FIRE IN THE BELLY: The Bros Crew
Keeping in Local yet Making it Global.
27 Feb 2019
Interview & Photos by: Wes McGrath
This past October I had the chance to spend a couple weeks in Lyon, France, visiting the Bros Bike Store and attending my first (definitely not my last) BMX Street Station Jam! Besides all the goodness Lyon had to offer me, I was pleasantly surprised and very excited to learn what the two brothers, Fabien and Lilian Conry of Bros Bike Store had up their sleeves for their 9th annual street jam. Not only did these guys ensure the quality of a well organized street ride from beginning to end but they made sure every rider was taken care of, anywhere from a fresh brewed coffee in the morning, to a free ride to the airport at night. These two brothers are doing the most for their city of Lyon and the BMX community that thrives there. Simply by treating riders well and hosting events that reinforces why we all rode in the first place... Just for the fun of it, right?
When and where were you born?
We were born in 1982, in a small town call Montbéliard, in the northeast of France. It’s about a 3 hour drive from Lyon.
How long have you lived in Lyon?
We arrived in Lyon in 2003 to work for 'Templar' which is a shop based on outdoor recreational equipment. Back in the days they had a BMX department with brands such as Huffy, Hoffman, DK, Snafu, Orchid, Little Devil and The Shadow Conspiracy. Templar is still in business today but they have decided to stop their BMX division in 2006 or 2007. During our time working there we learned a lot, which helped in the long run for Bros Bike Store... We have nothing but good memories working for this company.
How did you first get involved riding and loving BMX?
We started riding BMX when we were 13 or 14 years old, so around 1995 or 1996. We started racing in our local neighborhood club and we quickly slipped into riding freestyle after 2 or 3 years. It was obvious that we had more fun riding jumps and going to events such as contests and jams instead of just competitive racing. We realized that racing taught us the basics of BMX and it helped us to enjoy the time we put into freestyle!
When was Bros Bike Store first established and what was your main influence to start up the shop?
The company was born early 2014 and is divided in 2 divisions, BROS BIKE STORE and Sparky's France. Bros Store is our local BMX shop and SPARKY'S France is our distribution. Both being under the same roof makes us a very active shop! The idea came to us within an era where nothing was really happening in Lyon but the BMX scene still showed potential. Lilian and I were on the same page about doing our own thing, we knew the journey wouldn't be easy but after about 4 years we’re still motivated to grow and to federate our local scene. The influence came from a few sides but one of the main reasons was our local skate shop called 'Wall Street' helped for sure. The world of skateboarding is so different from BMX but watching them make their scene bigger, doing events and video premieres, we realized that this is something that is possible within BMX in Lyon!
In Lyon, before your bike store, was there any other shops in town supporting freestyle BMX?
Yes, the main one before us was 'BMX Force', ran by a close friend named Rémy. He created the shop around 2003 I guess and it closed around 2013, only 1 year before the opening of our shop. It was a pretty cool place with a great atmosphere. Rémy is a talented flatland rider and has put a lot of energy into bringing together freestyle BMX and flatland. Many street sessions and flat contests have been born thanks to him, I guess that BROS BIKE STORE today continues the legacy set by the work of BMX FORCE. Rémy worked with us at Bros for a few months before he left Lyon to move to Paris.
Has the store always been in the same location?
Yes, we are in the same location today, since day 1. We wanted to put the shop in this specific part of Lyon for a few reasons. first, BMX Force was located in this part of the city, so we wanted to stay in the same area. Secondly, the bowl of Lyon is not far, as well as 2 other skateparks, including the indoor skatepark. This part of Lyon encompasses a few universities and a lot schools. So there is a lot of young people and students who live in this part of town. Lastly, we didn't have the biggest budget to rent a shop closer to downtown, so we keep it going from here!
How did the shop and Sparky's France become one?
Having both Bros Bike Store and Sparky's France in the same building was the base of the project. It was the main idea. We decided to separate the two by selling products differently to be clear with riders who come to Bros and to be fair with shops which are working with Sparky's France. We have a website, correspondence, social media and sponsored riders for each division, etc etc. For us it’s easier to speak to shops or riders when you’ve got an appropriate identity. We feel that the message we want to spread is better understood by shops when we speak to them as Sparky's. Same for Bros, the way of working with riders is different than working with shops, so we adapt our language and strategy.
Why did you first start these Street Station jams? Were you inspired by any other organized events?
