If you have been around BMX long enough, you know that trends and fads come and go pretty frequently. It can be tricky keeping up with the current flavor of the week, but it’s not always as easy as you might think to get BMX riders, brands, shops, distributors, media and more on board with something new. There’s a resistance to change in BMX that is pretty apparent.
As BMX Union closes in on 10 years of existence, we’ve been thinking about all of the changes we’ve seen in that time. The bikes are different, the Pro riders are different, the brands have evolved and changed (for the better, mostly), the way products are bought and sold has changed, the way you consume the ever evolving media content has changed and the style of riders has completely changed. Change has happened and depending on your view of a glass of water, you could feel that BMX is the best it has ever been or it could be a complete dumpster fire. Alright, that’s a little extreme, but there are definitely people that would love to see things like “the good old days” and not this current state of BMX.
What really got us thinking about this started last year when Eclat introduced their 25.4mm bars and stem, and how it got this crazy reaction that was all over the board. Some people loved it, others had no problem announcing that they thought it was a completely shit idea. There were a lot of people floating around in the middle, too. Then the other day BSD announced they were giving it a shot as well, and it reignited the same exact reaction we saw a few months prior. Except, it was kind of weird how it was responded to. On our Facebook page, we had a ton of comments that ranged from positive to negative, but many were negative and against this new option. If you checked BSD’s Instagram, it was a completely different story. Comments were positive, kids wanted to know when they could get it and there wasn’t much for negative feedback. On the negative side, one of the most common responses we saw was “why fix what isn’t broken?”, which is pretty common when it comes to something “new” when it comes to products in BMX. I don’t think anyone can deny that BMX bikes have never been better than what we have today. The manufacturing process is much, much better. The materials are dialed in. We are seeing micro adjustments in geometry versus drastic changes. It can be hard to make out differences from one brands product to another because it has become pretty dialed in. Having a rider endorse a product over another can make the difference of one product selling and another, almost identical, to only do okay.
At the same time, we have also heard a lot of riders starting to complain that things are getting boring. Products are too similar, there’s nothing that stands out, everyone has pretty similar color options. Yeah, sure, there’s a good chance we have a over saturated BMX frame market…. But then a brand like Nowear release a frame like their Mike DiNello frame that completely breaks away from the mold and you get this crazy reaction. Instantly, the majority hate it because it looks different. I won’t lie, I thought it was a little out there when I saw it the first few times. I really didn’t think it would take off. What’s really crazy? They’ve sold quite a few of them so far. So, maybe this crazy idea wasn’t quite as crazy as people thought and taking a shot at something different actually appealed to people.
Thinking back, we have seen a lot of things that have seen a lot of resistance. Remember when bars hit 8″ and above for the first time? People were losing their minds over the change because it was different. Why would anyone want to ride 10″ bars that are 30″ wide? It looks ridiculous! But, after that initial reaction had hit, 9″ and 10″ rise bars became pretty common and now you’re the crazy one for riding anything smaller than 8″.
What about girl pants? That was a weird time. We had riders going from baggy pants to skin tight pants that were probably a size or 3 too small for people. There was a lot of resistance to that one, but now days baggy pants are pretty ridiculous and snugger (not as snug as before) pants are pretty much the norm. That one was probably a bigger thing for fashion than BMX, but it still had it’s mini explosion that caught hell in the BMX world.
Plastic pedals? Plastic pegs? That battle was one that probably should go down in the history books as BMX’s own Civil War. There was A LOT of back and forth over plastic pedals and pegs and it was oddly enough tied back to a riders manhood. Either you rode metal… or you were a pussy that rode plastic! Wait, what? How the hell does that even work? But people got over it and now look, there are way more plastic pedals and peg options than there are metal. At least it seems that way. We haven’t gone through to actually count the options. Regardless, pedals are cheaper and grinds are smoother because the resistance to plastic didn’t last. That’s coming from somebody that has metal pedals and metal pegs still…
How about freecoasters? Those weren’t an overnight success by any means. In fact, some people were calling people that rode a freecoaster cheaters because it made going backwards easy! Sure, it was in part a problem with the reliability of the actual hub that really kept it from catching steam. Then all of the sudden it seemed like every single brand was making a freecoaster and it was almost weird to hear the sound of clicking from a hub when you were catching a session with friends. Once again, there was a lot of resistance. The same could probably be said for every part on your bike. Everything has had evolution of some form that probably made somebody uncomfortable that lead to the “why fix what isn’t broken?” statement. All we know is we have seen some insane things done on a BMX bike because of a freecoaster that we’re positive isn’t cheating…
Shifting gears a little bit to the industry side of things. As technology, social media and the internet has expanded and grown, there has been no shortage of growing pains. Years ago, there was only one way to go. If you were a brand, you sold to distributors and those distributors sold your product to the shops and mail-orders in a specific territory. You don’t have a local shop? Well, pick up the phone or get your stamps out and mail-in your order to Dan’s, Empire (Trend?) or Albe’s… Maybe hop on that super slow internet connection and make it happen that way. As technology advanced, the world of business sped up exponentially, the way people started to buy and sell things changed. I don’t remember the exact year, but I remember Eastern Bikes made the decision to also sell their products on their website and all hell broke loose. Shops refused to carry them, distributors dropped them, riders revolted. Why would you give people another way to buy your products when there are no other options? Believe it or not, as e-commerce was just starting to really take shape, that was the biggest act of treason you could have committed when it came to BMX business. Even to this day there is still resistance to brands selling direct from their websites, but we have seen the tone change. There are only a handful of BMX brands that don’t have their products available on their websites. There are a TON of bike shops that also have online stores, giving them the opportunity to sell to people globally, not just people within their local reach. Should brands support the shops and distributors? Of course. Should riders support local shops? OF COURSE. Is it that easy? Of course not. The vast majority of shops only carry a small selection of products a brand offers. It would be impossible for them to carry every single product every single brand makes. The same goes for distributors. It’s not like a brand can make anything and everything and know they will be able to sell everything to their distributors around the world and call it a day. A big part of brands selling on their websites is because there are gaps they need to fill to generate the sales that are necessary to keep doing what they do. They need a place for people to buy the products that their local shop, distributor or mail-order don’t have available. Sure, there are flaws in the system and kinks to be worked out, but it would be insane to avoid selling online.
