Dane Herron of DHI has been building and literally shaping the evolution of FMX courses since day 1. He's been responsible for courses that brought us Mike Metzger's back-to-back backflip, Travis Pastrana's first 360, Cary Hart's first back flip and Brian Deegan's Iconic 360 snow jump attempt at Winter X Games.
Being a rider himself, he's able to build some of the coolest and most fun courses a rider could get to ride. This was definitely the case in May with the Red Bull X-Fighters Glen Helen stop in San Bernardino, Calif. This was the crown jewel of FMX competition courses; it had a wall ride the size of Texas with 100-foot table tops, freeride step ups and hip transfers along with a quarter pipe to boot.
Held at the historic Glen Helen motocross park, this event was especially distinct to the area because the birthplace of FMX was just a few miles away. Beaumont, Reche Canyon, Temecula, Ocotillo Wells, Glamis Dunes and Dumont Dunes are all around this area and only in some cases just a few minutes' drive.
For the first time Herron was able to mix his passion for riding along with his course production and bring it to the contest arena. We recently caught up with him to talk about the evolution of course production and the renowned style course he built at Glen Helen.
ESPN.com: Who is Dane Herron and what do you do?
Herron: I'm an ex-pro dirtbiker, sport organizer for the FMX world and I own a company called DHI, we build dirt bike parks and do motorsports special events.
How long have you been building courses?
I've been building courses since 1999. I built the first event in Worscter, Mass., with a company called LXD, I've pretty much been building them ever since.
How did you get involved with building courses?
It was kind of a weird situation how I got started, I was working construction at the time and still racing motocross off and on. Carl Scanlan, who was my boss at the time, was managing Barona Oaks Raceway, one of the big motocross tracks down in San Diego. I was working for him and we were sneaking off on the weekends with his equipment and building dirt bike tracks in Santee or out in the hills where ever we had jobs close to that. So that's pretty much how it started.
Then I was living with Tommy Clowers, Jeff Tilton when the whole freestyle thing kicked off in the late '90s and those guys put my name in to start building the courses, and that was the end of it, been building, designing and consulting ever since.
So you also ride, how long have you been riding? How do you incorporate that into your course building?
How long have I been riding? Let's see I'm 37 now and I got my first 50 when I was 5 so about 32 years. Damn that sounds like a long time.
I try in to incorporate my experiences into what we build. I've ridden almost every freeride spot you read about and a grip of them that most people haven't heard of, which works well in designing parks these days. If I had my [way] each time I would try and replicate some of the best kickers we've ridden over the years.
What's it like to see and be a part of the evolution of FMX courses from day 1 to X Fighters Glen Helen?
The evolution is the craziest part of it all. You know, there's periods of craziness and then plateaus. When we first started things started progressing really fast through the early 2000s and then there for a while it plateaued off around the time the economy went to crap. Then as things started looking better we were really pushing for a good course like at Glen Helen. So from day 1 to Glen Helen I don't know how to explain it, I'd say it's probably about a 2,000 percent increase in progression of the course I built at Worcester, Mass., to now.
What was it like to be to be a part of FMX in the '90s [which was just called filming, not FMX until the first X Games] and still be a part of it today?
Being part of the "good old days" is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was the best time of my life! And getting to work with today's versions of me, you, Deegan, Metz, etc. is the best feeling in the world! I've met some of the coolest dudes on the planet and got to ride the world!
Glen Helen X Fighters seems to have had a splash of freeride jumps, what was your motivation behind that?
The freeride jumps at Glen Helen I really wanted to build, if I had it my way that's all I'd really build, and of course I'd throw some ramps in because we need them for the competition but that's really all it is.
I grew up freeriding in the hills and you know all about that, riding in Reche Canyon and Beaumont. It's where this FMX thing started, out in the hills. It didn't start in an arena it started out in the hills and that's what I wanted to do -- build some freeride stuff and incorporate it into the contest.
Granted the freeride jumps were man made but, hey, at the end of the day we're putting on a contest, making a TV show so you need to compromise a bit. Sometimes you need to dress up the landing or the take-off to make the jump worthy and that's doing the best you can to replicate the hills in a TV contest setting.
It's kind of like when a skate contest will replicate a specific staircase or ledge from the city or an iconic location to skate and bring it to the contest arena, even though you weren't replicating a specific location. You were taking something out of the natural environment that most people would never see and showcasing it for everyone watching it live, on TV.
Yeah, we didn't really have one or two jumps that we had ridden in the past, we just know that generally step ups, step downs, hill hip transfers are the most fun and those are things you'll never ever see at a contest until Glen Helen. And now with the trick evolution so high anything is possible especially on a lot of the freeride style jumps.
I know you take a lot of pride in your course you build but I know you take extra pride in building more freeride style courses, what is it about freeride style courses that get you so excited to build?
Freeriding is in my blood, it's what we all grew up doing, you know. It's exciting, it's fun. At Glen Helen we built a course of that size and has that many different rad jumps in it, not everyone is going to hit the same lines which made Glen Helen pretty awesome. Everyone had a little bit different of a variation and it's not so monotonous as some of the other standard 75-foot ramp contests.
How is it dealing with riders who have no complaints with what you build opposed to some of the guys that tend to complain a lot?
You know, it's just one of those things we try to build a course that everyone will be happy on and, yeah, some guys excel more on ramps and not so much on dirt-freeride jumps and it's vice versa so we just do the best that we can and deal with it.
Freestyle isn't a team sport, there's individual personalities, so you have 12 different personalities from different countries and you're not going make everyone happy. Bottom line: it's about the athletes and we want to make the courses as safe as we can and still deliver a good TV show.
I wanted to say thanks for helping my Ride to the Hills, Quarter Pipe ideas come to life, look forward to what you have in store for progressing the sport in the future!
Hell, yeah, no worries! People don't know that you were the one that brought the quarter pipe ideas to the table when I was at Red Bull. The quarter pipe and Ride to the Hills are still two of my favorites!