We have always been fans of a solid event. Back in the days at school, we organized events for different projects and when we started riding BMX, we quickly understood that organized events would be a great way to get involved within the development of our BMX scene. For France, in 2010 there weren't any real street events happening except for FISE and a couple other park contests. We felt we needed a real BMX event in Lyon. The main goal wasn’t wining money but having fun with a different concept from the ones previously organized in France. The spirit of VANS Rebel Jam, the fun of Texas Toast, the energy of the Backyard Jams, the atmosphere of the Roots Jam and the madness of FBM Ghetto Jams are something we've always enjoyed, a lot! Sometimes close from the action, sometimes behind my TV watching review on Props DVD…
How does it feel to have come this far with the event, being in it’s 9th consecutive year, can you explain how the jam has changed over the years?
The very first BMX Street Station was in front of the main train station in Lyon, that’s why we named it, "Street Station"... The concept was pretty unique back in the day as we built a line of box jumps with a hip and a vert wall at the end! We used this concept for 3 more years but with the growth of this event we decided in 2013 or 2014 to add a mixture of a park and street courses next to the original box line. Over the years, the separation between street and park became bigger and bigger and BMX STREET STATION accompanied this change showing this new face little by little. We understood that having a big park contest would be too difficult and too expensive, mainly we couldn't figure storing such large amounts of ramps all year long... We naturally decided to dig more into the street jam since 2015. The costs and spending of the event was much more manageable and the feedback was better. The allure of our event grew over the years as we we're able touch more and more riders because everyone could come and ride with pro riders.
Our event had so many faces over the years, and we hope that it will continue to change, that would explain we understood the changes of BMX and the expectations of riders… In the end, it’s crazy to think that the event came from a sort of box contest to a street Jam…
Explain the layout of the jam this year, why different spots and why do you bring other set-ups to the streets?
The concept of our jam is to welcome riders to our city and let them shred the spots we are blessed with here in Lyon. The three spots we have planned for the day, except for the first meet up spot, are kept a secret to the riders so we can keep the element of surprise to locals and new comers... We added some wood set ups to all spots to give some special and unique attributes to what already existed. We like to be able to bring something new to the spots so then the locals can have some fresh set-ups to ride, so they don't feel like it's the same old spot! It’s also a way to represent our partners as each spot is differently branded.
After shredding the first spot, we have all the riders follow us to the other planned out spots, lead by a RedBull truck fully equipped with a dj booth blasting music and the official MC, Thomas DeBatisse. Giving a special atmosphere and a unique vibe to the contest. It’s really fun to follow the truck going to a spot where you don’t know the location! The idea is to host a not-so-boring event with spots and set ups that are changing every year! Some spots could be ridden by everybody even if you've just began to ride BMX, some spots are a bit more difficult to be able to bring out the top riders.
This jam is supported by sponsors such as, BSD, Cult, Vans BMX, Sparky's France, RedBull… Do you receive any other support from the city of Lyon? Or is this a straight up renegade street jam?
The jam is supporting by the city of Lyon. We’re lucky to have a city who is trying to understand BMX and supporting events far from classic sports like Futbol… They give us the authorization to ride the spots we selected for the jam. We need to meet a bunch of their requests and loads of paperwork to be able to have insurance and such. We are very lucky to have a city which is so open minded to urban sports! The city of Lyon also helps us with funding the event, combining that with the support of our shop brands we are able to make this jam happen!
You guys have done a great job making sure everyone is taken care of during Street Station, what is your approach to hosting an event like this? What is your main goal at the end of the day?
Some riders come from other countries to join the event, sometimes from USA, UK, and Europe. So it’s important for us to try to welcome everyone correctly. Riders come from North of France and spend money and time to come to visit the shop, so we try to minimize the cost for them when they’re in Lyon. In 2018, the event is almost 100 % free (no registration, no entrance, etc) and it help people to make the journey to ride the jam. We know pro riders come from far and most of the time have a heavy schedule traveling a lot so we want to ensure they have a good time at Lyon with no stress! Something we’re happy about this year is that the Jam federated Lyon’s scene but also the France scene. It’s not very often we have a BMX event welcome such a cool crew of riders, friends and guests. This connection between the pro riders and the riders from everywhere in France was very cool to feel this year. This is the spirit of the week-end we’re looking for; having good time, watching or riding a jam with awesome riders and listening to music!
The 10th year anniversary is coming up this year, do you guys have any ideas/changes you want to talk about now?
We already started to work on the 10th anniversary of the jam… We’ll try to find bigger spots, as some this year were a bit too small due to how many riders came out. We’re looking into a ghetto indoor spot to host the jam just in case we have a rain problem!? Also, we are working with some brands to host video premieres in the theatre close to the store…. Should be a cool weekend!
The DIG Awards 2018: FIRE IN THE BELLY - The Bros Brew
Originally published in DIG issue 99.9, December 2018.
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