Creig P. Sherburne/Atascadero News • Jesse Buerster rips it up at A-Town Skate Park earlier this week. He said that BMX riding is pretty easy to start, but difficult to master. He also said that any BMX bike his friend Steve Anzel might sell at K-Man Cycle & Run is solid enough to shred Buerster-style as-is.
If Templeton resident Jesse Buerster can’t be found at the Templeton skate/BMX park, he can probably be found in Paso Robles, Atascadero or — and this one’s a favorite — the “Cayucos mega-ramp,” as he affectionately calls it.
BMX bikes tend to be on the small size, when compared to mountain or road bikes, and build very stoutly. BMX riders generally don’t use their bikes as transportation, but as recreation, kind of like skateboards. And, like skateboards, it’s all about going fast and doing tricks.
And Buerster can do some tricks. At 28 years old, he’s ridden BMX bikes for half of his life.
“I don’t really ride anything else,” he said. “That’s my forté and my happy place, that’s what it is.”
Buerster said he got his first real BMX bike at the age of 14. Living in the country, most of the folks in his area were into motorsports. They were too expensive and loud, so he picked cycling instead.
He got a job at Templeton Sales Yard weighing cattle. He saved his pennies and bought a Mongoose brand bike.
“It was chrome, it was terrible,” he said laughing.
He killed that bike doing his first big jump. He landed evenly on both wheels, but bent the fork — the bit that holds the front wheel in place — straight out. He said he was a champion that day, as nobody had seen a bike destroyed in quite that way before.
It was during that time that his relationship with K-Man Cycle & Run began. Though the bike shop didn’t yet exist, the key players worked in the North County. Specifically, Buerster said, he hung around at Bike Masters before Shawn Varner owned it. That’s where he met now-current K-Man employee Steve Anzel.
“He was young and annoying, but I took him everywhere,” Buerster said.
The two went everywhere together and rode everything together. And all the riding paid off. Buerster raced from age 15 to 16 and was the best BMX rider in his division in the state of California one season.
“I’ve always just been a go for it kind of guy,” Buerster said. “If you’re not crashing, you’re not going fast enough.”
Buerster’s dad owns a flooring company in Templeton. Remember that. It’ll be more important in a minute. Out of high school, Buerster went to work for one of his dad’s former employees, but later moved to Arizona with his band. Buerster’s a drummer.
It was during his time in Arizona that Buerster learned how to do backflips on his bike. The skate park in the area had a foam floor in part of the building, which is far more forgivable than concrete or wood. It allows one to try dangerous tricks and, as long as the bike doesn’t actually fall on top of the rider, the risk of injury on a messed up trick is minimal.
Unsurprisingly, Buerster moved back to Templeton after a while.
“There was no green, no ocean and it was too hot” he said. “It was just rocks.”
He showed off his newfound backflipping talent at a skate competition in Paso Robles. While the skaters took a 10-minute break, BMXers had the run of the park and Buerster did a backflip in front of hundreds of people — over a concrete floor — and stuck it.
“I knew if I was ever going to do it, it’ll have to be now,” he said. “It was my first taste of real stardom.”
The crowd went nuts and he was the hero of the day. Too bad it was a skate competition. He may have won just on popularity.
The pair — Buerster and Anzel — got sponsored shortly thereafter by Truvativ during the company’s short-lived foray into BMX parts.
“It’s weird,” Buerster said. “We were nobodies.”
Buerster had two major achievements during his time with Truvativ. First, the company sent him to a major BMX event in Woodard near Tehachapi.
“We were visiting pros,” Buerster said. “So we got to do whatever we wanted. It was kind of ‘here’s the keys, go nuts.’”
At that event, Buerster taught himself how to do a backflip-tailwhip, also known as a flipwhip. That trick is a combination of a backflip and a tailwhip. A tailwhip is when the rear wheel of a bicycle gets spun around the front wheel in a 360 while the rider stays put, holding the handlebar.
The other milestone was that a photo of Buerster doing that trick went into the 2004 Truvativ catalogue in a two-page spread.
“The best part was I just said, ‘I’m just going to try something,’” Buerster said.
He pulled the trick off on the first try.
It was on that high note that things went south.
Buerster said he looked around at the other pros. For many of those guys, Buerster said, riding bikes was a job. There was no fun in it any more.
“I never want BMX to be a job,” he said. “A lot of those guys don’t even like riding their bikes any more.”
And that was that. He got a bad attitude about it and just dropped out. He spent a lot of time drinking and smoking weed. Then he started selling weed. He got rich doing it, but he had too much money, too much spare time. He filled it with cocaine. Not selling cocaine, mind you, but imbibing.
“It brought me to zero,” Buerster said. “I went from five cars and a great girlfriend, life was good, to being homeless.”
He got it together enough to quit the cocaine, but replaced it with booze.
So he spent a lot of time in bars. He drank, fought, went to jail woke up wondering if he had enough change to go buy a 40-ouncer.
All the while he sort of worked for his dad’s flooring company.
“I was worthless at work,” Buerster said. “My dad, the great guy he is, he put up with it for years.”
Indeed, the whole family put up with it for years, but he said they were always there, waiting for him to be ready to quit.
It was after serving 104 days in jail that Buerster decided that he’d had enough.
He is now six months sober and has filled his days back up with BMXing, something he’d given up while he drank and used.
And, like his family, Anzel was ready to pick up where things left off.
“I got my friend back to push me,” Anzel said. “He’s way different, a better person. … Since getting sober, he doesn’t have excused not to ride. He’s better.”
Buerster said his life is boring now. He wakes up early and goes to work early. He gets off work early, around 3 p.m., and rides his bike untill dark, then does it again.
“The best part is I wake up and I feel good,” he said. “I’m happy waking up now. I thought I was happy with drugs and alcohol, but I wasn’t. I didn’t like myself. Now I love myself, like I did when I was a kid.”