Ragland’s Richard Bunt got started in BMX racing in 1984. As a kid growing up in Ragland, he and his friends would ride their bikes around town.
“We were all too young to drive, so to get anywhere we had to ride our bikes,” Bunt said. “The only races were in Birmingham near Eastlake, or Oak Mountain State Park. So we either had to talk our parents into taking us, or get my older brother to drive us. We would get there however we could.”
Bunt then raced for some 16 years, and then moved on to running a team. He enjoyed working for companies in the BMX industry. He eventually partnered with a fellow racer, and today owns his own company, Clayborn Bicycles, that manufactures BMX racing frames and accessories.
Bunt is ready to take it one step further — establishing a BMX racing track in St. Clair County.
“There are several opportunities that we are looking at,” Bunt said. “We are actually looking at three sites. It’s a great sport. I run a track right now in Weaver, and it has been up and running for four years now. I used to run the track in Sylacauga, but sometimes there are just hard markets out there. It was a little bit farther out than we wanted, and we really want to move everything to St. Clair County. It will be good.”
Bunt said people from Georgia and Tennessee come to the Weaver track, as well as people from Pell City, Gadsden, Birmingham and Thorsby.
“People travel because there is not a track in every town,” Bunt said. “The mayor and council in Weaver are excited because some of our races will draw over 100 riders, and many of them have never been to Weaver. Hopefully that’s what we can do here in St. Clair County. Some of the spots we are looking at will enable us to build even a larger track than we have in Weaver. It makes it more challenging.”
The three locations Bunt is looking at are all within a 10-minute drive from Interstate 20.
Bunt said it is a great sport, and a sport parents can do with their kids.
“It’s unlike a team sport,” he said. “You do not have a coach or have to worry about him playing you or making you sit. You buy your membership, show up, pay an entry fee, and you get to race. No one can keep you from getting into the game. You do not have to be at every race or every practice. There are grandparents racing with their kids and grandkids. I’ve seen kids as young as 3-to-4 years old racing, and people over 60 racing. There are different classifications for the different ages.”
Bunt has been a Team USA coach in the past, and has been to France, Brazil, Australia, and Canada to the World Championships, a preliminary to the Olympics. This year marks the second time BMX racing has been a sport in the Olympics.
“It’s still kind of new to the Olympics,” Bunt said. “I personally know all those who participated in this year’s Olympics. It’s tight-knit. You know everyone in the national circuit. It’s difficult at times because who know this guy and you want to pull for him to do good, but yet he is from another country.”
Bunt sponsored Wetumpka’s Barry Nobles, who was in London the past two weeks with the Olympics.
Nobles’ girlfriend is Caroline Buchanan, who competed for Australia in BMX racing.
“She was the odds-on favorite to win the Olympics,” Bunt said. “She has won the mountain bike championship for many years. In Australia, cyclists are like celebrities. She has been invited to eat with the Prime Minister.”
Bunt said Nobles had been racing for many years and his mother used to operate the track in Birmingham when he was about 5 years old.
“He made the sacrifices at a young age, and today, had the chance to go to London to the Olympic Games,” Bunt said. “He was one spot away from making the American Olympic Team. Had one person got hurt, he would have been put on the team. He is an amazing rider. Kids love him. He’s just like part of our family.”
Bunt also noted that on that team with Nobles was Brooke Crain, who made the main event at the 2012 Olympics.
“Although they have moved on to different sponsors, they will always be part of the Clayborn Bicycles Family,” Bunt said.