The Birth of Mainstream MX
I grew up racing amateur motocross in the early 2000’s. From what I remember, dirt biking was never considered ‘cool’ to the outside world. I remember trying to explain to kids at school what I did on the weekends and having them turn their nose up, or having them give me some flack about how dirt biking isn’t a ‘real’ sport. Although I wore my Fox tee’s and KTM flexfit hats with pride, I was always slightly envious of sports like surfing and snowboarding that had a more dominant mainstream culture. Brands like Billabong and Quicksilver were all the rage, and movies like Blue Crush were played at all of our slumber parties.
Although I’m sure the small bikinis had something to do with it, I was always disappointed that Blue Crush was more successful than Motocrossed. Both movies were about a girl who overcomes disadvantages and kicks ass against the boys in a male dominated sport, yet the surf culture in Blue Crush portrayed and idyllic lifestyle and attracted a much larger following.
If you told me back then that 14 years later Rihanna would be using freestyle MX in her fashion shows and Selena Gomez would be photoshopped onto the back of a dirt bike on the cover of a fashion magazine, I likely would have had a good laugh. Back then the only celebrity that paid any attention to MX was Pink, and we were all pretty stoked that she was getting MX some mainstream press. Despite the fact she was only in the audience to see her now hubby, Carey Hart.
Fast forward to 2018, it has been a weird year. It feels like everywhere I look a different celebrity is monetizing off the recent spike in MX popularity. People in my office are wearing Deus Ex Machina jerseys, vintage moto pants are being styled on Instagram models as ‘high fashion’ and Fox x Supreme goggles are being resold online for up to $400!!
What has caused this increase in popularity? Social media? 12 O’Clock Boys? Deus Ex Machina and their merge of free riding with surfer/art culture? My guess is a combination of all three.
Now that it’s all happening, and Justin Bieber is selling t-shirts printed with a picture of himself leaning on what looks like a DRZ400, it seems my wish for MX to gain mainstream popularity has been granted. Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side, and now I’m wondering if this is a positive or negative thing for the sport. Will celebs bring more attention and $$$ to MX? Or will the misrepresentation of the sport by non-riders belittle what we stand for?
I was recently talking with some friends who have watched the same thing happen with skateboarding. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, skateboarding was a subculture of outcasts and hardcore athletes and like MX, was very niche. It wasn’t until the late ‘90s and early ‘00s that high fashion brands and celebrities started encroaching on the skateboard industry. In 2015, repeat offender Rihanna was photographed sporting a Thrasher hoodie, which quickly circulated online and resulted in the Thrasher Mag logo becoming an international fashion statement. W Magazine proclaimed that “It’s official: you no longer need to own – or have any idea how to ride – a skateboard to embrace skater style.”
Although the idea of celebrities and high fashion brands ripping of elements of sports subcultures for their own benefit does not sit well with some, I am interested to see if this increase in popularity can benefit our sport. If brands like Fox and Deus are starting to sell more products to the general public, they should, in theory, be generating higher profits and have the ability to sink more money back into the sport. Motocross has always been fairly small, especially in Canada, maybe Ri Ri on a bike will help manufacturers sell more products. In the end, only time will tell. I just hope we can ride this wave and any potential profits are being given to the people who need it most, riders.