- Brian Tunney, General Editor, Action Sports
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To the best of my knowledge, I don't think Terrible One's Joe Rich has had any type of "Pro Spotlight" coverage in a long, long time.
That might be his own fault. Over the past several years, I think I've seen more photos shot by Joe Rich in the magazines than featuring Joe Rich in them. Yes, he's still getting things done on a bike, but when he takes his many trips throughout the world, he's juggling riding alongside photography, videography, daily-double Americano stops and whatever else needs to get done.
Yes, Joe is a bit of a renaissance man when it comes to life in general. When he decided that riding for bike companies wasn't working out, he founded Terrible One and jumped headfirst into the BMX business. When knee injuries kept him sidelined for over a year, he picked up a camera and taught himself photography. When the Terrible One team decided to take a world tour without a videographer, Joe picked up the video camera, learned to edit footage and produced the T1 video. And on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Joe Rich makes ends meet by working a job at a juice shop.
Yes, Joe Rich has a job. Read it again if you don't believe me.
I know most people think the professional BMX lifestyle involves fancy cars, houses on the beach and haphazardly falling into an industry job after the age of 35, but Joe Rich has always done everything his own way, including the professional lifestyle.
Welcome to the Joe Rich Pro Spotlight.
State you name, age, position, location and bike setup.
Joe Rich, 35, I'm sitting down right now in my girlfriend's kitchen, Currently I have a 21" Terrible One Barcode prototype put together made by Solid Bikes in Sacramento, CA.
What's new with T-1?
There are only four words in that question, but damn, I don't even know where to start with an answer. I guess so that I don't end up writing a book, I'll say this: I feel like every aspect of T1 is undergoing change. All new product line, all new manufacturing, working on a new Web site, working with some new distributors, and always trying to figure out what needs attention on a daily basis. Yeah, there is a lot.
Born: April 16, 1974
Lives: Austin, TX
Sponsors: T1, Fox, Coalition
Likes: Coffee, Mogwai, Barton Springs.
Words of Wisdom: "The most difficult thing that we face in this world is being completely honest with ourselves." -Bruce Lee
In 1998, Joe Rich set the BMX world ablaze with his progressive riding in Props' Road Fools 1 video. Around the same time, he co-founded Terrible One and 11 years later, he's still enjoying the ride.
Does it ever suck to have the best ramp setup ever in a huge BMX town?
Suck? No, it never "sucks." If I could have had a looking glass into the future back when I first started riding, I would never have believed what would be in my backyard one day. First and foremost, I just love that the ramp exists. I love the fact that it's there, and that the only thing I ask is that if the gate is locked, to knock on the door. If no one answers, then come back another time and try again. But, there are times when timing doesn't work out and that can make for a bit of awkwardness. I live here, at T1, and am here quite a bit. So there might be times when I'm just about to leave for plans I've made elsewhere, and I will get a knock on the door and 10 kids want to ride. They might be passing through town and are just here for that one day. So I get put on other people's schedules sometimes and that can be tough. There are times when I blow off what I was going to do, just so they can ride. Other times, I do have to be elsewhere, and they don't get to ride. Due to liability reasons, I can't really just have people back there if either me or one of my close friends isn't here. Back when there were more people that worked at T1, it was a bit easier, because there was more of a chance of someone being here. Now it's just me here, so it all comes down to where I'm at on that day. A few of my friends have keys to the gate, so that helps out for sure. They just take responsibility if I'm not around. On the other side of the coin, one of the best aspects of it, is how many people I get to see that I usually wouldn't because of it. Austin is a free-for-all in the winter time. So many people come to town and it would be impossible to know when those times were always going to be. A lot of riders that I've met over the years make it a point to come ride the ramp at least one day. So I get to catch up with them some, and that's always nice. Also, I get to meet so many new people that come over for their first time as well. It's pretty incredible how the whole dynamic of it works. I feel very lucky for many reasons.
Can you explain how you feel T-1 has evolved since its inception?
