The first thing it came to my mind when we first had the idea of interviewing Mike was that quote, ''You should not meet your heroes''. After all, they are just people and they might disappoint the idea you have created of them. That was not the case with Mike. He treated me as if I was a friend. Instead of an interview, we talked for one hour and forty minutes. We touched some interesting topics and laughed a lot. However, I starter struggling to write everything down. As you can imagine, you can’t summarize such a conversation into a few questions. So, we decided to split the interview into two parts. Here you have Part one. I hope you enjoy it!
-We know professional riders on their bikes but, what about off their bikes? With this interview, we tried to get a deeper view of Mike Aitken. What have you been doing?
Honestly, I've been just trying to get back since the accident. It messed up my life more than I thought it would. That's why I wear glasses now. It took me around 6 months to realize I couldn't see because of the accident. The accident knocked my eyes. I handled the physical part really well. I did a lot of the rehab pretty fast, then it came mental and emotional part of it. That was the hardest, I had to wait for all the nerves to reconnect. So, I had to play the waiting game and that was hard.
- The emotional part can be destroying. At moments like that, it’s important to have good emotional support. I had a nasty accident too. I broke my back and couldn’t walk for a month. I can slightly get how you felt.
It is! you know, I had a lot of time to just think. I guess you did too. That's the hardest. I had a little bit of patient but, I wasn't really patient. So, I was laying on the bed and I couldn't even put my thoughts on alignment. But I knew this was about to be ridiculously hard.
-My case wasn’t as serious as yours. But, yeah. I know what do you mean. Obviously, it changed me but also helped me to change my vision on BMX. I’m not able to ride the way I used to. However, I can say that I enjoy BMX a lot more than I did before.
Yes. It's just about evolving. It's like a plant growing with a rock on the way. you just go around it. So, to me, even though I didn't look at it always this way but, it's not about doing things the gnarliest like I used to want. Now for me, it's more about longevity and keeping that smile on my face because that smile goes all the way down to my soul! I guess you feel the same way too.
-Yes. I definitely do! I was talking to a couple of friends before doing this interview and we all agreed that BMX, at least for us, it’s just about having fun and keeping that smile on our faces. So, we don’t understand why BMX has become something so serious.
To me, it depends on which side of it are you paying attention to. Because, yes, it has both sides and I tend to not look at the other side too much. I already got wrapped up on that side because some of my sponsors would want me to go to contests. That side is a little more mainstream. It's more competitive and they don't look at things on ways I would. Not everyone needs or has to do it the same way. But, that's why I got involved in BMX. I didn't like the way the mainstream sports guys look at things. I'm not competing against anyone else. I'm just having fun or just competing against myself. I just went to the trails last week and dug for the first time since my injury and that was so freeing, It was amazing. I mean, I was doing that since I was a kid. Not having those chains trapping you down is something a lot of people can't understand. Lots of them get so many responsibilities. They get so wrapped down in money that they can't get out. You know, Money is a necessary evil. It is a tool; you have to have it. You need enough to get the things you need but, that's it! I'm honestly happier when I have less money.
-I believe the same. I read a science article which conclusion was; Money can make you happy until a certain point. Earning up to 60k a year can make you happy but, anything above that doesn’t. You need to get your basic needs covered. Once you did that, happiness comes from other sources. I think, there’s a capitalistic thought that makes you think, you have to be good enough to make a profit out of your hobbies. Get as big as possible and that supposed to be the way to live. I think that’s a lie! If you love to sing but you sing out of tone. Just do it! If you are a horrible piano player. Maybe, wait until your neighbors aren’t home to play but, do it! To me is all about enjoying the way. I don’t want to spend my entire life earning as much money as possible hoping I’d retire one day and be able to enjoy my life. Maybe once I get there, I get killed by a f*cking virus.
