Local News

Friday, Apr 30 2010 05:34 PM

BMX freestylers yearn for place of their own

  1. 1 of 11

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Instructor Kris Mulhause demonstrates a jump during the Metro BMX clinic on a recent Thursday evening in Bakersfield. The Metro BMX course is in the same area as the Sam Lynn Ball Park and Stramler Park.

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  2. 2 of 11

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Five BMX racers wait their turn to practice on the Metro course during their Thursday evening clinic in Bakersfield.

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  3. 3 of 11

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Instructor Kris Mulhause races Leinani Peralta, 8, down the straightaway during their Metro BMX clinic in Bakersfield on a recent Thursday night.

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  4. 4 of 11

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Danny Williamson, 7, gets pointers from instructor Kris Mulhause going through a turn on the Metro BMX course during a recent Thursday afternoon clinic in Bakersfield.

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  5. 5 of 11

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Parent Jeff Fisher wets down the Metro BMX course during an evening clinic in Bakersfield on a recent Thursday.

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  6. 6 of 11

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    A heat of racers leave the gate at Metro BMX during a recent event. Metro is one of the few tracks in the Bakersfield area where BMXers can race. The dirt track hosts local races regularly in addition to national events.

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  7. 7 of 11

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Fresno's Austin Hiatt flies high during a practice at the Metro BMX track on Chester Ave near Sam Lynn Ballpark. The dirt track regularly hosts local races in addition to big national events.

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  8. 8 of 11

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    To keep the dust down, Traver Swartsfager waters down the jumps prior to the start of heat races at Metro BMX. The track is popular not only with local riders but also with racers throughout California.

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  9. 9 of 11

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Cherie Prudhomme,13, concentrates before the start of her race at Metro BMX. Safety is a top priority at the track and every rider must have the proper gear.

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  10. 10 of 11

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Shaylene Brown, 18, left, and Kalijia Peevy, 16, chat while track preparations go on before the start of the heat races. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, boy or girl, Metro BMX has a class for you to race in.

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  11. 11 of 11

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Over the jumps and into the first berm. The girls at Metro BMX are just as competitive as the boys when it comes to BMX racing.

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BY HILLARY HAENES, Californian staff writer hhaenes@bakersfield.com

The extreme sport of BMX has two styles -- racing and freestyle, but only the racing side has designated places in Bakersfield for enthusiasts to ride.

Racing BMX has attracted thousands of people to Metro BMX, one of the tracks in Bakersfield, and this weekend will be no exception because the U.S. Nationals are in town.

Related Info

What: U.S. Nationals at Metro BMX

When: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Metro BMX, 3805 Chester Ave. (in the back of the Sam Lynn Ball Park complex)

Price: Free for spectators, parking $10

Information: Visit metrobmx.com or ababmx.com

 

Metro BMX

This BMX race track has been at Sam Lynn Ball Park for 20 years. Metro BMX houses national competitions every year and offers weekly races and practices. Racing nights are from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Mondays and 6:30 to 7:30 Fridays. Wednesday nights are dedicated to practice from 6 to 8 p.m. For track information, call 664-7111. Contact track operator Kris Mulhause to sign up for Thursday night clinics from 6 to 8 p.m.

Bakersfield BMX

The two race tracks coordinate their race and practice days so they are not on the same days. This track holds race days from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Practice hours are from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. This track has been around for 10 years. Riders range from 4-year-olds to 50-year-olds. Contact owners Tony or Dalinda Ramirez at 703-3862, or visit bakersfieldbmxracing.com.

There are several local racing BMX tracks, but when it comes to freestyle, Kern County, especially Bakersfield, lacks places for riders to do tricks and stunts.

"They'll get busted at Beach Park, get a ticket and go to various places," said Jim Snider, owner of Snider's Cyclery.

Freestyle BMX riders say those places include schools, businesses, and streets -- and then they'll often end up again at Beach Park.

Yet several freestylers acknowledge they really haven't done anything to establish a park in Bakersfield just for them, as the public did in Fresno.

A petition for freestylers to get their own place to ride started about five years ago, but it fell through, said Matt Renois, 32, known as "Splat" among fellow riders.

What they do

The skatepark at Beach Park opened in 2000 for skateboarders and rollerbladers. Posted signs are supposed to remind bicyclists and those with scooters they are not allowed, but often rules are ignored.

