I have listened to your opinions on a couple of the podcasts, but you never really gave your opinion of how do you think BMX will change after Covid is over?
Thanks for the letter GB, and for listening to the podcasts I have appeared on. Post-COVID is a reality that is still forming, as we speak. That being the case, there could be changes to what I am about to say, but sitting here today, I can count a few positives and a few negatives as probable.
1). Getting back to normal is going to take longer than we think. This, of course applies to the world, as a whole, as well as our little world of BMX Racing. Sitting here today, it’s pretty tough to imagine traipsing through an airport, getting on a plane and staying in a hotel, where God-knows-who was sneezing last night, then going out to a crowded track and lining the fence to watch the races…kids doing the tongue-out cough all over the place, then off to a crowded restaurant.
2). Local Racing Will Surge. It’s an easy first-step to getting back to “normal.” It doesn’t require much exposure, since you can get in your car, get the track, and pit with social distance in mind, ride practice and/or race, then go back home. USA BMX is offering a training program for tracks to understand how to prepare their track for the post-COVID era. Perhaps this will include things like rearranging staging to not be packed so close. Maybe signups will be pre-sign only (no cash), and concessions will be pre-packaged foods only for a time. But you will see people showing up who you usually don’t see.
3). We will be missing a fair amount of riders. Historically, BMX Racing has been pretty lax in keeping in touch with people who drop out of the sport. We know we are going to lose a great-many of them every year, and I think that is just accepted as fait accompli. One day, we see a family at the track. Then, after a holiday break, or the track closes for a close-by triple pointer, we suddenly never see them again. Distracted to go do something else, I guess.
Well, COVID is the mother of all distractions. On one hand, people will be anxious to get out of the house once the all-clear is sounded in their area. But will those people come back to the BMX track? Rabid BMXers that we see day in and day out on Facebook WILL come back, of course.
But when you get a few rings outside the regulars, we need to be very diligent in our outreach, and have “Welcome Back” programs in place, ready to go. Use the data at our disposal to actually follow up with families who do not show back up on the radar after a couple weeks, and find out where they are.
4). We have an opportunity to draft off of the COVID “Bike Boom.” One of the only activities that is socially acceptable during the shutdown is cycling. Bike industry publications are touting a mini “Boom” for bikes. This means that, across the country, tens of thousands of families are riding bikes, where they may have not done so before. This presents an opportunity for our beginner programs to bring kids out to the BMX track for the first time.
BMX Tracks, while they are public spaces, offer a closed-course environment, usually with ample spacing between pits, and limited exposure time (you can take a lap, then distance again). It’s an individual sport that doesn’t require you to be in close quarters with others. We need to play up our strengths, and this is a big one.
5). A Closer BMX Community. If the COVID shutdown will have given us anything positive, it may-well be a tighter BMX community, by way of countless discussions, debates and likes, shares and comments, made during our time at home. Seek out some of the BMXers with whom you found some common ground; friendship and shared experience is what BMX is all about.
6). Some BMX Brands will disappear. We often make jokes about the 90+ BMX Racing frame brands in the marketplace. And the couple dozen others who make up a bunch of frames or parts, only to bro-deal them to locals from the trunk of their car at the races. That is free enterprise and, for all the calls for USA BMX to “do something about it,” I like the free market just the way it is.
That said, I can definitely see COVID taking its toll on some of these brands, as their owners reposition their priorities, focus on their “real job” to recover financially from the crisis, and kids within those families having moved on to other activities that don’t involve a bike.
7). Surviving BMX Brands Will See a Boom. Once people get back to work, and tracks open up for the summer season, BMX families will be off to the races. Once we are, some much-needed and well-deserved “retail therapy” will be in order. We will see a spike in mail order purchasing the next few weeks, as stimulus payments come in, and then again when racing gets back underway.
8). Ending the state and local-mandated lockdowns may create hardships for some. Once businesses can re-open, people are going to be in an understandable rush to get back to work and back to normal. But, in many cases, school has been canceled for the balance of the school year, leaving a childcare gap for families with two working parents. Best to start that post-lockdown planning now; it will likely be needed in 10-20 days time.
We could drill down further, but I think the the above sums up GB’s question pretty well, about how BMX will have changed due to COVID. Hopefully, both the bad and the good will be better than anticipated.
COVID Photo by CDC, via UnSplash
“OPEN” Photo by Edwin Hooper, via UnSplash