What year did you start BMX?
I think I started bmx around 1980? I fixed up my sister’s bike, which was a 20’ girl’s shopping bike and used to pretend to do motocross over a track we had in local fields!!! The bike didn’t last long. I had been riding an 80cc Suzuki which my Uncle Paul converted to a field bike before that. I wanted to do motorcross but we had no money for that lark. A group of my school mates; Andy Bennett, Dave Westwell talked about a new shop called Alan’s in Hindley and also Halfords having something called a BMX bike. The brands I remember at the time were Mongoose and Puch Murray. But my first real bmx bike I got in Xmas 1980 and it was a Mongoose Skyway purchased unknown to me from Alan’s by my Uncle Paul as a surprise. I do remember watching the kids show Magpie and they showed Tinker Juarez doing a 360 out of a bowl. It blew my mind. I wanted a slice of that action!
The North West had quite a scene from the sport’s inception, who were some of the guys you rode with back then?
Craig Borrows, Andy Parr, Dave Arnold, Stu Carr, Fenwick Carr, Jason Ramsden, Alan Woods, John Lee, Andy Bennett, David Westwell & Godfrey Burke. Sorry if I forgot anyone.
How did you hook up with Alan Woods and get on Torker?
I almost scammed my way into his team. I had a Mongoose shirt and had “Alan’s team” printed on it. Alan went for a trip to the hallowed land “California” and brought back a Torker F&F with Max pants and a race Shirt plus a yellow Simpson helmet. He then asked me to ride for him. He made an offer I couldn’t refuse. I felt like a million dollars.
First full season of racing must have been around 82? You finished National number 2 to Andy Ruffell in the 15s? What were some of the National tracks you raced at?
Was my first season 82? I thought it was 81? My first race was at Belle Vue for Hindley BMX club. I won on the indoor circuit with wooden pallet jumps. It’s where I saw Cav Strutt do a 360. Mind -blowing. It was also seminal in my development as I used to go to Belle Vue to watch speedway in the 1970s. I always wanted to be a speedway rider or an astronaut. I’ve had a go at one but not the other yet!! Memorable tracks for me were Ipswich, Eastway, Buckmore Park. Alan remembers tracks better than me. Grasby was a good track it had a Rubber start gate and very steep hill?
Any other notable names from that age group that you battled with?
John Lee of course, he was a fast bastard!!!!, Tony Law & Mark White. I was glad I wasn’t racing Fenwick Carr and Jason Ramsden as they where super fast. It seemed like the grit and terrain of Wigan and Leigh produced some fast riders.
You were already getting a ton of press in the UK mags – featured a lot in Official BMX, BMX News newspaper before it became BMX Weekly and onto BMX Bi-Weekly. How did you and Andy Preston team up and test ride for Weekly?
Alan Woods got me into testing bikes for BMX Weekly. I was the rider who would always have a go at big jumps and seemed to excel at tricks. Photogenic maybe? If memory serves me right, I had some kit made by Max for BMX Weekly; Jag shoes, Max pants & Max shirt, it looked real pro. Alan does have that touch. He knows how to make things look factory! I used to go and ride whatever bike the magazine wanted to test. I did jumps, tricks on them & made them look good even if they weren’t. There was a fair bit of the North and South divide thing between mags. Official BMX was based down south and Bmx Bi-Weekly was based up North. There was talent either side of Watford gap so it depended on your postcode which magazine you got coverage in. Andy Preston came on board around this time 83 ish and I think Martin Higginson suggested making a Team. It was a Brit attempt at BMX Action’s. Mike Buff and RL Osborn trick team but way less glamorous! Andy and I were then offered jobs at Pontin’s Holiday Camp in Morecambe as Bluecoat/Bike instructors at the newly built track. What a life!!! It was great to ride everyday and be paid for it. Plus we were available to the magazine’s for photoshoots. It also suited Pontin’s, as they got exposure. We both got pretty good. I personally got better at racing and tricks even though the ramps were so bad. Andy Preston and his folks put a lot of work into making us a professional outfit. His dad was an engineer and designed the portable ramps we used. They were groundbreaking at the time and perfect transitions. We used Andy’s own Land Rover to tow them round. I can’t even imagine the fuel bills.
Any notable photo shoots you remember with BMX Weekly?
