Try this! An activity that combines artistic cycling and, yes, breakdancing
Barry Viloria on Jan 18, 2017 09:00 PM
International champs Viki Gómez and ‘SuperKids’ Yu Shoji and Takumi Isogai convince us why flatland riding is as exciting as it looks.
For those aiming to learn a new kind of physical recreation this new year, have you ever heard of flatland riding? It’s a type of cycling activity where the rider performs a bunch of techniques and tricks on his bike, all done on a flat surface. It’s an artistic cycling performance that may remind you of a Cirque du Soleil show—but, of course, flatland riding is way cooler with the breakdancing techniques employed. How would we know? We watched international flatland wizards Viki Gómez and “SuperKids” Yu Shoji and Takumi Isogai do their own demonstrations at the PhilBike Expo held recently at the SMX Convention Center to prove just that!
At the show, the three took turns wheeling around the stage before standing on the pegs with their bikes tilt. They’d follow the act with some quick and then long, “Whoa!”-inducing circles, shifting their feet from the front pegs to the other, spinning their frames over and over like one-bladed propellers. From above, they appeared like doodling the stage with their two-wheels.
We caught up with the three flatland bikers after their show, which was also quickly followed by trials rider Kenny Belaey doing his own demo (yep, trials riding is another type but equally fly!). Despite some minor falls, the three seemed composed and even sent their congratulatory pats to each other.
We later learned that flatland riding doesn’t seem as physically dangerous as, say, motorcycle trials. In this activity, the showman’s techniques take the spotlight over the distance and height sprung over while on his bike. He steps on aluminum pegs protruding from the hub in the middle of performing tricks. Here, the bike looks more miniscule compared to a mountain bike; there’s emphasis on the shorter wheelbase, or the distance between the front and rear wheels, an important factor for the rider so he could conveniently move his feet around. The togs can be as carefree as the biker wants without needing specific gear. Gómez and the teens, for example, came on the show wearing a shirt, shorts/pants, and sneakers, plus the trademark cap. Imagine skateboarders or sneakerheads, but with bikes.
Finding out that it’s not as adrenaline-rushing as it looks, we asked what’s so exciting about flatland.
“I think because we are free to do whatever we want unlike other sports. Also, we can invent our own tricks that’s why we get addicted to it,” said Gómez, 35, whose second time it was in the Philippines.
Moreover, the Spanish professional BMX flatland rider has been doing this for 21 years already, starting at 14. He is a three time BMX Flatland World Circuit Series champ, a two-time European X-Games king, a three-time Red Bull Circle of "Balance" titleholder, and a three-time NORA Cup Awards winner.
Both only 14, Shoji and Isogai probably might as well follow Gómez’ footsteps in flatland riding. Shoji won first place at the Voodoo Jam 2015, while Isogai won the same at the FlatArk Expert 2014, and obviously they were younger but already incredibly talented then.
In flatland, you only have yourself as your competitor, the three agreed. Everyday, they try to learn a new skill and technique in the hopes of joining more competitions and reaping more awards.
“We don’t compete with anybody. Basically, you challenge yourself. It’s a personal challenge. And then, if you win, you win. If you don’t win, then it’s okay, as long as you’re happy with yourself, you’re good,” said Gómez, who later got cheesier about the activity helping develop a sound mind over just a sound body.
“I think its personal talent. You’ll learn that with effort you’ll succeed and you learn a lot of imagination. And I think riding is a way to clean your mind and to open your mind as well. So, for me, it’s like a therapy. I need to ride, in order to remove my bad thoughts, my bad energy and transform it to something else.”
“I enjoy riding. Every day, I practice. Every day, I get to learn new tricks. It’s so fun. It’s so exciting,” the very young Isogai could only muster, and as to speak up for the non-English speaking Shoji.
Still, just because flatland is easy on the gear and the risk level, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t require enough physicality. As a matter of fact, strength, flexibility, and body coordination are key here. And to master these, workout and diet are just as important.
“Bikes are heavier compared to weights so we should be strong enough to handle it,” Gómez declared. “Here, we use the whole body. So, the only thing we do when there’s no riding is kind of like a yoga style—we stretch, and do a little bit of workout. For me, Pilates makes my muscles longer.”
As for the diet, the SuperKids had tomatoes and apples as personal recommendations—so, here are children teaching you how to be fitter.
Meanwhile, the more veteran Gómez added, “I eat 90% vegetarian and I try to avoid dairy products, or glutton, bread, sugar, and also meat. It’s not so good for us. If you avoid these things, you’ll be very fit.”