Foundation's Dylan Witkin Just Released a BMX Part

DylanWitkin BikeOllie Karpinski Header 2000Photo: Karpinksi

Though Rollerblades and scooters helped draw smoke away from the skate/BMX rivalry over the years, it’s never been an overly-cozy relationship. But with Mike Manzoori and Chris Gregson making BMX videos and events like Swampfest bringing two and four wheelers together in likeminded shitheadedness, things are definitely friendlier. And it’s in that spirit that Dylan Witkin has released his Merge part for Cult bikes. We got him on the phone to ask him all the BMX questions we were afraid to ask: slams, stances, peg damage and the elusive bicycle kickflip… all covered. ––Michael Burnett

Don't miss Dylan's cross-discipline tour-de-force for Cult

Here’s a question—when you’re gonna go ride a BMX bike, do you say, Hey, let’s go bike? Let’s go ride? Let’s go cycle? Let’s go BMX? What’s the terminology?
I think it’s more so ride. Most of the people I’ve been going out with are just BMXers, so I’ll kinda hop on the session. I started working with this dude Grant and his crew; I started going out with them all the time. It’s like, Oh, we’re gonna go ride this weekend, and then we go out and film, you know?

Nice. So yeah, ride. We’re riding. Like the Active Ride Shop.
Yeah, exactly. It’s funny because with skating you say skating. They say biking, too, but riding just seems more fitting for riding a bike, you know?

So is this new or is it something you’ve always done?
It’s relatively new, I guess. I got back into biking when all the skateparks were closed during COVID. You know Sheep Hills? It’s a pretty famous trails spot. No one was regulating that so I started biking there, got super into it and then it was kinda this thing. I had biked a little bit when I was a kid, but nothing serious. But during COVID I got super into it and was skating a little bit less ’cause the parks were closed. Then all the trail spots were getting torn out by the city and we basically had no place to go, so I just started riding street ’cause then I could also skate, you know? So it just led to that, where I would just go to spots and if it’s good for biking, I’d bike it, if it’s good for skating, I’d skate it. Or both.

So you’re goofy foot, right?

Are you goofy foot on a bike?
Okay, so it get’s weird here. So technically I am—I’m left foot forward biking but they call goofy if you don’t do the specific style where—you’re supposed to spin away from your front foot, so left foot forward I should be spinning to the right because technically speaking that makes the rotation easier ’cause you’re pushing through with your front foot. But I spin into my front foot left so it's technically called goofy foot.

Dylan Witkin Noseblunt 750Frontside noseblunt for the balloon homie

Dude, that’s crazy. Whenever I’ve tried to ride a bike on a ramp or something, I can only go backside, what I think of as backside in my head. I’m goofy so I can only turn to the left.
Yeah, it’s pretty confusing. Biking gets really technical—like I have some friends who are really good, like this dude Jordan Godwin just put out a part. He won the Nora cup which is the equivalent to SOTY, and he does stuff where you need to watch his parts multiple times even if you’re an avid BMXer because he switches his feet, spins one direction, grinds on the other side and all these crazy technical things that we don’t really have. It’s pretty confusing.

So can you spin 360s in both directions?
No. I can spin them turning left and then I can try them pretty good going the other way, but I lose my balance in the air.

So you can do it backside but not frontside.
Yeah, I would call it backside because I skate goofy footed.

That is fucking crazy. So where’d you grow up? Did you grow up in the Long Beach area?
No, Lake Forest.

So that’s a BMX kind of zone. Had you been around BMXers all your life or was there a culture clash falling in with these new friends?
Dude, so I had a bike; I had a Matt Hoffman “George.” It was a full complete setup and it was pretty cool. I was pretty young, like eight or nine or something and I’d ride it around with a crew in Lake Forest that I would go bike with. They had been biking and there was the older dude that was really good. And then when I went to middle school I was already kinda skating, too, like I’d bring my bike and my board to the skatepark. Then I started leaning into skating and that’s when I pretty much quit biking. Also, because bikes were expensive and I broke my frame, so it was pretty easy to just skate. But I got a lot of shit from the skaters for also biking and then I kinda phased into just skating and all those dudes became my friends. Then going back to biking, everyone just thought skating was sick. Bikers are like I love skating; skating’s so sick. They follow everything, like, they know everything that comes out on Thrasher; they watch all the parts. There are times when my biker friends are like, Did you watch this part yet? And I was like, Not yet. They’re watching stuff before me.

