How BMX Action Sports Icon Nigel Sylvester Rewrote the American Dream

Search at any checklist of BMX icons and you are going to see one prevalent component: They are all white. From Dave Mirra to Mat Hoffman to Ryan Nyquist, the sport’s best performers and largest celebs in excess of the final forty years all share a comparable story, society, and life style. Slowly nevertheless noticeably, that is commencing to alter.

BMX pro Nigel Sylvester doesn’t healthy the mould. He didn’t expand up competing in conventional BMX contests. There was in no way a crystal clear-reduce route into the business. And charting his own also meant in no way dressing like other riders, subsequent business trends, or possessing the access that other stars tapped. But, as he’ll convey to you, Sylvester didn’t enable a absence of obvious options establish his chase for the dream of becoming a experienced BMX athlete—his way, by his own procedures.

Sylvester grew up in Laurelton, Queens, NY. The streets were being his playground and continue to be the foundation of his riding style—his muse, if you will. There, Sylvester’s id, influenced heavily by hip-hop, trend and his love for vivid visible expression, is reflected in his content. Along with his mates, he would hone his craft at neighborhood parks by jumping on and off benches, or at neighborhood church buildings or educational facilities the place he would grind handrails and waxed ledges, and from time to time, generate makeshift ramps. Sylvester states this formative exploration taught him that bicycle riding delivers independence, instills self confidence, and is an outlet for accurate self-expression.

We sat down with Sylvester to master additional about his childhood, his special route to becoming one of the most iconic experienced BMX athletes in the earth, his entrepreneurial endeavors, his get the job done as a product, and his bigger contributions to his group. (The job interview is edited evenly for clarity.)

Men’s Journal: When did you commence riding BMX and what were being all those early days like?
NIGEL SYLVESTER: I grew up riding all types of bicycles from an early age. I considered that if I place more than enough vitality and time into riding, I would obtain some level of accomplishment. The target was to provide my tips and desires to lifetime. I saw other athletes, artists, and musicians coming from comparable situations as me, turning their craft into actuality. So, I stuck with BMX riding at a time when the route was not crystal clear, but the love was.

At that issue, street riding was promptly becoming the most popular type of BMX. Most riders that I hung out with weren’t anxious with riding in the significant contests since, at the time, most of the significant contest sequence didn’t occur to New York or cater to our model of riding. Outside of that, access to teaching at the services to put together for that kind of riding was costly and was not reasonable for my problem. Alternatively, I focused on filming clips for movie attributes, which were being showcased in the most current DVDs and led to excellent publicity.

All around 15 years outdated, it started off to crystallize for me, and I wholeheartedly considered I could obtain my target of becoming a experienced BMX athlete on my conditions. From the beginning, I taken care of each and every stunt, each and every movie, as a type of expression a piece of art. By sticking to that and staying accurate to my eyesight, doors gradually started off to open up. I had the prospect to get the job done with BMX legend Dave Mirra who signed me to a experienced contract at eighteen, to his bike business, MirraCo. Bicycles. Then a sneaker deal with Nike came alongside, and I gradually commenced to comprehend how the small business of the business worked.

Nigel Sylvester action
courtesy Nigel Sylvester

How has the BMX earth modified since you acquired started off?
It’s modified significantly. When I started off riding BMX, there were being only a number of stores to get notoriety: BMX magazines, DVDs and VHS video clips. If you designed it to the best level, you rode in a contest that acquired broadcasted on Tv a couple of periods a yr. Currently, with enhancements in technological innovation, youngsters can submit their tips and content on social media, which has led to the bar becoming raised swiftly. The energy is now in the hands of the athletes and content creators. We handle our narrative and convey to our tales the way we see healthy.

Was there any variety in BMX when you acquired started off? What issues came with becoming an African-American BMX rider?
I grew up in a predominantly Black neighborhood, and practically all my mates who rode BMX were being Black, but that was not what we saw reflected most of the time in the BMX media or publications. It was odd for me early on right before I turned pro, I was pursuing a sport that anyone all-around me perceived as a white sport, which came with its issues. When I acquired into the business and started off climbing amongst the ranks, I commenced to present my model and outlook additional since I had the system to do so, which brought on some friction. Not lots of people today or business insiders recognized or agreed with my method. There were being lots of periods that I knowledgeable racism and stereotypes as a Black pro BMX athlete who was infusing hip-hop, art, and trend the way I did, which commenced to crack the classic mould.

