Ipswich 1982 – Keith Wilson (Redline) leading Greg Alderman (Kuwahara) and Tony Slater (Diamondback).
PC: Dave Ferguson
Outwell outdoor – John Bilner (5), Lee Flavin (outside) Steve Gilley (6), Scott Barber (1 Torker). Lee Flavin went onto ride for Redline, Raleigh and Rainbow JMC and place 2nd at the 83 Slagharen Worlds. Steve Gilley went to Kuwahara Factory soon after this shot but along with Scott Barber had left the sport by 1984. Lee Flavin retired a few years after with only John Bilner continuing to race into the 90s.
It’s very rare these days that riders are both good/compete at Freestyle (is it even called that now?) and Racing, as they seem worlds apart. The closest all around riders that shred today at both would be Barry Nobles and Vic Behm in the US. Back in the 80s/90s it was pretty common that guys could do both at high levels especially when Dirt Jumping Comps kicked in during the 90s with guys like Stephen and Martin Murray, Dylan Clayton, Keith Duly, Tony Fleming, Kye Forte, Clive Gosling and Paul Roberts (among others) raced and hit up the KOD events which ran during a National race weekend.
Chris Young is a name you will be more familiar with if you know your early 80s BMX roots in the UK. Chris was National number 1 riding for teams like Mongoose and Torker before crossing over into Freestyle. Chris went onto ride and Tour with Skyway in the UK with Andy Patterson, Billy Stupple and Skyway Team in 83 putting on demos and really promoting the sport up and down the country which was well-documented at the time through the mags. Chris rode in the 1984 Kelloggs, jumped over cars but kind of disappeared from the scene by the mid 80s. Still, so many great images of Chris floating around online today.
After retiring from racing in the early 90’s, Tom Lynch became a London Ambulance Service paramedic and is the pioneer behind the cycle response units who have served the Capital since 2000. Tom’s initiative has saved countless lives as cycle paramedics can navigate London’s busy streets faster than regular Ambulance vehicles.
We were asked by the London Ambulance service to design a sew-on badge to celebrate and recognise the outstanding achievement of 25 years dedicated service with the London Ambulance Service by our friend, inspiration and mentor Tom Lynch MBE.
Jane Windle sent us this image and a little background on Hotshot’s history.
2 High Street – Kidlington – Oxford was our original HQ for Hotshot. My Dad, (Les Windle), saw BMX in the early 80’s and decided to open a shop dedicated to BMX. Soon after my Dad visited America countless American companies began clambering for him to distribute their products in the UK. This image was at a Cycle Trade Show at Earl’s Court.
The dart board in the middle was a BMX wheel on an axle. Shops would place an order and we would give them a dart (no health and safety back then, LOL) and we would spin the wheel and wherever their dart landed – it would dictate their free prize.
Our main bike brands were Redline for which we supported a full team of riders, Akibo was a Japanese brand who made headsets, bearings etc… and also some generic Japanese frames. They actually sent us the first ever mountain bike prototype to test. My brother and I had one each.
(Les Windle’s jacket from the 80s.)
Other product we brought in:
AME – AME grips.
Magazines – we distributed BMX Plus, BMX Action and Bicycles & Dirt.
Tioga – Still going strong today.
Larry Wilcox – don’t know how we came across this one maybe we were fans of the US program “Chips”; Larry was the blonde cop on the motorbike.
Johar – the only pad set to own back then.
UNI BMX – Roger Berg who designed UNI is likened to a wild inventor. Not only did he invent the UNI seat and number plate but also invented the first machine to cook a burger vertical so it cooked the same on each side (he had a burger and ice cream parlour in Oregon). Additionally, he also invented the baby jogger for mums to get fit.
Patterson – one of the true greats with a full UK team being led by one, Tom Lynch.
Dirt skirt (on front), Sharp grip ends, Protec helmets and by the Redline flight bag a range of plastic clip-on badges with slogans like “get radical” etc…
Hotshot also distributed VANS shoes, Awesome shoes, brought the first Skyways into the country, Odyssey, S&M, Standard bikes, Hoffman, GT, Simpson Helmets, Progard (remember those plastic chain guards that go on the chain and seemed to come off on the last straight?), Dyno, Robinson and so many other iconic brands.
The original video we played in the first BMX Shop we had.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of him, Lee Alexander was one of the big guns of the 1980s, regularly banging elbows with the likes of Stu Diggens, Tom Lynch, Tim Print and of course his local long-term nemesis Darren Wood.
After gaining a nation number 20 in his first full season in 1983, Lee steadily climbed the table throughout the following years, finally winning national number one in 1986.
After that, he moved into the Superclass and then Pro categories where he more than made his presence felt among the established stars there.
As a rider, Lee was super-consistent. While most of his rivals would proudly list the handful of national mains they’d made throughout the season, Lee, when asked, would quietly tell you he’d made them all!
But Lee’s riding career wasn’t limited to the old school. Well into the third millennium, he added a British Championships cruiser win to his list of titles.
– Chris Carter
Adrian Warden caught up with him at a gate session at Norwich.
This interview came about the same way sponsorship often happens – through being in the right place at the right time. It would have been cool if Norwich club had tempted Maris Strombergs to come to town, but we let it slip. Also Dylan Clayton was booked six months previously to run a talent spotting session at our club. Alas, with just over a week’s notice, it got moved to another venue. The #superfan was on his arse after hearing the bad news.
The day after that, I got a text saying Lee Alexander was coming to ride at the track. I’d not seen him ride since his career-ending crash at Royston a few seasons previously. You’ll do for me, I thought, and grabbed my bike and a pen and paper, with an idea to get a little interview from him.
I raced Lee a bunch of times but never scalped him. Not even in a moto. When you’re in the pens with Lee, especially in a semi or main, he’s always pumped and excited and wants to win it. It feels good to be with him, if you get my drift.
Today he is very involved with coaching at his club Royston Rockets, and is looking ahead to possibly taking over the chairmanship of the East Anglia region next year. He’s gonna shake a few things up, I reckon.
Anyway, I arrive at the track and Lee is decked out in full black and yellow Rockstar kit. In between a few gates and hitting up some of our bigger jumps, I fire off some questions:
So what are your best moments in BMX?
Crumbs, there are so many. [Laughs]. My first trophy at Wimborne indoor – my parents had left me alone at the race. Bercy (France) in 1985 was good. I scraped 4th in the motos, 4th in the quarters and 4th in the semi. I lined up for the main. Dean Iddiols was in the race in front. He turned round and asked, “How’s your gates?”
“Shit,” I said.
“I can help you out. Go on the first colour you see.”
I killed it and won. Fans were going mental with massive sticker tosses and hats thrown out that sponsors had given me. I also won the Pontins race, 15 boys. Another good win was an Anglo-Euro race at Ipswich under lights. I took the 1984 Brits win with 1st all day. And of course the 2009 cruiser win at Cheddar Brits.
How about your worst days?
1986 Euro Champs. I didn’t get to race because of not being registered. I blame UKBMX for that one. Lol. 1986 worlds. I turned 17 on the day so had to race 17+. Aced the motos. I think there was 16ths? If so, I won mine. Won the eighth. Went over the gate in the quarter. At the 2012 worlds I crashed first lap of practice going into turn one. Busted ribs. Funnily enough though, you never think of injuries as your worst days. I think that’s true of most riders.
So what is your injury count?
Here goes: fractured ankle; broken fingers; broken knuckles – that hurt, I can tell you; punctured kidney; broken elbow; two concussions; a knockout; snapped radius. [You can still see the damage from that when he rolls his sleeve up].
[Grins]. I took Tony Fleming out to win Redcar National.
What about getting taken out?
CJ Butler got me good at the Brits on 20-inch. Last turn. It was raining. I ploughed into a marshal who dropped his coffee in my lap. I thought I’d pissed myself for a while. Darren Wood was the other one. It was the 1986 Worlds, cruiser semi. I was third and he was fourth. Boom. I was gone. I asked him, “Why do it?”
“You’ve done it to me often enough,” he said.
“But it’s the worlds!”
You have no World plates then?
[Lee stares at the floor and shakes his head]. No. That still hurts.
Any pictures in the mags etc?
Nice last turn shot at Cheddar in Fastlane. A 1984 Kuwahara advert. Riding #20 on the plate. Both feet blown off the pedals as I was blasting out of a turn at Hayes. BMX Racer and Freestyle mag for the Bercy win. A decent ad for Scorpion. Also made the cover or back page of the rule book.
Who’s our next Elite in a World final?
Keep them. But if you had asked me when I was racing, the answer would have been get rid.
NO! [Scornfully]. NO, NO, NO!
Three Elite mains?
Yes. Give the fans the maths before the last one. I want to get three mains going for our superclass at regionals as well.
Any other interviews?
A ‘Me and my Bike’ feature in BMX Action Bike magazine. A profile page in BMX Racer and Freestyle magazine. And there was a short interview on telly (Channel 4) for the Kelloggs race in 1985.
What are your thoughts on the Manchester indoor?
Elite only. I’ve never ridden it and cringe watching kids on it. Not sure what that last straight is all about.
It’s just not BMX is it!
What’s with the women’s funding at British cycling?
Don’t know anything about it mate.
How do you roll?
If there was a coaches’ race, who’d win it?
What about Bloomie?
Still me! Haha!
What’s happening with BMX right now. Up/down?
Upward curve, I reckon. I’m all about the grass roots, more racing, flat pedals, skills, promo. We need to get it on telly more. Chris Carter, Simon Hayes… you listening? You work in that field!
How’s the glass back? [Lee suffered with two prolapsed discs requiring surgery].
There’s some bits missing. I think looking back it made me put too much pressure on myself, thinking it could be the last time I race all the time.
Any last thoughts?
I just love riding my bike, you know. Just ride for fun. It’s what it’s all about. I miss the banter in the pens. The adrenalin. Being in there with 7 other guys that want to win. It’s the feeling. Yes, I miss that feeling.
1984 Kellogg’s Alan Woods taking the Superclass Main at Gateshead after Big Tim March and Andy Ruffell slide-out and go for a run. If you’ve not already checked out Alan’s Podcast, we talk about the Kelloggs and plenty of early days in British BMX history check it out over on BMXWeekly.com.
Mick Brown interviews all of the big names at the 1984 Kelloggs’s round 1 at Hounslow. Andy Ruffell won Superclass with French Champion Claude Vuillemot in 2nd and Big Trev Robinson in 3rd. In the US Pro Class, Main Mongoose’s Eric Rupe took the win over Torker’s Mike Miranda and Brian Patterson rounding off in 3rd to kick off a very successful Kellogg’s Series.
PC: Daryl Gibbard
Gary Llewellyn, much like his younger brother Wayne, was super talented and on another level from battling Craig Schofield in both 15 expert & Superclass, to turning Pro mid-season in 1985. Gary had no problem going head-to-head with Ruffell, March, Shooter and co right off the bat. In this shot, Gary leads over King Kong at Wigan for the final 1985 UK BMX National of the year, which featured 800 riders & 120 motos.
PC: BMX Action Bike Magazine
Early 80s both Mike Pardon & Mike Chilvers were top riders that you would see regularly in the magazines and in the results in the older age groups. Chilvers riding for Pro-Star and ranked National number 6, didn’t stick around in the sport too long but Mike Pardon on Torker was actually ranked number 2 behind Andy Ruffell and before heading in a successful Freestyle direction riding for the likes of Raleigh and being BMX Bi-Weekly Magazine’s main guy in the mag along with Andy Preston, Mike also came back in the mid 2000s racing & coaching before immigrating to Australia.
