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LETTER: Why Do We Need So Many Nationals?

September 24, 2017 by · Comments Off 

Letter: Why Do We Need So Many Nationals?

We have been in the sport for almost four years. One thing I have never understood is why are there so many national races every year? I know that, in some other sports, going to the national level is the ultimate step of success. In BMX, there is no way someone could go to all of them, or even half. So why are there so many?

MP, Midwest

Thanks for writing, MP. This is a question that weighs heavy on many-a-BMXer’s mind. But for all the discussion on the topic, the answer is likely more simple than we might expect.

Before we start, I have to stipulate that I have no special, secret, inside knowledge of the discussions that happen inside the inner-sanctum of USA BMX headquarters in Arizona. So, everything I am about to say may-well be pure bunk.

That said, one possibility is that there are so many nationals each year because the United States has the largest BMX participation pool in the world, and is a pretty-big place geographically. One only needs to look at the above map to see that.

A rider needs a minimum of seven scores to be in the running for a NAG plate. This means that a family could, conceivably, hit three national weekends (two three-day races and one two-day race), and have the requisite scores til the Grands.

That’s the MINIMUM, of course, and it really only applies to Girls, Experts and Cruisers, since they are at the level where a NAG plate is possible (with very-rare exception). Novice and Intermediate riders really have no business chasing far-flung nationals in bulk, and should partake in the one or two that are closest to them, then get back to the local track, state races and Gold Cups in their region.

Naturally, some families in NAG or National-title contention want to go to more than the bare-minimum three weekends, whether as part of a family vacation, to improve the scores they earned on the first three outings, to race for their team’s Team Sheet lineup or, in some cases, to strategically “block” others from getting better scores. It can also be to put their rider next to the top competition in their class so, come Grands time, they’re ready to rumble. Some of these are where the “chase” is rooted, but there are dozens, if not hundreds-more reasons, among the thousands of families who do it, year-in, and year-out.

If you’re in the chase, you may feel compelled to drive 27 hours to a race in Texas, then take a leisurely drive over to Atlanta to hit next weekend’s race, then drive 14 hours home on Sunday, pulling into the driveway at 4AM, so dad can get to work bright-and-early on Monday morning, after his one-week of vacation time. That’s fine (and really pretty awesome, as an experience), but it is NOT the requirement.

This may seem self-evident, but just because there are 25 national weekends on the 2017 schedule (plus Grands), it doesn’t mean you have to GO to 25 races. Nobody EXPECTS you, or any other BMXer, to go to 25 nationals. They are there for people within striking distance to hit–and a smaller, inevitable, percentage who want to cover the board as best as their (or their sponsor’s) funds will allow.

IF, on the other hand, the requirement were that you HAD to hit 15 of the 25, THAT would make it “too many nationals,” in my opinion.

Why not just have 10 nationals?

Another angle of the question is: “why not just have 10 nationals, dotting the map, instead of 25? They could all be in same relative locations, but it would mean everyone who wanted to race for fun or points would to go to those, making those races bigger.”

As with the above, this is just one man’s opinion, but do we REALLY want 10 nationals of 300+ motos each?

With that proposition, we have to answer the question: What, exactly, makes a “good” national? Is it solely rider count, where we all get back to the room at 11:45PM on Saturday and out of the parking lot at 5 on Sunday?

Or is it something else…great competition, of course. But alongside family “comfort” so racers can get a good night’s sleep, after enjoying a nutritious meal and maybe a dip in the hotel pool with BMX friends?

We have heard a lot of opinions after the few giant-races per year, saying that a back-to-the-room time of midnight (after snagging hot dogs off the roller grill at the Circle K, because everything else is closed) is certainly NOT ideal.

Thankfully, I don’t think we’re heading toward a 10-national schedule any time soon.

Is a BMX national ONLY about the actual race, however long it takes? Or is it 70% about that, and just-a-little about the experience each racer…each family…takes from that trip?

