LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Ryan Barker started riding BMX two months ago. It was hobby that would get Ryan out of the house and moving and not sitting at home during the pandemic.
“He likes riding bikes so we allowed him to go (to the track) and he started doing good the very first week,” Ryan’s father, Matthew Holguin, told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “After that we started putting him in races every Saturday and he was doing good, getting second place almost every time.”
Barker competed in races in Las Cruces and El Paso, Texas, with the bikes that were available at the track. In October, the 9-year-old rider won his first race and caught the attention of Marilyn Jay, co-owner of Tripl3 Crossed BMX.
“We noticed a need locally for quality race bikes for some kids that are fantastic racers and all around great kids, but just don’t have access to the funds needed to own their own bike,” Jay said.
BMX riding can be expensive. According to Jay, an entry level bike can have a price tag of price of $500 to $1,000. And then there is the cost to maintain the bike and entry fees for competitions.
Most BMX tracks allow young participants to borrow bikes if they don’t have their own.
“He was this little 9-year-old smoking it out there with a different bike every week,” Jay said.
Jay decided to sponsor Ryan with a bike. She found a used one at a pawn shop for $100 and improved it with parts laying around at her shop on West Picacho Avenue.
“We got this bike that is capable of Nationals and we got this kid who is capable of winning but what happens when you can’t get them there,” Jay asked. “So we just want to be able to give these kids a chance, especially the ones that are showing an incentive to go out there to race.”
Tripl3 Crossed BMX has a Go Fund Me page set up to help young riders go to national competitions.
Out to the races
Tripl3 Crossed BMX opened in April of this year. Despite the pandemic, the local bike shop has been doing well and Jay believes the success is partly due to people wanting to do outdoor activities.
Ryan Cozzo is another youth with a passion for BMX.
He remembers driving by the Wild Chile BMX track on Hadley Avenue when he was 7 and asking his dad to stop and watch the competition.
“One day we saw a bunch of people riding on the track and a bunch of pros doing jumps,” Ryan Cozzo said. “I told (my dad) ‘I wanna do this,’ so as soon as I said that he started building me a bike.”
Now 13 years old, Ryan Cozzo ranks fifth in his division and hopes to make his way to the USA BMX Grand Nationals this year in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Mike Cozzo, his father, said BMX racing provides his son an opportunity to spend time outside but it also brings other benefits.
“Mostly it’s just healthy and not only physically but mentally,” Mike Cozzo said. “He gets a different mindset and has to learn to be quick on his thinking.”