Running a bicycle website
Remember when the only way to consume bicycle media was by going to the newsagents every month for the latest magazine issue and waiting half a year for a new video release? How times have changed.
Out of the thousands of BMX and MTB websites and blogs currently online only a handful regularly infiltrate our news feeds and have a large enough audience to generate revenue.
Since I run a small-scale BMX website I was interested in finding out what a few of the Internet big shots had to say: How did they grow a successful website, why do they do it, are they making money, how has it affected their personal, professional and BMX lives?
Create quality content and the page clicks would roll in and advertising would accompany right? It turns out things are a little more complicated than that. So why bother?
I started getabmx cause I was intrigued by peoples' stories and had an interest in design and media. The buzz from doing an interview with a rider I looked up to growing up never got old. Hell it even lead to a career path in journalism then a job running an organisations website and social media I’d have otherwise been unqualified for.
You’re probably reading this cause you have or are thinking of starting a BMX site or blog. If that’s the case I doubt you’ll get a better insight anywhere else. Here we have Kurt Hohberger (bmxunion.com), Chris Olivier (plussizebmx.com) and Jon Saunders (canyoudigitbmx.com) sharing a wealth of website and industry experience.
‘I said that the world’s Olympic BMX racers were bitches for not wanting to ride the track down in Rio. That shit had people fired up on both sides!’ Jon
Want to run a BMX website? In summary you’ll need:
A strong work ethic: it took me over six months to get this article done. Unsurprisingly, getabmx isn’t huge.
Patience: your site won’t grow a major audience over night, or over a year, or few...
To be an expert in everything: web design, SEO, social media, photography, interviewing, writing, video making, marketing...
Another job: you probably won’t make any money off your site. If you’re lucky refer to point 2. But seriously if your intention is to make a living from this don’t waste your time and set up an online casino instead.
To be able to deal with disappointment: that interview you posted with that big star probably won’t get the number of hits you hoped for. Did you even get the interview?
To be able to deal with criticism: people will talk shit about any opinion you have on anything, especially if it goes against the general consensus.
To be persuasive and/or liked: you won’t score interviews or get quotes if people think it’s a waste of their time, and you probably won’t build a readership if people don’t like you or what you do.
Before we jump into the big questions, here are the faces behind the answers:
Jon Saunders, CYDI
Kurt Hohberger, The Union
Chris Oliver, PSBMX
When and why did you come up with the idea to create a BMX website, and how long after that was the site launched?
Kurt - Websites had been something I had played with for a long time before The Union ever was a thing. I taught myself basic HTML when I was in 7th grade, so about 2001 or so. I had a few local scene websites like BMX Rochester which featured all the locals with photos and some videos I was putting together early on. This was before Youtube and Vimeo. It was pretty wild, haha. In 2007, I was in my first year of college and I had a mass communications class that assigned a semester long project that was essentially to create a blog and show how it can reach people from around the world. So, I created BMX Union and it’s been going ever since.
Jon - I’m actually not sure of exactly when the idea to start Can You Dig it came about. It was something that myself and the guys I was digging with started talking about during the early years of building at our current spot. We started the spot in the fall of 2010 and I started the site early in the summer of 2012, so somewhere in between then. It was one of those things that kept coming up when we were putting in really long hours trying to get the trails going. Someone would bring up a trails video that they had stumbled across online, and inevitably the conversation would turn towards the idea that someone needed to make a trails version of The Come Up, but without all the negativity and egocentricity behind it of course! I think we were all frustrated with having to sift through dozens and dozens of street and park videos on TCU and other sites just to find one or two trails videos.
One of the guys I was digging with just so happened to run a web design/wordpress theme development company. I ended up helping him out a bit with moving some content from a client’s old website to a new one he was building for them. Up until then I had absolutely zero knowledge of how websites worked, or even what WordPress was. After helping him out with that, I realized that I could totally get a website up and running, more importantly a website that was devoted solely to trails.
