CENTERBURG — Calmness, agility and total awareness. These qualities help Centerburg BMX bicycle rider Nick Garee to seemingly defy gravity on a bicycle.
Garee’s stunning performance helped him place first at the regional Gatorade Free Flow Tour Event in Burr Ridge, Ill., in August. For him, it was the thrill of a lifetime.
“It was probably one of the best feelings you could get,” said Garee. “It is like you’ve proven yourself, you finally made it and your name is out there.”
Garee is a mere youngster in this sport at age 17, but he has been at it since he was nine.
“My mom and my grandma helped me,” said Garee. “Mostly, when I was little, I was just fascinated with riding my bike around on the sidewalks. Then I went to the skatepark and started riding ramps and stuff. I loved it and I just wanted to come back and, ever since then, I’ve been riding.”
His win in Illinios landed him in the National Finals in Salt Lake City, where things did not go as well.
“My plane got delayed and I got stuck in Dallas for 3 1/2 hours,” said Garee. “I didn’t get to practice at the park except for one hour. I also broke a (bike) part and I didn’t do too good, but I had a lot of fun. I got to meet a lot of big names — people that I have looked up to since I was a little kid. As you get better and you start riding against them — that’s real cool.”
Riding up a ramp and going airborne — especially upside down — requires a panoramic awareness of the position of your body, relative to the ground.
“That’s what it’s all about, knowing where you are in the air,” said Garee. “Being agile, being calm and knowing where you are in the air. You learn to have confidence.”
Equipment is not the only thing that breaks when things don’t go right.
“The worst injury I had was probably when I broke my arm,” said Garee. “I broke my radius and my ulna at the same time. I have two, 4-inch plates on my bones and 13 screws.”
Safety is so important in this type of sport and it starts with the right equipment.
“I wear knee pads, elbowpads, shin pads, helmet, mouth guard and gloves,” said Garee.
Of course, getting good sponsorship makes it easier to buy the equipment.
“I ride for Ohio Dreams Action Sports Camp,” said Garee. “I teach campers there and live there all summer when not on Free Flow Tour. The owner, Chris Ashcraft, has helped me a lot. He’s sent me to sponsors and paid for me to get there and put me up in hotels and stuff.”
Now that Garee has had a taste of competing with the best of the best, he wants to do it again.
“I’ll be riding more big comps and more pro competition,” said Garee. “That will get my name out there. You have to give the tour a resume in order to get in and qualify during the season — that’s what I’m going to do.”