Inside Sheep Hills: Todd Lyons
Many will remember Todd Lyons from his years as a pro for Huffy. But years before, this Ohio-turned Californian honed his dirt jumping skills as a pro for Eagle Snacks, Bully, S&M and Haro. These days, TL splits his time between Philadelphia and Southern California, continuing to race BMX while holding down a job at SE Racing. But during his heyday as one of the first professional dirt and street riders (TL invented the proper BMX handplant still being done today), Todd Lyons learned the tricks of the trade by riding Sheep Hills. This is Sheep Hills, according to 'The Wildman.'
ESPN.com: What years did you consider yourself a Sheep Hill Local?
Lyons: It's going on 19 years now. I am almost certain that we started riding there in 1992. Back then, we called them the Costa Mesa jumps. And for sure I'm still a SHL!
Where are you originally from and why did you make the move to Huntington Beach?
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio. I had been BMXing since 1981 and once I graduated high school in 1990, I knew that I wanted to be in California to ride 24-7 with a bunch of other BMXers. When I first moved to Cali., I lived in Westminster in the P.O.W. house which was just up the way from Huntington Beach. I think it was 1993 when I moved to Huntington Beach.
At the time, what was your occupation and was it flexible with your time as a SHL?
Occupation? BMXer. Well I worked for GT Bikes in 1993 for nine months. I worked there Monday, Wednesday and Friday as a driver and warehouse grommet making $4.20 an hour. I was going to school Tuesday and Thursday at the same time. But for sure I'd be down at Sheep as much as I could. Then in 1994, Haro sponsored me and paid me a salary. I was able to quit my job at GT and put more time into riding and shredding Sheep Hills and the other Southern California trails. The Hidden Valley and Slater trails were also in Huntington Beach. They didn't stand the test of time like Sheep Hills has.
It seemed that at any given time there could be huge amounts of pros in the area. Who was one of your favorites to watch ride back then?
Shaun Butler was always a treat to watch ride. He is so smooth and stylish. In the later '90s, when Cory Nastazio came on the scene, he absolutely killed the place and brought huge tricks into the mix. You can't forget Brian Foster with his mix of racer style and lofty air too.
Please give the readers an example of one of the kookiest things you ever saw go down at the trails?
There were a number of goofy TV production crews down there over the years. And I know that I learned backflips there with four people holding the corners of a blanket as a safety net for me. That was pretty goofy for sure, but it worked!
Did you sincerely like riding Sheep or were you there just because of the proximity of the industry?
Well back in the early '90s, Sheep actually was one of the best trails spots in the world. But soon after, trail riding became so popular that people built trails in other parts of the world that were way better than Sheep. But because of Sheep's proximity to the pro riders, BMX industry, and media, it remained in the public eye. And for sure it ruled to cruise into Sheep and see 10-15 other pro riders there. The attitudes were always welcoming. Nobody "owned" the trails. It has always been a kind of community place where everyone is welcome. I think the camaraderie is one of the things that made it so fun. Oh, and also being able to cruise a mile down the bike path and chill with some lovely ladies at beach didn't hurt.
If you have any last words on Sheep please feel free to include them here.
Sheep has really stood the test of time. It's been heavily ridden for almost 20 years. The city is completely aware of the jumps down there and they just ask that the riders respect the few rules that are in place. If the riders continue to be courteous and respect the trails, then Sheep will be there for decades to come. SHL for LIFE!
THE SHEEP HILLS SERIES ON ESPN BMX