Chris - I grew up with BMX and in the nineties I ended up getting heavily into racing DH for a few years and mostly hung up the little Bikes. I eventually got burned out on the racing scene though so I went back to a 20" but after so much time on an MTB it felt super awkward and small. So I ended up with a GT Ruckus dirt jumper and never looked back. I have loved riding 26" Bikes ever since. As I started getting more into it I realized very little media surrounded this aspect of riding. Thrashbike did a decent job and Pinkbike did a little. But I always disliked the general Pinkbike audience and felt like a site that was more positive and completely inclusive to people who like to ride would be awesome. So after deciding on a name I spent $30 and started plussizebmx.com.
‘I have so many stories about working in strange places or at ridiculous hours all around the world. Including a bath tub in Taiwan because it was the only spot I could get WiFi or hiding in someone's bushes in New Mexico.’ Chris
Where did the name come from?
Kurt - I can’t remember specifically where it came from. I remember bouncing around a lot of ideas and I remember hearing the word “Union” on a TV or radio commercial and thought it fit pretty well with how BMX is a big unified community (well, most of the time). This was before I was really ever involved with the industry or anything, so I didn’t even know there was a brand with a similar name, which later got pretty messy once the site took off, haha.
Jon - I’ve always been a fan of Blaxploitation movies from the 1970s. “Can you dig it” was a pretty popular expression back then, and one that you’d hear in pretty much every single one of those movies. Then of course there’s that famous scene in the 80s movie “The Warriors” where Cyrus closes out his address to all the street gangs with the rallying cry, “CAN YOU DIG IT!”
Having heard that phrase literally hundreds of times in my life, it was one of the first things that popped into my head when I was thinking of a name for the site. In my mind it seemed like a perfect name because it implied that the website was strictly trails. If it couldn’t be dug, then you wouldn’t find it posted on there.
‘I really enjoy giving guys who don’t expect to see their name up on the site a chance to get some shine time. It’s awesome seeing an unheard of rider end up sponsored.’ Kurt
What’s the story behind the first proper feature you did?
Kurt - The first actual feature I did was an interview with Catfish. I had met Zack at a contest or something and he was pretty inspiring seeing everything he had going on at the time. So, I reached out and we did an interview… Looking back on it, I really didn’t know what I was doing, haha. I pieced together random questions and that was the starting point.
Jon - The first proper feature I did was an interview with Sunday’s Jim Cielencki. Jim and I are old friends, so it was fun picking his brain about Sunday’s involvement in the trails scene.
Chris - Holy crap! In seven years we have had a lot. And honestly I remember more about the trips we took to capture events and features then any of the articles themselves. I couldn't even tell you what our first feature was... Haha.
What’s your most viewed page/feature? Did this surprise you?
Kurt - Right now, the most viewed page is our BMX Color App that allows you to do a custom color scheme for your bike, so you can get an idea of what your bike might look like before you go and buy a bunch of parts or get it painted. It was acquired from another website based in Russia that was about to shut things down, so it was more or less to keep it alive because it’s a valuable tool. Beyond that, we’ve had a number of features that got a lot of views. For example, the video Mat Hoffman and Dennis McCoy released of the time they crashed into each other and Dennis’ stomach was cut open from Mat’s bars has over 25,000 views which is pretty wild since most only get a few hundred views.
Jon - Definitely the post where I said that the world’s Olympic BMX racers were bitches for not wanting to ride the track down in Rio. That shit had people fired up on both sides! It was crazy to see full on Olympic athletes arguing with trail riders about the article on social media. Even the fact that the article even made its way to them is pretty crazy. It really showed the dichotomy of what the direction that the world’s elite BMX racers think tracks should be heading, versus what us trail riders/spectators/former 90s racers think they should be. I got out of racing when clips took over. I’m sorry, but to me BMX racing should be more than just pedalling as fast as you can. Maybe it’s the supercross fan in me, but I want to see tracks with technical jumps. Seeing the different ways that riders would go about not only getting through the jumps, but getting through them fast is something that would excite me as a spectator. If I want to watch a bike race where people don’t leave the ground, I’ll watch road cycling.
Chris - I would not know overall. I have never been obsessed with numbers and stats. What did surprise me is that an insane video or photo of a rider will very rarely be as popular as a picture of a sweet bike standing alone. That is weird to me. I understand the base psychology of why it is that way but to me nothing is better than the riding. Bikes are just a tool. No one is stoked on a hammer lying on a bench no matter how cool it is. But you can and should be amazed by what people build with it. I see Bikes in a similar fashion. A bike can look super sick but it has no value until it has a rider on it doing something cool.
