Over 20 years ago, 40 year-old Northeast Portland resident Gary Sansom was a top BMX racer. Like many guys his age (including me), he grew up wanting to be a BMX superstar. Eventually (also like many of us) he grew up, got a “real job”, and got on with his life…but his love for BMX never really went away.
A few years ago, while working at a dot-com in downtown Portland he realized it would cost $100 to park his car. Gary thought, “screw that, I’m going to ride my bike.” He hopped onto eBay to find a bike and instead found an obsession of collecting BMX bikes.
As Gary showed me around his collection I asked how it all came to be. “I don’t know,” he said, “it sort of started as a quest to find the ultimate bike that just grew over the years. Once I discovered eBay, it was all over.”
Gary’s not sure what he should do with his amazing collection. He’d like to maybe become a non-profit and “put ’em in the Smithsonian or something.”
BMX bikes are definitely a part of the America’s cultural heritage. In the mid 1980s BMX bikes swept over the country (“BMX” in Wikipedia). Whether it was flatland, freestyle or racing, thousands of kids dreamed of owning bikes by companies like Hutch, GT, and Redline. Like many of the collectors he buys from, Gary loves the nostalgia. He likes to say, “What kind of bike did you have as a kid? Chances are, I’ve got one.”
For Gary, the bikes aren’t just an obsession. He doesn’t fuss over them or treat them like works of art. They’re all meant to be ridden and Gary’s eager to pull them out of the basement for test rides. For Gary, “they’re an outlet, they still give me the same thrill and sense of freedom I had when I rode them as a kid.”
Each bike is significant to Gary and I got the feeling he could tell me a story about each one. My favorite was an all-original, all-pink, 1984 Hutch Trick Star. Back in the day, this bike sold for about $600 but Gary said it is extremely desirable and could easily sell for over $3000 today. I think it’d make the ultimate Sprockette bike.
In addition to his daily perusal of eBay, Gary runs an awesome resource for BMX-philes called BMXMuseum.com. On the site, people from all over the world upload photos and discuss their classic bikes. In addition to the website, Gary makes very cool valve caps out of old toys and other found objects.