What is it going to consider to make biking additional inclusive?
Actually, it is occurring as we discuss. All around the earth, you see youngsters from various walks of lifetime riding BMX bikes—stunting—with hopes and desires of one day going pro. BMX in the early ’90s is not what it is now, so lots of people today are still keeping on to all those outdated tips of the sport. Shifting that starts with exposing and educating audiences by content and by telling additional numerous biking tales.

Nigel Sylvester style and bmx icon
courtesy Nigel Sylvester

What does the American dream imply to you?
I am the contemporary-day American dream. Each of my parents were being immigrants from Grenada and came to the States for a much better lifetime. They sacrificed everything for my brother and me. I’m conversing about plenty of shifts that they worked to offer the requirements. Through their sacrifice, I learned what difficult get the job done and determination are to offer for your loved kinds. That laid the foundation for me to pursue this dream of riding bikes on a experienced level. That is what the American dream is centered on in my feeling, it is pursuing a demanding target to offer access and sources for the following era in your family members. If you execute it, your lifetime improvements for the much better, and you get a feeling of function and pleasure.

The following move is shelling out it ahead and offering it back again. My mom in individual has provided up so much and she was the one that instilled the plan of charity into me. She held up that assure. So I’m undertaking what I can to guidance and offer for people today all-around me. Pulling people today up with me. I’m in a fortunate and pivotal position in my lifetime and job to make these decisions.

What was the original plan guiding GO? Wherever is it now and the place do you see it going?
I started off GO at a issue in my job the place I desired to increase my model. The plan to journey my BMX bicycle all-around the earth was extremely attractive, and we understood we could generate a system that would be impactful. We formulated a method that permitted us to document my journey by any town or location creatively. The target was to seamlessly link all of the elements I interact with on my day by day adventures—the people today, society, sights, sounds, goods, and many others. We formulated some thing that didn’t exist at the time, and it grew to become a accomplishment.

We generated the initially installment in NYC on a shoestring finances. Taking pictures it from my POV permitted a further level of connectivity. It was the closest I have at any time introduced viewers to the sensation I get when I’m out riding. GO has resonated with audiences all over the world since we were being capable to share the love of riding, vacation, and discovery authentically.

The GO sequence is at the moment in a terrific area with in excess of 80 million views all over the world. We now have 6 installments of the sequence done and gearing up to make our seventh installment this yr. We’re in the method of building the GO apparel, and the moment COVID-19 is additional beneath handle, we’re hoping to do reside gatherings. We have arrived at a issue the place we have formulated a world group of people today who love the GO model. Our supporters and supporters love the vitality and vibe that the model delivers. GO embraces people today and people today from all walks of lifetime who dream vividly, aren’t scared to roll the dice, and devote by themselves to obtain what fulfills them.

Nigel Sylvester Go Series in Dubai
courtesy Nigel Sylvester

How much did COVID alter your life style, ideas, and outlook?
Everything my crew and I were being functioning on acquired place on keep, like the relaxation of the earth. I took the downtime to reflect on how I can make improvements to in each and every facet of my lifetime. Many people today and families all over the world were being greatly impacted, which is a tragedy this pandemic was a authentic matter. I’m grateful and fortuitous that I’m protected and my family members is excellent. I hope we’re a much better modern society and earth submit going by these types of a traumatizing instant in time.


You’re a pro BMX rider, product, activist, and entrepreneur. How do you equilibrium all of these?
I’m a BMX athlete by and by until eventually the wheels drop off, and that will in no way alter. Pushing myself on my bike, pursuing small business options, and making models, modeling for some of the world’s largest trend homes, and serving my group is a portion of who I am and significant to what fulfills me. I in no way desired only to journey bicycles since I’m passionate about lots of other items.

I have the potential to do this and I want to embrace this instant. It’s all a way to convey myself. Undertaking this on a bike is 2nd mother nature but there are other means too. I want to use my system to spotlight difficulties that are significant to me.


You’re a significant portion of Bike Rides four Black Lives, the place is that business appropriate now?
We’re functioning on it guiding the scenes appropriate now. Systemic racism should have been dealt with years ago, but clearly it has not. BR4BL is a terrific way to use biking to spotlight these difficulties. COVID shut down significant gatherings, so not too long ago we have been functioning on changing the system. Still setting up a number of rides this yr.


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