PC: Stefan Faulkner
PC: Simon Nuttall
Lee Alexander not only rode for Kuwahara National / Stows, Ivor Clark, Boogie, Scorpion, Hutch, Links and later Free Agent, but he was also the only British rider to win the French Bercy International. He was one of the few guys that raced Superclass, Pro, then back to Superclass when the Pro Class dismantled back in 1988. Lee is riding and coaching today and more importantly, still rocking flat pedals.
Paul Roberts had this to say about him when we were checking a few Lee Alex facts while putting this together.
“Realistically as fast as anyone on his day. Whether that was Bercy or the Champion of Champions, it didn’t matter. There wasn’t a rider in our age that he didn’t just flat out beat when he was on. Also, Pro level banter and funny as f$&k to travel and hang out with. I’m stoked to say I got to spend a lot of time with “Alex” and a lot of that time was spent laughing our heads off.”
Craig Strong – 1981 BMX Official Magazine Number 4 – This shot came from the “Burning up the Forest” article with fellow Bournemouth rider, Daryl Fudge, which was taken in the New Forest and was featured in a 4-page spread in this issue. Within the next few years, Craig became famously known in the BMX World as the “Wheelie King”, breaking the World Record in 1983.
You can look at any image of Clive Gosling that goes back to his Edwards days, right through his career at Zeronine, Revcore, Robinson, Elf, and GT and the list goes on. Clive has always had style on the bike and looked Factory. He’s still doing great things in the bicycle industry today.
PC: Mark Noble – Ride BMX Magazine April/May 93
It goes without saying that if an official, British BMX Hall of Fame comes into play in the next few years that David Maw’s name has got to be one of the first racers to be named in the mix. Sadly, David lost his life in a car accident back in 1996 but his legacy in the sport is still talked about and respected now. Even today in the race World, his records as a British rider have not been matched. A 3x times World Champion back-to-back from 1984 Japan, 85 Canada and making it 3 in a row with his legendary ride at the 86 Slough World Championships, which was well-documented on Channel 4 at the time. This image goes back to David’s first IBMXF World Title he won in Japan.
For some reason when we talk about successful British riders from the 80s a lot of people forget to mention GT’s, Jeremy Kenning. The first spotting of Jeremy on the National circuit was perhaps the final UKBMX National of 84 at Wigan when, as an unknown, Jeremy showed up and beat all the big names across the county in his class and went on to get picked up by GT over the winter months.
For the next few years, Jeremy dominated both UKBMX & NBMXA winning the majority of the titles in both associations. At the 86 World Championships at Slough, Jeremy came in 2nd place in the final behind Australian multi-World Champion, Andrew Figliomeni, nearly passing him in the 2nd turn for the win. Still a 2nd place in his first World Championships was not too shabby.
By the end of 87, it seemed like Jeremy got tired of winning and called it a day pretty much going out on top definitely leaving his mark in the few years he was around.
Craig Campbell (390) winning 12x at the Wembley Arena back in 1982 in front of 7000 spectators at the Lada Speedway International Indoor Event. Other winners were Craig’s younger brother, Frazer Campbell, Mark Sopp, Scott Vogl, Ben Swift, Darren Page, Ben Hunt, Jason Maloney, Gary Willats, Andy Ruffell, Pete Middleton and Alice Temple.
Mid-Current School Photographer, Paul Bliss, sent us this image that was taken by Mr. Goodsell at the 1982 Halfords Anglo American Cup at Redditch. Tim March making British history as the first rider to beat the Americans on home soil. We hit Tim up with some questions about the legendary event and what it was like to beat US Stars, Harry Leary, Greg Esser and co.
Pre 1982 Halfords Anglo American Cup event at Redditch, you were on GT and only ranked 10th Nationally from the year before. How was your season going at the time?
I raced less than half a season if I remember correctly the previous year, but I was undefeated in the Finals so that’s why I ended up 10th.
I think I must have started in 82 on Mongoose again and would have been winning. Alan Woods beat me at Whitaugh though, I remember that, whenever that was. Then as you know, I just got fed up with Malcom and his “Andy this” “Andy that” lectures in Tenterden and he also changed my pay structure because I’d earned too much commission or something so that was me done with Ammaco.
I wish I’d have ridden the Kuwahara before I left Mongoose but I didn’t and the bike was terrible for me. On Kuwahara, I was also having to get to Reading before each race. Then you’d be in the Gecko Van picking up Nicky, Keith and a few others, it added such a lot of travel time before and after the races for me as I live in Poole, which was 2 hours away. I really wanted to leave as it wasn’t working. Rather than me leave, Gecko (Kuwahara and Redline importer) offered me a Redline ride but I didn’t like the Proline either. The bottom bracket was too high and the head angle felt like I was riding a dragster so I left and was “private-ering” for a while wearing a Strong shirt because I was working in the shop a bit for Chris and Ali trying to get some cash to be able to go racing.
Then, I got hold of Geoff Barraclough (GT Importer) to see if we could do anything, as I really liked the GT geometry when the bike came out in 82. No money involved (as I remember it) but Geoff paid my petrol to the races, I think. So that’s how I got on GT and Geoff and Jill were just about the nicest people you’d ever meet too. I was riding crap on the Kuwahara, then as soon as I left and got on GT, I instantly felt at home, and Geoff and Jill were great as they really supported me. I started winning Nationals pretty easily again and regained my mojo for BMX.
Did you get word the Americans and more specifically, Harry Leary were coming over for Redditch and did it motivate you knowing you were about to see and race the best guys in the World for the first time?
Of course, I wanted to beat all of them, not just Harry. I never did beat Andy Patterson, which was a right piss off. Well in the lead up to the race, I was on Holiday for a few weeks before the race and hadn’t gone near my bike. It was a Summer holiday with Kathy’s family in Aberporth so I was pretty excited about that to be honest.
So a week away with Kathy was what I was focused on, and Aberporth is beautiful so we had a great time swimming and just generally enjoying ourselves. I remember all of us talking about the race and that Kathy I were allowed to borrow Kath’s Mum’s car to get to the race and then drive back to Wales afterwards.
I’d seen the Yanks the year before at Malcolm’s house, Kerensky Bullard, Jamie Burroughs and Roland Veight and I’d already raced Stu at Earl’s Court on a Mongoose so I knew they were beatable, you just had to get a gate. I certainly didn’t see them as the best, I just saw them as riders, some who were better than me, some who weren’t. My previous 4 years of racing MX taught me to ignore hype and bullshit. You can’t fake a 35 minute moto. But in BMX you can get a gate and be lucky.
Once the event got underway, did you feel you had a chance to win? Had you sized Harry up through the early rounds?
To be honest, I never sized anyone up, I’m not that kind of rider. I have one plan when I get to any race, win all the heats, win the 1/4s win the semi, win the finals. I just see it like that. Destroy all competition. As soon as I start thinking about shit then that’s when stuff starts to go wrong.
I just have this memory of being really pissed off that Kathy was just off with the Yanks for a good part of the day and feeling pretty alone and in my own thoughts. Before that main, I sat on my own, on the bus that was at the track, away from everyone. That’s how I felt, like the only rider who could possibly beat them and I really wanted to do it for all the kids that were there, show them that in the UK we were good too, we don’t need to be fawning over these Americans when we have a great scene here. And, at the time, it felt so out of balance with all of the focus on the USA. I felt like I could win a race for sure but Andy Patterson and Harry were on it too. I wasn’t worried about Greg Esser though, he didn’t seem as hungry as AP and Harry. I also knew I was going fast as well so I felt quietly confident, but the mental game is a hard one and it’s not easy to maintain the edge through the whole day.
How did the main go and how did it feel to win and make British, BMX History?
I just got one of those gates that wasn’t the best ever but was good enough to get a decent second pedal and know that I was going to give it everything. As soon as I got through T-1, I knew it was on. I felt like I was making my History in all honesty, a British kid beating the Yanks, it doesn’t get much better and I also beat Addie van de Ven and the Euros and that was a big deal for me too at the time, as all I used to hear from them was how I was going to get my ass kicked by Addie. So it wasn’t just the joy of beating Harry, I’d have loved to have beaten Andy too but I fucked that race up.
With Halfords being the title sponsor of the event, did they hit you up with interest in sponsoring you after the event?
Nope, not a word… I was pretty much “persona non grata” with UK teams by then. Four years hanging around Factory Kawasaki team riders, being sponsored by great people such as Badger Goss at Maico and Bryan Wade at Honda and the professionalism and legacy of MX was about as welcome in BMX as a fart in a lift. I didn’t fit in, still don’t but it’s never dimmed my love of BMX.
Reflecting now, it must surly be one of your proudest moments during your racing career?
I’m pleased that I showed that after riding a BMX bike for such a short time I could level a playing field for a lot of riders who didn’t think it was possible. Am I proud of it? It’s more valuable than pride actually, it gave me the confidence I was lacking as a youth. I worked really hard to be fast on my bike, made a little plan on what I thought I needed to do, stuck to it and was able to make a little bit of history happen.
The best part is that people remember it because they were there, they could feel the energy, tension and gathering of many Nations to see who was the best on that day… I was there, you can’t beat that even if you came last.
Pickett’s Lock Indoor Grand Prix London 1983 featured in BMX Action Bike – Conrad Buffong coming in 2nd place in the bunny hop comp (35 inches) behind Andy Ruffell (39 inches) who also won the Freestyle event with Craig Campbell and Chris Young in 2nd and 3rd. Craig Strong broke the wheelie world record at 1 hour 16 minutes. In racing, Tim March took the 16 and over class and the whole event made ITN News that night.
Brad Smith from Leicester whose main competitive years were 82-86 and who was crowned 1983 NBMXA British Champion at Derby after a controversial disqualification for Raleigh’s Andy Oldham. Brad went onto rank 2 and 3 in UKBMX behind Anthony Howells in 84/85 riding for Raleigh and ASR.
PC: BMX Bi-Weekly Magazine.
The 1985 UKBMX Schweppes Grand Prix season opener at Hounslow marked the first National in history that topped 1,000 riders totaling 1,144 entries into a UK race, a record at the time. Let’s also remember this National went down in just one day from morning registration/practice to racing starting at 12 noon with the last final hitting the track just before 10pm. Did I mention, rain and mud thrown in for good measure as well? Other impressive records for the day if you’re a stats person, was the domination of the Llewellyn brothers with Gary winning Superclass and 16-17 Cruiser, and younger brother Wayne taking the 14s and 14-15 Cruiser.
PC: Richard Francis
One of the original Grifter kids racing BMX in the UK, Kev Riviere, here with Team Rapid’s Paul Barber, in the pages of BMX Official Magazine, at Chatham. Kev, known as Kai these days, went on to ride for Raleigh Support for a few years. And, after a long break in the sport, can be seen both racing and filming most Nationals up and down the country under the name Race Day Video.