Oh man, this is a tough one. I feel like it's been a roller coaster of progression and regression. T1 started as an idea without any long term thinking. And that means that we never had any kind of "5 year plan" or anything like that. So much of our existence has been just trying to learn what was needed to keep going. That's been pretty hard on me at times. There are many parts to keeping a business going, and there are times when it was even hard just acknowledging that T1 was in fact a business for me. I've always leaned more towards the "clubhouse" side of it. Just wanting it to all be fun and games. So I guess learning more and more about how to make it functional has been a huge evolution since the beginning. Also, I feel like I'm much more open minded about possibilities for T1 than I used to be. There were changes that I was not very open to in the past that may have slowed us down at times. But even then, I was just trying to do what felt right to me. That's why it has felt so much like one giant learning process. I feel that's what's evolved the most.
Maybe you could elaborate on the decision to do Ruben's frame in Taiwan while continuing to do frames and components in the U.S.?
Ruben had wanted to do his frame in Taiwan years ago due to cost reasons. He wanted his frame to be more affordable in other countries where American made frames were too much for riders to afford. Taiwan has only gotten better and better over the years and I finally felt good about doing it there. Peter Barrell of Maas Specialties had made our frames from 2000 until the end of 2008. Peter had a small, tight, operation that I felt happy to be a part of. We leaned on him to build our frames and handlebars, and he leaned on us for our business to keep his shop going. Even though I didn't know Peter personally before he started making T1 stuff, I felt like he became a good friend as the years continued on between T1 and Maas. And I wanted to be able to give him as much business as possible. That was the main reason why we never looked into doing things elsewhere for awhile. I didn't want to take away from the orders we were giving him. At the end of 2007, I knew that Peter was possibly looking to be closing his business down at the end of '08. He was ready for a change in his life. So that made me look at Taiwan a bit more seriously. As time has gone one, Taiwan has progressed so much, and things have become more limited as far as frame manufacturing in the US. I think we were one of the very last BMX companies to be primarily American made, but didn't have our own in-house manufacturing like FBM or S&M/FIT. There were a few issues that stood to make it more difficult to continue on as we had in the past. So at the beginning of 2008, I went over to Taiwan to meet up with David and Guiri from Fly Bikes. They are both long time friends of mine and offered to show me the ropes over there if I would come meet them. So I did, and I was amazed. It was such a good decision to go there and see how everything works. Never could have I imagined how dialed it all is there. So we are planning on making Ruben's frame, Danny's frame, our handlebars and sprockets there as well as continuing to do our pegs and grips there too. Who knows what else might come along as well.
But let's get back to you. I know you have a new job that you seem pretty psyched on. Wanna talk about that, and how it's changed your perspective?
Well the job you are probably referring to is my part time job at the Daily Juice. The Daily Juice is a juice/smoothie shop here in Austin that I've been going to for a long time. I can't even tell you how much money I've spent there over the past few years. The place is amazing, and it has been partly responsible for me learning more about nutrition. I used to have this loop that I would do every morning that would involve either involve riding to Barton Springs to swim laps, or going on a road bike ride. The Daily Juice would be the stop off after my ride or swim. And I would feel so much better after going there. After stopping there, I'd continue on to the coffee shop, and then finally ride home. It was such a good way to start the day. Well, when my contract ended with Etnies at the end of last year, I knew that I was going to have to do something generate a bit of income. I had some money saved, but I didn't want to totally run out and then ask myself what I was going to do for work. T1 doesn't provide income to me and never has. It would be great if T1 could be my full job one day, and it could very well do that at some point, but that day is not today. Anyhow, I started asking around about part time jobs. My first two choices of where I'd want to work would be Daily Juice, or my favorite coffee shop, Caffe Medici. Lucky for me, my longtime friend, Chadwick, was a manager at the Daily Juice and pushed for me to start working there. I originally met Chadwick through riding here in Austin, and I love how things can come around full circle. It's probably one of the only jobs I can think of that you actually feel healthier when you leave work, than when you came in. Even if T1 could be my full time job right now, I'd still want to keep a few shift at the Juice. The people I work with are great, what we are doing is helping people, and I get nourished while I work. Its incredible.
What does BMX mean to you?
Such a simple question, but so hard to think of any kind of answer that isn't as long as a book ! I don't know. In so many ways, it's everything to me. BMX was the name of the train that I hopped on that has taken me through life as I know it.