Getting back around to MP’s question, when the 2018 schedule comes out, find the races closest to you, plan a family vacation around a couple, and be satisfied with that. If you can do that, you’ll never have to ask the question “why are there so many nationals” ever again.

I hope all of the above will be fleshed-out in the comments. Your opinions are valued, above all-else.

—Mike Carruth

*A BIG BMX News thanks to Kirk Landeen for pointing us to the above Google map.


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Letter: My Son is Moving to Expert, May Quit if He Does Bad

June 26, 2017 by · Comments Off 

Main Event Qualifier Image
My son is a few wins away from moving up to expert. He doesn’t take losing well, and I am afraid he is going to quit once he moves up, because he will probably be at the back of the pack for quite a while. Any advice?

—JR, Pacific Northwest Read more

Letter: Anyone Ever Double-Up on Titles?

June 9, 2017 by · Comments Off 

Reader letter: Double Titles
Has anyone (male or female) ever won the national Amateur and Cruiser title in the same year? If not has anyone won both titles but in different years?

—EG, Midwest

We love questions about statistics, so thanks for asking this one, EG. There are all-manner of answers to this one Read more

Letter: What Does #AgeOfTheBeginner Mean?

May 21, 2017 by · Comments Off 

What is #AgeOfTheBeginner
For the past couple months, I have noticed you and Donny Robinson and a few others using the hashtag #AgeOfTheBeginner in your Facebook posts. What does that mean? Is it something to do with your BMX Beginner League?

JP, Florida

Thanks for writing JP. As you are aware, an “age” Read more

Letter: Why Do We Earn District Points Outside our District?

February 9, 2017 by · Comments Off 

Letter: Why are there district points outside the district?

I just saw your article about the Gold Cup finals and noticed that those races count for QUADRUPLE district points. Earlier this morning, I saw a Facebook post shared from Tyler Brown talking about how all these big races were killing the local scene. Suddenly, it made sense, what he was talking about.

Why does USA BMX give district points for races outside the district, in the first place? We are fairly new to BMX, but it seems like the district points should be for your local races, Gold Cup points for Gold Cup races, national points for national races, etc. I would be curious how this practice got started and why they still do it.
—JK, So. Cal

This is a question we, ourselves, have talked about here at the BMX News Global Command Center, and it makes us want to give JK a golden crown, Burger King style, for asking it.

Here is the Tyler Brown post that JK was referring to:

Tyler Brown Post on Local BMX Racing

*Editor’s Note: The Facebook meme shown was not of Tyler’s creation, but he did share it with the caption:

So true! Since when did racing locals become “not cool” I grew up racing multi times a week and it’s such a bummer when race time hits my track half the crowd leaves. It’s cool to train but all the training in the world won’t make you “race ready” #RaceLocals

For the details on JK’s question, we called upon Brad Hallin at USA BMX, who gives us both the history and the present-day thinking behind the practice. Here’s what Brad said:

The foundation of BMX racing is district points and one of the fundamental principles of the American Bicycle Association was the notion that every race would offer district points to riders. Each year, the goal of those riders should be to earn a higher ranking (lower bike number) based on the district points they earned during the previous season.

Some races will offer more points as a result of being designated a double or triple point event, and racing against more riders also earns you more points – as you faced more competition.

One of the things that keep riders interested in BMX is the ability to travel and race against other competitors on different BMX tracks.

This certainly could mean traveling outside of a rider’s district, but the district points will transfer back to his/her district for ranking purposes. For the local tracks hosting these events, the district points (especially for multi-point races) offer incentives for out-of-towners to come race their track.

This benefits the grassroots programs and also benefits the riders by offering them more competition on a different racetrack – keeping them challenged. It is a win-win. This is a proven system that has stood the test of time, as USA BMX celebrates our 40th year as the leader in bicycle motocross racing.

Certainly, riders and parents enjoy being able to see how they measure up. In the über-competitive district points race, that includes all races that those riders competed in.

