I know, I’m stating the obvious: DIY is by no means a new concept in BMX. It was essentially founded on this principle, back when a young teenager named Scott Breithaupt organized the first legit BMX race at a vacant dirt lot in Long Beach, California, in 1970, and sparked the raging inferno that we call BMX today. Since then, everything from trails, to backyard wood ramps, to full-on parks, to media of all types, to bike companies... you name it; the DIY ethos has always been, and will continue to be, an integral element in the BMX bloodline.
Yet, despite concrete riding pioneers like John Palfreyman (who slashed both empty pools and pool poacher’s car tires with the true Dogtown crew in ’75) and Jeff Watson (who ripped hips and full pipes at southern California concrete parks with his non-mark-making red tires in the early ’80s), DIY concrete terrain never seemed to take root in bike riding. There have been some outliers, of course, such as the occasional random jersey barrier mods made, a couple of pro concrete skatepark builders like Steve Hare from Canada and Chris “Baboon” Volkwine, and a small handful of full concrete builds like The Spot in London. But for the most part, DIY spots of the concrete nature haven’t really been much of a thing in BMX.
Times are changing. More and more concrete creations by bikers have been popping up in the wild over the last few years, like Clint Reynolds’ compound in New York and the Goat Pen in North Carolina. Both are as legit as it gets, and have a dedicated group of builders/shredders behind each. While not even close to the magnitude in size or accomplishment of either of the aforementioned, a dinky local DIY in Philadelphia called 9th and Poplar is also featured in the following pages. I’ve personally become a part of the ongoing progress there, so there is a little bit (a lot?) of bias with its inclusion here (though, it is the only one featured not located on private land).
Unlike using other types of materials like dirt or wood, once concrete is poured correctly, there’s minimum to no maintenance required from that day onward. That is, if all the necessary prep work is done prior to - or occasionally on - pour day. It goes way beyond mixing up a few bags of substandard concrete and using a broken 2x4 to float some mud. It’s about proper knowledge, proper tools, and proper timing. It requires the correct mix either trucked in or mixed by hand to the proper ratios, and finished to perfection. That can really only occur if the skill and art of concrete finishing is studied, learned, and applied by those willing to create something better than a turd pile. Basically, it means becoming a concrete nerd (which I’m guilty of).
Just like the corner police at trails, those aesthetics resulting from taking the time to learn the skill and art of making a smooth and indestructible surface finish are worth it, on many levels. Nailing all those elements can result in a piece to be proud of, and last a lifetime. Or at least until the city comes and rips out all your hard work!
The following DIY spots to be featured here are adhering to that process to a T. First up was Seamus Mckeon and the Goatpen and now it's the Philadelphia spot 9th & Poplar (and there will be more to follow over the coming weeks too).
Now go grab that mini pool trowel and get at it. -RD