Do they ever use super weird trick names, like are they trying to call something a feeble grind or anything like that?
Yeah, a feeble is a back peg on and then the front wheel on top. So they have feeble, they have Smith grind, they do crooks but it’s not the same—it’s like the back wheel is on one side and the front wheel is on the other side.

Dylan Witkin BMX Overcrook 750Frontside overcrooks don't exist in skating and they don't in BMX either. Tooth hanger on a well-worn rail

'Cause it looks like in the video you do an overcrooks. What is that called?
It’s called a tooth hanger, but you just call it a hanger.

Dude, there’s so much to learn. Was there a big learning curve to figure out all the names?
For sure, figuring out all the names is pretty tricky. Some of us still mess things up but for the most part I’m out with these dudes that are high level and they kinda just teach me whatever. Most of the shit that I did in the part was because these dudes gave me their professional advice. It’s pretty crazy—being told how to do something from the dudes that are really good at it. It’s like, Oh, that works if you just listen.

When I was a kid the BMX guys had mustaches and short shorts and girlfriends with tube-tops and outie belly buttons. They were really frightening. But the BMXers now seem pretty mellow.
I mean, I guess it’s just like skating where there’s a spectrum. But honestly it’s pretty much the same thing as skating, there’s just a smaller amount of them doing it, you know?

Yeah they’re punk. When I see them out I’m like, Yeah, those guys really wanna do this.
Yeah, ’cause there’s not that much money in it. It’s just kinda like, Dude, wanna ride and film video parts?

You can do killer frontside inverts on a skateboard. Have you ever tried to handplant on a bike?
No, I haven’t. There are some dudes that do it and it’s really crazy. I imagine it’d be similar where you kind of just have to go all in and act like you’re gonna do a backflip and just reach your hand out to the coping. But with a skateboard, I’ve been doing it for so long—I remember learning those and I was like, I’m just gonna try it; I can see it in my head. I remember I had a dream of doing them and I would just watch Ben Raybourn’s footage doing it over and over again and then it just worked after I committed. But with biking it’s like—I don’t know if I could get myself to commit. You have to take one hand off, put it down and then get your hand back on before you touch. It’s like you get to the coping, you toss yourself in and you just hang on.

Dylan Wikin Frontside Invert Merge 750Full commitment in the Garvanza pit, frontside invert

So as a little kid did you do handrails or is that part of the new shit?
With biking? No. When I got back into biking the idea of grinding a flatbar was terrifying because I had tried to grind a ledge when I was a little kid and you have to put your weight over the ledge versus over the bike. I remembered hopping in and it just jarring me out and being kinda rattling. It’s pretty aggressive if you don’t do it right. So I had to figure that out, but then once I learned with the help of a bunch of friends it was like, Okay, you can put your weight here, then you hop in and it’s pretty easy.

So back to tricks—Mark Gonzales always dreamed about kickflipping a bike and then I guess a few years ago somebody did it.
I don’t know what to call it. I know what he’s talking about and I think that they do it but not in the same way. I think he means like an actual kickflip where it’s like how the board rotates. How would you say it—laterally?

Yeah, didn’t somebody do that?
If you’re thinking of the same video, that was a fake video. But they do it where it backflips.

Oh, I thought somebody actually kickfliped, like flipped it laterally.
No, there is a video of a guy doing it. Maybe they can do it off of a jump or something now, I just might not know. But there was one video that everyone was convinced was real but I think if you ride bikes, all the BMXers knew that it was not real.

