Photo by Joe Rich
Interview: Paulo Martins
Additional Questions by: Jordan Utley, Chris Moeller, Shawn “Elf” Walters and Matt Beringer.
Name: Mike Aitken
Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
Sponsors/help: Fox, Rockstar, Fitbikeco, Odyssey, Lotek, 50/50
Years riding: 19
Screen grab by Jordan Utley
1. What is your very first memory of BMX?
When I was eleven years old (in 1994), I was sitting at a BMX track watching people race. I was in disbelief that a sport like this existed and it took me this long to find it!
2. What riders have inspired you in the beginning?
Brian Foster, Scotty Yoquelet, Chris Staufer, Kris Bennett, Groundchuck, Wingding, Brandon Pundai, Josh Stricker.
3. Nowadays who are your favourite riders to watch?
Hmmm… a lot of the same dudes, I watch old vids! Clint Reynolds, Brian Yeagle, Eric Hennisey, Brian Foster, Justin Inman, English Robbo, Mike Szczesny, I’m sure there’s others but that’s off the top of my head.
4. Top 10 riders of all time, regardless of discipline?
Brian Foster, Joe Rich, Taj Mihelich, Mat Hoffman, Rueben Alcantara, Van Homan, Jay Miron, Andrew Faris, Edwin De LaRosa, Colin Winkelman.
5. Who are the people you ride with?
Shawn Elf Walters, Tate Roskelley, Cameron Wood, Matt Beringer, Mike Szczesny, Greg Ingersol.
6. For some riders their bikes mean freedom to them, what does it mean to you?
It definitely gives me a sense of freedom. It is my outlet to take all of my frustrations in life out on so… It’s also my creative outlet.
7. It’s been a long time, but your injury stuff stays on the top of everyone’s mind when they think about you… How are you feeling physically, and just as importantly, how are you feeling mentally, almost five years after?
Physically, I think I’m always going to have to work hard at getting my right side to act up to par with my left. The right was the side that was paralyzed and had to endure the three weeks of muscle atrophe due to the coma. Mentally, I didn’t even think I would have to deal with that, that’s how vague and in outer space I was. I’ve been on various medications to help me get back to the brain chemicals that make me who I am. I didn’t want to be on all of these drugs and I thought that I didn’t need them. It sent me for a year and half tailspin, all because I wasn’t getting the right help from the right doctors. So honestly… After four and a half years & the right doctors, I have been to find myself again.
8. What’s your daily routine like right now, are you still doing any kind of rehab work?
I get up at 8:00 am and help my wife get our son Owen ready and drive him to school. Then I do some yard work. Just the other day, I got cleared to ride and do active stuff again, (due to a crash I had out in California at Heath Pinter’s house). I ended up pissing blood and breaking my kidney into five pieces. I couldn’t afford rehab work (after the coma) because it is expensive, here in the states, but I go to the gym and do as much as possible and the very best I can. Since the Doc gave me the okay to do physical activities again (after my kidney injury), I have been going to the gym in the morning.
Photo by Austin Boyd
9. After your crash you’re also experienced the struggle of not being able to ride for an extend period of time, how did you handle this situation, and how did it changed your perspective about life in general?
The amount of time off of my bike, didn’t really matter. I knew, and know that I will be back to where I want to be again. Especially now that I’ve got a better grasp on the mental side of things. I took in just how fragile life really is. How lucky we are just to be living. How lucky I am to live this “extreme” lifestyle which I had been living before I crashed. I handle risk of life a bit differently now. Especially now that I realize it’s not just about me anymore. I have my wife and little boy to enjoy. I’ve been looking ahead lately, and the road looks pretty long, winding and beautifully awesome from here!
10. What are some key pieces of your recovery that the average rider, for better or worse, doesn’t know about it?
That it is a long time coming, and the brain is a complex labyrinth. The slightest bruise or blood on the brain can cause significant problems. I mean the bruise on the left frontal lobe of my brain was about the size of a thumb print. The frontal lobe injury caused permanent issues, affecting my attention, short-term memory, planning, and motivation. Many people don’t realize that I was paralyzed on the entire right side of my body. If I had not worked so hard, doing my physical therapies, I would still be paralyzed. I had to re-learn to speak with a speech therapist. Sometimes I still say the word “yesterday” a little off. To this day, I still regularly see a doctor for my mental health.
I sometimes walk with a limp. It is mostly noticeable when I am tired. My memory is horrible. My wife likes to joke and call me, “10 second Tom” because I forget things so easily.
11. How would you describe what riding feels like to you right now?
It definitely feels a little bit foreign, but if I just let my body take over and quit thinking, the muscle memory somewhat kicks in and it feels like I never stopped. That for sure makes me happy. My right side is still weaker than my left but I will keep on working on that.
