For the Daily Call
PIQUA — On Thanksgiving Thursday, a contingent of Piqua residents were among 20,000 individuals who weren’t just talking turkey in Tulsa, Okla. They represented the throngs of USA BMX enthusiasts attending a three-day bicycle racing competition at the Tulsa Expo Center on an indoor racing track measuring 1,350 feet in length.
Chris Smith of Smitty’s Bicycle Shop, along with his wife, Angie, and several parents transported four Piqua youngsters on the 765-mile trek to the national event where they maneuvered their bicycles along a four-straight and four-turn track while, at the same time, performed “lots of jumps and a rhythm section” along with “rolls and jumps” off “doubles and tabletops.” Prior to each race, they were assigned to motos (heats) with eight racers competing in each qualifying round.
If this racing lingo appears confusing, consider the ages of Piqua’s competitors — ranging from 5 through 9 — who captured kudos on the national stage with their athletic racing prowess and tenacity. Caiden Weigel, 7, son of Juwuan and Brittany Weigel, captured first place in the Race of Champions (ROC) in his respective classification while Keaton Bolden, 5, son of D.J. Bolden and Tiffany Shawler, took sixth place in the ROC and third in the Grand National Race. Racers who take top honors in the ROC races, explained Smith, not only receive BMX points, but also a silver medal and coveted ROC number plate.
Other local competitors earning applause included the Smiths’ son, Brock, 9, who competed in both the 20-inch cruiser class and 24-inch wheel classification, advancing among 51 competitors to semifinals, along with Anson Cox, 8, son of Tony Cox and Erica Campbell, whose performance in a 47-member field led him to quarterfinal status. The Tulsa trip represented the first time Piqua youngsters competed on the national platform.
A bicycle enthusiast, Smith says the USA BMX (bicycle motorcross) is growing as a sport in popularity worldwide among both boys and girls and men and women. There were approximately 5,000 participants in the Tulsa competition as compared to 3,500 one year ago. “Girls are actually getting involved,” he noted, adding, “It’s no longer just a boys’ sport.”
BMX racing, which originated in the early 1970s in southern California, has gathered such momentum that it is now a sanctioned U.S. Olympic sport that was introduced in Beijing in 2008. Americans there captured three Olympic medals and along with World Cup competitions, accumulated more points than any other country. There are nearly 70,000 members in the USA BMX-sanctioned organization formed in 1977.
Of the year-round sport, Smith explained there are both indoor and outdoor tracks where racers — both young and old — can leave a starting gate and gain a rush of adrenaline as they navigate their bicycles around the dirt tracks on an individual basis in a novice, intermediate or expert class. Wheel size — either a 20-inch class or 24-inch cruiser — is a prerequisite along with age, gender and proficiency in determining where racers are classified. The lightweight bike can range from 11 to 14 pounds for a five- to 10-year old or 18 to 22 pounds for older youngsters.
Smith said prices of bicycles vary from $349.99 upwards to $2,500. Smitty’s Bike Shop, he added, offers several nationally renowned race bikes. “If you compare this sport to go-karts or motocross, BMX racing is way less expensive,” he said.
In addition to a bike, additional costs should include a long-sleeved shirt and pants and a full-faced helmet for safety purposes.
“The average age of a racer is four years old, although there’s also a 60-plus class,” Smith said with a grin, crediting Ron Miller, 62, of Piqua, who “faithfully” visits Smitty’s Bicycle Shop outdoor track.
The fenced-in track, which resembles a series of ski moguls, opened in Piqua on June 22 and has attracted dozens of bicycle racing enthusiasts from throughout the Upper Miami Valley area.
The Smiths are also the parents of two other sons, Carson, 7, who enjoys BMX racing, and Gage, 15, a basketball enthusiast.
To find out more about BMX racing, visit the website at www.umvbmx.com or Facebook.