Alan and I first raced each other in 1980 I think, but that’s not important really. What is important is what Alan brought to BMX. He was importing BMX bikes direct from the USA as a teenager, had his own Team. He soon went on to create his own BMX brand, Mirage, opened a retail shop that sold BMX/Skateboards and Records and he bought a coach to take a band of unruly little buggers around the country to race BMX bikes. Alan had raced schoolboy Motocross on the technically testing tracks of Lancashire and the surrounding areas. He was as a teenager like me, into American MX culture Skateboarding and Punk Rock. In short, Alan’s BMX was and still is the hub of the Northern BMX scene and for many who have been around long enough to have been able to see how Alan has supported BMX in its various forms – the shop for over 35 years has been the “go to” destination for all things BMX, that’s a long time and a lot of experience. From the beginning of BMX in this country Alan and his Mum and Dad were involved in the running of BMX as an organized sport in the UK with Arthur as Chairman of UKBMX, giving their time up every weekend to traipse around the country to God knows where and help to put events on for the hordes of kids who wanted to race at all the new tracks popping up in the UK. Alan’s Dad, Arthur, was an ex post-war speedway rider who changed his name to Louis Lawson (nice ring to it) and rode for many seasons successfully at Bell Vue Speedway. With Arthur’s love of motorcycles it was easy to see how young Alan would soon be immersed in the world of dirt and two wheels. On a personal level is where I think Alan and I have over the years become truly great, old friends. Away from the track we kept in touch, our joint love of very similar interests providing the content for our relationship to mature. Add to that I was working for 4130 publishing and later doing the Albion – we had plenty of opportunities to put the world to rights and had many long chats about all things close to us. If there is one person who deserves far more recognition than they receive for their commitment and dedication to a cause it’s Alan. His crew, brought up on two of the goliath tracks, Chorley and Three Sisters and his willingness to throw everything behind all of the pastimes he loves has shown me what a dedicated, focused and all out good guy he is. Add to that a self deprecating demeanour (Greg Hill was known for his “you lose” mantra on the back of his race pants, Alan’s response was to put “I lose” on his, and then he won the Kelloggs TV round at Newcastle with that on his ass) and you have someone who in my mind has always added well needed color to a sport that without it would have been far less interesting and also very different had he not guided it and put in thousands of hours to help kids all over the Country to ride and race BMX bikes. He should be the first of all of us to receive the title of “National Treasure” his involvement in the BMX movement and community in this country was that important. It’s an honor to have him as a friend and I can’t wait to hear this podcast.
(Alan Woods interview below.)
How did you discover BMX and what year?
Well I started racing motocross February 1976, age 11, we raced practically every weekend, all over the country not just regionally. I saw ads for BMX magazines in the MX mags and clearly remember seeing one up in Cumbria probably about 1978, a photo still sticks out in my mind in fact a rider doing tabletop off a small dirt mound and some photos of sidehacks. The first race we did was Little Lever near Bolton and we made the track ourselves.
Your dad was heavily involved in the sport in the early days. Give us a little background on his role?
My dad had a car repair garage in Hindley where we traded out of and initially he just wanted to help us get to the races, then build tracks. Three Sisters he did the groundwork himself borrowed a bulldozer and friends helped digging and finishing, Dave Arnold, Craig Borrows, etc. Later – and I don’t really know why – Sue Jarvis and those running UKBMX in the south – asked him to do it, so a while my mum and dad ran UKBMX together just the two of them, taking license applications and everything, this would have been about 1983, and you know how many riders there were back then. The whole thing was bizarre, they did OK though and my dad got to represent UKBMX at IBMXF meetings (the international BMX body set up by Gerrit Does).
What’s the early history with Alans?
No plan. Just do what you want to do. Certainly no deluded plans to rule world (of BMX). We actually started out selling MX stuff at the races in 1977 that’s where I got some funds to put into BMX when that started.
Give us a little background on bringing in Robinson & Torker and the iconic British Teams and riders you put together.
Late 1980 with an issue of BMX Plus! in hand, at age 16, I wrote to every company who advertised in there. A few companies wrote back, CYC and Robinson being two of them. We placed orders with them and in February 1981 me and my dad drove to Heathrow to pick up first Robinson frames in the country which all went to riders we’d got to know locally, Dave Arnold, Craig Borrows, Fenwick Carr, Jason Ramsden. Easter 1981 we went out to California and Chuck Robinson gave us a tour of the industry, which was amazing. At the time as Robinson was high end so we needed a mid-range brand so he took us to meet Steve Johnson at Torker where we picked up a Maxflyte complete bike, which we brought back for Mike Pardon. Looking back, because we already a business selling motocross gear, everyone was tricked out in JT gear, Simpson helmets etc so we definitely looked the part, compared to the more skateboard Pro-Tec helmet look of the guys from Rom, etc. From there because of Three Sisters I guess it just bred good riders – not that everyone was local – but I think we just had a good eye for fast dudes and making everything look good, which is a bit part of it I think. BMX is a much mental as anything.
The Wigan/Three Sisters Track was your baby how did you make it happen & who else was involved?
Probably mid-late 1981, me and my dad went to meet someone from Wigan council at Three Sisters, they showed us a couple of sites and the second site they said, you can put it here. My dad then literally got materials and a dozer and went ahead and built it, he did have some support from someone higher up in the council, whose name I forget unfortunately. I don’t remember applying for any funding or anything, maybe we got surface material from somewhere but my dad just did it from his contacts in the haulage industry. Oh and remember we had been involved with Chorley track before that with John Lee’s dad and that was an equally iconic track but is was always going to be temporary as it was in a quarry.
With guys like Tony Holland & Dylan Clayton just to name a few who were known for their skills and tech ability – do you put this down to the Three Sisters track and the good local scene you guys created?
Yeah as I said before it’s weird it just breeds a culture, much like El Cajon did with motocross in the early 80’s.
Who was the first rider to jump the legendary King Kong Pro Section?
I can remember this clearly. We hadn’t put the surface on yet and didn’t know if you could actually clear it so got Chris Welsby (who rode for us on Torker) to try it. He pedaled like mad round the pro section berm and up the face but he front wheel dug in, as it was still soft and endoed over the bars – but it was clear it was do-able. Thanks for that Chris!
It was pretty well documented the Three Sisters was a huge favorite track for most with some historical events in the UK during the 80s and early 90s – what was your most memorable event there and why?
Just the buzz really of the event and it being fast and gnarly. We really wanted a more wide open track as we had the space rather than the traditional U inside U. I’m sure we’ll get another this later but tracks with elevation change and multiple lines were something I always wanted to introduce, Whitehaven and Birmingham Wheels were another two tracks I designed which I think would stand the test of time.
You were the first official 16 plus National Champion from 1981 what can you remember about that year and some of the guys you battled with?
I think at the start of ’81 I was still planning on racing motocross. I did one race at Adbaston and had actually sold my new 1981 YZ125 to a customer who let me borrow it (I was racing the class above) and we ran out of fuel because we didn’t top it up between races. BMX wise we had Buckmore late 1980, then Worlaby, then Southport race (which was covered in OBMX No.2) and after we went to California it became clear it was going BMX all the way. Competitors I remember from ’81: Steve Gratton, Pete Middleton, Andy Davidson, Craig Borrows of course, Mike Chilvers who rode for us initially, Geoff Barraclough even and Tim did a couple of races that year. It was overall super fun: Ipswich Landseer Park, Ipswich Coddenham (start off the side of a lorry), Redditch, Eastway, Whitaugh Park – Peterborough was the last national on black gravel, like you‘d see on a road before the put the layer of tarmac on it. I did understand at the time it was important to win the title that first year just to look back on it and say who was the very first champion, you know?
You also played a huge part in the early days with magazines/media in the UK how did you feel the sport was documented during the 80s?
Yeah the magazines helped boost the sport a ton, both OBMX/BMX Action Bike and BMX News/Weekly of course. To an extent is kind of embarrassing to look back at the early newspaper Weekly, they’d just send Nigel Higginson to do a race report from Chorley which would be 5 pages on Robinson riders then they would have me Tony Holland, Tony Law or Mike Pardon do the bike test… But hey, ho it stood Martin Higginson well for the future.
I might be mistaken but you were the first British rider to head Stateside in the early 80s. Was America a huge eye-opener with potential ideas you could take back to the UK to help with its development?
Me and Dave Arnold from our trip Easter 1981 were the first British riders to race in the States. Chuck took us to every track in So Cal and we raced every night: Monrovia, Devonshire Downs, Lancaster, Azusa, Ascot, Rancho (San Diego) and more I have forgotten! Soon after that I think Tim and Andy went out for that big Knotts Berry Farm race for Mongoose. Me and Andy also raced the Pontiac Silverdome that year and got our photo in BMX Action.
We know you and Tim March have always been and continue to be great friends – but what’s your real feeling on the famous, aggressive move Tim March put on you at the UKBMX season Opener at Wigan in 83?
Honestly… that still bugs me! I had a great start and led all the way till that left hand 180 after Kong. I held my line on the berm, Tim carved inside me and lifted my front wheel of fetch ground with his elbow and down I was. I threw my custom Bell helmet about 30 feet into the mud infield. I complained to Alice Temple’s dad who was the official – who spoke to Tim first – and declared it not a T-bone, which I guess, was technically correct. In reality it was no worse than anything that Jason Anderson would put on Cole Seeley at any Supercross. Yeah its weird that Tim and me are on the same page with so many things – Geth too – I would never have guessed back then it!
It seemed like Andy Ruffell & Tim March maybe grabbed the majority of headlines back in the early 80s as the big 2, were you OK with it or did you feel you were overlooked from the BMX media especially considering you were doing so much more in the industry than just a racer and had your fair share of big wins and a National title.
Then I wasn’t arsed because it was a business for me not a career so I only planned on racing BMX a couple of years anyway. As for now and MK and stuff I guess it does a bit because I achieved a lot at a very young age and and have been involved in the sport as long as anyway non-stop, but it is what it is.
Who was the best guy you ever sponsored and why?
Tony Holland. Just deserved it as a local rider, then became an icon of speed and style from that era.
During the UKBMX NBMXA rivalry years you seemed to always focus more on UKBMX. Did you really think there was room for two associations in your view?
I think NBMXA started up because they thought UK weren’t growing the sport and NB was more grass roots, less teams and stuff. Reminded me of ACU vs AMCA in motocross. I think it definitely helped with participation and the size of BMX at the time could support two NGB’s but when numbers dropped off after ’86 it made no sense to compete against another. I raced a few NB – a handful maybe – but we were UK focused for sure.
Not only did you get to race the Kelloggs Channel 4 TV series in 1984/5 but you even got to win a round in Gateshead 84. How was the Kelloggs experience for you?
Well not many people know, the first year we protested because Andy and Tim had a golden ticket to the main all to no avail, imagine that happening today! “Maris you’re all good, lane 3 in the main mate”. Other than that it was awesome and amazing exposure for BMX. I remember going into a McDonalds in Nottingham on the Torker/Ford Freestyle Tour in 1984 and this girl saying “I know you” and I’m like I don’t think so and she’s like, “have you been on TV?” Hahaha. That was the end of that story, honest!
During the mid 80s a few new guys started to step up to the plate in the Superclass/ Pro classes. What were your thoughts on the likes of Geth Shooter, Gary Llewellyn & Craig Schofield as the moved into the Pro Class?
All good. Geth obviously was exceptional.
With a lot of politics going on at the time with the UK Pro Class during the Slough World Championships in 1986 the majority of the UK Pros decided not to race. In hindsight, should they have?
I dunno. I think we were all disgruntled with BMX at the time. I was due to fly out to Cali the day after skateboarding, so my mind was on that anyway.
It seemed like after the Slough Worlds going into 1987 a lot of the top names from the sport, yourself included, dropped out of racing, as it leveled out with magazines and the industry dropping off with a lot going into the early 90s. It seemed like the sport went under ground for many years. Why do you think this happened and did it affect your business ?
