From the Air to the Coping

Is the trend of coping and fly-out tricks an issue for BMX?

Go to any skatepark, look around for the younger crew of riders, what do you see? If it’s Barspins and Tailwhips on the fly-out and Footjams on the quarter then welcome to the modern day skatepark scene. Can the kid trying Barspins even air a quarter? Probably not.


Who’s riding the bowl? It’s unlikely that you’ll see little Johnny trying to rip round and dial in a fluid line because he will have one thing on his mind - finally landing that trick he’s been trying since he got on a bike.


Getabmx asked people central in BMX why this is happening and whether it’s an issue while gaining an insight into the current state of BMX. Don’t have much time? Just read the photo quotes.

23 December 2012

Tim Ruck, owner of the Boarding House

Learning stuff as fly-outs has always been a first step to progression as it’s a lot safer than diving into a steep landing! There was a dude called Chad Herrington doing loads of wild unseen before jump variations in 'Headfirst' circa 1991, who caught a load of flack as all the footage was on a step-up to flat landing, so basically a fly-out, and he was called out as 'not legit'. 


I did see him ride at Twin Palms in L.A. in '92 though and he was doing all those tricks over a set of doubles, so some redemption there.


Coping tricks, a disaster or pegs is a starter for getting used to transition/mini-ramp, with low crash potential. 


A lot of riders never get onto the basics i.e. going fast and jumping trails - that was the scene and all there was in the late 70's/early 80's, but as soon as 'freestyle' came along it was acceptable to ride in pretty much any way and tricks came to rule. The early scene was all based on Motorcoss, so going fast and jumping was it.


You can put together a rated video part nowadays without even reaching walking pace - see this clip.


Rated by The Come Up as 'really laid down some heat on this one' (posted Nov 11th 2012). No denying the dudes sick control on nose wheelies, but on the other stuff he’s barely rolling going into some of it, sometimes needing a kick on the pedals just to roll away.


Kids want to do what they think is cool, and if doing a bars fly-out makes them feel good, great! I was stoked the first time I did a bars fly-out! Shit, I was stoked last time i did one too!


Is it an issue for BMX? Nope, ride how you want, there's always someone coming along riding a different style, slow, fast, tech, old school, BMX is BMX.

John Deans, Unit Life rider

Kids just like to ride the same as who they look up to and a lot of pros now are all about doing lots of tech tricks and Barspins so kids just end up learning the same stuff. When I started out Mike Aitken was the guy I looked up to so I wanted to do the stuff he did; going fast and doing turndowns.


I think BMX is always changing in style and everyone is getting better and better and it's always good to see new people getting stoked on BMX.

Mike King, Videographer at Fast Forward BMX

it seems that in this day and age, kids are immediately subjected to ‘big tricks’ because it’s publicised a lot more on television and on the web. Kids see it, they think it’s impressive, they want to learn it. That’s all a lot of riders understand and that’s how they start, the sport progresses so fast that even as they learn bar-spins, whips and no handers etc (the first tricks they saw and were impressed by) there’s even more crazy stuff like that being done by the big pros which they still find impressive. They have a series of big tricks they want to accomplish and that’s all BMX will be for them, its just a huge nation of copycats.


That’s fair enough and each to their own, but these kids have never been taught or attempted to learn for themselves how to get creative with smaller more basic stuff. So many kids ride exactly the same and it drives me insane, kids are wasting their talent!


You don’t develop your own style or flair on anything if all your doing is copying what you think is cool. Damn, these kids have gotta wake up!

Chris C Olivier, Owner of PlusSizeBMX

Kids want to learn the "cool" tricks that they see done on the internet or TV. Because they think that would make them cool. And the fastest route to that (that has a minimum amount of risk) is fly-out tricks. It's an easier route to what they see as a success. And generally people like to take the easy route.


The trend isn’t an issue. These type of kids have always been around BMX. Most of them will hang out a while and ride for a few years or so. And then fade away. But thankfully a small portion will get it and become passionate about BMX and it will become a driving force in their lives, and that is a very good thing! Even the kids who never learn more then a tuck on a fly-out are very good for the industry. Those kids still buy bikes, parts, shirts and everything else, which supports the sport.

