Friday, June 23, 2006

Moving Ahead ...

Tuesday night a small group got together trackside to figure out our "next steps" in track preparation. Mike Froh had mony good things to say about the Steve Spencer designed and built track. The wheels turn in Mike's mind nearly as quickly as they do on his bike as it relates to a couple of tweaks. The fourth of July weekend will bring a great deal of progress toward the completion of the Milwaukee track. The group will spend a considerable amount of time on Friday June 30th, Saturday July 1st, (we are not scheduled to work on Sunday, though some of us likely will) and Monday July 3rd. John Mittlestadt is working on procurring a skid loader for Mike to run those days. We've got some great leads on equipment we may be able to use that John is following through on, or, Fred Yanke can also procure a rental at a pretty killer rate. In any event ... you will be seeing considerable progress soon.

John and I have been scratching our heads over our expenses and awards seem to be a considerable piece of the puzzle. Despite the fact that a friend of mine runs a trophy shop, we're going to have to shop the awards piece, I'm afraid ... so, if anybody has additional suggestions for a competitive quote for us ... leave word here, or feel free to shoot me an e-mail. Another item that's been revealed in the promise of Milwaukee BMX is that our cost model really reflects a better situation for us as the rider count increases. This is a result of ammortizing our cost of insurance (and is the only cost that's absolutely static with no regard to rider count) ... so, we're hoping that all of you realize that we're promoting together. Please bring a friend, and don't forget to encourage that friend to bring a friend. Because of the nature of the agreements with John Kaishian and ABA BMX, which are both modeled on a per-rider basis, increased rider counts will help us pay off our gate more quickly, and provide the peace of mind (hey, cash makes me rest easier too) to John K. that he made the right decision by supporting our effort.

Today, we discussed a possible fund-raising event to get a bit of money for the club together ... so that we won't have to keep cranking cash out of our own pockets in an effort to prepare for racing. A good friend of mine from the Portland area clued me in to the following fund-raising event put on by a local bike shop ... it was called Bucks for BMX and involved a premiere showing (in Portland, anyway) of Joe Kid on a Sting-Ray which is a totally rad movie about the formative years of BMX Racing and Freestyle.

From what I've heard, the event was quite successful, although I do not know exactly how much the final tally of money raised amounted to.

John and I have discussed having a small party (perhaps 100 guests) at the Chalet at Crystal Ridge to view the movie and just ratchet up the excitement about Milwaukee BMX in general. Again, feedback is helpful, so, if you have some thoughts the type of success we could have with this type of party, I'd love to hear them.

That's all for now. I will be picking and raking for a few hours on Sunday, if anybody wants to join, we're trying to get the big stuff dug out so that Mike can really move ahead with final shaping and massaging the track next weekend.

Kevin O'

Monday, June 19, 2006

AA Main Launches at Midwest National #2 - Rockford, IL

Track Update:
The Milwaukee BMX track at Crystal Ridge lives! All of the obstacles and turns are now roughed in, and a special piece of equipment was brought in Friday night to clear the flat sections of the track from rocks. The main group is having a meeting trackside at 7 p.m. Tuesday night (weather permitting) or, alternatively at Benno's in West Allis (if the weather is crummy) to work on some of the details of scheduleing work nights, etc. There's been a whole lotta outside interest in the track, and we're going to need all of your support at some point down the road, but, this meeting will be primarily for the core group that made the initial Benno's meeting, plus Froh and Dickerson if they can make it. We are still hoping that we'll be ready for riders (with or without a gate) by the end of July or possibly into August. Once again (yea verily) much love to the guys and gals at ABA and to Steve Spencer for helping TO John Mittlestadt drive this thing forward

A (painful) reminder for you volunteers to remember that stretching is just as important before raking and track work as it is before you ride. Wednesday night, I didn't take my own advice ... and major back spasms messed up my weekend plans but good. Actually, I didn't give myself that advice Wednesday night ... but, I've heard it from at least 20 people since Thursday morning. So, take their advice, stay happy, stretch.

Midwest Nationals Report:
There were a bunch of guys who will be tearing up Milwaukee BMX that turned in super solid performances at the Midwest Nationals in Rockford this weekend. It started Friday night, with our own Fred Jahnke, who raced his way into the "B Main" of the BS Stops Open for racers 30 and over. Honest Abe, I would surely have wished Fred the best of luck in the last post, had I known he intended to compete. Friday also saw Todd Zimmerman zip in with a fifth in the super competitive 36-40 cruiser class.

