I always hated writing intros to the interviews. Let's be honest - no one ever reads that. Luckily for me, there's no need for an introduction here. Kyle Baldock's name speaks for itself. One of, if not the best BMX rider out there. A role model. An icon. Thanks to our friends from Monster Energy, we caught up with him at FISE Montpellier for the best read you'll have today.
Hello Kyle! So, first of all - how cool was it to record that X Games Sydney video?
Kyle: I honestly believe that Sydney X Games is probably gonna be the best X Games that I've ever been to, just because it's in front of the home crowd. Plus being there with Jackson Strong and the Skater Lady [Hayley Wilson]... In a nutshell, filming that video for TV is what we needed for the sport. To kind of, excel it in front of the public that's going to be watching, to show them that we are not just mucking around there. We're actually going to be there to bring as much heat and as much fire as we can, for the crowd to get as involved as they can, as well. So, filming that video was a good opportunity and I love being able to do it, at the end of the day.
Speaking of the X Games, you have six gold medals so far, taking the wins in both park and dirt. How hard is it to stay on top of your game in two different disciplines?
Kyle: Well, from the very start, I never really put myself as a dirt rider. I just pretty much do all the stuff that I do in the park on dirt jumps. You don't have to really turn right or left, it's kind of like box jump, box jump, box jump. So for me, I focus on the park so much and then you do all your tricks obviously, on a box jump. It's usually the first day that's so scary to jump dirt jumps, you jump at 30 feet or 28 feet. At the end of the day, the ability to be an OK park rider and do all the tricks, it should just match over. I don't think dirt jumps are any different. I don't feel like they change a lot, it's always consistent, good jumps.
To keep on top, really, it's about just pushing yourself. Now you know that everyone's trying to come for the gold medal, everyone cares so much about it. At the end of the day, you watch what other athletes do in other sports and how they hold themselves, what they do, what they eat, how they train. We don't have that yet in BMX. We don't have an actual structure to be like, yeah, you got to go to the gym this many times, but we put in as much risk as we can, we see what can happen with it. At the end of the day, I want to do it again. I want to do both park and dirt again, and I feel like everyone wants to win. You need to get in the right frame of mind and don't let other riders scare you out of what you want to achieve. That's kinda like the peace to me. It's all mental. You can have all the tricks every single day, rock up and if you don't feel it, it's not gonna work out for you.
Besides the X Games, you had big success on other events as well. What are your favorite events to ride, and what do you see as your biggest success so far?
Kyle: My biggest success so far is, honestly, just my character itself. I looked up to Dave Mirra, like the most iconic person I would look up to. I'll put him next to Steve Jobs or people that influenced the world on a case by case basis, where he would meet you, and not treat you like you're all part of a flock, he would treat you normally. So for me, my greatest success is being able to win all the medals, but also put it into practice against the kids that might need a little bit of help and a little bit of a push to get somewhere. I look at life like - another person could soon just come through and win six gold medals. I need to leave a footprint and need to be the person I want to be now, for later in life where people look at me and, hopefully, I did something for them to want to ride bikes or want to just do what they love.
Success in other contests is just the same. I rock up and I want to just do my best. I really don't ever aim for the score. I'm actually there to do the hardest tricks that I think off, that is going to get me close to the top. Sometimes you win and you've crashed. Sometimes you lose and you've done everything you thought that you should have done. My favorite contest atmosphere-wise is Montpellier. It's got the most people. There is no other contest that has 550,000 people that come to it. The crowd gets you past the point of being nervous. You get excited and it makes you go twice as high, twice as far, twice as fast. Being successful in our sport, it really just comes down to how you pitch the whole week to be. And I'm here to make everyone want to feel good. I want to make people smile. That's how I feel.
From Tokyo 2020, Freestyle BMX will be part of the Olympics, and you have to be seen as one of the favorites, not only to be there but also to win it. However, just to go there, you will have to go against another incredible rider from your homeland - Logan Martin. How hard will it be, and do you feel propositions are a bit unfair to some of the riders?