12. What keeps you motivated to film and ride? What do you think has driven you to continue with it, to come back?
Riding is what I have done my entire life. It is my lifestyle. It’s all I know. The feeling I get when I ride is amazing and that never goes away. My friends have always supported me. They are huge motivators.
13. How did you feel after your “rebel run” jumping the sets at the Texas Toast Jam Pro Dirt Comp?
I felt excited and relieved that I made it through! The outpour of support was just amazingly awesome!
14. Favourite spot to ride?
Tanner trails, Salt Lake City.
15. What’s been your most memorable BMX experience?
Wow there’s just been so many… But if I had to pick one in the most exotic, coolest place it would be riding in South Africa. It was just so different from what I would call normal, it was awesome. I ate up every second of it.
16. Favourite trick of all time is… I would have to say the tabletop.
17. Style or tricks… style but if you’re going to do tricks add some steez!
18. TOP 5 bike vids?
Push tweekers, 1201, Anthem, Lights out, Soil.
Photo Riley Smith
19. What else other than BMX gets you really pumped to ride?
Music, my son’s outlook on life, family, videos, snowboarding.
20. The best advice you ever received was?
Live every day like it’s your last. You just never know!
21. The last book you read was?
Damn… Jeffrey Gitomer’s ‘Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude’.
22. You’d like to know more about…
The great outdoors, cars motorcycles, life in general. I swear, almost every day you learn something new. If you put yourself out there, you’re never too old to learn.
23. How many horse power does your Trans-Am have? What year? Does the Trans-Am have a bike rack?
Five hundred and fifty. 1979 SE Bandit Edition. Of course it has a bike rack.
24. How was to film your new FIT promo with Jordan Utley?
Easy, like filming with a brother. He is very creative and talented.
25. How are things going at Fit right now, do you have any other signature parts in the works? How about video parts, web videos, road trips?
Things at Fit right now are great. Everything goes along really easy. I talk directly to the person making the product. It rules! No products in the immediate future but time will tell. We are working on a new team video I have no idea on any release date but it is in the works, I’m sure there will be some web action out this year some time, no telling when, but you know.
26. Killjoy got the Nora Cup award for the “Video of the Year” last year. What does that mean to you?
It means that heart and dedication can come through in the right ways especially when you get a bunch of great and special guys together like we’ve got, oh yeah… And we got a pretty cool trophy!
Additional questions by Jordan Utley
27. Stockton or Malone?
Malone’s the man but I’m a small white kid… Stockton.
28. Black coffee or coconut latte?
It used to be coconut latte but as of late it’s been black coffee.
Photo by Joe Rich
Additional questions by Chris Moeller
29. Do you remember the one moment as a kid when you realized BMX was your passion?
I don’t think I ever took the time to realize that. I just always rode and didn’t realize that it was my passion, or what the hell that even meant, or what a passion even was! Riding was just a part of my life. A part of ME!
30. Did your parents push you as a kid to perform in school or sports or did you motivate yourself completely?
My parents were really relaxed and let me make my own decisions with sports and riding. They took me racing, all over the west coast from the ages of 11 to 13. We drove & camped everywhere. Good times! As far as school my mom always pushed and helped me with my schooling. They both supported me fully.
Additional questions by Shawn “Elf” Walters
31. Favorite movie quote.
My movie quote file got all messed up due to the brain injury so my quotes aren’t what they used to be so you’ll have to forgive me. “He puts the Joe Dirt in the hole!”
32. Who has a better hair cut Chris Doyle or Mike Szczesny?
I don’t know… I talked to Doyle and he doesn’t step to the blow dryer, so I think I’m gonna have to stay true to my hometown, Szczesny Ha ha!
33. Larry Bird or Karl Malone? Why?
Karl Malone. His nickname is the mailman! I am from Utah after all and he invented the hammer dunk! Ha ha
Additional questions by Matt Beringer
34. You’ve traveled a lot through the years with BMX, I know you like living in Utah but if you had to move somewhere else in the world where would it be?
That’s a tough one, do I have to move? I think I would have to fill a life long dream of mine and my wife’s of one day living in Hawaii.
35. Speaking of traveling, is there any place that you’ve always wanted to go but haven’t?
I’ve always wanted to go to South America.
36. What the best movie out of FUBAR, Army of Darkness, and Joe Dirt?
Their all top three movies that will put you in a better place, I’m just going to leave it at that.
37. Are you going to do more with Vigilantia clothing?
I don’t know I used Vigilantia as a way to raise money to get out of more medical debt, I don’t have the time or money it would take to do it what I consider correctly.
38. What’s the fastest you’ve got your TransAm up to?
The needle max’s out at 120 so I be had the needle so buried its facing me and everything begins to get lighter and floaty.
39. Last words… don’t take anything for granted, have fun every day!