-By Alison Leigh, with historical information provided by Price, Mike Gentilcore, J Lonergan, Kyle Keck, Ponyboy, Dave VanderMaas, Joe Rich, and Mel Cody.
Photos and stickers provided by Dave VanderMaas and J Lonergan.
Special thanks to Mike Gentilcore for proofing and helping sort out details and errors in my haphazard note taking, and for Price for helping me round up all these folks!
Disclaimer: We realize how rich the history of the BMX community around here is and this is, unfortunately, not at all comprehensive… Anyone who would like to add to the story, please feel free to do so in the comments section or send an email! Apologies to anyone who was left out- it was not intentional. Thank you!
When I was 13, I volunteered at the Easton Middle School library once a week. This was 1986– shut up… Anyway, I basically did this because I got to sit there with this cute boy the whole time and try unsuccessfully to flirt with him. I noticed he read a lot of BMX magazines and once I realized I was going nowhere with him, I started checking out the mags myself. Opening the pages for the first time did something weird to me- I was already into the skater scene a tad. It was cool and the guys were fun and outgoing. Skating is such a loud sport, and everyone was always “on”. The Beastie Boys License to Ill just came out (shut up) and the Sigafoos brothers were killing it all over the place. There was just something about the riders that had an immediate effect on me- the look of seriousness on their faces, the fact that some of them raced too. I fell for Team Haro and Ron Wilkerson instantly.
In real life, I noticed right away how quiet the whole thing was. The bikes were so smooth and they didn’t make a sound. The guys were shy and withdrawn (at least the ones I knew were) and people I was friends with were coming up like crazy! Plus, I never rode a skateboard. Doing Evel Knievel tricks on my bike though? Oh hell yeah. I was an idiot on that thing. Banana seat and everything. Point is, I already was quite familiar with the derogatory term used for girls who hung around with skaters- and I was not ever going to become a “skate betty.” I would just be me and secretly pay attention to the BMX scene. Those guys wouldn’t even notice, so it worked out just fine. I could read the articles, look at the pics, try to decipher the tricks, and occasionally go to a demo and see heavy weights like Matt Hoffman doing crazy shy. I didn’t have to tell anybody…
As time went on, Joe Rich, my buddy from school, started to become something out of the ordinary. People like Dave VanderMaas and J Lonergan were putting East Coast Riders and Team ? stickers on stuff, and I was beginning to hear the buzz that was going on about people like “Sales” and “Price.” Something was happening, and by now it was more like 1990, ’91. All my friends were into new wave music and going to New Hope so I was really quite out of the loop.
Fast forward to 1992 and Joe was whisked away to another state to ride pro, new companies were popping up all over the place, the X Games were invented and that was that! I eventually moved away and discovered on my own a few things- spotted an ad for Standard that was a drawing of Joe that was quite complimentary, saw him on the cover of RIDE magazine with a poster pullout (which hangs in my salon to this day), learned of his new company Terrible One, and saw a sticker for it on a car while driving in Mexico. Also had a few children FREAK OUT when I told them I did in fact, actually know him. It was weird.
So after all of that, I ended up moving back to the Valley to find a hugely mature scene ripe with people old and new rocking out what I would soon come to discover, a whole world of history, the likes of which I had no fucking clue. Read on as we tell the tale from the very beginning….
Firstly, we have to discuss the racing situation. Lonergan and Gentilcore were avid racers and had been for years, all the way back to 1979. They raced at Louise Moore Park with what was called the LV BMX Association. The sport of BMX racing was huge but the tracks were getting a little tame which prompted both of them, independently, to begin building jumps in random areas near where they lived, like Black Track along the river.
