"The future of BMX is strong and it starts right here on balance bikes,” says five times World Champion Caroline Buchanan, who along with BMX brand DK is launching a new range of bikes for little tackers.
Balance bikes are all about giving kids a chance to get a feel for how a bike works, without making the process scary or intimidating. Like mini bikes without cranks, balance bikes allow kids to jump on and ‘run’ their bike, à la Flintstones style. The result is zero fear factor – tiny people take to balance bikes like ducks to water, shredding up the track as they tear around having a ball.
Caroline, aka ‘Queen of the Dirt’ is all about investing in the next generation of riders so putting her name behind the DK Nano bikes (DK is a long-time partner of Buchanan, who also has 15 Australian National Championships to her name) was a step she was keen to take.
The result – three ripper little balance bikes in neon yellow, pink or green, and they will be available in the USA in 2015
Along with her many wins (the Buchanan pool room must be busting at the seams) Caroline became in 2013 the first cyclist in 56 years to win the Sir Hubert Opperman Trophy as Australian Cyclist of the Year (and was the third female athlete overall to do so).
She also took home the Australian People’s Choice Cyclist of the Year, Elite Woman’s BMX Cyclist of the Year, Elite Woman’s Mountain Bike Cyclist of the Year, joint AIS Athlete of the Year (a title she shared with Kim Crow) and a finalist in the ACT Young Australian of the Year and the Young Canberran of the Year.
We caught up with Caroline ahead of the DK Nano launch to find out more about one of Australia’s most lauded athletes.
Was your first bike a balance bike? Did you tear it up out in the backyard and cause a bit of fun havoc for your folks?
Balance bikes as they are today were’t around when I was a kid so I struggled to try to ride everything my older brother had. We made billy carts too and raced them down the steep driveway, through the carport, down the side of the house, under a low hanging wattle tree and around the back yard. Parents were grey before I was 10 years old!
What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen a little person do on one of your balance bikes?
Stand up on the footrests and glide down a start hill like a pro! Oh and watching Cash Coback who stared in the launch video do a big no footer!
What involvement did you have in the development of these bikes? You can’t exactly get on them and tear around the track, can you?
I have been known to have a bit of a cruise on them! There were some things I really wanted… key factors like the stand over height had to be based on an actual 2 year olds height so that they could stand with both feet on the ground, and the grip tape on the foot rests so they could stand up and glide safely.
The quality was important too, I wanted it to be top of the line, not plastic or wood, with inflatable tyres, real spokes and just to look like a mini racing bike. The fluro yellow is also exactly the same color as my race bike.
You’ve got a swag of incredible awards. Any plans to launch a Balance Bike award and see what crazy stuff the kids can get up to?
Oh I think that could be dangerous……. kids don’t know fear! Its worth thinking about though.
Award that means the most to you?
Different ones for different reasons, my first World Champs win in 2009 was in my home town so that was really special.
The 2013 Australian Institute of Sport joint Athlete of the Year because that was from amongst my peers in all sports.
The 2013 “Oppy” medal for Australian Cyclist of the Year as it was the first time in 56 years that anyone outside of road or track had won the award and I was only the third female to do so.
What’s the life ratio for you in terms of hours on the bike : hours off it?
Being a sprint sport I don’t have to spend too much time on the bike like the roadies do, I just have to spend enough time to keep my skills up and feel comfortable racing, I probably spend more time in the gym, and on the watt bike in the off season and doing sprints than on the bike on the track. Race season is a lot of bike time.
You’re an incredible mountain biker and BMXer, what do you love about these styles of riding?
The adrenaline rush of course, speed down hills, the big jumps, biff and shove on the course, the challenges and just the freedom, lifestyle and people involved.
What do you do for down time?
Anything involving that adrenaline rush appeals as does time on the couch watching movie marathons, neither happen often enough. Spending time with my french bulldogs is the best down time.
Who would you love to ride with, but haven’t had the opportunity to?
Probably Tara Llanes. She rode BMX, downhill, dual slalom and 4x.
I bought my first 4x bike from her a few years before she became paralysed from the waist down after a really nasty 4x accident.
Her determination throughout her rehab and the positives she has achieved are amazing. She has a modified four wheeler to do downhill on and is still involved in all things bike.
Best bike experience ever?
Each World Championship win is special but also riding mountain bikes in Whistler Canada. One year we had to stop and wait for some brown bears to pass us on a raised walkway, scary at the time but also absolutely amazing.
BMX riding in Australia – comment on where things are at and where they’re going
The structure of BMX the world over has changed since BMX was accepted into the Olympics.
In Australia there are now pathways for young hopefuls to achieve at national levels, be recognised and receive coaching and guidance from as young as nine through to elite levels.
It is an exciting time as even the mini wheelers (2-4) year olds have races at the Australian BMX Championships each year.
BMX is now the only Olympic sport that has a pathway for competition from the age of 2 right through to Olympics so its super humbling and exciting to be at the forefront of this new progression and help give back to making the sport even better.