Sietse van Berkel is a pro BMX Freestyle Flatland rider from Utrecht, the Netherlands, who recently designed a device that will help riders learn tricks in their living room. How does it work, and can you make one yourself? We caught up with the rider/constructor for some explanations.
“The original idea behind this ‘BMX home trainer’ was to use it for BMX workshops,” says Sietse van Berkel. “To let the kids experience how the balance point is on some rolling tricks on one wheel – like a manual, or hang 5, etc.”
The idea that had been growing for some months came to fruition when he gave a workshop at a school a few weeks back, before the COVID-19 outbreak hit the Netherlands. As it was raining, he was forced to give the ‘BMX Experience’ lesson in the classroom.
“So I made this BMX home trainer out of scrap wood, and added a lashing strap to the BMX bike, to ensure the kids were safe and didn’t fall backwards during the manual position. The kids were really stoked.”
This successful experience led him to realise that his device would be a perfect tool to simulate BMX Freestyle tricks in small spaces, such as a living room, for athletes in quarantine. He created a video https://www.facebook.com/flatmex/videos/2580883062179618/ demonstrating that it is possible to keep riding even when stuck at home.
Find the balance point
Riders can place either their front wheel or rear wheel in the home trainer, giving them a secure balance point to help them learn and practise a number of tricks.
“The one you can see in the video is made for pegless BMX bikes,” explains Van Berkel. “It’s a bit wider, so the bolts of a male axle rest on the wood. With pegs it’s a lot easier of course. So far I’ve only tried the tricks you can see in the video – manual, hang 5, whiplash, hitchhiker and nose manuals. But I’ve seen riders already ‘pulling’ some other dope tricks and trick combinations.”
With Van Berkel’s ‘BMX home trainer’ the tyre is off the ground, so the cranks can rotate forwards and backwards, helping to create a feeling that’s closer to actual riding.
“Some tricks actually feel more like the real trick than others,” he explains. ”I think it does help for some tricks to get the sweet spot balance point, like nose manuals, since you only have the front-backward balance. Left to right balance, not so much.”
After widespread positive response to his video, Van Berkel uploaded a DIY construction plan. Since then the concept has snowballed and he has received photos and videos from all over the world from riders building their own home trainers… “which is really cool!”.
“All that’s needed is some scrap wood, long screws, an electric drill and a saw. It’s not absolutely necessary to have round cutouts – so long as you have some cutouts to place your pegs or bolts in, it should work fine.”
The BMX Freestyle pro has now taken things a step further by assembling DIY kits for athletes unable to purchase the necessary elements to construct their own home trainer.
“I got some reactions from riders in Austria and Spain, in strict quarantine, who didn’t have the chance to build one themselves. I’ve made a few ‘DIY kits’ to send them, so they can build it indoors with just an electric drill or screwdriver.”
Others have managed to find the material and build their own, and Van Berkel has received photos and videos of ‘his’ home trainer from Colombia, Ghana, Japan, USA, France, Italy, Spain, Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia...
“Haha, it’s a lot I guess!” he says. “I've made a small gallery on Insta with home trainers from around the world. Lots of views on Facebook and Instagram, so we will see. Hope it helps a lot of riders right now, and maybe after these hectic times as well with some trick positions!
“I've seen people do around-the-worlds, whiplashes, scuffing combos, pivoting... I’ve talked to riders thinking about doing stem-lashes, kickflips and other hard stuff as well. It’s almost like ‘normal’ freestyle BMX: everything is possible!”
In the Netherlands, Sietse van Berkel is not confined to his house and still likes to get out to train occasionally in fresh air. With all his shows, workshops and other projects cancelled or postponed, he is living on his savings and using his spare time to help fellow athletes continue the sport they love while waiting to get back to a normal, healthy life.
Anyone interested in the ‘BMX home trainer’ device can reach Sietse van Berkel via DM on Instagram or by email at [email protected]