I have to be honest with you here, there are times when I sit around and think for hours, days and sometimes a full week until an idea for a new column pops into my head. Week after week I have been searching for ways to keep things fresh and ways to keep people interested. I simply try to give a reason to check back every Wednesday to see what the new TTL will be about. For those that don’t know, I have officially started my East Coast summer at Woodward and for this week’s column I am very stoked to present an interview with vert legend Jamie Bestwick. Jamie is arguably the best vert rider on the planet and although he doesn’t like to admit that, I doubt there are any riders out there that would argue that fact. He is the type of rider that has an incredible drive to be the best at what he does. He has had a wild journey in BMX so far and has set the bar to an almost unreachable height. Jamie has won eight X Games gold medals in a row and shows zero signs of slowing down anytime soon. He is at the peak of his career and somehow remains level headed, modest and as down to earth as it gets. We recently spent some time hanging out on a quiet afternoon in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania and while we were hanging out I fired some questions his way, and this was the result. Enjoy.
So, what have you been up to lately?
I had an insane year last year. I did the Olympics for NBC, I rode all of the vert contests, I did a car racing series for Toyota and I also did the Baja 1000 for Monster Energy at the end of the year. It was all an amazing experience. When I got back in December I was whooped and I just really wanted to take four months to ride my bike, go to the gym, work out and keep fit. I didn’t really take on the car racing responsibilities this year and I just set out to have fun riding my bike and learn some new stuff for the contest season. My wife and I just bought a 3000 square foot building that we are turning into a new fitness studio in State College, PA. We are trying to make a place in town where like-minded people can come in and work out. We’re both passionate about exercise and keeping fit so we spent the first half of the year just doing that.
Now that X Games is over for the year, how would you compare the new contest series to the old “big show” single stop style of the past?
I really enjoyed it, it was a different experience. Especially going to countries that have never had the X Games before. The views on the vert ramp in Brazil and Spain were priceless. They really did their homework putting together such an awesome package for vert and that totally made the trip worthwhile. It was as hot as an oven but if we can keep the views it’s worth the suffering. The contests have been great this year. For me it’s kind of been a record-breaking season. You know some people tally up the medals and it turns out that I’ve won eight in a row now, which is kind of unprecedented. I’ve just enjoyed being at the X Games a lot more than being at that one Los Angeles stop. I felt that the pressure of going to L.A. every year was just a lot. Everyone was focused on this one contest. Attitudes would change just in that X Games week and it got kind of stressful. Anytime you can depart from your existing environment and go somewhere new everyone seems to get into it a little bit more. Both Brazil and Spain had amazing views but the riding in Barcelona was so much better. I really enjoyed them both and I thought they were very well received.
A lot of people seemed to get frustrated about park and vert not being in L.A. this year but everyone seemed to focus on vert and forgot that park was out too. Everybody just took it as a knee jerk reaction that they are getting rid of vert at the X Games. It was more that they weren’t having vert in L.A. but they were putting it in Brazil and Spain. For me, the only frustrating thing for me is that the vert ramp is going to be set up at every stop regardless for the skateboarders. They are going to have a vert ramp anyways, and they have plenty of time to do the contest but if I have to lose L.A. and Munich in order to gain Barcelona and Brazil then yeah, I’ll take that. So for me the X Games have been a tremendous experience this year. It’s nice to see that these events were well-received in these different countries.
Is there a point where winning so much just becomes old or less exciting for you?
The thrill of competition is always exciting. Those nerves, and that time when it’s on you whether or not you produce in your moment. That’s always an exciting time. For me, I’ll never forget the feeling of winning my first X Games medal in 2000. It was basically a showdown between Dave Mirra and myself on the vert ramp. He knew I had an ace in my pocket and it was just whether or not I was going to pull it out. That to me was the most memorable.
You mentioned having some new tricks that you wanted to do at X Games but didn’t get the chance to. Are we going to be seeing any of that at the upcoming Dew Tour in Maryland?
I might do them this week, I might do them for a web edit. It’s just one of those times where when it feels right, you want to go. It’s not like it’s ever a set plan like in the old days where I would call myself out. I’ll go to Ocean City just like everyone else, and I’ll have my tricks. I know that I can put a great run together and on any given day it could quite possibly win the contest. This time I think I have to go with a different approach and do something for myself. There are certain things that I want to accomplish. The past two years at the Dew Tour I’ve left the door open for people to come in and win the contest and it was on them to do it and they couldn’t fulfill the task. This year I don’t think I’m going to allow that kind of scenario to happen. I may be more of an aggressive rider going to Ocean City than I’ve been before.
What are your thoughts on helmets in BMX?