‘The opportunities that PSBMX has afforded me have been amazing. It also has cost me a wife, a lot of friends and even more time.’ Chris
What feature are you most proud of?
Kurt - There’s a lot of different ones that come to mind. I definitely pissed a few people off with the BMX Economics pieces I wrote for example, but I’d say my best would be the Skype interview I recently did with Mat Hoffman. That was one off the bucket list for sure.
Jon - That’s a tough one! I am really proud of the certified helmet buyers guide (http://canyoudigitbmx.com/buyers-guide-certified-helmets/ ) that I put together at the beginning of this year. I’m definitely not one to sugar coat anything, so just like the title said, it was “brutally honest.” I wanted to do my best to inform my readers of the positives and negatives of every helmet that I tested. Other sites have things to take into consideration when they “review” products. You know, like not upsetting advertisers or potential advertisers! Not having to care about that allows me to really rip into things I don’t like when I’m reviewing a product.
Chris - I am super proud of everything we have done.
In the beginning, did you intend to make a living from the site?
Kurt - Not at all, it was a school project that I was doing for fun because it allowed me to do a website and get involved with BMX more. I never expected to be competing with Ride BMX, Vital BMX, DIG or any of the other sites out there. It really wasn’t the goal at the start either. Unfortunately in the BMX industry you have to work your ass off to really “make a living” so the site doesn’t actually “make a living” for me, but it does supplement it.
Jon - Oh god no! I’ve been around the BMX industry long enough to know how little money there is in it, and how stingy companies are about spending the money that they do have. Considering CYDI only targets a small segment of an already small industry, I never really thought it would have enough of an audience to command the advertising dollars of websites that cater to all aspects of BMX. As far as BMX goes right now, street riding is what the majority of people are into, and websites that cater to that are the ones that companies want to advertise on. That said, we do have two awesome companies who advertise with us, Merritt and United. I think it’s amazing that they support the site, but I’m even more stoked that they are supporting the trails scene in general. They could very easily not be bothered and just focus 100% on the catering to the street kids. I think it says something that they feel strongly enough about supporting the trail scene that they not only advertise on CYDI, but also sponsor trail riders and have trails oriented products in the line.
Chris - I had always hoped it would work that way. I first played with publishing in BMX in high school when I printed my zine called "faction", which I still have every issue of. Publishing is a process and a product I thoroughly enjoy.
‘I’d say it took maybe a year before I started picking up advertisers. It was definitely easier then too. More brands were able to afford to support something like this than they are now.’ Kurt
How long did it take to build a decent audience, and how many visitors does your site receive nowadays?
Kurt - Over the course of the eight years the site has been going, it’s had its fair share of ups and downs. I’ve learned A LOT about ways to get traffic generated from social media to search engines and just general word of mouth. It averages around 8,000 to 10,000 a day dependent on the content going up and if Facebook isn’t idling the reach of posts. If a well known rider drops a banger of a video, or a really innovative product or a new interview or something goes up, the number jumps up quite a bit.
Jon - The audience grew very organically. I didn’t even tell anybody about the site for a pretty long time. I figured that I should spend a couple of months getting content posted up before I did that. Somehow someone eventually discovered the site by stumbling across one of those posts. They shared it with other people, and so on, and so on. It was actually kind of funny because I would see people talking about the site on Facebook, wondering who was doing it. I actually got a few emails to the CYDI address from people asking who was behind the site. Being the smart ass that I am, I would write back with terrible grammar and punctuation with some crazy shit about being a subsidiary of a Chinese bicycle manufacturer looking to tap into the emerging extreme dirt jumping market. Eventually it got out that I was behind it though.
I really don’t know how long it took to build up a “decent” audience because I didn’t have any analytics set up for quite a long time. I just gauged things on the social interaction on post, and from people telling me that they were psyched on the site.
These days the site gets between 1500 and 2000 unique visitors per day, and that’s fucking amazing to me. Maybe I’m being a bit optimistic, but I’d like to think that a good percentage of those people are out there digging and helping keep the trails scene thriving.
