Rimowa's Latest Creation A FirstofItsKind Bike Case with BMX Athlete Nigel Sylvester
Rimowa x Nigel Sylvester

Rimowa's Latest Creation: A First-of-Its-Kind Bike Case with BMX Athlete Nigel Sylvester

We caught up with Sylvester to talk fashion, travel, and his new project with Rimowa.

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From New York to London, Paris, Dubai, Miami, Tokyo, Las Vegas, LA, and back, Nigel Sylvester knows his way through an airport. He also doesn’t shy away from an adventure—most times, he’s traveling with his BMX bike. Hailing from Queens, New York, the professional BMX athlete has traveled all over the world and gave a first-person point of view of his life in his travel series GO. The web series transports Nigel and his bicycle to thrill-seeking experiences, including jumping out of a plane over the Dubai desert with his bike in hand.

Sylvester's career doesn’t stop at BMX, though. He is also a content creator, entrepreneur, filmmaker, and fashion enthusiast, recently walking in Colm Dillane’s KidSuper Men’s Spring 2023 Paris Fashion Week show. In 2021, he became the first professional BMX athlete to be signed by Jordan Brand. 

Since BMX is still a fairly niche sport, there are challenges that come with carrying a bike around the world. In the past, Sylvester would repurpose standard golf bags that worked best for his travel needs, but now, thanks to a new collaboration with Rimowa, he’ll have an easier time getting his bike around. 

I caught up with Sylvester to find out what inspired him to create a bike case with the storied luggage brand, hear more about his travel experiences from his global travel series Go, and find out which Air Jordan shoe is his favorite to travel with.

When did you start riding BMX and what were those early days like?

I started riding BMX seriously around the age of 12; those days were great. I'm a kid growing up in Laurelton, Queens, with Caribbean parents, both my mom and my dad are from Grenada. I'm first-generation. The household was kind of strict, but they gave me flexibility to go out and ride as much as possible as long as I was doing well in school. I was very curious, I would always make ramps out of old plywood and cinder blocks or old tires. I would go to my local park and grind the benches and ride around my neighborhood and hit curb cuts, jump off the sidewalks and pretty much anything I can get my bike on. Those days were fun, carefree, and just full of exploration.

Was there any diversity in BMX when you got started? What challenges came with being a Black BMX rider?

BMX is a predominantly white sport. My first touch point with a professional BMX setting was watching it on TV or going to my local store and buying a BMX Plus magazine. As I got more and more into the sport and started to understand the different verticals within the sport, I started to find more BMX athletes of color which was super dope. There were kids in my neighborhood and we all rode BMX bikes, but that was very niche and very singular to my neighborhood. As I started to venture outside of my neighborhood, I found more BMX athletes that looked like me and started to get introduced to BMX pros who came from similar neighborhoods and had similar experiences. They allowed me to come into their circle and helped raise me in a sense and teach me about the world of BMX. That forced me to step my game up tremendously.

Back in 2018, you won Condé Nast Traveler’s Trailblazer Award. How did that feel in the moment and what did it mean to you at that time of your career?

That was a super cool moment. It was an incredible feeling to get acknowledged by a platform such as Condé Nast for my efforts and contributions to the travel space. Super dope because this platform doesn’t normally highlight BMX athletes or the BMX world, so to be seen, awarded, and acknowledged in a world outside of my immediate world that was super cool. I was humbled and honored.

Before you created the bike case, what did you use to travel with your bike?

My first time going to Los Angeles, I was just using an army duffel bag. That's what all the guys were using. It had no padding, no protection, your bike is clunking around in there like people don't know what it is. It was just bad. Then from there, it became a trend in BMX to travel with a repurposed golf travel bag. It just so happens that that travel bag was the perfect size for BMX bikes. So that was kind of a life hack—it used to cost around $200 each way; having a bike inside a golf bag eliminated that cost because traveling with golf clubs is free, which is crazy.

I've always had the idea that if I get the opportunity to make a really dope BMX travel case or bag, I would jump at it because I've traveled for so long with this repurposed golf bag and there’s so many things I want to fix and create something that's more sleek and something that’s just elevated visually. I aspire to elevate the things around me and find solutions and move efficiently, so that's where this idea and this partnership spawned from.

