Like most ambitious individuals, BMX superstar Ben Snowden puts in eight-hour work days. But the trickster doesn’t report to a typical office. Instead, Ben takes to his backyard, a riding mecca of a dozen or so intertwining ramps that span from roof to property line, completely enveloping his driveway and yard.
After an intense riding session with his crew—in his backyard, of course—Ben sat down to talk about some of the key components of dominating the vert ramp—and every other rideable obstacle.
STACK: How did you get involved with BMX?
Ben Snowden: Growing up, you kind of dabble in all aspects of extracurricular activities, and I did a little bit of everything. It worked out with BMX, because I really connected with some friends I had who rode BMX bikes.
STACK: Did anyone tell you to stop wasting your time?
BS: [Laughs] Yeah, my guidance counselor, unfortunately. There are a lot of discouraging people out there that tell you you’re going to get hurt or that you won’t succeed. You really can’t listen to those people; you really can’t pay attention to the negative people. You just have to stay positive and hang out with people who are positive and encourage you to do positive things.
STACK: What’s it like to participate in a BMX competition?
BS: Competitions are so much fun, because it’s almost a different aspect of riding. When I first started the sport, it was all about me doing my own thing and being different. I could use my own creativity to do whatever I wanted. Getting ready for a competition is basically taking all your skills of doing crazy stuff and fine-tuning them into a format that can be judged. That is so much fun. With some of these tricks, you’ll land it once and you’re like, “Phew, I’m done!” But when you want to start competing, that one trick you said you’d never do again, you’re doing it every day in a routine and getting better and better at it.
STACK: Do people underestimate the athleticism required to ride BMX competitively?
BS: They may. There are a lot of slackers, so it’s okay. When our sport was first created, it was known as BMX Freestyle. Since then, they have dropped the “Freestyle,” but it really is freestyle to the fact that there are no rules [or] coaches, and you’re setting the boundaries and doing whatever it is you want to do. If you want to ride your bike an hour a week, you can. For me, I’m full time, so I ride eight hours a day. To be competitive and do it full time, I think there is a definite amount of overlooked training that’s involved.
STACK: What are some of your favorite tricks?
BS: I really like going down handrails. People walk down the street and see handrails all the time. When I see them, I see an obstacle to ride. I love grinding those on my bike. When I’m riding ramps, I like doing spins, 360s and opposite 360s. Going both directions feels fun, because it’s almost like you’re flowing or dancing through the ramps. I also like doing Tailwhips. That’s a trick I swore I’d never learn. I saw my friends doing it, and I was like, “There’s no way I’m ever going to do that!” It took me a while, but then I got it down.
STACK: Does the danger of BMX ever scare you?
BS: Oh yeah. There are a lot of [tricks] that for some reason I decide I want to do, or that it would be a great idea to do. But then I never do them again. Some things scare me so much—even tricks I do all the time. Sometimes going upside down and doing flips can be scary, especially if you haven’t done them in a while. You know you can do it, but it’s been a while. You really just have to trust yourself. It usually works out all right. You just have to push yourself.
STACK: What other sports did you partake in growing up?
Snowden: I did everything. I played soccer and even went to soccer camps. Basketball, I did mountain biking and skateboarding. We did just about anything. Being a kid, you meet all sorts of friends at school and one thing is cool for a little. We had a basketball court nearby, and that was the cool thing for a while. Growing up, you get a taste of a lot of different things, and then you connect with one. It’s like, “Wow, this is so much fun!” You have fun with all of them, but you get really passionate about one thing.
STACK: When did the dream of being a pro BMX rider develop?
Snowden: When I got involved, it was just a hobby. I didn’t even know you could do this professionally. The more I got involved with it, the more I found out about other people who did it, and that there were magazines and videos. Then there was a contest series, and it was on TV with the X-Games. Then there was a camp I went to, and it was when I started to meet other pros, that’s what really got me into it. I was 17 at the time, and I decided this was something I definitely wanted to do. I set my sights straight on pursuing this as a career.
