10 Riders We Wish Still Rode*
*In the public eye...
16 Mar 2016
Words by Sean Burns / DIG Title graphics by Colton Ponto
Absent without official leave seems to be the way BMX legends are created some times. AWOL. Or at least it makes the legendary title more prominent. Leaving people enthralled with the mystery of it. How many single-handed video parts or coverage have people put out to astonish the masses and then they are never to be heard from ever again? Possibly hundreds. Especially now that time is passing fast in BMX, almost reaching fifty years of existence. There are riders who decide to step down from sponsorship. Whether they are burnt out on it or simply need a full time job to support themselves or a family. Then there are the ones who simply just vanish. There are dozens and nearly hundreds we could think of at DIG but these are some that stand out as some of the greats. While there are many mentions that will be left out, due to that some riders you don't hear about so much do in fact still ride. For example Joe Rich may not be in the prime spotlight amongst other riders but he is still riding at a top level: maybe even riding the best he ever has. There are countless riders that still ride, they just don't have an Instagram. They decide not to spotlight their riding within the BMX media specials. This list is focused on some of our favorite riders that either disappeared without notice or have simply have run down their bodies to the point of BMX extinction. - SB
And... If any of these guys are out there and still riding then we'd love to hear about it. Be sure to tell us which of your favorite riders you'd like to have seen more of in the comments below too.
1. Vic Ayala
"Shoulder height ledge grinds on a 40 pound bike"
2002 was an absolutely solid year in BMX. The indecisive sub-scale of the way you're suppose to ride had barely been established by any mass opinions. The east coast street boom of the late 90's and early 2000's is easily the most nostalgic street era. Which was slightly adopted from what was happening in Arizona in the late 90's. One of the ground breakers to give birth to raw east coast street style was Vic Ayala. Rumors were making the rounds on the east coast around 2000 and 2001 about Vic and that he backwards the providence river rail to full cab out… and destroying every shoulder height ledge from Virginia all the way to Boston. After his Animal and FBM 'All time Low' parts he was instantly one of the greats. The only follow up part was his short but amazing section in Please Kill Me. Shoulder height ledge grinds on a 40 pound bike in 2001 was so raw. Steel pegs on brick, smithing rough as hell rock embedded concrete... Vic gave us some rad parts but he left us wanting more.
2. Issac 'GroundChuck' Mcrea
"He perfected the tricks that look best when clicked and folded."
Pennsylvania Woods. The initial true trail style birthplace. Before trails it was dirt and fly-outs. Freestyle trickery. The 90s was an insane mix of so many breeds. Things were starting to get so wild. Every trick was being done for the first time and bikes were damn heavy. The amount of looseness happening was like no other decade in BMX. It didn't matter if you were bow-legged or not, if you didn't even land it, it was still amazing. But at some point some one had to perfect and glorify the simplistic act of style. As much as we all love the wild freestyle huck fest... someone needed to direct some control. Posh and Push trails are heavily part to blame for introducing the sleek trail style. Hitting rhythm sections without the need to flail limbs around everywhere (like a "trick ferrett' - as later named by John Dye in DIG issue 6). GroundChuck was all about perfecting the tricks that look best when clicked and folded. Table tops, turndowns, and toboggans. Generally a handful of other simple moves. Issac "Ground Chuck" Mccrea dominated and birthed this style. He ruled it. Another vanishing rider who happened to disappear overnight some time around the new millennium. Table tops will never get old. 16 year old me is still waiting for GroundChuck to come out of the woodwork and build some wild epic trails. Better late than never?
3. The Gonz
"The naked freestyle kook of Phoenix."
Put on the Television. Leave it on Looney Tunes with some static interference. Throw it into a bath tub full of Mexican chilli beans and electric fry those beans. These beans represent the mind of Mark Gonzalez. The BMX Gonz. The naked freestyle kook of Phoenix. The street rider who took the likes of Eddie Roman videos to wall rides, stair sets, and trees. Not only do I wish Gonz still rode and filmed video parts... I wish he rode even just for his character. What an unpredictable spasm he was! He was a messiah of birthing tricks. One of the first to be recognized for riding brakeless and going against the grain. I can't imagine how his progression would have furthered if he stayed in the path of inventing and doing new tricks every month. He was the first person I myself recognized as just a street rider. He was street. He rode dirt but he rode it on street. He rode park but he rode it on trees. He was a natural street rider - brakeless. Most likely due to not being able to afford brake cables and straight wheels. Gonz gave us street. Come on Gonz, give us some more!
