BMX's New Wave Joe Niranonta and Tom Nguyen on the future of BMX

Joe Niranonta & Tom Nguyen on the future of BMX

BMX has continuously evolved since its humble beginning in Southern California in the late 1960’s.  Although its global popularity has peaked and declined several times since then, there has undoubtedly been a resurgence of street BMX in recent years.  Just last month, the International Olympic Committee announced that it was adding Freestyle BMX to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, one of the few extreme sports to ever be included in the Olympic Games.  While names like Mat Hoffman and the late, great Dave Mirra have become legendary, a new generation of BMX riders are paving the way for the sport.  Leading the new wave is rider Joe Niranonta (@JoeNiranonta), hailing from Levittown, Pennsylvania, a suburb just outside of Philadelphia, and videographer Tom Nguyen (@TomxNguyen), from Atlantic City, New Jersey.  We caught up with Joe and Tom about their beginnings in the BMX world, the street biking culture, and the future of BMX.
 
Joe Bmx Trick

What got you guys into riding BMX?  Was there a particular moment or influence that made you want to get on a bike?

J: I always had a bike growing up with my brothers but my Uncle Bob was my main influence . He would always get us into his truck and drive us down to FDR skatepark at 6am on Sunday mornings. After the skaters would show up we would go hit the streets of Philly at a crazy young age, bunnyhopping over bums and grinding ledges, so yes him and my dad would be my 2 main influences to get on a bike and keep progressing.

 

T: I actually started out skateboarding growing up. I guess once my local skate shop growing up shut down, it just wasn’t as fun for me. At some point a lot of my friends who skated transitioned into BMX and eventually I did the same.

 

Have you seen more people opting to pick up a BMX bike instead of a skateboard these days?  Would you say BMX is becoming more popular with younger generations?

J: Around me or this Philly area yes, I see lots of kids grabbing bikes instead of skateboards. They see chocolate truck rolling around with a huge squad and they all wanna join haha. Its not a competition to us, its all fun, its a way for lots of these kids to get out of trouble so I push for a lot for these kids to ride bikes in Philly. Its blowing up.

 

T: I wouldn’t say they’re opting to pick up a bike over a skateboard but BMX is definitely more accepted that it was a few years ago. It’s pretty common now to see a kid skateboarding at a park and then watch him do a 360 on a friends bike. With guys like Chris Cole or David Gravette messing around on both its pushing kids to try new things.

 

What’s the current state of BMX?

J: Right now, everyones is killing it but from my point of view theres not enough money in bmx. I have to work full time 40+ hrs a week and ride on the side when we can which takes a lot of practice time away from us riders.

 

T: BMX is going through a pretty weird transition right now. Social media made the industry do a complete 180 and not in a good way in my eyes. Companies are going for a quantity over quality approach to things and just sponsoring anyone who gets views on content left and right. There’s also way too many brands in this small industry for anyone to make a decent living off of.

 

BMX videos are a huge way of getting audiences familiar with your skills and style. Joe, how would you describe your riding style and Tom, your approach to video?

J: My riding style is simple for the most part. Its a lot of big hops, wall rides and gaps. I love being in the streets riding because you get to use your head and be creative while riding. I tend to try to ride or film at areas that aren’t even spots and then turn them into spots people never seen, or thought of.

 

T: When it comes to videos or even my work in general I try to just have fun with it and make it appealing to as many people as possible. I threw a BMX video premiere in June, and could’ve just told a bunch of kids who ride to get together but that’s too predictable and boring. Instead I booked a venue, flew in some of my friends who happen to be my favorite artists(Freako Rico & D’ana Nunez/itscovl) into Philly to showcase some work, and got one of the city’s sickest DJs to spin for the night. It was a really cool experience to get people from BMX, music, fashion, and a bunch of other creative industries under one roof for a night.

Joe Bmx Trick

Is Philly a hotspot for BMX right now, or are you guys among the few riders in the area?

J: Yes, Philly is a huge hotspot for BMX right now . Its crazy theres so many riders out here and so many crews of riders its keeps its live and interesting. Events and premieres always going down for different crews, tons of people flying in from other countries just to ride Philly. Monster energy street series event 2 years in a row was wild, brought everyone out who had a bike, close to 1000 riders both years.

 

T: Philly has always been a hotspot for BMX. You could be pedaling down the street and ride pass a pro from the other side of the country without even realizing it.

 

What (or who) is influencing you right now?

J: One main influence is Nigel Sylvester. He’s the OG, showed me theres theres others ways out here to make some bread and make some moves. Ralphy Ramos also, those 2 trusted me to do a lot of stuff for them and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me. Blessed. Musically, Lil Snupe, 2pac, Dave East, Meek Mill, and Oschino Vasquez is all you will catch me listening to. Motivation Music.

 

T: Tyler the Creator is my biggest influence at the moment, that dude literally does whatever he wants for a living. One day he’s dropping an album, and the next he’s on his own TV show making a new flavor of syrup hahah. A$AP Rocky, Bobby Kim, and Ronnie Fieg are up there too. Aside from them all my friends who are on their own grind instead of working a 9 to 5 are the real influencers. Seeing them make moves on their terms and without limits just makes me want to work harder for myself.

Joe Bmx Pose

Joe, you’re known for riding with some pretty sick sneakers–do you have a favorite pair?

J: I love my space jams, there my favorite pair right now. They are hard to ride in though so I gotta keep those jawns fresh so I always ride in my metallic 5s or the white 3s.

 

How do you foresee the BMX culture changing over the next few years?

J: I see it going a ton of different ways. Personally like I said before I don’t think theres much money so a lot of people are branching off, doing different things with their bike you wouldn’t imagine. People are trying to get there name out there with their bikes by modeling, music videos, artwork, shit anything is possible. It can go anywhere, look at Nigel Sylvester.

 

T: With all the major sponsorship changes and light being shed on certain issues in BMX, I’m hoping the brands who aren’t giving BMX their full go under soon so all the right ones can make the sport as big as it can be. I see so many skateboarders on Instagram living these crazy lives, so there shouldn’t be any reason for anyone in BMX to not do the same. Whether the sport blows up or plummets to the ground I’m gonna be out here working on building up a platform for my friends and I to do what we love for a living.

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