Factory Direct Link riders Curt Zizzo and Bryan Dickerson tore up Saturday and Sunday on their cruisers, Tim Eiring came home with a couple of seconds in the superfast 26-30 cruiser class along with a HUGE WIN in 28-35 expert on Saturday.

Randy Behnke finished 3rd (cruiser) Saturday and maybe somewhere around 5th yesterday, and Mike Froh had fourth (Saturday) and fifth (yesterday) place finishes in the 36 and over expert class.

I shot some video of the Sunday cruiser mains, along with some still shots. One of which, came during the A Pro main snap. The gate got "balky" on the Vet Pro main right before the A's ran. And, at the point of "lights" in the cadence of the A Pro gate, when the air ram drives the gate down, the gate popped, but made the worst death creek I've heard from anything mechanical in a long time. Honestly, I thought that was going to be the end of racing for the day ... but, a couple of little tweaks from the master of TO's, Jake Karau, and the gate held up well for the balance of the day.

These two photos (same photo, actually, just cropped) show the A-Pro rack with five riders about to go on their noses (Kappa Sponsored Illinois rider, George Andrews hit hardest in lane 2 ... it took him a couple minutes to get up, collect himself, and get his bars tweaked back to where they were supposed to be before the re-run ... yeah, re-run. How you get yourself up for that after wrecking right out is beyond me).

Note in the detail shot how the section of gate closest to the ram (at gate center, between lanes 4 & 5) is not keeping up with the riders flexing against the gate ends. The gate looks flexed like some big airplane wing at take-off.

The shot below is the re-rack for the A-pros. After the wreck, Vet Pro re-ran their lap ... and then the A's hopped back up to have another go. Amazingly, despite the hard hit just moments earlier that left him on the ground for several minutes, Andrews gets the holeshot. Big respect, you guys, for getting back up there, and being able to maintain your focus ... you put on a good show.

Speaking of Rocks:
There are sure a lot to pick. Work night schedule is going to be published later this week. Let's get it going, bros. BMX in Milwaukee !!! Hallelujah.

Kevin O'

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Patience Prudence !!!

A word for all of those tempted to start riding the track portions that are built ... DON'T. It's not that you can't ... because you probably could get around ... but, my hope that your God takes mercy on you if you fall ... because there a fair amount of rocks that need to be picked out of the surface.

Steve has worked in all the corners (and told me how to rake ... remember, top down after you pick the big stuff out ... after an hour or two out there lifting out rocks I'm sure I'm going to be real glad that I asked), roughed in and rolled in the second straight, and is working about as fast as the equipment, which, let's just say, has a few quirks, has allowed. We can always remind Steve that he told us the loader "looked fine" in a digital photo we sent along.

Allright, Just Show us the Track Already !!!

Getting this shot was kind of crazy ... I hiked straight up the ski hill in chest deep mustard plants. I kept thinking that I really should be trying to keep an eye on the ground through the weeds, as one mis-step could likely have sent me tumbling down that crazy hill ... which would have been the $10,000 video moment for sure. On the right is the start hill .. it's a little hard to tell, but the third turn is "inside" the first turn in the U in a U configuration that Steve is utilizing. Second straight is in, and Steve is in his favorite all time tractor, working the 3rd straight rhythm.

The shot below is the same "uncropped" photo of the rectangular job above. I want really badly to be boastful here and brag about the couple hundred foot ascent I made to get to the point this picture was taken. But, Crystal Ridge just isn't anywhere near that big. I'm probably on the equivolent of a four or five story building where I'm standing.

The next shot shows the second straight from the riders perspective as you exit the first turn. I joked with Steve that where I took this photo from is about as high as anybody is ever likely to see me in a berm. Nice.

What you are looking at is a mach 5 turn that flows into a smallish step-up, a huck double, and a double that looks like it's going to have just perfect flow into the second corner.

The BMX-Hex
No, this doesn't have a thing to do with the NW-BMX team, or Janesville cruiser guy Jerry Hexom (hey Jerry, how's it goin'?) ... what it means (in evidentally, a fairly cryptic way) is that this track is stirring some weird feelings in people. Track Operator Mittlestadt reported witnessing Fred Jahnke staring at the second straight for the better part of an hour, before shouting "This is going to be (Hey Fred ... you reeealllyyy need your very own "Wheel of Adjectives" ... remember, kids may be reading this column !!!) Fred's cuss word adjactive that my innocent fingers won't permit me to type here (sure ... right) AWESOME !!!".

