Without a doubt, Sunday's Aaron Ross consistently has one of the most unique setups in all of BMX. From fluorescent colors to one-off Sunday/Odyssey graphics, to themes that include picnics, golf and first dates, Aaron's bikes aren't your everyday black or un-stickered pro model bike. Not by a long shot. Recently, photographer Sandy Carson caught up with Aaron at home in Austin, Texas to shoot Aaron's latest themed bike, the "Watermelon Bike," and to compliment the bike check, I got Aaron on the phone to discuss his obsession with creating bikes that aren't easily forgotten. This is Aaron Ross on bikes, and since I'm required to say it, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter.
ESPN.com: Over the years, you've had a number of unique color setups. Can you explain where this obsession comes from? Can you explain the concept behind the watermelon bike? How does your bike get thrashed so bad? Is it from riding or throwing your bike? Have you ever experimented with riding brakeless? I know that you pre-load your brake cable a lot. Have you ever considered riding a gyro? Do your sponsors ever get mad at you for riding parts until they're absolutely dead instead of getting new parts? Do you prefer your brakes to be squeaky, or is that a by-product of colored rims and Texas humidity? Who works on your bike: you or Empire BMX? Finally, what would it take for you to ride a black bike? Anything else we should add?
Ross: When I was a kid, my dad had a powder coating machine, and I used to paint my bikes, sometimes once a month just cause it was fun. As I started getting more into BMX, it became more fun to shoot a photo with a crazy colored bike, adding more artistic flavor to the photo shoot. Now it's more of an art project to me. Instead of having a blank canvas, I took it a step further and applied it to bikes. And it's grown into every little detail of my bike, from the watermelon theme to the picnic bike, connecting the forks to the wheels to the paint. It's fun for me to go to a spot and set up some sort of scenery that goes with the bike. Honestly, when I go to the trails or ride around Austin, I'd love to have a normal black bike that doesn't stand out at the trails. But while filming or shooting a photo, I think it brings so much more to the photo or the footage.
We talked about doing a pink and green bike, and that grew into a watermelon theme. Then we wanted to add seed graphics to the bike, then we added ants. All of the details came together one step at a time. Now I think it's fun to do theme bikes: watermelon, the picnic bike, the Sunkist bike.
It's never from throwing. In all the years I've been riding, I've maybe bent two pairs of bars from throwing my bike and knocked out a couple of spokes. And that's ten years of throwing my bike. I travel a ton. I'm gone 70% of the year, and it's just from being in a van, or in my bike bag on the plane, or on a bike rack. It gets beat up quick, and I'm not really the best bike mechanic. As long as the bike works, I'm not too concerned.
I grew up riding brakeless on and off, and it was fun. I rode brakeless for a while last year and it was fun too. But I like going to the trails, I like surviving at the trails, and I think it's good to cruise around Austin and know that I'm going to be alright. I also have a few tricks that I enjoy doing with brakes. I'm not against taking brakes off by any means. I'll get around to it one of these days I'm sure. But there's a trick I want to do, and to do it, I'm going to need brakes. I'm just comfortable doing some things with brakes. Lately, I want to try to putting on more pegs.
I rode a gyro for a long time, and I don't like to do more than two tricks in a line. So if I'm doing a barspin and a tailwhip in a line, I only need to do one of each, and it forced me to learn opposite barspins, cause I couldn't just keep going. I can barely get my straight cable to work correctly, so I would probably lose my mind working on a gyro. My brakes are dialed when I put them on at first, and once the back wheel starts tweaking (I go through back wheels fast), the brakes aren't perfect, and it all falls apart. Adding a gyro would make an even bigger mess that I couldn't control.
Odyssey gets real excited when I want new grips, and it's not that I don't want new grips. I run the bike parts till they're gone, and I have the same problem that anyone might have trying to find certain bike parts. Odyssey will order grips, send them out to shops, and then they're gone. And I'll ask for white grips, but they won't have anymore. Every color is such a limited run, and the stock runs out fast. So I try to run it till the last possible point, and then my bike gets real ugly for about a month and a half, cause nothing matches anymore, and that's when it's time to get a new bike. Every single bike I have, I ride for at least six months, and some of them way more than that. But they do tend to look way more beat up than other people's bikes. The colors are so bright and detailed that you can see the smallest scratch a lot easier than on a black bike.
I've learned over the years that they work better when the brake pads are flat against the rim. I try not to use them at all unless I really need them. When I'm riding down the street, I'll stop with my feet cause they are real annoying, but they work perfect. And I figured that my bike is so annoying to look at, that I might as well make it sound annoying too. Also, filming lines with brakes is pretty awesome for coming around corners. I don't have to shout out that I'm coming around a corner. I can tap my brakes and people know. It's the nicer way to let people know that I'm about to do a line.
I do everything but true or build wheels. I'm not good at the tightening and loosening. I'll tighten it till it's straight, and that ruins it. So I have to thank Hanson Little, Tom Williams and Taylor Brown at Empire for taking care of my wheels. Each bike I ride, I go through one set of wheels, which is pretty good.
I don't know. I see black bikes and I like them. Same with raw and gun metal finish. It wouldn't be hard. But I'm still having fun doing the art project bikes. At some point, I'll slowly venture into a new genre. I have two more theme bikes I want to do, and I don't know what's going to happen after that. I really don't.
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ESPN.com: Over the years, you've had a number of unique color setups. Can you explain where this obsession comes from?
Can you explain the concept behind the watermelon bike?
How does your bike get thrashed so bad? Is it from riding or throwing your bike?
Have you ever experimented with riding brakeless?
I know that you pre-load your brake cable a lot. Have you ever considered riding a gyro?
Do your sponsors ever get mad at you for riding parts until they're absolutely dead instead of getting new parts?
Do you prefer your brakes to be squeaky, or is that a by-product of colored rims and Texas humidity?
Who works on your bike: you or Empire BMX?
Finally, what would it take for you to ride a black bike?
Anything else we should add?