Kyle: No, I don't. I have rode with Logan for years. I've known what he's capable of for a long time. I’ve rode with him from the start and I had, I had Tim Wood asked me one time, like right at the start of ridding with Logan, and I was winning contests, winning Dew Tours and he said “how do you ride with Logan when he's going to be versing you?” At the end of the day, you've gotta have more heart to beat/be the person. We have the same tricks, we could all have the same ability but who wants it more? That’s who's going to win?
So, to be picked for the Olympics is a goal, obviously, to want to be on the team. Now you’re given a focus point. Before it was like you had FISE, X Games, and you, kind of, just went through the year doing contests but not trying to get to the Olympic level, where we never thought that we will be. As soon as I introduce it, I literally feel now it's time to really put a structure in place for myself, or for any rider. To be in the Olympics, you have to do certain things, to do them at the top level. You got to come to the FISEs, you've got to go to World Cups. There are things you have to do, so now you have your mental status like - okay, next month I've got to win or to be in top 10.
I try to get into the semifinals, then you can go as hard as you want to make it into finals. But when you're in finals, you can actually throw it all down. I'm either gonna come first or last. I've never left anything to the side. I give it everything I've got every time and that's because I'm not satisfied if I go out there and I win by just me not doing one trick that I wanted to set out to do. Yesterday I wanted to do a flip with bar, and to do that just to crash at the end... It hurts your feelings, but I wouldn't change it. That's who I am. I'm gonna go do that again probably today if I went out there.
I feel being really close friends with someone that is that good is good as well. It pushes you and then it pushes him and then at the end of the day, we both want to be there. Everyone wants to be there. And I said at the start, who has the most drive and who wants the most, will be there. It's not going to be like, you just get chosen, you literally have to go and ride. So I'll put it down to either of us going in there, we're both going to give it everything we got and I feel like the name is not gonna really get you in there. It's more what you've done over that past year, so that's what I like about it. It’s giving you points to get in there instead of just being chosen.
At the end of the day, it's going to be one of those mad fights to the end and I can't wait to just really get into it and become like an actual fight. You don't really have fights like this. We have probably five people that want to be in the Olympics for Australia. It’s going to be five people fighting it out every time. And that's why I ride bikes. I ride bikes for truly enough, the competitive aspect, if I win or lose, you're still the same humble person at the end. But when you step foot onto the course, of course, you want to destroy it and do the best you can. So yeah, we'll see what happens. I’m gonna put everything into it 110% or go home, you know what I mean?
The last few years were huge for you, but it wasn't all milk and honey for you in the beginning. You come from a tough neighborhood, you had troubles with the law and almost ended up in jail for a long time. Is it even possible to overestimate the influence BMX had on you? Is it safe to say that BMX got you out in some way?
Kyle: Well, it was kinda like a left or right. It got to a crossroad. You're hanging out with the wrong people, you are either gonna be locked up forever because that's just the life when you're hanging out with these people; or when my brother passed away, it was like the epiphany. I wanted to ride bikes, I told him I wanted to ride bikes for a living, like a month or two months before he passed away. So when he disappeared the time was no more, I didn't have that time anymore. So then, I took it on myself that I told him I was going to do it – I gotta go do it. That was the drive that got me out of all the bad habits that I had into this, like positive life to help kids because you never know when the day is up and you've got to live life to the fullest every single day. Losing him made me change into a person where I want to help everyone and not just myself.
Going through thick and thin, and getting on the top, you surely are a role model for the young generation of riders. Do you ever feel the pressure of being the one to look up to?
Kyle: I actually want that pressure. I hope one day I will be that person that's like Dave Mirra. He had something that not many people have and I want that same bit. I've been given the gift to be able to talk to anyone and, freely enough of them, to just respect it and come back and to have things to say, like - you've saved my life. Things like that make me feel better than winning a gold medal. The gold medal kind of gets me in the door with the kids and then I get to explain it; that a bike is a tool for the mind, that you can do whatever you want. You don't have to ride bikes, but you can be a good person in anything.
