, that’s kind of the reason why I quit riding at the level that I was because I got a head injury and forgot a week of my life. I was in the hospital with a concussion. I couldn’t remember the last week and it freaked me the fuck out and I decided I have to chill. And I was at the point where my photo stuff was taking off so I could stay involved with BMX but I’m done with the bombing rails, you know.
Yeah, you appreciate life more. To me BMX isn’t that important, I’d rather live.
Yeah, even if that means having a helmet in a photo or something, you’re completely cool with that.
You ever get flack from people for wearing a helmet?
Hell no! No one ever gives me shit for it. People ask me why I wear it and I say I cracked my skull and have bleeding in my brain and don’t want to feel that again and they fully understand. People have said stuff in comments or shit like that, but it’s just stupid kids on the internet, you know? That helmet has saved me so many times. I hit my head four days ago, it was kind of a bad one, I had to sit down and take a couple days off. If I didn’t have my helmet on I would have been dead. There’s so many times I would have been dead.
And they get worse every time.
Every time [helmets] seriously save me and I thank god. I thank Allan Cooke that he got me on Bell every time I hit my head.
Thank god and thank Allan Cooke!
Yup, seriously. God damn. I love my new signature helmet too, it’s amazing.
So you’re really into photography. Is it filming and photo or just stills?
No just photography pretty much. My dad got me into it. He started shooting photos when I was 16 and he ended up getting me a camera. But at the time I was setting up for a photo and it would take forever to do it, or I’d want to do it again, and I just wanted to ride. I was over [photos]. So I put it down for a while. Then I was in San Diego six years ago I was like, man, everyone’s doing big stuff all the time and there’s not a photographer around. So I got my camera out and started messing around. I just started shooting with it a bunch more and reading about it a little bit and just trial and error practiced. I ended up shooting a couple good photos, got some in magazines, got a cover. It’s funny, I love it.
That’s so casual….I got a cover… [laughs]
Yup, just shooting photos, got a cover [laughs].
What was it like when you first saw that DIG cover?
Dude it was unreal to me man. It was crazy. I was so grateful for that. I was just shooting photos having fun on a trip, and shot a cover for a magazine of my best friend. Thanks again for that [laughs].
Don’t thank me, you shot the right photo.
No dude, I'm a bike rider.
Here’s a question from Christian to bust your balls. He said when you were growing up you always changed your bike setup to mimic your favorite rider at the time.
All the time dude. I would come down to San Diego and watch Steve Woodward ride and I would go home and take my pegs off and cut my axles all the way. I would cut my grip and have the end of my grip go over my brake lever. Paint my bike like him. Then I’d see Kris Fox ride and I’d go home and take my pegs off and brakes off. Then I’d see Van Homan ride and wanna go to a barspin to icepick and put a gyro on and pegs on. Get a Primo Hemorrhoid seat or some shit. I’d do all that, just like a little kid. Danny Hickerson, I’d do the same thing. [laughs] Christian you dickhead!
[laughs] So what was it like getting on Kink? How’d that happen.
That was crazy. I was at a skatepark and I got a phone call from Jay [Roe] and I was expecting him to ask me to show some guys around San Diego or pick somebody up from the airport. He hit me up and asked how I was with Premium and I said this and that. He’s like, how’d you like to ride for Kink and I said hell yeah. No questions asked.
Are you happy with your welcome edit?
So pumped with it. I saw a rough draft a week ago and I was so psyched. Darryl killed it.
So what’s next? Connor in 2015?
Hopefully doing a lot of traveling towards the spring and summer. But until then just kicking it at home for a while and doing the holiday thing in a little bit. Then just riding the ramps, riding street with Christian and filming.
So the daily routine in San Diego?
Yup. Pretty much man.
Just livin the life.
That’s it dude. Wake up, ride all day. Come home, kick it. That’s it. I love it.
"Then I’d see Kris Fox ride and I’d go home and take my pegs off and brakes off. Then I’d see Van Homan ride and wanna go to a barspin to icepick and put a gyro on and pegs on. "- Connor Lodes
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