About Learn BMX Racing

About the Website

Written by Eric Muss-Barnes
August 2019

As a novice racer in California, I founded Learn BMX Racing in 2019, to share the fun and adventure of BMX racing, by encouraging, educating, and inspiring all-American boys and girls, from the ages of 4 to 104, who love riding their bicycles.

Beginning with the most fundamental aspects of BMX; from the history of the sport; to choosing your first bike; to reviews of racetracks; Learn BMX Racing aims to teach all the basics of getting started in the excitement and thrill that is bicycle motocross.

Over the years, I created numerous instructional projects; ranging from teaching the basics of Internet technology, to educating hundreds of thousands of people on the fundamentals of firearms. Back in 2007, I created my most popular educational projects, a pair of free video series called Skateboarding California and Learn To Ride A Skateboard. Each became hugely successful, and I am proud to say, all combined, my videos taught over 7 million people the fundamentals of skateboarding.

Although I'm new to racing, and only a novice myself, I have been riding BMX bikes and skateboarding all my life. You know how most people race around on bikes or skateboards as kids, but stop when they get older? I never stopped. Admittedly, there have been phases in my life when I rode more frequently than others, but I've never gone longer than a year without having both a skateboard and a BMX bike under my feet. In fact, I have spent well over a decade of my adult life commuting to work, everyday, on bicycles and skateboards.

Being experienced at teaching and bicycling, I noticed all those elements which were missing from beginner skateboarding 17 years ago, were still missing from BMX racing today. Sure, there are thousands of bicycling videos on the Internet, but none focus on a linear progression of basic skills, or share the culture of BMX. I made Learn BMX Racing with the intent of showcasing that missing knowledge, just like Learn To Ride A Skateboard has done for skaters.

When it comes to the look and feel of the Learn BMX Racing website itself, I wanted a very modern aesthetic, with a 1980's vibe. I lived my teenage years during the heyday of 80's BMX freestyle, with all the neon bicycles and fluorescent clothes. I'm a firm believer you should respect your past, but live in the present. In keeping with that sentiment, I didn't want a "throwback" website. I wasn't attempting the notion of, "What if the Internet existed in 1987?" No. Instead, I was going for, "What if 1987 graphic design elements were the trend in 2019?"

This is why the "LEARN" and "RACING" text in the logo are reminiscent of the font used on the Miami Vice television show. The "BMX" text in the logo is similar to the title of the Hal Needham BMX film, RAD, which was released in 1986. The font used for the main text of the website is called "Metropolis".

Being a professional web developer with 26 years of experience, I programmed this whole website on an EC2 PHP server, which I configured on Amazon Web Services.

The Learn BMX Racing project is a free, non-profit educational resource, which does not sell any goods or services, contain advertising, or solicit contributions or donations.

About the Host

Written by Eric Muss-Barnes
August 2019

After teaching more than 7 million people how to skateboard with my www.LearnToRideASkateboard.com and www.SkateboardingCalifornia.com projects, I decided to create Learn BMX Racing as a free resource to share my knowledge of bicycling.

I have loved bicycles and bicycling my whole life.

Over the years, I've owned more than a dozen bicycles, including at least 7 different BMX bikes. Some were cheap pieces of junk. Some were worth over $1000. Some I built myself from scratch. Some were bought from a store and never changed. I possess tons of expertise maintaining bicycles, repairing them, customizing them, and I know a lot regarding the history of bikes and their evolution. In fact, after being a customer for many years, and seeing all my bicycle projects, the owners of my local bikeshop in North Hollywood, California offered me a job one night. Out of the blue. The owner just asked, "Hey, would you like to work here?" He was completely serious and I was extremely flattered by the offer. However, I was building websites for Walt Disney Studios at the time, so I had to politely decline. Looking back on it, I should have accepted his offer and just worked a few hours on the weekends, because that would have been so much fun!

My history with bicycles starts over 45 years ago. When I was 6 or 7 years old, I taught myself to ride. I didn't have a bike of my own, but learned using a little 16" blue bicycle, owned by my friend Garrett Neumarker. One afternoon, we were playing in his backyard, and I started riding his bike in the driveway, like a modern day pushbike, just shoving off with my feet and coasting. After about an hour of that, I was able to balance and pedal... and I was hooked. I would go over Garrett's house, day after day, borrow his bike, and just ride.

