BMX Australia President, Neil Cameron, reflects on what was a fantastic start to an exciting 2018. 

President Neil Cameron
February 2018

Work continues at a frantic pace behind the scenes both in the BMXA office and at Board level. 2018 has started with a rush and is not showing any signs of slowing down. There is a lot happening, which will give our media team plenty to highlight as we move forward and I’d like to thank the Board for their continued efforts – their commitment levels are amazing.

Probably the most obvious thing to talk about is Round 1 of the 2018 National Series at Penrith BMX in Sydney. It was a great event with fantastic contributions from (in no particular order) – our officials, our BMXA staff, the BMX Board, the Penrith BMX Club and all their hard-working volunteers, 1300 Medics, our media team, a large number of riders, lots of parents and quite a few siblings … simply put it was a cast of thousands coming together for a great weekend’s racing.

There were, unfortunately, some pretty big accidents – the big boys were not holding anything back on the day and put on an amazing show, but we’re never happy to see anyone injured and our thoughts and best wishes go out to those riders wishing them a speedy recovery and the best of luck (which they certainly may not have had on the day).

I watch social media across the board because (a) it helps me keep up with what is happening in our side of the sport and (b) what is going on out in club land and in people’s lives. Now of course there are lots of keyboard warriors out there, but there are also plenty of intelligent and experienced commentators who have great insights into what they see in BMXland.

However, it’s pretty clear to me that when it comes to the National Series, a large number of people just don’t get it.

There are those who are comparing it to last year’s series – however you might have noticed that the format is completely different. Why? It’s about inclusiveness – being part of the BMX Family. We are taking national-level racing to a lot of different types of BMX tracks across the country – the whole country. And we’re including all ages (I can hear the mini-wheeler parents screaming from here) – for riders of pedal-driven BMX bikes (I’ll talk about my plans and thoughts on mini-wheelers in a separate column).

What are we trying to achieve with this series? It’s about showing off the full gamut of BMX skills across all ages in the one location. It’s about the little 8-year old rider watching his/her favourite pro ride the same section of track they ride and think to themselves that they could do that one-day. It’s about the Pro having access to the sprockets (and parents) of the sport (ever thought about it that way?) to promote their coaching abilities and sponsors products. It’s about bringing the sport together.

It’s also about setting a standard for National BMX racing in Australia. There are plenty of NSW people thinking they didn’t like the format because it’s different to what they are used to (and I have a pretty good idea of what they are used to) … without putting the word “National” into the thought process. It starts late and finishes early (always aims to finish early) to let people (riders, parent and don’t forget our officials) get home at a reasonable time on Sunday – keeping a little perspective on people’s lives and the time they have. So yes, it’s different to what those NSW people are used to, but there’s a good reason for that.

It’s not live streamed – there’s been plenty of media commentary on that issue. We have gone down a different path for the series with digital media. I want a media product that educates people outside of BMX what the sport of BMX is. I can sit and watch a live stream all day and know what is going on, but someone who has never seen BMX before has no idea what is happening while they are watching it. So I don’t see live stream as ticking all the boxes. It has happily opened up an opportunity for enterprising young entrepreneurs to showcase their skills and I’m sure those screaming for live stream will be more than willing to support our young Alex and Hamish in their endeavours to become media stars in their own right.

It will be a different format from event to event depending on the numbers. Anyone who has ever run a BMX meeting will know that if you chuck an extra 300-400 riders in the mix you need to make some allowances – so we have and will and we’ll continue to fine-tune that side of the mix until we have what we believe is the perfect race meeting.

It’s not always on “supercross” tracks. I make no bones about this. Penrith is a tough track and like most tracks has bitten a few riders in its time. But all riders have to race on all tracks, and handle whatever that track throws at them. For those who want to criticise the Penrith track I would say to you that I am generally guided by those I respect on the track – I happen to have 2 Australian Elite Men champions at my disposal to ask questions of – and I have had no comment other than “it’s a tough track, you need to be on your game”. Great – that’s what riders come to ride for. Don’t even bother with the comments about safety – we will always make sure the track we ride on is within the rules and common sense prevails – I have the best officials in the country to look after that respect.

It has changed, and there will be some small refinements, but no we won’t throw the baby out with the bathwater just because a small number complain they don’t like the format. Change is an interesting concept in BMX. Almost all agree that something, somewhere needs to change – prices, race format, class formats, pro formats etc … but quite unsurprisingly when we make change many of those same people throw their hands in the air and complain about that change.

I was very impressed and pleased with how the whole event ran. I thought the organisation, officiating, first aid, standard of riding (by all ages), presentation and atmosphere were first class – and it achieved what I had envisaged – top class national racing available to all at an accessible and well-developed venue.

As for those who didn’t attend, why not? I can’t make all 7 rounds? I can’t do 3 rounds? You don’t have to do any rounds – but you can ride just 1 and you’ll find an experience that will be hard to get outside of the Aussies. There are many social media discussions going on about the series points etc – however it’s not rocket science folks – ride 1, ride 2, ride whatever you want. If you happen to ride 3 you’ll be automatically eligible for series points. If a 12 year rider competes in WA, NT and SA with perfect scores, and another competes in QLD, NSW, VIC with perfect scores then guess what – we get two winners. And while all the armchair critics see problems – I see opportunities. Firstly I’d love to see it happen, and secondly I want to be ringside at the next Aussies where those two riders meet – the battle of the number 1s. It will give the media lads something to drool over.

There are endless combinations you can do with a National Series – we could possibly see the same rider win Elite or Junior Elite as well as Superclass – it’s open with very few restrictions on what complicated plan you can come up with to win 1, 2 or even possibly 3 jerseys. It’s about having a go, being part of an experience and finding out what the big time is all about – even if you go back to your clubbie the week after and just dream of what came to your town – at least you will have had a go. So be part of something – don’t let the round in your home state slip past you.

So the series won’t change, and the events on the weekend won’t change very much, but there is something you need to know about change in this sport and my attitude towards it. I believe in striving for being the best we can be. Doesn’t mean we get it right every time, but it also doesn’t mean just doing the same old things we’ve done before – it means planning, developing and changing things – not for the sake of change, but generally for the sake of the riders – there’s a lot we can do in this sport to improve things and the Board of BMXA are behind me in this drive forward.

I wasn’t elected to this role to sit on my hands … and I have no intention of doing so. Get on your bike and get along for the ride – 2018 is going to be an interesting year.