Why Austin, TX? And can you maybe elaborate on the place you grew up a bit?
The first time I came to Austin was in January of '96. I was living in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania at the time and we had just dug ourselves out of 3 or 4 feet of snow that conveniently came right before we had planned on heading South. Austin had a good vibe surrounding it back then as well, and I wanted to see what it was all about. I had friends that lived down here in Austin, so a visit was in order. Needless to say, I loved it right from the first day! I visited again the following winter, and was back again in the Fall. After returning home afterwards, I had a sequence of events that happened that really got me thinking one night. It was almost like a lightbulb turning on above my head as we've seen in the cartoons. I had just come out of the movies with some friends, and it was freezing outside. And it was only November! I said out loud, "I'm moving to Austin!" And in the week that followed, I managed to sublet my room at the house I was living at (the Superdome), got rid of anything that wouldn't fit in my truck, and that was that. I hit the road. The Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton area was home to me for pretty much my whole life. My family was all there, I had the best friends, and great riding. We had such a good crew there back then. Those were some magical times for sure. So why leave? Maybe it was because I had been traveling so much that year already that gave me the bug, or maybe it was just part of me that wanted to experience more. I just got to a point where a change seemed right for me. And moving to Austin was what I decided that change would be.
Do you consider yourself a "pro"?
Personally, that has been a term that has always made me shake my head when trying to fathom that word having anything to do with me. When I started riding, there were a handful of people that were pro. It didn't ever seem like something like that was attainable. That handful of dudes that rode in the pro class were like superheros to me. They were the Michael Jordans of BMX so to speak. I thought of them more so on that level, rather than the word "pro" actually being short for the word "professional." Those guys were amazing. I never strived to get to where they were, because I didn't even think it was possible. But they made me want to ride that much harder and enjoy the time that I had on my bike. And even though that was 20+ years ago, I still feel that way. I've been very fortunate with all of the opportunities that have come my way from riding. But there's always been a part of me that never really felt any different from being the kid that would just go ride after I got out of school. Also, I've always had so many riders that I really looked up to and never felt like I was on the same level as, even if I were sitting on the deck next to them at a contest. It's really hard to put into words. So I guess I've been been a "pro" in the literal sense sense of the word. I've gotten paid to ride bikes, I've entered the pro class, I've traveled to ride in far off lands, but never have I ever felt like I was one of those guys I used to look up to when I was growing up.
I know you're big on the Master Cleanse, right? Wanna maybe talk about your interests in that and what you think it does for your body?
I think the Master Cleanse is a personal choice more than anything. It's not for everyone. And by that I mean that you have to be ready to do it mentally, because your physical side may make you question why you are putting yourself through this. I would never tell someone to do it. If someone asks, I suggest that they read up on it a little bit, or get the book on it (it's a short, easy read), and then decide if they are up for it. I usually do it once a year for 10 or 11 days, which isn't that much. But I've always felt amazing after it. Completely recharged so to speak. I originally heard about it through some friends that were about to do it and they asked me if I wanted to partake. They gave me a quick run down and I said sure. That was only for five days. And even then, I felt so much better. What I didn't realize was that right about at day five is when you start to get your energy back and your body is adapting better to the cleanse. I haven't done it yet this year. I may try a juice fast instead to see how I do with that. Anyhow, if you want to know more about what the Master Cleanse is, just Google The Master Cleanse by Stanley Burroughs. Or you can pick up the short book about it. It's the same title.
After all of these years, and all of the injuries I've been through, riding BMX makes me happy, and I want to keep it that way.
Do you still ride as much as you used to?
No, there is no way I ride as much as I used to. If I tried to say I was, I'd be lying for sure! The one thing that I do know, is that I thoroughly enjoy it each and every time I do ride. I think when I was a bit younger, it would just be what I did as a a default every day. I loved it that much. And it didn't even matter how I was feeling, it didn't matter if I wanted to ride or not, I just did! That's the way it would go. There are times I ride more than others now, and I never force myself to ride. I just do when I feel the need. Sometimes it's just jumping curbs and manualing around town. Sometimes it's on the ramp, or at the jumps. After all of these years, and all of the injuries I've been through, riding BMX makes me happy, and I want to keep it that way.
