BMX riders fall off their bikes, get their teeth knocked off, and even suffer some broken bones, sometimes. But as crazy as that sounds, it doesn’t take long for most riders to get back on the saddle.

In some cases, it is almost immediately.

To put it simply, no matter how busy a rider’s day gets, it will not be complete if their bicycles are not taken out for a spin at least once.

The riders get restless when they are not riding their bikes at skate parks or on the streets, and perform some tricks at the same time.

“Riding is not just a hobby, it is our lifestyle,” said Muhammad Saiful Ariff, 21, who is fondly known as Arip among his biker buddies.

The Civil Engineering student from Politeknik Shah Alam, Selangor, has been an avid BMX rider for almost six years. He was attracted to the sport after watching the Asian X-Games in Malaysia and was immediately hooked on the activity, which soon became a lifestyle for him.

Of course, there is no exact definition for what a BMX rider’s lifestyle is. It’s open to interpretation ranging from who they hang out with, to the clothing brands they choose to flaunt, to something as frivolous as how they wear their trucker caps.

“It is something that we all want to do. That’s why we are here almost everyday,” said pro-rider Sheikh Muhammad Taslim Sheikh Mohd Raziff, better known as Botak Kuantan.

A student of Universiti Institut Teknologi Mara Perak, Botak has been a professional rider for a few years now, having participated in various international tournaments around the region.

“When I first started, I didn’t expect to compete against some of greatest BMX riders that I have admired. To know that I am almost on par with them now is just an amazing feeling,” Botak shared.

A humble guy, Botak was reluctant to reveal that he is actually one of the top three best BMX riders in Malaysia and is often times a medalist in competitions.

“There are two guys who often win the flatland competitions around the region. One is the legendary BMX rider Mat Dagu (Ahmad Shaiful Azis) and the other is Botak,” revealed Shahrul Fazry, 23.

There are six disciplines in freestyle BMX riding – street, park, vert, trails, dirt and flatland. Both Botak and Fazry are expert flatland riders, while Arip focuses on street and park.

They all met through BMX competitions and became fast friends – often hanging out and riding at skate parks together. One of their many riding haunts is the Extreme Skate Park in Section 13, Shah Alam, where they can often be seen sharpening their skills.

And falling.

And getting back on their bikes again. The cycle continues.

While many would assume the riders to be rivals, they said otherwise. “There is no politics among us BMX riders. We are, or at least, believe that we are, all friends and belong in the same riding family,” said Arip, adding that there are, however, reported rivalries among other extreme sports members.

“You can see that some of them – be it skaters, in-line skaters and so on – they have their own cliques and hang out among themselves. The scene is much different for BMX riders. We need each other to learn from one another and improve ourselves,” Arip continued.

Botak, on the other hand, said that such rivalry among the other extreme sports enthusiasts may fuel them to work harder and push themselves to come out tops.

“I think such rivalry could provide a healthy level of competition which would ensure that we don’t get into a rut. It’ll keep us on our toes all the time,” he said.

While some people still see any kind of extreme sports as a waste of time, Fazry and his friends are keen to prove them otherwise. They believe that extreme sports, especially where BMX is concerned, has come far in this country.

“There are some who still think that BMX is for kids and that we don’t gain anything from this at all. They are wrong. We have all improved so much and have taken this sport up to an international level. We are that good,” explained Fazry.

But, fortunately for the boys, not everyone sees their passion for BMX riding as a kiddie sport. Some do laud them for their achievements and have expressed their amazement at how they execute some of their gravity-defying stunts.

It was not easy learning those stunts, and the boys admit to that readily. It takes them days, weeks and sometimes even months to master certain tricks.

While Botak believes that there are still a few original tricks out there, most of them are now variations of tricks made more difficult to showcase their expertise.

“I always work on perfecting the tricks, even though I may have nailed them a few times. There is no such thing as too much practise.

“Everybody has their own unique way of interpreting the tricks and its variations. It all comes down to how they control their bikes and their individualities,” noted Botak.

Speaking of BMX bikes, Fazry lamented on the skyrocketing price of the bikes in Malaysia, which he feels burdens the riders unnecessarily.

All three of them own bikes that are worth around RM4,000 each, which Fazry thinks not many Malaysian youths can afford.

The spare parts don’t come cheap either and they have to fork out more money to replace certain things due to wear and tear.

“The Government should really consider reducing, or better still, exempting the tax on extreme sports items. This would really benefit the young people as they, or maybe their parents, could afford to buy the bikes in the future,” said Fazry.

He revealed that there have been many instances when parents come up to the pro-bikers to find out more about the bicycles so that they can buy them for their children. “The moment we tell them the price, they are turned off the idea! That’s a real shame, actually,” said Fazry.

A beginner’s bike costs around RM2,000, an amount that most parents wouldn’t (or couldn’t) spare without being sure that their kids are truly passionate about the sport.

“Then the kids cannot even get to see if they are really into BMX because they don’t have a bike to try things out on. This really kills all the new talents,” said Fazry.

The riders also believe that another issue that hinders the growth of extreme sports in Malaysia is the lack of accessible facilities.

Although there are many skateparks in the country and quite a number in the Klang Valley, Arif, Botak and Fazry think that these places are way off the usual youth hang-out spots.

“This skate park in Shah Alam is accessible to many people, so this is quite popular. But the one in Putrajaya is just too far away which is why we don’t often go there. And some of the skate parks in other states are built in obscure areas where no youths frequent. They are such a waste of amenities,” Arif complained.

The riders hope that the Government would build more skate parks in urban areas in the future that are not just accessible to everyone, but also ones that are able to help the sportsmen grow and improve their skills.

“We would like more skate parks around neighbourhoods and also want them to be built according to the international standards. Something that would challenge us as riders and help us work on our skills. Only then can we bring this sport to a whole new level and bring glory to our country,” said Fazry.

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