… By the way, have you given our Store a look?
Some of you might recall the post we did called Maybe It’s Time For BMX To Take A Real Look At Amazon about a year ago. It got people talking about a subject that not too many people really wanted to be public about, but it was being talked about. Selling on Amazon is one of those things that has caused some heavy debates and stress. We actually had a shop email us to tell us that they no longer supported our website because of the post. It turns out that it’s actually another stream to reach potential customers. Especially people who have never really looked at BMX bikes and people who are too lazy to actually shop around. Guess what? More shops and even a few distributors have started selling on Amazon. Does it suck that it messes up the support system? Hell yeah it does… But not doing it just lets the knock of brands make their money and not even give a dime back to BMX. So, why not at least put the actual brands in front of those shoppers?
The point we are getting to is that BMX had seen A LOT of resistance as technology evolved and E-Commerce became a real part of the industry. Sure, there are still people that are out there that absolutely HATE the idea of buying something online… But ask any shop or brand that has added it to their sales plan if it helped. It’s becoming normal. It’s becoming a standard. People are buying and selling differently than they did 10 years ago.
Another interesting aspect that has seen a lot of resistance in BMX is the way media is consumed. When the “print is dead” message started surfacing, there was a lot of speculation. The same could be said for DVD’s. I don’t think many people really expected to see things change the way they did or how fast. sure, there are still people out there that would love to have a print magazine shipped to them so they can check it out while sitting on the toilet. There are still people that want to buy a DVD when it comes out. As times changed and as technology has evolved, it became harder and harder to convince people to buy a magazine with so much free content online. At least to the amount that made publishing one worthwhile and sustainable. We have seen all of the big magazines cease printing, at least as a regular thing. I think BMX Rider Magazine in Europe is one of the last? Maybe a few other smaller ones I’m blanking on here. There are only a handful of actual DVD’s being produced. Digital downloads are becoming more common, but even then it’s hard to sell it. The transition was weird. People lost jobs and budgets were slashed. It took a complete change of direction for everyone. Sure, everyone had their websites but it was more of how do we promote the next issue and convert visitors to paying subscribers versus how do we get as many views and possible on this post on the site to increase ad revenue? It has been a rough transition, some held out better than others. It was one of those evolve or die situations that caused a lot of resistance in BMX. There are stacks of magazines in the office. There’s a DVD rack filled with DVD’s we’ve collected and reviewed over the years. They are rarely looked at because keeping up with the constant flow of videos and online content has become the most efficient and easiest way to reach you guys. Why buy a video when it’ll be online in a few months for free? Do we want to see DVD’s go away? No. We love seeing people put out new videos. We love seeing a bunch of zines popping up. It’s still necessary.
The same could be said for Vlogs. Don’t get us wrong… We aren’t a huge fan of watching somebody talk to themselves and fill us in on every detail of their day that we really don’t care that much about, but it has lead to some pretty interesting content. When Adam LZ started really blowing up, there was a lot of negativity and push back from riders. Nobody expected the Vlogging or Youtube video channel thing to actually be a thing. But now guys like Scotty Cranmer has tweaked things and it’s become way more popular and more bearable in certain aspects and situations. Don’t get us wrong, we will take riding over talking all day, but it’s different and it has lead to some pretty cool things.
There’s a lot more we could go on about, but let’s wrap this up and end this strange rant. What we’re trying to say is that BMX has seen a lot of resistance over the years to change on and off the bike, in real life and online. Yeah, having that guard up has been good to keep some pretty terrible ideas (people, things, etc.) from taking advantage of this sport of ours, but at the same time a lot of the things that have been resisted ended up leading to something good. Products are more dialed than ever, you have more options than ever to buy those parts to keep your bike rolling, you can keep up with every single rider you’re stoked on all day long, watch all of the latest videos — some from riders from some country you have never even imagined had BMX. Maybe not resisting so much and being more open to new ideas or new ways of doing things might not be as bad as it might seem. I mean, had a lot of ideas and ways doing things given up, we might not have it as good as we do today. Do I expect this to change anything? Nope… We’re a stubborn breed that hates being told what to do or think, but it’s what has been on the mind lately. Oh, and that whole 25.4mm thing is a little crazy… But we’ll see what happens!
Let us know what you think in the comments below…