Dammit. Back to the peg grinds—that used to be one of the big sticking points between the skaters and the bikers in the ‘90s, that the pegs would gouge the shit out of the ledges. And then somebody told me a few years ago, Nah, nobody rides pegs anymore. But you’re on pegs. What’s the deal with pegs?
So that is definitely a crazy situation where it’s like—back when there were full-metal pegs I imagine that it could mess things up. Like, it definitely did if you basically daggered them into something, you know, which is similar to when your axle nut smashes into something. I’ve chipped up shit with my board or whatever. But with the pegs it’s kind of like—with the metal ones when you’re grinding and you know what you’re doing it’s gonna do about the same damage as trucks, but now everyone runs pegs with plastic sleeves.

Yeah, they’re basically copers, exactly. And they grind super smooth and it makes it so you can grind everything. Like, I’ll just be riding down the street and I’ll see a kind of shitty ledge that’s gritty and I’ll hop on and it’ll grind, not great, but it’ll grind and kinda just eat away at the peg sleeve. But you can just replace it, and it doesn’t really do much damage.

Dylan Witkin bmx grind Phillip Arellano 2000 UpdateTakin' two pegs down a 26 is serious business    Photo: Arellano

So now we can all get along.
I mean, that’s the hope. You know, I hope skaters can understand—I feel like most of the time, I’ll have friends that are maybe indifferent towards BMX and they come out and I’ll tell them to hop on my bike and they turn into little kids. They’re having so much fun and then they’re like, Oh, that’s pretty sick, and I’m like, Yeah, man. It’s the same reason we started skating, you know?

The thing that jumps out to me about BMX is that it looks insanely fucking dangerous. What’s worse: sacking a rail, sacking a bike or sacking a bike on a rail?
Dude, honestly, I sacked this rail on my bike, but it was because I missed the back peg on the lock in. It looped me out and I landed straight on my tailbone. That was like a year or two ago and it still hurts, dude. But it’s pretty similar to the normal sack. It’s just kind of the luck of the draw. I’ve sacked rails where it’s like I just cut my thigh. It hurts like hell, but you can get up and keep trying.

Dylan Wikin BMX Slam 750Nobody escapes the sack sack

What about on the dirt jumps, like losing your feet and sacking the bike? What’s that like?
That sucks, but like—if you wanna call the bike a handrail at that point, it’s like the handrail’s low so you can get your feet out. It sucks, but it just is what it is. Same thing as skating—there’s all different variations of falls. Each one’s gonna be slightly different and it’s just part of it.

Would you rather run into yourself on a bike or run into yourself on a skateboard?
On a skateboard. But just because I feel like on a skateboard you can hop out easier. Even though the worst collisions I’ve had have been with skaters on my skateboard. You know the classic—you go right and I go left and you’re just jumping straight into each other. So I don’t know, it’s another one of those things—I think bikes are scary at certain parks ‘cause you can be going so fast.

I feel like bikers always knock their teeth out on their handlebars, too. Have you had any close calls?
Dude, I’ve had some close ones trying barspins when I’ve bailed. I was trying a flyout to barspin just to try to figure them out. I missed and the bike bounced up and I had to stick my hands in front of my face.

So nobody really wears pads while they street skate, but would you ever throw a helmet on or one of those shiny suits or anything when you’re riding the bike?
I wear a helmet when I ride trails. I’ve already been knocked out and the falls can be pretty bad. Especially with the big jumps, you’re going really fast. But with the street stuff it just feels so similar to skating that I feel comfortable. And I don’t know if I’ve truly pushed my limits to the point where I’m like, Alright, this feels like it’s really dangerous right now.

Dylan Witkin Pullquotes BMX accepts dudes that wear helmets 2000
Dylan Witkin Can Can 750Dylan might not be doin' 360 flip crooks, but he can still bust a nac nac with a brain bucket

Well, that’s good.
But it’s cool that BMX accepts dudes that wear helmets ‘cause it’s like—now, especially having a son, I’m all for it. I don’t know how I’d be feeling if he’s out there just risking that all the time.