Well I started racing motocross again in 1985 and alternated MX and BMX each weekend so wanted to get back to do that full time. At the end of ’86 it just collapsed. The price of the bikes got too high and I guess it just became “uncool” across the board – racing and freestyle. By then we were already doing a lot of skateboards and music too which went hand in hand with that culture at the time and that part of the business took off and we rode that wave but always still did BMX.
How closely did you follow the sport during the 90s?
Not much. We had the record label and worked with touring bands at that time. In about 1997 we had a couple of riders and Robinson (Dylan Jackson) and Torker again then I went to a Coppull National and decided to put a team together, which was on Pro Concept and Supercross and later Avent that was early 2000’s I think. Then Mike Pardon came back from Australia and worked with us, we got Madison on board (Alans BMX/Shimano DXR) and we won the team title 3 years consecutively. When the Nationals switched to double header weekends it got too much for me to commit to, my son was playing football at an Academy and I wanted to support him with that.
Did you see much change in the sport moving into the 2000s with clips and the integration of IBMXF into the UCI?
Nothing looked to be too ominous at that point, we all wanted the sport to grow and this looks like be the only way to get funding, as we had council cuts and BMX tracks weren’t a priority.
After 3 Olympic cycles now in the bag do you see BMX participating in the Olympics as helping or hindering the sport?
Honestly? On participation I’m not sure. But on the sport itself, the way the bikes are set up etc, I think the effect has been negative.
Thoughts on SX tracks and racing?
It’s great TV but bigger isn’t always better and you tread a fine line taking the rider’s focus from racing each other to racing the track.
Does the sport need to take a step back before it can move forward again in the future in your opinion?
I have an idea and I think Tim shares this. BMX’s influence from track: narrow tires, small bars, etc to make these so-called “incremental gains” has taken away from what is BMX. You might’ve heard me compare modern BMX to more like Supermoto than Motocross. It’s too far gone to change it. What I’d like to see are more natural terrain tracks (not old school) but with big jumps and no tarmac, maybe a 10 person gate. Easy to make these tracks in warmer climates without surfacing even, over here it’s more of a challenge. Some of the 4X tracks I have seen could be adapted. It would attract more of an MTB crowd and even some of the dirt jumpers and a more fun atmosphere. You could run clips and Powerblocks if you really wanted but they wouldn’t do you much good… Again if you look at Motocross or even Supercross, yes the bikes and techniques have evolved and the tracks have more jumps but Unadilla or Maggiora are essentially the same as they were in the 80’s, 70’s even. So this new thing could co-exist with modern BMX much like MX and SX does today, the same sport with the same riders, but slightly different. It would also attract more “lifestyle” sponsors back into the sport we all love. How are we going to make this happen?
You’ve rolled out a GT Heritage team for 2017 give us a little background on the idea behind it and the overall goal of the team.
Alans BMX has a license for GT BMX Heritage parts and we had 3 riders out there on Hutch so we switched them over and added Joe Parr whose son Andy raced with us right from the very beginning and is from Hindley so it was cool to have him on board as he is an amazing rider, he actually left Factory GT to come to us that was flattering. Josie McFall who is on the team also works for it and did all the graphics and I think you’ll agree they came out amazing. The products we will sell initially, we have some cool 80’s T-shirts and the some 80’s parts, we will also be doing race shirts through the different eras and I am hoping we’ll have replicas of our team race shirts also. Goals of the team? Well just try hard, be rad and look good! Only 4 riders so not too much hassle, it has cost a lot more than I thought at first but can I give a quick shout out to our sponsors: Box, Renthal, WD40, ODI, Tioga, Lake, Renthal, Vans, 100% plus the people from Ison Distribution, Extra UK, Moore Large and Decade Europe.
Over the last 15-20 years, the Old School movement has really taken off especially in the UK. I’m thinking you actually held the first, ever official Old school event in Warrington in the mid 2000s. Do you have any plans to put any more events on in the future?
Well I was already racing Vintage Motocross from the early 90’s so knew this would be cool for BMX to have something like that. Was so good to see everyone after so long and really was blown away that so many came up. We did make a video of it which I need to get on YouTube. After that we did another couple and a 4 round race series at the Nationals with cash for the overall of the series which John Vile won. From then on it had it own life so I left them to it.
I know you support the Rad Event, which seems to be growing each year. How’s the event for you and do you think Tim March will ever make an appearance?
For me it’s like the Rebellion punk festival in Blackpool. For years I never went thinking it was cheesy retro, most of the people there were never really punks, etc. But I went and you just take it for what is and I loved it. Same with the MK event, just the it for what it is. I did joke that entry should be by shin inspection at the entrance though, if you don’t have bear trap marks on there, you’re turned away.
Since the 80s and 90s only Liam Phillips and Shanaze Reade are the only British riders to win in the Pro/Elite category at the highest level. Do you think there is a reason why we don’t share the same success we’ve had over the years and who do you think will be the next British hopeful in the next few years?
Haha, well, I don’t have answers. I knew Shanaze quite well and I think at the time – Beijing and London – they were still trying to figure BMX out and were going in too many directions. Another major factor is not enough racing for the Elites. BMX isn’t like track where its all about times, race craft is massive in BMX and being comfortable banging bars is something you need to keep doing.
We all see and read about politics surrounding BMX Racing and more specifically those affiliated with British Cycling. Should racing go its own way and move away from BC and take control of its own sport?
See above, we can’t change it now, so offer an alternative. There is a lot wrong there and thanks to Tim for tirelessly pointing out the injustices and wrongdoing.
If you could do 3 things over again in your BMX career what would you do differently?
I can’t say I would. I’ve had amazing experiences racing in the US and Europe and wouldn’t swap it for anything. Chuck Robinson (RIP) I have to thank plus my parents for believing in me.
Thanks for the interview . Everyone coming through the ranks who might read this, remember why you first got into BMX, first and foremost, enjoy it.
Along with Sam Jarvis, Mark Peat and Andy Ruffell, Nikki Mathews was already a 2 x National Number 1 plate going into the 1983 season. BMX Weekly (Volume 3 issue 2) featured an article on all 4 guys titled, “The Fab Four”. Nikki was part of the ACE Team with Andy Ruffell, Pete Middleton & Cav Stutt before moving over to Kuwahara. Nikki lost the number 1 plate in 1983 to Martin Jose and it seemed like he had lost interest by 84 but had a resurgence in 85 & 86 turning Super-class, riding for Suzuki and had some good, consistent results in both the UK and Europe during this period. Nikki raced Pro periodically during the 1987 season winding it down and has not really been seen in the BMX World since.
There is so much history to Andy Ruffell and what he did for BMX in the UK during the 1980s. To put pen-to-paper in just one update would be a huge task and would clearly do him a disservice, as it’s inevitable to leave something out. Maybe the best way is to document Andy Ruffell updates and posts, as this website moves forward. What we can say is that he is undoubtedly the most successful & biggest name in BMX to ever come out of the UK, period.
Stu Diggens Interview – by Chris Carter
For those born in 1969, Kuwahara factory rider Stu Diggens was the acknowledged dominant force in that age group in the early 1980s. ‘Super Stu’ became national number one in 1983, having wrested the title from Mongoose’s Steve Greaves. He kept the number one spot for the ’83 and ’84 seasons, during which time he was virtually unstoppable in one of the toughest age classes of the era.
But in 1985 things began to unravel. Diggens quit the Kuwahara team to take up a lucrative place on the 1985 Raleigh squad alongside Andy Ruffell and Craig Schofield. What happened next has kept the old school chattering classes speculating for more than thirty years!
In 1986 Stu quietly retired from the sport, leaving his fans with a good many unanswered questions. Little was heard from him for the next three decades and he passed into old school UKBMX folklore.
Then, in 2013, he was briefly spotted riding his old Kuwahara, before disappearing again. Now, in 2017, the waiting is over… Diggens is back!
Chris Carter caught up with him on the eve of his comeback race at Gosport, armed with the fans’ unanswered questions from 32 years ago…
Give us a brief timeline of when you got started in BMX and what titles you won.
I started in 1981, then in 1982 I came third in the nationals, and then number one in ’83 and ’84. Then I think I was 5th in ’85 when Woody [Darren Wood] took the number one off me. But I also won the Europeans in ’84 in Birmingham. Before that I won a European title in Dijon in the 11-13 Open in ’83 in my first year with Kuwahara. I won the NBMXA British Championships too in 1983. Weirdly that last win was the only one I was really nervous about and I threw up before the final. Still won it though.
Who were your greatest rivals back in the day?
All of them really. Tom Lynch was good. But really everyone that was on the gate with you, ’cos they’ve got to be pretty good to make the final.
Were there any that used to worry you?
Nah! They were there to be beaten. Once you’ve made the final, you’re in with a shout of winning it.
What year did you retire and what prompted your exit from the sport?
’86 was when I retired. I just started mucking around with my mates, and because I’d won quite a few races and everything else it didn’t seem as important. Obviously quitting Kuwahara and riding for Raleigh… that didn’t go well. And it was sort of downhill from there really. I rode for Alan Sopp Racing (ASR) for a bit, but in ’86 I only did a handful races. I’d pick and choose the ones I wanted to do but that was it. It just sort of dwindled after that.
In 1983 and 1984 it’s fair to say you were almost unbeatable. Then in 1985 you switched from Kuwahara to Raleigh and almost overnight seemed to lose your edge, at least for the start of that season. Looking back now, what do you think happened? Was it the bike? Was it the fact that the competition was getting steadily tougher in an already stacked class that included guys like Darren Wood, Tom Lynch, Lee Alexander etc. (and even me, though I seldom gave you big guns much trouble!)?
I think partly the bike, but the competition too… everyone was getting better. And they’ve got more to gain, whereas… alright I can lose the title and whatever else but the rest of them were getting tougher. And yeh, I didn’t really get on with the Raleigh bike to be honest. And then, at Lowestoft that year I think it was, I still rode for Raleigh but took the Kuwahara and put Raleigh stickers on it, and I think that was my last race for Raleigh. [Laughs]. About a week later, Sam Wood [Raleigh’s team manager] came round and took the bike.
The deal you had with Raleigh was reputedly worth a four-figure sum – no small amount of money for a kid in his mid-teens in 1985. Thirty years on, are you willing to shed light on those rumours?
The rumours were only four figures? [Laughs]. Yeh, that’s true, I did get a four figure sum, plus bonuses! Y’know, if you won a national or won a race depending on what race you won, then that determined how much you got. If you had a photograph in a magazine then you got a certain amount.
And these were cash bonuses?
Yeh. If you won, say, a national you might get £1,000 or whatever it was. But say you got a picture in a magazine, but it was maybe just a quarter page or whatever, then the money wasn’t as good. But if you had the front page or the inside cover or whatever… it depended on where you were as to how much you got.
So did the team do deals with the magazines to get their riders shown?
No, I don’t think so. I mean we knew ’em, but they were pretty independent.
You rode for several big name teams back in the day, including Redline, Kuwahara, Raleigh and ASR. How different was it from one team to another? Were they run very differently by their respective bosses?
Redline and Kuwahara were pretty much the same ’cos they came out of the same company, Gecko Leisure products. The chap in charge there, Steve Constable, was a real nice chap. And then Danny Stubbs was the first team manager and then Dave Wallace. They were all brilliant people.
And Raleigh was obviously Sam Wood running the team. Being a big company did it feel more corporate?
