Former X Games competitor Jim Burgess dies at age 50

Jared Souney

Jim Burgess, invert on the Dew Tour, 2006.

Jim Burgess, former X Games BMX Vert competitor and BMX freestyle veteran, died on Saturday in Tempe, Arizona. He was 50 years old.

Burgess was a seasoned BMX vert rider that competed in the X Games from 1997 through 2002, earning the unofficial title of "oldest vert rider competing" in 2002, when he dropped in on the Philadelphia vert ramp at age 35 and earned 12th place. "We're the vintage crop," said Burgess at the time.

"The BMX freestyle world lost another brother," said fellow BMX Vert competitor Kevin Robinson via Instagram on Sunday. "Jim Burgess was an amazing vert rider, and one of the funniest, good hearted friends to so many. He tragically took his life yesterday. He always had the ability to lighten the mood on the deck of the vert ramp. My heart goes out to his family."

Burgess started riding BMX in 1985, and competing in 1991. According to X Games Research, Burgess won an amateur vert contest in Florida in 1992 and competition organizer Mat Hoffman told him he had to turn pro. "There were only five pro guys at the time and they wanted more pros, so I turned pro," said Burgess. "The contests were small, there weren't any crowds and we were all on a shoe string budget."

Although Burgess traveled on the competition circuit and rode in professional demonstrations throughout the U.S., Burgess also worked full-time at UPS since 1995. In between overnight shifts, Burgess would often fly to X Games qualifiers throughout the country to compete, then return home by the end of the weekend to return to work. Dubbed a "Blue-collar pro" by Sophisticated Rider Magazine in 2006, Burgess said that he would pay his own way to competitions only hoping to win back the cost of the plane ticket.

In his later years as a pro, Burgess rode for Jay Miron's MacNeil Bikes and would often place top ten in the professional vert ranks. "I love to be flying on a halfpipe. Conquering that fear, going 10-feet out without hands. Accomplishing that is what drives me," said Burgess in a 2002 interview with X Games.

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