BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Matt Wilhelm spins on the back of his bike, then rides it upside down as the psyched crowd whoops with excitement. Everyone cheers as he flings the wheel around him in a circle and sticks his arms out like he’s flying.
“I’m living the dream right now,” he says.
Wilhelm, a 22-year-old professional biker, did a one-man sneak peek of the X Trials at Lake Compounce Friday afternoon, wowing the kids in the crowd with his eye-popping tricks.
“You can take on the world and do whatever you want,” the Chicago native said.
Wilhelm’s girlfriend of two years, Kathy Tyrrell, is his good luck charm, he said.
Want the scoop on how he started out?
“I used to go to these dirt jumps,” Wilhelm said. “This guy wanted to beat me up cause I scratched his sunglasses so I couldn’t go to the jumps anymore.”
Wilhelm said he put some pegs on his bike and practiced tricks at home. He called it one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
Matt Lindenmuth, a 20-year-old professional inline skater from Philadelphia also competing in the X Games, helped Wilhelm whip up support for the X Trials.
Lindenmuth definitely supports helmets.
“Glory is temporary, pain is forever,” he said. “I want to skate ‘til I die.”
Last month, Lindenmuth fell while attempting a trick at the X Trials in Grand Prairie, Texas. He blacked out for a second or two, he said. “I saw the chunk that came out of my helmet, and I really didn’t want to see that in my skull,” said Lindenmuth.
There’s a rivalry flaring up right now between kid inline skaters, bikers, and skateboarders, according to Lindenmuth, who said he doesn’t like the idea of this “civil war” going on. The professional world doesn’t have the same problem, he said.
“I just met Matt today, and I’ve already made another friend,” Lindenmuth said. “I don’t see any difference, I have eight wheels, he does it with two. I don’t think kids understand we are all friends.”
“We’re all doing it for the same reason, cause we love to roll,” said Lindenmuth. “That’s our passion, that’s our drug.”
Differences or not, the kids at Lake Compounce Friday seemed uniformly impressed with Wilhelm and Lindenmuth.
Kyle Langlais, a Chippens Hill Middle School student, gave Lindenmuth his plush orange M&M as a gift.
When Wilhelm took a short break from his performance, ESPN spokeswoman Katie Moses asked questions about past and upcoming X Trials and X Games. Anyone who answered correctly won a prize. Later, they autographed shirts, hats, stickers and more for the grateful fans.
When Wilhelm got back onto the bike, he awed the audience with more amazing stunts.
Deborah Stone, 18, of Stamford, offered to trade shirts with Wilhelm. But it wasn’t the shirt she was interested in — she said she thought Wilhelm was “cool.”
Kyle Escher, 13, of Bristol, said Lindenmuth “is progressing the sport” because he did a double back flip in Vert.
Justin Dess, 13, another Chippens Hill student, summed it up.
“They’ll try anything,” he said.
Jen Plonski is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.