Louisville Bicycle Club

Table of Contents

From the President
Ever Considered BMX?
Touring Season
From the Editor

January-February 1999 Newsletter

Ever Considered BMX?

by Bob Zeman

You’ve seen it, heard it and wondered what it would be like, BMX, BMX BMX!!

Kids, kids, kids you say; kids are the only riders on a BMX track. “Au contraire,” says Bob Zeman, local LBC masters rider, who placed 8th in the country in the Grand National Competition here in Louisville over Labor Day.

Bob Zeman
  Bob Zeman (right) displaying his 8th-place trophy at the 1998 Grand National Championship, assisted by Chris Pope
Beginning as an adjunct to motorcycle moto-cross racing in the 1970’s, BMX provided youngsters with preparation to adult moto-cross. This gave the “kids something to do” at a moto-cross track. In the 70’s, there were tracks in California, Florida, and the East, but a state park in Louisville, KY, with the support of Gil Morris (Highland Cycle), and Bob Peters (Clarksville Schwinn) developed the E.P. “Tom” Sawyer BMX Track. Tom Sawyer and the Derby City BMX Club gained a national reputation and a rather perennial hold on the “Grands,” held every Labor Day weekend in Louisville. This is now, with the addition of the pros, a “real world championship!” The Grands draws some 10,000 spectators for about 1,600 motos. All day, every minute, there are elimination motos until the last day when the riders advance to the “semis and mains.” LBC’s Bob Zeman made “the mains,” and became the 8th fastest in the country in the 50-and-over cruiser class. Bob races for Jeffersonville Schwinn and advises everyone to come to Tom Sawyer Park to see what it’s all about.

A moto lasts usually 50-40 seconds and is pure skill, speed and adrenaline. Ability to push the small bike around counts more than strength and endurance, but Bob says at the national level winners are skilled, strong, and fast!! Bob likens BMX more to mountain bike racing than the road because of the bike’s handling and jumping. Learning to ride in a slightly different position than a road or mountain bike is paramount. The rider’s weight is not over the front of the bike, but to the rear, like you are doing a “wheelie.” On a BMX bike, you seldom sit on the seat except at the gate and you keep the front end “light.” Now they don’t even call riding on the back wheel doing a “wheelie” but “getting manual.” This enables the bike to pick up speed without pedaling. This may sound strange, but Bob says you accelerate with body motion, rolling the bike into the dips and jumps, while keeping control all the time.

Bob rides a medium gear, 41x17, on a cruiser with 24" wheels. The kids usually ride 20" wheels, but also have a cruiser class. Bob’s bike is chrome molly steel, but aluminum is very popular. A complete bike is reasonable (about $300); rear brakes only, no gears and Shimmano 636 clipless pedals; clothing consists of long pants, full-face helmet and long sleeves. Bob wears a Fox lightweight chest protector and knee and elbow pads. Bob says you may practice with road helmet on a mountain bike, but for the real rush, try a cruiser and go slow to learn!

“Just roll the Tom Sawyer course” Bob advises. “It’s harder than it looks. Come out to watch a few Sunday races.” He says you’ll be amazed how the 6 yr. olds fly around and over the track. Bob recommends the track as the best teacher for real racing skills to youngsters for safely learning the sport. There’s no traffic to worry about. Finally, Bob says there’s still lots for him to learn. “Hey, most every 9 yr. old can beat me out there!”


Copyright ©1999 Louisville Wheelmen. All rights reserved.
Web posted: 31 December 1998
last updated: 2 February 1999
by Duc M. Do