TYLER JOHNSON

When it comes to riding bikes, the biggest compliment you can give someone is that they make doing something that’s absurdly difficult look incredibly easy. That’s definitely true of Seattle’s own Tyler Johnson. Wheelie to nose manual on a many pad to bar spin off? Cake. Fast plant over a bench straight to a wheelie? Pffft, that doesn’t look so hard, I could do that. Oh wait, no I couldn’t. And not only does Tyler make hard things look easy, he makes them look good. Speed, Skill, Style, and Seattle. The four S’s. That’s Tyler Johnson.

Photo | Kyle Johnson

Burd - Before we get into anything else, I have to ask... What’s up with the male modeling thing? I know some of us give you a hard time about that, but is it legit? Tyler - The modeling thing is real. I am in LA right now doing some modeling jobs; on Tuesday I will be shooting the new Stussy look book. It’s not something that I pursue really, but it is fun to do and it’s good money. If I lived in Los Angeles or New York, I could probably just do modeling for work; Seattle isn’t quite that way though. Honestly, I don’t mind people teasing me about it because I don’t take it very seriously myself. I mean how can you really, especially if you have ever seen Zoolander. Burd - Sounds like a pretty sweet deal actually... It’s no fun making fun of you for it if you’re getting paid! So if you think you could make some good money doing it in NYC or LA, what’s keeping you in Seattle? Tyler - I attend school full time at the Art Institute of Seattle for fashion design. I still have about a year left for my BFA. That is probably the largest factor keeping me here, but I also really like Seattle and my job. I don’t know if I will move to LA or NY anytime soon, but once I am done with school I will probably do month long trips here and there for modeling. It will be nice to be able to travel for bikes more too, after finishing school. Right now though, it’s pretty tough to balance work, bikes, modeling and school, but I just work hard at all of it because who knows which direction life’s going to go. Burd - Have you always lived in Seattle? Tyler - Well, I was born in San Diego, and lived there until I was 5. Then I lived in Kentucky from ages 5-13. After my mother and step-dad got a divorce, we moved to Gig Harbor which is about 30 minutes away from Seattle. I lived there for high school, but moved back down to San Diego for a year after. I ended up back up in Gig Harbor and have lived in the city of Seattle now for about 6 months. It’s been great being so close to school, work, and friends because I used to commute by bus which would take an hour and a half. Burd - Sorry man, but I can’t get off the modeling thing just yet. It’s too weird. How did you get “discovered?” Did the bike thing have anything to do with it? Or did an agent discover you in the food court at the mall or something? Tyler - Well I was shopping at Blackbird, the store where I work now, and the owner came in and happened to ask me to model for the new online store they were starting. I started doing that, but it was basically just product shots, nothing fancy. Then when I went to Paris for the Revival Euro trip, Corinne Stoll asked to take photos of me, which came out super rad. Finally, one day walking from school up to 1st Ave to take the bus to work, I walked past Heffner, my mother agent, and Nancy, who runs the agency, was walking out and she chased me down. I signed with them that day, and now I am signed in Seattle, LA, and NY. I just kind of happened into it all. I think the funniest part of the whole thing is that since I grew up racing BMX and skating I have scars everywhere, and my mom always would say, “Well it doesn’t look like you’ll be modeling anytime soon.”
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Photo | Jake Ricker

Burd - Eh, what do moms know any ways? She probably hates on that giant, anatomically correct heart tattoo you have on your chest as well, am I right? That thing is pretty gnarly... What was the inspiration for that? Tyler – Actually, I have never even told my mom, “I’ve got a tattoo.” Obviously she knows as she is friends with me on Facebook, but I don’t think my mom cares about tattoos at all actually. There was no real inspiration for it, I just thought it would be something that looks cool that I hopefully won’t ever get sick of, plus over time it should be good because who’s sternum gets fat? Almost all of my tattoos have been done by one of my closest friends Jeremy at Dutch Touch tattoo in San Diego. I typically get a new one when I visit. Burd - Let’s go back to Kentucky. I’m assuming your formative bike years were spent there. is that where you started racing BMX? What got you into that? Tyler - I started racing when I was 8 years old in Hamilton, Ohio. My neighborhood friend was just getting into it, and he brought me along with him one time.

Photo | Kyle Johnson

It was so much fun to have jumps everywhere. At one point I was fully sponsored and traveling the United States a lot for it, but after I moved to Washington the scene wasn’t quite there and I got heavily into skateboarding. I started racing BMX again a couple years ago as an adult, and I still really enjoy riding the track and being competitive. Burd - When did you pick up a fixed gear? Was that red Trek T1 that you rode in Bootleg Sessions v.2 you first track bike? Tyler - Yes, that was my first one. I bought it off eBay in December of ‘07. Actually, I first heard about fixed gears from Taylor Sizemore. I had ridden his Alan Fanini track bike a few times before I bought one; I was instantly hooked because they are so much fun. Burd - I’m guessing that Trek is in about 16 different pieces after what you were doing on it. Tyler - That is kind of a funny story actually. It did finally break after about a year and a half of tricking on it, but it just cracked where the seat tube meets the bottom bracket.

