Daniel Dhers Visits India

Daniel Dhers is arguably the most traveled rider in all of BMX and he just checked another big one off his list - India. Daniel recently spent time in India riding demos for Red Bull, coaching some of the local riders, and taking in the culture. We caught up with Daniel to see how it all went down - 

Photo : Vaqaas Mansuri | Focus Sports | RedBull

I feel like you’ve been everywhere in the world. Why are you just now getting to India?

Not sure why it took so long. I've been wanting to go for a few years now, but I guess the planets didn’t align. I was either too busy with my travels to take a holiday there or the events I had discussed riding there would fall through. I'm glad it worked out this time!

How long were you there for?

About ten days.

Was this trip your idea?

It was Red Bull’s. I was originally going to do a demo and judge a contest, so they decided to add in a few more things for the scene like more demos and a clinic with the local riders.

Photo : Vaqaas Mansuri | Focus Sports | RedBull

What were your expectations of India and their BMX scene before arriving?

I had no idea what to expect. At that point, I had never seen much BMX riding in India that wasn't  flatland.

What exactly was the game plan while you were there?

Just the Red Bull demos and the riders clinic. Nothing too crazy.

Where did you first fly into?

Delhi.

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After day one, what did you think of India?

My first day was a bit crazy. My flight got delayed and I landed in Delhi at midnight. I had to take another flight the next morning to Guwahati. One thing that weirded me out was the security check point just to enter the hotel. Also, you could somewhat see fog inside the airport terminal near the entrance. But, turns out it wasn’t fog - it was pollution.

Tell us about the ramps you were riding…

We went back-and-forth on what to do and decided to have a mini ramp created for the demos. It’s just quick and more compact. I sent some measurements so they could get started. Red Bull India was going to fly John Saxton - one of the main ramp builders I use in the US - halfway thought their build so he could supervise, but his visa got denied. Without any time to apply for a second one, I just hoped for the best. Luckily, the ramp was actually pretty good. There were a couple small details I would have changed, but it was actually good to ride, despite being the first BMX ramp the crew had ever built. For the last demo and the clinic, the ramps were built by the event organizer of the contest I was coming to judge. The transitions were decent, but the entrances of the ramps were non-existent. I asked them to fix them and they did. It was crazy to see how they built the ramps. I guess wood is hard to come by in India, so it just seemed like a lot of random pieces put together.

 

Did you get to ride with any of the locals? How were they?

I did on the last day during the clinic. They were really cool and excited to ride. You can see the challenges they go through, like having no ramps to ride, difficulty getting parts, and no support from private or public entities. It’s tough for them to grow as riders and sport. 

They could do some street moves, but had pretty much no ramp knowledge. I taught them how to drop in, turn on the quarter pipes, and a couple small tricks.

So they have literally no skateparks to ride?

Not in the part of the country where I was. I guess there’s some near Mumbai and on India's west coast, but the country is so big that no one really travels to ride other places.

How did you travel from city-to-city?

By plane. I've never in my life have been through so much hassle to travel. You had like nine different passport check points - some five feet away from each other - at every airport. There were about four bag check points, too.

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I know you’re a picky eater. What was the food like?

Food was good, for the most part. I tried some stuff that I really liked. I just had to be careful because everything there is insanely spicy, so I had to ask them to not put any on my food and I could still taste some regardless.

The crowds at your demos looked surprisingly big. Did they know who you were or were they just excited for the spectacle?

I think the Red Bull team did a good job promoting the events. The people were excited to see something new, since none of them had ever really seen BMX in person. There were signs all over the place with my name and my results, so by the time people came, they had an idea of who I was.

How would you rate the experience?

I think it’s hard to put a number on it, but it was certainly crazy and humbling. 

Photo : Vaqaas Mansuri | Focus Sports | RedBull

What were the best parts?

The food, the service - for the most part, getting to show BMX to an unfamiliar crowd, and sharing riding time with the locals!

What was the worst part?

The travel was insane. The driving was ten times more insane than I thought. They will honk every twenty seconds at absolutely nothing. You also see an insane amount of check points and military in the streets, which is just odd to see. The one thing I was really bummed about was the amount of trash I saw everywhere I went.

Is existing in India more difficult than existing in China?

Yes and no. Google and Western apps aren’t blocked, so you can check Instagram and pay with credit cards pretty much everywhere you go - which you can't do in China. But, it seems like a lot of things are very inconvenient to do, like traveling inside of India. It’s a hassle to go in all hotels because they have security check points. There are check points every few meters on the roads - driving is insane. There just seems to be a lot of stressful situations and not much common sense.

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Do you have any desire to go back?

I would probably go back to see the Taj Mahal or just to stay in one big city like Delhi or Mumbai. I went to a lot of small places and they probably have a different feel.

What's the next country you plan to cross off your list?

I'm going to Dominican Republic for vacations in a few weeks!

What’s next on your travel schedule?

It’s a bit wild. I just got back from Madrid. I'm going to Miami, Venezuela, Argentina, Domincan Republic, Japan, and Estonia all in the next couple of months, with just a week here and there at home.

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