Lima Eltham, Relentless energy, DC shoes, Fox and Verde rider

I have no idea. Trails are a hard thing to come by nowadays, and kids wanting to build is even harder to find. However, if they are down the skatepark happy doing a fly out that’s all that matters. It’s kinda obvious why they do fly-outs first - it’s less scary.


It’s not an issue for the sport. BMX is the biggest its ever been. Most kids are really good nowadays, and they will eventually find the style which works best for them.

Joe Rich, Co-owner of Terrible One and former professional BMX rider

I think its natural for kids to try and emulate what they see. Since both videos on the Internet and skateparks are so accessible now, they can watch something on their computer then immediately have a place to try it.


I think that the majority of the time, when you’re younger, all you think about is obvious progression: I want to learn this and that; it’s pretty natural not to mention the more you see something, the easier it seems.


Back when I was learning how to go fast and ride trails I couldn't comprehend ever doing a Tailwhip or Barspin, there were only a handful of pros who could even do them. As so many kids can these days they just go with it. A change of times I guess.


I think the best part of BMX has always been that it can be anything you want it to be. If you like something do it. If you don't then don't. It’s easy to think that BMX is becoming this or that, but in the end you can always walk your own path. How much you want to let the outside world affect your riding, or your view of riding, is entirely up to you.

Michael Ferguson, The Fold rider

Learning tricks on fly-outs is nothing new. When your starting out you want to progress fast. Every park has a fly-out and landing those first basic tricks feels like a real accomplishment.


In the days of baggy jeans and cumbersome bikes there was a limit to what a skinny kid could learn on a 4ft kicker, so you'd move on to riding other stuff. I think today it's more common to see kids spending all their time on fly-outs. But as long as they have challenging places to ride and a range of pros to look up too (not just foam pit fiends) then hopefully it wont become a real issue.

John Lee, Events and Promotions Manager at Terminal 1 skatepark

Is it an issue? Yes and no. Thankfully we have some amazing role models in BMX right now who are mind bindingly amazing to watch and ride with and that's where the issue lies for the young guns who will soon take their place in years to come.


The thing about riding I love is the acceptance of all abilities and the passing on of how to's when riding with others. The UK guys at the top now - Harry Main, Anthony Mcguirk, Tom Justice, Kriss Kyle, Robbo, Fortes etc all spend time encouraging others at their local parks and riding with them.


My worry for the future is that it may turn into the attitude of "If you can't flair, flip, whip or bars - then you can fuck off" - thats my main concern.


It's a weird question and one we talk about a lot. That's why scootering is so popular. Kids don't want to put the graft into learning and experiencing the scene anymore; it's all about being the best and having a trick list on demand of whips, bars, flips and flares. They have forfeited speed, style and control for a trick bag they can post on Facebook and Youtube or in the latest attempt to make a desperate Sponsor Me edit. I mean mate you only need to go to any park and watch the kids on the resi ramp and foam pit, wasting absolute hours of time trying pointless tricks instead of riding hard having fun with their friends and picking up the sweet style you see resonating in the older maturer riders out there now killing it in front of the crowds!


Web edits are to blame. As soon as an edit comes out with new tricks popular with the pros everyones on catch up learn it mode. It started two years ago.

Steve Artus, former Back Yard Jam competitor

Even though there are probably more trails than there were 10/15 years ago, relative to how many parks are popping up there are less than there used to be and the ratio of trails riders to park / street riders is less, so the ratio of high speed riders to low speed riders is less.


The BMX scene used to be made of people who were all round riders and who'd ride anything available to them because there was so little too ride. Nowadays because BMX is more mainstream and there's so much to ride, people tend to focus on one or two types of riding and stick to that.


kids are attracted to the sport for different reasons, the ratio of ‘all out’ riders to slow speed tech/nibblers isn't what it used to be. It’s safe to learn tricks on fly outs and do coping tricks so that’s what the majority of kids do. It also means that they can go to nearly any skatepark and ride it to the best of their ability, because they don’t rely on particular set ups or lines.