We understand that people might want to break that down into a smaller, bite-sized pieces and maybe look at how their rider stacks up at the local BMX track – not counting events that happen at other tracks (even within the same district). For that reason, we began last year to show track-based district points on the microsite of each sanctioned track.

With this new tool, riders can search their track-based rankings by class, age group, proficiency or any combination thereof. Some tracks are even doing track awards based on these points, as those are the riders who are clearly supporting that grassroots program the most.

Here are some screenshots showing the AZ01 BOYS rankings for 2016, followed by the BOYS class at Chandler BMX, the 6 year old BOYS class at Chandler and finally the entire Novice class at Chandler.

USA BMX District Points

You can view the Chandler BMX leaderboard for BOYS by clicking this link:

Hopefully, this answers the question and shows that we understand people want more flexibility to view the data to see how their rider measures up.

If I can be of further assistance, please feel free to reach out to me at brad@usabmx.com.

Thanks to both JK and Brad for helping us bring this important question (and the respective answer) to News readers. JK, we’re sending you a BMX News T-Shirt and a Burger King Crown with News sticker affixed.

—Mike Carruth

Letter: Did Felicia Stancil Quit Racing?

December 20, 2016 by · Comments Off 

Did Felicia Stancil Quit Racing?
We are big Felicia Stancil fans in our house. My daughter really looks up to her and runs to the fence when the girl pros are on the gate to see her race. We didn’t see her this year, not even at Grands. Did she quit racing?

The “B” family, Midwest

Thanks for your letter, B family! We are “big Felicia fans” ourselves, and this is a question we have been asking around the office, ourselves, the past few months, after Lake Perris, and leading up to the Grands. So, we texted her recently to ask the question “Did Felicia quit racing?”

Here’s what she said:

Definitely not! I had an issue with my thyroid not producing enough of its hormone.

I had to take medicine to get my thyroid to function normally again. The doctor told me it will take 6-9 months from when I started the medicine for my body to produce the hormone naturally, which is about now! I will race next year.

Collegiate BMX Nationals March 10-12 (With the Cajun Nationals in Monroe,LA) will most likely be my first race back.

—Felicia

So, there it is! Definitely looking forward to seeing #23 back in the lead, and in our viewfinder in the new year.

Photo: Felicia at Chula Vista BMX, via Facebook, photographer unknown.

Links

Felicia Stancil on Twitter

Felicia Stancil on Instagram





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Is it Cool to Fund Grands Trip On GoFundMe?

November 14, 2016 by · Comments Off 

Donate to Grands Trip
I am coming up short on the money I need for my Grands trip. Thinking about launching a GoFundMe to close the gap. My buddy says that’s lame, but another one says “go for it.” What do you think?

—Anonymous

Personally, I think GoFundMe should be for charitable causes like helping a family in need after an unexpected illness or death in the family. Naturally, it’s used for all kinds of things, from those mentioned above, to prom wear and plastic surgery.

I know there are a lot of people who feel the same way (that it should be for more charitable causes) and still-others who are even more harshly judgmental, saying it’s cheesy to digitally panhandle one’s way to the races.

But that’s all just opinion. If you put out a campaign and people contribute to it, well, that’s the “market” in action. Those who think it’s cheesy/shady won’t contribute, and those who want to help a bro out will chip in a tank of gas, or a Chipotle run’s worth of assistance. As for the vocal minority who puts you on social media blast…who cares what they think?

The problem a lot of people see in the GoFundMe method versus, say, selling T-Shirts, or similar fundraising sale is that, at least with a T-Shirt, the donor is getting some value out of the deal—a T-Shirt, or a brownie, or whatever you’re exchanging for this money. GoFundMe is just an ask, with no work required on the part of the person raising the funds. Some people have a philosophical objection to that.

However you decide to raise the money, best of luck in doing so, and we hope to see you in Tulsa.

