Story and Photos By Ryan Scott Additional words by Chris Childs and Pete Sawyer
I don’t like being crowded. It’s not a phobia, but more of an annoyance. I’m a fast walker and like being able to move freely and get to where I’m going swiftly and efficiently. Sunday afternoons at the grocery store are a level of Hell crammed with shopping cart-wielding parents that should be reserved for the most heinous of sinners. So, as I started to pack my oversized camera bag into the back of a van where I’d be spending the next week and half traveling with eight other guys, their bicycles and their belongings I was also mentally preparing myself for the inevitable discomfort that the rides would entail. And so it goes...
It was the first time I’d met a lot of the guys from the Merritt team, so their personalities and preferences were unfamiliar. I can put aside my comfort for the sake of a trip. For me, the juice is worth the squeeze. I’ve been on enough trips to know that not everyone can do that though. People get irritated, egos flare up, personalities clash, and after sporadic arguments everyone else is left awkwardly looking at each other like mom and dad just got in a fight at the dinner table.
Introducing Justin Care - your captain of the smith.
Merritt trips always go smoothly and it's mostly because of Brennan. He's always doing all the hustling so all we have to do is play on our bikes.
- Justin Care
Brandon Begin is a bit of a polarizing character in BMX. He and his riding, whether intentional or not, have come to represent a style of fast grind combinations(which he’s incredibly good at) and weed smoke that characterize a slice of today’s riders. He also caught a fair bit of ribbing from the team on this trip because he can be seen as an easy target, but it must be said that no matter how many times he was tased or teased, he was a damn good sport, didn’t take himself too seriously and produced original clips on his bike time and time again throughout the entire trip. Here he gives his well worn pegs a rest while dropping in on the ropes course of a playground.
Pete Sawyer is one of the more creative guys I’ve had the pleasure of shooting with, and he has an eye for photogenic setups. He didn’t ride the jumps at the trails, put chose to take the quick way down this ladder off of the roll-in instead.
After some clever packing and bicycle Tetris everyone was sorted. We got as comfortable as the scenario allowed as we shipped off from New Jersey with our captain Mike Brennan and his battery-operated stun gun at the wheel and filmer/navigator Scotty McMenamin at his side. We spent two days in Philadelphia, opting to take advantage of riding the vacant schoolyards in the hot summer months rather than cruise the streets of a city that’s known for being fun to explore. I waited for the anxious complaints after the fourth hour passed at a spot. Not a peep. I checked for street riders to roll their eyes at FDR. All smiles. As everyone stuffed oversized burritos in their faces that evening I wondered when someone would vocally wish we had hit more spots or complain about the nine flat tires the team got that day. Nothing. Something had to give. Someone had to pony up and be a bummer.
But it never happened. Brandon Begin got shocked fifty times with the stun gun during the trip and he took it in stride. Chris Childs maintained his uniquely genuine positivity after falling and connecting his head to the sidewalk. Greg Henry politely thanked everyone for his time and patience after winning a long painful battle with a rail on an injured ankle. Justin Care’s bike looked like Frankenstein’s monster by the end of the trip after breaking so many parts. Someone’s girlfriend broke up with him over the phone a few days in. No matter what happened, everyone showed an appreciation for where they were and the people they were surrounded with, regardless if it was pedaling through the cool night air of downtown Washington, DC or crammed in a hot passenger van. And in the middle of it all there was a fiery enthusiasm to ride all day and dominate every setup that we came to.
Jon Saunders was kind of enough to take us over the river and through the woods to his well hidden trails where Chris Childs reminded everyone on the trip that he can ride anything he wants very well.
Chris, floating and stretching for the bottom side of the rubber.
Justin Care, rail hop to flat at the end of a long downhill line at a spot that dreams are made of.
