Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa
When it comes to the ins-and-outs of competitive BMX, sponsorships, and races there is more than meets the eye. From the local circuit, to duking it out with Olympic riders, to tearing down the trail on the national level in Azerbaijan, Dominique Smith has a unique view of the BMX industry from her position as a rising star and advocate for her youth riding group Duke City Development. For the latest installation of the Life in Motion podcast, Jeremy Lux chats with Smith on how she managed to go pro and help cultivate the BMX scene in her native Albuquerque.
Growing up in New Mexico, Smith discovered her passion for BMX when she was a child in 2005, picking up the sport after her father. Smith recalls watching her father and little brother ride and thinking, “Gosh, this looks so much fun. Like dad I want to ride, Can I try it? So, from there on, I literally have just been hooked.”
Biking stuck with Smith through high school and even landed her a scholarship at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky where she competed with their cycling team. Now back in New Mexico, Smith is geared up to make a BMX team of her own while juggling the craziness of being a full-time employee/student with a full training regimen.
“Between my significant other and I, we’re in and out of the house, constantly roaming around with our bikes, gear bags, everything possible,” says Smith.
When talking about the race scene in Albuquerque, Smith admits that she has some work to do.
“No one knows anything about racing here and it's crazy,” she says, “It's honestly mind-blowing because we have a decent team for the size of our city. It's kind of shocking that more people don't ride.”
Despite having one of the largest covered racing facilities in North America, the New Mexico scene is dwarfed by some of the more active biking communities in California but that’s about to change if Smith can help it.
Lux backtracks the conversation to some of Smith’s personal experiences with biking and just hearing from her injuries one can sense her dedication to the sport. Smith recalls how she’s broken both of her ankles twice as well as breaking her pelvis just this year. But after each injury Smith seems to bounce back faster than ever.
“It's a dangerous sport, but that danger, I mean it's kind of entertaining for myself…You're always learning something new. You're always expanding your skills and that's one thing I've had to personally do,” says Smith.
For BMX newbies who wish to someday go professional, Smith says to keep a positive outlook and offers some of her own advice. When it comes to national races one doesn’t have to be qualified to ride, “you can just sign up and go for it.” Smith also recommends consistently competing and performing on the national level before leaving one’s amateur career behind for the pros, but this is largely dictated by one’s skill level.
Smith remembers when she wanted to go pro a few years ago and both of her coaches and her boyfriend told her that she needed more time and training before hitting the big stage.
Sponsors are also another tricky factor for professional riders. Sometimes they need riders and sometimes riders need them. As Smith puts it there’s plenty of different aspects when it comes to sponsors and sometimes you got to be the one “pushing yourself to make that next step.”
With her new team, Duke City Development, Smith hopes to give local riders the same experience as those competing on the national level. Smith says most area recognition goes to riders in California; with Duke City, Smith hopes to shine the spotlight on Albuquerque riders and promote her own local biking community.
“Hopefully it gives riders a different aspect of racing rather than just ‘Yes. Oh, okay, well I'm racing to take up my summer, my summer break or racing to take up my spare time’. It’s a little more commitment than that and I hope it keeps them humble and motivated.”
Duke City got its start as a collaboration between Smith and a local female racer named Maya. The group does its best to promote not only young, growing riders, but girls especially.
“It’s definitely a male driven sport,” says Smith. “The youngest rider we currently have, Danica, is 7-years-old…She’s more dedicated than I am. Every Wednesday night for practice, she does 25 full laps. I’m telling you she’s a ball of energy it’s so great. Having her energy, her young spirit I think has even pushed the older riders even though she’s just 7-years-old.”
Smith shares some other memories from the Duke City squad; there’s the two boys, Andrew and Cisco who are in constant competition on the track, pushing each other to work harder. For Smith, the program is not only a teaching experience but a learning one as well.
“At the beginning of the year we had some riders that were a little newer and now they're willing to jump stuff,” says Smith, “They're willing to try things and not only that but the experienced riders we've had, they're getting faster.”
As for what keeps the boys and girls going at Duke City, Smith cites positivity and motivation, on and off the track.
“If they see you motivated with your positive attitude and everything else going on there’s no stopping you,” says Smith.
Just like little Danica, you gotta lead by example.
For more info on Dominique Smith check out her Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat at @domoniqueraye, as well as the Duke City Development pages on Facebook and Insta at @dukecitydevo. To hear the full recording of Dominique Smith’s interview with Jeremy Lux be sure to check out the Life in Motion podcast on iTunes.