In 1998, I went to my first "Pro Series" BMX race, the NBL's Christmas Classic. Among all of the superstars there, there was a young expert who was impossible to miss, a Powerlite sponsored-rider named Donny Robinson.
From that point on, Robinson's race career never "slowed" down. After being named one of the ten hottest amateurs by BMX Plus!, Robinson turned Single A Pro in 2001 and quickly won his first race as a professional. Several successful race years later, Robinson was named Mike King's "Coach's Pick" at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. He went on to win a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, along with the 2008 Supercross World Title and the 2009 UCI World title. More recently, Robinson teamed up with sponsor Hyper Bicycles to produce an affordable line of signature complete bikes sold at Walmart stores nationwide, in between developing a new youth mentoring program and landing more endorsement deals.
While recovering from a recent injury suffered at the Olympic Training Facility, 26-year-old Robinson spoke with ESPN.com about his mentoring program and his new line of bikes.
ESPN.com: What was your initial reaction when Hyper came to you with the idea to do a signature complete bike that costs $1 less than your signature brakes?
Donny Robinson: First off, I'm very thankful when any company I'm partnered with chooses to put my name on their products. When Hyper first approached me about doing a signature bike that would be in a mass retailer, I was very excited. You see, this is just another piece of the puzzle that I hoped would eventually be put in place. However, I wasn't getting my hopes up too soon, because I knew how much was involved with actually placing a new product in any retailer. Hyper pushed hard and put a lot on the line themselves to make this happen for me and the sport of BMX Racing.
Obviously there will be some drastic differences between your personal setup and the complete. What were some of the things you made sure not to sacrifice?
I really didn't have much say on how the bike was made up, except for the graphics. It was Hyper that decided on the aluminum frame and such. Until people see one of these up close, they can't believe they were able to put a bike like this on the floor for $99. I'm not sure I could have offered up any more input to make this bike better.
What distinguishes the $99 Hyper from other typical department store bikes?
This Hyper dR replica differentiates from all of the other bike models right off the bat. I don't think a bike has ever had the graphics/stickers to make it pop and standout like this one. Once you pick the bike up, you'll notice it's upwards of ten pounds lighter than other bikes on the rack. Then after buying the bike, it allows you easy access to get involved with the sport it's promoting. You won't be able to find another bike, for the price, that has the potential of this one. The real cool part is after riding one of these myself, I can honestly say the size, weight and parts are something I could actually be competitive on. For kids just looking for a new bike, they should realize they'll look the coolest and be able to jump the highest and go the fastest with the help of this bike.
You also have been visiting schools and speaking while traveling to races. How did you get hooked up with that?
I was approached by Jason Jones who runs an NBL track in Palm Bay, Fla. and developed ActionYouthMentoring. We caught up last October and he expressed interest in starting a youth mentoring program with me. He felt that the way I've lived my life and overcame adversity would work into a perfect message to spread to kids and felt it was a great way to grow the sport of BMX as well. The first step of this program was in conjunction with my races, to visit local schools and speak about my life and how I've been able to stay away from drugs and alcohol with the help of BMX Racing and what steps I took to be successful when I was told I never would be. We have visited over 2,000 kids in the four schools I've visited so far. Now that my bike is available how much better could it get? I chat with the kids and let them know that with hard work, anything is possible and to never give up hope.
Do your current handlebars have a powerbend? Are your hands mangled from riding the powerbend bars for the majority of your am career?
I run the Fly Racing Powercurve bars. When I first hooked up with Fly Racing in 2002. I asked them to replicate the Powerlite bars and they agreed. I have ran the Powercurve type bars for the majority of my life and they are what I like. Do they give you more leverage? Who knows, but they work for me and I know plenty of top amateurs that have ran them while winning titles.
Aside from an Olympic gold medal, and the obvious titles, is there anything else you would like to accomplish in your BMX career?
I would like an ABA title, more World Championships, etc. I love this sport so much and want to be the best at it and just hope that I can continue to have fun with my friends and reach my goals for many more years.
From the time I was six years old, I wanted to be a BMX Racer and be the best.
If you hadn't been on such a sure fire track for most of your life, where do you think you would be now?
Who knows where I'd be. I've put all my eggs in this basket; I haven't known any different. From the time I was six years old, I wanted to be a BMX Racer and be the best. I haven't accepted anyone telling me what is or isn't possible and have just kept moving along toward my goals. I believe BMX has shaped me into who I am today, so if this journey never would have begun, then who knows the person I would be or what I would be doing with my life.
Do you ride trails and parks at all, or mostly stick to sprints and tracks?
I don't have any trails or decent parks near me, so I mostly just street ride and hit the track. I'm not trying to be someone I'm not. I love hitting tame trails, but I'm not trying to show people that I'm this great trail boss. I know the tracks we ride are pretty gnarly, but steep dirt jumps scare the heck out of me.
How many days a week are you hitting the gym to keep up with your physique?
I'm in the gym about four to five days a week with a mixture of upper and lower body. But to keep this physique? Let's be honest, my mom seriously does weight lifting competitions now. I could do a few sit-ups a week and I'd be good. I have some awesome genes.
What are you running for your current bike setup?
Hyper dR replica XL frame, Sinz "lite" forks, FLY dR Powercurve bars (cut to 26"), Tektro dR signature brakes, Supercross Racerhead FL 48mm stem, FSA Orbit ceramic headset, FSA Carbon 170 cranks and gear, FSA platinum pro ti bottom bracket, Alex Rims with Profile hubs, Tioga Powerband 1.85/Powerblock 1.60 tires, Sinz mini seat, KMC chain, Shimano pedals and custom plates made by Johnson BMX plates.
Let's close this up. Is there anyone you want to thank?
Thanks to God, my parents, my wife, my friends, all the kids and parents that ask for my autograph or stop me to say hi, and all my sponsors that have taken a chance on me and allowed me to live my dream of racing my bicycle, including Hyper Bikes, Monster Energy, AT&T, Nike, Kicker, Go211.com, Tektro, Alex Rims, Tioga, Sinz, KMC, FLY and Ogio.
Follow Donny Robinson on Twitter, and look for him to be back on the track at the ABA Great Salt Lake Nationals on the weekend of July 3-4, 2010.