Where are they now: Khalen Young
Updated: Dec 17, 2022
It has been a long time since we've seen the wild child of BMX on US soil, but that doesn't mean his legacy and memory are lost in today's racing. Coming over to America in 2007, Khalen Young quickly rose to the top of the AA Pro standings to become an ABA BMX National No.1 title holder in 2008. A series regular, repping the Haro team all the way up until his retirement at 27 years old, KY has made a return to his bike while training the next crop of beasts to come out of Australia. We rang up Young to check in and talk shop about his career and what he's been up to since we last saw him.
2009 Silver Dollar Nationals // via photos.usabmx.com
Where is he now? What has the Aussie, Khalen Young, been up to since his departure from professional racing?
So, where I live in Western Australia, the mining sector is big, so I work away in the mine. I work two weeks on and two weeks off. It’s a good lifestyle, and the money is great, but I’ve found the love of riding my bike again. You know my wife doesn’t like me racing because I get hurt, haha. But I race the Masters class, and it's rather easy, and that’s no cop-out to the Masters guys. It’s just not that deep of a field over here. I also race the superclass kids over here during the year just to keep them honest, you know. I mean, I’m 38, but I don’t know. There’s just no pathway in BMX anymore like there was for me growing up. I think that’s the major substantial change in BMX at the moment, especially in Australia. So I have my own training groups. I have a group called BMX Kinetics, and I keep them honest. I really try to show them that pathway of how I did it and how it takes structure and discipline if you want to make it in BMX.
I still race, and I probably enjoy it more now than ever because there’s no stress. It’s stressful being a professional athlete, and I’ll say I didn’t enjoy racing at an elite level; I only enjoyed winning. Racing was hard, it was stressful, it wasn’t enjoyable, it was an income. It was a way to make money, It was my job, but yeah, it was stressful, man, I didn’t enjoy it. Racing at an elite level takes a lot from you, and it takes a lot of discipline and structure, which I didn’t have back then because I didn’t have the right people in my corner. But now, I ride my bike more than ever now, I train with a good group of kids. I do a lot of work with the local indigenous kids here in Western Australia and just give back.
My wife and I have a non-profit called Karlup Wheels In Motion Indigenous Corporation, and our goal is to unite and inspire all the kids within the community by providing education and inclusiveness through diversity and coaching, you know. We’ve identified there’s a community funding issue, and we’re just trying to break the barrier and inspire the youth to realize riding a bike is healthy and show there is a pathway for you. That pretty much consumes a lot of our time outside of work is trying to build this foundation where we can give back to the less fortunate and show there are other options out there.
Showing that pathway in the sport is huge for your non-profit but also for your training group. What steps are you showing them?
Yeah, I’m just trying to provide a pathway for them. BMX in Australia, I don’t know; it’s in such a weird spot. We have this ongoing conversation with Bruce and I on the Podcast where it’s like, USA BMX; it’s a pleasure to race there. It’s so enjoyable. People are thankful that you’ve shown up to be a part of their series. I remember racing, and there were dudes in staging fist-bumping me, “Good luck today KY. Glad you’re here, man. Let us know if we can do anything to help out” That inclusiveness, that makes me want to ride BMX more when it's just a scene full of good people. I feel like we kind of lack that at the moment in Australia. It could be a magnitude of things, it could be the landscape of the business and everything else, but I just really loved racing in America. It was great, the people were great, and it's definitely, one thing I miss over there is the comradery within the scene.
Hey, don’t worry. We’ll have you back anytime!
Yeah! Pencil me in, man. My wife and I and the kids will be over for Grands next year. We’ll come rub some elbows with old Bubby Knuckles.
2008 Great Salt Lake Nationals // via photos.usabmx.com
We reached out to some people who spent time with you in the era of KY, and your Haro team manager Tony D almost immediately said how much you stressed him out. How was it working with and getting to know Tony D?
