Ron Wilkerson has been with the sport of freestyle BMX since before it was even a sport. He was one of the handful of riders in the early eighties who were bored with racing and wanted a little more out of their twenty-inch bikes. Ron is also the only one of those handful of riders who is still and active force in shaping the sport he helped start.
The first large, sanctioned freestyle event I ever attended was a Haro show and contest in October of 1985. I was fourteen. Ron Wilkerson and Dave Nourie journeyed to the hinterlands of Dothan, Alabama to show us backwoods BMXers what BMX was about.
Ron has followed freestyle’s ups and downs (for those of you who don’t know, freestyle BMX all but died in the late-eighties/early-nineties). When the competitive side of the sport — of which he’s always been a staunch suporter — was lacking, Ron stepped in and provided what he thought it needed with his 2-Hip King of Vert and Meet the Street contests. When the companies weren’t providing strong enough parts, Ron’s Wilkerson Airlines and 2-Hip Bike companies have tried to do so. At just over thirty-years old and with nearly twenty years of BMX experience, he remains the rider’s rider.
The following interview was conducted via email on May 19, 1997: Ron had just gotten back from riding a really good vert ramp in New York City.
Roy Christopher: You’ve been with freestyle since day one. Do you see it maintaining its vitality nowadays, or do you think we’re living in the past?
Ron Wilkerson: Yeah, the level of riding is insane. It’s rad seeing riders going off, but every day that the sport gets more corporate is just another day that makes me just want to get even more hardcore and anti. it’s funny laughing at the stupid shit. You know, I’ve been riding since before there was even such a thing as “freestyle.” Then I was pro riding it when it got big (but still trying to add my punk rock tendencies to the sport). I was riding when the sport died and there was no money in it, I’m still riding when it’s reaching corporate heaven, and I’ll continue riding wherever it goes next. I will make sure that I am involved enough to continue leaving a mark at least with the 2-Hip underground.
RC: You obviously see problems with the state of competition given the fact that you’re bringing back the 2-Hip contests. What specific goals are you shooting for with your series?
RW: As far as all this corporate “extreme” stuff — I fucking hate where it’s all going: all clean and neat and stale — hence us bring back the King of Vert contests. These will be fun. Contests for riders — for the people in the sport — not Joey home in front of his TV. But you know, all this hoopla will only make it better for us who really ride because we’ll have more power to really represent the riders who care. the sport of freestyle BMX is about style and originality, and it’s not supposed to be like all the team sports of football, baseball, etc. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that most bikers are bikers because they hate all that stuff and want to do something different. the King of Vert contests will be fun for riders.
RC: What riders do you respect, past and present?
RW: Hmm… Brian Blyther and Mike D. riding the Pipeline combi-pool: No way! That pool was so gnarly, and those guys had it so wired: four-foot airs out of four feet of vert cement pool… Five-foot airs out of the corner of the square pool… Mike transferring the opening gap between the two pools… Straight-up, plain-and-simple, pure biking talent. You could never recreate those days… Umm, Mat Hoffman for his additions and for donating his body to vert riding… Bob Haro, of course, for being so innovative and original… Dizz was rad… Nowadays, just the dudes that ride and don’t give a hell. They just ride for themselves. That is cool. They don’t care about “new school” or “old school.” They just ride.
RC: You live what most pre-teens/teens would perceive as the perfect life (i.e., own your own bike company, ride your bike all the time, play in a band, tour, etc.). Do you have any advice, insight, or caution to dole out to prospective Ron Wilkersons out there?
RW: Hmmm… Well, life is pretty damn good. It’s not always been so good. I’ve been throughs ome really rough times and pretty much worked my ass off to be here (wherever I am), but as far as advice and all that, I just say enjoy your fucking life. never stop appreciating the fact that you get to wake up everyday and fucking live. Set goals and go after whatever shit you really want.
RC: Anything you’d like to add to this that I didn’t bring up?
RW: If there’s one thing I can say more than anything it would be — if you dont’ have it, you didn’t want it bad enough.
[originally published in frontwheeldrive #47]