What seems like forever and a day ago, I found myself at a Useless BMX Comp somewhere in Myrtle Beach, S.C. I think the comp was set up in a parking lot with a box jump and a quarterpipe. I don't remember much of what happened during the comp, but one memory does stand alone, and that involved me speaking with Zach Phillips of Kink Bicycles.
At the time, Kink manufactured axles, pegs, sprockets and chains, but was about to jump into the frame market. (So that leads me to believe that the time was either '97 or '98.) Zach had asked me if I knew of any riders that might be worth picking up, and as I glanced away from him, I spotted Rob Tibbs blasting a good 7 or 8-feet out of the quarterpipe. I didn't know Rob at the time, but from the few times I had seen him ride, I knew he had "it." So I told Zach that Rob would be a good person to consider for the Kink team. I don't know why he ever listened to me, but sure enough, Zach put Rob on the Kink pro team, where he remained throughout his pro career.
During the time Rob rode for Kink, he definitely turned heads; traveling the world with the Kink team, filming multiple video parts, winning best trick comps at Metro Jams and pulling the world's first under vert 900 in a pallet bowl at the FBM Ghetto Street Comp. Then, in 2005, Kink dropped most of their team, leaving Rob to fend for himself. But rather than jump into another sponsor, Rob went back to school (VCU in Richmond, Va.) and finished up a degree in Communication Arts and Design. He also never stopped riding; he just seemed to outgrow the sponsored pro lifestyle.
These days, Rob is still riding and still enjoying life. And since he's been through the ringer as far as being a sponsored professional goes, he also has a rich perspective on the pros and cons of the pro BMX lifestyle.
And being as how I was the one that told Zach from Kink to sponsor Rob in the first place, I suppose Rob's perspective on the pro lifestyle is partly my fault.
Robert Tibbs. Only my mom and Brian Tunney call me Robert though.
I got my first freestyle bike on Christmas Day of 1986. So, since then? Math scares me and I really don't wanna know how long I've been doing this.
No, just awesome friends who run some companies and hook me up here and there. I guess you can say I'm sponsored by Evan Venditti, Jim Cielencki, Steve Crandall, Ryan 'Chopper' Hall and I get discounted tabs at Mojo's and Empire.
Hometown, and where did you grow up?
My original hometown is Forest, Virginia, just outside of the late Jerry Falwell's Lynchburg. I moved to Richmond in 1996 and that's where I really grew up.
When did you turn "pro" and do you consider yourself a professional BMX rider in 2010?
I turned 'pro' at the Hampton, Virginia 'Bay Days' contest. I didn't wanna enter amateur cause I felt I would have been sandbagging a little. The contest was really small and the organizer told me I could never ride am again if I rode pro. So that was that, I paid $20 extra for the pro entry fee and I was like, "Hey 20 extra bucks makes you pro!" I didn't get last. In 2010, I'm chilling and trying to have fun. Sometimes it happens to be on a BMX bike.
In 2004, you won Best Trick at the Toronto Metro Jam, and then went to win the FBM ghetto comp. You had a signature frame, a signature grip, and then by many accounts, disappeared from the eye of the BMX media. What changed?
Expectations, and it's all where my heart is. I can't fulfill expectations from myself or anyone else unless my heart is into it. I don't wanna chuck myself down a set of stairs for someone else just so their sticker shows up in a magazine. If I feel like it and it does work out, awesome! Before I took a break from school, I didn't wanna finish school for my parents, so I went back and finished for myself.
How do you earn your living since being dropped from your sponsors in 2005, and how does it compare, as far as your quality of life?
I would hardly say I earned a living riding. I've always had a job that I could leave for a week or two at a time. I've never really been able to wrap my head around the whole "Earn a living as a rider" thing, and I think sponsors, riders and contests are guilty of it. There are hungry kids everywhere willing to chuck themselves down anything just to get hooked up. A couple t-shirts and a frame isn't gonna do you a bit of good when you're laid up for a couple months after breaking yourself off. You can't work, can't afford your phone bill, live with your mom and can't afford health insurance. The same goes with contests. There are some big checks for top ten from big media corporations. There are always gonna be some minor breaks and bruised egos with big comps. But when the unthinkable happens, where are they? A first place check ain't gonna pay your two-week stay in the hospital, and they're not paying either. As large as the industries are getting (BMX, skate, snow, FMX) there needs to be some social responsibility. Riders have a quality of life carrot dangled in front of them and it can be attained, but lately we've witnessed a few people fail trying to reach it. The only ones left to help are friends and family and the ones who were enticing don't claim any responsibility. Wait, what was the question? Oh yeah, I bar tend and my life is all good.
Would you trade in your current situation to be a "full time pro" again?
No. It was just another stage of life and there is no need to go back. Besides, have you seen "Full-time pros" lately? It ain't rattled canned bikes and tabletops anymore.
How does BMX in 2010 for Rob Tibbs compare to the late '90s and early '00s?
Nothing compares to the '90s. But that's all relative and how you remember it growing up. I not gonna tell any 18-year-old that he's not having the amount of fun or experiences that I had when I was his age. BMX in 2010 for me is what I did last night: BBQ at the ramp with 30 friends, the first day of the year it's been above 50 degrees and people shredding!
A couple t-shirts and a frame isn't gonna do you a bit of good when you're laid up for a couple months after breaking yourself off.
You are a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. What did you study, and what can you share about the experience?
I have a degree in Communication Arts and Design. I went from 96-00 and was just shy of finishing. I went back in 05-06 and finished. School was a very good thing. I learned a lot in school, but learned more outside of it. It wasn't so much the subjects, but things like time management, what you can get away with and what you can't. It's a life experience and not for everyone. There is a difference between what you actually learn in school and the diploma you receive.
Have you done much in the way of art or design in recent years?
I'm non-practicing. I've never been much of a doodler or artist in my spare time. I don't even have any of the design programs I need on my computer right now. I'll get back into it when I want. Art is another thing that if my heart isn't into it, then the end product sucks.
What kind of interests do you have outside of BMX? Same as anyone I guess?
Hanging out with friends, chillin by myself, being outdoors, being indoors, partying, girls, Netflix.
It changes weekly. I'll be into metal one week, Cam'ron the next. I'll listen to radio rap, then Motown. All I know is most new music sucks.
Favorite current riders?
It's hard to keep up, but there is obviously a lot of talent out there. I saw that body varial kid Chris Hughes ride the other day and he did some wild stuff. Ty Morrow is a beast. I know he kills it on street, but he lays waste to the Unit. Saw some real cool stuff during that Simpel Session thing, especially Dan Lacey's best trick.
Favorite all time riders?
Brian Blyther, Mat Hoffman, Jamie Bestwick, Edwin Delarosa, Jim Cielencki, Kevin Jones, Dave Mirra, the Nyquists, Kelly Baker, Taj, all the obvious ones that need no explanation.