"My fiance just got a job in Maryland, we'll be moving to Annapolis in the Fall."
When Brian Kachinsky made that statement to me at Woodward East in August of 2016, I knew that we would inevitably be spending time together shooting photos and riding, but I had no idea just how much of an adventure I was in for. Baltimore is somewhat of a well-kept secret in the BMX world, though it's had a multitude of heavy-hitters roll through its streets over the years. Knowing what Baltimore had to offer in terms of spots, it was no secret that Brian would annihilate them as he always does. What did surprise me was just how many gems that Brian was able to find scattered throughout the endless Maryland suburbs, places that my friends and I would have driven straight through without a second thought. It seemed like every other day I would get a text containing aseries of iPhone photos of setups he had found, along with accompanying descriptions of some incredible maneuver he had planned out. His hours of scouring Google Maps and driving around random areas yielded amazing results, and I was lucky enough to be present with a camera for many of those instances. To say that Brian is relentless when it comes to riding would be an understatement, and a move halfway across the country only further fueled that notion. - JM
INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN KACHINSKY
- Let’s start off with the obvious; how did you end up moving from Chicago to Annapolis, MD after living in the Midwest your entire life?
Life has a funny way of steering the wheel sometimes. I had lived in Chicago, my favorite US city, for nearly 10 years. My fiancée had received an opportunity for a temporary job that would greatly advance her career in the future. That job was in Maryland and it was the natural next step for the career that she’s worked her entire life to succeed in. This was a giant uncomfortable leap for both of us and since I respect/support what she does, it was no question that we needed to make the leap and move from the city we both love. We are a team and we were up for the challenge and change. Before we knew it, we were packing up our things and moving east.
- Once you arrived, what was your approach to spot searching? Since MD is pretty spread out, how much did Google Street View come into play as opposed to pedaling around?
This is the best part and why BMX is awesome. Immediately upon arrival I had friends here in Maryland. I’d been to DC/Baltimore area on trips in the past and also been longtime friends with people like Jon Saunders who are longtime locals of this area. As the BMX community goes, I was also immediately connected to a group chat with a group of local riders. Thanks to Mike Hinkens for that. Mike had scouted the area quite a bit while he lived out this way and I arrived with a folder of spots to choose from. It didn’t stop there, though. Since the DC/Baltimore area is the 4th largest metropolitan area in the US, there was still tons to be explored. I connected with other riders and also did a TON of searching both online and driving/pedaling around on days when I was recovering from injury. I even crutched around alleys, parks, schoolyards, campuses and more just to get motivated for when I would be back to 100% again after a minor foot surgery. These searches and new friends rekindled my motivation instantly and I’m very grateful for that. Google searches and other resources certainly guided my searches but nothing compares to going out and exploring in real life.
- How do the spots in Chicago compare to the spots in MD? Are the spots in one place better than the other, or are they on pretty equal footing?
It all depends on what you are looking for. Chicago is a big city with tons of stuff to ride but it’s also has a pretty flat landscape topographically. In Chicago, when I wanted to ride big rails and things like that I usually had to venture pretty far outside of the city limits of Chicago and even up into Wisconsin to find that stuff. In the DMV area (DC/Maryland/Virginia) there are more hills and more handrails in general. I’d say the vibe in Chicago is unmatched, especially with the homies I have there and even the non-BMX things there are to do and see. The amount of amazing spots and set-ups in the DMV area is definitely superior. Superior especially for someone like me who is constantly hungry for new spots, discoveries and challenges. I’ve grown to love both areas for both riding and living in general.
- Baltimore and DC have a ton of spots in the cities themselves, but the surrounding suburbs are just as abundant with things to ride. Do you have a preference in that regard?
My riding style is two-fold. I love pedaling around cities and just seeing what you stumble upon. Those sessions are usually really fun and remind you of why you love street riding in the first place. On the other hand, I usually do my best work when it’s premeditated and planned. I love the entire process of finding a spot, thinking about what to do on it, debating the outcomes, envisioning it being a success and then making it all a reality. I sometimes get laser-focused on getting something done at a particular spot at a particular time when all the ingredients for a successful outcome are there. Sometimes finding something risky or challenging can feel like too much pressure the moment you find it. If that’s the case, come back when it’s right. The funny thing about that is, this is street riding and it’s never going to be “perfect”. That’s what skateparks are for. There’s no foam pit for this stuff and sometimes you just need to trust your ability, pull the trigger and get it done.
- So what happened on that cold, rainy day in Cheverly that ended with me plucking a rock out of the palm of your hand?