Oh yeah, you’ve got a new baby. Congrats! So when you’re out, do you have your bike and board with you and you choose your weapon based on the terrain, or do you keep it separate?
Oh, totally. They're always out; I always have my board and my bike. It just depends. Most of the time with handrails, I’ll skate it and bike it even if one of them’s just for fun. But it doesn’t always add up. I went out yesterday and there was a rail where the runway is just so shitty and would need Bondo and all these things to skate it, but on a bike it doesn’t matter.

Yeah I saw you 50-50d or whatever you call it up a double-kink rail in Santa Ana.

But it’s like, that would be a mean feat skate-wise.
Yeah, someone might be able to do it but not me—not on a skateboard. That thing’s pretty tall, but on a bike you can get onto stuff that’s so much taller.

So I’ve seen some BMX and it’s bananas, but is this a novelty act? Are you just good for a skater or are you getting pretty good?
I don’t know. I think I’m mainly good for a skater, but I think going out and filming a part means a lot. You know, ’cause it’s like there are dudes who are good but maybe they didn’t film a part or whatever. I’m sure there’s some sort of novelty to it but I think that dudes respect the going out and filming aspect, you know?

Yeah. Well, you’re pro for Foundation. Is there a chance you’re gonna be pro for Cult Crew someday?
Well, with this part I got a frame colorway, so this new graphic I just came out with for Foundation is also a graphic on a BMX bike.

Dude, congrats!
Thank you.

I know we’ve seen Chris Cole and Jon Allie fuck around on some bikes, but you’d probably know this better—who’s the best? Who’s somebody that can really rip on both pieces of equipment?
There’s Gravette. There’s a lot of bikers who skate, too. There’s this dude Devin Smillie and if you were to just see him skating at the skatepark you’d be like, That dude rips, and then you’d find out later that he's one of the best BMXers in the world. So there’s a lot of dudes who bike that love to skate. Like my friend Rob Brayford, he rips skating. Mike Hucker rips at skating. There’s a lot of them, you know? But skaters who bike—there’s dudes out there. It’s just that going out and filming is a different thing.

Dylan Witkin Merge Melon 750Dylan's modesty might keep him from saying he's the best skater that rides, but this airborne attack could make the case. Melon

So Mike Manzoori and Chris Gregson have both made BMX videos. Is there a reason why skate filmers are in demand to make BMX videos?
I think that the main thing with Gregson and Manzoori is they both are pro skaters. They skate so well where it’s like filming lines and—especially Gregson with the follow lines—it’s only really possible to do that on a skateboard. Like getting on a bike and following a biker going that fast is pretty insane, you know? I know there’s a lot of dudes in BMX, too, that kinda just film each other. But I don’t know if there’s as many filmers. I think there’s a few factors to it, but I don’t really have that all so dialed in where I can give you a solid answer.

So Swampfest—Sinclair says he’s going this year. What should he be worried about?
Pretty much just fireworks, man. Bring some sunglassesand then bring some fuckin’ clear lenses for at night time. Seriously, dude, it’s like you get PTSD there. People will be standing around and someone will throw a mortar in the middle of the crowd and everyone just bolts. It's pretty wild, dude.

So you’re happily married with a child, but do you think you would have been able to score a hot babe more as a skater or a biker?
I don’t know. Luckily for me my wife didn’t care that I was a skater. I think that either way it would have been fine.

I was at the X Games this year for the first time in like 20 years and the BMX guys' girlfriends were wild. Do they all get the babes like that?
Yeah. I’ve heard the main thing that helps is the Red Bull hat.

We gotta get you one of those.
Yeah, we’ll see.

Dylan Witkin Merge BMX Grind 1 750Let's give that a replay. Dylan puts his own spin on our beloved pin. Now if a BMXer is nice to you, just thank our guy for the olive branch
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