Freestyle bikers keep it wheel

Jon Dowker, 31, has been riding BMX bikes for 17 years, working on perfecting tricks like this one performed Tuesday at the Curry County Fair. CNJ photo by Mike Linn.

By Mike Linn

They do flips and spins, cycle backwards on one tire and get excited with their audience, many of whom rarely get the chance to see such tricksters on two wheels perform live.

For Jon Dowker, 31-year-old member of Wheels of Freestyle, a threesome of BMX gurus performing at this year’s Curry County Fair, his love for freestyle biking came after he watched the 1986 movie “Rad,” a film that boosted the sport’s image.

“The sport is constantly evolving,” the Atlanta resident said. “For 17 years I’ve been riding, and there’s always people doing new stuff. I’m always amazed by what’s going on in the sport.”

An audience watching the Wheels of Freestyle’s first performance on Tuesday were — like Dowker — amazed.
“They were awesome,” Aerial Verble, 15, said after the show. “It was something interesting to watch.”

Verble’s friend Alex Lunsford, 18, said there are freestyle bikers in Clovis, but none who can do the tricks performed by the Wheels of Freestyle.

Dowker and his two riding partners — Rob Christianson, 24, of Atlanta and Ricky Rogers, 22, of Orlando, Fla. — said the great part of their performances is the reaction from the crowd.

On Tuesday night, between 35 and 50 were on hand to watch the trio perform.

“It’s almost like being in a band,” Dowker said of all the traveling and the audiences. “I want to continue riding until I can’t anymore.”

Rogers and Christianson — both ramp riders — said they have the same love for riding, even though the sport hasn’t always been injury-free.

Christianson said he once crushed his cheekbone in a riding accident, and had to undergo surgery. Five days later he was riding again.

“While I was injured all I could think about was riding,” he said. “Sometimes you have to fail to succeed, you have to crash to get better. As much as you want to progress there is some failure involved in that.”