No, from my point of view it stopped with Sam. If I needed anything I’d go and see him – I wouldn’t go anywhere else. If you had problems you’d give them to him and he’d sort them out for you.
And looking back was there a team that you felt most at home on?
Kuwahara. That was the best team I raced for. They had incentives and stuff, depending on how you did throughout the year, you’d get trips to California and get little bonuses and that.
So was the Kuwahara the best bike you ever rode or was there another stand out machine that takes the title of Diggen’s best ever bike?
Kuwahara. Definitely. I’ve still got the three of ’em that I won different things on. Two of ’em are built up and hanging on the wall, and the other one’s in bits but it’s all there ready to be built.
The fact they were owned and raced by you and still complete… I imagine they’re worth a fair bit. I reckon that’s your pension right there!
[Laughs]. Part of it at least!
In the 1980s, with the sport being so young, many people thought it was little more than a kids’ fad. When you were winning national and European titles, was there any kind of recognition from your school or your peers about what you were doing and how well you were doing at it?
Yeh, the schools were brilliant. If you were traveling and stuff you wouldn’t go to school on the Friday and if you got back late you wouldn’t go to school on the Monday. So, in theory there were times I was doing like a three day week. But the school were fine with it. If you got into the local newspapers, Evening Post or whatever, they’d always mention the school so it was a bonus for them.
What about the other kids at school? What did they think?
They were interested as well. They wanted to know how you’d done and what you’d won sort of thing.
For us mortals it was just sniggers: ‘Why are you a teenager riding that bike with little wheels?’ Was it the same for a champion?
[Laughs]. If you’re winning stuff it’s a bit different I think. You’ve got something to shout about ’aven’t you. [Laughs again]. No it was good – really enjoyed that time.
In, I think, late 1983, having taken the number one plate, Kuwahara honoured its promise to send you to the USA on a racing holiday, at which you reportedly won 15 trophies. How did you find the trip and the racing and what did you learn about the americans’ approach to BMX at that time?
When I was out there I went around with Mike Miranda for a little while and I stayed with another family, Richard and Kathy Reens whose son Ray used to race. Richard was good friends with Craig Kundig who ended up being the Kuwahara team manager out there. So I got on really well with them. We’d go round and see Tommy Brackens and whatever, and they’d take you to different places to practise, and we’d go and have pizza with them and whatever.
Living the dream!
Yeh. It was good.
What about the racing out there? More intense?
Yeh, it was more intense racing. But you could race every evening. I think you could race seven or eight times a week if you wanted. You could race virtually every night, and then I think it was either Saturday or Sunday you could race twice: you could go to one track and race in the morning and then you could go to another one and race in the evening.
Wow! Sounds like a fast-track to burnout to me!
Yeh, but I did learn an awful lot from ’em – pedaling, jumping, start techniques. Obviously that’s all changed now when you look at what everyone’s doing today. The bar’s been raised. I’m behind now. I’ve gotta get to that new bar! [Laughs].
After a strong start in the 1984 Kelloggs TV series at Hounslow, you seemed to struggle in the latter races. Any idea why?
Coxmoor at Birmingham I struggled because someone pinched my bike! I think it was Wayne Llewellyn’s bike I rode, and I just couldn’t get on with it. And by the time I got a replacement bike… I think it was two races that I didn’t do any good, and then after that I just sort of lost interest sort of thing.
So that was the start of it – it wasn’t the cameras throwing you off your game?
No, I don’t think so. I just sort of… with the bike being nicked I just sort of got a bit despondent and whatever.
I know you always took quite a pride in your bike so losing it must’ve been a bit of a blow.
Yeh, but what made me laugh… my bike was with, I think Jason Maloney’s and Simon Hayes’ and whatever, but they moved their bikes out of the way to nick mine and then put theirs back!
I wonder if it’s still out there somewhere?
No, they got it back in the end, but I don’t think I got it so it must’ve gone back to Kuwahara. But like I was saying, that’s why it was such a great company to race for. I remember once I crashed and bent the rear dropout, so I’d just go along after school, pick whatever bike I wanted off the rack, pick whatever parts I wanted, and just put it together and ride it home.
Definitely living the dream! [Laughs].
When you were racing and winning in the early 1980s, did you think that in another 30 years, not only would the sport still be thriving, but that your own name would still be remembered and revered as an icon of old school British BMX?
No! Not at all. [Laughs]. You wait ’til tomorrow and you see me race and you’ll know! [Laughs again].
In your era, there were several mainstream magazines such as BMX Bi-Weekly, BMX Action Bike, BMX Racer and Freestyle – and you had your share of appearances in all of them. In some ways, even though the sport is kind of more official now, today’s young stars don’t get that kind of mainstream exposure in which they see themselves on the shelf in their local newsagent. As a 14 year old kid, did you feel any pressure from being, as it were, a celebrity beyond the confines of the BMX world?
No not really. I just enjoyed what I did and the rest came with it.
It must’ve been a buzz going into the corner shop and seeing yourself on the magazine covers?
No I never made the front cover. I made the inside cover, and the inside back cover obviously with ‘Me and My Bike’, but I never made the front cover on any of ’em.
There’s still time!
[Laughs]. I’ve gotta make it round a full lap first!
If you had your time again, is there anything you would want to do differently second time around? Would you still make the switch to Raleigh?
No. I’d have stayed with Kuwahara. Or the other team I would’ve liked to race for was Hutch. But I’d already signed for Raleigh.
Did Hutch approach you?
No, not officially. I remember speaking to someone there, I can’t remember who it was, and they said if I ever wanted to ride for ’em… but you know, it wasn’t like a serious offer or anything. But yeh, I should never have rode for Raleigh.
Nothing else you’d do different?
I would have gone to the World Championships in Japan. They said I could go, but at the time I didn’t want to. That’s one of the regrets I’ve got. I should’ve done it really ’cos I always thought maybe I could’ve won it. The guy that won it I think was from Europe anyway, and I’d beaten him a few weeks before at the European Championships, so I think I should’ve made the final if I went. It’s all ifs and buts now though isn’t it!
I think we’ve all got a few of those!
What are your thoughts on where the sport is today compared to your era? Do you think today’s glassy-smooth groomed tracks and tarmac turns have improved the sport or pulled it away from its motocross roots?
A bit of both really. Back then everything was dirt but now everything is tarmac and it is a totally different way of riding. Whereas I prefer back in the 80s to be honest. Rather than now, I suppose it’s just that difference, but I prefer the 80s.
A good example of old versus new is your ride in the final at the 1984 national at Poole. From gate eight, you pulled a massive move by carving hard across the entire pack at the last second before turn one with your leg out to literally block your opponents. And that was against a stacked field of Tom Lynch, Darren Wood, Lee Alexander, Tim Print, Karl Fuller and Clive Gosling. (Stu’s final can be seen at 1’10” of this clip):
Motocross-style moves like that are now impossible in the age of clips. Do you think BMX racing is the poorer for that?
I don’t know. I personally wouldn’t wear clips. These days I’ve got a job to get round the track. [Laughs]. But I think that whole foot out thing… that was part of it back then. And a lot of the stuff you’d jump and whatever, but now it seems that everyone’s manualing, y’know, riding everything – and there’s not as much jumping now. And the tracks also seem, like… all a ‘U’ in a ‘U’ shape, whereas back then every track was different: Coxmoor, Chesterfield… all sorts of layouts.
So tomorrow is your first race in 31 years. Can we expect to see more of Stu Diggens on the track?
Yeh, I’ll do a few races and see how we go. But y’know, work comes first now – gotta pay my bills. So I won’t be doin’ it serious, but just for a bit of fun and we’ll see how we go.
Thanks Stu. And best of luck for your comeback.
Back in the early 80s only a handful of British riders had crossed the pond to race in the US; Alan Woods & Dave Arnold being the first – shortly followed by the UK Mongoose Team which was featured in BMX Action Bike Issue 1, which was a trip to California funded by UK importer, Malcolm Jarvis.
Tim March, Andy Ruffell, Brian Jones, Craig Schofield, Chris Young & Matt Oakley all made the trip over to California to race some local So-Cal events and to also compete in the Knott’s Berry Farm Mongoose International event, which was well-documented in all of the main BMX publications at the time.
Tim March ( pictured ) made it as far the 16 plus semi – crashing out but still gained valuable experience racing with the World’s best during the short period of time Tim spent riding for Mongoose.
Matt Oakley was the only rider on the team that figured in the results winning his class and with that came some well-published, mainstream media back home including a segment on Blue Peter when the team returned.
Active years racing?
10 years 1983-1993
How did you get into racing?
My friend at school brought in a BMX Action Bike magazine and that was it, I was hooked. ET had just come out as well. I found out about Hayes track and rode up there. There happened to be a race going on and I got to see all the tricked out bikes and race gear that I’d seen in the mags and it was like a different world… I had discovered BMX racing, my first race was the 1983 Hayes UKBMX National, I rode 12 novice, made the semis but crashed.
Local scene and riding crew?
In the London area we had quite a few tracks within riding distance or a short train ride so we were always at a track including Hayes, Hounslow, Westway, Slough, Dormers, Harrow/Meanwhile skate park, building start gates and ridiculous ramps at the infamous White Flats, which is where I met my partner in crime, Keith Joseph. There were a bunch of us that went riding; Winnie Wright, Nicky Restall, Chico Hooke, my little brother Chris, too many to mention, and we’d always meet up with other riders at the tracks.
Your mum, Val, played a big roll in UKBMX behind the scenes telling us a little more about her roll in the federation.
My Mum started by helping out at the finish line and registration, she worked for UKBMX and then EBA doing licenses and pre-registration for the races and general admin work, when the office closed she ran it from home, she ran Hillingdon Hawks for awhile too. There were a lot of parents helping out at the races in all areas, not paid and never really appreciated, in some real ropey weather, without them the races couldn’t be run, so to all those who worked registration, start hill, finish line, referees and in any area of race-day, thank you!
How long did it take before you knew you could win at the highest level and contend for a National title?
It took awhile, raced 13x in 1984, a lot of nationals. I went out in the motos, 1/8, 1/4 finals. I made 2 semis that year, Buckmore and Poole, I amassed 5 points that year and earned the #33 plate. I had a national ranking! The next couple of years were tough, wasn’t ranked nationally, again motos, 1/8, 1/4’s. 1987 in 16x I made my first national final, Wigan, I came 3rd, that year was really good, I made every final, coming 3rd & 4ths, that was the year when the last 3 nationals were worth more points, I think they called them Grand Prix.
The last National that year was at Hounslow, Dean Iddiols had gone Superclass so that left Martin Parker in the points lead. Hounslow was Martin Parker’s home track, I think he lived under the water jump, he was always there! Somehow Martin didn’t make it out of the motos. Paul Roberts came up to me and said, “you know you could get #1 today if you finished 3rd or better” I had worked the points out and already knew that but for someone else to come up and say that to me, I had to pinch myself!! Anyway, the final time came and I placed 3rd. I have to tell you, the few years before hand where I had come 5th so many times and didn’t go through, to achieve that goal of National #1 felt bloody good!
That year taught me consistency, the next year was 17x, again consistently made every final, doing well and then at Bretons I won my first national… that was another amazing feeling… then the Superclass final ran and Winnie Wright won his first Superclass final!! my celebrations were short -lived as anyone who knew Winnie, he was larger than life, I was as pleased for him as I was myself, Winnie was that special. I finished #2 that year, another amazing year.
Rivals during this period?