Yes! Enjoy along the way. Enjoy every step and not work yourself to the bone. It seems like a lot of people are just trying to keep up playing with the pieces they were given and it's just like. Why? A lot of Americans are just trying to go bigger, to buy bigger, it's all about volume and things like that. It makes no sense to me. Me and my wife, are just trying to go smaller. We don't have a big family; we are only three. We were about to have two kids. Then I crashed and became a kid myself (Mike laugh) We have a house that it’s just too big, I bought it before I crashed. My friend Fuzzy told me to buy a big house while I was earning all that money and now, I'm just like; Man, I didn't know I was buying all these chores! (Laughing)
-You’re right! I’ve seen that a lot. I feel that most people are trying to impress others. To have the nest social position. To be on top. I used to think that way too and since I’m trying to have less and enjoy the small things, I’m happier.
Yes. I just started to look into container houses. Do you know them?
-Yes. Those houses are mental!
I just started to follow a couple of IG accounts. I love them. We are thinking of getting a couple of those and build something modern. Not really modern because I'm not much into that but, something alternative.
-That’s pretty cool! Talking about modern and alternative. Don’t you feel kinda weird with modern BMX? BMX used to be a sport mainly for alternative people. Today we have a sport with huge contrasts. For instance, you have people trying to live different, do different things, not really following “society” rules. And you also have just the opposite. Now, with the Olympic games on the horizon. We have, on the one hand, what can be considered a good part of it. Legitimizes the sport. It gives you the power to fight and legalize your trails or push your city council to build new pump tracks or bowls. However, it also seems to have a negative side. It’s becoming a mainstream sport and seems like a lot of bmxers aren’t having much fun. They aren’t ridding kid bikes anymore. They are athletes now. That’s not necessarily how they see it. But that's the feeling I have when I see some people involved in the Olympic movement.
There's a difference. I guess I'm an athlete or at least that how people from outside of the BMX world would call me. To me, I'm just a punk kid, BMX guy having fun. I'm a human being. The rest it’s just people trying to label you.
-People outside of BMX can say whatever. I don’t really care. But the sport is changing, some people inside is changing. There are cases like the Chinese Olympic team. They are picking up kids that weren’t good enough in other disciplines like gymnastics, give them a bike and teach them how to ride. However, if they aren't performing as well as they expected from them or improving as fast as they want, you’re out. Is that the future of BMX?
It seems like... pfff That’s way too serious, right? To me, the Olympics is cool because it brings exposure. It helps in bringing money to the sport. Which we need, as I said, money is a necessary evil. But it also brings... Pfff, it can bring some negatives, which I haven't fully grasped onto yet. But, the thing that's weird about it, to me, it's the kind of people that can bring, and it changes people too. It can bring all the competitive side of mainstream sports. That's what I was trying to avoid riding BMX. But that shit was coming anyway. Now you have all that Nitro Circus. That's not BMX to me.
-That’s not bmx to me, that’s just a show. I mean, no disrespect to them. What they do is great. But, isn’t for me. No disrespect at all. To each its own. I'm not trying to hate but, you're right. isn't for me.
- I think the Olympic committee is just using BMX, among other sports like Skate, trying to reach a younger audience. Do you know anybody in their 20’s, 30’s,40’s, that actually cares about the Olympics?
I watch the Olympics. I like to watch gymnastics or ice skating. But I see your point. I would watch certain things, just to pass the time. I've never been really excited about it. I'm way more excited about the World Cup. You're probably right there. There's a bit of a strategy, huh?
- I think so. I can’t prove it but, they ever gave a f*ck about us. Now they are losing audience BMX is interesting for them.
Yep. It all comes down to one thing man! The old mighty dollar! (both laughing)
-YES. It’s all about money. That’s why all this corona crisis is skyrocketing. A lot of countries didn’t want to take the measures that were needed soon enough, because they didn’t want to hurt the economy and now is blowing up everywhere. Especially in the States. How are you? How’s your family?