Shortly thereafter, I got my own bicycle. Well, calling it a "bicycle" is being generous. It was metal and had 2 wheels, but it was really just a reddish/orange deathtrap. It was called a "Hedstrom" (created by an Oscar Hedstrom company, one of the founders of Indian Motorcycles) and it had these weird solid rubber tires that were so slippery, even on concrete, it was horrifying to ride. To this day, I still have scars on my elbows, from the afternoon I crashed the Hedstrom on a dirt hill, and landed in a parking lot of broken beer bottles.

The next Christmas, my grandparents bought my first real bicycle - an imitation Schwinn Stingray made by Kia. Yes, the South Korean car company used to make bicycles.

When I was about 14, I owned my first road bike - a Panasonic 12 speed, with bullhorn handlebars, which I would use to fly down the biketrails in Brecksville, Ohio, weaving through the woods at 40 miles an hour, pretending I was Luke Skywalker on a speeder bike.

At 15, I got my first real BMX bike, a powder blue Roadmaster I would race down trails by the Cleveland Zoo with Garrett. As young boys, we built insane paths down creekside gullies that would have vertical drops in them. They were so steep, you couldn't see the bottom of the path when you were standing at the top of the hill.

Garrett and I always wanted to race BMX at a real BMX track. But, back then, living in Ohio, all the tracks were really far away. They cost money to ride. Plus, you had to own safety gear and helmets and stuff. Our families couldn't afford all that time and money. So, when we were growing up, we never raced a real BMX track. We just built our own trails and tracks in the woods.

Then, in 1986, my friend Ronnie Rodriguez introduced me to a new subgenre of BMX racing, also invented in California, called "BMX freestyle" or just "Freestyling".

Ronnie had copies of BMX Plus and Freestylin' Magazine at his house and started showing me these photos in the magazines. I have to admit... I thought it looked stupid. Young dudes on pink bicycles, contorting in weird poses? Floating above ramps? I didn't get it. Where did they land? Did they just jump on their bikes and pose? What is this? I thought the whole concept of BMX freestyle was weird.

Then, Ronnie busted out a VHS video, and showed me what it looked like when these guys were actually moving.

I was blown away.

Once I witnessed moving images, the whole idea of freestyle instantly transformed from being weird and stupid, to being totally rad and gnarly. I couldn't believe the kind of tricks and moves these guys were doing on bicycles. Plus, I always wanted to be a gymnast when I was a kid. I wanted to be Bart Connor and marry Mary Lou Retton. But I never became a gymnast, because my family sure couldn't afford gymnastics lessons either. Freestyle was like gymnastics and BMX combined into one sport! It was freakin' awesome!

One day before my 16th birthday, I started my first "real job" at White Castle. A job I desperately wanted, just so I could buy myself a 1987 Haro Master. No way my family was going to buy me a $370 bicycle. If I wanted that bike, I had to earn the money on my own.

April Fool's Day 1987, I purchased my Haro at Schneider's Bike Shop on Lorain Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. That summer, I rode my Haro Master every day. Practiced tricks on it from morning to night and created memories I cherish to this day.

Unfortunately, by the end of the summer of '87, I had grown a little disillusioned with freestyle. Learning tricks was far more difficult than I imagined, and I had extremely high expectations for myself. When I finally had the opportunity to ride a quarter pipe, and one of the kids in our crew was blasting 3 foot airs, while I was so scared of looping out that I never bunnyhopped more than 2 feet below the coping, I sadly gave up on freestyle and sold my bike. I regretted my decision almost immediately. The next summer, I bought a 1988 Haro Master frame and fork, which sat in my closet for the next 20 years.

Back then, Freestylin' Magazine also featured tons of skateboarding photos. Since I was so disenchanted with freestyle, I figured maybe I'd give skateboarding a try again. I skated when I was 7 years old, but that was not the same. I picked up my first Powell Peralta skateboard when I was 16 and I loved it. Skated ditches. Built a minihalf in a friends yard. Skated downtown Cleveland. We even coined the name of Cleveland skatespots that are still used to this day, like "Globe". And this time, even though I wasn't much better at skating than I was at BMX freestyle, I didn't give up, and skateboarding remained a huge part of my life.

Cut to 20 years later...

It was now 2008, and I had been living in California for 5 years.

One day, after building a really cool military-styled beach cruiser, I thought, "Maybe I should finally build that 1988 Haro Master..."

And I did!

Using mail order websites and eBay, I ended up building out the frame and fork I had sitting in the closet for 20 years.