This was one of those “laser-focused” days I mentioned earlier. I was searching online and found an odd but amazing gap to rail set-up. Immediately the list of tricks I wanted to do it on was running through my head. When the day came to make it happen, it was far from “perfect” conditions. It was damp and cold but I had a good crew with me (You, Conway and Justin Care) and I decided to get the session going. I warmed up with a gap to pegs, that felt ok. Decided to try gap to tooth as another “easy” thing to get done on it before I really got down to business. The gap to tooth killed me twice due to an abrupt kink in the rail. I fell hand-first into some rugged ground and embedded a good sized rock into my palm. I couldn’t get myself to remove it from my own hands so urgently asked you to do the honors before heading to the emergency room. Good friends come in handy. (laughter)
- The Inner Harbor loop attempt was pretty incredible, how did that situation come about? Do you still think it’s doable or is it too tight to make it work?
How often do you find a cone-shaped fullpipe? In my 20+ years of riding I haven’t until Dink showed us the one in Baltimore. It was one of those things I envisioned happening given the set-up, even though I had a few doubts about the wet grass run-up and other imperfections of the spot. It wasn’t “perfect” but it was still a cone-shaped fullpipe. I knew that I would be more bummed at myself for backing down after, thinking about it for months, than if I just trusted my ability and previous experience. My gut instinct was proven wrong and it didn't work out, but I’m happy knowing I gave it a shot.
- The gap to pegs on the Howard Street Bridge was one of the scariest things I’ve seen someone do in a long time. How did that idea occur to you and what was going through your head at the time?
I’ll start with saying this: it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I’ve done a million gap to grinds in my life and done tons of shift-over grind type things in the past. I knew I could get it done despite the dire consequences. It turned out to be more of a mind game than I could have imagined. The fundamentals of it were pretty basic but riding away from that certainly felt overwhelming. No matter how many frightening things you do on a bike, that feeling over overcoming that fear is unmatched.
- You’re no stranger to wall rails and I’ve seen you come up with a few variations over the past year. How have you gotten so comfortable with them? Is there a secret, so to speak, for locking into those things? The wall rail manual in Baltimore particularly stands out to me as a such a progressive street maneuver, what are some other things you’d like to get done on similar setups?
Years ago, wall rails were sort of “rebirth” for both my riding and searching. Before 2010ish I’ve never really viewed them as something I wanted to do but once I learned how to handle them compared to a regular handrail, I was hooked. 2 secrets: forget everything you learned when grinding normal handrails, it’s a different approach, awkward sideways lean and has even less of a safety net compared to normal rails. Remember all those things when going into it. The other secret is to commit 100%. Chances are your pegs, pedals, bars will rub on the wall on the way down. If that happens you have to stay committed and push through all the way to the end. Coming off a wall rail early isn’t a pretty outcome. Stay on it, stay committed and ride it all the way through. It’s the best feeling. Wall pegs might be my favorite of them all. It feels like a combo of a wallride and grind all wrapped into one. I love it. The wall rail manual was one I hadn’t seen anyone do and there was some speculation in my mind of how to approach and how much to lean over, etc. I was so happy when it worked as I’d imagined.
- Let’s talk about the infamous Towson kinker; what’s your history with that rail and how did you end up deciding to do your first ever nollie to second stage ice on it?
Almost 10 Years in the making! That kinked rail has drawn a lot of blood from me in the past decade. I first went there in 2008 while filming for my Props interview and filmed my banger on it for that video. I did a nollie gap to pegs on it back then and it was one of those tricks that made me feel like invincible when I landed it. Even today, 9 years later, I feel like that could be a legit banger for a video part. I ended up wrecking really hard on that rail back in 2008 trying nollie gap hanger and again in 2012 on a different trip. Since I learned nollie ices back in 2009 and been wanting to do one on a gap to rail since then. It never felt right until we were riding the other week and I had already done a nollie roof gap earlier that day. I looked at the map and realized we were only a few minutes away from “THAT kinker” and decided we should try to get it done before the sunset which was closely approaching. This is the opposite of how I usually work. This was spur of the moment and even though I had been to the spot before, I didn’t anticipate making it happen that day. So happy to get that monkey off my back.
- You’ve spent a ton of hours driving around looking for setups, especially on days where we didn’t shoot. What are some potential indicators that motivate you to explore a given area?
I’ve been searching for spots to ride for 20+ years and I am constantly surprised by what I find unexpectedly. With that, I have also developed an eye for areas that look promising. It could be something as simple as seeing a rail while driving by, doing a u-turn and checking it out but it also pays to be thorough and check behind, around and in-between every building. I make mental and digital notes to check out areas I happen to pass by which seem promising. It’s a trained sense and eye I’ve developed over time. It’s also just so motivating. Sometimes I’ll feel like casually riding but then will find a spot that makes me want to grab my bike as quick as possible out of the car and riding it. Even after 20+ years, it makes me feel like I felt when I first started.