Chris - It has taken a long time. I have never had a ton of money at my disposal to pay people to build sites or fix things or write articles. So if I wanted those things done I had to learn how to do them myself, which takes a lot of time. But it definitely has not been a 100% solo effort. A lot of people have been a part of PSBMX and have contributed a great deal. Nick Soloninka and Mateusz Szachowski have been the most embedded and we couldn't be where we are without them and many others. We now get about 70k visitors a month.
‘We’re definitely past the era of when Trails Nazism reigned, but there are still some dudes out there who take shit way too seriously.’ Jon
Jon Saunders at his local trails, shot by Jacob Dyke
After launching the site, how long did it take until you started to make money from it?
Kurt - I can’t really remember when it first started making money. It wasn’t right away. I’d say it took maybe a year before I started picking up advertisers. It was definitely easier then, too. More brands were able to afford to support something like this than they are now. I’ve had to change the way I do things pretty drastically to make it still work, haha.
Jon - I actually entered into a partnership with The Union about six months after starting the site. The basic idea of it was that CYDI and a few other niche BMX sites, such as Flat Matters and The Merged would be under the umbrella of The Union. Kurt had quite a few existing relationships with advertisers, and the idea was to offer them a network of sites to advertise on. It seemed like a cool idea, so I went with it! One thing I was very clear on was that the ads distributed on CYDI had to be targeted towards trail riders. I didn’t want ads on the site for pegs, wax, hub guards or any weird shit like that. It made perfect sense to me but a few companies seemed to have problems grasping the idea. Kurt was cool about it though and would always give me the final say if an ad ran on CYDI or not. We had that thing going with The Union until Kurt decided to go a different direction with advertising. He was pretty fed with some of the BS he was dealing with from the companies he had advertising on the sites, so he pulled the plug on them and explored some other advertising options outside of the BMX industry.
Chris - I will let you know as soon as that happens. Haha. Instead of focusing on competing with Vital and Pinkbike for ad dollars I have mostly leveraged the site to get involved in events and other projects. That has led to me to doing event direction for Red Bull, the Outlaws of Dirt series and to helping create evolve action sports park in Denver, Colorado. So in a indirect way I make my living through the site.
‘As much as I wish I could say running The Union was how I made a living, that would be completely false.’ Kurt
Kurt Hohberger, Misc photos including Nora Cup top.top left
Most and least enjoyable aspects of running the site?
Kurt - Most enjoyable is just giving riders exposure. I really enjoy giving guys who don’t expect to see their name up on the site a chance to get some shine time. It’s awesome seeing an unheard of rider end up sponsored.
Least enjoyable… The business side of things. I run things on a very minimal amount of money and all of it goes toward paying filmers and photographers when I have the chance, or to cover expenses like taxes, hosting, etc. I hated asking brands to advertise so much that I eliminated that at the start of this year. I don’t like feeling like I constantly owe people something and I couldn’t handle that. I’d rather do what I’m stoked on versus promoting something because it’s expected because I was given some money.
Jon - I’d say we’re definitely past the era of when Trails Nazism reigned, but there are still some dudes out there who take shit way too seriously. Having to deal with them from time to time is never enjoyable.
There are a lot of enjoyable aspects that come along with running the site! If I had to choose one that’s the most, I’d have to say it would be to opportunity that it has afforded me to talk to people from all over the world who are share the same passion for trails that I do.
Chris - Most enjoyable is definitely the countless trips we have done and all the people we have met along the way. Least enjoyable is the time it takes. It takes a lot of time to make PSBMX happen. I have had three full days off in four years. The internet doesn't close and to stay current you have to always be on the gas! I spend a minimum of three hours a day working on the site itself. That is on top of whatever else I have scheduled to do that day. My average work day is around 12 hours long. I have so many stories about working in strange places or at ridiculous hours all around the world. Including a bath tub in Taiwan because it was the only spot I could get WiFi or hiding in someone's bushes in New Mexico so I could steal some WiFi... Haha. I have pretty much become a WiFi ninja.
Describe a typical ‘day in the life’?
Kurt - Typically, I get up about 7am, make some coffee and hit the computer to check out new videos, products, etc. and get those posted up and shared on social media. Once that’s done, I’ll catch up on emails, bounce some ideas for new features and keep up with the new videos and everything that pop up throughout the day. I’m also always working on other projects outside of the site that fill some of my time.
