BMX vert pro Jay Eggleston made his first forays back on a BMX bike and a small mini ramp over the weekend during a reunion cookout with his Denver-based Lip Lords bike crew, nearly one year after a traumatic brain injury knocked him out of the Dew Tour's Pantech Open competition in Ocean City, Md. last July. And while he stresses that he's still not fully recovered -- he recently failed the test to get his driver's license back, still has weekly appointments with various therapists, and still hasn't gotten the official go-ahead from his doctors (or his wife) to get his own personal bike back -- Eggleston says being back on a bike for even a few minutes felt like the first real taste of freedom he's had since the accident. ESPN.com has been following Eggleston's recovery process over the last year and caught up with him again on Sunday night after he posted photos from the Lip Lords reunion on Facebook.
ESPN.com: Was this weekend your first time back on a bike since the accident?
Eggleston: I went to the Old-School Reunion earlier this year to see some friends and I got to pedal my friends' bikes around a little bit, but today was the first time I really started messing around at all. My friend Pat Dehne -- he used to ride for GT and Schwinn back in the day -- has a tiny little mini ramp in his back yard, and he had some friends and family and a bunch of the old Lip Lords crew over for a cookout. I just did some rollbacks on the transition. Nothing big and I don't want to make too much of it, but it was fun and it felt really good. It made me feel like myself again, and it was great to see Pat and my old friends Nick Aragua, Terry Boyd, Darren Ray, Abel Gooch, Fred Gates, Todd Fantz, and Michael Hill, almost all of the old Lip Lords crew.
I just did some rollbacks on the transition. Nothing big and I don't want to make too much of it, but it was fun and it felt really good. It made me feel like myself again.
Do you have a goal in mind for where you'd like to see yourself on the bike?
I still don't even have my own personal bike back from my wife -- she has it hidden from me until I'm really ready for it, doctor's orders -- so that would be a start. I'd be happy to just ride my bike down the street! I'm not even thinking about getting back on vert or getting back to competition, but I rode my bike everywhere for so many years that it's strange not to ride it at all for a year. I still can't drive yet either, so I'm really dependent on other people to get around. Getting my bike back is going to be the same thing as getting some of my independence back. I have a new frame at home that Mat Hoffman gave me and I can't wait to get it set up so I can ride it.
It was great so see you out at X Games in Los Angeles this year, making the scene and cheering for your friends on the vert ramp. What was it like getting out there and seeing everybody again?
That was probably the coolest thing for me, just getting to see people I hadn't seen in about a year. It was good to be out there and I got to hang out with a lot of people I haven't seen in a while. I hadn't even realized how much I'd been missing some of those guys.
We talked with you in September after you'd just spent a month in a rehab hospital, and again in April when you were first plotting some ways to get involved in BMX again, and I know it's been a long road for you. How are you feeling now, a year out from the crash?
I feel good. I never really had any headaches or anything that you would think would be associated with a brain injury, so it's been kind of a confusing process for me all along. I feel fine, and luckily I'm not having any physical problems that I can see, but I'll talk with my doctors and therapists and my wife and friends and they'll tell me straight up: "You're not there yet." So I know I have some more work to do and some things may never be the same, but I also know I have been improving. I'm going to take the driver's license test again in August. That's one thing I've really been working towards. The first time around the guy said my driving was too aggressive.
What else are you looking forward to getting back to?
I really miss rock climbing. That was something I used to do every week and loved almost as much as riding my bike, and I'm going to get to go climbing here in about a week and a half. I'm really looking forward to that. My dad is really into hiking in the mountains and I've been on a couple trips with him, and I'm looking forward to more of that. Other than that I'm just getting started on working towards a new career of some kind and focusing on taking care of my wife and daughter and myself.
I've heard that skateboarder Jono Schwan and his Sk8-Strong organization have gotten a vert ramp built at Memorial Skate Park in Colorado Springs, not too far from you, that is opening later this month after a few years of there being no vert ramps in Colorado. Is it tempting to know it's there?
It's the old ramp we had at the Woodward park in Golden, near Denver, that closed a while back. Hopefully kids will get into it and get interested in riding vert again, but that's not really in my plans for things to do anytime real soon. I know now that I'm not going to ride vert again. I'm not going to be riding in contests again. And I hope my wife and doctors know I'm not going to try to ride hard and dangerous. But I do really want to ride: If I could ride my friend's little 4-foot ramp or push around a 6-foot ramp at a skatepark, I'd be happy.
The last time we talked you mentioned being inspired by snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who was back snowboarding nearly two years after his brain injury, and skateboarder Adam Taylor, who had returned to competition a year after his brain injury.
I was also talking to Mat Hoffman recently. He didn't ride his bike for like three years because of injuries but I saw him ride a few months ago and he looked just as good as he ever did, so I don't think this has to be the end of it. I obviously don't want to hit my head again, but I also don't want to quit riding. You won't see me riding in the Dew Tour or X Games again, but I'm going to try to work my way back to BMX in a way, some way, that makes sense, because it's a big part of who I am. It always has been.