There were so many; Dean Iddiols, Martin Parker, Clive Gosling, Paul Roberts, Keith Joseph, Robert Indri, Ian Feen, to be honest my rivals were whoever was on the gate.
Why didn’t you ever race NBMXA?
I raced NBMXA, again I was motos, 1/8, 1/4’s, didn’t do much until 16x came around.
Sponsors during your years?
I made it onto the Free Agent Factory Team, Scott Dick was team manager.
Your brother, Chris Hyde, was a UK 80’s Factory little star in the sport and went onto win the 1990 World Championships. Give us the 411 on Chris’ racing and why he was so good.
Wow, where do you start with Chris, he was amazing, he came everywhere with me, he rode 13 miles to Slough BMX track when he was 7. I used to try and sneak out without him but my Mum was too quick and nabbed me to take him with me, he started out on a mini burner and a motorcycle helmet, he took to BMX like a fish to water, I used to hold his back wheel on the start gate and then boom he was gone and another win in the record books!
His first national on a DP mini firebird at Teeside he came 3rd, 5x was a tough class then, some good riders, all sponsored, like Chris cared, his first year he finished #2 behind Chris Stanforth, we didn’t race 3 nationals that year, the next year it was lights out, Chris won #1, he got picked up by Raleigh and to be honest I think he was #1 for many years to come, maybe 6 or 7 years, this was UK & NBMXA. In 1985 he came 3rd at IBMXF World Championships in Canada, in France at the 1990 Worlds he took home the win, as a big brother I couldn’t have been more proud of Chris. The only title Chris missed out on was European Champion, lots of 2nds & 3rds but the elusive 1st was never to be, like he’s bothered right, World Champ sounds a lot better than Euro Champ! I think Chris riding everywhere with me, Keith, Winnie and whoever tagged along gave him an edge on his rivals, it’s funny after Chris won the Worlds, we didn’t call him Chris anymore, he went by the name “World Champ”, love you Bruv!!
Best Internationals results?
1990 Worlds in France, for some reason I was kicking some butt, my longtime pal and BMX hero, Dale Holmes, lent me his MCS factory shirt. I sailed through the motos, 1/8, & 1/4s, semi time, I was running 2nd through the 2nd turn, those big ass whoops I rode, dropped to third, slipped my pedals out of turn 3, down to 4th, coming out of the last turn I slipped my pedals twice and finished 5th… I was gutted. Ironically the dude who passed me for 4th won. He was giving it large after the win, rightly so, and I said to him, you only won because I slipped my pedals! it was USA Factory Mongoose rider, Sam Allerano. We always raced Slagharen, tough race every year!! Got a couple top 3 finishes in UK Internationals.
What year did you decide to stop racing and why?
I finished off the 1992 season really well, won a couple of the last nationals and came 2nd at the British Championships, ended up #3 that year. Over Xmas I had my appendix out, I had to take 2 months off work and couldn’t do anything physical. My first race back was at High Wycombe, open-winter meet. I was very cautious over jumps and turns and I loved that track! I had started getting back into playing football so I put my efforts into that. Took my FA coaching badges also.
You’ve lived in the US for some time now, how’s life here and do you still follow the sport now?
Yeah, we moved over to the U.S. in 1997, to Massachusetts to start with then headed to Sebastian, Florida in 2002. We have very lucky how things have turned out, made lots of great friends here, a lot of ex-pats as well. I try and keep up with what’s going on in the BMX world, the amount of time I’ve spent watching old UK & US races from back in the day & present is crazy! And, with both Twitter & Instagram, the old pics bring the memories back!
Who are some of the British riders you like to watch these days?
Just follow the World Cup series, so Liam Phillips is pretty much the only one. The tracks now-a-days are follow the leader, no real action in the turns, still the speed they reach and jumps now are pretty scary! Love watching the Grands, the live-feed to the races is awesome.
Living in Florida with many tracks to ride any chance of a come back?
Mate, when I watch the vids, I imagine a snap at every gate drop and go through the motions at every jump. I have a mountain bike I mess about on, no hills or mountains in Florida so I’m limited! I think I could top 3 at a race! We’ll see, stranger things have happened, although I’m still having too much fun playing soccer!!
When I lived in Massachusetts I worked at a residential school for children with behavioral disorders, we had BMX bikes for them to use for activities but the bikes were real cheap. I got with the local bike shop and explained to them my background in BMX and the job I had, they sorted me out at a real big discount to get 4 decent bikes. The kids loved it, I taught them basic maintenance and to respect the bike, we were able to implement the bike program as rewards for them in their behavior and therapy plans.
One day the kids were watching the X-Games in the rec room, one of them called me and said the guy on TV sounds like you, I said yeah right, when I listened closely I couldn’t believe my ears, it was Paul Roberts, would you Adam & Eve it! I told the kids that I knew the guy commenting and the fun & great friends I had made through BMX, a lot of the kids were able to move on from their setbacks in life, there were some real tragic stories these kids had endured. It was a pleasure to introduce BMX to them and give them something to look forward to, I know BMX gave me a lot of fun times and I met and made friends with a lot of people, thanks very much!
Photo Credit: Mark Noble
Nick Lacey was one of the few riders to beat Dylan Clayton for a National title during his time racing in the late 80s and early 90s but not to be content with just British titles, Nick had some big wins in Europe also winning the European title in 1989 while riding for Links Racing. Still, Nick’s real stand out year came in 1990 while riding for MCS doubling at the European Championships in Switzerland and then onto winning the World Championships in France a few weeks later ( Lane 8 as well ) in a demanding fashion.
Nick was known for his size, power and good starts but maybe his biggest asset as a rider was his mental strength when it counted.
Shorty after Nick’s World title win, he really had no goals left racing amateur so he turned himself Superclass – and at such a young age, still made finals and podiums numerous times over the next few years before retiring from racing.
Photo Credit: Invert Magazine / Billy Wright.
By the time the 1985 IBMXF World Championships had come around in Whistler, Canada Craig Schofield had already established himself on the race scene. Riding for Mongoose and then onto Raleigh, Craig was a multi-time National Champion, with big wins in Europe and World Championships finalist in both 1983 in Slagharen, Holland and Japan in 84; but by 85 it was time for Craig to challenge for that all-elusive World Title. In the run up a few years before Whistler, Craig had not had it easy on the domestic front battling hard with Gary Llewellyn trading wins but maybe it was the rivalry that was needed to get him to step it up another notch on the World stage. There was a rumored promise of a Porsche if he won, whether true or not, Craig snapped out the gate in that 85 Superclass World Final and took the World Championship win over France’s Xavier Redois and Holland’s Phil Hoogendoorn.
Steve Greaves, Chas Smith, Warren Godfrey & Tim Print are just a few of the names you would hear between the years 1982-86 in the 12 x through 16 x classes in UK BMX & NBMXA. In 1982 Mongoose’s, Steve Greaves was the UK BMX National number 1 but it was in 1983 & 84 – Kuwahara’s, Stu Diggens who was getting most of the wins – taking the UK number 1 plate during these years alongside winning the NBMXA British Championships in 83 and the 84 European Championships in Birmingham. Stu rode for teams like Redline, Kuwahara, a short stint on Raleigh before finishing up his last few years in the mid-80s on ASR before retiring. Steve Greaves, Mark Watkins & Tom Lynch also won major European & World Titles in the class alongside Darren Wood & Lee Alexander who both won the UK BMX titles in 85, 86 (respectively) and Richard Freeman & Tim Print winning titles on the NBMXA side. This has got to go down as one of the most competitive age groups in British BMX during this era.
It was rumored even during his last few years of racing that amateur, Dylan Clayton, was making more money racing for the French Sunn Team than any of the European-based Elite / Pro top riders at the time. He got big bonus checks for all of the major titles and in his last year as an Am, Dylan cleaned house winning the EBA National Number 1, EBA British Championship, doubling at the European Championships in Sweden and a few weeks later doubling yet again at the UCI World Championship in Holland. Job done and onto Pro / Elite for 1994.
Photo Credit: Ride Magazine / Steve Bardens.
1984 was the breakout year for Geth Shooter riding for Bunny’s GT Bike Shop Team. Geth was making waves on the NBMXA scene by the end of the season, Geth had wrapped up NBMXA National titles in the 16 expert & Cruiser before going onto winning 17 plus at the Club Championships ( see clip below ) at Nottingham’s Colwick stadium. Geth, then finished up the year in NBMXA doubling at the British Championships a week later. During the winter, Geth was picked up by Redline, turned Pro and was ready for the 85′ season to play — with March, Ruffell and all of the UK BMX big names of the sport.
Tim March winning the 17+ at the 1983 Halfords NEC event, which was featured on Channel 4’s Weekly Cycling TV program, “On Your Bikes”, presented by Phil Liggett and Sarah Lam.
Not many riders had the chance to challenge or even beat Andy Ruffell during the 1983-85 years but one guy that did was Hutch’s, Simon Bailey from Doncaster. It was the 1984 NBMXA Nottingham Re-Run Nationals where basically the first scheduled Nottingham National of the year had ran out of day light during the semi finals so another date was set to finish up the meeting. The real challenge was getting everyone that had raced the first National to show up for the rescheduled one later in the year.
With Tim Match a no-show, the 17 plus main event looked like a breeze for Andy Ruffell against the NBMXA 17 plus regulars but Simon Bailey had other plans taking the win from start to finish with Ruffell 2nd and John Lee 3rd.
Bailey never went onto win a National number 1 plate but did win the NBMXA British Championships this same year at Derby dethroning NBMXA reigning Champ, Mark Cracknell, he also raced the 1985 Kelloggs series before retiring at the end of 85.
So many talented riders came out of London during the 80s in both Freestyle & Racing. Charlie Reynolds from South London was not only a talent on a bike but also a huge personality off the bike. If reality TV was around during these times, I could not think of a better candidate than Charlie to feature on any TV show. The ratings would have gone through the roof — he was that good.
There are so many legendary stories and quotes from the Charlie era, if you were around during these times then I’m sure you would of heard or saw the blacked-out BMW with a Boom-a-rang suited with a VIP bar and TV in the back seats. (remember this is the 80s ) Charlie pulling 360 over Wigan’s Kong Pro-Section Jump with Moon-Boots on, the huge Miami Vice Mobile phone and bum bag always full of cash, the huge 360 at the 1991 World Championships in France and who could not forget the 720s most of the time shirtless, with no helmet on.
Charlie was a showman but backed it up. Not many people could challenge Geth Shooter during his rise through the ranks, but Charlie battled and beat Geth on many occasions during their expert class days.
Charlie definitely hung up his helmet before his sell by date but always would make a few appearances over the years, win some races, bust out some 360s then be gone again.
The golden years of UKBMX racing was not just about Andy Ruffell, Tim March and all of the familiar names we saw at the races, on TV and read about in the magazines. Some other names off the track also helped make racing magical during the the 80s when the sport was growing at a fast pace. If you raced UKBMX and enjoyed to throw an elbow or go a little early on the gate, then chances are you ran into Chief Referee, Norman Darbyshire. Norman was a little intimidating if you ever saw him walking towards you at the finish line after a race – you’d take a deep breath – yet at the same time, he was always fair and respected all the riders with the decisions he made. He was a “ref” throughout the 80s and into the 90s both in the UK and on the international stage including European and World Championships races.
