SPREADING GOOD TIMES
ONE BMX BIKE AT A TIME
Words by Jeremy Gronewold | Photos by Christopher Patey
Have you ever been moving through a normal day and you find yourself in a situation where you think to yourself, “I wish I could help that person”? This could be as simple as giving a stranger a dollar, or maybe something larger like going out of your way to help someone push their broken down vehicle the last 50’ into the gas station. If I had to guess, I would say a majority of the time people skip right over these thoughts and move about their day.
Oddly enough when it comes to being on the trail, I would say this percentage would quickly flip and you would find most riders are very willing to help. Need a tool, a tire plug, some CO2/pump, or maybe even a spare quick link? Chances are that random rider passing by will likely be willing to help you out in your time of need. Recently, the two worlds collided with the idea of helping a random stranger powered by the passion of the sport I love.
In late November 2023, my family and I took a trip to the Inglewood Pump Track in Inglewood, CA. When you think about bikes, you don’t usually think of Inglewood, CA, and that is exactly why it’s there. The pump track was built here by the Grow Cycling Foundation to introduce bikes to a demographic of riders who would typically not experience bikes in this type of format. In the handful of visits I have made to the track, I have been able to witness the track being used by many, always with a handful of local youth ripping around the track. Now this is where the inspiration for wanting to help comes from.
There has always been someone at the track who could use a bike. This ranges from someone riding a run-down bike that looks like it’s two laps away from falling apart, to several siblings sharing a single bike. On this latest visit, I witnessed a father and his two kids sharing one bike. As a father myself who enjoys doing this sport with my sons, this moment hit home a little more than the rest. Yes, they were there spending time together on bikes, but the joy of chasing your kid around and truly riding together was something they were missing due to the lack of equipment. With the holidays around the corner, I thought to myself, “How cool would it be to get a few bikes, show up to the track, and pass them out to whomever was there needing a bike?” I sat on this idea for a few days trying to figure out if I was truly going to act on it or just let it pass. As I was aimlessly scrolling on social media an ad from GT popped up. “BLACK FRIDAY SALE! Buy One BMX Get a Second Free”. It was as if I received a sign from the bike gods, I was no longer questioning myself. This idea was going to happen and I was going to use this sale to get more bikes than expected….only problem was: Black Friday had come and gone. Checking the website, the Black Friday code still seemed to be active. Sweet!
I had questions though. Calling the basic helpline off the website led nowhere. “Oh, you would have to contact GT directly about that sale, we can’t help you”. After a couple of hours of searching for another way to contact GT directly, I quickly started to get discouraged in this endeavor. Now this is where Loam Wolf comes in. In my search for info, I came across their recent video of the GT headquarters visit. It’s a long shot but I fired off an email and waited. To my surprise I didn’t have to wait long. Drew emailed back with Ben from GT Bikes already cc’d in and ready to help! A few emails later I have the green light to buy as many bikes as I can, and GT will match! I was already interested in buying 2 bikes, with GT matching – that meant I would have 4! Then Ben throws the curve ball, “If you can buy 6 we can run it through a dealer and it will make everything easier, but you only have a week to get there if you want them before Christmas.
Well damn, this just got way bigger than I planned. No one forced it on me but my goal was now 6….time to use the power of social media to get the rest of the funds. Hijacking my son’s Instagram (as he has a bigger following than myself), I make a few posts, reach out to all my riding buddies, and start praying people are as stoked on this idea as I am and willing to pitch in a few bucks to make this happen. Lo and behold a handful of other bike dads came through! Out of all the local MTB community, it was the other dads who enjoy riding bikes with their kids who stepped up and pitched in. The goal for 6 bikes was met with some extra left over! I reached out to Ben, placed the order, and prayed they’d arrive the weekend before Christmas.
After patiently waiting a few days, the email comes in….shipping is delayed, and bikes will arrive after Christmas. Huge bummer, but we will keep moving forward! As I was waiting for the bikes to arrive I was talking with my buddy Bobby. He’s like, “Dude, you should get some helmets to go with the bikes with that little bit of extra you have!” I like the way you think, Bobby! Luckily, Bobby knows someone at Jenson USA and they offered to help out! With the cash I had left, I was able to secure 19 helmets at a killer deal from Jenson. Now I just needed the bikes to arrive. The Wednesday after Christmas I got the email: Bikes have landed at Pat’s 605 Cyclery and I’m free to go get them whenever. I was so excited about the news I jumped on social media and posted that I will be passing bikes out on New Year’s Eve. Then I realized the time crunch that would put me in to pick up and build 12 bikes. It’s too late now, the post has been made and people have seen it!