Sequence | Jake Ricker

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Photo | Kyle Johnson

Photo | Kyle Johnson

Photos this page | Jake Ricker

Photo | Zach Hoffner

After I got my new frame, Taylor and I decided it would be fun to just smash it. So we threw it like 50 ft in the air, stomped it, hammered it, and basically just completely destroyed it. Most of the tubing is collapsed or dented, but it is hanging in Taylor’s shop down in Portland. I don’t think it’s still covered under warranty. Burd - Bike snobs aren’t going to like that story. So what frame did you ride after that? You resisted getting a designated FGFS frame longer than most if I recall. Tyler - Yea, I definitely did just mainly because I loved the way the bikes looked, but after that frame, I was sponsored by Leader and I began riding the trickstars. I still rode 23c tires all the way through filming The Revival, then switched to 35s, 38s, 47s, and now 54s. Tires aren’t available much bigger than a 2.1, so I think it’s safe to say that’s what I’ll be riding from now on. Burd - You were on Leader for awhile and now you’re not… what happened with that? It seemed like they were giving you a pretty solid hookup. Didn’t you have your own frame design with them? Tyler - I rode for Leader Bikes for a year and a half, and I was able to design and release my own signature frame. It was a really great process to design and test something like that, and I am definitely expanding on that with my new endeavor with Sizemore Bicycle. Leader was always great to me, and I still think the Mordecai frame is the best entry level frame. However, I just really wanted to be able to ride something that is made in the U.S.A. of Super Therm tubing, and that was just not possible through Leader. Turnaround time was another big factor that caused me to leave for my own thing. Building frames in Taiwan has a very long turnaround time, and having Taylor build frames is much quicker. I can also work with him without having to deal with things getting lost in translation, and I am able to try things that would cost way too much for a sample made in Taiwan. It’s definitely cut back my travel budget for riding, but that’s OK. I will still make it out to the events. Burd - What was it like going to Paris? Tyler - Paris was so much fun. The weather was crap while we were there, but the kids have a lot of energy about riding there. Our host was amazing to us, and she actually let me stay at her flat while the others went to Rotterdam. I love riding around Paris because everywhere you look is amazingly beautiful architecture, yet the city itself is like totally grimy. It’s an awesome feeling, and they have some fun spots to ride.

Photo | Jake Ricker

Burd - Did you check out the Opera spot? Tyler - Honestly, I didn’t get to ride much street because of the weather. It rained almost the whole time we were there, but I got to ride the Palais de Tokyo which was sick. We also rode the covered area where Matthias Dandois was practicing. That guy has got the best style ever for flatland. Burd - Did you actually talk to Matthias? He hates anyone and anything that has to do with fixed gears from what I understand… did you do something to hurt his feelings while you were riding his spot? I know, some female bystanders looked at you for a moment instead of him and he couldn’t take it, am I right? Your stunning good looks and easy-going charm caused a rift in the international bike scene, didn’t they! Tyler - I asked him if we could film him for the Euro Revival trip, but he shut that down real quick. I don’t know about him hating fixed gears or anything but it wouldn’t surprise me. I am sure he thinks he is awesome, which unfortunately he is correct about. I like your explanation better though. Burd - Speaking of style, yours has evolved as much or more than anyone I’ve seen since you first hit the scene. What do you attribute that to? Did your influences change, or was it just sort of the natural progression of things? Tyler - I’m not sure my style has changed really. I would say it just has progressed. Even when I first got my Trek I was doing BMX inspired tricks like hopping up ledges to wheelies. It was pretty technical stuff, and I think now I still have that same approach to riding with doing nose manual bar spins and things like that.

However, I really like to just blast out of stuff too, or jump something really big. I am really largely influenced by riders such as Ty Morrow, Dan Lacey, Mike Mastroni, and Craig Pasero. Those guys do some insanely technical lines as well as just huge gnarly gaps. To me that all around style is really appealing, and I like being able to ride everything. Even when I was heavily into skating, I liked being able to skate everything. I could do street or go to a park and shred the bowls. I think the all around riding helps you have more bike control and be able to come up with lines that other people might not see. Burd - I wasn’t referring to your riding style, I was talking about your hairstyle. Just kidding. So it seems like it’s great to be Tyler Johnson right now... What’s next for you? Anything big on the horizon? Tyler –[Laughs.] My hair has definitely changed a lot. Next big thing for me is the Red Bull Comp in San Francisco, it seems like it’s going to be awesome. After that just focusing on school for my last year here, riding, working, and trying to do as many trips as possible. Hopefully we’ll be releasing the new Sizemore limited run frame this summer after I am finished testing it. I’m looking forward to a big 2011. Burd - This was great, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I’ve been wanting to hook it up for awhile now, I’m glad we finally got the chance to do it. Tyler - It’s been my pleasure.
Photo | Zach Hoffner

Burd - If you need to dish out any sugar, now’s the time! Tyler – I would like to thank Sizemore Bicycle, Cultur, Coal Headwear, HplusSon, and anyone else who has ever helped me out with a spare tube or anything.

Photo | Kyle Johnson