- Your style has evolved heavily over the years, but has always retained its origins; burly, technically precise, and primarily setup-oriented. How do you approach riding/ filming for Seriously Fun in 2017 compared to the way you approached it in 2007 filming for Grounded? Is the mindset fairly similar or has it changed as a result of modern-day BMX being at such a high skill level?
Evolution is key to progression and also to motivation. What’s changed? Many things: my bike set-up, my opposite side grinding ability, my eye for spots, interchanging pegs, and more. What hasn’t changed: My love for challenging myself and pushing aside fear in order to focus on what I want to accomplish. As for the skill-level progression in BMX, that’s motivated me a ton. It’s absolutely insane right now. That doesn’t mean that I want to do the same exact thing as everyone else. I can be motivated by those riders but I want to do whatever looks fun/challenging to me. I’ve found my motivations and ran with it instead of comparing myself to other people’s progression.
- The amount of work you do in terms of being a pro is pretty phenomenal. You’re riding most days of the week in some capacity, you’re filming/shooting photos frequently, you spend an enormous amount of time seeking out new spots, and you’re taking international trips to ride or judge contests about once a month or so. After 14 years of riding professionally, what is it that keeps you going at such an intense level all the time?
“This is why I ride.” Is something that pops into my head often. In just the past month I’ve taught kids how to drop-in at the skatepark, explored cities/countries I’d only dreamt of visiting, learned new tricks I never thought I would ever do, met amazing new people I now call friends, designed parks for riders to learn and enjoy, judged some of the most progressive contest riding on earth, found spots I’ve never known could exist, put a fresh new pair of grips on my bike which instantly made it feel like new, and just pedaled around the city at night with my friends with no goal in mind other than to just have fun.
The simple things as well as the monumental things all lead me to occasionally stop and realize “This is why I ride.” That’s what keeps me going every single day.
- Speaking of longevity in BMX, what do you feel is the most difficult part of having had such a long pro career with no signs of slowing down? Does watching the rate of progression ever get overwhelming? To me, you’ve always stood out as someone who never needed to jump on a bandwagon just because others were doing it, do you think that has contributed to your longevity?
I can’t claim to have never followed trends because I have. Sometimes trends are trends for a reason, they’re fun and can revitalize your way of thinking about riding. Taller bars are a good example. They were considered trendy at first but then soon became the norm because they just made your bike feel better. The same goes for many other things you see on a modern day BMX bike. Beyond the bike though, I think there have been three keys to my longevity as a pro BMX rider. One key is to never lose site of your motivation. No matter what happens, good or bad, never lose site of why you started riding in the first place. The other key has been taking care of myself. I’ve had a ton of injuries and setbacks but I’ve learned to take care of myself both physically and mentally when those setbacks happen. Last but not least, never forget the power of saying “thank you”. Be authentically thankful for everyone that helps you out. This could be as simple as someone who helps you change a flat tire or as big as a company wanting to put your name on a bike you helped design. Be thankful for the sake of being a good person, whether they have something to offer you or not. It doesn’t matter. A sincere Thank You goes a long way.
- At this point, you’re still going to be around for a couple more months. Will you be excited to leave or bummed about not being able to ride certain things in MD?
Our departure date from the East Coast is still unknown, I’m enjoying it and making the most of it. I’m still exploring, still meeting new people, helping plan events and jams, and having fun out here at the moment. I know that wherever we end up living in the coming months, I’ll be back here again and again. I’ll certainly miss the friends I ride with out here, the mild winters, fun parks, and the endless spots. No matter where we end up next, this place will always have a special place in my heart and my pegs.
- Finally, what general advice would you give to a rider who was moving halfway across the country, just as you’ve done?
The best advice I would give is to be thankful that you’re a BMXer. If you ride a bike you have an instant connection and network with other riders. If you’re the outgoing type, like me, you’re bound to make friends via BMX in your new location. Don’t by shy and say hi to riders you see at local parks/spots. Ask them what other fun stuff there is to ride in the area or even where to get something good to eat. I have found out about so much cool non-BMX stuff to do/see just from talking to other riders. If you’re not outgoing, at least you have your bike to go explore and have some therapeutic solo sessions. It’s comforting to have some familiarity in an unfamiliar place. BMX can lead to so many discoveries and great times. It’s hard to be away from family, friends and the place you call “home” but your 2nd home is wherever your bike is. That’s lucky.