To the average person, handrails are nothing more than a really common object in any urban landscape and they don’t pay much attention to them. Besides people who have trouble walking on stairs, the only people who seem to even use handrails use them in ways in which they weren’t intended for. People have been grinding down handrails on BMX bikes long enough for a lot of tricks once thought impossible to finally become reality. Today it seems like handrail progression is only limited to rider’s imaginations and finding the right rail/setup. There are a lot of riders helping blaze the path of progression down (and up) rails, including Dakota Roche, Brian Kachinsky, and Josh Harrington—all of whom have different styles, excel at different tricks, and have left their mark on many handrails.

Dakota Roche

Locked-in icepick grinds down or up rails, rails to nose manuals, 180 variations, and countless other peg combos—you name it, Dakota’s probably got it dialed. Within a week of adding another front peg, Dak learned five new moves—I can’t wait to see what kind of stuff he’s working on now.

dak-over-tooth

While some riders prefer to take baby steps, Dakota just leaps forward, like when he chose to do his first over toothpick on a “legit rail” on the Hollywood High 12 stair. Photo: Zielinski

Tell us about the first “real” rail down steps that you did…
The first stair rail I ever hit was when I was 15 years old, in 2002. It was a long five stair with no kink; basically the perfect first rail…I was terrified, but when I actually got myself to do it, it worked first try. I was sooo hyped! Kurt Rasmusson had the footy, it’s kind of embarrassing to say, but I threw my hand up and claimed it like a second after I landed.

Which riders do you think are leading the pack with rail tricks right now?
Hmmm. As far as big rails…Brian Kachinsky holds it down. He basically owns the nollie to rail tricks. Other dudes to mention would definitely be Corey Martinez, Nathan Williams, Alex Kennedy, Dan Lacey, Josh Harrington, Nigel Sylvester, Vinnie Sammon and Garrett Reynolds. I’m sure there’s way more too…

How do you think the flood of new skateparks and plazas with perfect rails is affecting rail progression?
It’s definitely helping the progression of rail tricks—maybe a little too much!

It looks like three pegs is the new four pegs, has number three changed up your game?
I love three pegs. Diss all you all you want, but I’m having a blast. It has helped with everything; keeping me psyched on riding, learning some new tricks, and being able to ride more spots.

Describe your perfect rail…
That all depends…The perfect rail is many different rails. Right now I’d have to say like a mellow six flat six kinker or like a nice eight that is good for going up—all with good runways too.

Is there a certain rail setup that you’re still looking for?
ALWAYS looking for new rail set ups—always will be, too.

Have you ever traveled somewhere to specifically ride one rail?
More or less I have. This past weekend we drove to Tucson and most of the reason I was psyched to go was to ride this blue kinked rail. Tucson is like 500 miles away from HB [Huntington Beach] so it’s a bit of a trek—definitely worth it, though.

Is there a rail trick that keeps eluding you?
There’s definitely a few, just waiting for the right rail and vibes.

I know for a lot of riders, when it comes to rails, you pretty have to do them all the time, and if you stop it’s hard to get back into it. Do you just keep doing rails constantly, or do you ever feel rusty?
I think I ride rails enough to where I don’t get too rusty ever. Sometimes I feel rusty on certain rail tricks, though, it just takes a little warming up to get them back, though (usually).

Without thinking about it for too long, name one rail move that someone has done that really blew your mind.
Nathan Williams: switch tooth hanger-to-pop over crank arm a few months ago. That’s messed up, dude.

Josh Harrington

Crazy combos on kinked rails, he did a barspin onto El Toro, over to X-up grinds, and so much more—Josh Harrington’s handrails skills are baffling.

harrington-gap-ice

Josh Harrington gaps to ice in the land of perfect rails, San Diego, California. Photo: Fudger

Tell us about the first “real” rail down steps that you did…
I was 14 years old. It was this super low rail at the middle school my mom worked at right down the street from my house. The rail is six stairs and about the height of your bottom headset cup.

Which riders do you think are leading the pack with rail tricks right now?
Garrett Reynolds, Nathan Williams, Corey Martinez, Rob Wise, Brian Kachinsky, Davey Watson, Dak, and Ty Morrow.

How do you think the flood of new skateparks and plazas with perfect rails is affecting rail progression?
That and the internet are the combination to super progression. You never get kicked out and generally have a smaller “safer” setup at a park.

Describe your perfect rail…
For me, the perfect rail would be more of a setup with a rail or rails where you can do something unique that can’t be duplicated because the spot is one of a kind. You can’t beat the feeling of finding the perfect setup in a random city you know you can’t come back to and getting your move done before leaving town. That beats getting taken to a perfect low ten-stair any day of the week—but that’s a great second option.