About halfway through I started hearing people say that it was one of the best trips that they’ve ever been on. Sean Curran and Mike Brennan have found the perfect mixture for talent and attitude and have clearly chosen the Merritt family based on that equation. There is very much a “we’re all in this together” way of thinking within the group that is unlike anything I’ve experienced on a BMX trip. There’s no odd man out or incredible rider who feels entitled that everyone secretly hates. Each person is sincerely excited to see one another do insane things on their bikes and it serves to whirr a frenzy of motivation for everyone to do the same. They lead by example and that outlook flows throughout the team. After I saw Demarcus Paul put off riding to help the third stranger on the street fix his bicycle I started hoping to see a child wobble by on a flat tire so I could do the same.
Pete either has a seven foot bunnyhop or is very good at landing backwards on his bike. Win/win.
After a roadside rail turned out to not be as good as it seemed from afar, Pete casually did this grind to hop over on the other side of the building to still make it a productive stop.
By the end of the trip I was getting goodbye hugs from people I’d met ten days prior. It was evident that the team knew that they were a part of a company that is more than a paycheck or free parts and I felt fortunate to have been along to see it. Everyone remarked that they were looking forward to being happily cramped on the road with these guys again. I agree, as long as they keep their shopping carts away from my ankles. - RS
"A good trip in my opinion is made of a crew that really has no boundaries and can feed off each other whether it’s on or off the bike. Having something such as a taser is an easy way to break the ice on those long drives. The best thing was the overall sense of community everyone felt just from having that taser in our presence… constantly on your toes, anytime someone was lurking around looking like they could zap ya’. A great moment in our trip was Pete finding his UK comrades (i.e. complete strangers) on the streets after the bars screaming, dancing and filled with joy after finding out these two blokes also shared the same bank as him. “SANTANDER SANTANDER” was one the chants they had going along with “WE’RE FROM THE UK!”. This unexpected run in from the homeland ended with Pete and Greg setting off to these two random guys dorm to have some beers. Everyone was vibing off each other which led to amazing bike riding and a real down to earth trip. Why do I think the Merritt team gets along so well? Weed…" - Chris Childs
Ever Since Van Homan gap-to-manualed the ledge at this school for his Fit Life part this setup has gone pretty untouched until a crazy son of a bitch named Chris Childs rolled through Philadelphia and gapped to icepick the rail.
I personally got to witness the Chris Childs show more than once on this trip. From the huge gap to ice to his crazy unique lines, he's the best.
- Demarcus Paul
So Pete, what makes a good trip?
What makes a good trip is dependent on the perspective of the person, what I personally think makes a good trip is obviously a good group of people, and a good sit down meal at the end of the day which all the team and media guys are there for, its really surprising how much that helps bring everyone together.
Following that is spots, sometimes avoiding the "classic" spots is a real beneficial thing. But at the same time they are classic spots for a reason. Sleeping well is really hard to do when your riding for at least eight hours a day, trying to hang out with your friends you haven't seen in months and sharing a hotel room and van with a whole heap of dudes.
Rainy days! This might just be me but I love the rainy day around three or four days into a trip when you dont have to ride and you can do various non bike related activities, and you get to recover.
Explain some of the best things that happened on the Taser trip?
I got all my flights no problem, didn't miss or have any flight transfers delayed, I even got upgraded to first class for my long haul flight sitting next to two relatively hot chicks. My bags arrived in one piece on time which is rare, no problems getting through customs, I was greeted in the terminal by Charlie, Greg, Scott and Begin so I didn't have to wait by myself.
We rode park, street and dirt, we took the piss out of each other, got taser gunned, almost bitten to death and just had a tremendous amount of fun.
The Chris Childs show was pretty mind bowing, meeting Greg for the first time was great too. A bunch of people have asked me if I've met him before and always say how much we'd get along. This was true, Greg like the rest of the Merritt team was Rad as Heck! I'd have to say that this trip has defiantly been one of my favourites, no hick ups with hotels, no trouble with the travelling, good spots, good people, good food. No major injuries and nothing but smooth sailing.
Why do you think the team gets along so well?
Because we're retards that enjoy riding bikes and hanging out, for the most part I think that's what we started for and what we all ride for now. Except for Begin, he's in it for fame and Instagram followers. Shout to Mike and Sean for killing it and creating such a well rounded enjoyable team that I'm privileged to be a part of.
Merritt Tasers Full Video
Philly, Maryland and DC get zapped... - More Info