Despite the fact that we have blistering cold and inches upon inches of snow for a majority of the year, the state of Minnesota ranks among the top for BMX bikers in the country. In St. Michael, there is even a USA BMX sanctioned track with a strong group of volunteers and excited parents keeping the organization going strong.
Dan Isaacs, a BMX parent and the current track operator for the group, is one of these people. Isaacs invited the Crow River News out to the track — located at 3150 Lander Avenue N. — to take a rip around the course and check out the operation.
“There’s 330 tracks nationwide, and there’s 11 in Minnesota,” said Isaacs. “This track has been here for a long time, and it’s the longest one in Minnesota at 1,300 feet.”
The track curves and dips, taking up nearly every part of the dirt-covered area, and starts out with an inverted, mechanical gate that the riders push up against to begin their race. It would be easy for an organization like STMA BMX to be selfish with such a gnarly track, but prides itself on its four-days-a-week event schedule serving the community and the larger BMX competition circuit.
Mondays during the season mean beginner league first, and then intermediate and expert clinics later in the evening. Tuesdays bring practice for the USA BMX team, with competitions to follow on Wednesday nights. Then, on Thursdays, non-members and members alike can all ride together for the community open ride nights.
“That’s where anyone in the community can come, you sign a waiver, and you can ride for free all night long,” said Isaacs.
These community events are not only fun, but also provide an opportunity for newer BMX parents to come out and learn a bit about the sport. Scott Moormann, whose child recently joined STMA BMX, and Isaacs both took advantage of the wealth of knowledge held by other involved parents when their children first got involved. And at these community nights, there are plenty of passionate BMX ambassadors there to answer your questions — and maybe, just maybe, they will convince you to get on a bike and try it yourself.
Worked for this report, after all. Isaacs and Moormann suited me up with a borrowed bike and helmet, and slowly but surely, I made my way around that big ole’ track. It wasn’t pretty, but it certainly was fun.
POWERED BY PASSION (AND A LOT OF PEDALING)
The STMA BMX organization is “ran 100% by volunteers,” according to Isaacs, and you can see how much work he, Moormann and the others put into the track.
“We have a crew of volunteers probably about 30 people that regularly come out on our open days, and they run the concessions, they run the finish line, the scoring, the stage and all that stuff,” said Isaacs. “All the money that is generated from this track goes right back into the track for improvements.”
The land that the track sits on is actually owned by the city of St. Michael, and through a mutually beneficial partnership between the two groups, STMA BMX runs, manages and insures the track for their use.
“Our community benefits by having a fantastic option to explore and thrive with this unique sport that is rare to find in similar communities,” said St. Michael’s City Administrator, Steve Bot. “Our youth who take advantage of this are not often not interested in traditional community provided sports… They thrive with BMX and have a great activity to participate in, whereas they otherwise might not be doing any sports activities if not for BMX.”
Bot said that the STMA BMX organization is able to improve and operate the track to meet the goals of their members with all costs going to improve and run the facility since they are not charged by the city for using the track.
The return to the city?
“They also offer a free ride night which benefits the community youth who can try it out for free,” he said, “which provides an easy pipeline for recruiting new members to their club if they enjoy it.”
Isaacs and Moormann said BMXers range from small children that have just learned to walk all the way to some seriously committed seniors. They even said that the oldest USA BMXer rides their track from time to time, and is still ripping it up in her 80s.
“The thing with BMX is, you get out of it what you put in,” said Isaacs. “And you don’t have to put in, you don’t have to go all in to have fun with it. You can show up once this month, 16 times next month, and then not show up for two months... It doesn’t really matter how much you race, as long as you’re riding a bike in general and keeping your legs fresh and come to the track whenever you want.”
Moormann also happens to run the STMA mountain biking organization, and broke down some of the similarities and differences between the two before I hit the track myself. To a non-biker, the track may seem non-intimidating and a breeze to ride through, but the sport is much more technical than it seems.
“The biggest difference between normal riding and this is you are standing up, and the bike has got to move a lot under you to make all these different angles happen,” said Moormann.
Lots of folks compete heavily — and nationally — and will focus their game on getting certain points and accolades, but that isn’t all that BMX is about. Don’t believe me? Try for yourself and rent out a bike at a Thursday night community event.