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Interview With Mark "Rad Dad" Dandridge

We've heard your story before. You used to ride when you were a kid, maybe during the big boom days of freestyle BMX, in the 1980s. For various reasons, you drifted away from the sport and completely stopped riding as you "grew up."

But now you're older and wiser, and yet I find that this flatland stuff is still just so cool. What if I were to dust off my old bike, or get a new one and try to start riding again? Would that be crazy? Could I even still do it, now that I'm older? And does anyone my age even do this stuff? Or will I look weird, the only old person trying to do tricks on what looks like a kid's bike, surrounded by youngsters?

We've heard your story before... because we've lived it too. And now we ride. Again. Come join us.

Today's case study: Mark "Rad Dad" Dandridge from Austin, TX, born in 1967 (you do the math).

Would taking up flatland again be fun? Well, let's ask the guy in this video... does he seem to be having fun?

BmxFlatland.Net: I know that you rode flatland in the late '80s - early '90s, stopped for a long time, and then took it up again in 2003. Likewise, I rode for a bit in the late '80s, stopped for a very long time, and then started up again in 2008. When we started out riding the first time, any new participants in the sport were mostly younger kids like us. Nowadays, I feel like a fair amount of the "newcomers" to flatland aren't only the young guys, but there are also a bunch of older people who used to ride back in the day and are now coming back to it. Would you agree with that assessment? If so, what do you think is driving this wave of older people coming back into flatland?

MARK: I think the wave of older generation riders is picking it back up because it's in our blood. Growing up, there were not many older riders. I remember when I was 19, wondering "Could I get to be 31 like Brian Scura and still ride?" We now realize there is no age limit, besides that of what our physical bodies can endure.

I started up riding again in 2008 because I had watched the DVD "Joe Kid On A Stingray," out of curiosity to see what the scene had become. What got you started again in '03?

It was after watching Mat Hoffman just about kill himself on a 50-foot jump. The moment that I saw him get back on the bike, put me back on my bike.

I know that when you came back in '03, you bought a bike, tried it out for a while, returned it, and then got it back and started again with a new determination. Just how hard was it to get back to whatever level you had attained before you quit riding the first time? And just how high a level of riding was that, anyway?

It was a big struggle for many tricks. My level of riding when I left was not very high, but I always had fun. The last trick I learned before stopping was a cherrypicker. I never did ride out of that trick, ha ha ha. That was the point in time when steamrollers and other rolling tricks were coming out. I was like, "That's just too hard," so I gave up.

Any particular advice you'd give to older folks who are considering a return to the sport?

If you're thinking about getting back in, just remember that it takes time to get your tricks back. Don't expect things to fall back into place after 1 or 2 tries. They will all come back in time. Most importantly, have fun.

Do you think there are any advantages to starting out (or re-starting) as an older rider, as opposed to, say, starting out as a 17 year-old?

I know that for me personally, when I was 19, I was not as focused, and I drifted in my learning process. At the same time, when I was younger I would try things that were more dangerous. Being an older rider has its advantages and disadvantages. You just have to focus on the positive things and not concentrate on the negative things.
How about disadvantages to starting out as an older rider? What would you say the main challenges are, specific to that situation? What advice would you give for overcoming those issues?

The biggest disadvantage is the fear of getting hurt. You can’t afford to get hurt while riding your bike, or potentially doing life-long damage to your body. The way you overcome those fears of falling and getting hurt is to wear pads and brace for impact. You're going to fall if you're trying to learn something. Pads will help you to not get hurt as much, so you can enjoy your riding.

You are living proof that older riders can get down for theirs. What tricks/combos are you working on these days?

I have been working on learning how to turbine any trick. I have been very close to doing one in a cliffhanger.
Where can we find the latest online edit of your riding?

I have been rebuilding my riding skills since a long break over the summer. I am back to basics. Nothing too fancy right now, but I filmed this just for BmxFlatland.Net:

I think one of the first things I ever read on your website was an interview with R.L. Osborn. What other kinds of good stuff have you got planned for BMX Freestyler?

BMX Freestyler has been my passion for many years now. I am in the process of reinventing the site all over again. I am building up some ideas for 2012; we will see what kinds of things I can come up with. I listen to the radio a lot, and I get ideas from there.

Thanks for the knowledge, Mark! Any shout-outs?

I want to shout out to my son Caleb, because he believed in me from the very start. Also, the ATX flatland crew and all of my flatland friends all over the world. Keep on Riding!