You’ve been riding flatland for almost two decades now, can you make a comparison how was it like when you were starting and how is it now? What was your motivation back then and what drives you now?
You know, it’s the same. That drive is the same - the passion, the love of the sport, feeling good on the bike and having fun. I still love to go out and try to do new tricks, and not just do them once but perfecting them. A lot has changed, but my love for the sport is the same.
When you say a lot has changed, how much flatland has progressed and developed?
There is a lot of flatland riders, they are everywhere, but maybe there aren’t many of them as perhaps riders of some other BMX discipline. Right now the level of riding is really high because everyone is focusing on their personal style and tricks, there are a lot of shows and competitions cause everybody wants to be the best.
And what has changed in your style of riding?
The big change from the past is that I used to ride with two brakes, front and rare, and then I switched only to front brake, and for six or seven years now I am riding brakeless. I think riding brakeless is way more difficult and I am saying that as someone who knows how it feels riding with brakes because I used to do it. I switched because it stopped being challenging. At one point I created a lot of tricks with front brake, I knew how to use the technique and the tricks were hard, but simply nothing was challenging and I didn’t enjoy it anymore. Riding brakeless is completely different, I had to find a new style and develop a new routine, I had to work on my flow and tricks, but that is what I like.
In the last couple of years, you started doing more shows and fewer contests. How did that happen and why?
It’s not like I don’t want to compete. I ride almost every day, nothing has really changed and I am ready for the contest at any moment. When I am at home I don’t practice show tricks, I create hard tricks - if there is a contest I am ready to do it and I can do it well. I changed my contract with Monster Energy and they started inviting me to do shows on different events where you get to see different people, not just the BMX audience. Such as gaming events, moto events, auto events and that is interesting because when I only go to BMX events I am always seeing the same people, same locations and I was getting a little bored with that. For now, I enjoy doing shows and going to all these places. I just follow my opportunities. But I plan to go to some contests next year because I kind of miss the feeling of being good in the contest. There is also the fact that I am a dad now, I am having one child and the second is on the way so it is harder for me to leave them, and I am already traveling to a lot of different events and shows.
To which countries have flatland taken you so far?
Just this year I went to Germany, Austria, South America, then again Germany, Holland and Serbia… it is a busy schedule. I went to South Africa, I also went to Nigeria, it is such a crazy country and people are super nice. I was doing a show and after I did the last trick, people immediately came to me and they started to dance around me. They were so stoked, they were playing with my bike and danced with my bike acting like they are doing some tricks. It was so funny and nice. After that, I flew to South America, went to Bolivia. It was super hard riding there because the altitude is over 4.000 meters and that added another level of difficulty, but the experience was amazing. All that happened because of the BMX, I appreciate that and I am really thankful for all the opportunities. I know it is part of my job, but every time I am like - wow, this is not normal, it is a blessing.
Tell us something about the events that you do? You had a show at Moto GP in Assen recently, you were at TT Isle of Man five times, just to mention some of them. What is the best part of doing shows at events?
These are huge moto events and I am really happy to see them live and most of the time the audience is great and they want to see something outside of the race. In Assen, I met Rade (Radislav Mihajlov, Serbian stunt bike rider) and we did shows together. Stunt and flatland are similar and now we gathered in Serbia where we have done a joint video project. It is all about traveling and meeting new people and getting new ideas.
And how traveling and meeting new people and new cultures, influence you and your style of riding or creativity?
It is not influencing my tricks, but it is influencing me. I get to see how people live, and I went to some places where people don’t have a lot of money but they are genuinely happy and they like to see new things. They are pretty stoked when they see me doing tricks on the bike, it is inspiring for them. And I am just a guy who is riding a bike and doing tricks, I am no special but the respect they give me and all the appreciation that I get makes me humble and motivates me. It is motivating to know that with my ride I can inspire someone who lives on the other side of the planet. It doesn’t have to be a BMX professional, it can be an ordinary guy. When it comes to tricks, they are different. Tricks are me. I want to create something on my front wheel, or on my back wheel, to do some spinning and then my mind starts to work on it.
We suppose that tricks that you do on a contest are different than tricks you are doing on the shows...
Yes, it is really different when I do shows. When you are doing a contest the judges are riders or former riders, when you are doing a show the people just want to enjoy. Most of them don’t know the sport at all so if I do very technical tricks on the show the audience won’t understand them. The simpler tricks are better, like spinnings and visually attractive tricks. For the contest, I really go deep into techniques and I do technically tough stuff. Another important element in the show is the ground, which is usually very bad and you can’t do everything that you have planned and you are just happy to do anything that you can. If the ground is good I will also try to do some of my signature tricks. At the contests, there is usually a big spot, good ground and you have practice time so you can get used to the ground. On the show, you have like 10 minutes to practice, then you wait all day and then you get to do the show, but it is part of the challenge. And, you know, if there is a big crowd and you didn’t have the time to practice you get a little nervous.
