I was blown away by the Defgrip Exclusive web video Mike Jonas put out last fall. It was burly, yet wildly technical. Mike seemed to be channeling "Sean "Fish" Hoskins with his crossbar grabbing and weird, undergrabbing of the grips. Between his creativity, burlyness, and nice guy attitude, he has found a spot on the Volume Bikes team and will also be competing in Chad Kerley's Vitamin Water Invitational contest happening at Chicago's Bakery May 12. Mike had a lot of great things to say, specifically regarding sponsorship and his motivation for doing pretty ridiculous tricks. In the case of Mike, it would seem that sometimes nice guys do finish first.
ESPN.com: I think the first time I had heard of you was in Darryl Nau's Props Day in the Life. You grew up in Long Island but currently made the switch to the west coast. What prompted the decision?
Jonas: The riding scene on Long island is awesome. My friends who I group up riding with on Long Island are some of the closest friends I'll ever have. Everyone got along really well and is super supportive, even still. I wanted to move to the west coast in search of new spots, good weather, and just to see how I would like it. I love it out here now.
Where are you specifically on the West Coast, Berkeley? How do you like the Bay Area scene? Who do you ride with up there?
Yeah, I'm in Berkeley, but I ride with friends from all over the Bay Area, from San Jose to Martinez. I met Kurt Russell and Wes Roe literally the day I moved out here. They showed me around and introduced me to a bunch of people. I ride with everyone -- Kurt, Wes, Joey Cobbs, John Ivers, Dylan Sparkman, Felipe Gonzalez, Samar Carrillo, Kyle Frazier, Greg Micklas, and the list goes on.
I guess the elephant in the room is the all of the weird, undergrabbing of the handlebars you do. I love it, it reminds me of Sean "Fish" Hoskins, which is a good thing. When did you start messing with changing the way you grab the bars?
It's just a fun thing to do when you're goofing around or run out of tricks to do at a spot. It's funny to see friends who have barspins and tuck no-handers on lock get all choked up when they try to bunnyhop in and out of under-handers.
Before we even go on, I think we should discuss the really big tricks you do. Is that an important part of your riding, mixing tech with gnarly tricks?
I have the most fun when I'm progressing and trying things that aren't easy for me. There's always that mental obstacle you have to overcome when trying something big -- where you know if you don't commit 100%, things won't turn out well. Blocking that fear out and doing it anyway is the best feeling. Same goes for lines and tech tricks -- you just have to know if you try hard enough, you'll eventually get it, and then you'll be happy!
Recently, you got sponsored by Volume. How did that come about? Would you say that you were actively looking for a sponsor?
I owe it to Connor Lodes for pulling for me to get hooked up by Volume. He put in a really good word for me to Brian Castillio, and I think some of the other Volume/Demolition guys may have too. I always thought it would be cool to have a sponsor, but there's only a handful of teams I could see myself on and I was just as happy not having one. I've avoided potential hookups in the past because I either didn't feel like I fit into the crew too well or the products didn't fit my style. Volume is a company I've always really liked. I'd run their frame and parts even if I didn't ride for them and I'm homies with a bunch of people who are part of the crew, so it's a good fit.
Would you say that's important? When kids are offered a sponsor, should they ask themselves "Would I ride these parts even if I didn't ride for them?"
Yeah, I feel like there's a lot of riders that are sponsored, but never do anything for their sponsor and their sponsors don't do anything for them. You wouldn't even know they're on the team unless you saw their name on the team page. That's dumb. What's the point? You're better off just riding for yourself.
You said you wanted to talk about your Volume Web video, how has that been coming along?
Yeah, I'm trying to put in a lot of effort for my first Volume Web video. I'm treating it more like a video part than just a quick Web edit. I think it's coming along good so far. We have about two minutes of footage. Hopefully, if I can stay healthy, I want to get it to three minutes. (Editor's note: Mike recently had pneumonia, his video will not be out for another month.)
It's funny you say that you're treating it like a video part, because it is one. The DVD vs. Web argument is a tired one, but with the potential to reach way more viewers online, how come you think some people approach a Web video as "just a quick web edit"?
Probably time, mostly. It's really difficult to compile a few minutes of footage you're proud of. It usually takes at least a few months of filming for us non-superhero bike riders. Also, it just might not be a priority if you have a bunch of other projects going on. I know after I finish this edit, I'm probably going to take it easy on Web edits to focus more on getting clips for "Markit Zero." I didn't mean 'just a quick web edit' as a way of putting any style of Web edit down. There's a ton of directions you can go with Web-videos -- it could be a how-to, a day at the skatepark, a day in the life, an advertisement, or a hundred other formats, which are awesome and fun to make. Initially I was going to make a quick one-minute welcome to the team edit, but I love filming and haven't put anything out in a while, so I want to make a more complete video part for this edit. BMX videos aren't dead or dying and individual Web edits, no matter how good, will never replace them. Yeah, Web edits can get way more views, but they're not competing with videos. The medium is always going to change, but the idea of making a full video isn't going away.
BMX videos aren't dead or dying and individual Web edits, no matter how good, will never replace them.
Your Facebook profile says that you're self-employed. Normally I try not to bring up occupations but I've heard from my friends that you're a real deal Internet entrepreneur. Would you care to talk about it at all?
I'd consider myself a light-weight entrepreneur. I'm not rolling in cash or anything. My motivation has always been more to avoid work that tied me down so I can ride and go on trips without worries. One of the things I did to try and achieve this was making websites. I had no idea what I was doing at first, but I learned and was able to start a few small sites that brought in some money. I could maybe be more 'real deal' if riding and fun having was secondary. Lately I've been doing some freelance work, even for some BMX websites. It's cool cause I can ride all day and then work whenever, as long as I get stuff done.
Awesome. You're also part of the semi-mysterious Markit crew. The video is certainly anticipated, do you guys have a rough idea when it will come out?
I'm really excited to be a part of Markit and to be able to film a section in "Markit Zero." We have such an amazing crew and everyone gets along super well. Even when we're eight guys in an RV for ten days, it's always good times and there's never any drama. Dennis [Enarson] is really good at organizing trips and getting the crew together. So far the filming is coming along really good. We go on a trip every two months and are trying to do some smaller ones in between. Everyone's been stacking some gnarly clips, but we still have a lot of filming to do. We're all passionate about putting together the best possible section for ourselves, so we'll set a release date when everyone feels they're happy with the footage they have.
Also, I noticed that you're riding in Chad Kerley's contest in Chicago, how did that come about? Is this your first contest?
Vitamin Water and the other sponsors for the contest are giving Chad full control over how the contest is run and who's going. We're homies, so he invited me to be in it. I've never ridden in a contest before and I'm stoked to be a part of this one. Having it in The Bakery and doing a rider-judged format should make this event really fun.