Catching up with Gork

The World Championships have been and are now gone, what’s your take on the whole event especially since it was on U.S. soil?

gOrk: Waaaaaaaaaaaay better than the last time it was in the U.S.! When you think about how far we’ve come in 16 years, when it was last in Louisville. Rock Hill was the perfect place to host an event of that caliber, and I think Team USA had never been as strong as this year. It was an epic event and I think everybody walked away feeling pretty stoked on Worlds. I’m guessing more American racers and families will probably consider traveling to a Worlds in the future. Not so sure about Baku, but not as many will think twice about Belgium in 2019.

As for Rock Hill, the City was fully behind it and they were happy with the outcome. They did a great job and from what I hear, the economic impact on the city was even bigger than what they’d expected and hoped for. Whenever a BMX event can give a town more than what they expected, then that’s a good thing. I won’t be surprised to see other World Championships for different cycling disciplines go to Rock Hill – the city loves cycling of any kind.

Back in 1987 you were covering the IBMXF World Championships for BMX Action Magazine, witnessing GT’s Gary Ellis taking the Pro Title. 30 years later, Corben Sharrah, takes the Elite win in Rock Hill. How do the wins differ?

gOrk: Corben’s recent win means so much more. Back then, when Ellis won it I think it was more like just winning a National. There was no rainbow-striped jersey – it was IBMXF, not UCI. There were a lot of foreign riders, but it to me it still seemed like it was a regular national just with different awards. I think the trophies in Orlando were like a plaster statue of a BMX racer, weren’t they? The Worlds just means a LOT more these days, I think, than it did back then.

I remember in ’87, we watched it from atop of turn two with GT’s McGoo and a couple of other guys and we were playing buck-a-main, betting on who’d win each final. Think I might’ve made eight bucks that day. Bob Tedesco came up to us at the end of the race and lectured us on betting on the races and how unprofessional that looked.

Then the Louisville Worlds, I was with Redline at the time. The track was soft, the pros had their boycott, the arena was pretty dinky. Then for me personally – Bubba got beat right at the line by that Argentina kid. So, I wasn’t a fan of the Louisville Worlds. I remember that more of a disaster that made the U.S. look bad.

Is there anything you could take from that 1987 World Championships that would benefit today’s racing?

gOrk: Two things from the ’87 Worlds that I wish they still had today would be the last turn in Orlando, with the mid-turn doubles that peaked in the 90 degree turn, and the last decision-maker obstacle. It was like a reverse step-up on one side and then step-down on the right. Would be cool to see different obstacles like those these days. They’d have to give it a modern-day touch. Other than that, it’s just a different time – different style of racing. I like the Novant Health BMX track, but it really is too big, in my opinion. That first turn alone probably used up more dirt than what the entire 1987 Orlando track was built with.

In your opinion, how do you see the current landscape of racing?  In other words, is it moving in the right direction? Why or why not?

gOrk: It’s progressing, just like it always has. Whether or not I think it’s progressing in the right direction is kinda beside the point. It is what it is. Heck, back in like ’76 or ’77, there was a BMX series in So-Cal that was held in a concrete skatepark. Then they also held races on flat go-cart tracks back in the day. So, racing in large concrete bowled-out turns and on asphalt tracks really isn’t “new.” Everything has been tried – and now we’re just seeing hard-packed soil-tac’ed or slurried tracks that will hold up to all weather conditions. That’s a good thing, if you’re a track operator. It could’ve rained at The Worlds like it did last year at the Supercross and they would’ve still raced and had just as good of action.

There are so many keyboard cowboys out there who love to complain about today’s tracks or whine about we at USA BMX do or don’t do. I’d bet about 75% of them aren’t even a USA BMX member or haven’t ridden a modern-day BMX track in the past decade. They just love to reminisce about the good ol’ days and miss the type of BMX they grew up with.  But things change – get over it. Accept progression. The current landscape of BMX racing on social media – which is a HUGE advertising opportunity for us, does more to tear down the sport than they do to build it up. If every single person were to switch their train of thought to promote the sport in a positive light – rather than slam it, then I believe BMX racing would grow.

Let’s pretend the boss, BA, grants you 3 wishes with an unlimited budget to make some major changes in the US for the future.  What would they be?  And, why?

gOrk: Hmmmmm… three wishes with an unlimited budget. Do I have to worry about ROI at all?

First up, I’d use a good chunk of money for a TV series of our national circuit, ala’ Crank TV style from the 90’s. Put it on Netflix – they are the future. Maybe turn it into a reality show with a group of six pros who hate each other and put them on the road, traveling to each national. Carne$ could host it.