Oh, it was a blessing. I was very fortunate enough to have him as a team manager. And you know, as much as I stressed him out, and by all means, I was hard work, my wife will tell you now that I’m still hard work. I was fortunate enough when I first moved to America, I became friends with DB (Derek Betcher), and he co-signed me to get on Haro, and then Tony D texted me like, "Hey, are you expensive?" And I was like, no, not really. And he paid me a decent wage, but I was fortunate enough to get on that team. What a lot of people don’t know is that when Tony left Haro, he let me live with him. I moved in with him when his daughter wasn’t even born, and his son Parker was little, he was only a toddler. He rented out a room to me in his upstairs, and it was a nice two-story in Temecula. He was nice enough to let me live up there, I owe a lot to Tony. Even though I stressed him out, he’s such a f—-g great human. I wouldn’t have had the career I had in America if it wasn’t for him. But I do love stressing him out too.
My wife and I started our own BMX company, it’s called MVK BMX. We make handlebars, Ti bolts, and just some merch. Just starting small with no capital, just out of our own savings to give back a little to the community, but I reached out to Tony D just saying, "Hey do you have any connections in Taiwan to help me get these bars made?" And he went above and beyond. He reached out to Ron Bonner from UGP/Shadow days and helped me out. Rich Pelton did the same, and those relationships that I've made with those people, they last a lifetime; they’re like brothers to me. They bent over backward to help me try and get some handlebars made, and I’m forever thankful for those guys. And that was all from ABA BMX relationships I made with those guys, you know.
Khalen's MVK BMX team // via @MVK_BMX
Back in 2008, you won your ABA BMX National No. 1 Title, Tony D asked to bring up your flight home from Tulsa.
Yeah, it was gnarly. I was sick everywhere. We went out partying that night down at the downtown Hyatt in Tulsa, and I almost missed my flight getting home. I was super f—-g drunk, man. I don’t drink now but even thinking about it now makes me feel sick.
The era that you were a part of is such a unique part of the BMX history books. The end of Mid-School and the beginning of New-School produced athletes that are today’s legends. Just in your title-winning year, there was Caluag, Herman, Stein, Nobles, Stumpy, Josh Oie, Beceerine, and KB, just to name a few.
Yeah, but even Big C was a part of that mid-school era. When I raced Big C, he was coming towards the end of his career too, you know, but he had a career that spanned 10-15 years. He’s another great friend of mine that I speak to quite regularly, but I looked up to him a lot. I looked up to Thomas as well, Thomas Allier, and Kyle (Bennet) as well. I always idolized Kyle because we had the same coach, we trained under Sean Dwight. But it was a weird era because the random gate was coming in, and we were like the last of the sling shooters. Downhill BMX had kinda been around, you know DB, he had won a World Cup, and Robby Miranda he was big on the downhill stuff. That was around when I moved to America, but the big ramp stuff had only just come in. I remember I won a World Cup in ‘07 in Madrid after the World Championships off the big ramp. That was one of the first, but we could still slingshot. It was a weird time. We could still slingshot on the big hill, and the tracks were burly. Barry will tell you we were f—g crash test dummies for a lot of those tracks. I mean, we got broke off.
2009 SoCal Nationals // via photos.usabmx.com
Talking to Barry, he mentioned the London Olympics test event. How was that era of your own career as you were still racing and testing out those gnarly tracks?
