18 year old James Palmer is a Yess BMX Canadian Factory Team Rider with multiple National ABA Championship Titles to his name. Here we find out more about him, and the heart pounding, high speed, contact sport of BMX racing.
Q: When did you first start racing BMX?
A: I first started BMX Racing in 2001 at the age of 6
Q: Why BMX?
A: I was actually racing motocross at the time when some family friends got me into BMX racing. My mom wanted to find an alternative to racing motocross so she thought BMX racing was a great option. Right away I felt at home on the track and have never looked back.
Q: Is racing as much fun now as it was when you first started?
A: I do believe racing now is just as much fun, or more fun than when I first started. I will say, now that I have gotten to a higher level of competition, stressful times do come along with the sport when you do not perform the way you would like, but the time that it does work out makes up for much more than the stressful times
Q: Why BMX instead of motocross?
A: At the time, BMX tracks were more accessible, BMX was less expensive and my mom thought it wouldn’t be as dangerous. LOL… that didn’t turn out to be so true.
Q: What series/bike do you race?
A: As an amateur, I raced 20” and cruiser classes in both ABA and CCA. I currently race 20” Elite Men in UCI sanctioned races and A-Pro in ABA. I’ve always raced CCA (UCI) and ABA.
Q: How would you explain BMX racing to someone that doesn’t know anything about it?
A: BMX is a 35 second, action packed race on a dirt track over jumps and rollers while at the same time racing against 7 other competitors. It is a contact sport for all ages, skill levels and can be fun for the entire family.
Q: You offer your services as a coach for the North Shore BMX Club teaching kids and adults how to race bmx. What do you enjoy about coaching? Do you prefer coaching the little kids or the old farts?
A: Personally, my enjoyment for coaching comes from seeing kids or adults push their abilities and learn new things that they didn’t think was possible on a bike, and the gratification that comes along with it for the kids. Honestly, I really don’t have a huge preference on coaching little kids or adults. The different ages and abilities of riders comes with their own enjoyments.
Q: What do you think is the ideal age to start BMX racing?
A: I think the ideal age to start BMX is around 6 years old. In saying this though, I feel that until you get to the teenager stage, it is all about having fun and developing at your own rate. Many parents tend to push their kids to the point where they do not want to be involved by the time they get to the teenager stage because their parents have pushed the fun right out of BMX.
Q: How has being a coach helped your overall riding and racing?
A: Learning and honing new skills through visual observation is also important in development. Coaching has helped improve my own observation skills to assist other riders with their strengths and weaknesses but also helps me observe my competition as well as learn from some of the top athletes from around the world.
Q: I read that you also raced, or were going to race a Supercross event, how was it? Any plans to get more involved in that?
A: I did just attend the UCI BMX SX World Cup Final in Chula Vista, CA with the Canadian National team. Personally, I did not come away with the end result I would have liked, but it was a blast getting on the SX track with the best in the world. The Canadian National team and I did take this year off of doing the World Cup series (other than the finals) to better prep ourselves for the coming seasons where we are planning to attend the World Cup circuit. 2014 will be more focussed on Supercross which will take us all over the world… Manchester, Papendal, Berlin, Rotterdam, Argentina and Chula Vista.
Q: Who is your biggest support?
A: My biggest support in anything I do in life is and has always been my parents, Mark and Wendy Palmer. They have been there since the day I started, and have backed me, pushed me, and believed in my abilities to become a professional BMX racer. There really is nothing I can do to thank them enough for everything they do for me! I am also fortunate enough to receive support from Yess BMX, VANS, 100%, Deft Family and as a Canadian Carded athlete I also receive support from Cycling Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Q: What is the hardest part about racing BMX?
A: One of the hardest parts of not only BMX racing, but most sports, is definitely the mental side of racing 7 other people. Having to get in the gate, block everything else out of your mind, and focus on just you and your abilities is one of the hardest things to do in BMX. When you know there are 7 other people in the gate that will do anything to beat you, you must be mentally tough to get in the gate and perform.
Q: How much does the proper bike/gear come into play when racing BMX?
A: The proper bike & gear can play a role in BMX, but unlike sports where an engine is powering you forward, you have to be physically fit to power yourself forward faster than your competitors. Yes a good bike is necessary, but that is not what is going to win you the race; only you can do that.
Q: Best advice for people just getting into it?
A: Take it slow and have fun! It’s a big family fun sport that everyone can do, so have fun with it.
Q: Best advice for parents of kids wanting to get into BMX racing?
A: Just try it out. Ask lots of questions and have fun meeting new people and making new friends. Make realistic expectations and don’t push your children too hard. BMX needs to be fun first and as long as you are having fun, success will follow. There will always be someone faster so don’t expect to win all the time.
Q: Biggest disappointment? Biggest accomplishment?
A: Biggest disappointment would be Canadian Championships in 2012 in my last season as a Junior Elite. Ranked first going into the race and winning the time trail the night before, I went into the race looking to win, but unfortunately after holeshoting the final, I crashed in the second straight. My biggest accomplishment would have to be this year’s Canadian Championship race where, in my first year as an Elite Racer, I finished second in both the TT and the national champ race right behind our Canadian Olympian, Tory Nyhaug.
Q: Have any regrets?
A: My only regret in BMX, was taking a couple years during my early teens to turn my focus away from BMX and onto soccer. Those two years there was a lot of growth from my competitors, and I felt that taking that time away definitely set me back a small margin.
Q: Where to now? What’s next for you and your racing? What are your goals?
A: Next for me is getting onto the world cup circuit with the best in the world and showing the world that I’m here to race and get results for my country to represent Canada at the Olympics in 2016.
Q: What is the most challenging thing for you in your sport?
A: At the moment, I feel the biggest challenge for me is my physical strength. My strength is still lacking compared to my competitors and that is the biggest thing I am working on at the moment.
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: When I was younger, my spare time consisted of doing many other sports, but recently when my attention has been focused more on BMX, I have used my spare time to relax with friends and family but at this level, spare time away from BMX is very limited.
Q: How important is training? What do you do to train for your sport?
A: Training in BMX is critical when you get older and want to compete at a world cup level. All the top athletes are in the gym lifting weights and out doing sprints on their bike. My training consists of working out in the gym a few days a week, riding and doing gates at the track, and doing sprints.
Q: Do you still compete in Alpine Ski Racing and Soccer? Are these off season sports you can continue to pursue along with BMX?
A: I continue to stay involved in Ski Racing and Soccer, but I do not race anymore. I am now a Nancy Greene ski coach up at Cypress Mtn for the Cypress Mtn ski club, and I try to get out to the field to play some footie with the guys when I can.
Q: Anything else you would like people to know?
A: BMX is a sport built on people’s passion for riding bikes… let’s keep it that way.
Q: Where can people go to learn more about you? Website/facebook/Twitter etc?
A: You can find me and follow me on:
Past accomplishments include:
5x Canadian ABA Nag #1, 4x Canadian ABA Nag #1 in Cruiser, 5x Canadian ABA Grand Nationals 1st place, Canadian National #2 Junior Elite Men 2011, Top 10 in North America Junior Rankings as of Dec 2011, 3x BC Cup Champion, 3 podium finishes at Canadian National Championships as an amature, 2012 Canadian Junior Men Time trial Champion, 2013 Canadian National Championship Silver medal in both TT and the race.by