Cycling City: Q&A with Nina Buitrago
Ten years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to come up with the name of a professional female cyclist, especially in the BMX realm. Slowly but surely, the last decade has seen a rise not only in numbers, but talent, recognition and enthusiasm.
One of the responsible parties is Nina Buitrago, called by some the most influencial female BMXer in the world. She’s sponsored by etnies and DK Bicycles, where her line of signature handlebars became the first official female-endorsed BMX product.
She’s edited and produced BMX zines, been featured in countless video parts and traveled the world for competitions and demos. After moving to Austin earlier this year, an unfortunate injury put her on the sidelines. But it did little to deter her passion for the sport, proven by her upcoming appearance in “Chick Flicks,” the first female-only BMX video.
Buitrago’s responses to our questions show that she couldn’t be more suited for the cycling profession. It’s not about being a feminist, pushing gender equality or taking on stereotypes. It’s about one simple fact:
Nina B. kicks ass.
Austin Post: You've been riding bikes for a decade, and have managed to stamp your name in the BMX history books, at least once they get written. Looking back at the start, did you think things would amount to what they have for you professionally?
Nina Buitrago: Not at all, it's been an awesome journey.
AP: What about the increasing popularity of BMX among females? Whether they're participating or spectating, did you expect the level of females in the sport to grow like it has since you started?
NB: I had a hard time believing the guys when I first started when I would ask if they knew of any other girls riding freestyle and the answer was always "Nah, maybe a few racer girls try it but nah, no girls." So I found this website that had just started called "Women of Freestyle" wofbmx.com Back then, in 2000, there were 5 or 6 girl rider profiles. Half of them were racers from California. Ha! I was still inspired by those few gals so I stuck with it, planned some jams, made some zines, competed with dudes. Fast forward 10+ years and larger contests on an international level are hosting girls classes with prize money and the level of riding keeps getting wild! Girls are doing flips, tail whips, 360s and taking tricks and developing style in all areas of riding (ramps, street, flatland and even dirt, aka trails).
AP: You recently moved to Austin. Where did you live prior, what brought you here, and are you enjoying it?
NB: I'm originally from Long Island, NY and have moved around a bunch for more BMX over the years to cities with great indoor parks like Cleveland, OH or good outdoor riding like Pittsburgh, PA. I've been escaping the cold winters to ride [in the] BMX mecca known as Austin over the years and this place seems to have it all covered year round. I managed to survive one of the hottest summers ever and I am still enjoying Austin! Friends from all over are already duking it out for space on my couch.
AP: Shortly after the move you suffered a broken jaw. How are you recovering? How have you managed without being able to hop on a bike?
NB: I am recovering well and super fast! BMXers must heal fast because I managed to only be wired shut for 5 weeks instead of projected 6-10! I broke it in three places overshooting a jump, an accident, it sometimes happens. :/ But I have been shopping for an affordable dentist and a full face helmet and should have cruising privileges in no time!
AP: Did you get to ride much in town before the accident? If so, where?
NB: Before my crash I rode my BMX everyday here in Austin in between traveling since I moved here in April. [I] can usually be found at house park, Ninth street trails, or cruising the streets and friends’ backyard ramps.
AP: What have you learned about the Austin cycling culture?
NB: The BMX scene is thriving and overall the cycling culture here is too and just keeps on growing! I love it there are new bike friendly spots and loads of people to ride with at anytime no matter what kind of cycling you are doing it seems.
AP: You're involved in "Chick Flick," the first all-female BMX video. How was that experience? What's it mean to you to be in a pretty important "first" like that?
NB: The Chick Flick BMX video (still in the works) is going to be awesome. Girls BMX has come really far to not have had a full length all girl video (vs. Web edit) out yet. I'm real happy to be a part of it and I think we are all embracing the learning curve of how tough it can be to film tricks when you're mostly out just having fun (No one ever wants to stop to grab the camera ha!). This video will be another first for girls BMX; [you] can follow our progress or sponsor our project atwww.chickflickbmx.com.
AP: The sense of community in the BMX world is huge. Talk about your network of friends and allies and how they've helped you and your career.
NB: The BMX network makes the world seem small! I've met new friends and some of my best through riding and now have friends all over the world. Since I first got into riding everyone really had my back and inspired me to keep doing what I love and help get some more girls into it along the way. I love that I can go almost anywhere in North America, Europe, China, and now even South America to ride and through friends in BMX I have a couch to crash on. What's even more is I don't have dental insurance and the Austin BMX scene really pulled together at Ninth street and had a huge fundraiser to help me with my medical bills! I feel SO lucky to be in a place and a scene where everyone supports each other and helps each other up when they are down.
AP: What would you say to kids trying to get into BMX? Any general advice for the younger generation?
NB: Wear a helmet! And hit me up for stickers if decking it out will actually get you stoked on wearing it! Support your local bike shop. BMX is a lot of fun you'll have to try it to see what I mean. :)
AP: What's a typical day-in-the-life of Nina Buitrago?
NB: Typically I wake up, eat, ride Housepark (concrete ramp park at Twelfth and Shoal Creek) before noon. Go eat again, swim if it's hot, eat, nap, ride again until I have to go into work. (as a bartender at Shakespeare's Pub on Sixth).
At the moment, breakfast smoothies, watch a BMX video, ride my roadbike around town to get my temporary cycling fix (until I’m cleared for BMX again) and researching dentist consultation prices and full face helmet deals. Ha!
AP: If that's typical, what's a perfect day?
NB: Sunny day, eat [and] ride with friends, swim, repeat. Then sleep!
AP: Favorite place to travel to?
NB: Any place with an ocean! I miss it so much!
AP: Favorite place to eat/drink in Austin?
NB: Man that is tough, before my crash Yellow Jacket Social Club was the jam!
AP: Any pets?
NB: I love other people's pets! I travel too much to have my own.
AP: Favorite band/artists?
NB: Last five artists played on my ipod would be Alice Cooper, Tia Carrera, Run DMC, Eyehategod, Black Sabbath.
AP: Heroes, in and out of the cycling world?
NB: My parents, Darryl Nau, Afro Pat, Vic Ayala, John Povah. Girls who get out and do something are amazing; don't ever throw in the towel! Find your passion!
AP: If you weren't riding bikes, what would yo be doing?
NB: Probably be stuck in the daily grind somewhere in a cubicle in NYC.
AP: Anything else you'd like to add?
NB: Life is short, just keep in mind that it IS possible to follow your dreams, do what you love and be happy! Thank you to my family, [the] Austin BMX scene, Long Island/NY, Cleveland and Pittsburgh crews too, etnies, DK Bicycles, Bern Helmets, Athlete Recovery Fund, Empire BMX and all of my BMX homies everywhere that really helped me out along the way!
Photos courtesy etnies.com, yeahzine.com, dkbicycles.com, and chickflickbmx.com.