Story and photos by Alan Davis
Nike has a long history of making mountain bike footwear—remember Nike Pooh Bahs?—and now they are starting to make a big impact with their 6.0 development squad and its primary 26-incher Brandon Semenuk. If you’ve been paying any attention to slopestyle this summer you already know his name, with a 3rd place at Crankworx and 2nd place at the Bearclaw Invitational, Brandon appears to be on the cusp of a successful slopestyle career at the tender young age of 16. So as soon as Nike invited me to tour their Beaverton, Oregon campus and hang out with the 6.0 squad, including Brandon, I was ready with packed bags.
The Nike campus is HUGE—approximately 7,000 people are employed at the facility that covers over 178 acres with 16 buildings, each of which are named after a famous Nike athlete including Steve Prefontaine, John McEnroe, Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm, Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. Walking through the halls of these buildings is a treat for any sports fanatic as every wall is covered with memorabilia from the greatest athletic achievements of the last 100 years.
Not only does the campus house Nike’s design and development departments for their footwear, it also features a sprawling gym including numerous athletic fields, an indoor Olympic-sized pool, full complement of freeweight and aerobic centers, putting greens, running track, tennis courts and spin room. If Bo can can do it, you’ll find it here. The soccer field shown here has man-made grass sitting on a cushioning layer of over 40,000 ground up and recycled Nike shoe soles.
In addition to athletic facilities you’ll also find several full-service restaurants, stores, clubhouses, even a hair salon, so employees rarely ever have to leave—a campus really is an accurate description to the Nike facility as it reminded me a lot of a large University.
The Lance Armstrong building is a veritable hallowed ground for any road cycling enthusiast. Even though I primarily ride in the dirt I keeps tabs on the Tour as I always have since the days of Greg LeMond. Housed in these walls is a treasure trove of Lance memorabilia including yellow jerseys, trophies, medals, magazines, bikes, helmets, shoes and everything else you can imagine to honor the best Tour racer in history.
The Lance building isn’t dedicated solely to cycling however, in addition to the spinning room you’ll also find an Olympic pool and climbing wall with top-roped and bouldering routes.
Nike also took us on a tour of the 6.0 and SB design offices plus they showed us how they build custom, one-off and prototype shoes in their on-site production facility. They put a lot of effort into development, including using high-speed cameras to analyze how athletes and their shoes interact with their environments and environmental chambers where they can make an athlete run on a treadmill in desert heat or an arctic freeze to evaluate clothing performance.
The Nike 6.0 program is a junior development program for action sports including moto, surf, skate, snow, wake and biking so you can imagine that 34 kids between the ages of 13 and 20 who spend the majority of their lives pushing the envelope can be a handful. All I can say is I’m soooo glad I was not responsible for them… After our tour the kids put on a demo for the entire Nike facility complete with a half pipe, box jump, spine and a few quarters. There’s a great big lake in the center of the campus so inevitably, one of the ramp was turned lakeward and some lake jumping ensued…
All in all the Nike facility is quite impressive, the company as a whole has had a tremendous impact on the last fifty years of the sporting world and with programs such as the fledgling 6.0 development team cranking up the heat there’s no doubt that there is an exciting future ahead for Nike in both traditional and extreme sports arenas.
For more info on Nike 6.0 checkout nike6.com