Freestyle BMX professional Quincy Dean has been riding for nine years and has broken the rules a few times. On Nov. 5, 2008, Beach Park Skate Park reopened after approximately 4,300 square feet of expansion. Dean said that when Mayor Harvey Hall and Councilwoman Sue Benham finished the ribbon cutting, Dean picked up his bike and protested by performing tricks.

According to Dean, 24, the cops chased him around the skatepark, he hit the quarter pipe in his last lap, set his bike down and waited to be arrested.

"There is nothing to offer in Bakersfield. We get kicked out of the skatepark and the BMX tracks are only for racing. We ride street (style) around town, but we get kicked out of businesses and get tickets," Dean said.

Officer Matt Roy of the Bakersfield Police Department patrols the bike path and Kern River bed four days a week on an offroad motorcycle.

Roy said he and his partner together give an average of close to 30 tickets per month -- half for skateboarders and freestylers riding without proper protective gear and the other half for bikes ridden in the skatepark.

"We have 2008 tickets that haven't been entered yet," Sgt. Mary DeGeare said. An exact number wasn't available because the computer system is not up to date.

Due to police department budget cuts, clerical employees were let go, so fewer people are entering numbers into the system, DeGeare said.

According to Lt. Scott McDonald, juveniles get the most tickers, but there are a number of 20-to-30 year olds who continue to ride around town.

What they'd like to see

"It's a really fun sport -- I wish it was more recognized than it already is ... It would be nice just to ride. Another park would be useful," said Kordell Tomlin, a BMX freestyle rider.

Tomlin, 14, said he rides at Beach Park every weekend and thinks an indoor bike park would be a good idea, especially since Big City Skateboards Skatepark opened last June. Owner Rick Peralez said the 15,000-square-foot building houses ramps built for both skateboarders and BMX riders, but he cannot open his building to bikers because his insurance won't cover bikes.

"BMX is bigger than skateboarding here. It's unfortunate they don't have anything," Peralez said.

Without a specific park, freestylers have made the city their playground and roam the streets looking for challenging spots to attempt the latest trick. Riders believe a park for them would cut down on some businesses that are damaged from riders grinding on benches and curbs.

The BMX racing community also recognize freestylers do not have a special place to ride. April Anderson, the mother of BMX racer Jordan Miranda, who is training for the 2016 Olympics, said kids are getting into trouble for pursuing their passion, while Miranda said he thinks it's important for the talented kids to improve and achieve their goals.

"There are so many talented kids who race BMX and even freestyle. There needs to be a full-on area for all kids to ride. Other cities provide this for their kids and Bakersfield doesn't and that's sad," Anderson said.

Popularity of freestyle

Action Sports bike shop manager Jerry Campbell said they sold about 1,200 freestyle BMX bikes last year, which is equivalent to 40 freestyle bikes to every one race bike, but the numbers fluctuate. Since the beginning of this year, the shop's ratio of freestyle to race bikes sold is currently close to 10 freestyle bikes to every one race. Campbell believes this ratio change could be due to this weekend's race.

Snider said his shop sold about 450 freestyle and jumping bikes and 100 racing bikes last year.

Gema Bradley, owner of Finish Line Bicycles said her shop's BMX sales are 95 percent freestyle and 5 percent racing bikes.

Snider said riders drive nearly an hour or more in both directions to ride parks in Taft, Visalia and even Fresno.

How Fresno did it

Fresno is one of the popular destinations because it offers both racing and freestyle venues.

"We have a lot of bikers from Bakersfield who come on a weekly basis to ride. It's so good for the riders -- that's why people travel to ride on the weekend," said Ryan Garcia, a specialist in these sports for Fresno's Parks, After School, Recreation & Community Services Department.

The largest public BMX concrete bike park in the country, Fresno's Mosqueda Bike Park, opened in July 2009 and has 30,000 square feet of concrete. Garcia said about 75 kids a day visit the park.

"It's effortless. BMXers are respectful and appreciative of it and have taken ownership," Garcia said.

Before there were designated bike parks, Garcia said, people contacted his department about being able to use the city's Lions Den facility, a skateboard-only park. The bike community wanted a spot of its own, and the department took note. There are also a few ramp parks in Fresno that skateboarders and BMX riders share.

What Bakersfield could do

Skateboarders in Bakersfield got their park because community members spoke out and helped raise some of the funds, said Dianne Hoover, director of the city of Bakersfield Recreation and Parks Department.

"A lot of the parents of the young men came to us and said, 'We really want the city to provide this,'" Hoover said.

If riders and parents want a park, they could form a group, gather petitions and attend a City Council meeting to seek action, said Bakersfield city attorney Virginia Gennaro.

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