Jon - A typical day starts with my son waking us up around 7am. The first couple hours of the morning is pretty much filled up with playing with him, getting breakfast sorted out, and getting the lady off to work. I hand the little man off to the nanny around 9:30 and then head down to the office to get my work day going. I usually spend the first hour taking care of CYDI stuff. Posting, getting store orders packed up, and whatever else there is to do. After that it’s real job time. During the summer I generally try to get out to the trails around 5pm or so for a few hours. After that it’s back to the house for dinner and relaxing with the family. Winter always throws things off because it gets dark so early. Depending on my workload, I’ll either get up and head out to the trails at 5am for a couple of hours of digging before the family wakes up, or I’ll cut out of work a little early to go dig.
‘Over saturated? No. The cool thing about the internet is that it gives people a place to voice what they want. But it is getting harder and harder to find a unique space/niche that is not occupied by someone.’ Chris
Chris Olivier, Misc photos
Do you have another job?
Kurt - As much as I wish I could say running The Union was how I made a living, that would be completely false. I actually don’t really pay myself for keeping the site going just to assure I have the money to keep things going. One thing that not a lot of people know is that I’m the social media manager for Flybikes. So, all their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and website posts are usually from me. I’ve been working for them for about two years now and it has been awesome. Without them, I would not be able to spend as much time as I do keeping The Union updated. I don’t really advertise it because I don’t want brands to think I play favorites or something… I’ve been called out for that once, and it really pissed me off because I work really hard to keep the two separate.
I also do some IT Management for a local trucking company that I’ve worked for, for the past 8 years as well. I used to work there on a daily basis, but now I’m only there once or twice a week to fix a computer or other computer related issues.
… If that wasn’t enough, I’m on the board of two local non-profit organizations. The first is called The Commission, which is a group of young business minded professionals that get together to work on different projects and get involved with the community. The other is called the Keep Pushing Forward Skatepark Foundation which was created to help raise funds to repair and expand the local skatepark here in Rochester, Minnesota and then hopefully expand to other local towns in the area to give more people the opportunity to get involved with BMX and skateboarding. So, technically I have 5 different jobs?
Jon - Several! I handle web content management for a few different clients. Though I do sometimes have hard deadlines on stuff, most of the time my schedule is pretty flexible. I’m grateful because that does sometimes give me that chance to cut out early to go dig. I just have to finish up the work in evening.
Do you think the digital world of BMX is over-saturated now? Is there any room for new websites?
Kurt - With Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Vimeo and all the different websites, it’s pretty crowded. I’ve seen a number of websites start and disappear pretty quickly because people realize there’s not much money and it takes a lot of time and work to make things work. There’s still room now if you’re doing something different. For example, Shad Johnson started Snakebite BMX which is a site that’s focused on the past more than present. I’m always stoked to see what pops up on there. Sometimes I feel a little out of place because I don’t have the staff or the ability to really make it to all the major contests like the other guys, but I do what I can.
Jon - I don’t necessarily think that the digital world of BMX is over-saturated. For the most part, every site out there has its own unique voice. People connect with different things, so there needs to be a variety of different digital outlets for them to choose from.
Chris - Over saturated? No. The cool thing about the internet is that it does give people a place to voice what they want. But it is getting harder and harder to find a unique space/niche that is not occupied by someone. I always encourage people to give it a shot. Just understand it takes way more work than you might be able to comprehend... Haha.
‘Running and maintaining a website is a constant learning experience, and the skills I’ve learned from doing so have lead to a lot of work opportunities.’ Jon
If you could go back to the beginning, would you do anything differently?
Other than that, not really. Everything has been a learning experience. I’ve learned so much, accomplished some pretty heavy goals, met a lot of amazing people, experienced a lot of wild things and I know there’s still so much more that can happen. I just have to keep working and we’ll see where it goes.
Jon - Nope!
Chris - A couple of things for sure, but they are technical and boring to talk about. For the most part I would not change anything. I am happy with where we are and we will keep pushing ahead!
What’s the most important lesson running a BMX site has taught you?
Kurt - If you really want to do something, there’s nothing that says you can't do it. You just have to put in a lot of hard work, time and effort. Quitting is A LOT easier than sticking to something even if it’s not panning out just how you expected or wish it had.
