Bikes Over Baghdad tour, 2015
Bikes Over Baghdad tours have been going since 2009, and with thousands of U.S. and coalition troops stationed in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, the tours continue to go down once or twice yearly. The mission is simple -- bring a little X Games-flavored entertainment to the troops in the Middle East at various armed forces bases through BMX demonstrations, bike giveaways and meet and greets with members of the armed forces. The latest adventure was one of the biggest and best tours to date. The crew hit four countries -- Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Djibouti -- and a total of seven bases over a two-week span. Here, X Games competitors Chad Kagy pushes a one-footed toboggan over the box at the first base and first show of the tour -- Ali Al Salem (aka The Rock) in Kuwait.
Meet and greet
EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) meet-and-greets are always fun -- especially when they let us detonate some explosives. Here, former X Games gold medalist TJ Lavin gets to pull the trigger while everyone else captures the footage.
Many of the soldiers on base don't get to make it out to the shows because of their work shifts, so we try to give them whatever we can during our daily meet-and-greets. Combine one bulldozer, a few metal plates and X Games BMX Park competitor Drew Bezanson, and the civil engineering group at Al Udeid got a flair to remember.
Commander's Calls are always cool. The top brass (generals, captains, etc.) fill us in on what goes on at that base, and we explain what BMX and our tours are all about.
NSA Bahrain was our first Navy base that we've gotten to do a show at, and to our surprise, entire families, including lots of kids, were there ready to be entertained. Mykel Larrin jumps some brave young guns sans ramp.
Our second show in Bahrain was at ISA Air Base. It was a smaller base and not the biggest show, but still plenty of faces were happy after seeing some big tricks. Drew Bezanson demonstrates with an abubaca on an ambulance roof-to-barspin re-entry.
Brian Kachinsky gives some pointers on bunny hops and proper foot placement to a soldier in Al Udeid's fire department. She got both tires off the ground in just a few tries.
Chad Degroot ice cream spins under thousands of pounds of smart bombs loaded into the belly of a B-1 bomber.
This was a tour highlight and memorable moment, for sure -- mark this down as T.J.Lavin's first backflip since the crash that put him in a coma five years ago.
Along with Nate Wessel, X Games BMX veteran Ron Kimler does double duty on all of the tours as ramp builder and shredder. Here he spins a truck driver during the Al Udeid show in Qatar.
Drew Bezanson stands atop a bunker in Kuwait that was bombed during the Gulf War.
The crew has done so many shows at Al Udeid in Qatar that the base has basically acquired an entire BMX park course over the years. Nate Wessel enjoys the fruit of his labor with a nose-wheelie wallride ramp-to-ramp transfer.
Flips always excite the troops, but no-handed front flips take it to another level. X Games BMX Dirt invite Anthony Napolitan delivers the goods in Qatar.
Autograph line. Troops will wait hours after the show to shake hands with the crew and say thanks.
At every base, Brian Kachinsky ventures out -- whenever possible -- to find something worthy of riding and getting a photo or clip on. The gravel run-up and out was less than ideal, and the 100-degree-plus temperature and high humidity was brutal, but this barrier gap at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Africa was just too good to pass up.
Nate Wessel gets some help from the troops in Djibouti. It's pretty awesome to see soldiers build a ramp for the first time. They're equally impressed with the speed and skill of Nate and Ron's work.
Chad Degroot gets in a session during some down time in Djibouti. This was Degroot's first tour with Bikes Over Baghdad and he killed it both on and off the bike. If you want to see a lot of this tour in motion, hit up YouTube for the GoPro edit that Degroot put together.
This was also T.J. Lavin's first tour with Bikes Over Baghdad. Here, he suits up in a EOD bomb suit and learns about the dangers that soldiers deal with when handling explosives.
X Games BMX Big Air medalist Morgan Wade with a banger during the finale in Djibouti -- bikeflip over the Humvee.
Here's a group shot with the EOD guys and a few of their toys in Qatar. Yes, we drove that MRAP vehicle, and you bet we tinkered with those robots. Can you believe the U.S. military trusts us to play with these multi-million dollar pieces of equipment? We can't either. And then after two weeks with Bikes Over Baghdad, the BMX crew headed back to the U.S.