There are a lot of people that, I guess, aren't good people because of something that's happened in their life and turned them into wherever they are now. But I just wanna be the person that can tell anyone, whatever they go through, there's another side. There's another thing we could be doing to help save the kids and they are the ones that are going to take my job, right? They're going to take our jobs. If we look after them right now, they will make us look so good in the future. The sport itself. And I love this sport. I’d do it regardless if I worked at McDonald's for 12 hours a day and then had the ride and the nighttime. (laughs) I love it that much and I love the people around it.
I just want more people to ride. I want to show the moms and dads that it is so fun and they can let the kids to be culturalized by us and, and we're not bad influences. We don't just... Well, some of us do party every single day and whatnot, but that's not where I want to see us. I want us to be professionals, professional athletes, the same as someone that's in the Olympics for running or someone that's in the Olympics for a high jump. I want to be on that same level. So that's the goal for the future.
A few years ago, you started a project called Team Rare, turning attention to the youth. Where does the project stand now? As someone who had to do it all by himself, how do you see the importance of platforms like that, especially in the places where BMX and sport, in general, isn't really on the high level?
Kyle: It's developed into an app. Kinda like an app that will teach kids how to do stuff. Team Rare is still there. It's one of my main focuses, but I couldn't give everything that I had to the team I was trying to develop between Brock [Horneman] and Ellie [Chew]. I guess no one has ever tried to do what I tried to do, where I tried to take my own money that I was getting paid, and tell them that I wanted to pay other people. I wanted to sponsor my own team that I thought would make us look really good in public. Take a girl that, you know, is a beautiful girl, and then show that girls can ride bikes the same. To still be elegant, but be on our level.
Team Rare will never die. I'm just more developing it in the stages of when I have no riding time. The goal is to literally get anyone that wants to be in action sports, give them the door and give them the staircase to climb by themselves, with someone like myself standing right beside them, without actually having to physically be there. Show them the motivation, show them the inspiration and show them all the tricks they will need in the future to win events. Plus give them the little bit of talking on camera. You need to have the full package if you want to be a top athlete and everyone thinks it just comes down to riding. It comes down to character, how you influence people, how you talk to people, what your presence is like in front of people.
I feel like the Team Rare kinda got a little bit hazy for me because I was using my own money. I was trying to push that in, and then I was not riding as much. Then it would make me feel sad because I'm not offering as much as I can with riding when I'm still young enough to win pretty much everything. And then I took a year off because I wanted Team Rare to be somewhere. I was getting a little bit stuck in the mud because people couldn't accept what I was trying to do. And that's cool. Now it's all about doing it in a different way. That way, it didn't work, where I was trying to pay them out of my own pocket.
Now, I'm trying to like develop a structure, where is they film stuff, they would get paid. They get a subscribed kid, they would teach that one person by themselves. Through technology, same as Steve Jobs gave you a phone to be a businessman, wherever you are in the world. I want that same ability. You have no skatepark - I'll give you the tricks you can learn on the ground. So if you ever get to get to a skatepark, you can do them. It's the same thing. My whole thing is to simplify how to be like us. But, it will be. It's, soon, mate. I promise you. It's been probably like a two-year push for me to understand that a lot of people don't want to give up that spot. I want everyone to be equal, OK?
You win medals - cool. You become an icon - amazing. But I want you to step foot onto the field out there and we're all equal. I stand next to a 12-year-old kid, it doesn't matter if he's not even worth the contest, me and him are judged the same. Because I won stuff, doesn’t mean I need to be in the finals. If he beats me, he beats me. If I crash, I’m not in. I feel like it's a little bit confusing for the crowd and for the public to watch us and be like - "Oh yeah, I think he should have won, but HE won." So, I'm trying to be in the middle to tell them how it works.
Teaching the fans why certain things happen, we'll get them a better understanding of that. And, I feel like they will love the sport a lot more because they understand it, instead of just guessing what is happening and what is not happening. It's one of those things when it happens, my time is going to be dedicated to not being a coach, but I want people to self-develop. I want people to be better people. And I know that people want to do that. It's just giving them a little tap on the back like, yeah man, you can do it, you can do whatever you want. And that's my goal, man.
