Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 3rd, 2013 at 10:58 am
where he can be seen nearly every day
working on his tricks.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)
For the past four years, southeast Portland resident Blake Hicks has focused his entire life on two things: Perfect his bike tricks and share them with the world. Now, after countless hours of hard work, the 28-year-old professional performer is about to embark on the biggest summer of his young career.
I first came across Blake's amazing riding skills in 2006, when I photographed him practicing his moves in Waterfront Park. Yesterday I was riding through the park and there he was again — working on his awe-inspiring, spinning, rolling, and balancing act. And I'm glad I stopped to talk because he's about to leave for a three-month performance gig at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida.
"It's all official, but it still doesn't seem real. You have this dream, and then, it sort of starts to happen... It's exciting."
— Blake Hicks
"This has been my job for the past four and-a-half years," he said, as he caught his breath between tricks and cooled off in the mist of the Salmon Street Fountain. To make ends meet, Blake performs about 2-3 nights per week and relies on ad revenue from his YouTube videos. It was one of those videos featuring his signature "Tron Bike" (a bike wrapped in bright blue lights) that caught the eye of a big-time talent scout and show producer who works with Busch Gardens. He signed Blake to a three-month, all-expenses paid contract to be one of 40 performers in the "Kinetix" show (officially described as a "non-stop 30-minute contemporary rock experience that delivers awesome lighting effects, modern music, and high-energy performances").
After the Busch Gardens contract is up, he's being flown to India to perform and talk about his act in front of thousands of students at a technology college. Then, the same booker who got him the Florida gig, has signed Blake for a two-month European tour this fall.
For Blake, now 28, his dedication to making this his career started when he got laid off in 2008. "It was the during the downturn and I was on unemployment, and I thought, I might as well follow my dream. I bought this bike and just riding. Every day."
Blake still manages his own schedule and doesn't have an agent. He's had his ups and downs when it comes to learning the ropes of the business. "Everybody says they can make me famous, but I've realized that only about 1 out of 10 people will actually book me and pay me."
Blake says he's still a bit naive about the business side of things, but that hasn't stopped him from making big strides. He's garnerred a huge following on YouTube and he's a regular performer at the Electric Daisy Carnival, an annual rave in Las Vegas that attracts around 200,000 people. A video of Blake performing at that event last year went viral and has over 18,000 views on YouTube. But it's not all glitz and glam for Blake. He's performed at schools, churches, and just about any other type of event you could think of. His current regular gigs include a performance at Dante's Inferno (downtown Portland) every other week and the monthly Voyeurism show at Star Theater.
What has set Blake apart — besides his bike skills, good attitude, and natural stage presence — is his bright blue "Tron Bike." "To succeed in this business, you've got to embody something. That's been my philosophy. For me, my thing is blue. The Tron Bike, my blue hair, the blue clothing. When people see the color blue, I want them to say, 'Have you ever seen that guy with the Tron bike!?'"
While his blue bike gets a lot of attention, Blake doesn't need any gimmicks to wow the crowds. He's one of the best flatland riders in the country. Yesterday he showed me his most difficult trick: The Stubbleduck. It's a dizzying spinning move where he and his bike do 360s in opposite directions. Here's how Blake explains it: "It's like me and the bike are orbiting around each other... I'm the eye of the storm and my bike is the tornado." Blake has put in hundreds of hours of practice for this one, few-second trick. But it's worth it, for the bragging rights if nothing else, "I'm one of only two people who in the world who can do that trick, and the other guy is in France," Blake says proudly.
In a few days, Blake will pack up his car and spend 10 days driving to Florida — and of course he's already lined up shows along the way.
Reflecting on where he's been and where he's going, Blake says, "It's all official, but it still doesn't seem real. You have this dream, and then, it sort of starts to happen... It's exciting. I might never come back."
Good luck Blake! We'll be rooting for you back home in Portland.