Q: Where did the number 55 come from?
Brian Lopes: In 1975 I started racing BMX, and that was my first number. Honestly, I don’t remember that. I was only 4 1/2 years old, but my
parents had pictures. When I won a World Championship, Troy Lee painted me a helmet with the number one, and Fox put number one on my
clothing. I was at a World Cup race, and there was a German rider, a
French rider and a Spanish rider, and they all had number ones on their
gear. It was around the time that Supercross riders got to choose a number
and stick with it, so I decided to do the same. I started racing with that
number; I’m going to stop racing with that number.
Q: Little league parents?
Brian: Certain kids need some direction. They need to be kept on the
right path to a certain degree, but you shouldn’t force stuff on kids. You
have to let them be kids. I’d come home from school, grab my skateboard
and head over to a half-pipe. Dad would say, “Hey, kid, you should probably ride the bike a bit. We are going to a race this weekend.” But he never
pressured me into anything.
Q: Turning pro?
Brian: I turned pro at 17. Growing up racing BMX three times a week,
you end up with hundreds of trophies. I didn’t want any more trophies. I
turned pro on the spur of the moment, finished second and went home
with $800 in my pocket. I liked that. I started my own bank account, got a
full sponsor and started making money as a bike racer.
Q: BMX to mountain bikes?
Brian: It wasn’t one big jump. BMXers like Dave Cullinan and Toby
Henderson were doing well racing mountain bikes, and the rumor was
they were getting paid well. I was being sponsored by Mongoose, who had
BMX and mountain bike teams, so I was able to race some amateur downhill and cross-country events in 1992. The next year I turned pro and got
fifth at my first NORBA National, the Big Bear downhill, and I won the
next NORBA National. All of a sudden I had doubled my salary because I
was getting paid for BMX and mountain biking. After three years of doing
both, I decided to give up BMX and focus on mountain biking.
Q: How are you making the transition to getting older?
Brian: I’ve had these gray hairs for like 10 years. Maybe I have a few
more than a decade ago. Look, I thought I’d be done with racing when I hit
30, but I’m still having fun. I’m taking it year by year.
March 2013 / MOUN TAIN BIKE AC TION 113
sponsors and close friends can tell you I
don’t beat around the bush when it comes
to this. I have no problem saying, “Hey,
this is not working so good.” But I don’t
just complain. I have enough experience
to suggest ways to correct the problem.
The bottom line is, if the product is not
good and you, as a sponsored rider, are
not helping them make the product better,
the product will get bad reviews. It won’t
sell, and your sponsors are not going to be
MBA: You’ve been at this for so long.
Any signs of burnout?
Brian: I love what I’m doing.
Sometimes the racing gets a bit hard.
Certain races aren’t as fun as they should
be. That’s because I’ve been doing it for
35 years. If you get to a place and the
course is bad or the weather is lousy but
you still have to do the race, it is not as
enjoyable as it once used to be.
It is still fun to go somewhere new and
ride trails you have never ridden. It keeps
things fresh. That’s the greatest thing
about our sport. There are so many great
trails all over the world. We’ll never in
our lifetime get to ride them all. I feel
blessed just to experience what I have
experienced so far.
MBA: Can there be a Brian Lopes
without racing in his life?
Brian: That’s a tough one. I think
there can be. Maybe my competition will
come from something you touched on earlier. Bringing up a younger guy and passing on as much knowledge, experience
and feedback as I can to help him succeed
at winning races and titles could bring the
same satisfaction as racing myself. I’d
still get that warm, fuzzy feeling from
The 55 origin: Brian has become inseparable from the race number 55, and it
goes all the way back to his first number plate as a beginner BMX racer. Mom
and Dad Lopes preserved the photo of Brian’s first 55.
FIVE QUICK Q&As