I had so much fun building my '88 Haro Master, I decided to change up my 1991 Haro Master and put mag wheels on it, which I had always wanted, but never owned.

After changing my '91 Haro Master, I bought a 2006 Haro Backtrail in Burbank and turned it into a monster of a dirt bike; with a fully chromoly frame and fork, 14mm axles, double-walled 48's, and bearing-pivot U-brakes front and rear.

All total, I owned 6 bicycles at once. 2 BMX freestyle bikes. 1 BMX dirt bike. A Giant mountain bike. A Schwinn flat-bar road bike (which I modified into a cyclocross bike). And the Felt MP beach cruiser.

When I decided to move into a smaller apartment, I sold all but one of those bikes. The Haro Backtrail was the only one left.

In the spring of 2019, I was finishing up a project to finally digitize my remaining home movies into my computer and get rid of my old VHS cassette tapes. The last video I completed was of a Team Haro BMX freestyle show, which my friend Garrett and I attended, in the summer of 1987.

Watching that video, and reminiscing about that summer, made me want to build a BMX freestyle bike again. So, the next thing I know, I'm on the Haro website, looking at their vintage BMX freestyle frames, and The Dukes of Hazzard inspired me to start racing.

What do I mean by that?

As I was perusing these cool bicycles on the Haro website, I stumbled into this fantastic photo of Olympian Brooke Crain.

And the beauty of that image froze me in my tracks. I couldn't stop admiring Brooke's bicycle. It was gorgeous.

I fell down the rabbit hole of the Internet, and found myself watching BMX videos on YouTube, which led me to checking out Alise Post, who led me to Connor Fields. After learning about the current crop of elite BMX racers, I started to study all the current racing brands of BMX bikes like Chase, Supercross and Speedco. All those 70's and 80's brands like Haro, Redline, GT and Mongoose are still out there too.

And as I was watching all of these racing videos, it suddenly hit me...

I love BMX.

In the last 45 years, I've always owned a 20" bicycle, and never went longer than a few months without a BMX bike under my butt.

But I never raced BMX... on a BMX track!

Can you believe that?

I had two periods of my life when I owned multiple BMX freestyle bikes, but never raced on a track; the foundation from which BMX freestyle was born! Building another freestyle bike is just living in the past. Building a race bike is building a future. Life is about moving forward. I'm looking to create new joyful memories, not relive past ones.

Staring at that Haro race bike, I realized, "This is what I need to do next."

In May of 2019, I went to Antelope Valley and raced on a BMX track for the first time in my life, using my 2006 Haro Backtrail. I had so much fun, within 48 hours, I bought my eighth BMX bike, a beautiful baby-blue 2019 Chase Edge Pro. (I have owned five Haro BMX bikes... it's time to try a new brand.)

That is what inspired me: Accidentally discovering a carbon-fiber Haro race bike.

And what does all that have to do with The Dukes of Hazzard?

That photo of Brooke Crain was taken by a gentleman named Joey Cobbs, who happens to be the son of one of my childhood heroes, Tom Wopat; Luke Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard.

That's right. The son of Luke Duke himself took this picture of an amazing Haro race bike! Garrett and I used to race around as little kids, pretending our bicycles were the General Lee, and we were Bo and Luke. And here we come, full-circle, with the Duke boys still influencing my passion for BMX. Just a good ol' boys. Never meanin' no harm.

Now you know my story of what made me want to give BMX racing a shot.

And I will tell you something... it is even more fun than I ever imagined...

When I am out on that track, there have been these brief moments, flashes when I am so overcome with joy, I am nearly in tears. Because as I am pedaling around that dirt, time disappears. Suddenly, I'm 9 years old again, a little boy dreaming of living in sunny California, and racing on a BMX track. And there I am. I'm actually doing it! I have turned my childhood dream into reality.

So, if you are far past 20, don't assume you're too old to start racing BMX. Yes, you will be outnumbered by 9 year olds who are faster than you, but you can still have fun. Don't sit in the stands and hark back to your youthful days of cycling. Nostalgia is a very dangerous drug. People can get drunk on nostalgia. Addicted to nostalgia. Your good-old-days are right now; they are happening in this very moment. Honor your childhood, but don't waste so much time reminiscing about yesteryear, that you neglect tomorrow. Respect your past; but live in the present. No matter how wonderful your life has been, the greatest of your glory days might still be in the future...

Take it easy, kids. See you at the track!