Jon - I think it would be a continuation of what building trails has taught me, and that’s to be self motivated.
Chris - Hmmmm. Not sure what I would classify as the most important. I have learned a lot though that's for sure.
Describe the main ways running your site has affected your life, both within and outside of the riding world.
Kurt - It’s taught me a lot. I’ve experienced so much because of it. I’ve travelled a lot of places, made a lot of friends, experienced things that not a lot of people get the opportunity to do, get the chance to focus on things that I really like to do and I’m always excited to see what’s to come. The scary part is I don’t know where I’ll be in a year, 5 years, 10 years… I didn’t know when I started this 8 years ago and I still won’t 8 years from now.
Jon - I’ve met a lot of awesome people and made a lot of great friends through doing CYDI!
Outside of the riding world, running CYDI has definitely helped me out professionally. Running and maintaining a website is a constant learning experience, and the skills I’ve learned from doing so have lead to a lot of work opportunities.
Chris - I could probably write a book on this question alone or at the very least a long collection of short stories. The opportunities that PSBMX has afforded me have been amazing. The trips, the friends, the events and every other bit has been amazing. It also has cost me a wife, a lot of friends and even more time. But it has been fun and definitely worth it.
‘Most of us work more than one job to sustain a spot in this industry. It’s unfortunate, but you learn to do a lot of different things in the process, which can be super valuable outside of BMX.’ Kurt
Has running a BMX site changed your view on the industry?
Kurt - Yeah, it has. When you just ride BMX, it’s a whole different world than working in the industry. The industry is really tight knit and it has its ups and downs… People change and you hear and see some interesting things that most people will never know about that can be good and bad. I’ve had my perspective changed on things many times and it can be discouraging or encouraging dependent on the situation. I’ve been caught up in some shitty situations a few times that I wish never happened, but they were all learning experiences.
Jon - It’s definitely made even more aware of how little the majority of the BMX industry cares about the trails scene right now. Going back to what I was saying about only wanting ads on the site that were targeted towards trail riders. We had one company send in an ad showing off their hub fitted with a hub guard. I immediately emailed Kurt about it, and he emailed the company saying, “hey you guys should make an ad that will actually resonate with this audience.” To both of our surprise, they absolutely didn’t want to do it! I got really pissed off about it because the company also happened to sponsor one of my friends. What made things even more confusing was that he had a signature trails frame out with them. It made absolutely no sense to me as to why they didn’t want to support him by creating an ad for his frame that would run on a site with an audience who would be interested in buying it.
Chris - I have been in the industry for a long time. So it hasn't affected my view of it. I have known it was shit for years... Haha.
How feasible is it to make a living from BMX?
Kurt - It’s feasible… Dependent on what you are hoping to make a living with. If you want to make a lot of money and have fancy things… Good luck. Only a handful of people see decent money, and that usually doesn’t last forever. There are opportunities everywhere if you’re a hard worker, but you really have to earn your spot in this world to make a decent living. Most of us work more than one job to sustain a spot in this industry. It’s unfortunate, but you learn to do a lot of different things in the process, which can be super valuable outside of BMX.
Jon - Well that all depends on what your standard of living is! There are plenty of people making a living working in the BMX industry. Could they probably be making more working in a different industry? Absolutely! But that’s a sacrifice that a lot of people are willing to make in order to work in an industry that they love.
As far as making a living from riding BMX. Let’s just say that the word “professional” gets thrown around way more in the BMX industry than it really should. If you’re professional at something that means that is how you make your living. There are only a handful of riders out there who really fit into that definition. Unless you’re 15 and still living at home with your parents, getting a few hundred bucks a month from a company isn’t making a living! I think it would be perfectly reasonable to say that 98% of “professional” BMX riders aren’t making anywhere near what you could call a living from BMX.
Chris - Definitely not easy! Some avenues are much easier than others. A lot of opportunities still exist in the industry, but keep in mind the more you work in the bike industry the less time you get to ride. The worst part is you are surrounded by them all day just taunting you and laughing at you for working when you want to be riding.
'We grew up in an era where you had to put in work and build something in order to ride. That’s something that the last few generations of riders who came after us haven’t had to do.’ Jon
Is the trails scene dying?