Sam Wood, pictured in the center, was not only Team manager to some of UK’s big Factory Teams including Skyway, Pro-Lite and Raleigh but also one of the best commentators ever to hold a microphone, even today. Sam had style not just in the Pits but also with his team set ups and was a huge crowd favorite on the mic every time he climbed in the tower. Every National with Sam’s commentary would be guaranteed with an electrical atmosphere. If you check out some National archives on youtube there is a good chance you will come across some of Sam’s great “one-liners” during the races. Anyone remember “Humongous” or Sam’s identifiable “put-on” Jamaican accent he would use when Winston Wright was out on the track! Sam also spent time as Chairman of UKBMX for a period of time and did a fine job at that as well along with being such a likable character on the UKBMX scene.
Vic Roberts ( pictured right ) like Sam was from London’s Region 9 and was one of the legendary UKBMX starters from the 80s with his slow-call ( compared to most starters ) yet precise & consistent dropping of the gate. And, how can you not remember those first words you would hear from Vic when you were lined up on the gate ready to go, “Set em’ up Lads”. Vic shared the starting duty at the Nationals with notables like; Les Slater, Brian Pickstone and Sonny Ives and also enjoyed the honor of being one of the official starters for the 1986 Slough World Championships.
David Duffield one of the key guys that brought BMX to the UK has sadly passed away. David was influential in Halford’s involvement in BMX in the early days with the Redditch Track and legendary events put on by Halford’s like the Anglo American Cup. David was also the TV commentator for the first Kelloggs in 1984 and numerous other BMX Shows that were televised in the early 80s.
Below was posted on the Redditch Premiers BMX Club Page.
UK BMX Pioneer and creator of the original Redditch BMX Track, David Duffield has sadly passed away at age 83 after a fall. David brought the sport of Bicycle Motorcross (BMX) to our shores when he was marketing manager at Halford’s Head Office in Redditch. He always said, “he knew it was going to work!” He played a big part in building the first BMX Track almost opposite the Halford’s Head Office off Icknield Street Drive, in Redditch. The first official BMX race took place on 30th of August 1980 at the Redditch BMX Track. National, regional and open races took place at the track with hundreds of children and young people using it every day.The Redditch BMX Track hosted the first International Anglo American races of 81 and 82- BMX was booming!!! David went on to become a legendary Eurosport Cycling Commentator covering races such as the Tour De France. We tracked David down and invited him to the Redditch BMX Tracks opening ceremony some 30 years later on 10th of July 2010. David left some memorabilia in the Club house for us. Thoughts go out to David’s family and friends. Thank you David and rest in peace x
If you were around in the UK race scene during the mid 80s through the 90s or read the UK magazines during that time then, no doubt, you’ll be familiar with Keith Duly. Keith, a Bexhill / Hastings local, was a top National racer during the latter part of the 80s but really made a name for himself during the King of Dirt Series at the National events. It really took off in the early 90s and along with other top racers at the time like Stephen & Martin Murray, Dylan Clayton, Kye Forte, Clive Gosling and so many others these guys could send it in the dirt comps then line up on the gate 10 minutes later and come home with silverware in both. Something that is pretty much unheard of these days.
Keith who rode for Mongoose — was kind of the UK’s version of Fuzzy Hall liked by everyone for his humbleness, radness and passion for the sport — Keith’s family was also heavily involved in the BMX/race scene. Keith’s Dad, Paddy, was a commentator at the Nationals and during the Backyard Jams time, the whole Duly’s home doors were wide-open and essentially turned into a hotel for bmxers from all over the World to crash during the weekend.
Today, Keith is using all of his experience, passion, industry connections and knowledge of BMX to give back to the sport and continue to do his part in grass roots and continually looks at new ways to bring kids into BMX with his, “Jim Dirt’s Jump Club” he’s been rolling. Check it out ( link below ) and enjoy the interview.
First up, how did the name Jim Dirt come about?
It was just a goofy name I used as a kid, when writing to Jive to buy stickers. It was never meant to stick.
How many years have you been involved in the sport?
Probably since 1983 or there-abouts.
Coming from Hastings, which has always had a big BMX community both Race & Freestyle, who were some of the locals that inspired you back in the early days and spots/tracks you rode?
I mainly rode Bexhill track and Sidley trails with people like Rat, David Bishop, Rob ‘Rekka’ Crouch, Thomas Hooper, Dan Highams, Ian Morris, Eastbourne crew, Boyley and Mercer to name a few. We rode Crowhurst alot, which still has the original vert ramp, dirt jumps with metal take-offs, floodlights. It’s unchanged to this day. Crowhurst had a mix of vert riders, skaters, trail riders and racers. Lots of people strapping mattresses to themselves learning flips and stuff.
If we weren’t racing then we used to go wherever Stu Dawkins (owner of Seventies Distribution) drove us in the Backyard Van. Ian brought a lot of energy to the scene. Mark Richards produced a series of films which indirectly show-cased our scene. People were always visiting from all over the world, I remember Hoffman riding Crowhurst and Mad Dog riding our local track for example.
It was cool being around Backyard Skates as it grew. I remember popping out of work during a lunch break once and seeing Jimmy Levan walking through WHSmith. Team Sano forgot to give Amos a lift home once, he’s still here in Hastings.
Who were your sponsors & supporters over the years?
Mongoose, GT, Vans, UGP, 2B, Backyard and a few free Jive plates back in the day. I only got the Mongoose and GT deals because Clive Gosling needed a wingman for the KODs. I was on Redline for a week.
These days old friends SOURCEBMX and 4Down help keep me and the Duly juniors supplied.
You were a huge part of the mid 90s KOD events that were held at the races that are still talked about today & were documented in the magazines at the time. What are your memories of these comps and the riders you competed with?
KODs were a blast. I won the UK KOD title three years running, not that anyone was counting, except me and maybe Bill Baggs who made the events happen.
Dylan Clayton, Neal Wood, Tony Fleming, Shawn Andrews, Paul Roberts, my homeboys Clive Gosling and Dave Bishop took part, Murray bros were regulars. Every now and then people like Simon Tabron, Scott Stevens and Ian Morris popped in to mix it up. There were usually a few locals who stepped up.
There was a very strict neon dress code and at some point in the series you had to do a nac-nac or a dual no-footer with the legendary Paul Roberts. I remember riders like Will Smyth, Dean Iddiols and Ian Fry being really influential dirt jumpers both at the race scene and the early KOD events. I guess Charlie Reynolds helped to ease dirt jumping events into race meetings in a way. Years later people finally realised that you didn’t have to wear a fanny-pack to pull a 360.
Alongside side Dirt Jumping you were also a successful racer. What were some of your best results over the years?
I won a couple of British Championships on my 24”. I made a 4th maybe 5th, at the Slough European Championship once on my 20”. Frank Brix still beat me even though his fanny pack got stuck in his back wheel. I haven’t said the words fanny-pack for years until now. I raced in Western Australia for a season, thanks to my old friend Peter Read, which was a highlight. But to be honest it was the Superclass dudes like Dylan, Dale, Geth and Neil etc who were redefining UK racing in my era.
Give us a little insight on who and what the LRP was all about.
LRP brothers include Tom Lynch, Daryl Gibbard, Carl ‘ Sex on Wheels’ Alford, Robbie Stobart, Clive Gosling, Steve Bardens, Stevie Pollard, Darren O’Neil, Manfred, Jon-E, our late buddy Ross Hill and Steve Bell was roped in for his mini-bus driving skills and general badass-ness. I got involved when Carl took me under his wing after I got fleeced for second at the Euro KOD. BMX is way more fun with the LRP.
It’s very rare to find racers that do more than race today. Why do you think this has changed since the 80s and 90s where so many riders like your self rode all aspects of BMX?
The Kellogg’s era got me hooked on racing and then it was the original S&M team who brought a fresh influence to the race scene just at the right time for me. I remember so many cool photos of riders not involved in the race scene like the Dirt Bros, John Povah and Taj which really influenced me.
The current SX guys are so skilled. They could kill stuff if they wanted to. I’m sure some reprobate will come along and shake up the current race scene again. I doubt if he or she will come from an Olympic training squad though.
You’re back in the race scene these days giving back to young riders on the grassroots front. Tell us about your Coaching and Jump Club and it looks like the revival of the Bexhill track and race scene.
I’ve always been around the sport helping out. But I was chatting to Ian Morris a few years back and he was talking about the importance of keeping BMX attainable and relevant for new riders. That was a bit of a trigger. Source guys were keen to support something new. I wanted my own boys Ike and Sonny to enjoy their BMXs with friends. More recently I broke a wrist and a rib last summer racing. I’m booked in for shoulder surgery soon. It just means I can devote more energy to JUMPCLUB whilst recouping. We’re aiming to have as much fun on BMXs as we can, racing, skate parks, road trips, whatever. We lucked out on the kids involved. We have a cool race team of local young underdogs, mostly beginners. We have UBR in Superclass men and Double 0 in Championship women. During the last transfer window we signed Mark Fisher, Blake Bros, Jon-E, Rob Stobart, Bishop and Gozza. Even Sex on Wheels formerly left Factory JMC to come ride with us. Skydiver Frazer ‘Mad-Air’ Wells joined our roster recently, he’s a handful.
At the moment we mainly run race and jump coaching locally at Bexhill Burners track, home of the Backyard Jams. 4Down previously lent us the Etnies park, now that’s gone. Currently we’re super excited about linking with the brand new SourcePark under Hastings seafront. The most incredible skate park I’ve ever seen, completely unique.
JumpClub is also an excuse to work collaboratively with creative friends, In the future we’ll have more stuff to buy. I’m hoping to do a decent youth event in the Summer. Do some cool stuff with Source. Get more kids from all over the UK involved somehow.
What are your views on today’s racing and the way the sport is going with the Olympics and SX tracks?
It’s rad, no doubt. I think racing had to get faster and bigger. SX is on a different level and it’s so good to watch. It would be cool if tracks could be designed to encourage more overtaking though. I was kinda hoping that tracks would stay dirt and start to evolve downhill to gain speed, rather than reply on hard surface and tarmac. But it’s up to the new generation of riders to influence their sport now. I think us older generation have a responsibility to help keep the sport rider run and to keep it on the rider’s terms. It needs to keep evolving.
What about grassroots racing?
Lots of local tracks have improved, regional racing is awesome. Martin Baxter and others are running a slick ship in our region, huge props to them. But there has been a lack of progress with real grassroots over the UK. There are a large number of kids who live near BMX tracks who have street BMXs, but the reality is that very few of these kids will ever actually race. Given more resources, clubs could try new ideas, like some sort of street league. Just simple opportunities for these beginners to race each other on normal street bikes, proper novice racing. Novice racing needs developing. The jump into racing is huge for most beginners.
Get the creative BMX companies back into racing and then think innovatively about how we can get more people racing and using tracks.
Being a Hastings local you witnessed the Backyard Jam years. What was your most memorable year and why?
All the early 90’s jams were memorable and a blur. I took it all for granted, having every BMX legend of the era just 100 yards from my house for an annual event. Having a house full of friends come visit, Joe Rich buying me a beer and Dave Clymer over the chasm were my highlights. Great memories of jumping every chasm, except the one where I bust my nut sack open in the warm-up.
I’d like to especially thank my homeboy Daryl Gibbard from Jolt for his time, and the local Burners posse who help every week and raise funds for the track. Thanks to Nicely for the website. I’m really looking forward to spending more time at the SourcePark, it’s a pleasure to be linked to these BMX good guys. As always thanks to JetBMX, United, Big Daddy Plates, Neil Hanvey, BMX.Photos, UBR, Double 0 and the JUMPCLUB regulars. Crowhurst Dennis, Steve Bardens and Mark Noble for helping me to blag this over the years. Shout to our boys Indri, Winnie, Boyley and Ross.
