While your average 17 year-old was chasing a driver’s license, Travis Hughes had already turned Pro for Odyssey and Kink. Fast forward a couple of years and he then lands a spot on the Vans team, as well. Despite a list of dream sponsors and being teammates with a handful of absolute BMX legends, it’s awesome to see how Travis still carries himself with such an unassuming demeanor. Even when sending some of the most tremendous rail moves in recent history, it’s always just “chill.” In fact, Travis is so damn chill, that it can be hard to get words out the man at times, but we did manage to get him to talk a little about the whirlwind the last four years of his BMX life have been—from Temecula, to the Common Crew, to a world traveling professional rider…
Interview /photos: Jeff Zielinski (unless noted)
You’re from Temecula, but you’ve been living in Fountain Valley for the last couple of years. Care to elaborate on your living situation?
Yeah, I’ve lived in Fountain Valley with my grandparents for almost six years now. It made more sense to be in the OC area where things are happening and I could be closer to Jacob and the common boys while I finished out the rest of my high school years doing independent study.
What was it like growing up in Temecula riding BMX?
It was dope, I grew up riding with some friends I met in school and we would always go to these dirt jumps we had in town and I guess that’s where it all started. Ended up meeting Justin Spriet at Da Compound in Lake Perris and we started riding together. Lots of skate park and trail missions with Justin and his dad Todd when we were younger. Shout out Todd Spriet for being the GOAT. There were a lot of older dudes that rode in Temecula that I looked up to coming up like Mikey Babbel, Bryan Babbel Garret Nilsson, and those dudes.
It’s pretty sick how you and Jacob Cable are cousins. Did you guys start riding together?
[Laughs] No, I had no idea Jacob was my cousin until my mom told me when I was like 12. She goes, “You know you have a cousin that rides as well in Huntington Beach?” I was confused as to why she never told me earlier, but hey we’re here now and Jacob is more of a brother to me than anything now.
Style wise, you guys went down slightly different roads, Jacob going more tech and you taking the gnarly route. Were you guys intentionally trying to ride differently from one another, or did it just work out that way?
I don’t know how that worked out, but it wasn’t planned. I used to ride more tech stuff but as I’ve gotten older I seem to like scaring myself a lot more and the satisfaction of rolling away from a handrail or a drop is one of the best feelings I get from riding my bike. I’m also a big dude so if I’m riding a flat ledge or a manual pad, it’s just gonna look weird to me on camera so I try to shy away from that. I don’t have the patience anymore to try for a clip for three hours that I’ll probably land sketchy.
If we’re talking about your roots, there needs to be a mention of the Common Crew. How involved were you with that squad growing up?
When I moved out to Fountain Valley freshman year of high school is when I was basically initiated into the Common Crew. I came in a little late so there was never a plan for me to have a part in the legendary Monster Mash DVD, but we would all ride together and film almost every day. Francis and I would work on separate projects together while he was filming for the DVD. I was heavily involved for the last couple years of the Common Crew. Got to give Francis and the boys a big shout out for the best times of my youth!
You became a pro BMX rider before you were even a legal adult. At the time you probably didn’t even see that coming, did you?
No not at all, I was so hyped! Sauce and I were just planning on putting out an Odyssey video. I guess Sauce sent it to Walter [Pieringer] and kind of threw it out there that it should be a “pro part” and somehow it worked. I knew nothing about it until the video came out and said welcome to the pro team. I was juiced! It was like a dream come true type thing.
How did it affect your outlook on riding—did you feel pressure, more motivation?
I was so naive that I never really had an outlook on riding at the time, I just wanted to ride/travel and film with my friends because it was fun, so the bump to pro was just a cherry on top.
You’re referred to as “the future of BMX” on both the Vans and Kink sites. That’s a heavy compliment coming from two of the most reputable brands in BMX. How does that make you feel?
See… now that makes me feel a bit of pressure.
Speaking about Vans, growing up in Southern California, it’s gotta feel crazy to be on the Vans team…
Yeah, it’s unreal, man. I would have never thought I’d be representing Vans. It’s an honor to be a part of the family. I will say growing up in SoCal helped out a lot for riding bikes.
Vans Shimmer was a cool project and the final product was great. What’s it like working with Calvin Kosovich behind the lens—a fellow Kink and Vans rider?
Thanks man that means a lot coming from you! Working with Calvin behind the lens is easy because he can make anything look good and it’s so chill going out with him. That project was fun because he said come up to LA whenever you’re free and whatever you can get will make it in the video. It wasn’t too stressful because Calvin knows how it goes filming for a project and doesn’t expect me to get a clip every time we go out. Definitely owe him some beers for getting me in there.
You ended up breaking your foot filming for Shimmer. Was that your first injury to really take you off your bike for a while?
Yeah that sucked. I didn’t even break my foot, I rolled my ankle severely and was out for two and a half months. I gained some pounds just sitting around the house during that time because I couldn’t move. It’s still not the same as it was and every once in a while it’ll act up, but I’m glad I wasn’t out for a super long period of time—knock on wood.
Your Odyssey It’s Chill video took three years to film—which has gotta be some sort of a record for a web video. Obviously, the level of riding speaks for itself, but what were some reasons for it taking so long?
