Since the training wheels came off, Sean Day has been a top BMX racer
written by Lauren Kramer | photography by Jim Meyers
In the sport of BMX racing, Tacoma native Sean Day, 16, is taking the world by storm. He holds numerous Northwest Regional Gold Cup titles, Washington State No. 1 titles, National Age Group No. 1 titles and two World No. 1 titles at the UCI World BMX Championships for 2021 in France and 2022 in Scotland. Given that he began racing just eight years ago, he’s only at the start of his career.
As a kid, Day loved riding anything with two wheels, and would ride up and down his street any opportunity he had. When he was 3 years old, an annoyed neighbor removed the training wheels from his bike to reduce the noise, and as he got his balance, the toddler graduated to doing small jumps on a pad of concrete at the end of his road. At 6, he wondered out loud to his mom, Lisa, if it was possible to race his bike. Lisa found a track, River Valley BMX in Sumner, and took him there to try it out.
It was October 2013, and though the plan was to just check out the race track, Day ended up competing that day—and winning a large trophy to boot. Lisa said that first race hooked him on the sport. “BMX racing was a natural talent for Sean. As time progressed, everyone remarked that he moved so smoothly on his bike, with a natural fluidity that made it look effortless.”
After that first race, Day’s trajectory from novice to expert level took just six months. Initially he competed in BMX Canada national events but later moved on to USA BMX national events across the United States.
Depending on the track length, it takes between 22 and 45 seconds to complete a lap on a BMX track, but the short route is riddled with obstacles that riders need to traverse. It’s a challenging sport, Day admitted. “I work out six days a week, every week of the year, and it takes a lot of hard work and determination to get to the top,” he said. “Once you get there, you have a huge target on your back, because everyone wants to beat you.”
Day started junior high school remotely toward the end of seventh grade, when the pandemic began, and by ninth grade was fully enrolled in online school. Now a junior in high school, he does his BMX training in Florida in the winter months, gearing up for the USA BMX Grand National Competition, which is held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, every Thanksgiving weekend.
These days, he competes in up to twenty national race weekends a year, and speed is everything, he said. “At the top level, we do nothing but go over obstacles as fast as possible to get to the finish line first. The obstacles are formed dirt to make tabletops, doubles, triples and quads, and each competition is a very quick 45-second lap.”
While the top amateur BMX racers don’t earn money at the national events, there are prizes to be won at many of the Professional-Amateur events, held at local tracks throughout the country. Day has walked away with top prizes at many of these events, and his talent has also attracted sponsorship opportunities that cover his travel, bikes and training.
The travel opportunities as a top BMX racer have been among the highlights of his career to date, Day said. “I’ve been to more places than most people my age, just because I can ride on two wheels and compete on such a high level,” he noted. “I love going out of the country, seeing new places and meeting up with my teammates.”
Day’s team, called Factory Full Tilt, is known for its many victories and for having some of the best riders in the sport. In his free time, Day offers training and clinics to other riders and helps them improve their skills.
“He’s become a role model for other youth in the sport, and I love seeing him give back to the community,” Lisa said. “We were blessed at the amount of financial support Sean received, and for the many positive role models that have nurtured him on this journey. It’s great to see him now helping others.”
BMX racing has changed his life completely, she added. “He was shy as a youngster, and racing has helped him communicate more freely and openly. I’m proud of his dedication, commitment and his talent, and I’m happy to let him pursue it.”
BMX Racing Cyclist
Day works out six days a week: four days in the gym for up to two hours, and twice a week sprints on his bike for 90 minutes. On track days, he spends up to three hours on the track.
Day doesn’t actively follow a nutritional plan. “I eat whatever I want, but because I’m so active I burn everything off the same day!” he said.
“My inspiration is Niek Kimmann, a Dutch BMX racing cyclist. He’s the reigning Olympic champion in BMX racing, a three-time world champion and one-time European champion, to name just a few of his achievements. When he was my age, he won the junior men’s title, and at 17 he won the elite men’s class. I’d like to accomplish what he did.”