I do remember some at Pontin’s camp where we put the trick ramp on top of the table top and I used to hit it and get huge airs. But Nigel Higginson was into arty “sky” pictures which gave no hint of the height. So all that risk was for nothing. He did produce some great pictures but I was frustrated at the outcome of some. Especially when I became a frequent guest of the Pontin’s medical centre from crashes. I did a Raleigh photoshoot in Tenerife,1983 and jumped into the harbour off a trick ramp on a tuff burner. The locals thought I was a crazy gringo and it never even made the magazine. Took some balls to!!
You had a lot of Covers – any favorites?
As I get older I am getting prouder of what I have achieved. One day I can show them to my son Sebastian. The Romford Skatepark Aerial cover is my favourite. I just loved that park and wish I could have rode it more.
It seemed like you lost interest in Racing and turned to Freestyle – what made you switch over?
I don’t remember losing interest in racing. I just had no time to do the Nationals and do my trick team commitments. I got third in Wigan national against all the heads of state in the 16 expert class 1983 when I was a fulltime trick rider. So I proved I could still race with the best of them.
You also got picked up by Raleigh, how did that deal come about?
I think the deal came about through Martin Higginson and BMX Bi-Weekly. It made sense. They are guaranteed coverage and a good rider plus BMX Beat happened. When I won that it seemed to explode for us as a team with Andy coming in second place. The Saturday morning TV series we made got us a lot of exposure, plus magazine coverage and demos. We had our 15 mins of fame put it that way.
You won BMX Beat that was featured on TV at the time winning the overall and continued to get a lot of coverage. It had to be a cool thing at the time?
Yes, it was really a special time; doing tricks at the Lyceum theatre in London in front of the biggest pop stars in the country, getting letters from females who watched the show & doing demos in front of a few thousand people. I just wish looking back I had the foresight to train better and market myself better but I wouldn’t change it. I experienced minor fame, which is so lame but it was fun for a while.
With the big money deal and arrival of Andy Ruffell to Raleigh it looked like you got the bump. What can you remember about that and thoughts on getting let go?
Well I was bemused as there was talk about Andy getting a car and nearly 20000 grand sterling. That was a fortune for a BMX Pro at that time. I couldn’t understand why we both couldn’t continue to be Raleigh riders. In fact, I thought it would have been good for the company. Andy’s primary goal was racing, mine was Freestyle. Although Andy would have been the best Freestyler, if he put his mind to it no doubt. I had a great relationship with Raleigh I had been to the factory to help give input on bike design. Plus I had gotten them shitloads of coverage with all the TV and Magazine stuff I had done. I think most people look back and remember Andy for Mongoose bikes not for Raleigh and me for Raleigh not Hutch. But hey I don’t do the marketing so I went to Shiner on the Hutch Trickstar.
You soon got picked up by Hutch (Shiner) how was that deal and riding the 85 Kelloggs?
Shiner and Alan’s in my opinion are the backbone of BMX and Skateboarding in the UK. I was super stoked to ride for them on the Hutch Trickstar. Plus our relationship was so good. The Allen family were beyond kind to me and helped me throughout my Skateboard career also. I was pretty average at the 85 Kelloggs event. I had actually booked to go on holiday with my then girlfriend Diane Arnold ( Jacob Roberts Mum) and we had to cancel it to do that event. She wasn’t best pleased. I just wasn’t into competing and every demo became a chore and I wasn’t enjoying riding. You can check my heat against Ron Wilkerson on youtube. He dabs so many times and does all that clown stuff, dancing on the bike etc. I hated that crap. But in hindsight I wasn’t that bad. The young guns were coming up, doing bigger airs pushing the boundaries of what was possible. Seemed like the writing was on the quarter pipe.
Seemed like you faded away from BMX shorty after any reason why?
I simply wasn’t enjoying it. BMX seemed to be all gloss and bubblegum no substance It didn’t have an edge. Skateboarding on the other hand did. It was new (to me) I was learning and enjoying the process of learning. I continued doing BMX demos for Manchester council and riding for Shiner but I wasn’t going to win another competition, My tricks became to old school. I also hated the whole BFA thing and Colin Kefford’s vision for BMX Freestyle. It just seemed to be taking a wrong direction but what do I know? In hindsight I should have stuck at it, maybe joined a circus earned some cash and diversified into being a lion tamer!!!
What were you up to in the late 80s and 90s?