Do you enjoy more in front of a bigger crowd or a smaller audience?
I generally like it when people are enjoying and when they are aware that I am here for them. They give me the energy and that motivates me to go. If the crowd is really calm and they clap only at the end - it is nice, but it is different if they are stoked from the beginning. That pushes me to do crazier tricks. I am more nervous when I am performing in front of a smaller audience than when it is like 20.000 people in the crowd. When there are fewer people they usually really appreciate what I’m doing and when it is a big crowd I represent my sport the best way in front of a huge audience and it is awesome.
How do you practice?
If I am home, I go to the gym 3 times a week, for the strength. Usually, I hit the gym then go back home to rest and to eat and then I go to ride for two or three hours. I am never pushing myself like, now I am going to ride for six hours. First of all, I can’t be focused for six hours and I do believe that it is better if I have shorter, but more focused rides. If I ride, I have to enjoy it. If I feel like I don’t want to ride than I won’t ride for two weeks. But this is freestyle and this tempo works for me, maybe someone has to ride every day.
Do you have some kind of mental preparation when you are doing shows and competitions?
Yes, before the contest I am seeing the whole run in my head, I can basically feel the bar in my hands, or pegs and the wheels turning. I am playing the whole run in my head and going through the process - I hold the bar like this, then I am going to turn it like this, then I do the jump, take a break... For the show, I also have a concept, but I don’t have to go that deep. It is more like I am going to this, this and this, ok maybe the ground is not good for that, but I have a plan B. I adjust my riding. On the contests is way more difficult, the level of concentration must be very high and the problem is if you miss your first trick that can ruin your whole run.
Here is a completely random question, when you are in a new place do you go and wander around searching for the good spots or do you usually hook up with locals and find out the good riding spots in advance?
Most of the time people already know that I am coming because of Instagram, and I ride with locals because they know the best spots - that is cool, and we usually have good sessions.
Now that you’ve mention Instagram, how much social media has influenced the way flatland riders promote the sport and themselves?
I’ll be honest, for me Instagram is nice but I don’t like it really. People post only the nice stuff and you don’t see how hard it was to do it. Everybody is chasing more likes and more comments but behind that, there is a lot of work. Earlier it was like, you go to the contest and you see everybody has two or three new tricks that they are doing for the first time there. Now, when people do something they post it on Instagram, and then you go to the contest and see the same trick and that it is ok but you are just not that surprised because you have already seen it. On one hand, you can show your tricks to the wider audience, but on another the hype around that goes pretty fast. But it is a nice thing that you can use Instagram to connect with people. I posted a video and the next day there was a comment from someone who is on the other side of the world who got inspired. That is a good side of social media. I get a lot of messages from people who saw my tricks, got inspired and did them, they usually tag me so I can see it.
Be honest, did you ever imagined you can live a life like this?
You know, when I was a kid and I saw these big names like Marti Kuppa and Viki Gomes, they inspired me to do my best on the bike, and now I am doing the same for somebody else. It happened, I think, because it was never a goal. It happened because I love the sport and I wanted to do my best on the bike, wanted to be one of the best for myself. It wasn’t like I want to be the best of the best, winning every contest, getting sponsorship, no - the main goal was always creating tricks, having fun and enjoying the sport and everything else just followed. Flatland is not a dangerous sport, but it is hard and if you don’t love the sport you can’t really do it. Here you are at a shitty parking lot where you spend hours and hours trying to do something and you never give up until you master that trick and than you have to create others. It is not easy. Sometimes I have an idea, but sometimes they are not coming. In times like that, I take a little break and then go to ride doing my old stuff and somehow a new trick pop-ups in my head. You know what else, because I am traveling a lot I probably didn’t ride for myself in the past 10 weeks or so, but I already have some ideas and I can’t wait to go back home and try them. Maybe they won’t work in reality, but they look good in my is in my head. I have a vivid imagination.
You have been part of the Monster Energy for nine years now, how much that partnership helped you in your career?
To be honest it changed my life. I became their athlete after I have won the BMX Masters Cologne in 2010. I was already on the podium three times and I was like, ok if I get a podium once again and I don’t get big sponsorship what else I can do? But Monster Energy was on the right place, in the right time. I was super motivated and I won the contest and then good things started to happen, for a reason. Maybe that was my time. Traveling gave me a lot of opportunities, I’ve been to so many places around the world, met with super nice people. All I can say to them is BIG THANKS. We have good relations, I hope we will work in the future for a long time.
Speaking of the future, what are your plans for the rest of the year? We know you have a busy schedule.
Events in Ireland, Austria, UK and maybe Africa and Holland, I should come back to Serbia - there are a lot of things in the plan, but we’ll see what is going to happen.