For as long as he can remember, Nic Long has liked to create.
Most often, it's been on his BMX bike. From the time he was 8 in East San Diego County, racing with his friends and cousins, he was flying over the jumps they'd build and pulling off tricks.
At other times, it was in his drawings and paintings. After he turned 18, it was in the colorful tattoos that now cover his body, from his feet to his legs, arms, chest and back.
"It's just something I enjoy, expressing myself," said Long, 26.
Now, too, it's on the gloves he's wearing and selling to other BMX riders interested in something colorful and flashy from a 2012 Olympian who just qualified for a spot on the U.S. team in this summer's Rio de Janeiro Games by winning a bronze medal at the BMX World Championships.
Long, who lives in Lakeside, started Idol Hand Gloves in 2015. BMXers can always use gloves, so there was a need he thought he could fill. Long, in fact, goes through more than 20 pairs a year.
"You crash, they wear out," he said.
But Long also wanted another outlet for his creativity. In the past he'd suggested a signature design for his previous glove sponsor, but that never worked out.
BMX Olympic Trials
Date: Saturday, June 11
Time: Gates open at 12:30 p.m. Time trials at 2:50 p.m., semifinals at 3:30 p.m. with finals scheduled for 5 p.m.
Where: BMX track, Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista
Cost: Parking is $10. Admission is free.
What's at stake: Eight men's riders - including the winner of Friday's Last Chance Qualifier at the OTC Friday (8:30-11:30 a.m.) - will compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for Rio de Janeiro this summer. The U.S. team will consist of Nic Long, the trials champ and a coach's choice. The women's team will consist of Alise Post and a coach's choice.
With his own company, however, Long has come out with eight separate designs, all conceived in collaboration with some of his favorite tattoo artists.
"I've been dealing with tattoo artists for years, anyway," he said, smiling.
Most are bright and colorful; one is simple black and white. His favorite might be the Mutiny Hollow that features a lot of teal and part of a skull design on each hand.
"Separately it looks cool, but when you put it together, it makes a whole skull face," Long said.
That he's become a businessman is something he never anticipated. He's had to learn about business plans, bookkeeping, taxes, websites and working with manufacturers. He has no idea if it will take off or remain low-key.
"Everybody who starts a company thinks they're going to get rich," he said. "I don't know. Honestly, it was something fun to me."
The business took a back seat for most of this year, however, as Long went full throttle toward earning a spot on the three-man U.S. Olympic BMX (bicycle motocross) team.
Long, ranked No. 11 in the world, locked that up May 29 at the World Championships in Colombia. Now he'll watch the other top U.S. men compete for spots on the team at the Olympic Trials on June 11 at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista.
After failing to reach the finals at London, Long has taken a more intense approach this time around, working with a new coach to improve his fitness and nutrition while also taking up yoga to improve flexibility. He's gained strength while losing 15-20 pounds.
He now knows if he wants to be the best, he can't just be like he was as a kid, riding for fun. Core strength, injury prevention and fitness used to be an afterthought.
Said Long: "I never thought it would help that much, but it has, big time."
Williams is a freelance writer in San Diego.