4. Paul Buchanan (RIP)
"Everything he put out was futuristic and mind-blowing."
A Canadian mysterioso. Even before Paul Buchanan went off the charts he was already a mystery. You rarely saw footage or photos of Paul. And it was absolute magic. Everything he put out was futuristic and mind-blowing. He was one of the first to develop a freestyle trail style. He could under table or simply table and the photo or footage would leave people wanting more as if they just watched a mind blowing video part. I am unaware of any of Paul's video parts possibly from the 90's but two major standouts are his Terrible One commercial in Props and his DIG Interview from 2000. Feeble to bike slides, curved wall rides, bunny hop whips down stairs in lines… all of these tricks had not been done or at least mastered at that time. His DIG interview is one of the most memorable interviews ever. Paul Buchanan was the perfect example of quality over quantity. He didn't have 100 instagram videos every week. He simply put out a short amount of coverage and it was always the best thing ever. This day in age that mentality is long forgotten about. But we will remember Paul Buchanan's mystery forever. Especially myself, knowing the story of him riding home from a bar back to Jimmy Levan's house one night drunk and he thought he was jumping down a 4 stair in which turned out to be a 20 stair. He showed up at Jimmy Levan's house with half a bike bent to hell. That is the last I heard of Paul, some time in the mid 2000s.
Editors Note: Since this article was written we've had the sad news that Paul is no longer with us. Our love goes out to his friends and family.
5. Lou Rajsich
"Long before backwards rails became a norm he was doing them switch."
An honorable mention of someone we all wish still rode is of course Dave Young. But someone who erupted only a year after Nowhere Fast with nearly the same demeanor and riding style in which we all most certainly wish still rode is Lou Rajsich. Blueprint was basically the Nowhere Fast of the northwest. One of the most epic scene videos of all time. Lou's part still stands up to today's standards. He was a more controlled and calculated Dave Young. Of course he was his owner character. He looked like a vampire greaser. Some one who was molded between a 50's greaser film and the Lost Boys. Long before backwards rails became a norm he was doing them switch. Attempting 17 stair backwards hop over roller coaster grinds. Even indian hard way to bike slides? His riding style was mean and visually appealing. The last clips seen of him were in the first Animal Video. If we could have seen another video part from Lou we might have more mean-style freestylers circulating today. Another victim of vanish. Lou came in and dipped out. I wonder if the guy even knows 15 years later he is still being mentioned. The power of classic video parts. This era was full of intensity. All until the web edit become the norm. A decent portion of BMX has subsided to a more nibble aspect. I vote more Lou!
6. Derrick Girard 'THE MAINE-IAC'
"He nearly started a new language in BMX at one point."
One of New England's wildest creations, or creatures. Rising out of nowhere from Maine around 1998, Derrick Girard scared the crap out of people at contests with his siberian looking eyeballs, full speed riding and loose morals. I don't know the origin of the nick name Maine-iac but it suits him even still now. The guy is a damn lunatic. He nearly started a new language in BMX at one point. Derrick was a calculated loose cannon. Rebel runs at contests barefoot on sharp metal platform pedals while doing gap to wall rides. Alley ooping higher than anyone's regular airs. He came from a generation of ride's who were developing a mean but sleek trail/tranny style. Derrick and Brian Yeagle at one point were these epic characters appearing places and riding in a way no one had before. And damn they made one hell of a duo. Coming from the likes of Pennsylvania trail style mixed with a slap of tough as nails ramp and street. Park and ramps were dominated by pegs and freestyle in the 90s. Derrick Girard, along with Brian Yeagle were some of the pioneers of going high, carving fast, simplistic tricks and unpredictable looseness in bowl type settings. Anything with tranny. Pretty much the same era that Garrett Byrnes made his first mark. Ten years later the Maine-iac sort of just vanished from BMX, somewhere around the mid to late 2000's. Will there ever be another Maine-iac? Definitely not. We hope to see him on his bike again and if not, we will appreciate what he has done for BMX. A dipped suicide no hander will never look so good.