What was your favorite part of the process when creating the bike case with Rimowa?

The process was dope, we were working on it for like a year, just kind of going back and forth on ideas and concepts. We played around the spectrum in regards to what this batch looks like and what it should do. I love the design and creative process, especially when we're talking about something that I use on a weekly basis. 

Actually getting to go to Germany and sit down with some of the designers and talk through certain details and see it come into life was super cool. I think the shape is something we've never seen before, especially from the lens of Rimowa. It also takes note of the things that I need and how my bike sits inside of the case and how it should be traveled. So from a design standpoint, from a creation standpoint, it is world-class. It symbolizes progress, curiosity, and forward movement. 

BMX athlete Nigel Sylvester worked with Rimowa to create a one-of-a-kind bike case he can use on his travels.

You had a global travel series, GO, which took you and your bike across eight cities worldwide. Do you have a memorable travel experience from the series?

Doing New York first and foremost, because that was the one that kicked it off. The process of making it was long. It took us the entire summer of 2015 and we were so optimistic because we didn't know what it was going to turn into. That was incredible because it was the beginning of a journey that I'm still on. Secondly, I would say the Dubai video where I went skydiving and jumped out of the plane with my bike. It's the first time I’ve jumped out of a plane ever. It's exciting. It's scary. It's filled with adrenaline, nerves, all of the feelings and emotions. To do that, with my bike in hand, which is an extension of me, it was super memorable. People couldn't believe it.

Do you plan to continue the series?

The last one we did was the seventh episode which was GO Las Vegas. It was released toward the end of 2021. We are planning to do one more video to wrap up the first season, which will probably be released at the end of this year. Now we’re figuring out where we should go next. Season two will change and evolve into something else for sure—I’ve got a few ideas already.

What are some of your personal favorite spots to visit in New York City?

Definitely the Williamsburg Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge is the best bridge to ride over. It's the fastest bridge as well so I just love riding over it and bombing down super fast. If I’m going to go eat, I’m going to end up at Scarr’s Pizza. They have this amazing pepperoni jalapeño slice that's incredible. There's this juice bar in Harlem that I go to to keep it healthy called Jah Seal which I love. My mom's house because that’s just home. Get some home-cooked meals and some loving, you know, just can't beat that. Also the skatepark, LES Skate Park, is a dope place that I go and ride out a lot.

Where is your favorite place to visit when you’re not working?

My mom’s crib. Family first so she's where I'm at, but I don't even consider bike riding working. You know, they say if you love something you don’t work a day in your life.

How does it feel to represent BMX in the fashion world?

Fashion and style is a big part of what I do. If I'm getting on my bicycle,  I want to make sure that what I'm wearing is a direct reflection of how I feel that day, or how I want to feel that day. I'm representing myself first and foremost. I look at fashion as an art form and being as creative as possible is something that intersects with a lot of other things that I do in my life and a lot of the interests that I have. I had this amazing opportunity to work with some really dope brands like being signed to Moncler and just getting an opportunity to work with some of these very coveted fashion brands and collaborate and put my two cents on it.

You became the first BMX athlete to sign to the Jordan Brand last September. What’s your favorite Jordan sneaker to travel with?

Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG

I signed on as the first BMX athlete ever and that was monumental, honestly. To be an athlete and striving for greatness in my own right, Michael Jordan was definitely one of those pillars who I admired from afar. The Jordan 1 is by far my favorite shoe ever. It’s a shoe I can ride in, can wear when I'm not riding, and is a staple in life for me. Most recently, I collaborated with the brand on the Jordan Air Ship shoe; it’s the first shoe that Jordan wore when he got into the league prior to the Jordan 1 and we did something extremely special on that shoe—we were able to change the iconic Nike Air logo to Bike Air, which people went crazy for.

What do you wear on a flight to stay comfortable?

I'm usually in a Jordan Brand sweatsuit or I'm in a Crate sweatsuit. Crate is a brand from Rockaway, Queens; one of my friends, Rell, owns it. I'm usually in a sweatsuit and pair of Jordans.

What’s your favorite city?

Paris is by far one of my favorite cities, after New York of course. Paris is super dope. Love going there, riding there, energy of the people.