The End of the Beginning: Remembering Scot Breithaupt

Things go tragically full circle for BMX's founding father

Scot Breithaupt made a life of BMX; he was there at the birth of of the sport and never lost his love for it. Unfortunately, the pioneer, entrepreneur and racer had his fair share of demons to battle as well.

Scot Breithaupt made a life of BMX; he was there at the birth of of the sport and never lost his love for it. Unfortunately, the pioneer, entrepreneur and racer had his fair share of demons to battle as well.

Few people can claim they changed the world in even a modest way. Scot Breithaupt, however, made his mark and he did so at an age that would have gotten him barred from walking into a PG-rated movie.

Breithaupt is often credited with fathering the sport of BMX. He was an athlete and entrepreneurial renaissance man. The man also had a real impact on what would become mountain biking. Unfortunately, Breithaupt was also a troubled soul. The world was reminded of this recently when newswires began reporting that authorities in Indio, California had discovered his remains in a homeless camp on the edge of the hardscrabble, desert town.

A NEW WAY TO RIDE
The story begins in the early `70s, in a vacant lot on the corner of 7th Street and Bellflower Boulevard in Long Beach, California. The patch of hardpack dirt and scrub brush had always attracted its share of homeless men. Locals called the place "Bum Field". The lot, however, also attracted Scot Breithaupt, who'd race his motocross bike around Bum Field's berms and whoops. Breithaupt, in turn, was a magnet for packs of young kids on Schwinn Stingrays who'd attempt to mimic his motocross jumps and wheelies. The kids gave Breithaupt an idea.

In November of 1970, Breithaupt pulled some motocross trophies out of his closet, separated the groms into different classes and pitted them against one another in Lilliputian versions of motocross races. It was a completely novel notion. These were bikes designed to be pedaled on paper routes or to and from school–not raced off road. Soon, hundreds of kids were flocking to Bum's Field every Saturday to race. Scot Breithaupt, at the age of 13, had created BMX (or "Bicycle Motocross") racing. Ever the entrepreneur, the teen race promoter wrangled a deal to lease Bum Field for a buck a year. In a nod to his stomping grounds, Breithaupt called his organization B.U.M.S., short for Bicycle United Motocross Society.

The Southern California BMX scene that Breithaupt helped kick start would eventually nurture many of mountain biking’s greatest racers. Tinker Juarez, Bryan Lopes, Leigh Donovan, Kathy Sessler, Dave Cullinan, Toby Henderson, Pistol Pete Loncarevich, Tara Llanes….I’m leaving out dozens of names here, but they all got their start racing on 20-inch wheels and they dominated competitive mountain biking for decades. Breithaupt isn’t the first name you’d probable connect with mountain biking, but he had an impact on the sport all the same. If you haven’t seen the movie, Joe Kid on a Stingray, check out the teaser below. Joe Kid is basically the Dogtown and Z Boys of the BMX world and, not surprisingly, Breithaupt plays a big role in it.

FULL CIRCLE
Breithaupt, himself, went on to become a star of BMX racing, and followed that phase of his career with stints as a race promoter, race course designer, magazine columnist, magazine founder and bike-company owner. Sadly, Breithaupt also wrestled for years with an addiction crack cocaine. He spent time in the penal system. Lost control of his company, SE Racing. He'd clean up. He'd relapse. Clean up. Relapse. As his brother Jeffrey Breithaupt recently told the Los Angeles Times, "He [Scot] was a remarkable guy. Drugs were his torment."

While the coroner's office in Riverside County has yet to officially declare a cause of death, drug use seems likely. One thing is certain, on the fourth of July, things came tragically full circle when Breithaupt, age 57, was found dead in a vacant lot, much like the one where he once pioneered a new way of riding a bike.