Yeah, that was burly. I went through a weird stage with BMX. I moved over in ‘07, I was on Haro, and then I won the title in ‘08, but then we moved to random gate in that period, but I refused to learn the random gate because I was hell-bent on winning the ABA title. When we went to ‘09, and it became random, it was really hard. The last race I won was, well, the Grands, and then I didn’t win another race, I mean, I got a couple podiums that year in ‘09, but I didn’t win a race for four years. I lost my mojo. I didn’t know how to win; I just lost it, you know. It was a magnitude of being young, I was 22-23 years of age, I was in America, I was earning money rather quickly, and then my daughter was born. It became so foreign to me because it wasn’t about me anymore. I needed to be a provider for my child, it was so foreign and above me, and I forgot how to win. I second-guessed myself for the longest time, and it wasn’t until I started working with J-Rich. I went through a pretty rough patch there for about two years, where I think in ‘09, I ended up 4th or 5th in the title chase that year in the ABA and then just progressively got worse and worse as I went along. Well, not worse, I was still top 10, but again I didn’t know how to win. I couldn’t find the piece of the jigsaw anymore; I couldn’t put it together. So I started working with Dr. J, and then the 2010 World Champs in South Africa, I just said f— it, I’m going for it. That time was rough for me, you know? I lost my uncle around that time, and I was just going through a rough patch. But I mean, these were big races. I remember the last race I won was a big f—g race; there were a lot of fast guys there. Guys like Deano (Anthony Dean), Connor (Fields), and Sam (Willoughby), and that was 2012 at Nerang.
Talking to the National Track Builder, Billy Allen, he was super appreciative of you standing up for him a few years back, talking about the different tracks from big hill, small hill, flat turns, gnarly turns, and you saying that's what the ABA series is about.
I appreciate that. Tell him I say what up too. It takes all types. I mean, the way I look at it, to win a USA title, you have to be the best at everything. Whether it’s big hill, whether it's flat hill, flat turns, or asphalt turns, to win an ABA title or USA BMX title, you have to be the complete package. That’s why it is the hardest title to win because you have to be the best at everything for 11 months of the year; it’s so f—g hard. And man, you guys turn around tracks in a couple days; It’s phenomenal, you know. I got nothing but love for USA BMX, they were great to me.
2009 Sooner Nationals // via photos.usabmx.com
Who are those guys that you think will pop off here in the next couple of years? And who are some of the guys you’re training that want to make the jump over to the US series?
Well, there are a couple of kids that I’m training that are weapons, but in America at the moment, Cam Wood seems to be great, and how can you not fault Joris? 31 years old and is going faster than ever. That just goes to show looking after your body and doing all the right things and age is just a number. I don’t see him getting any slower in the next couple years, either. I’m a big advocate that the Masters age class should be moved to 35 because 31 is just still too young. I retired when I was 27, and it was way too young. But yeah, Joris is great, Cam Wood, he looks phenomenal on a bike, and man, I’d really like to see Josh (Mclean) get up there. Josh has been great all year; he’s just been unlucky in November for the last couple of years. And how can you not like Nic Long? To see what he’s doing within the sport, I know he’s not racing Elite, but just to see his presence on Instagram, same with Barry. I’m f—g so pumped for those dudes because they're great friends of mine, and to see what they do for the BMX community its f—g awesome.
But yeah, I’d really like to see Cam kick on. I’d like to see Josh kick on and win the title. I like (Kam) Larsen too, I like (Anthony) Bucardo, I like all those boys. There aren’t a lot of those boys that I don’t like, and I like all the Euro boys too. Niek (Kimmann), Sylvain (André), (Jeremy) Rencurel, BMX just seems really healthy in Europe at the moment. It's really cool to see the Euros come and support the USA series too. With guys over here, there’s a young kid coming up over here. His name is Declan Mcghee, he’s like 14 years old, and he’s a beast. As soon as he gets a couple more years under his belt, I think he’s going to make the trip over to America, and he’ll be well on his way to great things. He comes from a great family, and you know he reminds me of Corby J (Corben Sharrah) it's effortless. You know, when you watch Corby ride, and he doesn’t look like he’s trying, but he’s going fast as hell, the bike is an extension of his arms, it's all just one motion that how he rides. That’s my guy, and he’s coming up, man.
When you look at French National Champs or Europen rounds, they’re stacked. Some of the old-school guys look at that are pretty negative about it and ask why aren’t US racers going over to race those races outside of the World Cups. What are your thoughts on that opinion?