Another weird thing ... like two weeks after he sells what's left of his BMX stuff ... Jason Leikam climbs the start hill and after looking down the first straight for about a milisecond ... decides it's time for another shot. He evidentally has some unfinished business left for BMX ... and after reading this column, it's a safe bet part of that will involve kicking my sorry butt all over the new track.

The ROCK !!!
The Midwest Nationals are going off at Rockford are this weekend ... and I want to wish the best of luck to all of the guys who are helping out on the new track (those that know they are) Bryan Dickerson, Mike Froh, Tim Eiring, Todd Zimmerman, Dana Mittlestadt (as well as those that don't know they are helping yet ... but, belive me, they are !!!) Randy Behnke, Curt Zizzo, Cory Frick.

Rumor Mill
It makes me really happy to report that I got word that Amedio Gilmore is thinking about taking some laps at our new place with an eye toward a possible comeback. Rad-Man (Gilmore) was a hela fast A pro who got bumped up to AA in the late 80's. We wonder who else will MilwaukeeBMX will manage to coax out of retirement?

I'm off to the track ... picking rocks and raking tonight ... if you happen to stop by, be sure and say hello. I'll be the guy dressed in dust.

Kevin O'

Monday, June 12, 2006

Track Construction is Underway:

Dream Big, John Mittlestadt ... and relish in your glory, you are standing on your new track's starting hill with your son (cool enough) and former national champ and ABA track building rock star, Steve Spencer.

Monday - June 12: Steve Spencer fired up the bulldozer and started pushing dirt early this a.m. John and Dana Mittlestadt are also on site and directing the fleet of dump trucks that have been bringing the infill and track dirt. Talk about things moving quickly. By 10:30 the starting hill was in place and Steve is just cranking away, according to John.

We're getting a bunch of guys together at Bennos tonight at 7 ... Bennos is Marty Weigel's (Weigel is one of those who have been supporting John's idea for Milwaukee BMX since day one ... and was the first to suggest Crystal Ridge as a potential place to locate the track) corner bar in West Allis ... located a few doors west of the intersection of 71st and Greenfield Avenue, on the South Side of the street. Come on out and join us if you can.

Wow ... a BMX track in Milwaukee ... what a concept, er ... reality ... yeah, that sounds reeeaaalllll nice.

These "small" progress photos are all clickable for a larger image:

Here's the view from on top of the start hill looking down into what promises to be a very fast first turn. Track orientation is exactly what we didn't think we'd want when we first walked the site ... and, yet, the start hill nearer the chalet will accomodate easier access to power to run the sure start and computer scoring system (will we have a computerized scoring system? Did I just make up something great?) A recent count had a tally of more than 30 dump trucks dropping off loads. That's about 15% of what we'll have total, according to Steve.

The day started with scraping the site flat and roughing in the first turn.

Steve is working corner #2 by early afternoon.

Is this the building inspector? Or, is it really local 36-40 cruiser ace, Jason Leikam, incognito.

Kevin O'

Friday, June 09, 2006

A plan is like a good start hill ... if it really works, you can build enough momentum to carry yourself to the finish line.

Here's a little story for you as I kick out post numero uno on

It starts about two and a half years ago at Ben's Cycle on Lincoln Avenue in Milwaukee. I'm in normal bargain hunting mode (Ben's lists tons of stuff up on eBay) and notice a little sign near the cash register that says "Metro BMX ... bringing BMX back to Milwaukee ... call ..." A lot of friends and I had reminisced about the early days of Milwaukee area tracks, the Ranch, Oak Creek, State Fair Park and others ... but, despite the shared disappointment that nothing like that existed now, none of us seemed to have really have the inclination to get something going again. And, here it was ... a little piece of paper ... with an idea for a plan.

Get a couple good cranks:
This is a real good place to introduce John Mittlestadt, a great new friend, and BMX dad extraordinaire. When I was 13, I knew another dad like John, his name was Murray Patz, and he did more than you can imagine to promote BMX in the town I grew up in. We probably all knew a kid with a dad like John way back when ... he's the dad we all secretly wanted ours to be like. Stoked on BMX and making sure we had a place to race ... and, promoting "our" sport along the way.