It’s an issue personally because of the way I ride; I ride in a selfish manner where I like to use the whole park and if it's busy or people aren't looking out for different lines, I'll get snaked a lot. That’s a main reason why I used to ride comps - because I used to hate seeing a set up that i'd never get to ride, the only opportunity you'd get is if you entered. On top of that, for one minute you could do all the big lines without the stress of someone snaking you. However this isn't very profitable business opportunity for indoor parks, one rider at the time using the whole park doesn't make as much money as ten riders using a small section.


From a business point of view it's better, which is why a lot of small indoor parks are designed with less flow and more start stop one-off trick obstacles. This moulds the newer generation of riders who adopt to this slower style of riding.

Jake Kinney, MTB Director at Woodward West and Deity, Profile Racing, Vans and Rockshox rider

Thats a great question. I feel kids are learning fly-out tricks first because those are the tricks there seeing most people do. When if they actually take the time to learn how to flow and ride at a good speed and build confidence in a park and dirt jumps then the tricks they want to learn will be a whole lot easier. They can go from fly-outs to actually doing them over a jump or box jump. It all starts with style, confidence and true bike control.

I feel like the trend of kids just doing fly-outs is not bad but what I would like to see is other riders helping those kids in a positive way to take their tricks to the next level and doing them over things rather than just saying "why are they doing that to a fly out". We all started in the same spot.

Carter Holland, owner at Black Market Bikes

I think we (BMX kids growing up) always did that, it's just that the tricks have evolved so far that when a kid today sees a photo of a rider he wants to emulate, that rider is very rarely shown going fast or just flowing. Today's up and comer sees huge flipping/bar-spinning and tail-whipping combo pics so that's their goal.


When the photos were of Tim Judge doing some of the first Lookbacks or One-foot Tables, that was our goal and what we did on our fly-out jumps back in 1984.


I don't see it as a trend or issue. It's always been there, it's just evolved. But one thing remains a constant: in order to progress from a good rider to a great rider you will need to learn the small stuff, even if that’s after all the flips and whips, but nothing beats style and originality.

“You don’t develop your own style or flair on anything if all you’re doing is copying what you think is cool. Damn, these kids have gotta’ wake up!” Mike King

“As long as they (kids) have challenging places to ride and a range of pros to look up too (not just foam pit fiends) then hopefully it won’t become a real issue.” Michael Ferguson

Photo: JD Williams

Photo: Chris Olivier from PSBMX

“If kids actually take the time to learn how to flow and ride at a good speed and build confidence in a park and on dirt jumps then the tricks they want to learn will become a whole lot easier.” Jake Kinney

“It’s not an issue for the sport. BMX is the biggest it’s ever been. Most kids are really good nowadays and they will eventually find the style which works best for them.” Lima Eltham

Rob Newman, competitor and joint Dirt Wars organiser and getabmx rider:

Riders have always wanted to run before they can walk to a certain degree; always wanting to send bigger better tricks to try and be the next best thing and get noticed. Luckily the crew round my way haven't really ever been like that so it hasn't bothered me.


It’s a bit of an issue as a load of riders coming up through the ranks can send big tricks but have little stye, flow or technical ability when it comes to tech trails etc. But then the ones with the stunts, style, flow and ability trump us all and are the winners! BASTARDS!

So what do kids think? The following questions were asked:

Question 1: Would they rather learn how to ride a new obstacle or dial in a new trick?

Question 2: Do they prefer to watch a rider like Robbo, known for his style, or Mark Webb, well known for his big and tech tricks?



James Bennellick, 16

  1. 1.I think learning a new trick because then you can do it to different stuff

  2. 2.I would rather watch Robbo because he's a lot more chilled and Mark Webb does a lot of the same stuff.



Jacky Cartwrite, 17

  1. 1.I think learning how to ride something new because you can do more tricks around a certain obstacle.

  2. 2.Mark Webb because of his exceptional talent and enthusiasm.