“The parents eventually got ahold of bmx racing, allowing clipless pedals and carbon fiber forks to be used on tracks which were already way behind the times, which basically ruined racing. I don’t want to even look at a clipless pedal.” -Mike Gentilcore
Mel Cody joined up with some guys who called themselves ATK, The Active Transpo Kids. They represented the Allentown scene from 1986- 1989, putting out t-shirts and stickers, holding competitions in places without permits, and building trails at Tioga. They did regular demos at Mayfair, traveled together to other cities to compete, and basically focused on having a well-rounded team. They were aware of the other scenes going on in Easton (East Coast Riders) and Bethlehem (The Butt Brothers, future East Coast Destruction), and eventually everyone kind of ended up under the same umbrella ECD had opened up.
“It wasn’t about in-fighting or bickering – it was about ‘Look we ride! That’s what it’s all about!’ It wasn’t even an East Coast thing. It was a Lehigh Valley thing.” -Mel Cody
Places like Sales Trails in Easton, named after Chris Sales, (a.k.a. “Sal”) were popping up in the Valley. Legend has it, Sales invented the term ‘trails’ to describe these types of dirt runs because it um, rhymed. Makes sense to me! Price had moved here from New Jersey in the late 80s expecting nothing to be going on in the riding world, only to discover the exact opposite – a lucky trip to a local K Mart where he saw a slew of bmx bikes piled up outside scored him new friends like Dave Vmaas and a few others. They were younger and were just about blown away to have made friends with someone who drove a car. Back then, you rode where you could ride two wheels to, and when you were able, you could get out to places such as —
In 1991, Posh was down the street from where it is today. Guys named Mach 6 (Mike Walker), Marky Hall and their crew began making jumps in the woods. Shortly thereafter, the landowner just plowed it one day and they decided to move on. Mach 6 then moved Posh to the current location for which he began a grand vision,
and now you’re seeing things no one had ever done before. Gentilcore had already invented what is known now as a rhythm section- which means there are more than one jump, flowing from one to the next. Lonergan and Sales saw it and started doing the same in Easton, which finally made its way to Posh. So at this point, sht was gettin’ crazy and people were starting to take notice. One might say, this revolutionized bmx dirt trail riding all over the world.
How, do you ask, did a bunch of kids in the woods doing a semi-obscure sport influence the world over? DIY everything. From people like Dave King and Jeremy Reiss (a.k.a. Gilley) coming up and inventing techniques for building jumps that eventually led to them being flown all over the world to build for the X Games and Red Bull Dream Line, that’s how. These guys are no joke, taken very seriously for their skills, heart and dedication. Wanna see? http://dirtsculpt.wordpress.com/ Not even messing ’round.
Posh continued to grow and progress and that started attracting a new wave of younger kids from all over the place. At a strange time where magazines were folding and major companies were beginning to scale back, these guys were holding it down and building trails that would soon become world renowned. Action Wheels was in full swing, and people were seeing the scene grow locally and beyond.
Another notable rider that needs to be mentioned is John Inglebert, a.k.a. Lucky. This guy is important for taking tricks and modifying them with a twist and sense of style of a true artist. People would watch him ride and he would do something that caused everyone to stop and be like “Woah, what was that?” Dave Mirra did the “Lucky Grind” at one of the X Games and the trick totally blew up to the point where kids still do it today. Do they know it came from a guy from the LV? Maybe, but most likely not.
“Back then it was such a small scene that you had to put your own stamp on it. Now they just see it and do it. There’s so many people riding now that it isn’t so much about standing out.” -Mel
The “Butt Brothers” who had been making videos in the early to mid-90s and making a name for this oddly monikered place called Bethlehem, were the beginnings of the East Coast Destruction team. Started by Matt Stauffer and MCM, ECD’s reputation grew. Given the
undying progression and wide range of influences of its riders, the ECD slogan “Trendsetters, Never Followers” couldn’t have been more appropriate as the ECD crew ran deep and from the soul. Joe Rich started Terrible One in Austin, TX in 1998, and videos like Anthem I put riders like Chris Stauffer smack in the middle of the map. Chris was
sponsored by Matt Hoffman, and even helped him design the D130 (Dirty One Thirty) frame at age 17. He then started up Dead Memory which was a BMX-specific clothing line. Stauffer was “an amazing rider. His tabletops were so high and clicked, it was pure motorcross watching him ride.” – Mike Gentilcore. He also graced the cover of Anthem I which is arguably one of the most important bmx trail videos of all time.
