Bike race on off-road track is a family affair

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Rhonda Bramer always says: “A family that stays together, plays together.”

So imagine her joy this weekend when she watches her husband and sons race on the same dirt track as the USA BMX National Series returns to South Park for the Stars-N-Stripes Nationals.

The event, held at the South Park BMX track, will feature professionals, Olympians and over 1,200 amateur entries ranging from age 2 to 70-plus.

South Park’s Jim Bramer, 44, is one of the entrants. Joining him will be his sons — Nathan, 15; Cameron, 12; and Ryan, 10.

The Bramers are a prime example of one of BMX racing’s idiosyncrasies: In this sport, the whole family can participate.

With participants competing in groups according to their age and experience, BMX provides families a chance not only to share the same competitive focus, but to spend more time together off the track as well.

“A lot of families with kids playing different sports have that challenge of spouses passing each other and being in different places at different times,” Rhonda Bramer explained. “We’re very fortunate with all the kids getting into BMX.”

Jim originally picked up BMX in the 1980s, but had left it behind until a few years ago, when his sons noticed his old trophies and started asking questions.

Jim took them to the track and, to his surprise, all three took to it more than any other sport. Rhonda initially had concerns.

“It seemed like it was a pretty aggressive sport. I was like all parents a little worried about them getting hurt,” she said.

Upon seeing the benefits of racing, however, she became more and more accepting.

Racing, she said, has encouraged her family to lead healthier lifestyles and has even helped her boys get excited for school — Nathan even used a BMX store as a topic for a high school business plan assignment.

The family expects success this weekend, having the advantage of competing on a track where they spend much of their time throughout the year.

“I expect to win,” said Jim, who, a year ago took second in his class at the event.

The kids, meanwhile, will find excitement simply in having the chance to be around the pros and Olympians when they come to South Park. And they’ll be sure to have their cameras ready.

“The selfies are huge with the pros,” Rhonda said, laughing. “They love that.”


Jourdon LaBarber: jlabarber@post-gazette.com and Twitter @jourdonlabarber.

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