BMX and Academia by Justin Schwanke

20 May BMX and Academia by Justin Schwanke

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Photo by Justin Schwanke.

Like many people in their late teens and early 20’s, Justin Schwanke is also a university student. While the world of academia is full of possibilities, you wouldn’t typically associate it with the realm of BMX, but he did just that. Justin took his love of riding and received an athletics scholarship, to help offset the cost of his education. I asked him to share some more information about it, so take some time to read his story below. If you’re a post-secondary student also take a detailed read through your school’s administrative literature, because you might be able to find a similar opportunity for yourself.



BMX and academia…… One a hobby, sport, or even a lifestyle if you will, and the other a world of education and knowledge. Now upon first reflection it may be difficult to find a link between these two seemingly polar opposites. However, through my own personal experience, there is indeed an interesting connection between bike riding and post-secondary institutions.

As a student often looking to save money and cover expenses, I was browsing scholarships last year and came across an athletics award application. Never having been one for traditional team sports, BMX has been my true passion for the better part of my life. I’ve honestly never felt that being on my bike is like playing on a University sports team. However, I’ve always been drawn to riding because there seems to be a unique balance between self-expression and athleticism.

First, there’s the side of riding which allows one to show individuality and creativity. We can think of various riders who have a distinctive style, as well as riders who are able to come up with new tricks or new ways of manoeuvring their bike. Second, there’s also that aspect of BMX which one looks to when they consider it a legitimate sport. BMX racing is the clearest example of this as speed is the name of the game. Physical strength (pedaling torque), cardio (maintaining full pace throughout the race), reaction time (gate starts), and coordination (bike control) all factor into racing a BMX bicycle. However, these things can also be applied to other disciplines of riding too. It takes a great deal of strength and rapid movement to wallride and then snap off of a wall for example, as well as impressive balance to nose manual at distance.

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Photo Credit: Tanya Rae Adams

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Photo Credit: Tanya Rae Adams

When considering this scholarship application I thought a lot about the sport aspect of riding. I figured I could make a convincing argument for BMX from an athletics standpoint and tie that in with my own experiences. This particular scholarship required information about academic success, community involvement, and most importantly athletic achievements. I wrote about each of the criteria, speaking about my accomplishments racing and my transition to a stronger interest in freestyle BMX. I also made sure to touch on that creatively inspired part of riding to show that much like an artist perfecting a craft, I too want to come up with new ideas and apply them as envisioned. Lastly in my application, I went on to describe my passion for photography and videography, and attached some links to my riding videos in the write-up as well.

Sometime after applying, I was contacted and chosen as the recipient of the award. I’m always grateful for any scholarship funding I receive, but there was definitely something special about this particular award. It was gratifying to see that my University and the scholarship committee, part of an environment often focused on traditional team sports, recognized BMX in regards to its athletic merits and opportunities for ingenuity. There are unfortunately times when inaccurate stereotypes can cause ignorant or uninformed people to categorize BMX as merely a novelty activity. However, this experience has made me realize that there are indeed individuals, even in post-secondary institutions, who realize that what we do as bike riders can be purpose driven, inventive and skill oriented. With all of this in mind, I’ve come to appreciate a new connection between bike riding and academia.

– Justin Schwanke

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Photo Credit: Tyler Steckly