Mike Daily: CW Rebuilds and Aggro Rag
While I didn't officially meet Mike Daily until 2000 -- fittingly in a parking lot in York, Pa. -- his involvement in the Plywood Hoods and his early 'zine making had already been a great influence on me throughout the years. Daily produced one of the original Freestyle 'zines, Aggro Rag, and would go on to edit the influential magazine Go: The Rider's Manual, followed by BMX Plus! Recently, Mike, who like myself has migrated to Portland, Ore., hit me up to help him out with a project he'd been working on. He'd fully restored a 1985 CW California Freestyle, and wanted some studio photos before it got too ridden in. While shooting the photos we got to talking about what went into such a bike, as well as another project he's working on, Aggro Rag Freestyle Mag: The Complete Collection.
ESPN.com: How did you get the bug to restore a 25-year-old bike?
Daily: Midlife-crisis mania. The bike I had since '99 wasn't flatland-specific. It was from the "heavier is better" era of BMX, so it wasn't fun for me to ride. If I was going to cruise around and do some tricks, why not build up a bike that I felt more comfortable riding? Sentimental value also played a part -- the symbolic gesture of restoring an '85 CW California Freestyle like the one I rode when I lived in York, Pa.
Was it more of an undertaking than you expected?
It took about five months to collect all the components. Most were purchased from members on BMXMuseum.com. I was able to sell many of the parts from my old bike to help fund "The Build." I didn't realize I could have got $100 for the gold anodized Shimano DX pedals that I had. Priced at $50, they sold in less than three minutes. I was told that this particular CW frameset would be the hardest to find, but a rider in West Virginia saw my "Wish List" and hooked me up.
Did you have to make any concessions, or did you get it just the way you wanted?
At the beginning, I was trying to match the exact specs of the CW I had owned. I was determined to find first-generation Woody Itson-signature handlebars. I could have found them but Shad Johnson, owner of Goods BMX bike here in Portland, happened to have "survivor condition" CW California Freestyle bars. They were a perfect match for the frame and fork. I couldn't pass on the opportunity. When I saw rare items like the white Jive Handles grips and ACS True tires listed online, I couldn't resist buying them. Shad, by the way, gets credit for building this bike at Goods BMX.
A lot of collectors build these bikes and they sit as show pieces. Having built yours to be ridden, did that change your build at all?
No matter how rad-looking our bikes may have been when they were pieced together or purchased as completes, they didn't stay perfect for long. They got thrashed. We applied random stickers and substituted parts as needed. We didn't strive to maintain color coordination. That's why blinging out my CW restoration with purple anodized spoke nipples didn't seem quite right. Shad talked me out of it. For the drivetrain, I went with modern Profile cranks mixed with old school parts like the lavender Pro Neck chainwheel and MKS Graphite-X pedals.
Let's go back to the early days. You did a 'zine called Aggro Rag. You were part of the Plywood Hoods. The crew made videos, and really pushed freestyle in a new direction. Did you guys have a sense when you started putting out 'zines and videos that you were doing something groundbreaking? Was there a master plan, or were you guys all just exploring your individual creative outlets simultaneously?
Everyone constantly wanted to see what new flatland tricks Kevin Jones and Mark Eaton were doing. Eaton's videos showcased their routines. Dorkin' in York came out in May of '88. It was the first rider-produced BMX freestyle video. The 'zines gave insight to our team, and to riders we admired. Craig Grasso, Gary Pollak, Dizz Hicks, Jason Parkes, Pete Augustin and Chris Moeller were all interviewed "off the record" for Aggro Rag. We were always trying to break new ground, but with a sense of humor. We didn't really have a master plan. There was never a Plywood Hoods bike company.
How many issues of Aggro Rag did you do? When did you start it? Were any of the other Hoods helping out with that?
I did 12 issues altogether. What I called the "First Ever" BMX Rag came out in '84. It was influenced by "skate rags" [Xeroxed mini-mags] that skateboarders were making, and by all the BMX magazines that I avidly read. I changed the name to Aggro Rag for the second issue. My English teachers encouraged the journalism I was doing. I graduated high school in '86 and went off to college at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania. That's when my Hoods teammates started contributing more photos, news and articles, since I couldn't attend as many shows and comps.
The last one I saw had a color cover. I assume its production value evolved a bit along the way?
On breaks from college, I printed the 'zine with help from Mack, the owner of a local video game arcade. At my request, Mack mixed and matched different colors of paper stock and toner ink to print copies on his Xerox machine. Some issues were as weirdly colorful as the bikes we rode. The last issue was published with a full-color cover in '89.
Did you getting an actual magazine job fizzle it out? Or what was the stopping point?
Once Mark "Lew" Lewman hired me as Assistant Editor of GO: The Rider's Manual in early '90, I didn't feel the need to keep making Aggro Rag. I was living in Southern California, the birthplace of BMX freestyle, and working for Wizard Publications, the most respected magazine publisher in the industry. GO became my Aggro Rag.
Some of your current work still seems very driven by that whole 'zine culture. Your YouTube videos, spoken word performances, writing. Was Aggro Rag the foundation for your career in a sense?
I guess it was the foundation, yeah. Working with the printed page in mind has always been my way of creating something, from the early 'zine designs to my cut-and-pasted writing journals. I like to lay things out visually, so the collage approach helps hone poems, lyrics for songs and fiction/non-fiction I'm working on. It's more of a calling than a career -- that kind of gnawing feeling that compels you to make stuff. I'd always send my 'zines to Andy Jenkins, Editor of Freestylin', and to my surprise he would write back, a few times asking if he could reprint pieces I had written. That was awe-inspiring, to say the least. Andy later encouraged me to develop "Valley," my first novel, which he designed and published on his Bend Press imprint in '98.
First Aggro Rag, then GO, then BMX Plus! Where did you go from there?
Portland, Oregon. The do-it-yourself spirit here is a real creative driving force for me. I moved here because it's literature-oriented, bike-friendly and has a thriving, diverse music scene. I recorded my fiction and poems and got to perform with musicians. In '08, I contributed to the Freestylin' anniversary book. It was a tremendous honor to work with Lew again and to interview some of the raddest riders, 20 years later.
And now you're working on an Aggro Rag book? What spawned that idea? Is it sort of an Aggro Rag box set so to speak?
Aggro Rag Freestyle Mag: The Complete Collection will be a box set in book format, compiling all 12 issues published from '84 to '89. Last summer, way before I ever thought about rebuilding the CW, Mark Eaton advised me to collect everything like he did with Dorkin' in York: The Complete DVD Collection. I wasn't convinced at first, but his insistence got me thinking. I tracked down all the issues and realized that I had to do this. It made me laugh seeing all the "fidge" -- the fun we had riding, traveling, performing in shows and just dorkin' around.
Young or old, you won't want to miss Aggro Rag Freestyle Mag: The Complete Collection when it's released. Keep checking aggrorag.com for more info and release date. A little piece of history. Get it when and while you can.
For a more detailed look at Mike's build, with a component breakdown, check out BMXmuseum.com. And to keep up with the daily happenings of Daily, and his work check out his blog: http://mickogrady.blogspot.com