John's son Dana is a racer and his daughter Leah has helped with promotion. In the interest of helping them scratch their BMX itch -- John's has worked diligently since the moment he made those posters; listned to thousands of ideas; sifted through hundreds of potential track sites, patiently negotiated a deal through a series of meetings that lasted nearly a year; reviewed the pros and cons of the major sanctioning bodies; and after all of that -- finally called a meeting a couple of weeks ago among those who expressed interest in starting a new club. Since I'm a also a dad of a 6 year old with big dreams of "jumping the dubs" and "winning trophies", John didn't have to tug very hard to get me to help. But, let me be absolutely clear about this ... John did everything to lay the groundwork for what is unfolding as this is written ... and for that, he IS the man.

Pumping and gaining momentum
Which brings us to this moment.

If all goes well ... GROUND BREAKS on construction for the new Milwaukee BMX track on Monday, June 12th.

Things have happened so quickly that it's really kind of mind boggling. John has been talking with John David at the American Bicycle Association, and yeah, we're definitely going ABA. I had a great conversation with Bill Curtin at ABA earlier this week about all sorts of cool things we could bring to our track, Bill was really successful with new rider retention at his track in MA ... and basically gave me the recipe book for how to keep new riders coming back again and again. Jason Leikam, a Milwaukee local who has been a friend for more than 20 years now (jeez ... has it really been that long?) invited his friend, Steve Spencer, who is like the #2 track builder for ABA at the moment, to throw in his 2 cents on our track design. Steve recently redesigned Utah's Rad Canyon BMX track ... and a lot of people are just raving about the new layout. Spencer and Billy Allen are like the Frank Lloyd Wright and Santiago Calatrava of BMX track design.

Tuesday of this week, I got my first chance to walk the site with local track builders Mike Froh and Bryan Dickerson, along with Tim Eiring and John. It's easy to tell that we're all pretty equally stoked as after the discussion about the track broke up, about a 30 minute bench racing session followed near the track.

I'll tell ya ... Mike Froh and Bryan Dickerson are both friends, and excellent track designers / builders (together or individually, they have put together the Elkhorn / Walworth BMX tracks for probably the last 7 to 10 years straight. Their tracks are fun, have flow, and are always baby's butt smooth. Mike's involvement at Elkhorn probably goes back even further than that as Bryan came back into racing around 2000, if memory serves. We're totally fortunate that these two really experienced and totally professional guys have stepped up to help work out the details of the track after Steve completes the initial layout. Speaking of the initial layout, here it is:

Rockin' and Rollin' through the rhythm
Spencer will be in Milwaukee for the first part of next week, and with tremendous cooperation from John Kaishian, the operator of Crystal Ridge Ski Hill in Franklin, who is allowing Spencer the use of his earth moving equipment, we hope that a great deal of progress will be made in roughing in the layout and jumps. Finish work will be done by a bunch of us little monkeys running around with rakes and shovels. Mike's experience as a landscaper, having operated a wide variety of equipment from skid steers to large earth movers, will also prove invaluable. Mike has additionally volunteered to build the gate, and John and I will keep trying to convince the ABA to lend a hand with the sure start and air ram for the gate. If all goes well ... I believe we're going to have a real life track, complete with a gate, by sometime around August. If you know somebody who volunteers for to help with this work ... make sure they feel your love ... this is going to take a lot of effort to get the thing up and running.

At the finish line, a new beginning
Okay, I know I'm being pretty over the top with the little headline things ... but, seriously ... when Steve and the local guys complete work on the track, it's a whole new beginning for BMX in Milwaukee. The plan, at the moment, shoots for holding a couple of new rider clinics later this summer, with a goal of running one or two races, before we close up for the winter. ABA is really helping out a fair amount for the small amount of pay-back that we can try and deliver in 2006. But, optimistically, 2007 will be a great year for Milwaukee BMX.

Personally, I want to thank everyone who has kept John's plan in motion over the last two years. Particularly his wife, who I have not yet met, for allowing him to follow through. John Kaishian, of course, for being the one in a hundred that said "yeah, sure, why not?". All the dudes who made the meeting in West Allis a few weeks ago. The guys at ABA for being supportive and filling our heads with big ideas. Spencer for putting together a totally killer design that looks like it's going to really have a ton of flow. Froh and Dickerson for committing to making the design sing. And, yeah ... my mom ... for getting her ratty little 8 year old his first BMX back in the late 1970's, an old Huffy MX style thing with a #4 number plate.

I think we've got the momentum to carry us to where we want to be. And I'm hoping that you'll join in and enjoy the ride.

Kevin O'Donnell