Is this a good thing for BMX? What People are saying about Fingers Crossed.

Hear the thoughts of Joe Rich, Cody Diggs & more...

8 May 2020

Byrnes Fingersx  Rd 014

Garrett Byrnes, Spring 2020. Photo by Rob Dolecki

Words and photos by Rob Dolecki, additional interviews by Ste Jones.

Back in the early to mid 70s during BMX's infancy when all types of bike designs started popping up, a few of the first BMX-specific bikes had suspension. It's not really that surprising, though, since it all began from kids in dirt lots mimicking motocross. Maybe it was gimmickry, maybe it was genuinely theorized that suspension might be a valuable addition on some of the wild downhill race courses of the era. Either way, it became apparent very quickly that the double diamond hard tail frame design and rigid forks were the way to go. Suspension, for all intents and purposes, didn't really help on a BMX track, and for the next two decades, vanished almost as quickly as it appeared.

Then came the early 90s and Answer introduced a product called Pro Forx. Despite the fact the BMX tracks were more groomed and smoother than at any other time in prior history, they decided to release a 20" suspension fork and pay some pro racers a few hundred bucks a month to run them. With one small mod (using PVC to replace the elastomer so there was no travel, effectively making them a rigid fork) to their forks, you had a dozen or so dudes cashing in on Answer, and Answer cashing in on countless impressionable kids who didn't see through a fad that was all contrived anodized purple fashion and no function. Within a year or two, that sector of the racer population finally caught on to the ruse, and suspension once again seemed to vanish from the BMX world.

Enter Ruben Alcantara. After riding downhill at Whistler, B.C. on an MTB in the mid 2000s, the wheels had started turning in that innovative brain of his, and he had an idea to make a BMX bike that could work on the same trails at similar speeds of the bigger full-suspension bikes. Once Ruben showed Garrett Byrnes photos of his creation, Garrett embarked on a mission to build his own version in order to take advantage of new terrain. The end result is their combined effort called Fingers Crossed. While both Ruben and Garrett have had interviews about the project in other outlets, we decided to take an in-depth look into Garrett's build, as well as conduct a detailed interview with him about the whole project in Part 1 HERE.

The once ostracized concept of suspension has returned to the BMX realm, but this time around, it's not about some gimmickry = revenue formula. It's via the brainchild of two of the most legendary and innovative riders to ever grace a bike, and for no reason other than to expand the terrain possibilities for 20-inch BMX bikes, namely downhill MTB trails, on a familiar-feeling two wheeled machine. With uber-creative minds like Ruben and Garrett on the the case, it will be interesting to see where it evolves to.

We asked a few select people (most of whom are primarily on the older end of the age spectrum, since that is what these bikes are somewhat more geared for) their views of suspension on BMX bikes.

Doyle Sprmn Pa Fingers Crossed

Doyle - Anthem II. Photo Rob Dolecki

CHRIS DOYLE

What were your initial thoughts when you saw Ruben's/Garret's suspension BMX bikes? I think my initial thought was pretty much the same as most peoples': "Wow, this is pretty cool." In the past, I've had similar thoughts that Ruben has mentioned. I've ridden a few MTB parks (on suspension MTBs) and always thought it would be really fun to ride this stuff on a bike that I'm more comfortable on... a BMX bike.

Do you think it's a good thing for BMX?

I have no idea. Who am I to say what's good or bad for BMX? I do like seeing people think outside the box and try new things... especially guys like Ruben and Garrett- icons in our sport.

Could you see the whole thing taking off and becoming popular?

I think that depends on how available it is. BMXers usually don't like spending money. If the bikes are too expensive or access to the facilities to ride this type of terrain is unavailable, then I'll say no, it will not gain traction in popularity. However, on the flip side, you could have a a lot of interest from ex-BMX guys who went to MTBs for the suspension and the ease that it has on your joints... but these are usually the same guys who claim that bigger bikes are easier on their sore backs.

Would you ride one?

Like I said before, I've had similar thoughts to that of Ruben so yeah, I'd definitely ride one. I don't think anybody can deny that those guys, Ruben, Garrett, and Mike make it look really fun!

Is it still BMX?!

It's more BMX than probably 90% of the tic-tacking that floods my social media feed on a daily basis! Ha!

Rich Coffee Adj

Nothing like a cup of Joe. Photo by Rob Dolecki

JOE RICH

What did you think when you first saw Ruben’s bike?

A good while back, he showed me that very first one he worked on. I think it was 13 or 14 years ago. All I could do is just be amazed with how Ruben’s brain works. [He’d created a full suspension frame by] using the old aluminium GT box racing frame that had an American BB in conjunction with a newer frame that had a Spanish BB. The fact he figured out how to use the bottom bracket as the pivot point for the suspension blew my mind. And also, that he found a bearing in existence that fit both BB shells at the same time . . . simply incredible. Only Ruben!

Has your opinion changed much since then?

There has been nothing for me to chew on at all. Ruben has pioneered so much in his lifetime, it’s just what he does. His brain works on an entirely different level than most . . . I feel that if something interests you, then you gotta walk down that path and see it through. I’m really stoked for him.

