Warren BMX brothers among best in nation

By Ethan Hartley
Posted 10/6/21

Stig and Stuart Solberg are not your typical 9- and 6-year-olds. They are already competing in high-level BMX championship races — and winning.

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Warren BMX brothers among best in nation

Posted

Learning to ride a bike is a classic rite of passage for many children — the Solberg brothers just happened to achieve the feat before they were capable of speaking complete sentences.

Nine-year-old Stig and his six-year-old younger brother Stuart, who live in Warren and attend the Gordon School in East Providence (third and first graders respectively), compete against and are among the best in the nation in bicycle motocross racing, more commonly known as BMX, representing a small but passionate contingent of Rhode Island racers on a state team named “Island Insanity.”

“The great thing about BMX is that anybody can start at any age,” said the boys’ mother, Monissa, during a Zoom interview prior to the brothers competing in the USA BMX Northeast Gold Cup Championship Finals in Apollo, Pa. this past weekend. “Anybody can pick up a bike and start racing.”

All in the family

Stuart and Stig both began on balance bikes — a bicycle without pedals — when they were just one year old. It’s a family tradition, Monissa said, to buy balance bikes as gifts for all new family members on their first birthday. By two-and-a-half, the boys had become proficient on pedal bikes and were already veteran members of the USA BMX Association. By four and five years old, they were both racing competitively.

After winning or ranking among the top at state-level championships, they moved up to the regional level. Throughout the season, they competed in qualifying races to earn a spot in the Gold Cup, the regional championship series and the highest competition within their level. Among competitors from all across the northeast — from Virginia and Ohio and all the way north to Maine — Stuart headed into the competition this weekend ranked first overall in the novice class of racers, while Stig ranked in the top five for the intermediate skill range.

After the dust had settled, Stuart emerged from this weekend’s competition victorious, first overall in his age and class — overcoming adversity and winning a race on Sunday after a fellow racer crashed into him and ended one of his Saturday races early. Stig overcame a crash himself and managed to just miss earning a gold plate honor, finishing fourth overall and only a single point away from cracking the top three.

“Overall, both boys did amazing,” Monissa said following the event.

The brothers’ passion for riding was influenced by Josh Solberg, their father, who spent many years racing BMX as a hobby while living in Southern California, where he met Monissa while she was going to medical school. A former downhill mountain biking enthusiast, Monissa has seen firsthand how beneficial BMX has been for the development of her boys.

“I believe children should be able to run free and do what they want and they love it. It takes so much focus and concentration and endurance. It’s a really technical sport,” she said. “It teaches them how to win and how to lose, at such a young age. There are races where they lose or crash, and for them to be able to deal with and cope with that and be okay, I see it come through in school. They understand that you need to practice to be good at something.”

Practice in such a competitive and high-speed sport is essential, so the boys are lucky to reside in the area of Schoolhouse Road in Warren, with plenty of land and out outdoor track to race to their hearts’ content. Their racing adventures have taken them throughout the northeast, from Virginia and Pennsylvania to New York, Connecticut and Vermont. If they continue to progress and win at the regional level, they could make it onto the national circuit, where events could take them all throughout the country.

New racers always welcome

When Monissa and Josh, who have since separated but remain good friends and co-parents, decided to move back to the northeast (Monissa is originally from Connecticut), they found solace in a new place within the Rhode Island BMX community.

“One of the main reasons we do this now is just to see friends and be in an amazing community. Rhode Island has an amazing BMX community. It’s small, but it’s amazing and so supportive,” she said. “We were total oddballs and they were so nice and helpful.”

The state only has one racing track, Woodland BMX in West Greenwich, but they are always welcoming to new riders. Bikes are available for rental and everyone from one year olds to senior citizens are encouraged to give it a try.

Now a doctor with her own private practice in East Providence, Monissa said that even though the sport can be dangerous, she’s grateful that her kids have the opportunity to do what they love and be around other kids who enjoy the same hobby.

“I know they have a bit of a wild spirit, so I just let them be wild and I’m there if anything happens,” she said. “Luckily I’m a doctor.”

As for Stig and Stuart, they both concurred on what they loved most about BMX — sharing a love for two things that they get to do a lot within the racing world.

“I like jumping and winning,” Stig said, with his little brother echoing the same thought verbatim moments later.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.