I was living in various places. Southsea, Portsmouth for a while. I lived at number 70 liss road with Neil Hawkins, Tracy Weller and we skated partied, skated, and partied. We had great sessions on the vert ramp and hung out with travelling American skate pros. I was skating Vert comps and getting better. I even opened a skateboard shop with Doug Nelson called Soul Skates in Chorley. I skated for Shiner on Powell and Zorlac then Allan Losi put me on LSD boards. Finally Jeremy at Deathbox gave me a deal on Bash. I even got my own Pro model. I spent time skateboarding and competing in Texas, Europe, Brazil, Scotland. It was a real learning phase in my life. I tried lots of things, made lots of mistakes. I came close along with Neil Danz and Davie Phillips to dying in Brazil 1990. We had a big car wreck. How we survived to this day is a mystery. I then got stoked on Surfing and after doing a couple of trips to Cornwall with Gary Lee and seeing his stoke for the sport wanted to learn. I realised I had to live near the waves. So I moved down to Cornwall and spent time surfing with Jamie Blair. I did whatever I could to get by including dishwashing jobs but I gradually learned to surf. I made some great friends during this time and had great experiences. I lived in a tiny caravan and occasionally skated but there wasn’t any vert in Cornwall at the time. I just surfed as much as possible. I then met an Irish girl (as you do) and moved to Ireland. I ended up living in Co Donegal by incredible waves, surfing with amazing surfers and still have a love affair with Ireland to this day. When I first moved to Co Donegal. I ended up delivering newspapers at the ripe age of 27. Thinking fuck what am I doing with my life? But sometimes doors open and I got into lifeguarding which led me into Beach lifeguarding which led me into getting work, which led me into getting involved in “surflifesaving”. I ended up being (wait for it) the All Ireland Paddleboard Champion 4 times in a row and helping the Donegal lifesaving team to multiple successes. I am very proud to have been honoured by Donegal council for my services to lifesaving. For a lad from Manchester I was humbled. All this led to me joining the Ambulance service in 1997. I worked in Donegal for a while then I got a job in Northern Ireland and trained up in Belfast and worked around some interesting areas. The Good Friday agreement came into effect during the late 1990s so thankfully the troubles defused a little. I also got into Irish motorcycle road racing. I went to watch Joey Dunlop a few times and decided I was going have a crack. I got my race licence, bought a CBR600 race bike. Then the foot and mouth thing hit and all road races were cancelled. This probably saved my life in hindsight. Because of the foot-in-mouth I ended up doing a club race at 3 Sisters Wigan (my first race) I won the rookie class and got 6th in 600 Supersport. I thought I was the shit!! So I turn up for the next practice session, a month later, it was wet. I had zero experience in the wet. I highside within half a lap and knock myself out, break my collarbone, badly bruised my hip and mess up my bike. I figure I had the highs and lows of motorcycle racing in one foul swoop. Reflecting on this time it’s funny how my formative racing experiences revolved around 3 Sisters!! Even though the BMX track was gone.
Did you still follow the sport?
I followed BMX racing at the last Olympics but I don’t watch much racing these days. I watch clips the Vans park series on Youtube. The Redbull “Sebastian Keep” clip is pure genius. My honest opinion about BMX racing is it’s lost its way. I don’t mean that in detriment to current racers but I feel the format needs to change to switch it up. I love BMX, it’s given me so much. Riding a little 20” bike took me to places I never imagined. It’s given me great bike control and opened doors for me. I now have a 4 year old son riding around a BMX track but I just want him to have fun. I am not going to push him in anyway to do what I have done (promise). I will always maintain a connection to BMX.
Alongside BMX you always skated, how did you get into that and did you compete?
I didn’t always skate, I took it up in 84 properly. We used to skate “stiff necks” ramp in Ince near Wigan. The North West scene with Ardwick and Warrington was booming so I just learned to skate vert ramps. Tim Stamp, Dave Arnold, Craig Burrows always diversified into BMX and skating We just did it all. I entered some ESA skate events then graduated to skating with the A group vert lot. I was never that good. I had moments but never trained enough. I watch stuff from Munster 1989 and it’s still unreal what they do even then.
You came back into racing again and coached in the 2000s what made you come back and how did you do?