[Laughs] It didn’t necessarily take three years to film. I had footage with Francis that he sold to Odyssey that wasn’t long enough for a web video. It sat there for a while before we figured out what to do with it. Started saving clips with Walter on trip videos and he came out here to film a few times because I had no one else to film with specifically for Odyssey. When Zach [Krejmas] got hired at Full Factory to be the in house filmer in SoCal, it slowly started coming together. It was just a span of three years and three filmers slowly working on it/getting rid of old clips, but I’m happy with how it turned out.
When it comes to filming, Travis has no chill. Bangs for Odyssey.
Zach Krejmas said that you only do bangers now. What do you have to say about that?
I mean, he’s being generous.
What is the secret to locking in super long smith grinds on rails?
Practice, practice, practice. You gotta lean into ’em and trust your back tire won’t fall off. They’re one of the best feeling tricks to me.
Kink has got to be the most well-traveled brand in BMX. Where did you film for Champagne?
Man, it feels like we went everywhere. All over Germany, Australia, SoCal, Kansas City, Portland, Tulsa, Dallas, Austin, Raleigh. Probably missing some, but there wasn’t a shortage of spots that’s for sure. Can’t wait to get back on the road with THE dudes.
As far as video parts go, where would you rate your Champagne section?
I’m pretty stoked on it, wish I had more time to film, but I got set back a few months due to the ankle injury while filming for Shimmer, but that’s how she goes.
The last three clips of your section are literal handrail madness. The bar-to-feeble-to-hard into the street, the straight over rail ride, and the gap bar over to hard. Let’s start with the bar-feeble-hard…
Oh man talking about clips is cringe, but I’ll give ’er a go… Bar-feeble-hard was something I’ve wanted to do for a minute and that rail seemed perfect for it. Did about 40 bar pegs before I got into a feeble and I may have messed up the hard on the first one, but the next bar feeble I gave ’er the good ’ol yank and it worked out. Took so much longer than I wanted it to.
The straight over rail ride was just terrifying, you were there. It’s hard to find down rails in the streets for that trick and this one was definitely the biggest one I’d ever done. Gave her one go and that’s all she needed, thankfully. Slipping a tire is not fun so I’m stoked it only took one go.
Bar over pegs hard was in KC and we just stumbled across the rail while driving around and right when I looked at it I knew I had to at least try it. This one was a pain for me because I over peghed it like 200 times and every time I threw the bar I didn’t know where I was landing. Two and a half hours into it I was ready to give up, but I put some headphones in and got juiced. Maybe twenty minutes later I ended up rolling away with a smile on my face and couldn’t be more happy with that clip.
Have anything new in the works? Vid projects, signature parts?
Yes sir. I have a signature frame for Kink coming out soon in April I believe, don’t hold me to that… details soon. I’ve got signature grips for Odyssey coming out in March with a promo to go with it. Been riding my sample frame and grips for some time now and let me tell yeah, shit slaps.
We got a couple questions from the Kink dudes too:
Most memorable Kink Trip so far? —Jay Roe
Germany, by far. Spent two weeks going through Frankfurt, Cologne, and Berlin. The vibes on that trip were top notch. So many beers, riding with the Ciao crew, finding all these crazy spots and the friendliest shit talk you could ask for.
What is your thought process behind filming or contests? It seems that you always keep a level composure about yourself before and during. What’s the secret? —Nathan Williams
I could say the same thing about you, Nathan. For filming I think it’s easier for me to know what spot I’m going to so I can almost mentally prepare for what I’m gonna try. I used to not be like that at all, but for some reason it’s easier for me to envision me doing it beforehand. I am also not keeping a level composure on the inside [laughs]—most the time I’m terrified. Contests on the other hand, are just nerve racking. I get the jitters before I drop in and I’m sweating, but I don’t think that’ll ever go away. I just remind myself that we’re all here riding kids bikes having fun and that usually gives me a good laugh.
When is it acceptable not to send it? —Hobie
Hobie, you know this kid. [Laughs] I want to say all the time, but I’ve definitely walked away from setups if I’m not feeling it because that’s usually when I go down if my head isn’t in the game. Maybe go back another time when my vibes are up and handle it.
You’re pretty comfortable being on the move, do you prefer being home and staying on the SoCal grind or are you more stoked on getting shit done while on the road? —Darryl Tocco
I kind of like the balance I have right now. I love being home, my family and friends are here. Being in Southern California is just a vibe that I can’t explain and I have Calvin and Zach to go film with out here, tons of skate parks, snowboarding in the winter. On the other hand, traveling and meeting new people, new spots and seeing different cultures and ways of living is incredible. I love being on the road with my friends and experiencing new things, it definitely opens your eyes and matures you. I like being home for a month or so and then being on the road for a week or two at a time, keeps things fresh.
What’s changing in BMX right now? Your opinion on what’s weird, good or bad? —Calvin
Damn, good question, I’ll probably answer this like an idiot. BMX is always changing for the better, I think. Instagram has changed the level of riding so much in the last couple years. Some people post bangers on Instagram which is crazy to me because I’d rather save something like that for a web video. So many new up and coming riders I see on Instagram that will be the future of BMX one day is really cool to see. I don’t think anything is bad in BMX right now. We do need more full lengths, though.
Enjoy some best-of Travis Hughes from Kink.