BMX pedal bikers learn basics, have thrills on pro track

By Joel Stottrup, Reporter

It’s not certain if Tucker Anderson, 7, of the Princeton-Milaca area needed the BMX pedal bike clinic he was taking the evening of July 10 on the Rum River BMX track in the city of Isanti.
After all, this was his third time taking it.
But Tucker’s parents Misty and Chris Anderson said there are other reasons why Tucker was there.
Tucker has been taking the BMX bike camp clinic through community education once a year because the cost is reasonable ($6) and enrollment has some side benefits, Misty Anderson explained. Each BMXer who completes the 2 1/2 hour clinic receives a coupon to bike on the track during a practice day for free for two hours and a coupon to race during a race day there.
“Bike riding is his favorite thing to do and he is on it constantly,” Chris Anderson said.
The other child from the Princeton area at the BMX clinic that evening was Blaine Thornberg, 8. It was Blaine’s first time in the clinic, and he took a tumble once on the track.
“He’s been riding bike since about 3 or 4,” said Blaine’s mother, Holly Thornberg-Buhmann “He’s really fast at home. He can pass me up if we’re bike riding. He does lots of things super fast. I thought this would be a good class for him. I didn’t even know this (track) existed. … This is really cool.”
Blaine and Tucker, just like the nearly dozen other kids in their clinic that evening, and like all the other kids on the track taking classes with different skill levels, had colorful BMX clothing, helmets and bikes.
All of the enrollees are told in advance in the community education brochure that they must remove the reflectors, kickstand, chain guard and pegs from their bike to be in the class. The brochure also recommends a full-face helmet. If the child does not have a bike, they can make arrangements with the track to use a loaner bike for free.
The track is called Rum River BMX, and the organization is nonprofit. The head teacher, Kevin Riedemann, a lean, athletic-looking man who devotes his full attention to his clinic attendees, is thorough as he talks about how to use the 1,100-foot track.
It begins atop a platform that allows rows of BMX bikers to wait in line at the starting gate. At the front are hydraulic-operated gates that the bikers rest their front wheel against. Semaphore lights are on each side of the track in front of the starting gate. The lights go in sequence from red to yellow, then a second yellow and last, green.
Riedemann tells the BMXers to set their starting pedal in about the 3 o’clock position and to press the foot against the pedal when the second yellow light comes on because the green will come on an instant later and the gate will be dropped. Waiting until the green light to pedal will mean losing precious starting time against others in a race, he explained.
Using body English, or leaning a certain way, helps pick up speed on the track. According to Riedemann, the advanced BMX racers only need to make two pedal rotations at the start, and then can keep going to the finish line without more pedaling.
As he taught the basics at the clinic that evening, Riedemann and his assistant teachers showed the bikers how to power down the back side of each “obstacle, pile or configuration” on the track.
During another lesson, Riedemann stood alongside the first turn, a banked corner called a berm.
“Ninety percent of you are not going to live up here,” Riedemann explained as he pointed to the top of the slope. “Stay down here (in the middle) unless your are an energetic, older guy.” The middle “is the sweet spot” and that is where bikers will be “happier and healthier,” he said. He explained that to get the most out of the berm, the rider should coast three-fourths into the curve and then pedal down the backside.
Riedemann said that kids arrive at the track in a range of BMX bike sizes and quality. Some start with a Walmart bike with 12-inch wheels, but most are riding BMX bikes with 20-inch wheels, he said.
Riedemann was introduced to the track when his oldest son, at age 6, came home talking about wanting to try BMX riding at the track. That son is now 18 years old, and it didn’t take Riedemann long to get fully immersed in the BMX track. Two years after the son had been at the track, Riedemann became president of the association that runs it, became track operator and now BMX instructor.
Riedemann calls BMX pedal biking a “wonderful” sport for kids brand new to it, and a sport for up to the top BMX bikers competing in the Olympics.
Riedemann spoke with pride about the Rum River BMX track. He said it is ranked as one of the top 10 tracks of its kind in the nation and its riders last year included 21 state BMX champions and 14 are ranked at the top nationally. “We have a lot of accomplished riders,” he said.
The track has a clay base upon which a glue type of material is applied to make a hard surface that binds everything solid. The glue substance is applied at the start of the season and removed after the end of it.
Tucker and Blaine had few words when asked about their experiences that evening on the BMX track.
“It’s really fun,” Tucker said.
“Good,” was Blaine’s answer. Asked if anything surprised Blaine about the track, Blaine said he was surprised when he fell.