The History of BMX (as I know it)
"THE PRESENT CAN'T EXIST WITHOUT THE PAST"
This section concerns mainly the History of European BMX. However, since I have been involved in the international development of this sport world-wide in the early days (1974 - 1984) and did have many contacts all over the world, a wide range of world-wide BMX developments have been documented as well by me.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
I started competing in moto-cross events in 1963 and it was during those events that I had a competitor called, Pierre Karsmakers who also was a starting moto-cross rider at the time. Pierre Karsmakers was contracted by YAMAHA USA ending 1972 and would leave Holland some time early 1973 for the USA to live and work in California as a YAMAHA USA moto-cross team rider. He had a very nice sister that became my friend, fiance and in 1969 my wife. After my active career as an international moto-cross rider 250 cc ending the 1975 season, I became trainer/coach of about 8 Dutch top-riders in moto-cross and trial. Among them 4 of my brothers-in-law, Pierre, Paul, Frans and Toon Karsmakers. I was the personal coach of the youngest Karsmakers, Toon for some years. In the years to come, Toon did win 3 Dutch National titles in the 500 cc International class.
Together with Frans Karsmakers I went to the USA for the first time in 1974 for a moto-cross trainingcamp in Kansas City. Frans Karsmakers was sponsored by a Yamaha dealer in Kansas called Independence Yamaha of Mr. Perkins and it was there and then that I saw a BMX bike for the first time: ofcourse a monoshock Yamaha. For some time already, I had the idea of introducing BMX as a learning school for young kids (5 till 12/14 years) to finally become a moto-cross star. There is no better education, then a BMX bike for young potential moto-cross riders. Look at MX stars like Bob Hannah, Gay Cooper, Jeremy McGrath, Joël Smets and many others. They all were BMX racers when they were young.
Two years later, in 1976 I visited the USA again but then spent time with my brother in law Pierre Karsmakers who at that time had become AMA National Champ of the USA in 500 cc moto-cross class as a Yamaha works rider. We did our fysical training together and rode our motorcycles at Saddleback and Carlsbad during my stay.
I also talked about my idea of educating young riders first on BMX bikes and after a certain time, transfer to motorcycles. That same year, Pierre with his Dutch company, "PIERRE KARSMAKERS USA PRODUCTS bv", importing all kind of motorcycle parts and so on from the USA, also started to import the first USA produced BMX bikes, a mono-shock type of bike with a weight of about 15 kg! This bike was given to my son Nico Does and at six years old, he did start to ride on it. That bike gave him very strong legs.
Pierre imported more bicycles that same year, like DG's, WEBCO and Laguna BMX. The next year I went back to Pierre in California - USA and together we really orientated ourselves on what was happening in BMX. We learned about races in LA and that BMX was booming in the USA, in general due to the film ON ANY SUNDAY (a motorsports film with some radical BMX stuff in it). BMX as an organized sport excisted at that time in the USA since 1974 (NBA, first official national BMX organization with main office in California). We were able to purchage a 16mm film about the YAMAHA GOLD CUP (Anaheim Stadium) organized among others by my friend and founder of "organized" BMX in the USA Scot Breithaupt (on personal title he organized events since the early '70's). I still have that film, but now on video.
Also a film showing a down-hill in Texas I believe, with David Clinton on a Kawasaki mono-shock, became part of my collection promotional material. The movie doesn't excist anymore (used too many times) but, I got it on video in time as well. It is nice to see Perry Kramer, Stuart Thompsen and even BMX Action magazine's main man, Bob Osborn in action on that film. Speaker at that race was Larry " Supermouth" Huffman normaly active in motorsports.
Pierre and I visited Mongoose and spent some time with Skip Hess. Redline was next. This company original produced "speedway" motorcycle frames and started to built BMX frames and forks. We had good talks with Linn Kastan and Dave Hammond. Laguna BMX, situated close were Pierre lived in Mission Viejo, was next and we visited there with Jeff Heiniger. It was fun to look around in all their ware-houses and see all the nice stuff they had. Kuwahara was our next stop and Howie Cohen offered to show me around in order to allow Pierre to go to the Yamaha offices. Well, that also was a very nice experience. At the time a Japanese businessman visited Howie as well. He almost did not speak any English. Not to worry, Howie talked to the man in Japanes and while driving in his car, Howie was singing Japanese songs together with the Japanese man. O, boy had I some fun then.
Ofcourse OAKLEY was on our agenda because Pierre was the European distributor at the time. I met Jim Jenaert and saw his new Porsche in his ware-house. We went to JT's in San Diego and many other businesses. The place that I was staying at in Laguna Beach was partly rented by OP ( Ocean Pacific ) a new brand of clothing, they were using just one room, that was it. I also went with Pierre to the guys who prepaired his four-stroke Yamaha machine, the White Brothers (in a small garage). Look at those companies now, its incredible how big the are. Very interesting and nice periode it was in those days.
One of the last companies we both went to was WEBCO inc. Venice - Ca. Originaly a motorcycle parts company but now also producing BMX bikes. Pierre made a deal and started to import WEBCO later on 1977. The main man at WEBCO's, Mr. Darwin Zenser, offered a factory ride to my son Nico Does in 1979. I think you can say, Nico became the first outside USA sponsored factory rider. Also several moto-cross stars got interested in BMX and they tried to make their own brand like Roger de Coster and Jimmy Weinert, Pierre's opponent in the 500 cc Moto-cross Championship in the USA back then. On our tour, we found about 200 Weinert frames lying on a celing. Pierre wasn't really interested in buying these left over frames.
I wanted to focus myself also on the racing technical part of BMX and we visited therefore some races and tracks in and around LA. We learned that about 3 time during the week, there were races. One of them on the Wednesday evenings were at the Van Nuys BMX track. When we went there it was dark, almost no light on the track, but the riders raced like crazy (in my opinion, at that time). About 200 riders showed up and something like 4 officials did run the race without any problem. The main man...... Mr. Ernie Alexander. We talked a lot about organizing and I learned a lot from him. We also visited the Irvine BMX track and we went to a race on the ELK track. In the Pro-class I saw a rider win a moto on a 16" bike. I believe his name was John Lewis. Far out!
Well, experiencing all of this, I decided early 1978 to get organized in Holland - Europe. Ofcourse during an international moto-cross event around March 1978 (in Valkenswaard-Holland), we gave a demonstration and explained what BMX was all about. In our town we did have about 8 till 10 riders on original BMX bikes and they showed their skills, jumping, doing cross-ups, kick-outs and so on during that demo.
About in the same time (summer 1978) in France a reporter for Moto-Verte, a motorcycle magazine, also introduced BMX there writing an article about this new sport in Moto-Verte. His name is Alain Kulakowski. Later that year Alain and I got together and I explained him about how to get organized, provided him with rules and so on.