It’s an easy autumn morning.
The kind where the coffee pours nearly as slow as the sun pushes the shadows up from beneath the hills. When the cold of night gives way to the warmth of day in a quick and surprising way.
I’m meeting Dustin Khadikin along with his boys, Seth, and Kyle, for a Ranch session this morning. It wasn’t a challenging appointment to make, because the Khadikin boys are always at the Ranch.
“Wrangler’s gotta be my favourite trail here,” admits Dustin. “It’s got so much to play with. I could ride 15 laps in a row and hit different lines each time.”
So that’s where we start. The laps kick off in effortless fashion while the late season light burns bright behind us. Dustin leads the pack as his boys bob and weave behind him, each set of tires carving slightly different lines in and out of turns while all three riders are flowing, calm and casually over endless hips and rolls in a fashion that’s only attainable through the repetition of hundreds and hundreds of rides.
“The boys really push me out here,” Dustin tells me in regard to the volume of time that he and his family spend riding in the Ranch. While Dustin obviously carries a lifetime’s worth of skills that Seth and Kyle are still learning for themselves, they’re his primary motivation to keep riding regularly.
At 43 years old, Dustin certainly doesn’t live in the most common age group that frequently
flows through the jumps at the Ranch. But while he spends the bulk of his time riding in an environment tuned toward progression, where most riders focus on pushing themselves, Dustin doesn’t feel any need to take on any new or unnecessary risks with his riding.
“I guess I spent enough time chasing progression back when I was racing,” Dustin mentions in contemplation of his relaxed attitude toward riding.
As a teenager, Dustin raced BMX in the Kamloops area, which was competitive and all-encompassing chapter in his life. He started racing pro class at only 16 years old, and spent some years rubbing elbows in berms with local legends like Richie Schley. But even in the tunnel vision of professional racing, certain crashes and accidents forced Dustin to question whether the long term repercussions were worth the risk.
These days, it’s play time on two wheels.
Dustin rallies through his rides without a sliver of personal pressure, and flows with a clicked and gentle style that can only be earned from years of experience. He’s confident that longevity is far more enjoyable than leap-of-faith moments, and he’s effectively passing that ethos along to his boys.
That effortless flow and high level of confidence make Dustin a perfect sound board for a couple of teenage boys learning the ropes of big airs and wild Kamloops lines. So when Seth and Kyle are working out the kinks of certain moves or pushing themselves to ride something new, they share in positive conversations about where their motivation lives and whether or not they’re properly prepared to make the leap.
It’s easy to see the reward of that support when Seth and Kyle lean into tall take offs and touch down gently from lofty Kamloops airs. The boys ride a lot like their dad. Playful, stylish, and smooth.
Remembering these sessions, the time they spend together, and the impact that bicycles are having on the upbringing of his boys are all reasons why Dustin has picked up a camera and started treating photography as a compliment to his riding. He brings the camera along on nearly every ride, so he and the boys can take turns collecting images of each other.
“After all those years of racing and riding, I only had like 15 or 20 images to look back on,” says Dustin. “ So I want them to have the memories to look back on when they are older, and to show to their own kids one day. So that they can say, ‘hey, look at this. This is what my upbringing with my dad was like.’ Kyle especially, gets really into it. He finds a lot of the fun angles that we play with.”
So as we play on a couple of corners while the last bit of light burns over the hillside, I bounce some angles back and forth with Kyle and do my best to capture what he’s imagining. And it feels like a special moment to be collecting images that will add a few pages to those memories that Dustin, Seth, and Kyle will always look back on.
We finally figure out a way to fit the whole gang into one image, and then we put the camera’s away and play on a few more turns. The light of the day melts down to a thin glow on western horizon and we can barely see the ground. We session the tables before the Ranch parking lot, and argue over paying for pizza as we stuff our gear away and call it a night. I drive home thinking that I should have checked in on their plans for the rest of the weekend, and when we might be able to hit some laps again, but I don’t think the Khadikin boys will be hard to find.