That's true. We are actually doing pretty good. My wife still working, my son plays online with his friends. Honestly, we leave the house and we wear gloves and masks. If we touched anything, we wash our hands with hand sanitizer. We wash our groceries. We do the necessary step we believe in.
-A bit weird how some people are desperate to ease the lockdown when we don’t even have this virus under control and there are lots of people dying.
Yes. I'm like, hey stop it! You have to let the lava settle down. If you're opening back too soon, you'll have a second wave. But honestly, the situation can bring some good things too. It's changing people's point of view and it has the world slowed down. Which was needed. The wildlife is thriving, the air is cleaner, dude everything! The world is healing and people are realizing how important that is. What I'm going to say is horrible for all the people who have passed and forgive me for saying this but, to me, it seems like a blessing for the earth.
- I was just about saying something similar. Of course, it isn’t cool that lots of people are dying but, what makes me feel positive about all this situation is, that we might come out wiser and realizing that the way we were living isn’t worth it. It isn’t worth it to kill your planet.
It's bad! The world is dying and no one is really caring!
-It’s like people can’t see that we don’t have anywhere else to live. There’s no other planet. So, we either change and live more sustainably or we will collapse.
Exactly! And all those people in power. Presidents, kings/Queens, Prime ministers, or whatever. They need to stop fighting each other and come up with solutions. To try to heal the world instead of trying to create wars and all that bullshit, to profit of it. Our president, for instance, is a complete imbecile, you know? I'm not for him at all. They have to stop fighting with their egos and take care of the planet. We are all human beings, we all come from the same place. Stop it! We don't have anywhere else to live. People are checking on Mars and shit, and I'm like; what are you doing? (both laughing) Kill your egos and let's take care of this planet. -Definitely! I read an article saying that Venus’s upper atmosphere has the perfect conditions to build floating cities. Really similar to Earth. I was like; pretty cool but, what about taking care of our own planet first? We have something much better than that plus I don’t think you can build trails on a floating city. (both laughing)
Exactly! God created a perfect place for us to live so, what are we doing? If the rich would stop thinking of getting more and more. And they would start thinking about others, it could work.
-I agree. Gandhi said: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
Yes, that's proving itself. In the States, for example, the middle class and the poor are paying the most taxes. Big fortunes like Amazon don't pay shit. What the hell? Everyone has to help. It's not fair that people who have the most are avoiding it.
-People like that sucks! For example, the owner of Inditex is from Spain. Last year he avoided paying 600 million euros on taxes. Earlier this year he did a “donation” to the Spanish health system of 100 million. To me, that’s not a donation. The guy still owes to Spain 500 million euros.
At least in the States, they do that because when you're donating money like that is a write-off from the IRS. It's shity because they were already avoiding to pay taxes. That's why you see a lot of NBA players are doing that. I want to believe, deep down they also want to help. But you can see that they are donating to certain foundations because for them is just a write-off. And it sucks that's how the system works. But it's also a bit of playing the system.
-Yes. I don’t like this system. I’m not a big fan of capitalism but, I’m here. So, I’ve to plat with the tools I have to make the best of it. I just hope we get out of this crisis wiser and something changes.
Sure, if you don't play the system, the system is going to play you! It sucks because you get in that spin cycle and you run and run until you're fucked. I just wish we could work together and helping each other. I believe that's how heaven will be like. Hopefully, we can use this to change.
-I hope that too! In the last ten years, lots of alternative movements were growing. Container houses, Eco-buildings, Tiny house movement, Van life, Sustainability, etc. A lot of people trying to live not necessarily off the grid. But as much as they can. It’s kinda we are slowly realizing that we don’t need to buy shit all the time to be happy. Happiness comes from other sources. Maybe this is pushing more people in that direction.
I see what you're saying. I believe that too. I'm seeing more and more people working for the good, without expecting any payback. Just because they consider it's the right thing to do. There are doing their part.
That’s it for now... See you next week for Part two!