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Monday, August 27, 2012
Chad Johnston for S&M Bicycles

In the mid '80s, when S&M pro Chad Johnston started riding flatland, the emerging BMX brands of the day were concentrating on gimmicky products designed to enhance the growing trend of BMX freestyle riding. One of these early innovations was the creation of axle pegs, which were internally threaded and screwed onto the existing axles on the the wheels of your bike.

But the axle peg was just a small part of the gimmicks created by BMX freestyle brands during the '80s. In flatland riding alone, BMX freestyle brands concentrated on creating as many bolt-on accessories as one could possibly need, all for the sake of creating new areas where one could stand or balance on a BMX bike. In its wake came fork standers, frame standers, bolt-on frame platforms that extended behind the seat post, handlebars with extra tubes to create standing surfaced, angled frame standers which were supposed to make balancing on the back wheel easier, etc, etc.

And then BMX freestyle (almost) died a quiet death in the very early '90s, as it struggled to transition from trend into lifestyle. The gimmicks were left behind, and riders returned to simplicity, including the axle peg, which was modified to work with deep socket extensions.

Throughout the '90s and early '00s, Chad Johnston rode flatland with four pegs and a front brake. As time evolved, he removed his pegs and brakes and developed a new style of rolling flatland riding that challenged him to create new techniques to arrive at complex combinations that include bar-split pinky squeaks, rope-a-roni's on the pedal, elbow glides standing on the fork leg and a standing pedal hang five that Chad can hold for almost ten revolutions. No one else in the world is on the same level as Chad is, and the above video captures him at his finest on home turf in Long Beach, Calif.

It's also, in retrospect, an amazing evolution from the flatland riding and technological gimmicks that characterized flatland in the '80s. And by stripping down his bike to the bare essentials, Chad Johnston has once again proved the old "less is more" adage true.