Is there a certain rail setup that you¹re still looking for?
There are a lot of setups I would like to find for certain tricks, but the best ones are usually something you never even thought of that just comes to you as soon as you see the spot.

Have you ever traveled somewhere to specifically ride one rail?
El Toro—two flights from North Carolina to California to bar onto it.

Do you think your height gives you more courage when doing rails? You know, in case you unfortunately straddle a rail?
I don’t feel like it gives me more courage, but it’s probably helped from time to time on a low rail where I could save my boys. I think some OTB crashes are worse due to most my weight being farther forward and higher off the ground.

Is there a rail trick that keeps eluding you?
X-up tooth hanger and many more that aren’t even worth bringing up until I at least give them a go.

I know for a lot of riders, when it comes to rails, you pretty have to do them all the time, and if you stop it¹s hard to get back into it. Do you just keep doing rails constantly, or do you ever feel rusty?
I try to always hop on a few when I go out riding. I never really feel like I get rusty just sliding rails, but bigger rails with different grind variations feel impossible unless I’ve been consistently hitting a lot of rails.

Without thinking about it for too long, name one rail move that someone has done that really blew your mind?
Van Homan—the Philly rail manual. If you have not seen it. SEE IT.

Brian Kachinsky

Brian Kachinsky is not afraid of handrails. He’s arguably conquered some of the longest and steepest rails in history and he was probably going way faster than he needed to. And now he’s currently busy raising the bar on nollie-to-rail progression, as well.

bk-gap-tooth

What were they thinking when they made this rail? Brian Kachinsky gaps to tooth on a one of a kind kinker. Photo: Zielinski

Tell us about the first “real” rail down steps that you did…
My first rail was down about seven mellow stairs. I was 14 years old and was riding a nearby town I had never been to. I found the rail and it was perfect. Low, square, somewhat forgiving, etc. The one thing I learned that day is that polished aluminum doesn’t slide well. I put my bike on the rail and it slid well, but when I jumped on it the rail no longer slid well. I got all the way to the end, but forgot to pull up because I was so excited. The aluminum combined with my lack of pulling up lead me to go OTB. I got it perfect second try though. I’ve been in love ever since.

Which riders do you think are leading the pack with rail tricks right now?
Garrett Reynolds, Nathan Williams, T-nez, Dan Lacey, and I’m sure many more.

How do you think the flood of new skateparks and plazas with perfect rails is affecting rail progression?
Things will always get crazier and progress no matter what, but I’m sure the access to good rails might increase that a bit. It’s a good thing for sure.

Describe your perfect rail…
These days I really like a unique rail or setup to a rail, but I really enjoy any nice solid, sturdy, steel rail. Depending on the trick I prefer square or round, but gap to rails are still my favorite, though.

Is there a certain rail setup that you’re still looking for?
Yes, there are a few, actually. There is one that I’ve been looking for about eight years now at least. I still haven’t found it, but someday I will and if it goes as planned I’ll be a happy camper.

Have you ever traveled somewhere to specifically ride one rail?
Yes, I went all the way to Georgia once for a rail and it was different from what I remembered it. I also went all the way back to Puerto Rico once to get something done. That worked out well and Georgia didn’t work out so well. I also recently made a trip to Colorado to ride some rails I had found the year prior and they had been torn out just days/weeks before we got there—I was so bummed. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s all about the adventure right?

You’re better known for riding really big rails, but do you dabble much with tech stuff on smaller rails?
I ride small rails quite a bit at parks and near my house in Chicago. They are fun and a good way to keep your rail confidence up or getting it back after an injury. I do like big rails though, they are challenging mentally and physically. The feeling of riding away from a scary one is unmatched I think.

Is there a rail trick that keeps eluding you?
There is a handful of tricks right now that I want to get done when I have the right setup. When the time and setup is right I’ll get it done. I always have ideas running through my head, some are crazy and some actually become a reality, but it’s all fun.

I know for a lot of riders, when it comes to rails, you pretty have to do them all the time, and if you stop it’s hard to get back into it. Do you just keep doing rails constantly, or do you ever feel rusty?
I like to do them almost all the time, but there are times, especially after winter or injury when some tricks might feel rusty. What works for me is to not waste time and just knock the dust off as soon as possible and hop on a bunch of rails in the same day. I’m sure everyone is different, that’s just how I stay warm and confident on them.

Without thinking about it for too long, name one rail move that someone has done that really blew your mind?
Van Homan’s rail manual in Criminal Mischief was really nuts, but I can actually understand that. What I can’t understand and still blows me away is the last clip in his section. The quick manual-to-gap-to-grind on that kinked rail. That was really, really, really insane.