Well, I ended up quitting the ambulance job and moving back to the UK from Ireland and living back at my Mum’s in Wigan. I was a bit lost but had some spare cash. So I started racing Supermoto on a 650 Husaberg in the Norasport uk series. I worked my way up to A grade and won some trophies. It’s basically BMX racing with an engine. So much fun. Supermoto got to feel very natural for me but as with most motorsports, it’s about money. I ran out and then decided to have a crack at living in Australia. I sold my bike and kit and made an attempt at trying to find work in Australia. I didn’t as I couldn’t get a visa. I ran out of cash, so I came back to the UK broke and a little lost. It was then Alan Woods that asked if I wanted to race 24” cruisers for him? Of course, I thought why not. I ended up winning the over 40s cruiser class at National level and British championships twice I think? I also raced Masters on a 20” It culminated with me managing Alan’s team for him. We set up a pretty professional outfit with Vans and Shimano onboard. I was asked by Jeremy Hayes at British Cycling to assist with coaching. He’s good and knows how they operate. It was an experience for me. I got involved with Jamie Staff and Jeremy Hayes in writing the “how to BMX manual”
What were your thoughts on the sport this time around getting back into it compared to the 80s?
It was a world apart from what I knew. The BMX tracks where so different. Concrete huge jumps, multiple doubles, step ups step downs, Riding a BMX was very refined to. I was lucky, as when I started racing again for Alan I had been riding skateparks in Australia so I had progressed. I had taught myself spine transfers and a few new school moves. I maintained skills at handling a bike plus surfing had given me an insight into fitness. You have to remember I basically quit BMX Freestyle in 1986 and had never even done a roll in on a quarter pipe. That was a big trick back then. If you think about it Andy Ruffell’s front hop drop in was big news BITD. Now it’s just a set up. I had to face many demons to tell myself at 40 years of age I could still progress. I then got a spate of injuries during my second racing career for Alan. I broke my scapula in Wales in the Masters main then broke my wrist at Copull and popped my shoulder out also. Hmmm I was sore!
What was with the move to Australia?
I wanted to start a new life. I enjoyed the climate of course. I love surfing and thought most people just surfed, worked two days a week and owned their own homes. Boy was I wrong. You work your arse off here. It’s overpriced, fucking hot and unless you’re very lucky you “ain’t” getting a place by the ocean. But it’s also got loads of space and opportunities and if you’re prepared to have a go and work hard it can reward you. It’s given me highs and lows in my 10 years here. It’s given me a son who I adore. Plus a dual passport and grey hair. My job as a paramedic can be very stressful and I wonder how long I can go on doing it? But caring for my lad gives me the strength and purpose. I live day to day at the moment.
Are you still surfing, skating and riding bikes?
I still ride bikes most days. I have a good collection. Two road racing bikes, two BMX bikes, two MTB bikes, one 26” cruiser, a 26’ jump bike oh yes and a cyclocross bike. I spent 2018 racing Gravity Enduro mtb events in WA. I took to it pretty well and ended up taking it to the last round to be Champion in my age group but a big old crash ended that. Also the champ, Ian Daniels, is faster than me!! I moved to Victoria in May 2019 from Western Australia to be closer to my boy as I am now divorced from his mother. So I changed my lifestyle completely. I was surfing daily in WA but now I road ride or MTB tracks, gravel and when I can compete in selected events. I got into road riding properly in 2009 at a Master’s level when I moved to Australia and got up to A grade. I also qualified for the UCI Masters road finals in Trento, Italy in 2013 and finished respectfully. Unfortunately it’s been a rough few years for me both mentally and physically but I am still here fighting. I shattered my collar bone and had it plated in late 2018 then had a freak accident and pulled out the plate leading to another operation, bigger plate and a lot of pain and I have only just started to fully recover from that and regain my fitness. Plus I had a full shoulder reconstruction in 2014. I recently competed in the Australian gravel championships. My first road event in 5 years. I got 4th in my age group, it was a definite learning experience especially going nearly 70kph on drop bars down a really rough trail, knowing if I did fall, my collarbone at the very least was gone again. I survived though and gained some confidence.
Future goals with riding?
At the tender age of 54 my goal is to get my fitness back after injury and compete in whatever takes my fancy. I am going to try cyclocross in 2020 and do more MTB XCO stuff. I do enjoy racing road crits and plan to see how I go in the 2020 national masters. It’s a smorgasbord really and there are so many routes in cycling now to go and have fun at. I also plan to ride my skateboard more and as long as I can drop in and hit a smith grind I am a pretty happy man. I plan to keep going until my body or heart gives out, whichever comes first. To all my friends around the world I send out a big hug. Anyone that knows me from BMX or Skateboarding, I apologize if I was ever a wanker to you but I am a good guy, really. Peace out.