Stomping Grounds: Seattle

Seattle, the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and the grunge-rock movement of the early '90s, isn't always the first place to pop up on the radar when searching for BMX-friendly cities in the U.S. But the area does possess a wealthy history of BMX spanning back through the '90s and beyond. In fact, the Pacific Northwest's (Seattle included) scene was highly documented throughout the '90s in a video series known as "Infection". Produced by a local rider named Scott Hagnas, the "Infection" series brought the diverging scenes of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., together, and through the wonders of VHS videotape shared the underexposed Pacific Northwest with the rest of the BMX world. Eventually, as with Austin, Texas, before it, BMXers from outside the Seattle area took notice, and though it wasn't exactly a mass migration to the area, a few BMXers not originally from the Pacific Northwest packed up and headed west. The most notable would be Metal Bikes owner Jimmy Levan.

Originally from Louisville, Ky., Levan was not the first to migrate west. He followed fellow Metal Bikes team rider Seth Holton out to Seattle in 2002. Holton, who is originally from Vermont, lived in a quaint bungalow on a street named for the pioneer Davy Crockett in the Queen Anne Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The newly adopted home in the Emerald City soon attracted more out-of-state residents, including Michigan's Beeler Van Orman and Ohio's Steven Hamilton, along with a part-time guest list that included Sandy Carson, Sean Burns, Ryan Worcester, Jim Bauer and more, who all spent time at Seth and Jimmy's house in Queen Anne.

Home to the highest known hill in Seattle (with an elevation of 456 feet) the journey from the Queen Anne section to downtown Seattle makes for an enjoyable, scenic venture, on a BMX bike (with brakes, of course.) Taking the brakes off—or, as Steven Hamilton always has, skateboarding down the very steep hills into downtown—is a little more dangerous. Very fun, but still dangerous. And (from personal experience), not recommended if you're carrying a laptop in your backpack.

Aside from steep hills and a wealth of lush evergreen trees, Seattle is also known for its dedication to the brewing of strong coffee, and Capitol Hill, the second most densely populated neighborhood in Seattle, is home to some of the city's most prominent locally owned coffeehouses. In between the Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee and Tully's Coffee of the area lies a wide variety of CEO-free coffee-drinking establishments, including Caffe Ladro (Levan's favorite), as well as Bauhaus, Top Pot Doughnuts and one of the area's oldest coffeehouses, B&O Espresso. Following the right amount of caffeination, it's back to work on Metal Bikes for Levan and his crew, which could amount to a variety of tasks in the Seattle area, including visits to the screen printers, modifying Pat Doherty's new Metal Bikes prototype frame at Revolution Cycles or a quick lunch break at Taco Time, the Pacific Northwest's answer to Taco Bell.

The Capitol Hill area also houses a good portion of the burgeoning indie-rock scene, and on any given night, the Metal Bikes crew intermingles with Sub Pop and Suicide Squeeze Records alumni at Levan's adopted watering hole, The Cha Cha Lounge. Formerly located in the middle of the 500 block of Pine Street, the Cha Cha's dank interior was a half crank away from the area's most prized rain spot, a covered parking garage on Capitol Hill with a homemade wallride, banked driveways and curb launchers. And being as how the metropolitan Seattle area averages only 58 clear days per year, the garage serves as a BMX riding refuge from the rain, overcast skies and the rare winter snow shower. The "Cha" has since moved, but the garage remains a BMX session safe house when the rain comes.

And indeed, the rain always seems to come. Not always torrential downpours though, just long-lasting periods of wetness plagued by drizzle and light rain, which begs the question: Why would any aspiring BMXer want to move to a place that has earned a reputation for its rainy climate? The truth is, despite a seemingly wet vibe, Seattle's climate is much more moderate than most other BMX destinations in the U.S. Yes, there are winters, but it's rarely too cold to get outside and ride in January. And yes, there are summers, but it's rarely too hot or humid to be outside in mid-July. And this moderation throughout the four seasons in exchange for some wet conditions is a worthwhile trade-off for a Vermont winter or Austin summer. And that in itself—aside from the wealth of coffeehouses, bomb-able hills and concrete parks—might make Seattle the next major BMX transplant spot to be.