To wear a helmet doing what we do is a no brainer really. For every fundraiser that I hear about it just bums me out to think why wasn’t that guy wearing a helmet or why wasn’t it up to satisfactory standards. To wear some inferior plastic helmet just doesn’t make any sense. You wouldn’t ride a motorcycle at 200 mph in a pair of board shorts, flip flops and a beanie so why would you put something in danger that you love so much just by not wearing a helmet. It takes five seconds to put a helmet on. It takes me just as long to put my helmet on as it does to put a baseball hat on and the helmet could save your life but a baseball hat wont. I’ve worked closely with the developers of Bell over the past few years and we actually have a vert helmet coming out later this year.
Since you mentioned keeping fit and working out, do you put a lot of energy into your riding away from the vert ramp?
I feel like without me working out I wouldn’t be able to be on the bike as much as I am. I’m addicted to riding my bike. I love coming to Woodward and I come here religiously. If it wasn’t for going to the gym, riding my road bike, doing yoga, and running, I couldn’t be as active as I am on my BMX bike.
Speaking of Woodward, how has it been having a vert ramp at your disposal over the years?
It’s been nice. I’ve always wanted my own backyard ramp but I haven’t got around to doing it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m kind of scared if I build my own ramp that I won’t put as much time in riding or what. It’s the drive to Woodward and the people there that keep me enthusiastic about coming down and riding. It’s been a good place for me to ride. I always enjoy coming down and it allows me to expand my vision of how my riding should be.
Sponsors or not, would you still be on the bike?
I would still ride. Nothing would change. I rode BMX years ago because I loved BMX. I’m grateful that I make a living from it, and I’m super honored that I have some great sponsors. But if the world of BMX lost every sponsor and every dollar tomorrow I would still have my bike, I would still be down here, and I would still be trying something new. It’s just a trait that I have always had. Thankfully I make a good living from riding my bike. If there were no money in BMX I would go and get a job doing something else or start my own business up. There are other ways and means to make money if there were no money in BMX but luckily there’s still great contests, there is great prize money, people are doing BMX shows, people are putting out banging edits, people are traveling the world and BMX is on TV. I think it’s definitely a good time right now.
What’s a typical day for you?
I get up early, eat breakfast, take the dogs for a walk, put my kid on the bus, go to the gym, come home, answer my emails, do a little bit of work at the house, have some dinner, then head to Woodward to ride, and ride until the session is over or until I’m tired. After that I head back home, spend some time with my family, maybe go for a road bike ride, walk the dogs and start again the next day.
It’s obvious that you’re a huge fan of BMX so what current riders do you like to watch?
I judged The Hunt contest last year and really liked watching Ed Zunda. I also like Mike Hoder, he is just balls to the wall and he’s one hell of a BMX rider. I also like watching Kyle Baldock ride; he’s so entertaining. Logan Martin is another one that came from the school of Kyle Baldock. What they’re doing and where they are taking BMX is crazy. There are also a lot of really good riders from my home country in England. It’s just nice to watch. I’m a fan of everything in BMX. I can appreciate a good trail edit, a good street edit, a good park edit, flat edit or whatever. Christian Rigal’s Markit edit with the movable ledge on street was incredible. I also like watching J.C. Pieri’s riding as well. I think the only thing missing from the equation of what I like to see from BMX right now is probably a really good spine mini ramp/front brake/tech session with Jason Enns and Dave Osato. I know they both still have it and I would love to see those guys knock out an edit. I’d love to see them go to work and just tear a ramp a new one.”
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Dew Tour in Ocean City is coming up and then I guess there is going to be a vert contest at the Worlds in Cologne. I’m not sure if I’m going to that and it could end up being a last minute decision so we will see. Toyota wants to do the racecar thing again. I do a bit of charity work in my local town as well. We set up this foundation locally and write checks for individuals to provide direct help. I’m sure a lot of my sponsors will want me to travel for them and I foresee myself at the X Games in L.A. in some way, shape or form. I’ll have a busy year all of the way until December.
Thank you to all of my sponsors, they are all awesome and I thank them for all of the opportunities they provide me. They are life experiences and that is the payoff in BMX. It’s to get with people that can make your life rich in more than just a monetary way. Also, I want to give a big thank you to my family because without them this whole thing doesn’t even work. And I want to thank all of the people who really appreciate me riding a bike. It’s their encouragement and their wanting to see the best of me that really lights me up and makes me want to go out there and do good things.
Any last words you want to share with the BMX community?
Just quit spending your time being negative about BMX and everyone just link arms and work together. BMX can be the most amazing thing in the world if we stand kind of shoulder-to-shoulder instead of being divided in so many different ways. We all ride for the same purpose which his to have fun, to be the best riders we can be, to learn new tricks and to develop in whichever way we can. Why we all can’t live together, be supportive and encourage each other is beyond me. Get with the program; it’s BMX and that’s it. Can’t we all just get along?
That’s it for this week. Thanks for checking in and thanks for the continued support. It was an absolute honor to sit down with one of my favorite riders and have the chance to put together this interview so I want to send big thanks out to Jamie for making this one happen. On that note, be sure to check back next Wednesday for the sixty-ninth edition of Through the Lens and as always feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will hit you back as soon as I can. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram as well @jeremypavia.