Words by Aaron Gates, photos courtesy of Jason Vawter
Every scene has a BMX house or two. If you haven’t lived in one, you’ve probably rode a sketchy ramp at one or crashed at one during a road trip. The Ghetto Mansion is a BMX house in Burnaby, which is one town over from Vancouver. At any given time it houses at least three riders, but it seems like there are always people coming and going.
The name Ghetto Mansion describes the house quite well. It’s a huge house in Burnaby, one of two in the middle of an industrial area. When your neighbors are auto shops and gas stations, keeping up appearances isn’t that important, so the place is a mess. Walk in and you’ll immediately notice a bunch of makeshift locks on the door, some broken and some still functioning. Some of the walls are tagged and there is the occasional hole that hasn’t been repaired. The house has everything that a BMX house needs. They have a giant stack of classic VHS videos (including a copy of Nowhere Fast), enough room in the basement for bunnyhop sessions, and a revolving cast of awesome riders.
The residents of Ghetto Mansion seem to have their routine down pretty well. They all go to work- welding, machining and things like that. They’ll come home, make a cheese whiz sandwich or breakfast for dinner, and then pack a car full of bikes and pick a place to pedal around. They always ride together, and they’re always out riding. Most of these guys are transplants from the Okanagan Valley, which is a few hours inland from Vancouver. Ryan Hiebert was the first to move; Mat Ridgeway and Kurt Murseli headed out there when Ryan finished school and got a job. There’s this dude Travis who lives there but doesn’t ride, and keeping track of everyone else is a bit of a task.
Even a brief stay at the mansion is memorable. The guys that live there have the admirable quality of focusing on a few simple things, and they’re not too worried about anything else.