From Sponsored to Employed: Leigh Ramsdell
Leigh Ramsdell has been a fixture in the BMX world longer than many of you have been alive. From sponsored rider to company employee - and everything in between - Leigh has done it all and continues adapting and moving forward with the BMX world. We caught up with Leigh to learn about making the transition from pro rider to working for Mongoose and to pick up a few life-lessons.
What years were you an active pro rider?
I was an active pro rider from the early 90s to early 2000s. Being a pro BMXer is such a grey area that you really can’t pin point your “career.” But, that was the time I was entering the most contests and producing video parts.
My first sponsor was 2bHomecooked, a clothing company started by Hal Brindley and Steve Buddendeck. 2b became PLAY Clothing, which was run by Hal. My first bike sponsor was Wilkerson Airlines. Then it would be DK, Eastern, Vans, and Duffs. Wait! JNCO. Yup, JNCO. Ha! Even though I technically work for Mongoose, I also treat them like I am a sponsored athlete knowing that I have to promote the brand through our team riders, myself, and any vital avenue that helps spread the word of the ‘Goose!
Off the top of your head, what were a few of your “career highlights?”
Getting the call from Ron Wilkerson, who was by far my favorite pro, to ride for his bike company. Also, being in the Dave Mirra video games is something that I am absolutely honored to be a part of. I have to say that hosting the NORA Cup was right up there, too! I stressed over it from the moment Keith Mulligan asked me to do it and I wanted make sure it was a great show. My biggest highlight was being on Props Road Fools. It was so damn fun and really sparked my career. Well worth getting my face burned by Mike Tag!
What prompted your initial transition from rider to businessman?
I don’t really think any one thing prompted me to work in the industry. It was a natural transition. I love BMX and I love the industry! It doesn’t matter if I am riding a bike, editing a video, or booking a flight for Greg Illingworth. I love it all. I really just wanted to stay in something I love, you know? Bikes are my life in every aspect.
What was your first position after - or during - being a pro?
It was such a blurred line of being a pro and working in the industry. I stopped competing in events and started judging contests more. At the same time, with my last bike sponsor, I was really involved in creating ads and helping with decisions for new team riders, so it was a pretty natural progression. I always had my hand in some aspect of the industry from working for PLAY, to starting my own clothing company.
Was it a difficult transition?
Yes and no. It just kind of happened. As I was spending more time in the office and less time on my bike, I started to get pretty cranky because it was hurting my progression. Once I decided to just ride my bike for no other reason than the feel of it, the transition was much easier. But, it can be a hard struggle to make the transition from being a pro and traveling the world to working behind a desk. Just make sure what you do is something you love.
How would you compare a job in the BMX world to a job in the “real world?”
Easy. You do something you love for much, much, much less pay than a job in the “real world.”
What is your current job?
I am the social media and team manager for Mongoose.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities at Mongoose?
It depends on the day. Today, I talked to Steve Wilcox - Mongoose marketing manager - and also answered some questions for Vital BMX. Yesterday, I planned a team trip to Costa Rica and talked to Steve Wilcox. Tomorrow, I am answering some Facebook questions, talking to Steve Wilcox, and figuring out when we are releasing a Paul Ryan video.
You were thrown into managing an already-existing team. How was that?
It was like I was a step-dad meeting the new kids for the first time. Haha! Or, should I say LOL? Anyway, I thought it was awesome. I knew most of them already and quickly became friends with the other guys. It now feels like we’ve been all working together forever. It’s awesome.
How often do you get to ride?
Not as much as I want to. I try to get out to local parks and DDASC when I can. When my ramp is going, I get out there a little every day just to flow around.
What’s the best part about your gig at Mongoose?
That I am now the guy from RAD that Duke Best yelled “It’s your job to know,” at. Haha! But seriously, I am with a brand that cares about BMX and does some really awesome things - like the Mongoose Jam - while sponsoring some of the best guys in BMX. Before I was at Mongoose, I helped run the first Mongoose Jam and, after that week, I remember thinking how great it would be to work for them. Now I am. Boom!
What advice would you give to a pro rider who is eying their “next step?”
Honestly, you have to have your next step already figured out. Do that first! You won’t be a pro forever. Well, except for DMC, of course. So, just figure out if you want to be in the industry and, if you do, then start doing things to prep your career before you are done being a pro. Help the TM. Talk to the graphics guy or one of the product people. See what is going on behind the scenes. If you are burned out in BMX, just make sure you have some kind of back up plan!
Are there any lessons you can pass on that you learned the hard way?
Save your damn money! Seriously. You can spend all your money way too easily on toys and not set yourself up for the future. I love hearing about the riders that invested when they were young and now they don’t really have to worry about the “next step.” There are even guys out there - like Chad Kagy - who know the industry and are financial advisors that can help secure your future.