In Memory: Paul Buchanan
From enigmatic to legendary
17 May 2018
Words by Brian Tunney
Earlier this week, the news began to slowly trickle in about the death of Terrible One rider Paul Buchanan. During the formative years of our magazine, Paul Buchanan was the literal “poster boy” for DIG. Here, we pay tribute to one of our dearest friends.
The myth of Paul Buchanan the BMX rider started sometime in the mid 1990s. It was different time in BMX. Technologies were being rewritten, magazines were popping up, and riders that had previously been disconnected by the virtue of geography, were now beginning to connect through rider-produced videos and low-money competitions and jams. The global scene was beginning to emerge from the respective corners of the underground, waving hello to anyone on a Standard, S&M or Hoffman.
Paul Buchanan was one of those riders. A Canadian with Scottish (Glasgow born) parents, hailing from London, Ontario, Paul’s riding caught the eye of Kink Bikes. He began to show up in some of the earliest Kink ads, doing no-handed fakie wallrides that looked like he was pulling straight into them from flat ground bunnyhops. It was in an advertisement for axles, and as I remember it now, the photo grabbed me enough that I immediately thought “That guy is nuts” without ever seeing him ride in person or on video.
From there, Canada’s Basic Bikes picked up Paul, followed by more travel, the occasional photo in a magazine, and even the X Games. But this was a different Paul Buchanan than what would follow. Before Terrible One and before his move to Austin, Paul was “freestyle” in the deepest sense of the word: Mat Hoffman ponytail, four-piece bars, four pegs and an ability to adapt any terrain in front of himself.
Sometime in 1997, Paul broke his left wrist. Not a huge deal for most BMXers, but for Paul, it was the start of a transformation. He removed his front brake since he couldn’t pull his lever. With the front brake went the four pegs, four-piece bars and clunky full face helmet. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a tiny little bike company from Austin, Texas was born called Terrible One.
Paul Buchanan was one of the first riders added to the team. And he’s probably best known from this era. Riding a royal blue Barcode, Paul Buchanan moved to Austin and went from enigmatic to legendary almost overnight. There were stories, there always were, about Paul’s time in Austin. He rode, by and large, alone, and at night. He transitioned from ramp/dirt guy to more of a street rider, and he would spend hours simply pedaling around, looking at spots. He was also light years ahead of anyone as far as ideas, techniques and riding went. From an outside perspective, it seemed to come naturally to him, and he had a less control the bike and more let’s see where this ride can take me approach. I remember him once telling me that he envisioned himself doing whatever it was he wanted to try before he actually did it.
"Riding a royal blue Barcode, Paul Buchanan moved to Austin and went from enigmatic to legendary almost overnight."
Again, there are hundreds of stories about Paul’s legendary approach to riding, but I think none sum him up better than the Austin church gap. It had already been done, in “Road Fools 1,” when Paul decided he wanted to jump the gap simply for his own satisfaction. So he did just that, in one try, and moved on without worrying about documenting the death-defying jump.
Then, in 1999, Paul Buchanan rewrote the possibilities of what was capable on a BMX bike with a minute-long commercial in Props Video Magazine. Riding to Grade, Paul introduced hop whips, brakeless tail whip nosepicks, curved wallrides and the BMX equivalent of a lipslide to BMX. Then he bailed off his bike and disappeared on the road. It was only a minute of footage, but his cemented his legacy within BMX.
It was also around this time that Paul Buchanan’s name began appearing on the pages of DIG BMX more frequently. Riding alongside Sandy Carson, Paul would come up with insane ideas, and Sandy slowly began amassing heaps of photos of Paul doing unreal things on his bike, with more style and finesse than anyone else could touch at the time. He quickly became one of the “poster boys” for DIG. He wasn’t in BMX for the fame (if anything, he loathed the attention) but there was no way to not pay attention to Paul’s riding when he was on. And if you managed to capture him out in the wild, he was most certainly “on.”
Sometime in the mid to early 00s, Paul Buchanan began to show up less and less in the BMX media. Again, there are stories, legends and rumors of Paul traveling the world and doing unthinkable things on his bike, but by and large, they went undocumented. I recall meeting up with him in Vancouver in maybe 2002 or 2003, him saying he was going for more beer, and then never hearing from him again. He wasn’t trying to be mysterious. He just followed the wind and let life happen in a way that not too many people can explain.
"He wasn’t trying to be mysterious. He just followed the wind and let life happen in a way that not too many people can explain."
Almost daily, circa 2018, I drive past this bar called the Schoolhouse Pub on Manor Road in Austin. Years before it was a bar, it was one of Paul’s apartments in Austin. I’ve been into the bar a few times over the years, and every time I’ve been in there, I always think to myself, “this used to be the home of one of the most legendary BMX riders that will ever be known.”
I still believe that to be true. - BT
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