To each their own, healthy competition is great, but if you don’t want to travel, you shouldn’t have to. It costs a lot of money, you know. The reality is there’s only a handful of BMXers that make a substantial amount of money, and the rest is all kinda month to month. That's just the landscape of the business; that’s the way it is. But I mean, the USA series is great, especially with the big hill stuff. It’s just different racing, I think it would be the same boat as Europe. Not all the Europeans come over and race the USA series because it’s expensive, but when you do go to those euro rounds, there are guys you’ve never heard of that are fast as f—. Financially it may not be viable to go do those things, and it’s strange as well. When you got to do World Cups, it's expensive, and if you’re paying out of your own pocket, it’s a lot of money.
Alright, now for the big question, kind of a loaded question. What are some things that were around in your era that you think should be brought back or things that have evolved that you think should be dialed back?
I would probably have Redmond announcing at all the races again, I miss Mike. Him and E (Erik Grindle), man, they're the f—g best combo. It was great to tune into the Grands and hear “The Bone” on the microphone. But what I’d change, I don’t think I’d change anything. I’m just thankful enough to be a part of the system and be a part of the program. USA BMX or ABA BMX was so f—-g good to me, I don’t think I would change anything. I can sit back at night and be thankful that I was lucky enough to be in a period where it was a changing of the guards, and I was lucky enough to snake the title from Danny C on the last f—g day of the Grands in 2008.
I mean, the slingshot was good. I mean, the slingshot was great. Mikey Brabant had a dirty big slingshot. Hermanator and Danny C, their slingshots were filthy. I remember when I first moved to America, I couldn’t get a gate, and when I first moved over, I ended up in Roseville; that’s how I met Rich (Pelton) and just saw kids pulling back. We were pulling back on the UCI start in Australia, but the ABA gate was a little hard to get used to, but when I first moved to America and started to slingshot, it was like an extra bike length in front of people. When the stars aligned and you got out great, it was phenomenal. I remember cutting Sam (Willoughby) off in the second main at the Grands. I went out in the ROC the day before, and on Saturday, I made it to the final, and I got fifth in the first main. I moved to Lane 8 in the second main, and Sam was in Lane 7. I remember telling Sam, “Sorry George, I’m cutting you off” I angled my bike at him, and I just pulled back and launched. I holeshoted from 8 and had six points tied with Mikey going into the last one and ended up winning that last main. I know you can’t bring the slingshot back because it's all universal ramp start, but the slingshot was great. Yeah, even to have a one-off race just with the old-school start would be great to bring back the slingshots.
Did you guys go to flats only, or can kids still race clips?
Yeah, it’s 12 & under are flats only, then 13 & up can go to clips.
Yeah, that's one thing too. That sucks. I mean, there are kids who have raced clips since 5 years old and have been on clips for five years, and all of a sudden, they have to go back to flats. I think that sucks. I mean, leave them all on clips; what's the issue? They’re talking about like development skills. I mean, I suppose that was one sh—y rule change that shouldn’t have happened.
I think you could also p— off with the big ramp. I mean, the 6-meter ramp they have at worlds that the amateur kids race on, I think that's efficient as well. I think we’ve gone too far one way. If it just started to center itself, I feel like just a generic f—g 6-5 meter hill and then be done with it. That's my two cents on it.
I’d love to give a shout-out to a couple of people. I got a lot of love for Tony D, Rich Pelton, Mike Mcgonigle, Joey Albright, Derek Betcher, Nic Long, Barry Nobles, George: Sam Willoughby over there. TJ from Tangent, countless times I had A.D.D. and need to change my gearing or bars between motos, he was always there to help out. Todd Parry too, he is another great friend of mine who helped me so much while I was in America. But my team over here as well, I’ve got a team over here called MVK BMX, and we do a West Coast Syndicate where we teamed up with LUXBMX, which is Bruce, that's who I do the podcast with.
Khalen Young at AUS National Champs // via Bruce Morris @MORRIS_84