BMX Star Nigel Sylvester Talks Bikes, Branding & Giving Back to His City
Just a few days shy of turning 24 years old pro BMX bike rider Nigel Sylvester exudes confidence and radiates charisma. The jovial Sylvester has more to celebrate than just his birthday though. The Queens, NY native’s gift for gravity defying tricks has taken him all over the globe and landed him endorsement deals with Nike, Gatorade, G-Shock watches and Animal Bikes among others. BE Next spoke to Sylvester about maintaining one’s brand integrity, expanding horizons and working with New York City to promote biking.
BE Next: What does Nigel Sylvester represent? Explain your personal brand.
Nigel Sylvester: The Nigel Sylvester brand is lifestyle–a true extension of what I do every day. [It’s] something I share with the world, that was always the mission. The basis of it is BMX which I feel people know about worldwide to a certain extent I feel like everyone at some point in their childhood rode a BMX bike before or got on it and tried to do a bunny hop or pop a wheelie at least so they can relate to the feeling you get as a kid getting on a bicycle so I kinda just took that feeling juiced it up and went to a whole ‘nother level with it. I started to do tricks and traveling and it just kinda blew up y’know?
BE Next: Unlike a lot of sponsored riders you’ve never competed in the X Games and you’re primarily a street rider, why do you think you’re so attractive to brands like Nike, G-Shock and Gatorade?
Nigel Sylvester: I think for a long time the pros in BMX went down one road and had tunnel vision. With me I grew up knowing it as “freestyle BMX” and freestyle means you do it whatever way you want so I took that idea to heart and said ‘if everyone’s going right I’m going to go left’ and vice versa and just try to do things differently and experiment and not be so afraid to be different. Just try different things and see how they work, especially being from NYC you get so many different influences from different cultures all the time.
One thing that stands out about you in comparison to other BMX riders is that you’re very fashion conscious—you never catch Nigel out looking bummy—let’s talk the influences on your personal style and how they helped form what your brand is.
Growing up in NYC, no matter if you’re in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx wherever you’re at you’re always going to see somebody doing it up and you’re going to see a whole bunch of different looks on a daily basis and I take note of that. I just like to look good. My brother was into fashion and clothes and I grew up in a house with him and he went to public school where you could wear whatever you but he wore ties and suits and suspenders and shoes all the time. He wasn’t afraid to do that and be different than the crowd. I admired that so much that it was instilled in me too, I’m not afraid to stand out. It’s not something that I’m forcing the issue on it’s just something I like to do. Even my mom, she’s always into fashion and she shops all the time and I just watched her shop all the time and in the hood it’s good to look good. No matter how much money we had we made it stretch and made it look good. Presentation is key.
Let’s talk about the entrepreneurial endeavors we can look forward to…
NS: I have this movement right now, it’s called “Pop-A-Wheelie Fresh” we’ve got shirts coming out soon and it’s just something for BMX riders that aren’t afraid to look good on their bikes. Sometimes it’s hard to look fresh when you’re outside riding, around, falling down but to a certain extent you can make it look good whether it’s the tricks you’re doing or the clothes you’re wearing. It’s just a whole lifestyle and mind state.
So it’s going to be a lifestyle brand?
Yeah pretty much. It’ll be an extension of mean the things I want to bring to BMX that I see are not there right now.
What made you want to start your own lifestyle brand?
Just being creative and naturally being a hyper kid and always having ideas. This idea just felt so second nature to me and I just wanted to express it to the world. That’s one thing about me I just want to share what I feel are the coolest things ever with the world.
Let’s talk about this G-Shock collaboration and how it came about?
NS: I’ve been working with G-Shock for a little over a year doing one-off projects with them like an ad or a video, I guess it’s them looking for good representation within BMX. From there it just kinda of evolved. They explained to me that G-Shock started off in sports and when Kanye came through and blew it up for them it became a real fashion piece and their focus now is to get back into sports and have a solid foundation. They added me to their team and told me I could do my own watch. I thought that was incredible because I remember gettin’ first G-Shock in high school so it was a brand I embraced way before I started working with them and it was great designing this piece with them.
We talked about your personal brand and we know you work with Nike, Animal Bikes, Gatorade and G-Shock all of those make sense, have you ever been approached to endorse products that what weren’t such a fit? Are you very selective about who you work with?
I’m very selective about who I work with I’ve been approached by brands and I’ve told them that that’s not going to work for me. I like to endorse brands I actually use it’s a way easier connection. I have experience with these products and I know how it makes me feel so I can understand how it’ll make someone else feel. It’s very important that I work with brands that are true and that have a good statement and that have good histories –respectable brands. I don’t want to put my name on something that’s wack just ‘cause it’s a good check, that wouldn’t be true to the sport or myself.
Tell me about what you’re doing with New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT).
For the past few years I’ve noticed that May is Bike Month in New York and I’m a bike rider and I wanedt to be a face of bike-riding [for the city]. Like why not? I’m a native, I ride through the streets of the city almost every day and the city means a lot to me. We got in contact with the DOT and told them that we wanted to do a program where we got the word out to kids to get on bikes enjoy this city, stressing fitness. Earlier this year we did that and I went around to ten high schools played some videos and spoke to the kids about what bike-riding means to me and why bike-riding is one of the best ways to appreciate the city. It’s just one of those passion projects that allowed me to give back to a city that’s given so much to me. We start doing again this fall. It’s a great feeling to look on my Facebook and see a message from a kid who’s like ‘I’m glad you came to my school today. You inspired me” It sounds corny but the children really are our future.