In 1992 Mirra, then 18, upset Mat Hoffman on the vert ramp at a competition in Daytona Beach, but fame and fortune were still a ways off. "We weren't brands," says McCoy of the BMX riders back then. "We were products of the lean years."
How lean? The grocery chain Tom Thumb was the sponsor of shows in Dallas. As a promotion, the riders would shout out trivia questions to the crowd, with $25 gift certificates awarded for correct answers. "We could use the money, so we made a deal with the maintenance workers that we'd give them the answers and they'd split the certificates with us," McCoy says.
Despite the lack of riches, Mirra was enjoying his ride. Then, in 1993, his career--and his life--nearly ended. Mirra was walking out of a nightclub in Syracuse when he was hit by a car driven by an underage drunk driver. Mirra's skull was fractured. He awoke in a hospital surrounded by reassuring family members but unsure of his professional future. He stayed off his bike for six months, suffering from frequent migraines and altered senses of taste and smell. He took a job at a car dealership but quit on his third day.
Early in 1995 Mirra decided he was ready to get back into the sport. He moved to Greenville, where his brother was living, and took an apartment next to a BMX park. Riding with Tim, he gradually regained his passion.
That same year the X Games were born, and Mirra began raking in medals in both vert and flatland events. The exposure was a mixed blessing. He became a millionaire cult hero as he expanded his repertoire to include new spins and twists and a double backflip, but commercial interests also changed the BMX landscape. "The sport was such a tight-knit group of people," he says. "TV brought money into it, which kind of separated people. 'He's making this. Why am I only making that?' That kind of thing. We weren't so tight after that."
Now Mirra is the establishment, and there's not much cutting-edge in his off-ramp life. He is a 15-handicap golfer and has rolled a 600 series in bowling. "The thing I love to do most is very physical," he says, "so I like to balance it with something that's more mental." He and his fiance�, Lauren Blackwell, own a Yorkie named Rocky Love and have just moved into a new house in Bath, N.C. Dave is especially fussy about guests who forget to push in their chairs after leaving the dinner table. On a typical day last month, just before the move, he was on and off his cellphone, quizzing repairmen about his malfunctioning landscaped waterfall. Mirra also lends his time to the Dream Factory, a Louisville-based organization that works with chronically and critically ill children.
Ultimately, Mirra is about more than maintaining his image. He won't even discuss retirement, because he hasn't finished exploring the boundaries of his sport and his talent. "You never know when you'll get out there and [suddenly] you're trying something that you've never seen before," he says. "That's it. That's rad." That's Dave Mirra finding lightning in a bottle.