When it comes to the best action sports athletes in the world, the part you get to see as the audience is the fun stuff — huge tricks, world travel, and competition medals. But achieving those things takes a ton of work, dedication, and self-discipline. It also takes an amount of focus that mortal humans often aren’t capable of. But Nitro BMX star Todd Meyn is a prime of example of all those attributes coming together and leading to greatness.
We tracked down Todd between tours at his home base in Holly Springs, North Carolina, where he spends most of his time practicing and keeping fit to ensure he’s always riding at his best. That training pays off. Todd has become one of Nitro’s BMX standouts, amassing an impressive array of tricks, of which his favorites are the double frontflip no-hander and the corked 720 no-hander. As usual, right off the bat: Let’s talk about those tricks.
First, Todd walks us through that double frontflip. “As I go up the ramp, funny enough, you wouldn’t believe, but I actually pull back, and as I get to the top of the ramp, as I’m pulling back I hit the back brake and lean forward, which kind of catapults you forward and starts spinning you around,” he says. “And then I put the handlebars into my lap, and as I get to about three-quarters of the way through the first one, I take my hands off and I hold them off for about a second until I’m about upside-down on the second frontflip, and then I put my hands back on and tuck back in.” At that point, he’s able to peek at the lander to see where he’s at. “As you’re coming in, you open up your arms and look at the landing — and hopefully land.” Here’s video:
Todd says the double frontflip is a relatively new trick he’s just started doing in the last three years, since he started riding Nitro’s Giganta Ramp. “It’s such a big ramp, and for a double frontflip you need a big ramp.” He says he doesn’t yet have a 100 percent success rate with this trick — more like 80 percent. “Which I am very happy with, considering it’s taken me a long time to kind of figure out.”
The corked 720 is a trick he’s been doing a much longer time. “It’s kind of the same thing, because you’re spinning around twice, but what I do is instead of spinning on a normal axis — instead of just spinning straight to the left — I drop my left shoulder and lean back, and that sends me into kind of a weird flip-spin,” he says. “So, same deal: As I take off and drop my left shoulder, I’m in a spin and I put the handlebars into my lap, I take my hands off, I look at where I am, and how high up I am, and how much time I have left. As I’m coming back around on the final 360, I put my hands back on and spot the landing and roll away.”
Him being very happy with that 80 percent success rate on the double front might sound weird to the uninitiated, but considering how difficult the trick is, that success rate is one of the things that shows Todd’s immense dedication to his craft. And he’s come a long way to be as good as he is. He was born in Perth, on the far-removed West Coast of Australia, and was drawn to street riding as a kid. “I used to skateboard, and I wasn’t very good at it,” he says. He started riding BMX and took to it quickly.
As he became more and more serious about riding, the size and isolation of Perth began to be a factor. “It’s a long way from everything, that’s for sure,” he says. “We don’t really have foam pits or resi ramps to ride and progress. That’s all either on the East Coast [of Australia] or in America.” So at age 15, he took a trip to the U.S., where he spent six weeks riding with the best at Woodward in Pennsylvania. After that, BMX legend and fellow Aussie Colin Mackay invited Todd to stay with him for a bit in Greenville, North Carolina, which had become a major hub for the sport.
Needless to say: Things went well. In his first professional competition after his U.S. trip, he got second place. Next came sponsors and real opportunity. In Australia you can finish high school after 10th grade, so Todd made the decision to pursue BMX as a career, and immediately committed fully. His experience in the U.S. confirmed what he already knew: If he wanted to continue to progress, Perth was not the place to be. “I had to move somewhere, so why not move to America, where everything’s bigger and better?” he says. “Just so many more opportunities.” Less than a year after his U.S. trip, he relocated to Greenville. He was 16.
Despite having to leave for his career, he still considers Perth his home stadium and his favorite place to perform with Nitro. “I will definitely end up in Perth one day. It definitely is my favorite city out of anywhere I’ve been,” he says. Before he joined up with Nitro, his plan was to take all of his BMX experience back to Perth and elevate the local game. One day, he will.
But how did he end up with Nitro? BMX triple backflip pioneer and Nitro Crew member James Foster recommended him — he and Todd met and became friends in Greenville. Nitro needed a BMX rider to fill in during an Australia tour about three years ago. “James said really good things about me, and I was lucky enough that I got the opportunity to go out and ride the show,” Todd says. He got the offer to stay on permanently. “It’s the dream of anyone who rides a bike or a skateboard or whatever crazy thing they’re doing. So of course I said yes.”
He made the transition from strict competition rider to performer easily. He says there are a lot of similarities but also some big differences. “For contests, you’re there with all your friends, but you’re riding and competing against each other. There’s stress and the whole mental game comes into it. But with Nitro, you’re just on top of the ramp, you’re riding in front of thousands of people, you’re doing stupid things, and you’re just there with your friends cheering each other on. No matter what happens, how you land, if you fall off, the crowd’s going to love it and you’re going to get up with a smile on your face. Depending that you don’t have a broken bone or something wrong with you,” he says, laughing. “Traveling the world with 20 of your best friends, going country to country, and riding your bike — it’s pretty much a dream.”
He’s stoked on being part of this crazy Circus: “At the end of the day, everyone’s got the same mind and everyone’s crazy and everyone just sends it — that’s why everyone gets along. Everyone’s there because everyone has the love for the sport that they do, and everyone, night after night, just sends it.”
Todd still enters competitions when he gets a chance, but lately the Nitro schedule has kept him out of competition for the longest time since he turned pro — just over a year. He’s fine with that, though. “I’d choose Nitro over anything any day,” he says. Still, he’s looking forward to one competition this year: The first-ever Nitro World Games in July 2016. “Travis Pastrana is obviously the king of action sports, and any contest that he’s putting on you know is going to be insane and blow people’s minds, so I’m very excited for that.”
“IT’S PRETTY MUCH A DREAM.”
All of this comes from pure focus, commitment, and dedication. Todd spends six hours every day riding and training at the gym. He’s big on CrossFit, and he focuses on workouts that affect his riding, not just bulking up. It has helped for sure, both mentally and physically, he says. “When you eat healthy and you work out all the time, you feel invincible. You feel like an athlete. … When you hit the ground and have crashes, your body can take it a lot better.” He focuses a lot on cardio because of Nitro, which is somewhat surprising, until he explains: “We’ve got to run up those stairs during the show, like, flat-out,” he says, referencing the only way to the top of Giganta. “There’s a fair few stairs there, so it tires you out. You don’t want to get to the top of the ramp, be tired, roll down, and then go to do your trick, because then you might mess up your trick.”
So his dedication to being in great shape gives him one less thing to worry about; he’s spent his career removing every obstacle he can between him and being the best rider he can be. It allows him to keep his eye on the thing that he’s been committed to since the moment he left Perth to pursue his dreams. “I’m not stressing about the trick because I’m tired — I’m thinking about the trick, and that’s all I’m thinking about,” he says.