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Oct 9, 2018 11:31 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

BMX Shoreham Has Given Racing Bug To Sloan Family, Who Want To Share It With Fellow East End Residents

Declan Sloan, left, and Dylan Hmielenski at BMX Shoreham. DREW BUDD
Oct 9, 2018 11:31 AM

A chance encounter led Derek and Declan Sloan to BMX Shoreham, and they haven’t regretted the decision of trying out the bike track ever since.

Hanging out at the small bike track near Hayground School in Bridgehampton a year or so ago, Declan, 14, of Sag Harbor and his father, Derek, struck up a conversation with Dylan Hmielenski, 26, of East Hampton. An avid BMX rider and veteran of the sport—who said he was once ranked as high as third in the country when he was seven years old—Hmielenski has been making the hour-long trips back and forth to BMX Shoreham, located right off of 25A across from Shoreham/Wading River High School, since he was three years old. He said he saw something in the young Declan and urged him to ride competitively.

“I saw he had a lot of potential riding and he was pretty skilled. He knew what he was doing on the bike. So I told him, you should try Shoreham out, explained it a little more in depth, and maybe a couple months later they were here. They were trying it out and they were loving it,” he explained.

Since then Declan has become a regular at the Shoreham track, and what Hmielenski saw in him was no fluke. Declan won 13 straight races in the 13-year-old novice division, and when he turned 14 on October 2, he made the jump to the 14-year-old intermediate division, which he began on Sunday. While the success in the sport has been fun for the Sloan family, it wasn’t necessarily their reason to want to get the word out about the little known track in Shoreham.

“There are so many kids out east who are always on their bikes, and other than some trails in the woods, they don’t really have a place to properly use them, and no one back in Sag Harbor or anywhere near that area knows about this place,” Derek Sloan said. “It’s just a great place to come with families. People come from all over Long Island here.”

According to track operator Rich Soper, BMX Shoreham started in the early 1980s when the sport was still relatively young. But the track grew throughout the years and has since become one of the premier tracks on the East Coast. It’s sanctioned through USA BMX and, since 2013, has hosted the New York State Championships—tracks get to host the state championship based on rider count.

It’s the family-oriented part of the sport that makes it appealing to people. Boys and girls, men and women of all ages, as well as all skill levels, are welcome to compete. Children as young as two years old can compete in the “strider” division, where they properly learn how to use a bike without using pedals, and 70-year-old people have been known to compete. There are novice, intermediate and expert divisions in each age group to separate each rider properly.

“The community is the biggest thing here,” Soper said. “It’s a friendly environment. People are looking for something exciting for their kids to do. It’s a trip from out east but people do it from Nassau quite often. I think once people get here they come back. Once you go through the day you understand it more.”

While it can be expensive depending on the bike and equipment each rider chooses, it can also be an affordable sport, Soper pointed out. Riders can register for a full year at Shoreham for around $60. Practice days are Thursdays, when it’s $6 to use the track. On race days, which are Tuesdays during the summer but switch to Sundays during the school year, riders looking to compete pay $12 for normal race days, sometimes slightly higher when a special race day or night is on. The season starts in mid- to late-April and finishes in mid-November. The track also stays open for long hours, with some night racing going until 10 or 11 p.m. during the summer.

Declan Sloan has garnered sponsorship through Hometown Taxi, which his father is a driver for. Derek Sloan said that Hometown owner Bryan Daparma would be more than happy to have a van of kids from the East End to go back and forth to Shoreham if there’s enough interest. In the near future, when Declan starts to compete at the regional and national level, Mr. Sloan said he’ll be sponsored by Rotations Bicycle Center in Southampton, where he just recently purchased his brand new bike.

Delcan said that he loves the competition he’s seen in the sport so far but he also likes that everyone is so friendly. Since coming to the track he’s made a number of friends, such as Nick Comeau, 14, of Eastport. Hmielenski, who has become a coach and mentor for the young Sloan, urged people to make the trip to Shoreham.

“Go on the computer, look up BMX racing, just take a look at it, and you’re going to get perspective on whether you like it or not. And when you come in person, you can’t even explain how much better it is,” he said. “I would highly recommend it for anyone to give it a shot or just come watch.”

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