Where do BMX riders go when it's cold outside?
A U.K.-based biking crew takes to the sun-dappled streets of Tel Aviv to combat the winter blues.
Winter in most parts of the United Kingdom is no picnic. It’s cold and rainy. The sun almost never shines. You’re stuck indoors, mostly, which is not the best spot to be. Especially if you make your living on a bike.
So a couple of years ago, looking for a place to get rid of their winter blues, a handful of BMX enthusiasts – some of them professional riders who make their living grinding along handrails, flying over steps and turning tricks that seemingly defy the laws of physics – took off for the sun and the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel.
“It was probably one of the best trips we’ve ever been on," Grant Smith, the owner of Scotland-based BSD bikes, tells From The Grapevine.
Traveling to get in a good ride is not a new thing for the top BMX riders. BSD has a team of 25 or 30 pros who hit competitions all over the world from Athens to Arizona. And when they’re not competing, they’re often going to different places with video crews to promote the sport and their brand.
The February 2013 trip to Israel, though, was a first for Smith and at least some of his crew. They spent most of their time in Tel Aviv, though they did wander down to check out some places south of the city as well.
They got together with local BMX aficionado Tal Mazar and the local bike shop, NightRider – Smith raves about the friendliness and helpfulness of the people there – and rode for most of a week, from day break to night. All over.
And all over everything they could find.
“One of the good things about Tel Aviv was the architecture was really different, so there was lots of different things to ride,” Smith says. “And no one really cared if you were really riding bikes on it. You could ride anywhere, and there was no problems. Everyone was quite happy for you just to do whatever you wanted to do, which was really cool.”
Smith got hooked on riding in 1983, at the age of 9, when he first saw young Elliott and E.T. outrun the cops and fly across the sky on an early model BMX. “It was the best thing I’d ever seen,” he says. “It’s been the focus of my life ever since.”
After going to school to study mechanical engineering, Smith started BSD about a decade ago. The company now has dozens of distributors all over the world – from Europe to the U.S. to Australia, South America, Japan, China and Africa.
Thanks to the videos that they shoot, the riders that BSD sponsors – Kriss Kyle, Mike Taylor, Dan Paley and Alex Donnachie among them, all of whom went to Israel with Smith – are known worldwide. And BSD’s in-house cinematographer, Dave Sowerby, is a star in his own right. His 2009 video of Scotland’s Danny MacAskill riding around Edinburgh has been viewed nearly 37 million times on YouTube.
2016 figures to be another busy year of traveling and riding for Smith and everyone involved with the BSD family. And soon, Smith says, he’ll head back to Israel for another ride, since the first time was such a success.
“So much cool stuff. It’s really different than the U.K. It’s a really multicultural type of place. Really bustling,” Smith says. “People in street cafes late at night. It was cool just to be able to feel that kind of thing.
“The only regret we had is we didn’t get to Jerusalem. But we’re planning to go back ... Well, I’m planning. Some of the guys have been back already. But we’ll probably go back a few more times, for sure.”
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