What does Joe Rich do when he's not working at T-1, riding a bike or being the "BMX" Joe Rich?
Let's see, here's a list of some things that I look forward to doing outside of BMX.
• I like swimming a whole bunch. I've been trying to be a better swimmer over the past few years and I've made a little progress. I know that may sound funny, but I originally started swimming laps because of surfing. I hardly ever get to surf, and when I do, my shoulders would get so tired so quickly from not being used to paddling so much. So one summer I thought that if I swam all summer long, I would be ready if I ever got the opportunity to paddle out on a board and surf. Well, the summer that I started swimming more, I got one opportunity to do so. I surfed for five and a half hours straight. It was so worth it. I'm terrible at surfing, but enjoy every moment of it.
• Riding my road bike is good for me too. The one I have built up isn't a traditional type of road bike, but it has nine gears and it likes to move. I enjoy the physical side of it some, but it feels more like meditation time for me than anything. It's so repetitive that I get in this other frame of mind. I feel like my body reacts on it's own and my mind starts to roam. I always feel so much better when I get done with a ride. I don't do anything crazy. Usually just 25 and 30 mile rides. Sometimes I go further, sometimes not. Whatever feels right that day. The combination of swimming and road riding, keeps me more fit than I used to be. I will be the first to tell you that I'm in denial of being 35 and I want to do everything possible to help me feel healthier and be able to do the things I love for as long as I can!
• Filming and editing video. I know most of what I've done revolves around BMX, but I really like the process of it all. Figuring out angles and what works best for what I want to show. It feels like one giant creative puzzle to me from start to finish, and I really dig that aspect of it.
• Taking photos. Somethings I want to remember, and other things I just like to see how cool I can try and make them look. Fun stuff and I'm always happier that I decided to pull out the camera, rather than leave it tucked away.
• Riding dirt bikes. It really reminds me a lot of riding trails. I know that's obvious. But I think what I'm interested in the most resembles trail riding too. I have no interest in doing tricks on it, I just like going to the motocross track and seeing how smooth I can be on the track. The smoother I am, the faster I go. Even though the bike has an engine and a throttle, when you can flow the track good, it feels amazing. I usually ride with my friend Tom. It's also almost the only time I get to hang out with him, so I always look forward to that aspect of it too.
• Drinking coffee. Yes, it's no secret that I love coffee. But I think it smells better than it tastes! And what I enjoy most about it, is getting to sit with friends or family and having that time to catch up and enjoy. There is something about sitting around sipping on something good that always brings about deeper conversation. I guess the same thing happens at the bar, it's just a slightly different state of mind. But yeah. a good morning turns into a great morning at the coffee shop.
Where did the nickname "Ultimate Male" come from?
I think that started somewhere within the walls of Empire. I'm not sure who came up with it, but it is ridiculous for sure. Somehow, this question always comes up.
Do you still like riding BMX? Is there anything you would want to see done differently in the BMX scene?
I LOVE riding BMX. Really I do. The best thing about it is that you can submerge yourself as much or as little as you want in a "scene." There may be days when I want to ride with a huge group of people, other times I just want to go cruise the streets by myself. BMX has many faces. So it's hard for me to consider that BMX has only one scene. The scene you are a part of is up to you. I'm not going to relate to every rider today, because everyone is different. So I ride with the people that make riding feel fun to me.
How important is it to step back and laugh at the ridiculousness of everything from time to time?
Life can be pretty ridiculous! And you have to be able to laugh at it at times. Otherwise, you'll start taking yourself and everything around you too seriously. There is a time and a place for everything. And sometimes laughing can be the best cure for confusion. Somethings I'll never understand, and I'm okay with that.
Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
Wow, that is too big for me to even fathom. I've never been someone to look that far into the future. We have things that change our lives everyday. So, with that being said, I'd love to see myself just as happy, if not more, five years from now. That's the goal!
Thanks Joe. Check out www.terribleone.com for more on T1, the occasional Joe Rich photo and more assorted randomness.