Second wish – I’d buy a new 18-wheeler or convert the blue one into a mobile race track, which could show up in a town, set up a portable BMX track in a parking lot of a school or mall, and put on a BMX race four or five days out of each week. Freestyle guys do school shows with ramps; why can’t we do it with BMX?!  Plug it as a “Bicycle Safety Demonstration.” I’d put Donny Robinson in charge of that. Imagine BMX races or demos at every State and County Fair in the country, as well as all these elementary schools and Jr. Highs. I suppose if this wish truly had an unlimited investment, then I’d do that times 50. Clone 50 Donny Robinson’s to man each race rig.

My third wish would be that BA would buy a BMX brand like Redline, put me in charge of it and we do things right with a bike brand. Make it into something popular like what GT and/or Redline once were – with a strong range of BMX bikes that every kid wants to own and ride. Have a brand that completely supports BMX, with a team, shop-loyalty and proper promotion. Right now, the industry seems sooooo stagnant and no brand seems to be stepping up to the plate like I believe they should. The door is wide open right now for a BMX company to come in and just take things over – but nobody is.

It’s a sad state of affairs right now in the BMX industry. It might be due to being over-saturated with used bikes, or it could be the cost of bikes has gotten ridiculous, or that the whole brick and mortar bike shop program is changing each year. Fewer shops, more online ordering. Maybe it’s just evolving right now and we’ll discover a completely new system of bike sales and service in the next 5 or 10 years. Who knows? Sadly, maybe it’ll all just be done on Amazon?

Is there anything the Elite/Pro riders could be doing better to build their relationship with USA BMX that would benefit both parties?

gOrk: YES. There’s a LOT they could be doing; for one – talk to USA BMX. You might read a lot of complaining or whining on social media, but I don’t think one single one of them has even proposed a trip to Arizona or set up a meeting to discuss things with us.

How do you feel about the legacy & impact BMX Action Magazine has had on the sport? Surely, it must make you feel proud to have been part of something so special.

gOrk: Definitely makes me proud. Even though it died 28 years ago, it is still talked about today and is still relevant. That says a lot. BMX Plus has only been dead a few years now and you still don’t have people relishing them like you do BMXA. Oz created something so significant. It’s a shame it ended so early, but in looking back – maybe it’s a good thing that it died when it did. It’s like the legacy of a rock star who OD’ed in his prime, or died in a plane crash – they are still adored by the fans and remembered fondly. As opposed to the aging rockstar who looks awful and continues to live in the past and attempts to be what he once was.

If not for BMXA, all of these Facebook forums wouldn’t have any photos to repost and reminisce over; right?

How do you see the future of BMX Media in years to come?

gOrk: Good question. I am constantly wondering if kids are reading PULL magazine like we used to. I don’t think they are – in fact, I know they aren’t. The modern-day generation is mostly getting their news from social media; where everybody is a reporter and everyone is a photographer. BMX websites – or websites in general, don’t seem to be getting the traffic like they were 10 or 15 years ago. It’s not just happening in BMX media, but everywhere. Regular News – whether on TV or what’s left of any newspapers and magazines, is getting scooped by the drive-by person and their cell phone, then tweeting it or going FB Live on us. All of society – BMXers included, are getting used to getting the news immediately. If it happened an hour ago, it’s old news. So for PULL magazine – which reports on races that happened 4 or 6 weeks earlier, it doesn’t have the thrill and excitement like BMXA did when we were teens.  Times are changing …or, have already changed. I look at what we do now more as documenting what happened, rather than reporting it.

What was your most memorable time at Redline?

gOrk: There are so many. All 11 years at Redline/SBS was great – we had a great boss and awesome employees who all helped make Redline the greatest BMX brand of the 00’s and 20-teens. It’s pretty memorable to think of what all of us did together, boosting sales and having the most popular brand of BMX bike out there. Being the ones that every BMX brand wanted to be like. For me personally, picking the riders I did – from Bubba to Kim Hayashi, hiring Carne$ and then signing the next generation with Alise and Sam, gives me a true sense of accomplishment. I’m happy that I was able to help them out financially through the company, and that they returned the favor by boosting the Redline brand to the top.

Where do you see BMX Racing in 10 years?

gOrk: Hopefully with more tracks and more riders. That is always the goal. The biggest change I think we’ll see is the way racing is done. Donny and Carruth’s BMX Racing League could be the future; or a form of it. I think the next generation to come is going to be less and less inclined to race every weekend for an entire year, and maybe we’ll turn into a seasonal sport – like others, where you only race for four months in a “season.” it’s a new era of kids with short attention spans, and I think we’ve got to evolve – like a fidget-spinner, to address that.

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2 Responses

  1. Andrew Bayes says:

    Great stuff! As a 50 year old Bmxer who raced in the Eighties, stopped then re-connected with the sport 10 years ago, I can relate to everything that Gork spoke of. I see the same issues with the sport in my country (Australia). I think there needs to be more of a connection at the grass roots level for the sport to not only continue to grow, but also overcome the challenge of keeping riders in the sport. Love the interview! Keep them coming.
    Regards…Andrew Bayes

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