Go to the base area of Hartman Rocks Recreation Area on any summer day and you’re guaranteed to find a bounty of mountain bikers gearing up for the trails. But look north and you may notice a rider getting big air on a much smaller size bike known as BMX.
Ask Gunnison local Richard Haydon about BMX and he’ll jokingly tell you all riders fall perfectly into two categories: “Ones that have fallen, and ones that are going to.”
BMX, or “bicycle motocross,” originally got its start in the 1970s. What began as kids racing bikes on dirt tracks in southern California has now grown into one of the most popular sports of the Summer X Games.
The 1972 motorcycle racing documentary is also credited with solidifying the popularity of BMX. The scene continued gaining mass popularity and by the ’80s manufacturers were making bikes specific to the sport.
Although it may go unnoticed by most, nestled at the base area of Hartman’s is a race track of jumps and twists and turns made just for BMX riding.
All the jumps are built by hand, and everyone who builds them are volunteers.
“Nobody maintains this so it’s us out here doing the work,” explained Gunnison native Cade Samson.
Samson began riding after giving it a go one day with a few friends.
“It is scary and terrifying, but once you get over that it’s really fun,” said Samson.
Sometimes, Samson, Haydon and whoever else is interested in offering a helping hand will spend all day digging and shaping jumps.
“If you can make it awesome for yourself, then it’s full circle,” said Samson. “That’s why I don’t mind using a shovel for hours on end — because it’s not for nothing.”
Haydon started riding around age 9 — and the feeling of free riding was something he never forgot.
“It’s arguably one of the most freeing things you can do with your time and that was it,” recalled Haydon. He also gave props to Tomichi Cycles owner Bill O’Rourke for inspiring a lifelong love of the sport.
“We all pretty much grew up at the bike shop,” said Haydon.
For him, a big draw is the simplicity — just you and your bike.
“It’s really a true and honest sport,” said Haydon. “It’s you versus yourself and you get out of it what you put in.”
Haydon has been building jumps at Hartman’s for nearly eight years running, and one of the best parts about the work is watching people enjoy the ride, he said.
It’s also been fun to watch riders of all ages give BMX biking a go — “we’re trying to get more kids into jumping,” added Haydon.
And no matter how many years spent on the track, Haydon said there are still times he crashes. Most importantly, a helmet helps to cushion those crashes.
“You can always crash, there’s a definite risk and reward to it — gravity doesn’t let anybody slide,” joked Haydon.
(Kate Gienapp can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or email@example.com.)