I lived in Southern California and toured across the U.S. with GT bicycles for a couple years in the mid 1990s. We'd tow a quarterpipe behind a van to large metropolises as well as towns that didn't have a gas station. Whenever we met riders I'd invariably hear, "My town sucks!"
Common complaints were that there weren't any ramps, the city plowed the jumps, the school didn't let BMXers ride on campus and on and on. They'd often lament with starry eyes about the California riding scene that seemingly only existed in magazines. While California has indeed provided for some bicycle nirvana in the past, most pros don't live there anymore. BMX talent is now spread throughout the country.
Since those GT days I've lived in six cities on both sides of the country, but for the past three years I've called State College, Pennsylvania home. Beyond the rolling hills and fields of Amish country are acres of bike-riding paradise known as Camp Woodward.
Pros such as Jamie Bestwick and Kevin Robinson were lured here and stayed because of the friendly, sport-driven atmosphere. Besides what is arguably the best riding equipment in the world, Woodward's surrounding area has a little bit of everything. Thanks, in part to Penn State University, there is a youthful scene that attracts touring bands, and provides good food and fun.
Another one of the most progressive riding scenes in the world is that of Greenville, North Carolina. The list of top pros that live in Greenville is second to none. Nyquist, Mirra, Darden, Guettler, McKay and Cooke are just a few that have migrated here.
Mike Mancuso describes it as, "Pro Town BMX." World-renowned pro Dave Mirra put the spotlight on Greenville when he moved down from New York, but guys like Mancuso and Josh Harrington called it home before all the hype.
The mild year-round weather attracts a lot of riders, but the diverse talent and spots keep them planted.
If you want to be part of the scene in BMX, Greenville is the place to do it.
"There's always a ton of upcoming pros and people that just love to ride their bikes, including kids that move here for college," notes Mancuso.
Weather seems to be a common theme in desirable places to live, and it's no exception when it comes to bike riders. When riding started paying the bills, Tom Haugen moved from Minnesota to Orlando, Florida in pursuit of a better riding future.
"You can ride all year-round outside and have a variety of parks to choose from," says Tom.
Tom has four great parks within thirty minutes of his house. You might catch him at Vans or Merritt Island on any given day. Old school guys like Rob Nolli and Dave Brumlow have given Orlando a good name and Tom is keeping it alive.
Next up is Austin, Texas. If you know your BMX history, then you know what a role Austin has played in that history. Joe Rich, Pat Miller, Kevin Guitierez, Chase Hawk and a host of others have lived and ridden in Austin.
"Austin has always had a tradition of being a place where riders ride because they enjoy riding, and not because they are competitive or trying to outdo everybody," says Taj Mihelich of Terrible One Bikes.
One of the local hot spots is the 9th street jumps. These jumps are located in the middle of a park in downtown Austin and are just a few cranks away from everything else that the city has to offer.
Taj sums it up best: "As a whole the city is pretty mellow and revolves around music and food."
Denver, Colorado may not scream "BMX," but it doesn't need to. With a Woodward skatepark and plenty of bike-friendly cement parks throughout the metro area, there is no need to strain the vocal chords.
Pro vert rider Jay Eggleston is deep in the Denver scene and makes a point to mention the great cardio training you're exposed to in the Mile High City.
"You can be skiing or snowboarding within an hour's drive of town and return home in the evening to no snow in Denver," Jay enthuses.
The Lip Lords are a staple bike crew in Denver, but there is a new breed coming up, too. New faces, like that of John Chin are starting to standout in the competitive arena. Clean air, snow, lots of sunshine and parks--all courtesy of Denver.
See a common thread here? All these guys love where they live and appreciate the good things in life. Some of them had to move to find what they were looking for, and some of them made it happen in their backyard. Every once in a while you have to stop, take a look around and try to what you have. And if you're not stoked, know that there's always another shreddable city just down the road.Join the Discussion: Where do you ride?
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