Serenity now: family, friends and BMX
Words, video and photos by Mike Hines
I walked into the shop just after noon on Saturday. Tyler was shaking his head in mid conversation with Colby about how Colby’s cousin wanted a new hub for his bike and Tyler didn’t have it in stock. Colby said he told his young cousin that Tyler would order it and have it at the store next week. The kid didn’t listen and brought his mom all the way down to the small BMX shop in east Chandler, Ariz., for nothing that day. Tyler was clearly annoyed, and so was the kid’s mom. “I told him you didn’t have it,” Colby said.
Days prior to meeting at Serenity Ride Shop, I texted Tyler about a story I wanted to write with the riders who hang out at his shop daily. I generally buy tubes or a few parts at Serenity to replace the ones I always break. Over the 20 or so years I’ve been riding, I’ve been lucky enough to meet and become friends with a few people who run BMX companies. So, when I need a bike or anything major I usually buy direct from the manufacturer. It’s great to get bikes for a fraction of retail, but honestly I would much rather see my money go to Tyler and the culture he’s created.
The tinted front door cluttered with decals of bike companies swings open with Antonio and Chris pushing their bikes through laughing. Antonio Chavez is a small, shy 14-year-old who seems to be at Serenity and the bike park down the street more than school and home combined. Tyler and his roommate Chris often take on the role as big brother or even dad to Antonio. He clutches his stomach laughing, saying, “Oh my God I have to shit so bad.” Chris laughs and tells us Antonio ate a gigantic chili dog from the restaurant down the street. Tyler wasn’t impressed. Chris says, “Look at how small he is—his stomach is tiny. No wonder he has to shit.”
My goal was to spend most of my Saturday at Serenity, trying to come up with a story that revolved around the culture of BMX and the family like vibe you get when you walk in there. I had two projects in mind. One was to talk to Tyler about his 5-year-old daughter, the impact BMX had on his life growing up, and the perspective his daughter has from being a part of this unique childhood. The second project was a five minute video with the new camera I bought two weeks before planning all this. Most kids, and especially young BMX kids, don’t want to sit around and be interviewed. Nor do they even want to read the story they’re featured in. BMX magazines and websites are very visual, the emphasis is on photos and videos, not what some dude has to say about what life would be like without bikes and how they started riding. Tyler’s daughter got picked up minutes before I arrived at Serenity, and forcing an unprepared interview while he managed the shop would be rough.
Antonio came out of the bathroom with his face buried into his phone. It was obvious he had been using his time wisely in seclusion. Minutes later, Dray pulls up out front and walks his bike through the door quietly. “Hey,” Dray says, nodding his head upward and then quickly breaking eye contact. Dray Phenneger, 21, is another lost case for in-depth discussion, but his humble demeanor and creative approach to bike riding allow for his soft-spoken character to stand out. Dray works at Serenity when Tyler needs time away from his teenage daycare. Spending a few hours around Dray you get the feeling of honesty and trustworthiness. He’s always one of the few riders at the bike park you don’t get a locals-only vibe from, and although it may take years to get Dray’s life story, he’s always one of the first people to say, “Hey.”
I moved to the Valley in the summer of 2011. At the time, Serenity was pretty new, just opening its doors in November the year prior. It was first in a very small storefront about a mile north from where it’s currently located. Prior to moving from Tucson, I knew of Tyler Coleman, 29, from our earlier teenage years of traveling to BMX contests throughout the state. We weren’t friends or even acquaintances really, but we knew of each other and rode the same places years ago. There are hundreds of kids who ride BMX in Arizona, but there’s actually a very small population of those who “actually” ride here. At a certain point you start running into the same people, and even in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s most of us were still pretty connected without social media and smartphones. Before I moved to the Phoenix area, several of my longtime friends visited Serenity frequently, and I knew that Tyler and I would reconnect after years of not running into each other while we handled grown-up shit and let life consume us.
Several months ago Tyler moved to his new location, it’s just blocks away from one of the best BMX-only freestyle parks in the country. There’s only a handful of skateparks that allow BMX use in Arizona and only two public concrete facilities in the state that are exclusive to the sport. Tyler realized the importance of his shop’s location, and when he had the opportunity to move closer to the bike park he seized it. The new space is twice the size of his first store. It has brand new fake wood floors and was remodeled prior to his occupancy. Several terrariums sit inside the BMX boutique that hold small brightly colored Poison Dart Frogs that exist naturally in Central and South America. Their existence inside the rowdy bike shop is as random as mentioning them in this article, but oddly enough they seem to fit in with the other characters. Along with poisonous frogs and rowdy teenagers are bike parts, clothes, accessories, a small couch, a graffiti-covered table with BMX magazines on top, and another beat-up couch that sits directly in front of a flat screen TV that plays bike videos, nature programs for Tyler’s daughter, or video games that put riders in a trance and false reality. To be honest, it’s like you walked into some house owned by a crew of teenage boys: perfection.
You could feel the anxiousness inside the shop building. “Mark and Bryan say they’re on their way here,” Tyler said. “They’ll shred the rail out front.” He reassured everyone that riding would be done. Bryan and Mark came riding up on their bikes; the shop is now filled with laughter, shit talking and an underlying need for me to direct everyone. As if these guys don’t hang out here unprovoked. There was an uncertainty of my presence that Saturday. It was obvious Tyler told them I wanted to write a story and film. Most of the guys were familiar with me, but they still seemed unsure of what it was I wanted to put together—so was I.
Inconspicuously sitting in the parking lot is a yellow bike rack that’s not used for locking bikes—I didn’t ask how it arrived there. Bryan Baker, 17, and Chris quickly grab the rack and position it away from the parking blocks in open spaces within the Long Wongs lot. Brian grinds the rail a few times, warming up as I organize my camera and attach it to my homemade steady cam. I film Bryan grind across it a few times making sure to get the Serenity storefront and sign in the background of the shot. Just as Bryan gets ready to film an Ice-pick grind across the length of the metal rack, a white luxury sedan pulls into the parking lot. An older Asian woman steps out of the car and begins yelling in a heavy accent, “No rails here!” She began motioning with her hand, shooing us away like a panhandler asking for change from leaving customers. Bryan and Chris start laughing, mocking her as they pick up the rail and move it to the empty spaces directly in front of Serenity. Tyler comes out of the shop quickly, noticing we had to move the rail. “Stay away from that black Lexus,” Tyler said. “That’s the dude who owns the barber shop—he doesn’t play around.”
We filmed a few moves in the parking lot and then headed to the bike park before I had to get back home to my wife who was managing our 4-year-old boy and week-old daughter. After filming Bryan, Antonio, Dray, Michael, Chris and Tyler (Colby held down the shop) for several hours at the park, I headed back home to Tempe. On the drive I realized I was going back to my family, but at the same time leaving one behind.
“We’re like a big family here,” Tyler said. “We fight all the time and then support each other like brothers. We are all friends and we do what we can for each other. I just want them to grow up right, and I do the best that I can for them.” - Mike Hines
The shop is located at 1368 N. Arizona Ave., in Chandler, Ariz.
Hours: Mon-Sat 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Chandler Bike Park
The Chandler bike park is located at 450 E. Knox Rd. Chandler, Ariz.
Hours: 8 a.m. – 10:15 p.m. Daily
Contacts: Tyler Coleman: Tyler@serenityrideshop.com