Toby Bougouneau, 15

I. don’t really know because I enjoy learning everything but if I had to choose, I’d say learning a new trick because then I can take that trick and learn it on other things at different places.

2. Mark Webb because his edits are always so sick!



Reece Parr, 15

1. I’d rather learn a new trick. First onto the deck then over a jump box. I can’t ride trails cause it's so scary!

2. And I prefer Mark Webb’s style because I'm a park rat!



George Dawson, 16

1. I would rather ride something new because then you can learn your tricks on the thing you learnt.

  1. 2.Robbo obviously because he finds transitions better and he's smoother.



James Preston, 14

  1. 1.Learning how to ride something new cause it’s more fun.

  2. 2.Mark Webb but I don’t know why.



Connor Danzelman, 16

1. I would rather learn a new trick because then you can have infinite amounts of fun on just one obstacle, like a simple ledge.

2. For question two I'm going to have to say Robbo. I'm not really a fan of Mark Webb. I just think he's 'too proud to be British'. Not even the Queen is as enthusiastic about the red, white and blue as he is.


I could watch Robbo ride for hours and never get bored. The twists and turns and overall smoothness is incredible. Super fast whips/bars and rushed combo's (Whip Footjam’s etc) don't really appeal to me, but fair play to those who can do them!



Seven responses aren’t going to accurately depict the mindset of an entire generation of BMX riders, but it shows that contrary to what it seems, not all young riders are focused on tricks.

“From a business point of view it's better, which is why a lot of small indoor parks are designed with less flow and more start stop one-off trick obstacles. This moulds the newer generation of riders who adopt to this slower style of riding.” Steve Artus

“It’s easy to think that BMX is becoming this or that but in the end you can always walk your own path. How much you want to let the outside affect your riding, or your view of riding, is entirely up to you.” Joe Rich

“Kids have forfeited speed, style and control for a trick bag they can post on Facebook and Youtube or in the latest attempt to make a desperate Sponsor Me edit” John Lee

Photo: Tony Golenz

“Kids just like to ride like how who they look up to do and a lot of pros now are all about doing lots of tech tricks and bar spins so kids just end up learning the same stuff.”John Deans

“Even the kids who never learn more then a tuck on a fly-out are very good for the industry. Those kids still buy bikes, parts, shirts and everything else, which supports the sport.” Chris Olivier

“Going fast and jumping trails - that was the scene and all there was in the late 70's/early 80's, but as soon as 'freestyle' came along it was acceptable to ride in pretty much any way and tricks came to rule.” Tim Ruck

“In order to progress from a good rider to a great rider you will need to learn the small stuff, even if that’s after all the flips and whips, but nothing beats style and originality.” Carter Holland

“Riders have always wanted to run before they can walk to a certain degree; always wanting to send bigger better tricks to try and be the next best thing and get noticed.” Rob Newman

I’d rather learn a new trick. First onto the deck, then over a jump box. I can’t ride trails cause it's so scary!” Reece Parr, 15

Photo: Connor Danzelman

Photo: Curtesy of Vector BMX, Circa 1986

Photo: Joe Berryman

“I could watch Robo ride for hours and never get bored! The twists and turns and overall smoothness is incredible! Super fast whips/bars and rushed combo's (Whip Footjam’s etc) don't really appeal to me.” Connor Danzelman, 16

Conclusions? Well most people don’t see the current tricks before style, fly-out before flow trend as an issue. Maybe the fact that BMX is getting so big and attracting so many kids who are getting stoked riding bikes over-rides it.


There is however a clear message here to the younger generation: don’t just focus on tricks, don’t just copy each other: By doing so you’re making BMX robotic, stagnant and simply boring to watch. Wouldn’t you rather not be able to guess that riders next move?


Next time you’re at the park think of something creative or try a new line or gap, don’t simply copy your friends - in the long run your riding will thank you for it.


BMX needs to stay fresh, unexpected, exciting and most of all alive. Keep it that way.






What do yo think about the current state of BMX and where it’s heading? Share your views below:

Photo: Tom Hewins