—Mike Carruth

It may be a little late in the game to actually execute some of these, but here are some fundraising ideas that Bryce Betts wrote about last year.

Links

7 Fundraising Tips For Your UCI Worlds Trip






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Letter: Advice on Starting a BMX Frame Company

August 15, 2016 by · Comments Off 

Starting a BMX Company

I have a team that is mostly “regional” in the races we hit. I love working with the kids and want to do more for them next season. I am thinking about starting a frame company after Grands to help pay for the cost of the team. Do you have any advice?

—FB, East Coast

Thanks for writing FB. It’s awesome you are looking to do more for your team riders, helping to make their BMX dreams come true. That said, starting a manufacturing company may not prove to be the fundraising opportunity you hope it to be.

At present, there are 82 BMX Racing frame brands on the market—proof positive that the market is massively saturated. That means it will be more difficult to sell your new frames, and may even cause you to LOSE money, rather than bring funds into your team’s coffers.

Here’s how it usually works:

The owner of Brand-X spends $10,000-$15,000 on frame inventory, depending on the vendor and their minimums. This is sometimes split over a few credit cards, the justification being that it will be paid off as soon as the new Brand-X frame hits the streets.

They reckon they will sell their product at the track and on Facebook, so things like advertising the product and a legitimate website are “expenses” they will get to “once the money starts rolling in.” It never does start rolling in, of course, because their whole reason for doing it is flawed.

If you want to start a business, by all means start a business. But, then go into it AS a business, which means taking the proper steps in the start-up process (setting up a legal entity, branding, marketing/advertising, product insurance, warranty service, shipping/tracking, finance and a significant investment of your own time). Back to our story:

Mr. Brand-X is stuck with 35 frames in his basement for years after the first initial flash of sales (totaling 20 frames of the 56 he bought to round out all the sizes he needed to offer. One was stolen from the pit at a national a couple years back).

Mrs. Brand-X is tired of these frames clogging up her basement, and reminds Mr. Brand X of the cash spent on this venture and the fact that the cards are still being paid off; she is reminded of this daily when doing the laundry. Mr. Brand-X finally unloads them little by little on eBay for $50, then $75, then $100 less than he paid for them.

I kid you not, this is a scenario that has played out multiple times, just in the eight short years I have been back in the sport.

So, to answer your question…

The best advice I can give on starting a frame company in the current market condition is: “Don’t do it!” Sorry if this was not the advice you were looking for, but in a couple years, when you have a clean, uncluttered basement and a smiling Mrs. Brand-X, you’ll know it was the best route to have taken.

There are many other methods to raise funds for your team that don’t involve a large, up front, cash outlay. You might start by looking at some of the fundraising articles we have run in the past (links below).

Good luck to your team for the rest of this season, and into the new year.

—Mike Carruth

Links

7 Fundraising Tips For Your UCI Worlds Trip
(That also work every day)

15 Fundraising Ideas for BMX Tracks

Reader Letter: “Will News Be Covering Freestyle?”

May 22, 2016 by · Comments Off 

Christian van Hanja at the FISE 2016
I read your article last week on the UCI and USA BMX getting involved in Freestyle. Does this mean BMX News will be covering freestyle alongside racing now, like BMX Plus did in its day? I am not going to say which way I hope you’re leaning because I don’t want to change your answer.

— RJ, East Coast

Thanks for writing RJ. This was actually a question I was asking myself as I was writing that article. The bottom line is: BMX News covers primarily racing, and that isn’t going to change. But we also like bringing News readers a little variety in the stories we publish. This might mean an occasional technology article, travel tips, life hacks and news items that might impact the BMX industry or our sport.

We have occasionally published some freestyle stories, like the development of UCI BMX Freestyle to this point, which we have been covering since 2011. As I sit here today, I can’t imagine a time when we will be covering BMX Freestyle at even a 15% level (85% racing, 15% freestyle).

