Donny Robinson’s Epic Trip to Japan

September 26, 2014 by  

BMX Legends in Japan
By Donny Robinson

I could never start an article like this without giving credit to those who have, over the course of my career, been the reason that I can tell you about some of the amazing experiences I’ve had. We all know that success comes not without surrounding yourself with the right people and I encourage everyone to keep on a path that will lead to creating your own valuable memories.

Last month I was asked if I wanted to take part in a 35th anniversary party for Motocross International, an SE Bikes distributor–in JAPAN! I knew nothing of the trip other than BMX superstar (and SE teammate) Kris Fox would be headed to the event and we’d be riding race tracks and dirt jumps with the locals. It may be hard to comprehend, but I sat on the decision to travel to Japan. Traveling is very hard on our bodies, plus I would lose valuable training time for the all-important races that make up our end-of-the-year calendar, right? Don’t worry, I brought all my training gear with me. I also brought my wife with me too, because, fellas, we all need to score some points, right?

I met up with Crupi’s, Nick Koehler, in San Francisco (I didn’t even know he was on the trip!) and we made our way across the Pacific. The first person we saw when we arrived in Tokyo was Mat Hoffman. You know, the Condor?! Hoffman Bikes?! The Godfather of big air BMX?! He’s the King and although I’ve met him a few times, Nick and I were still star struck.

When all of the other BMX Freestyle riders arrived, they, as usual, huddled together and left Nick and myself as the lone racers. I won’t lie, I’ve always wanted to be accepted by the Dirt / Park / Street BMX riders. We all live different lifestyles and over the years I’ve learned to accept that racers don’t really fit into their club. The four-day trip was now officially underway, but I remained optimistic about the outcome. The first night ended with a big group dinner, where, many of us left hungry because we couldn’t eat rice with chopsticks (this isn’t Panda Express). But as I stared at all the people sharing this experience, I felt fortunate to be in the presence of some of the biggest stars in the BMX universe.

Top Photo: Riders from L-R. Matt Priest, Chad Osburn, Taj Mihelich, Chris Akrigg, Mat Hoffman, Hanson Little, dR, Steve Crandall, Thor Shellum, Nick Koehler, Kevin Peraza and Kris Fox.

Japan Water Ski Jump
The first day’s event was held at Gonzo Park, which boasted a BMX track, trails, Mountain Bike course and Freestyle Skiing water jump (not sure how that fits in). There were two sessions held over the course of the day where the kids were able to have a jam session on the trails with the pros or join a racing clinic on the track with Nick and I. I was surprised to see that the Freestylers enjoyed riding the BMX track just as much as Nick and I enjoyed the dirt jumps.

The whole day was very enjoyable, as the Japanese are not only very passionate about their sports, but are some of the nicest and most respectful people I have ever come across. As the day neared its end, all the riders sat exhausted from our full day of riding; except Kevin Peraza, who, also being an ex-racer and 20-year-old-ball-of-energy, proceeded to “play around” and put on a show for us, by performing some mind-blowing flatland tricks. It was almost refreshing to see how much Kevin loved riding his bike.

Korean BBQ in Japan
Dinner was a traditional Japanese barbeque, which takes place over an open flame, and cooked-to-order, by you. I still left a little hungry.

The second day, we moved a 2.5 hour bus ride into the mountains (in sight of Mt. Fuji) for a day of riding at the facility we’d be doing the demonstrations on the following day. YBP Bike Park, as it’s called, is run by Yuta Kurise, a Japanese all-around rider who decided he wanted to clear a space amongst a forest to build his own dream bike park. Three years in the making, Yuta’s facility comes equipped with a pump track, Supercross starting hill, track, and really big, downhill, dirt jumps.

Donny Robinson and Nick Koehler in Japan
Obviously, the SX track was a natural for me, but I had my sights on acing the dirt jumps. Those are usually not in my wheelhouse, but my goal for this trip was to do one thing to impress the other riders I was with. As I worked my way through the line (absolutely petrified), the one thing that caught my eye was how much fun all of the riders were having, and, how much they were pushing me to accomplish what I wanted. I got my first taste of what was so different between BMX racing and freestyle – these riders ride because they want to. There’s no sense of obligation or pressure to perform with them, but a genuine love of bike riding, which, through fun, allows them their progression, results and sponsor support. And their desire to see each other succeed, removing their own pride from the equation, is something we, as racers, can have a hard time grasping.

Peace out with Nick Koehler in Japan
Day #2 was over and I hadn’t even gone to the gym yet. Time was running out, but, at that point, I started not to care. Realizing that not only was I pushing myself to build my skill level, but I was having a blast on my bike, something even I forget to do at times. We can train every day and amass great results, but if we lose the love of riding because we constantly surround ourselves with that pressure to perform, won’t it all be for naught anyway?

Donny Robinson boosting Dirt Jumps
The YBP Bike Park event on day #3 was all about camaraderie. Tons of Japanese riders and fans came out to watch and ride alongside of us on the different courses. And again, our group of riders was out there riding everything! Whether it was the pump track, dirt jumps or the BMX track, these very accomplished superstars of BMX, just couldn’t get enough of riding.

FBM Bikes Bossman, Steve Crandall and DOnny Robinson

FBM Bikes Bossman, Steve Crandall leading into a turn, as I’m about to lay the swoop down.

I wondered if they would ever tire out, but you can’t stop to ponder too long, or you’ll miss your “up.” It took a few runs on the big dirt jumps, but I finally made it all the way through. Do you ever watch BMX Freestyle on TV and see how amped the riders get when others do something spectacular? I got to take part in that, as was Nick Koehler. Although we just simply made it through the line, these riders met us with open arms when we came back up the hill. They were excited FOR US, and for putting ourselves out there to accomplish something we aren’t the best at.

Tiffany and Donny Robinson

A rare instance where my wife, Tiffany, has been able to join the fun on a BMX trip. We definitely want to get back to Japan; we had a great time.

I was sad to fly home on Wednesday because this trip was so unexpectedly amazing. I left with new friends who come from a completely different world than I do. Yet, the common bond between us all is BMX. These riders reminded me of the reason why I started riding in the first place and also that, at any level of fame, BMXers are great humans. I’m going to keep riding trails because I enjoy it and, it turns out, I get a rush by “training” in this different way. Don’t be afraid to do this yourself.

I was sad to fly home on Wednesday because this trip was so unexpectedly amazing. I left with new friends who come from a completely different world than I do, yet the common bond is still BMX. These riders reminded me of the reason why I started BMX in the first place and also that, at any level of fame, they can be great humans as well. I’m going to keep riding trails because I enjoy it and it turns out, I get a rush by “training” in this different way. Don’t be afraid to do this yourself.

Donny Robinson, Shibuya district, Tokyo

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo one of the most population-dense districts in the world (not as much at 2AM, when our last day in Japan finally wound down).

Thank you to SE Bikes and our hosts, Motocross International, for the opportunity and all the great people I met on the trip, and for making my life very rad.



SE Bikes Website

Pedals 2 Medals Website

Donny Robinson on Facebook

Donny Robinson on Instagram