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Sports

BMXing New York City, Guerilla Style

A new edit from pro rider Nigel Sylvester is an inside look at what it’s like to cruise through the city at high speed.
September 10, 2015, 3:25pm
Photo courtesy Harrison Boyce

Nigel Sylvester is a professional BMX rider from New York City, and his latest edit, called Go!, is a tour de BMX through his hometown. Sylvester, along with director Harrison Boyce and producer Jaimie Sanchez, had the idea for a point-of-view look at riding through the city earlier this year. On a "shoestring budget," according to Sylvester, the trio worked all summer filming with a Sony Action Cam and hucking through New York at high speed. VICE Sports caught up with Sylvester to talk about the video and his intentions behind it.

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VICE Sports: What's different about this video to you?

Sylvester: We went totally guerilla style on this one. I think there's a lot of follow-the-leader in BMX videos these days. The typical skatepark videos and the usual edits only give one dimension to the viewer. Don't get me wrong—that's the bread and butter of our industry and I appreciate it—but I wanted to do something special that's a true expression of where I am creatively in my career at the moment. Most videos don't show you anything about the character of the athlete or where they're from. Giving people insight into a normal day for me and the city I live in was something I felt inclined to explore.

READ MORE: Building the Red Bull BMX Silverdome Shoot

VS: So do you ride your bike through retail stores and jump off taxi hoods on a normal day?

Sylvester: Jeff Staples was actually kind enough to let us ride through his store, but I've done crazier ride-throughs than that. If I see an open path and it gets me to where I need to go, I'm going to take it. Everything on the bridge, and that stuff in Chinatown, Times Square, and all the riding through traffic—yeah, that's a normal day. That's what stands out to me about this video: so much of it is totally organic. Like in the jewelry shop. That's my homie, Mr. Flawless, one of New York's finest jewelers. I called him up, said I was coming by, and I just showed up and we knocked it out.

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VS: What about those other guys on bikes? Did you just run into them on the street?

Sylvester: Those are my homies, and that's what we do. Just bugging out with my friends and riding our bikes in the city. It's totally legit, and it's an inside view of my world. But we're also giving people a new perspective. Like, how often do you see Victor Cruz playing football at random park in LES or A$AP Ferg wheelie-ing down 125th Street in Harlem or Jackie Cruz on a bike having fun? That's unique.

VS: What about riding against traffic and weaving through pedestrians? Looks like a pretty small margin for error on some of that.

Sylvester: There's no margin for error. If you make a wrong decision, you'll get hit by a car or run someone over. Every turn we take, every pedal, is a calculated move. That's why I say that riding in the city is the best way to gain bike control. It's about constantly running into new situations and having to adapt in a split second. When people ask me if I consider myself a professional athlete, yes, I do, because I think it takes the same intensity and energy for me to cut through traffic or dodge through people as it does for LeBron on a fast break to adjust to defenders on the court.

VS: What about the helicopter at the end? Where did that come from and who covered the bill for that?

Sylvester: Let's just say I called in a few favors. I really was running late.