First things first, how the hell am I going to transport 12 bikes in boxes to my house? After a quick call to Pat’s to get box dimensions, wouldn’t you know it, 12 BMX bike boxes fit perfectly in the bed of my 8’ utility work truck. Friday after work I made the drive to Pat’s, loaded up the bikes, and headed home. I now needed to figure out how to build 12 bikes in one day…social media to the rescue again! “Who wants to help me build some bikes tomorrow?” Once again another bike dad comes to save the day. My buddy Chris reached out, offered up his time, his photography skills, and his garage to make this happen. The crazy thing about this is: Chris and I have only ever met once before at our local bike park but, he was so stoked on the project he just wanted to help out in any way possible.
Saturday morning I rolled over to Chris’s house, unloaded the bikes, and we started building. Chris, myself, and a couple extra helping hands made quick work of getting the 12 bikes built in under 3 hours. The vibes were high and seeing a row of brand new BMX bikes had everyone stoked! Here’s where the next dilemma comes into play: 12 bikes in boxes are a lot easier to transport than 12 built-up bikes. Now I have a very odd collection of vehicles, and wouldn’t you know, my school bus turned RV is the best option to transport 12 bikes and keep them safe for the next morning. Nothing screams “I’m not a creeper” more than giving away bikes out of the back of a shortie school bus!
Next, it was time to deal with the last issue I had: who gets a bike? This whole project started with me thinking I would have 1-2 bikes to pass out but now I have 12! I spent all Saturday night thinking about it. However, come Sunday morning the only thing I had come up with is to show up, feel it out, and hope for the best. It was always going to be a Hail Mary showing up with 12 bikes but at this point, it was going to be what it was going to be. I rolled up to the track around 9:00 am, only to find nothing but the fast kids on high-end BMX race bikes….crap. Leaving everything in the bus, I grabbed my bike, and rolled down to the track to start some conversations. Luckily, I had some good conversations with a couple of locals, and they told me about a kid named Jay. Jay is a 10-year-old who lives a few minutes away, rides the track almost every day, rides a 45 lb BMX bike from the 90’s with only a half-functional front brake and no rear brake. This is exactly the type of kid I’m looking for! I put in a few laps hoping the local crowd would come around as the day went on.
Around 11:00, I started to notice a change in the attendance at the track, so I decided to go back to the bus and grabbed a few bikes to bring down to the track. As I was at the bus I saw this little dude riding through the parking lot…I thought, that’s Jay. “Hey man, are you Jay?” Wide-eyed and not sure what’s going on I got a faint “yeah”. “This is going to sound crazy man, but come over here for a minute, I have something for you.” I swung open the back door of the bus revealing a pile of new bikes. “Ok man, pick one. I have mostly red or black but there is one blue one in there.” Of course Jay wanted the blue one! Now I didn’t order a blue bike, my order should have only been black and red but for some reason, I received one blue bike. In this moment, it was like it was meant to be. I dug the blue bike out from the middle of the stack and handed it over to Jay, as well as get him set up with a helmet. Still a little lost in the moment Jay just says, “You can do whatever you want with my old bike! Thanks!” and rolls off down to the track. I realized at that moment I didn’t need to pass out all 12 bikes that day. The remaining 11 bikes would find their home at the right time.
I stayed at the track until around 4:00 pm riding and talking. Jay was there the entire time and I swear I never saw him stop riding for more than 5 minutes! I had countless conversations, passed out 2 more bikes and a bunch of helmets in that time as well. Oddly enough, passing out helmets almost became a better feeling than the bikes. It felt like the helmets were making a greater impact. At one point in time, I looked up and saw a line of 10 kids doing a lap together, all 10 with helmets on, 5 of whom had helmets on because I was able to provide one to them. It had been a long day, I loaded up and headed home.
It’s now been a few weeks. I still have a garage full of BMX bikes and helmets to give away and I plan to take a few with me every time I visit the track over the next few months. On one hand, I feel like I wasn’t the right person to try and pull something like this off. I’m just a blue-collar dude with no connections to the bike industry who just happened to reach out to the right people at the right time. Maybe this made me the perfect person to do it. I had no agenda behind the project, I truly just wanted to get more people on bikes and I’m so grateful I will be able to do so over the next few months. Thank you to everyone who had a hand in this half-cocked idea that turned into an awesome experience that hopefully brings the lifelong stoke of bikes to a few people.
GTbicycles.com | JensonUSA.com