THE CATTY WOODS
The Lehigh Valley scene continued to grow into the new millennium with Dave and Ekim King’s “Nam” trails Northampton. Famous for runs like “Methadone” and “Hell Awaits”, Nam was eventually plowed to make way for new houses. The Nam crew became the seeds of the next generation, and by 2004 The Catty Woods had been taken to a new level, and with all their years of experience building trails and a fresh start, they seemed to have it down. The LV in the late 90s, had at least six pros living in it, and in one fell swoop people like Taj Mihelich and Joe had left, as did everyone else. It was time for a new crowd to take the reigns. And they were taking them in the woods in Catasauqua.
Kyle Keck had already been riding strong, sponsored by Dead Memory along with Chris Merth, Danny Pors, Doug Folk, and Timmy Martin. People like Ponyboy had literally moved to the area from out of state to ride Posh.
“I moved here for the bmx community in 2006. I jumped in and went right to Posh. Messaged Gilley and offered to help with the trails. Hangin’ out in the woods building trails having good times. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Learned new stuff about building trails from Gilley (a.k.a. Jeremy Reiss)” -Ponyboy
The trails continue to this day to grow and change. It’s now fully insured, and the “newer” riders have taken the reigns, striving every day to make it a better, more fun place to ride. People like Chris Janis, Abe, Flash, and Andy Schwartz seem to be the main ones, while everyone lends a hand when they can. They see people literally coming from all over the world just to ride it. Pros will show up and call one of the two main photographers in the area to come down and do a shoot for a magazine. Keith Terra from Long Island has shot for every BMX magazine there is, and Rob Dolecki who lives in Philly is one of the top photographers in the industry. Both come to the area constantly to ride and shoot in the Woods. Open a magazine or two- you’ll see.
I had a chance to talk to Joe Rich about his feelings for what has become of his hometown and how this place has grown and effected even his own success. He started by saying that riding for him in the beginning was always about having fun with friends. Joe has always maintained a very humble and appreciative attitude about life in general and this is no exception. He believes that the whole community from back then till now is kept together because of these trails and that pushing yourself and having self-confidence has been the reason people continue to flourish at it. I asked him how it’s felt all this time having grown up here and then moving away as Catty began to achieve this level of high standards. What it meant to him to come home every year and yet normally be in the constant company of those who have yet to even ride the trails at Catty- people who aspire to one day soon come ride it because it’s their dream– He responded by saying that it still doesn’t compute how this place he grew up in keeps outdoing itself and maintaining a level inventiveness and ingenuity backed by pure heart and soul and a love for riding, how well-respected it is the world over, how to him this is coming home. It’s all about gratitude baby. Posh was always his spot so to him, the Catty Woods is familiar, yet he can still be in awe of it.
Currently Joe and Terrible One have one of the most iconic and amazing places a rider can go to- The Terrible One ramp (see more pics and videos here). It’s in his backyard and according him, he walks out there every day and says he cant believe this is here. I suggested the fact that where he hailed from has the two most sought after dirt trails, and where he lives has the most sought after ramp spot- that perhaps, the bar was set so high for him growing up, to which he added, that it only makes sense he would go above and beyond to make what he now has, something special in and of itself.
What the future holds for the BMX scene in the Valley is far from over. A movie called Heroes of Dirt is coming out soon (Watch the trailer on their site!), the trails are being treated very seriously by the riders and the city officials who now recognize the trails as legit organizations. With Posh and Catty Woods looking at ways to work together, it seems like a whole lot more is on the horizon!
This article is meant to educate, promote and honor all that is the Lehigh Valley BMX community. It’s meant to showcase the huge amount of talent that has come from here, as well as garner support and intrigue from those who don’t know hardly anything at all about it.
This area is not normal. It’s been said before and it will be said again, there must be something in the water around here…