By Parker Rome, Fort Riley Public AffairsSeptember 8, 2011
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- They may not be the typical entertainers to visit the troops overseas, but that seems to be alright with them.
Bikes Over Baghdad is a group of about 10 BMX riders who have traveled numerous times to perform for service members in Iraq. The group made Fort Riley its first stateside military visit when they put on a few shows during the Warrior Zone grand opening celebration Aug. 26.
"It's so sick, man," said Mykel Larrin, one of the riders. "It's a lot similar to the same set of emotions that we get when we're over in Iraq having these guys be here. We have such a huge appreciation for everyone who does what they do over there and same here."
Bikes Over Baghdad showed up the morning of Aug. 26 and set up a quarter pipe, a box jump and a subrail system incorporated with a military vehicle. In the afternoon, riders visited different elementary schools across post and gave brief flat-land demonstrations, saving the bigger jumps for the shows that night.
"We have flatland, we have our tricks over the box -- so you'll see Supermans, back flips, front flips, tail whips, you name it, it's going to be out there," Larrin said before the show. "We have guys that are in video games, we have X Games gold medalists, we have Dew Tour competitors and everything."
Larrin said his specialty is vert riding.
"I love doing that," he said. "That's definitely what I really get my kicks on. Everybody has their own thing, but with this setup, we've got all the elements here."
Larrin, who joined the group in February last year, has been to Iraq on three occasions and is preparing for his fourth.
"Honestly, it's probably one of the most rewarding trips I get to be a part of throughout the year," he said. "We are just super psyched to keep going over there. As long as they're over there, we're going to keep going back."
The moment Larrin said he felt rewarded was when a Soldier told him after their performance they made him "forget he was in the desert for the last two hours."
"It could have just been that one guy that said that and it would have been worth it," Larrin said. "We could have went over there 30 times, and just as long as it takes one mind off the desert for that little short period that we're there, it's worth it."
Mike McCann, director of military marketing for Harley Davidson, which sponsors the group, said Bikes Over Baghdad is the perfect choice to entertain today's service members.
"It's adrenaline-fueled, and it ties in with us because it's on two wheels -- even though they're bikes don't have motors -- and what we saw was just an incredible match of demographic of our Soldier today in the Middle East and these incredible athletes," he said.
The first time he saw them, he said he was amazed.
"I saw a YouTube video first, and I couldn't believe the heights and some of the tricks they were doing," he said. "Then, once I saw it live, that was another wave of 'Oh my God, I can't believe what my eyes are seeing.' Then the third wave was the reaction of the troops and the connection they made."
The group often spends their entire trip in Iraq side-by-side with the Soldiers, eating with them at the dining facilities and interacting with them throughout the day.
"There's a human connection there, and I think there's a genuine caring that comes across," he said.
For more information about Bikes Over Baghdad, visit the group's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BikesOverBaghdad.