7. Taj Mihelich
"He made BMX look artistic and the furthest thing from a sport"
40 pound bikes with 6" rise handle bars. How many people are suffering from bad backs that started riding and rode heavily before 2002? Far too many. Some have been able to surpass these problems, while other's bodies are heavily suffering. Some riders vanish from BMX due to medical reasons. I would imagine this is a slap in the face to those who can't ride due to physical incapabilities and to see riders who vanish due to change of interest. Who doesn't wish that Taj still produced - he made BMX cool. Taj had style from day one. Riders today on 20 pound bikes can't even replicate Taj, never mind doing so on a 40 pound bike. I can't even get into the major description of the legend. He made BMX look artistic and the furthest thing from a sport. The only comparison i can give him is that he was a comic book character. A super natural. We don't see a lot of riding from Taj these days due to permanent injuries. I don't know details but it would seem his body can not sustain the riding level in which he had in his prime. Hopefully we can get Taj some new body parts and see him tear it up. He is an absolute hole in BMX that will never be filled. Taj Mihelich, the forever donut hole of BMX.
8. Dave Clymer
"One rider who always seemed a step ahead of what was cool."
In the late 80s into the Dark Ages of the early 90s, there was one rider who always seemed a step ahead of what was cool. At a time when dreads, tattoos, and multiple body piercings where far from commonplace, Dave Clymer’s menacing appearance wasn't a contrived marketing gimmick; there was no money in BMX to profit from during that time period anyway (although he made the move from East to West driving a car he won at a race). His GO cover at Nude Bowl is still one of the best photos of all time. The number plate and Kore bolt-on bashguard combo, the American flag helmet, a cake carve at an iconic pool - it spoke volumes of Dave’s soul riding approach to BMX. The unique, raw style which personified Dave Clymer both on and off his bike is sorely missed in the BMX community. And maybe... just maybe whilst street riding at the Santa Ana Civic Centre in the late eighties, he became the first guy to ever do a curved wall ride. Clymer ruled. - RD
9. Jay Miron
"The epitome of a two-wheeled warrior."
Coming from the of the early 90s gladiator-style freestyle era, where a give-no-fucks attitude towards every moment on a bike was the norm, Jay Miron was the epitome of a two-wheeled warrior. One where if you didn't end a riding session KO'ed and/or unable to walk, it was too mellow of a day. Where progression on ten-plus foot tall ramps was the name of the game and the bigger it was, the better. Miron was a trick-inventing machine with over 30 tricks credited to him, including the double back flip.
Jay’s nickname, the “Canadian Beast”, was a good reflection of his raw, balls-out, well-rounded approach to hitting everything he could get his wheels on, and that was pretty much anything. His last video part in the MacNeil DVD is a testament to why we need more of the Canadian Beast’s riding today. - RD
10. Jerry Galley
"People pretend they met him and they haven't."
Saving the best to last? Yeah, why not. If like us you were lucky enough to see the London UK legend Jerry Galley ride in person between the early 90's and early 2000's then you really did witness something very special. This footage was shot of him way back in 1991 on the 8ft midi ramp at the first ever Backyard Jam in Hastings UK. It's taken from a cult video classic of the time, 'The Smile on my Face....' (Produced pre-DIG by our editor Will Smyth). Jerry did appear in a handful of videos but in all honesty videos or photos never really did do him justice. It was all about the raw power, the pump, and air he would get on ramps and setups that just didn't make any sense. This piece we found on the Bicycle Union website probably says it better than we ever could. - JS
"I would say Jerry is, with out a doubt one of the most infamous legends the UK has ever produced, so much so that people pretend they met him and they haven't, make out they have seen him ride and they haven't and alluded to know him when they don't. Thats some serious shit right there, I cant think of too many others in that position. When he rode some where it was talked about for years to come and became BMX folklore. Jerry is everything you heard he was and more, one of the most bad-ass BMX riders ever and probably still is!" - Bicycle Union
Video Vault: The Jerry Galley Show - Hastings Midi Ramp - 1991
So this was happening 25 years ago... - More Info
"I sold Jerry my Morris Minor estate for £50. I don't think he got it past the next MOT!" - Alex Leech 1992
"No matter where you live there is probably something out there worth seeking out"
"I have a bike that handles exactly the way I want it and that makes it so much easier"