DAVENPORT -- The 42-year-old sits in a cushioned chair at Goodtimes Superstore, dressed in jeans and Goodtimes T-shirt, describing how he's handling a neck injury without surgery. He's famous, at least in one sense of the word. He's traveled around the world as a professional athlete for a quarter of a century. He owns one of his sport's premier companies, and has been featured on magazines and in a video game.
At 42, Rick Moliterno is the sport's benchmark, the Roger Clemens of BMX riding. After 36 years, this rocket isn't retiring any time soon. Still, he has trouble using the phrase 'as I age.'
'Basically, I'm still the oldest biker out there that's still progressing,' he says. 'I get kids telling me they're too old to ride and they're 19.'
Sitting in a cushioned chair at Goodtimes Superstore, dressed in jeans and Goodtimes T-shirt, he describes how he's handling a neck injury without surgery and the fact he just doesn't want to 'grow up.'
'I consider growing up as getting all stiff and intense and not learning new things,' he says. 'I want to keep my eyes wide open.'
With his career, he could have lived anywhere, in places with bigger biking scenes. He stuck to the Quad-Cities where only a certain sect knows his name, Rick Moliterno.
'Famous? It doesn't feel like it in my home,' he says. 'Home is always going to be home. It's comforting to have a home base.'
Getting started: Circa 1960s
He started taking BMX seriously as a 6-year-old can. What started out as just riding around, grew into 'riding, jumping, whatever.'
He started on the racing side of biking, but as the sport was changing, so was Rick. People were starting to explore what could be done on a bike, tricks, loops, jumps. He stuck with it even as other kids were pulled away by girls, cars, drugs and booze.
In 1982, Rick turned professional in racing while still exploring and competing as an amateur in the freestyle riding. By 1988, his name was widely known in the freestyle biking world.
The sport hadn't come close to getting the mainstream following it has today. Back in the '80s, he had to explain what the letters BMX meant -- bicycle motocross.
'I'd have my doctor keep asking, 'Now how did you get these?'' he says of competing in a sport not many knew. 'People didn't know what it meant.'
He traveled around the world, but always returned home to Davenport. In the time since, his name and image have graced BMX magazine covers and videos for decades. There's even a biking movie, 'Rad,' where Rick had the only speaking role. It haunts him to this day.
'I can't go anywhere in any event without people quoting lines to me,' he says, shaking his head.
Even with pushing himself and his sport, he's always escaped serious injury. The worst he had -- until his recent neck injury -- was a torn ligament in his knee. 'I always believe in learning within your limits.'
Pros like 18-time X-Game medalist Dave Mirra idolized him and have since paid their respect. When designing 'Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2' video game, Mr. Mirra wanted to repay his long-time friend by making him a character within the game.
'I think it's like a voodoo doll,' Rick says of his persona within the game. 'People are crashing me on purpose.'
Rampage Skate Park: Circa 1989
He celebrates Feb. 3 every year. It was the date he opened Rampage Skate Park in 1989. For more than 15 years, the indoor park sat on Kimmel Drive stayed out of the public eye. But inside on the ramps, riders from across the country were participating in the evolution of BMX biking.
For Rick, it was a place to give younger riders and skaters a positive influence.
'You want kids to be kids and not grow up stiff, but if they're being dumb, and this might sound blunt, but you have to tell them,' he says. 'It was a way to show kids respect and caring for something.'
Like all good things, Rampage came to an end. In 2005, as the city was planning on building a multi-million public park, he decided not to renew his lease on the building.
Before it closed, Rampage was the longest running skate park in the world.
He wants to open another park again, but this time buy -- not rent -- in an area of Davenport with more public access. 'If I wanted to make a lot of money, I wouldn't be in this business,' he says.
Standard Byke Company: Circa 1992
Rick and other pro BMX riders were pushing the limits so fast, bikes couldn't keep up. In some months, he'd break four or more of the bikes his sponsor, Haro Bikes, provided.
In 1992 Rick created Standard Byke Company. 'Now almost every major change we made back then is the standard today,' he says.
The pun is intended.
Rick and his friends changed the frame's geometry and strength without an engineering degree amongst them, just decades of riding experience. 'Finding a weak point in a frame was easy,' he says.
Each frame is handmade. 'We're like the highest-end (BMX) frame you can get,' he says. Each frame carries a nearly-$400 price tag.
The truly devoted sport tattoos with the company's logo.
Standard's international racing and freestyle teams work as both advertisers and research and development. Rick travels about 50,000 miles a year through riding, promotion and videos. They're currently filming their latest team video 'Stranger Than All,' due out in June.
'Wherever riding goes, well make the bikes to match,' Rick says. 'It's about making something that responds well to the way they ride.'
Designed in Davenport, made in Wisconsin and Ohio, the bikes are ridden around the world. If Rick had his way, he'd be able to bring everything home. He wants the local kids riding his bikes now, to someday be able to make the bikes.
He's currently looking for a local machine shop and welders to work with, and is talking with the city and state for incentives to bring all production to Davenport.
'This is my home,' he says. 'I want to bring about 15 trade-skilled jobs to the area.'
Goodtimes Super Store: Circa 1995
On Locust Street, across 16th Street from Wendy's, a small sign sticks out from a building announcing Goodtimes' presence.
Inside the large storefront windows are skateboard decks, bikes and everything needed to get rolling. Rick prides Goodtimes on the store's quality, not just in equipment, but in service.
'We get the riders what they need and don't worry about just making a buck,' he says. 'We make sure what we sell works.'
Along with Standard and Rampage bikes, Rick says the now 2,800-square-feet Goodtimes added fuel to the fire that is the Quad-Cities skating and biking scene.
'There's an amazing scene here with lots of talented riders. To a lot of these kids, Goodtimes is home,' he says.
The future: Circa 2007 and beyond
Rick pedaled a bike for the first time in seven months. After years of biking, the falls are beginning to catch up. With lesser injuries, 'I'd just ride around it,' he says.
This time was different. A herniated disc in his neck left him with a troubling decision to make. Surgery, where doctors would open up the front of his throat -- possibly damaging his vocal chords -- that may not fix the injury, or hope it will heal on its own as he was told it could? He's choosing the latter.
'After my neck heals, I could see doing this at some level forever,' he says.
Seeing the popularity of biking and skateboarding go through peaks and valleys, Rick says both are going to be around for a long time.
'I don't see it getting any smaller,' he says. 'The guys that are in it now aren't going anywhere. Public attention might go down, but biking and skateboarding won't.'
Talking about his past, what's he accomplished and what his plans are, Rick doesn't see 42 as being old, even in a sport dominated by athletes not old enough to legally buy alcohol.
'These are the good old days,' he says. 'They're just getting better.'
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