STACK: How has the sport evolved since you first became interested?
Snowden: When I became interested, it still wasn’t that big. It was still something that a few people had achieved the top thing where they did it full time. Now, I travel throughout the whole world, and there are people riding bikes full time as a career. It’s great to see that growth, because it means that there are way more people having fun now.
STACK: Do you do any physical preparation that you do off the bike to become a better rider?
Snowden: I do. There is a lot of physical preparation. For me, most of it is my diet. Drinking a lot of water, staying really hydrated and refueling. Luckily I’ve worked things out with Vitamin Water and Power Bar because those are key nutrients to refuel my body. Cross training is also important, like doing things to improve my balance and stamina. I also do some stretching to prepare myself for all kinds of tricks. My dictionary of stretches is constantly growing. There are some warm-up stretches that I do which are very helpful. Sometimes when I’m dealing with an injury I do more stretching, and sometimes I’m overusing a certain part of my body so that needs stretching.
STACK: What are your goals for the upcoming year?
Snowden: I have a bunch of goals. I have a couple competition goals and a couple personal goals. For personal goals, I have some new tricks I’m working on that I really want to do. One of them is a Double Tailwhip, which I’ve been working on for awhile. For competition goals, I really want to do well at the Beach Games, which is a local competition here at Huntington Beach. It’s a 12-foot deep bowl, and it’s my favorite event of the year. I always want to do well with that on a personal level rather than what the judges might think.
STACK: What’s your most memorable moment on the bike so far?
Snowden: I got to travel over to China, and I got to ride my bike over there. I got to visit the Great Wall, and I couldn’t resist. There was a spot that had a rail I could grind down. Just being on the Great Wall in such a great spot and being able to ride my bike was breathtaking for me.
STACK: What are your eating habits like?
Snowden: I focus on high intake of liquids all the time. It definitely helps you through exercise and throughout the whole day, you just feel better. I definitely stay away from fast food and soda. I know people don’t want to hear that, but those are two things that are not good for you. Aside from that, I eat well-balanced meals, fruits, vegetables, pastas and grains. I also make sure that I’m refueling throughout the day, so I’ll have five small meals throughout the day. Sometimes more or sometimes less depending on how much I exercise throughout the day. I’m definitely eating healthy and not eating out a lot. Don’t eat out! This is all completely new to me. I had no idea. I wish I had started eating healthy a long time ago. I’d be in such better shape. Drinking a lot of water helps so much. I’d be riding and wanted to ride more, but I couldn’t because I was tired. I basically talked to some of my friends and did my own research about and figured out some things. Power Bar sends me emails with important nutrition info that helps me adjust my nutritional and training levels.
STACK: What are some of your favorite athlete-friendly meals?
Snowden: For breakfast, cereal and milk is great. Milk is a great source of protein and cereal is a great source for your daily essential vitamins. I take a vitamin supplement drink in the morning as well. For lunch, anything simple works. A nice sandwich on wheat bread is good. Chicken is usually good, deli sliced or whatever. I even get low fat cheese, because I love cheese. I drink Vitamin Water throughout the day, which is a great source for the vitamins and minerals you lose throughout the day due to sweat. For dinner, my favorite choice is some pasta. I love Italian food and pasta is great to refuel your body with energy. I would say that my guilty pleasure would be pizza, but now they have one you can get on whole-wheat dough. You can get a good healthy pizza these days. Pizza’s great all the time.
STACK: How do you deal with your body getting beat up from riding?
Snowden: When my body gets beat up, I increase my nutritional intake to help speed up the healing process. Then I really pay attention to the injury, you don’t want to neglect it. Most injuries in bike riding can be really helped out with icing, such as sore ankles, sore backs and sore shoulders. Ice is great. I have to ice down a lot. It’s really about being aware of the injury and taking care of it. Sometimes you get a gash, a cut or a bruise. Sometimes I don’t stop riding, I’ll just be extra careful to take a light day. Sometimes I’ll take a couple light days where I’ll take it easy, making sure I don’t fall or hurt that area.