Kurt - This is one of those weird ones that can have a few different answers. Are there fewer dirt contests? Yeah. Are there fewer trails? We’ve seen a handful of legendary spots get ploughed, but the funny thing about trails is for every one you have heard of, there’s probably 10 smaller unheard of spots that a small dedicated group of guys are putting in work to enjoy on their own terms. You have probably heard that BMX goes in circles… Trends come and go and come back around again. It was trails that were big, then skateparks and now street is all people want to do, but I think a lot of people are getting burned out on that now. There’s only so many edits of people linking grinds, barspins, tailwhips and fakies with a freecoaster you can watch before it starts getting old. I’ve noticed more trails videos surfacing lately, and I think a number of pros have even started taking a liking to it again. Do I think trails will make some sort of huge come back? No, but I think we’ll see it becoming more popular again. A good balance of trails, skateparks and street is what I really want to see. It’s also good to see flatland getting some steam again.
Jon - Though the number of trails and level of participation is definitely down from where it was in its heyday in the late 90s and early 2000s, the trail scene is far from dying. The way I look at it is that we are between generations. Trails were what it was about for my generation. BMX was still very heavily influenced by racing, and building and riding trails was a direct reflection of that. It was also a necessity back then because skateparks were few and far between. We grew up in an era where you had to put in work and build something in order to ride. That’s something that the last few generations of riders who came after us haven’t had to do. They’ve grown up with there being skateparks all over. That combined with the rise in popularity of street riding, and the BMX media fully embracing it has led to the place we are right now. Kids imitate what they see, and street riding is what is predominantly presented to them through the majority of BMX media channels. The thing about riding street is that it doesn’t take any work to do it. You can just roll out of your front door and the world is your playground. That’s especially true of the kind of nib-jib street riding that’s popular today. Having never really had to work in order to ride, those kids probably won’t ever pick up shovels and start building trails. Things do go in cycles though, and my generation who grew up with trails being what it was all about has gotten older and started having kids of our own. By being around their dads and being exposed to trails and what it takes to build them, I think the trails scene will experience its renaissance as those kids grow up.
Chris - I don't think so. Colorado has a bunch of city owned bike parks. What I call playground trails. Super fun places to ride without a doubt, but I feared that this would make riders complacent and stop digging at other spots. That's definitely how it started out but now the riders are starting to get bored and are picking up shovels and building the scene back up. I hope the same is happening in other places as well. I don't think you can keep the trail scene down. It's just too much fun.
What are your long-term website plans?
Kurt - Long term… I’m going to keep chugging as long as I can on it. I’m going to keep paying people for videos and photos for as long as I can. I’m going to promote and support riders and brands that are kicking ass. If there’s a time when there’s more money to work with, I’d love to get a few people on as staff that I can count on. I have a lot of ideas and things I would love to do, but I’m not about to make people work for free… That’s not how things should be done. I’ll be the last one you’ll catch begging brands to support what WE are doing financially, though. So, more work and hope that more people take notice and support what BMX Union is working towards.
Jon - Keep on doing what I’m doing and also work on creating more original content for the site. I’d really like to get back to creating video content, whether that is finding someone to help create it, or picking up a camera myself.
Chris - Well we recently launched our new mobile optimized site and we do have some new things in the works but not quite ready to share those. But stay tuned!
'No one is stoked on a hammer lying on a bench no matter how cool it is. But you can and should be amazed by what people build with it. I see Bikes in a similar fashion.’ Chris
What would you say to someone whose ambition is to make a living from a BMX website?
Jon - I would probably try to steer them in another direction since the likelihood of making a living from a BMX website is pretty low. I also don’t think that should be a motivating factor for starting a BMX site.
Chris - Do something else! Haha. There are much easier ways to make a living in the bike industry and even more outside of it. But if you feel you want to give it a try make sure to stay true to your voice, stick to what you want to say and buy a WiFi hotspot that works all around the world! Haha
Would you do it all again?
Kurt - Oh, hell yeah. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love every minute of it.
Jon - Absolutely!
Chris - Of course.
'The opportunities that PSBMX has afforded me have been amazing. The trips, the friends, the events and every other bit has been amazing. It has also has cost me a wife, a lot of friends and even more time. But it has been fun and definitely worth it.’ Chris