Born & raised in Milwaukee we first came across Brooke Betancourt after a friend of ours who rides BMX showed us her Instagram as he thought we'd think she was awesome.. And man she is. After first starting skating when she was younger Brooke first got into BMX when she was 17 years old & has been riding ever since. After recently stopping competing to get back to what she loves about riding BMX Brooke also recently bought her first motorcycle to get around her home city. We caught up with her to talk about what its like to be a woman in the BMX world & her connection between BMX & her new found love for riding motorcycles.. Enjoy!
Where are you from originally & where do you live now?
My name is Brooke Betancourt Im 24 years old & I was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI USA. I work as a Service Rep for Wheaton Franciscan. Basically my duty is to listen to people who have trouble with there lives mentality and try to get the right help for them.
So what made you first start riding BMX?
Well, I used to skateboard but was pretty much a poser to be honest ha ha, so I started hanging around the BMX'ers in town and it's history from there. I've been riding about 6 years on and off. I used to compete but these last two years I stopped competing so I can just enjoy the time I get with it.
I saw in a video you did for Transworld (see the end of this interview) that you're mum used to ride BMX back in the 70s & 80s. Is she a big influence on you & your riding?
She's a huge influence on me! She used to race BMX with my uncle's but never did the freestyle part. I'm not sure where i got my first freestyle influences from seeing as I started at a late age and never raced like her. All I had of hers were her photos and stories to learn from in BMX. She always supports me 110% with my riding.
Thats so rad. Its pretty rare to see women riding BMX around that time (was it around the 70s/ 80s?). Was she still riding when you were young or had she already stopped by then?
My mother actually raced BMX and there was only one other girl she would see a lot that raced too but she lived in a different town so they only saw one another at contests I think. It was super rare back then to see girls race unlike today in 2017 the scene is growing drastically! She only raced for a short time and as she grew up into her 20s she stopped.
So who are the BMX riders that you look up to?
Oh man, I've always looked up to Mykel Larrin who is a professional vert rider from Racine, Wisconsin. He's definitely on top of my small list of inspiration's . From his riding to his personality. The Nick-Nac's he does always blows my mind!! He's a sick dude for sure.. I then met ," Glenn Salyers " who rides everything and anything. I was gifted enough to of been best friends with him and to of falling in love with. He motivated me all the time to push myself and go above my limits. His style, his personality, the way he looked at things in life out blew my mind and it inspired me more than ever! He was my hero.
Its amazing that you say that as I find that with alot of the team talks that we've done we find out that a lot of the women we've spoken to have had not only strong female role models & inspirations in their lives but equally some really amazing male role models & supporters too in either their fathers or guys they've either grown up with or the people that they're with. I think being a woman involved in something that isn't stereotypically or traditionally an area for girls people always expect or want you to say that you've always only looked up to other women doing what you do as its the easy line but its inevitable that in areas dominated by guys you're gonna have some amazing guys to look up to & get you going too. So what made you get your first motorcycle & start riding?
I started showing interest when my boyfriend (who has now passed away) had bought a Honda in 2015. About a year after he passed away I bought my own not knowing a dang thing about motorcycles! So then I found out about flat track was and that put a huge influence on wanting a little Honda which also introduced me the new world of motorcycles and how many rad people you meet from it. You'd think the BMX community was one it's self but there's not alot of BMX'ers who own motorcycles as well.
Really? Thats pretty surprising. Here in London we're seeing loads more people from one discipline or another start getting into another lately. Girls who skate starting to get into motorcycles or surfing & vice versa. What do you think the reasons are that there aren't many people from the BMX into motorcycles? Do you think more people will start?
I think it's slowly become of a trend for those who are in an aggressive sport/hobby to get into motorcycles as well now but for females here, where I live, I don't even know a single girl who skates or rides bmx or any of that nature that lives here really. And if I did, they live across country. Everything comes in time and the generations are changing fast and things that weren't trending are becoming more popular. Just like the growth of women BMX riders.. we seem to be growing every year!
Thats rad that you started to style your bike around flat trackers! Have you ridden flat track before? Is it something you wanna try?
Yeah! We have an even called, "Flat out Friday " here in Milwaukee, WI and people race on cement (it's really sketchy) and that's what inspired me to want to get into flat track. I planned to race last year but I had ended it with a dude I was dating at the time who happened to of helped me with my bike but it wasn't running at the time so I was forced to get in running without him and my lazy self just gave up for a while and then I finally got it running recently. I was bummed but there's always 2018!
Do you think riding BMX set you up for riding motorcycles?
As far as setting me up for motorcycles, I always dreamed of riding a motorcycle but never thought I'd own one but here we are! It definitely has its perks though with the whole balance thing & wrenching / learning on motorized bikes rather than a pedal bike.
Yeah man, I think it definitely comes into play when you do moto sports too. I know alot of people who were into downhill mountain biking or BMX when they were younger who are now getting into Enduro & motocross. Seems the whole balance & manouvering thing really helps when you cross over both sports.
Right! It's like, in our blood!
So you started customising your own motorcycle when you got your first bike . What made you choose the bike you went for for your first custom build?
I wanted to start small and work from there. Did my research And found this cute 125 cl HONDA 1974 near by to start off. I wasn't totally crazy about getting on the road so I was mainly looking for a toy to play with in the fields and so forth. I do my own wrenching along with help from friends My Honda started as the original but I didn't like how bulky it looked so I did a few simple manufacturing to where it states now. I'm still doing stuff to it slowly so it's not in its full form the way I want it to look yet .
Has alot changed in the BMX world for women since you started riding?
To be honest women riding BMX has only become more popular over the last couple years or so. I started pretty late but there's no start or end date to when you can begin learning. It has definitely become more common to see women at the parks since things like Xgames have been letting women ride for short demos but it's still not enough. It's something we're slowly moving towards still. Contests on the other hand are still pretty tough to get into as theres often no women's class or heats.
Do you think that the two worlds of BMX & motorcycles have alot in common?
I do actually! The only difference is the fact one bike has a motor and the other doesn't! They're both pretty dangerous though.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into either BMX or riding motorcycles?
I'd say just go for it! Both worlds are fun and you gain so much for them! If you want to be a women riding BMX you've got to be pretty tough & keep your head up if any hooligans get in your way!
FOLLOW BROOKES TRAVELS ON INSTAGRAM HERE & WATCH HER TRANSWORLD VIDEO & TRIBUTE TO HER LATE BOYFRIEND GLENN SALYERS BELOW
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