Shawn Wade has been racing BMX since he was 15-years-old, reaching expert level at just 17-years-old.
And although he can’t remember just how he took up BMX racing in the first place, Wade, a project designer with Mid-States Concrete Industries, was born into a family that raced motorcycles. He got his first motorcycle at five-years-old and raced until he was 11-years-old.
Growing up in a neighborhood where he and all his friends would ride their bikes all over the place, one of Wade’s friends had heard about Searles Park BMX Track in Rockford. Naturally, they set out to explore and found the track, which hosts competitions nearly every weekend.
“We rode and rode and rode and rode and we just did lap after lap after lap,” Wade said.
It was on Mother’s Day when he was just 15-years-old that Wade raced for the first time and he just fell in love with it. During his high school years, Wade’s parents didn’t want him to have a job, so he could focus on his school work. Every day, after he finished his homework and chores, he would meet his friends at the track.
These days, Wade only has time to get out about once during the week to practice and races on Sundays. He has a membership with USABMX and now almost exclusively races in national level competitions.
“I go chase the harder competitions,” he said.
Wade won the Illinois State Championship Title in 2001 and 2014, which are the only two years he competed in the qualifiers for the title. In 2016, he hit races in Kansas City, Louisville, Rockford and Canada.
One lap around the track (roughly 1,000-1,300 feet) takes only 30-35 seconds. The challenge, Wade said, is learning how to perform in this exact window.
“There’s very little room for error,” he said.
He is currently ranked sixth nationally in his age class (26-30).
“I don’t do anything to be average,” Wade said. “I do it to be the best and I want to be number one in my class.”
Despite being billed as somewhat of an extreme sport, Wade said BMX racing is a family sport. He often sees parents on the track with even the youngest of kids (riding Fred Flinstone-style bikes). Wade’s two younger brothers and one younger sister also raced BMX growing up, though they no longer race. His 11-year-old daughter has both a bike and membership and sometimes races.
“If I’m in to something, I’m really in to it,” Wade said.