Hell Bent on BMX: A Chat With Tom Boorman

comments . . 25/01/2018
HOW TN

Straight up, BMX needs dudes like Tom Boorman.

A staple of the Sydney scene, Tom has been around for a long time, and in the short period that I have known him, is consistently and genuinely stoked on BMX, on top of being a fucking nice guy. Most people would know him as the Hell On Wheels dude, from the space out in Newtown. And I’m sure his history in the BMX world goes way back from there. Dude also rides for S&M to add to the badassery.

Boorman

Just recently, I saw that Tom had moved shop, upped and gone to a space out in the south western Sydney suburb of Campbelltown. After what seems like having set up and established a spot in the city for so long, with such a dense and tight knit history (particularly in having the 2020 offices upstairs), it would have been a big decision to move.

Yeah dude, so crazy! I mean I have pretty much spent every day for the past 10 years in that building, and it’s not just like it was JUST my workplace for that time, it was a whole kind of life of experiences. Sharing a space with and having a front row seat for seeing Matt, Mike, Phil, Alex Liiv, Will Herrmann and all the other talented creative folks create many awesome issues of 2020 along with a bunch of other rad creative projects that were conceived  & seen through in that place was amazing!

As you would expect, running a bike shop in Australia is certainly not a lucrative business, which what I find is often a good thing. The dudes who commit are the ones who have a crazy passion for BMX and are doing it for the right reasons. Tom is no different.

Having & running Hell On Wheels has been so much more than a job or a business for me. I am such a nerdy fan of BMX and all things to do with bikes that I genuinely loved every minute in that place that it never really felt like “work” plus the fact that  myself, my girlfriend Nikki and Gunner (our doggo) had been living there for the past 3 or more years definitely  added a whole other dimension of love for that place.

boormanslide

In Tom’s case, he literally lives and breathes BMX, loving every god damn single aspect of it.

I guess the best part of being there was just being around BMX all day & everyday. It was truly amazing! I’m so in love with every single thing surrounding BMX and our culture & history that everything that happened there was great. Seeing new products, dealing with industry type stuff, working on old shitters, fixing peoples unrideable bikes, talking shit with fellow riders, printing off maps for travelling riders and everything else I did day to day ruled. I feel very fortunate to have been able to do what I did there.

Hearing Tom talk about his background in BMX reminds me of my early days, such a life changing era having found a BMX, which you can only appreciate in hindsight.

As of this year I have been riding for  22 years and I am still completely fully in love with everything to do with BMX. I am lucky to be just old enough to have lived my young BMX years pre-internet and social media, where if you were lucky to even get a glimpse of BMX through the occasional video or magazine at the bike shop you would cherish it and also thrash the hell out it, read the magazine a million times and rewind that VHS tape so much that you would wear it out!

The bikes, the styles, the faces it was all so new and rad to me. Part of the reason I still run such a big sprocket on my bike is because it reminds me of how bikes looked when I was young and BMX just seemed so fucking awesome. It makes me smile.

(The old store in Newtown, looking out to King Street from the counter. Also, Matt Holmes sighting)

IMG_9319

Fucking legend.

But as I mentioned, owning and running a BMX shop certainly isn’t a breeze. Having been around long enough, it’s apparent to me that the gig is a struggle, and quite often you have to make some undesirable sacrifices. This was effectively what happened with Tom, particularly being in Sydney, one of the worlds most expensive cities.

It was a tough pill to swallow but the bottom line was either move or close down for good.  It really just was time to move on. As much of a huge place in my heart that Newtown holds, it has not been an easy place to have a BMX shop in the past few years. In general a lot of shops have been doing it tough in  recent times, but for us there were so many factors that were just making it harder and harder to stay afloat. The area has also changed so so much over the course of the 10 years we have been there & with the current state of Sydney’s rental prices the local demographic has changed also. With everything being so damn expensive now, there are way less younger families with kids who want to ride bikes.

Nowadays the area is mostly populated by young professionals paying way too much money to live in that area. Our rent was just too high for how many bikes we were able to sell. With much of Sydney’s population boom happening out in the western & south western suburbs, Newtown is  just a real mission to get to for a lot of the younger generation of riders who live out west. This meant that instead of driving their kids into the city to go to the BMX shop, the parents would just  buy from larger online stores either interstate or overseas. I also guess the lack of easily accessible yet decent local parks has kept the BMX scene in the inner west area from staying as strong as it once was.

I knew things would be tough for a bike shop owner, but I mean how tough can it get? For Tom, particularly savage in recent times.

Things started to get rough financially about 18 months ago so I took on a second job in the evenings delivering food for deliveroo on my bike just to be able to afford to keep living the BMX shop dream and not starve. The job itself was fine, it was actually kind of fun but I was always so exhausted and unmotivated. I would close the store at 6pm and by 6.15pm I was out the door on my bike sprinting around the city ’til 10pm or so then back to running the shop the next morning. I never felt like riding my BMX  either. Then about 6 months ago I was car doored while working and ended up with broken ribs and a punctured/collapsed lung, so I gave that up after that haha.

Having been through that, I don’t know how I would have reacted. Again, that burning passion sears to the surface, bringing about an admirable drive.

A few months back we were exploring the idea of closing down the shop completely as we realistically were not going to last much longer in that location with the way things were going plus our lease was set to expire on the 31st of Dec. Then I found this new building online out here in C town and everything seemed like it could work. We are about 150m from the skatepark with probably the biggest and strongest BMX scene in the state. That along with the building being a hell of a lot cheaper than what we had in Newtown meant that if Hell On Wheels was going to work anywhere then it had to be here.

I was also definitely inspired by Rhys & Tyson making the move from their old space to Belconnen and giving Backbone a killer boost. Seeing that got me real stoked for sure.

So having gone through all the bullshit, the time was ripe to start fresh, with a bigger space and an even greater flame for the scene. The new space is much larger than the Newtown spot, which as you would know from being there was pretty darn small. Guess this gives a lot more freedom in expanding and doing different shit.

First thing is we intend of building a decent sized ramp in the space next to the retail side of the building which will rule! There is also a huge mezzanine above the shop floor which looks down on the spot where the ramp will be where I intend to create a cool sort of BMX museum/bar/hang out space. I am hoping to get a pool table up there one day too. I would love to do semi regular night jam/party thing to keep everyone stoked on BMX . Another thing I have always wanted to do but never really had the space or time is running little workshops for the kids, teaching them how to do basic maintenance to their bikes and in turn keeping them psyched.

Our car park and rear lane are also quite spacious and relatively quiet so I hope to host some of the swap meet/show ‘n’ shine events with all the old and mid school collector type dudes as well.

(Some cheeky shots of the new C-Town space)

HOWnew HOWnew2 HOWnew3

Campbelltown just got a hell of a boost! Reading Tom’s words makes me so proud to be associated with BMX. It also gets me wondering how it works, I mean surely you gotta get burnt out at some point being so invested. Doesn’t seem that way though.

I feel fortunate that I get to spend my day around BMX non-stop because I feel that is a big part of what has kept me psyched.  Maybe if I had just continued working a normal job, life would have eventually got in the way just enough to slowly extinguish that awesome flame of BMX. We have all got good friends who just eventually slip away from riding over the years and I am so excited that that has not happened to me.

BMX is just so rad in every way!

For all you mother fuckers down Sydney, especially Campbelltown, I sincerely hope that you support Tom and Hell On Wheels. This should help you understand why it’s absolutely crucial to support local. Help a brother out, Tom certainly does.

comments powered by Disqus