It was a Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles when I texted five-time X Games BMX Street gold medalist Garrett Reynolds, asking him to speak on the phone about his gold medal reign at X Games.
"I'm at a park riding at the moment, but later I could," he replied a few minutes later. And then I heard nothing for a good eight hours.
By the time he texted back, it was 9:30 p.m. "Yo, I'm good to talk now," he wrote.
I gave him a few minutes, and then called. The phone rang and rang until it went to voicemail. The greeting spoke: "I'm sorry, but the subscriber you are trying to reach has not yet set up voicemail."
I quietly laughed to myself -- this was the Garrett Reynolds I had come to know all those years ago, a fellow resident of New Jersey, one of the most commanding BMX riders I had ever encountered throughout the years, and also, virtually impossible to get a hold of.
And then something happened that I did not expect: Reynolds called back.
BMX Street was introduced into the X Games in 2008. At the time, Reynolds was still a teenager, living at home in Toms River, N.J., able to pull off some of the most progressive BMX street riding under the heat of X Games competition. He was also not the most comfortable BMX athlete in the spotlight. He preferred his riding to do the talking. And to this end, he kept his iPhone in the original box it was sold to him in inside of his backpack, not in his pocket.
Getting a call from Reynolds, even when he was about to release a groundbreaking video part for Nike's "Writing on the Wall" BMX video, was not easy.
Six years later, he's returning my phone calls and able to talk about the intricacies of balancing his focus on street riding against the will to put runs together. At 22, now on his own and living with friends in the San Diego, Calif., area. it's safe to say that Garrett Reynolds has grown up.
XGames.com: Are you more excited to compete in the X Games in Barcelona or to ride Barcelona? Reynolds: I'm equally excited to ride the X Games in Barcelona and to ride street in Barcelona. The best thing about Barcelona is that I'm going to be able to see some of my friends out there that I've met just going out there through the years. I'm pretty psyched to see old friends along with the people riding in the contest. Getting to see everyone, and being in an awesome place for riding, I'm more psyched for that than one specific thing.
Can you describe what it means to ride Barcelona in BMX terms? Barcelona, for riding, is one of the best cities I've ever been to. For some reason, it's all banks and flat rails. It's a real city, but it's like you're looking at a real version of the video game "S.K.A.T.E." It's not like any city you would go to in the U.S., it's not like any city I've ever been to. It's pretty much a playground for BMX. You don't have to go too far to find anything, and anywhere you go, you recognize spots that have been documented. And when you go outside the city, there's always a lot more to find. It's endless. I've been far in the city and deep in the mountains, and you can just see that it goes on forever. It's hard to see everything.
How do you feel about riding the same course as Street League? I think it's pretty awesome to ride the Street League course. Anytime I see a Street League and see what they get to skate, I wish we had a skate plaza that was like that, it would be dope to ride. I said that even in X Games Los Angeles last summer. When they asked me about riding there, I just said that it was sick to ride a good course, and that I wished we had the same in San Diego year round. We actually have a bunch of skate plazas, but there's no comparison to X Games courses.
Do you view these as competitions, or is just riding with friends for you? The X Games is definitely a contest for me. When I'm riding with my friends on a daily basis, it's a little bit more chill and I'm not trying to put together runs where I land every time. Usually, what makes riding fun for me is trying to do something that's hard, that might take a while to get done, and playing around with it for a while. At a contest, it really is like riding with my friends, but some of the riders in there, they're my friends but I don't ride with them every day.
What is it like to win a gold medal at X Games for you? In a way, it's still a big deal to win a gold medal at X Games. The younger part of me, when I was a kid watching X Games on TV, I'd be way more psyched on it. But maybe it's because I don't have that jock mentality, I don't shoot or fight for it. If I get something that's good for me, I don't get super excited, I'm more just like, "Oh, yeah, this is sick." Regardless of how I do, everything is going to move on tomorrow and be the same for me.
How does it feel to be unbeaten in BMX Street at X Games? It's crazy, a lot of times, I've felt people have beaten me, especially Dennis [Enarson] and Chad [Kerley]. I feel like, with street riding, it's anyone's game -- there are such different ways of looking at how each person rides stuff. Everyone has a different eye for the setups and different tricks. It's also really hard to keep consistent. When I'm out riding every day, I fall a bunch.
Where do you see the direction of street riding going? I see so much different direction with street riding. I see the nose manual tech side, there's the dudes like Brian Kachinsky and Reed Stark who just do crazy rails, and there's the dudes that ride everything like Sean Sexton, who can do both sides of that. I don't think street riding will go one way, but it seems to me like street riding moves in trends of what's popular. I think with street riding, there really are more options than other types of riding to do a completely different thing than anyone else. The direction is decided by who rides. Everyone does their own thing.
And finally, the big question, what's happening with the Deadline video? Right now, it's in its last week of filming, so that's why I'm trying to figure out theater stuff tonight. Everything is there, all the music is there, it's just a lot of editing and going over all of the clips and trick orders, all the little OCD stuff. We're gonna head up to Los Angeles this weekend, everyone has a few things they want to get filmed, and once that's done, there are one or two San Diego things JJ and I want to get. It's less than 10 clips away from being done, but the clips aren't needed, they're just wanted.