I envision periodic coverage of the big headlines happening on that side, but there is a whole universe of websites that cover freestyle in a very comprehensive way. And not so many covering the racing side. We are dedicated to continuing our mission of covering BMX Racing as completely as we possibly can.

A new version of BMX News is coming soon, and it will give us the opportunity to cover a bigger volume of BMX Racing news on a day-to-day basis than we have over the past seven-plus years. We’re stoked on racing, and it’s going to stay that way.

Thanks again for your letter, and I hope you will continue to read these pages in the months and years to come.

—Mike Carruth

Top Photo: Christian van Hanja at the FISE 2016, Montpellier, France. Thanks to Bart de Jong for the photo.

Editor’s Note: We sent the above as a reply to RJ to get his reaction to our answer. Here’s what he replied with:

“That’s great. It’s what I hoped you would say.”


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Reader Letter: Three Kits or One?

April 29, 2016 by · Comments Off 

Reader letter: Three Kits or One?

I am team manager of a new team in the Northeast, and we are thinking about what kind of uniform we want to go with. Some members of the team want a different color uniform for each race day, like many of the factory teams, and I think we should have two uniforms of the same design.

You see a lot of riders, what do you think about this question?

GB – Northeast

Thanks for writing GB, and congrats on the new team. This is a great question, and one about which I have a split-opinion. The uniform of a BMX team is one of the most important aspects of their duty to sponsors, and to their own identity as a team.

Your note did not mention who, if any, your sponsors are, so I will go on the assumption that you have some sort of support, whether a set of co-sponsors or a bike sponsor, or a local business supporting the team.

As a photographer, I love the idea of different kits for every day of racing (as shown above on #NewsTeam member, Bryce Betts at the recent Carolina Nationals). Different kits allow me the opportunity to capture two, sometimes three, different “looks” for the riders who change day-to-day.

2016 Carolina Nationals – Friday
Sam Willoughby rockin the TLD Sprint kitWhen Sam Willoughby changes up his TLD uniform for each race day, the photos I come back with have some great variety. Of course, not everyone is Sam Willoughby, who is among the most recognizable riders in the world. Fans and media go out of their way to find him in the crowd. That can’t necessarily be said for a lower profile rider or team.

2016 Carolina Nationals – Saturday Sam Willoughby rockin the TLD Sprint kitWhen a team changes colors from one day to the next, it IS tough to pick them out. Not so much for the well-known riders, but for teams that are not as well-known, it is easy to miss those riders entirely from one day to the next, so they never gain recognition with the fans, because their identity is a constantly moving target. This is the point at which the “cool factor” that riders dig, bumps up against the “business” of being sponsored.

BRANDING is about consistency and repetition. This concept of consistency and repetition dictates that riders should be rockin the same uniform any/every time they show their face in public. Fans get used to seeing it, and can visually identify riders in the gate and on the track, without benefit of an announcer’s help.

So, to answer your question, as to what is “best,” like most things, it is going to depend on your goals. If emulating the factory stars is the desired outcome, and visual recognition is less important, then the multi-kit would work out fine. If, however your goal is being instantly recognized by the racing public, media, potential new sponsors and announcers, then stick with one consistent kit, and purchase two of the same pants/jerseys.

The riders should have two complete sets of clothing–at a minimum– in case they crash and rip one set, and to ward off the stinky funk of running the same clothes on day three of a steamy national weekend. If you only order one jersey for each rider, and that one jersey gets ripped, or left hanging on the shower rod at the hotel, it could take a month or more to get a new one ordered up from your jersey vendor.

I hope this helps give you some points of discussion within the team. If you’re shopping for your uniforms online, check out the link below for the “Race Wear” page on J&R Bicycles. Use Discount code JRSPOT15 for 15% off non-sale items (orders totaling $75 or more).

Send Your Letter:
Reader letters can be sent to letters@bmxnews.com. If we use yours, we’ll send you a BMX News T-Shirt.

Links

Racing Apparel at J&R Bicycles





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