Bicycles are the center of focus for countless professional athletes, from clean-shaven Tour de France cyclists, to explosively aesthetic BMX riders.
Almost every kid in America had a chance to shred around on a BMX bike when growing up. Some picked up the desire and ability to perform tricks, while the majority simply connected with the machine as a means of transportation. Either way, few, if any, will debate the fact that those who make it to the professional circuit are individuals with an incredibly extensive set of skills and enviable lack of fear.
Canadian Drew Bezanson caught the bug early in middle school after visiting a local skate park, and his progression since then has been nothing short of amazing. 2010 Transworld BMX NORA Cup for Ramp Rider of the year, Toronto BMX Jam, the JoMoPro, plus a couple of Simple Session wins and notable X Games and Dew Tour performances.
I had the pleasure of seeing Drew compete at this year’s Dew Tour in San Francisco, where he not only tore it up for a sixth place finish in dirt, but fell just outside the podium with a fourth place in streetstyle. The dude is a beast on a bike, plain and simple.
You can watch countless videos of BMX riders pulling out all the stops to land technically ferocious tricks, but it really is a spectacular thing to witness in person. The cliché praises spoken from long-haired, ex-pro announcers can be a bit corny at times, but the physicality and skill shown in competitive BMX truly is some insane shit – it’s undeniable.
Taking this into account, it was great to speak with Drew on what it’s like to actually be one of the select few that can say they are a pro BMX rider, and all the shenanigans that go along with it.
Did your traumatic head injury in 2011 effect the way you have competed since then, and are there certain things you avoid entirely when riding?
At first, it was definitely scary, but when you have that much time off the bike and can assess everything… I could get hurt doing anything. BMX is what I love to do. But I am a little safer now by always wearing a helmet and mouth guard.
Such a small group of people actually break through and become a professional athlete. Does this ever lose its luster or are you super motivated most the time?
It’s definitely an emotional roller coaster, and it is the way I pay my bills, but what I liked about BMX when I started was that I could do it whenever, wherever and however. If I didn’t want to ride my bike, I didn’t have to, but now there are some times where you’re sore and beat up and would love to take a day off, but you have to ride. So it’s up and down. You do get burned out a little bit, but I still love it.
In competition, do you ever feel like the judges screw up, or are results generally pretty accurate and fair?
Usually, it is spot on, but there’s always one dude who gets scored poorly and should’ve done better, or they’re curious as to how he did so well. But with the top dudes on the podium, they usually deserve it.
There is obviously a lot of talent that constantly evolves and gets thrown into the mix. How do you prepare for the stuff that your competitors may eventually pull out in contest?
I definitely still pay attention to all the web videos, tricks and what riders are doing. Back when I first came out, I did the tricks that I thought the judges wanted to see and not the ones I wanted to do, but I feel like when I started doing the ones I wanted to, I put a lot more effort into it and my own little spin on them. If you do something you love, you’re gonna put more effort at it, rather than force something you’re not that psyched on. I think it’s all about not being a carbon copy. There may be a new trick, but if you go to the contest and 10 dudes are doing it, the first dude who does it is gonna get a high score. But they don’t want 10 guys in the final doing the exact same thing.
How do you think the Dew Tour stacks up to the X Games and other big events, or do big contests tend to blend together?
Dew Tour is always rad because you know the courses are going to be really good. They have the best dirt builders for the dirt contests, and especially the park courses and ramps they use. I love it and look forward to it, and especially the level of it, there is the best of the best here, so if you do well, you think, “Wow, I made it, I’m with these dudes.” It’s just a cool feeling.
Have you ever gotten into road cycling or mountain biking as a means of cross training? Are there any activities you do outside of BMX that give you an edge?
In the last year, and not as much as I’d like to, but I’ve started doing some road bike riding. I just love riding bikes, even if it means taking the road bike out and throwing in some headphones and going for a cruise at sunset. It’s something I enjoy doing. When I first started BMX, I felt like if I did cross training, it would make me feel like a jock and take some of the fun away from it, but cross training off the BMX bike and doing other stuff like that, you’re gonna wake up and feel better, and not just with BMX, but my overall well-being. I heal faster, I feel better in the morning… just whatever I’m doing I feel better, so it’s a win-win.
You raced motocross when you were younger, and that involves such a big team of mechanics to make sure it all goes smoothly. That being said, are you pretty handy with all of your BMX mechanical work or does someone do that for you?
I hand build all my bikes. The only thing I don’t build up are the wheels; I get someone to lace it up. But I literally build my bike from the ground up, piece by piece, and just the way I like it. You can set your handlebars at different angles and can have different heights on your frame and bars, so I custom build it to feel the way I want it to and to suit my riding style. I wouldn’t trust if someone put my bike together and I hopped on it. I want to know everything is tightened down and where I want it.
Are there any rules from the sport’s governing bodies that set limits to how you build your bike?
No, it’s whatever you want. It’s crazy cause some dudes will run a bike that almost weighs 30 pounds. Then there are guys that run bikes that are 18 pounds and crazy light. It’s pretty free range and all about how you want your bike set up.
What’s an ideal day of work and fun look like for you?
I don’t really have an ideal day because I travel so much, but if I’m home, I will try to eat well and cook a lot and make some healthy decisions, cause it’s all gonna help at the end of the day. I live in California now, so some days I’ll wake up and go to Red Bull and work out with the performance coach there and then come back and ride some BMX in the afternoon and then chill out in the evening. If I get everything in each day, then I feel accomplished.
So no more Canada? Is California a temporary thing?
It’s more temporary. In the middle of the year, when you are travelling a lot and have lots of contests, it’s a lot easier flying in and out of California than it is Canada, but I still go home for Christmas. There is an indoor bike facility in Toronto I absolutely love riding at and they give me free reign to do whatever I want at the park. First part of the year, I always try to go back there for a couple of months and film, and get a jump on the year.