Written by Mark O’Neill
Photography courtesy of Wild Chile BMX
It’s an exciting day of racing at the Bicycle Motocross (better known as simply BMX) track. Going strong for over five decades, the sport has attracted more than 60,000 registered riders in USA BMX and 43 national federations. “It’s a really fun activity and I like the camaraderie with the other riders,” says 11-year-old rider Ben Curry. “All the riders work well together on bike repairs and just helping each other to be better racers.” Ben has also participated in soccer and gymnastics, but he says he spends most of his time outside of school immersed in BMX, “striving to get better and earn points so I can move up to the bigger races.”
The local track, located at Meerscheidt Recreation Center next to the Skate Park, came to fruition in the late 1970s under the Police Athletic League. It was later Roadrunner BMX, and is now operated by Wild Chile BMX, a non-profit association sanctioned by USA BMX. The city’s Parks and Recreation department supports the program and parents serve as volunteers, board members, and track officials, helping the riders with their bicycles and racing strategies. Races are held on Thursdays and Saturdays with occasional “big” or sanctioned races held periodically throughout the year, like the upcoming Rio Grande Shoot-Out involving BMXers from Albuquerque and El Paso.
It’s an activity anyone from age two to adult can get in on. Toddlers, who used to race on plastic Big Wheels trikes, now use Strider Bikes with no third wheel or training wheels so they develop balance in no time. Jeff Curry, secretary at Wild Chile BMX, says, “I love spending time with my son and seeing him grow. It’s great bonding time.”
Many BMX parents express that same sentiment. Wild Chile president Kevin Moreman has two boys who race, Anthony, 12, and Ben, 5. Track operator Brian Jordan began racing in Las Cruces at age 26. “I continue to get calls from the community looking for an activity where they can just show up at any time and not be judged and not have to try out,” he notes.
And no one is turned away for financial reasons either. Jerseys, helmets, and even bikes are loaned out for riders who can’t afford the expense, and Wild Chile BMX offers need-based scholarships to cover membership and race fees.
It all comes back to that camaraderie which started with the BMX sport way back in the early 1970s in Southern California. Inspired by motorcycle racing, young people began hopping on their high-handled 20” Schwinn Sting Rays, jumping curbs and dirt mounts, doing wheelies, and racing on self-blazed trails. Soon, dirt was being trucked in to private property and parks to form jumps and berms. Bike manufacturers began making specialized frames and wheels. Organized racing emerged with racing teams and sponsorship of riders.
In 1972, one of the first organized BMX programs, the Norwalk Bikers Motocross Club, was born at Holifield Park in Norwalk, California. It grew from 30 members to 300, evolving from jump and wheelie contests to the development of a full track with jumps, berms, and mudholes that drew in riders from all over California and nearby states. Some well-known riders started their careers there including accomplished mountain biker “Tinker” Juarez, Allen “Shorty” Underwood, “Stompin’ Stu” Thompson, Toby Henderson, and Jeff “Battling” Bottema. Many went on to race BMX, mountain bikes, or motorcycles nationally or worldwide.
The brainchild behind that original program is now here in Las Cruces and working with the Wild Chile BMX organization. With nationally-ranked riders like 10-year-old Noah Miguel (J&B Bicycles), and 17-year-old Danielle Sanchez (3 Cross BMX) out on the track, Wild Chile BMX is making its own place in the BMX racing world.
To get involved, visit Wild Chile BMX at 1501 East Hadley between the ball fields and the skate park, wildchilebmx.org or contact Brian Jordan at 505-506-2189 or email@example.com.