I'm taking over from where Dave Mirra left. That's how I see it. I talked to Dave about this before he passed away and it was mad. Good conversation. And when that happened, it was like this Team Rare is the same as me telling my little brother before he passed away - "I want to be a pro BMX rider." I told Dave, I want to help all the kids. I can't just ring him up anymore and go - "Hey, I'm so close." I've literally got to do it by myself, and then one day I'll just be able to look up and be like, "I did it." Outside of BMX, there's a lot more to give, you know what I mean? BMX is just a doorway.
So, one for the end - how fun was it to shoot the 'Back to School' part, and how did you get the idea for something like that?
Kyle: The thing with schools for me was, in school, I got called dyslexic, and all these names under the sun. I went to a public school where you have like, nine hundred, or a thousand kids, and teachers would tell me, and my certain friends - "you'll never do anything. You'll never be anything, never go anywhere".
I had a dude come to this school when I was in year seven, massive bodybuilder, rip a phone book in half, right? I thought that was amazing. But then, he went to talk about what happened in his life and, I kind of connected to that. I'm like, you know, I've been through hard things. So it's my turn to go to a school for free, I don't ever want to be paid or anything. It's the ability to go to a school, give them a backflip. They go - oh my God, it's a backflip, but then literally let them touch the bike. Me, to stand there and tell them from my side that you can achieve anything. These teachers, these people, these parents, they're going to tell you, you can't do it. If you believe them, you will not do anything. But I believe in you, that you can do whatever you want. And to be able to talk to kids and them to receive it in the way that I get it, where kids come to me... That's why I feel like I have a gift that can really help where we want to be in the future. It's all about the kids. It's all about the generation that is going to be here like ten years from now.
I really want us to be the head of the pyramid in action sports. You got skateboarding up there right now, mountain bikes, scootering and then you think of us. We give it all we got every time we're out there on the field and you can literally get nothing for it. I want to change how it’s perceived to the fans and whatnot and that's kind of why I do all the school stuff. It's just to help them understand. When I was at school, I got told - you will do nothing. Then at year eleven got kicked out of school. When I was meant to be in year twelve, I owned a demo team called JC Epidemic and they took me to my school and I talked in front of all of them. The teacher was still there, his name was Mr. Cronan. And I said: "Everyone, this is the teacher that said I'll be zero, do nothing. At the end of the day, I could've let that literally make me do nothing, or I’d take that as a drive. Now kids weigh that up."
They're scared to do something that their friends don't do. They want to be in that little pack, so it's like I'm trying to give the ability. You can stand up by yourself with everyone around you saying you shouldn't do that. But, if you believe you can do it, you're giving someone else the opportunity, somewhere else around the world. Your gift is to make something in this world. A footprint. If you do that, there's another kid or another person that gets something from your gift and will give another gift. It could be nothing but talking. It could be nothing but what happened in my life, about losing my brother and how I got through. It could help someone else get through their little pain. That's what I'm trying to achieve, to really get everyone to kind of be like, I can do anything. You know, if I don't want to ride bikes and I want to be a scientist, I can do that because I want to do that. Not because I'm told that I have to.
So my whole goal, when I go to schools, is really just to tell them that they can do anything they want, and they're going to have people through life, easy enough, to be like, no, you can't do that. Because they've tried and failed and they've given. And I don’t want every kid to give up before they're 16 years old and just go into the life of doing normal jobs that they think they have to do. I want them to love their job like I love my job. That's the goal. At the end of my life, I want to leave something that people will see as - Kyle literally made me feel like I could do anything I wanted.
And that's what I do. Win or lose, I'm still out there, smiling and making people happy. I run out onto the field when someone crashes even if I don't know them very well, because I love every single thing about this sport. I mean, even yourself just doing interviews for it, you are the other side that makes us the full piece. This is what I'm talking about. It's not just one thing that makes us who we are. There's probably like 10 to 100,000 things that make us who we are. You know what I mean? So yeah, the school thing is really cool and I just want to do more. I would love to, not do a contest sometimes, and go to the schools in that area. Show them that they could do whatever. I take the medals. The medals are more inside my mind. The actual medal itself is for a kid to hold onto and think that they could get this and that's what I want to do.