Sooner or later, something comes down the road of life that demands our time more than our bikes do—typically work or family. From my own personal experience, being a husband and father who works a time consuming job, “finding time” doesn’t work, you need to make time. For Taylor Thompson, getting his freestyle fix outweighed his need for a good night sleep and the night sessions were born.
Taylor Thompson is the man. That dude is one of the most diehard BMX people I have ever met. There is nothing that matters more to him outside of family than bikes. When he lived out here [in California] he’d ride on his lunch breaks at work, then hit us up to ride a local plaza 11 at night or so after he put his kid to bed. On Fridays he often would start riding at 10pm and wouldn’t be loading up the car to go home until the sun was out. He absolutely kills it on a bike and makes so many sacrifices to be able to ride as much as possible. It’s unbelievable to see and impossible to keep up with. —Alex Auerbach
When and why did you start riding at night?
I’ve always been a fairly avid night rider. My friends and I as early teenagers would stay at each other’s houses and ride past curfew in Sheboygan… I think it was 11:00pm? It really wasn’t until my son was born in 2012 that I developed the weekly routine of night riding. I started riding at night on a weekly basis simply due to the realization that I now have a family and we both work full-time jobs, so the evening after work is our time to spend together and eat dinner. Now it seems even more so being that Tannen is seven years old and participating in sports and after school activities. It’s not until after Tan and Ash go to bed that I transform the night into a place to ride freely, without a time limit, per say. More and more of my friends have started to get into it over the years making night riding so much more awesome.
Does your riding at night impact your family at all?
BMX riding definitely can impact my family. Late night riding has minimized the impact, but I also need to have somewhat of a riding schedule to make sure riding doesn’t impact our daily life and events throughout the week. It took learning the hard way for me to realize I needed to schedule my bike riding. Whether you are a dad or not, your significant other’s time matters, and it takes a proper balance to make a relationship work smoothly and fairly. Other things like trips & jams can have a lot of impact on us. Leaving my family for two weeks isn’t really an option. Madera trips can be 2-4 weeks long, and most of the team stays that entire time. I need to pick and choose to only stay a portion of each trip to where the time away doesn’t impact my family or my job. It takes a lot of scheduling and figuring out to successfully cover child care, transportation, and available work vacation to take a BMX trip when you are a father and full-time worker. I think a lot of dads who are full-time workers can relate to this. This is why night riding is so awesome.
Did it start out just you riding alone or did you have other people to ride with?
It’s always been on and off. I’m not opposed to going out by myself at 10 at night to ride a fun spot or go spot hunting, but having other riders to cruise with at night is much better and safer. When I moved to CA in 2015 the late-night rides became an every Friday thing, and we always had a group of riders—sometimes two of us, sometimes 15.
Was there ever a point when most of your sessions were at night? And did ever you get to the point where you prefer it?
While living in California, most of my sessions during the week were at night due to mine and Ashley’s work schedules. Sundays would be the only day time session I’d get in. At first night riding felt like a tough sacrifice, but after realizing the benefits of it, I actually preferred it.
What have you found to be some advantages to riding at night?
To name a few advantages: Less people are out after midnight in general, second and third shift security guards seem be more lenient and not patrolling as much, streets are less congested with traffic so you can cruise around faster, most businesses are closed, and the cops have bigger and better fish to fry at night than some bike riders jumping around [laughs].
At first it was hard to focus—vision-wise—while trying to ride spots at night. When we first started, we didn’t use lights, as a matter of fact, we used a flashlight to light up spots for our first “light”. Next we had a plug in light and would haul 75 feet of extension cords around hoping the spot we found would have outlets—it was definitely hit and miss. I always heard first time night riders say they had trouble getting their eyes to set in. After a while it felt like we all had better vision at night. We eventually bought some cordless rechargeable lights and that was more than enough to light up any spot we wanted. You can go to Home Depot or any hardware store, really, and get decent rechargeable lights for $50. It’s worth the money if you want to successfully ride everything at night.
What was your latest night?
There were multiple 11:00 pm to 7:00 am Friday night to Saturday morning sessions. We would see the sunrise all the time!
How do you cope the following day, keeping in mind lack of sleep, soreness, and any possible injuries?
Coping with the lack of sleep when sessions went past 5am was tough. There were a number of times I just jumped in the pool for a swim and went on with the day having no sleep. Soreness was in effect all the time [laughs]. The crew of riders we had really went in every Friday for years straight. A lot of crashing and miles upon miles pedaled. There were only a handful of major injuries during late night rides, mostly bumps, bruises, and broken bikes. The energy was really organic on late night rides, we always found spots and tricks to push each other on.
Tell us about the Late Night Boys and the night rides…
The late night cruises were a weekly thing from the end of 2015 to early 2018. Every Friday night a group of us would meet up 10:30/11:00pm and ride all night. We had a few staple meet up spots, but we almost always explored a new city or neighborhood every time we got together. There were times that all of us would drive two hours from the Valley and meet up in Riverside. We really branched out on late night cruises. The Late Night Boys are anyone who consistently showed up on Friday night cruises. You know who you are! There was a solid group of ten of us for years and I hope to get together with them in the near future!
The freaks come out at night, do you have any good stories or memorable encounters?
Boy oh, boy… did we encounter some strange individuals. We had guns pointed at us, prostitutes expose themselves while following us around, security guards who were hyped and held the light for us, questionable police stops and searches, and sketchy guys try to jump us for our bikes. One of my most memorable encounters was riding a spot in some random part of LA with Brock Ellis at about 2am and a cop pulls us over while we are pedaling and says erratically “What are you doing riding bikes out here? We just had a murder here.” While looking at us like we were crazy. We had been pedaling around there for hours. Needless to say, we got the hell outta there.
The night rides began when you lived LA. Have you been continuing them now that you’re living in Wisconsin?
There have been a few all night rides since moving back to Wisconsin in May 2018, but as far as a weekly late night cruise, it doesn’t happen anymore. With the distance between cities here and the winters, late night riding has become more difficult to stay consistent with. It’s easy to overlook, but when you live somewhere like Southern California, you have much easier access to so much more stuff to ride. It goes both ways, though, if you put in the work, there are ways to ride and find new spots wherever you are. Midwest weather is finally getting better, so I am really gonna make an effort to organize some late night sessions/jams this summer.
I’ve seen footage of you and Brian Kachinsky riding at night and in the freezing cold. LA’s temperate climate is obviously much more conducive for riding at night, how has the Midwest adjustment been?Yeah! Actually, a group of us managed to go out and hit street several times throughout this past winter. We call it “winter bikers anonymous.” The cold is mentally and physically tough on you, though, forcing you to ride indoors quite a bit when all you want to do is explore the streets. Luckily, we have the Four Seasons park in Milwaukee and there is a really good scene there! There were a handful of below zero sessions. It definitely creates a different feel to your environment when you are layered up with gloves and thermals on and trying to send stuff. Kachinsky is a warrior, I witnessed Brian nollie to manual down a handrail in the dark in zero degree weather—insane. I have a lot of respect for Brian, he’s fully committed to his vision on his bike and never stops pushing himself, that attitude really inspires me to keep my pegs to the grindstone [laughs]. For real, though, shout-out to all the homies I’ve had the pleasure of late night riding with, all the Midwest homies, much love, and most of all my parents, Ash and Tan. Love you guys!
Taylor and the Late Night Boys doing their thing when Taylor was living in LA still…