Do you think that the kind of riding the Fingers Crossed guys are doing needs a BMX to be modified in that way?

They are just having fun with something that is slightly different. Small changes have made for a lot of fun for them. And for me, the real point of interest is that this slight change has made it so Ruben can ride longer in a day. He’s paid a heavy price physically, with how far he’s pushed riding through the years. He’s given himself completely to BMX, and has battled so much with back and neck pain. The fact that he hasn’t just accepted it and given up, rather he’s kept pushing; to figure something out that allows him to have the sessions he wants to have. . . he loves it, and can ride all day once again. He's got that little kid stoke that we all know. That’s just so damn good. Session extender for the win!

Have you had a go?

Haven’t tried one, but I’d love to go ride down some mountains with one.

Could you see yourself building one up?

I would for sure. Some of those mountain bike parks look like so much fun. But I’d much rather give them a go on something that rides more like something I’m used to. Not to mention that those big ol' knobby tires and disc brakes just make the bikes look so tough.

Can you see T-1 offering a Fingers Crossed frame?

We haven’t gone down that path when we’ve talked. I just told Ruben I’d help him in any way he needed if it’s something he wants to pursue beyond the one he has. That is all up to him; anything is possible.

Is it still BMX?!

Ha, ha ha, are you really asking this question? Does it even matter?

"It looks really fun. Immediately it made me think of 70’s BMX bikes which initially tried to be motocross bikes (but they were too heavy first time round). Pure BMX essentially. But, I’m worried MTB companies would jump on it, make 20” bikes, and [in doing so] sweep up chunks of the BMX crowd, and then give them more of a taste for moving onto MTB full time." - WILL SMYTH (DIG Editor/Founder)

Bettencourt Fingers Crossed

VIC BETTENCOURT / CIRCUIT BMX SHOP

What are your initial thoughts when you saw Ruben's/Garret's suspension BMX bikes?

Stunned! I was able to see Garret’s bike in person last summer. I wasn’t surprised when Garret told me he and Ruben were working on the project together. They are both so creative in their riding and to see them adapt that creativity into a bike project didn’t surprise me. The amount of time and work that went into the project is pretty incredible.

Has your opinion changed much since then?

After watching the first two episodes I started to think, “Hey, I want to ride one of those down a mountain!” I’ve always wanted to ride the terrain that downhill mountain bikers ride, I just didn’t want to ride a downhill bike because of the size of it, and I’m thinking those guys and a lot of people feel the same way.

Could you see yourself building one up?

Possibly. Do I have enough room in my life for another bike? I’d have to travel to places to ride it, because it’s not designed for BMX trails, so I don’t see having the time for that, but it sure looks fun.

Do you think it's a good thing for BMX?

Can we even call it a BMX? I think of it as a 20” MTB, or MTBMX. I’m thinking it will be a bike that you would have custom built at first. If it becomes a subset of BMX, I see it being a good thing for the culture because it's cool to see BMX evolve and take a different direction. They’re designed for a specific style of riding - fast downhill riding. You’re not gonna see these at the local BMX trails or the skatepark. But I could see them being a thing at a mountain bike park or new types of trails being built for these bikes.

Would you ever see suspension helping on traditional BMX trails?

I can’t imagine that having suspension is necessary on today’s perfectly dialed sets of trails. These bikes need planked out jumps and BMX jumps are steep so I don’t see them working on most traditional BMX trails. But then again, anything is possible once you're used to riding a certain setup.

Could you see the whole thing taking off and becoming popular?

BMX is hard enough for some riders to afford so to have a custom MT-BMX would be a difficult trend to gain momentum. But with that being said. I see plenty of older riders wanting to try it out and taking the plunge, if there were an easy way to obtain a build.

Being that you own and run Circuit BMX in Rhode Island, an all-BMX shop, if you offered these style bikes, how would you handle carrying some of the non-traditional BMX parts, like suspension forks and tires?

Since Circuit is a specialty store, I think niche and unique bikes and parts like these would fit right in. I’d be stoked to put a complete build on the floor.

Dolecki Diggle Ri Fingers Crossed

Oooofffftttt! Cody Diggs - Photo by Rob Dolecki

"I got to ride Garrett's bike when he was at my house. “Holy shit. What in the world is this?” I was mind-blown. It was some science project with a mountain bike and BMX mashed into one. I bombed some hills in the woods by my house. It was as responsive as a BMX, but as monster-trucky as a MTB. It’s the most precise MTB you can ride. Riding bigger MTB bikes, they are sloppy as hell, and I always get the ass bite in the tire. I tried to ride Catty once on an MTB. I ate it on the second jump because my ass got sucked into the tire. Maybe it’s the old man’s future, where you don’t have to butter jumps in. Rake and ride. Those things are sweet, and groundbreaking. You can probably use rocks as jumps and not even worry about it. You don’t need a dialed surface to ride on. You can take it to a new level. So many people are into MTB, and may want to ride BMX also, and this is the perfect in-between." - CODY DIGGS

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Fingers Crossed - Episode 1

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