August 12, 2008

Elbow to elbow, a new way to ride

Cole Harmeson, 12, of Bend, and Tanner Redmond, 11, of Redmond,
make the corner at the BMX Supercamp at Smith Rock BMX, Aug. 6, 2008.

Few people will log as many miles behind the wheel this summer as Burlin Harris and his BMX Supercamp crew. Two days before turning up in Redmond last week, he was in Wyoming, and by now, he’s in Missouri. He’ll continue on through the upper Midwest for a few weeks, then head west for another camp near Seattle in mid-September.

“A lot of guys come out and do a little clinic, but nobody tours like us. It’s been 200 days a year for 15 years,” Harris said.

Coached by professional BMX racers, the Supercamps are one of the biggest name brands in BMX, according to Tracy Stephens, one of the many volunteers who operate the Smith Rock BMX track on Redmond’s east side. All four members of this year’s U.S. Olympic BMX team are Supercamp alumni.

“Berwin, his son’s a previous number one ABA pro national winner – he originally started training him himself years ago because there wasn’t anything out there,” Stephens said.

Around 50 riders from ages 3 to 40 years old turned out for last week’s camp, held August 6 and 7 at the Smith Rock track. Harris calls it a “gate to the finish line” training session, and he delivers, with coaches drilling students on everything from how to pick a line through a banked turn to the different methods of riding a “rhythm section” of multiple two to three foot jumps.

Blaine Manning, a rider from the Seattle area, said this was his fifth Supercamp. He said he’s already “learned everything,” but remembering to follow through while racing sometimes eludes him.

“You learn a lot if you’re a young kid like these guys; if you’re new, you learn a lot,” Manning said.

Eleven-year-old Mario Pacheco of Redmond said he only started racing BMX this year. At the camp, he learned new jumping techniques and “manualing,” a method of riding through the rhythm section with only the back tire on the ground.

His friend, Mike Davis of Redmond, disputed this.

“I taught him everything he knows,” said Davis, 11. “He can’t do it all yet, but he will.”

Coach Deak Brown, a pro rider from Colorado, was on the track Wednesday sending his charges through an exercise. Two Frisbees were placed about four feet apart on a banked turn, and the riders were sent off two at a time to ride side-by-side through the narrow gap. The idea, Brown explained, was to make them more comfortable with riding in close quarters.

“It takes time to get used to riding with your elbows touching, your handlebars touching,” Brown said. “It is a contact sport.”

Austin Burleson, a rider from Woodburn, said this was the first BMX camp he’s been to where the contact sport aspects of racing were even addressed. The Frisbee drill was nerve-wracking at first, he said, but after running it several times without falling, he was getting more comfortable.

“I learned it’s not so bad to bump bars. It’s not as bad as it seems,” he said.

The Smith Rock BMX track hosts races every Tuesday and Friday night in the spring, summer, and fall, and is open to the public at other times for informal training. See for more information.

-- story and photo by Scott Hammers, copyright Redmond Spokesman

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