This BMX Rider Is Paving The Road So That Other Women Can Soar Over It

Who ever invented the phrase, “It’s as easy as riding a bike,” never tried to do a freestyle trick on a BMX course. That shit is hard. But that doesn’t mean they’d never seen BMX. Because they may have watched Nina Buitrago soar through the air on a BMX bike. She makes everything look effortlessly easy. Including the kind of tricks and jumps that would make most people run far, far away, the thought of broken bones, and bruised skin buzzing around their heads.

For an extreme rider like Buitrago, that’s part of the thrill. It’s not easy. BMX takes practice and skill and a whole lot of fearlessness. But once it’s a part of you, it’s downright addictive.

“The first moment I got on my own bike…that was when I realized, oh my gosh. I love this,” Buitrago says. “I don’t want it to end.”

That moment, when she first got on a BMX bike and took her first ride, was 17 years ago, and it hasn’t ended. In the interim, Nina Buitrago hasn’t just continued to ride, she’s become (almost unarguably) one of the best and probably most influential female BMX riders in the world. This was no easy feat. Especially considering that when she entered the sport, there were almost no women riding. It would take a lot of guts and passion to break into the male dominated world. Luckily, Buitrago had both in strides.

“When I first started, I really didn’t have any female role models in BMX,” Buitrago says. She just didn’t let a lack of role models stop her. She decided: If there weren’t enough women paving the way, she’d do it herself. Quickly, she earned the respect of the other (mostly) male riders in the circuit, and she stopped caring what others thought of her. It was hard to do, but she had to follow her own internal compass towards what she loved, and not let anyone else’s expectations of what a girl could and could not do get in her way. When it came down to it, riding was what she wanted, what brought her joy, and she wasn’t going to stop just because others didn’t get it. She fought against allowing herself to sink into the bland or mundane, or to sit on the sidelines. The sidelines have never been Buitrago’s style.

“I think we’re all guilty of letting other people get in our head, and pulling ourselves back because of it,” Buitrago says. “So just remembering that it’s my way to release– really helped me stick with it.”

When Buitrago rides, everything else disappears. There’s no past or future, no tomorrow that she has to worry about. She’s riding for the moment, for the thrilling feeling of each trick, each small victory, each moment of catching air. She finds that one second where she’s flying and she lets it fill her, completely. The ground is gone, and the only thing that matters is soaring through the air.

“When I’m on my bike, all I think about is the present,” Buitrago says. It frees her from anything else going on. “There’s something really…. liberating,” she says of the sport. “I can go anywhere with this bike.”

BMX has brought Buitrago all over the world, and as she became entrenched in the sport and the lifestyle, she became the role model for others that she never had. She takes pride in that, and the responsibility of inspiring other women and girls to pick up a bike and live their passion is serious to her. She supports other women by creating female centric BMX magazines, special events, and with constant cheerleading. She’s changed the face of the sport to be more inclusive.

For Buitrago, there’s only now to live your dreams, and whether she’s cheering on other female riders or reminding friends to live their passion (no matter what it is) before its too late, Buitrago is a positive force to be reckoned with.

“I don’t know where women’s BMX would be, honestly, without Nina,” fellow professional rider and friend, Dani Lightningbolt tells us. It’s inspiring for other women to see the path Buitrago has trailblazed. She was the first ever sponsored female BMX rider, and she’s innovated the sport beyond being a female rider. She doesn’t limit herself to one style or way of riding. She just pursues her passion, and along the way, tries to catch as much air as she can.

Buitrago has been riding for a long time now, and in many ways, she says, she feels like she’s still at it because she’s been able to help so many girls follow their dreams. Being a support system to women in the sport gets her just as hyped as landing a really difficult trick.

“I think just constantly giving, really comes back to you,” she says, the joy of the sport just bubbling off of her. “I see a lot of really great things happening for girls’ BMX and am really happy to be a part of it.”

It’s her enthusiasm for BMX (and for life) that separates Buitrago from the every day person, and transports her into someone extraordinary. She rides as if every ride, every day, could be her last. She does what she loves, and she’s on a mission to help others find their joy too. She wants to prove that anyone of any gender can kick ass at what they love, even if it seems impossible, even if no one else is doing it. She just gives it her all.

Her best advice to the girls that come after her? Just to “ride their hearts out.”