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Spinner in the city

5/22/2009
It's an overcast Wednesday morning in midtown Manhattan, and Mike Spinner is running just a few minutes late. I expected that. Not that the 21-year-old pioneer of the 1080 and quadruple tailwhip is notoriously late for everything. Far from it, actually. It's just that between flying into Manhattan late last night and getting two full bikes set up this morning (one for himself and one for Jimmy Fallon, on whose show he would appear later), Spinner hasn't really had a chance to stop and appreciate the big city, let alone grab a solid eight hours of sleep.

To Spinner's credit, I had asked him to get out of bed somewhat early. To which he replied via text message, "OMG! Really that early?" I should've been more on my toes and replied that he was in the city that never sleeps, but I just apologized instead.

Twenty or so minutes past the scheduled shoot, Spinner arrives. Walking with bike in tow, he is immediately informed by a security guard that no bikes are allowed in the plaza. We move briskly into the emerging springlike conditions of Central Park just across the street, and make a weary Spinner wax poetic for the cameras for more than an hour. Then it's back to the hotel for Spinner. Only there's no need to point him in the right direction -- he knows where he's going.

Although he calls Miami home, Spinner was born in Oceanside, N.Y., a mere 30 miles east of Manhattan. And Spinner knows the city streets. His driver's license might say Florida, but his streetwise mentality says New York. He's hung out at Union Square, ridden the Brooklyn Banks and pedaled up and down Broadway enough times to know the deal. But this trip to New York is of a different nature. He's not here to ride with friends or film for a new Web video; he's here to teach a former "Saturday Night Live" cast member-turned-late-night talk show host how to bunny hop on national television.

MIKE SPINNER



All this from riding a BMX bike? That would be correct. Spinner's rise to BMX fame started in August 2006 while he was still an amateur. He entered a contest series known as the Free Flow Tour, pulled the first ever tailwhip 720 and from there was selected as a wild-card rider at the last stop of the AST Dew Tour. At that event, in his first outing as a pro, he placed first in qualifying.

Spinner then picked up sponsors, began traveling and started conquering tricks that had been talked about for years but left untouched, including the 1080, the 360 triple tailwhip and, more recently, the quadruple tailwhip.

But to assume that Spinner staked his reputation on just going big and (to borrow from his surname) spinning would be an understatement. Spinner's technical prowess is not to be undermined. He is as skilled in the flatland-influenced tech department as he is in the jump box realm, which is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, Spinner has even entered pro flatland comps and held his own. Simply put, there are no other professionals in the world that can lay claim to his skillful duality on a BMX bike. And that, in part, has helped pave the path from BMX contests to late-night television.

Amazingly, Spinner is unfazed by the day's obligations. In fact, he takes everything in stride without letting it go to his head. The media attention, the cameras, the entourage -- they're all in a day's work for the seasoned BMX pro-turned-BMX ambassador.

Unfortunately, as is the case with most action sports, the professionals who transcend into the public spotlight always seem to suffer a bit of backlash from the community of which they rose. Spinner has seen this backlash to a certain degree, but rather than spending entire days on the Internet fighting against anonymous slander that sometimes confuses him with skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, he has taken the high road, ignored the unfounded criticism and kept on riding as hard as possible.

Simply put, there are no other professionals in the world that can lay claim to his skillful duality on a BMX bike.

It's an endearing trait, one that has helped balance the BMX side of Spinner against the media-savvy side. And even though the BMX side of Spinner seems ready to break away from the itinerary and bolt down Broadway to see who's hanging out and riding at Union Square, he checks his bike in at the studio door, says "See ya later" and heads off into the studio, eager to push the sport and culture of BMX into the late-night television stratosphere.

Following the taping, Spinner emerges from the NBC studios into a light New York rain. By now, it's just getting dark, and with that comes the cold and the wind. He hands his hooded, zip-up Monster Energy sweatshirt to his girlfriend, Taylor, and walks into the night, unfettered by the cold and the rain. We eventually make our way down the crowded sidewalks to Times Square, where Spinner suddenly disappears into the faceless crowd. The usual surge of questions circulates: "Where'd he go?" "Did he disappear again?"

A few minutes later, he emerges from a chain-store surf shop with flip-flops in hand, which he bought for his girlfriend, whose shoes were too uncomfortable to walk the streets of Manhattan in. Spinner is at once many things: professional, well-rounded BMXer, newfound media personality, seasoned New Yorker by birth, hardened MySpacer. Turns out you can add "gentleman" to that list.