Images: Invert Magazine / Marcel Fernandes / Mark Richards
1984 Trevor Robinson wins the first-ever Pro-money Race in the UK – From the very start of racing in the UK in 1979 it wasn’t until March of 1984 before the first, official Pro-money event where the top riders lined-up for a chance to be part of British race history. The event was put on by Fred Hunter of Dronfield Demons and took place at the Derby Greyhound Stadium under the floodlights – classified as an open meeting, as the race was not eligible for National points in either UKBMX or NBMXA. A total of 650 riders turned out on a cold, wet March winter Sunday with the only absent, big names, being Andy Ruffell who was doing demos in Scotland and Tim March was a no show–rumored to have been recovering from a broken ankle or perhaps was still in the States training with Greg Hill and not ready to show his cards yet for the 84 season.
Not being a National event, it opened its doors for not only the top guys who would be racing the newly formed Superclass that coming season in UKBMX but also the top amateur riders in both NBMXA and UKBMX at the time had a chance to sign up and go for the money as well.
UKBMX number 1 in both the UK 15 and 16 age groups respectively, Craig Schofield and Martin Jose were in Derby for local sponsor, Raleigh, as was NBMXA British Champion GT’s, Scott Williams and Patterson’s, Gary O’Connor, who all had plans to stay with their amateur classes for the 84 season but wanted in on some prize money and experience with the big guys. Birmingham Wheel’s Big, Trev Robinson, was fresh back from winter training in the States with other notable top names from UKBMX including Mark White, Pat Robinson, Tony Slater, Pete Middleton and Jamie Vince.
On the NBMXA side you had Hutch’s, Simon Bailey, Cobra’s, Dale Goodwin and the 83 British Champion, Darren Bullock, from just up the road in Doncaster. By the time the gate dropped Sunday night for the final, Big Trevor Robinson powered from the outside lane to take the big win coupled with £100 in his pocket back to Birmingham. Scott Williams came in with an impressive 2nd earning £50 for his trouble with Faze 7’s, Tony Slater in 3rd and £25 for the final podium spot. It was cold, wet and dark by the time the money was handed out but at the same time, another piece of British BMX History had been made and for Trevor Robinson, it was the start of things to come in the money class and he would repeat BMX history once again a year later.
Runnymeade Rockets Track Chertsey Surrey during the mid 80s designed by British Champions, Tim O’Shea & Marcus Rich. At the time, this track was one of the more technical and challenging in the UK with a long, first straight and a peaky-first speed jump up to a 15ft double into the first, big wide-open 180 or “The Wall”, as it was called. The second straight, consisted of a technical step-up with the key to catch backside to set yourself up for another wide-open 180 into a tall camel jump. Last turn, another wide-open 180 turn into a long, last straight with a table-top followed by triples to the finish line.
Even though, now looking back and seeing this diagram, the track was basic but what I did like was the wide-open turns where so many moves were made. If a rider went on the inside to protect his/her line, the rider behind could rail the turns and make passes on the straights with better exit speed. The key to this track was to keep your momentum but with the wide-open turns, so many riders would dive, which kept it interesting. It’s good to see, Runnymeade, finally got an upgrade this year and that the racing is flourishing once again like it was in the 80s. The 1988 NBMXA National Finals itself has a lot of British race history, as the last ever, NBMXA National, before merging with UKBMX to form EBA in 1989. A rider on a Raleigh Grifter, ( Gary Morgan ), also made history racing and winning the 17 plus category and this event also marked the last Pro-Class event before the Pros merged back in with the Superclass and new era of racing for money in the UK for the future.
The first World Championships to hit European soil goes back to 1983 in Holland, which was under the IBMXF umbrella at the time before merging into the UCI that’s now known as the world governing body for all of cycling. The event was a huge success for its first outing – outside the US, held in Ponypark, Slagharen and organized by Gerrit Does and the Royal Dutch Cycling Federation (K.N.W.U.).
With over 1000 entries, 15,000 spectators over the 2 days of racing, and broadcasted on National TV, it was the first time the majority of the top riders from the the UK got to stack-up against the best riders in the World. Including riders from GT, Kuwahara, JMC and Hutch all U.S. Teams who had flown over for the race.
Even though it was a World Championships there were two classes offered to race; Expert and Juniors. With a lot of the UK’s top riders at the time who were still fairly new to the sport, they decided to go the Junior route qualifying though a couple of events put on in the UK prior to the Worlds.
Up to this time, no British rider had won a World Championships title in any class previously but by the time the event was over, Diamond Back’s Louis Mears, was crowned Britian’s first official and only World Champion at the time winning the 7 year old Juniors class and backed it up with a 3rd in the Open class against the top expert riders.
Louis received the star treatment once back in the UK, he was plastered all over the BMX Magazines, appeared in the mainstream media including many TV appearances with a segment at the Westway Track in London riding with all of the locals that was broadcasted for children’s TV.
BMX was already in full-swing in the UK by 1984 with Magazines, TV coverage and healthy National Series events – UKBMX & NBMXA happening all over the country. It also seemed like a new, fresh breed of racing talent was appearing at the Nationals and gaining recognition in the magazines. Specifically, one being, Nathan Lunn, who was first spotted in BMX Action Bike Magazine riding a Torker rocking a Van’s jersey and slip-on shoes. By the time the 84 UKBMX Nationals got underway, Nathan had been upgraded to the Torker Factory Team and was looking to put a serious threat on the number 1 plate in a very tough age group with names like Danny Stabielli, Frazer Campell, Paul Ray and Jamie Staff. Nathan’s sister, Natalie also raced as did his older brother, Jason, who also rode for Torker before having a successful Freestyle career riding for the notable, Raleigh Team during the Ruffell era. Nathan was known for his smooth riding style very similar to Dylan Clayton and we all know how good Dylan was. Nathan didn’t stick around very long it seemed by the end of the 86 season while riding for SE Nathan lost interest and hung it up. Still today, if you pick up any UK Magazines from the mid 80s or scroll around on the internet you will find so many awesome shots of Nathan who always had that fresh, stylish Factory look.
Always good to see BMX’ers continue to do good after their BMX days. Simon Hayes, was around the start of BMX in the early 80s in the UK riding for Kuwahara and Hutch racing Kelloggs TV series in 84/85 and even becoming the European Champion in 1985 in Barcelona, Spain. Simon went on to follow his Dad’s footsteps working in TV as a Sound Engineer working on many well-known TV shows and Films over the years including, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Les Miserables, which even won an Oscar for as part of the Team. Simon has still not forgotten his roots, as he’s a regular at various London tracks just riding for fun.
One of the most iconic events during the 80s in the UK has to be the 1983 Halfords’ Indoor Open BMX Championships held at the NEC in Birmingham. With entries from the majority of the top riders in both UKBMX and NBMXA it was one of the few events that was not for National points yet all the big names lined up on the gate. Bob Haro was flown in from the US, there was TV, the main-stream media was present, which was another huge step forward for the sport in the UK at the time. Channel 4 had a weekly TV bike program at the time called, “On Your Bikes”, which was presented by Road and Tour de France commentator, Phil Liggitt. The show documented BMX numerous times during its air time putting out full-episodes on the Halfords NEC with insight and interviews with Bob Haro and Andy Ruffell. In the racing, Andy Ruffell was beaten in the 16 year old final by Redline’s Tony Slater with Tim March, sporting Skyway Graphite mags, demolished the 17 plus final over Sean Calvert and Malc Stapleton. Other winners throughout the age groups were, Ben Bishop, John Harding, Richard Hunt, Jason Crosby, John Greaves, Darren Page, Wayne Llewellyn, Kevin Hayes, Jason Maloney and Harvey Munkton. In the Freestyle event, Andy Ruffell took the win over Craig Campbell and Mike Pardon who were announced joint 2nd with Andy Preston in 4th.
1982 National Nottingham 9 year olds age group. #3 Ben Swift (Torker) #20 John Greaves (Mongoose) and #6 Cliff Welley (Kuwahara) around the first turn. John Greaves went onto become National Champion the same year while Cliff Welley became number 1 the following year in 83 with John also winning the NBMXA British Championships at Derby in 83. Cliff retired at the end of the 84 season with John calling it quits in 85. Picture taken from BMX Action Bike Magazine Aug 82.
If you read and studied the UK magazines back in the early 80s, you will remember so many great rider’s names and iconic shots with guys like; Cav Strutt, Mike Chivers and Mad Malc Stapleton. So many of these riders really didn’t stick around in the sport to maybe show there true potential. Cav Strutt ( pictured here ) always stood out in the mags, he was part of the Team Ace with Andy Ruffell, Pete Middleton and Nicki Matthews who we all know went on to winning ways and Factory stardom but Cav was gone from the sport maybe before his career really could have taken off.
Report: Nigel Higginson
Source: BMX Weekly – Vol. 2, No. 24 pg. 22
Approximate print date (1982)
“It’s going to be perfect,” said Alan Woods when questioned on his new track at the Three Sisters site near Wigan. But then if there’s one thing Alan loves it’s a challenge. However, with Alan being the youngest business man in the sport with the flourishing company of Alan’s BMX, in 1981 16-plus No.1 Plate holder, and founder of the U.K. Robinson and Torker Teams, one gets the impression he’s quite used to challenges. So when did he have the idea of building a Track, and opening it with an International, a totally unique step in British BMX History.
“Well, it first started two years ago in June 1980 when initial plans were begun for a track with the Three Sisters area in mind. I hoped to build a track designed with the American Pro’s in mind, but on a much larger, longer and more exciting scale, filled with much more adventurous jumps. So in October of last year, we approached Wigan Council with the prospect of a track at the Three Sisters, a site which merely in a radius of 20 miles includes the densely populated Liverpool, Warrington and Manchester regions and possesses excellent motorway accessibility from anywhere in the country. However, with the Wigan Council having little control over the Three Sisters, eventual confirmation came from Manchester Council on the 9th of this month.”
Since that date work has never stopped and at the moment the track is completely laid out with the berms in place, but awaiting the jumps and table tops to be put in. The surface is fine clay based dust with an aggregated stone foundation, which compresses so well that it looks like a concrete surface, which Alan says will make the track one of the fastest in the country.
Back in the late 80s and early 90s, BMX was going through a tough period industry wise with Magazines and sponsors disappearing as the sport took a drop. Much like in the U.S., the U.K. race scene was still solid without the corporate money it had seen in the early 80s and with many of the media outlets disappearing. Zines and Newsletters started appearing more regularly at the races to ensure everyone got their BMX news fix with coverage put together from the Riders/Clubs and Die-hards themselves. UKBMX started their own, Zines/Magazine, that came out at every National. It changed its name and look over the years but during 1988-89 it was called Fat Front Tire with Clive Gosling and Nevil Hollis putting it together. For sure even today, it’s a great read with Interviews, Race Reports and Bike Tests. Clive & Nevil did a great job.
There are definitely a few key pioneers of the sport of BMX in the UK in this shot. Geoff Wiles on the mic who helped launch BMX in Britain along with Malcom & Sue Jarvis and Alan Rushton. Geoff also did some commentating on television as the sport of BMX took off. Next to Geoff, Steve Gratton, who was was ranked number 2 in the UK back in 1982 in the 16+ class behind Robinson’s, Alan Woods. Steve was also a well known Skateboarder and behind Steve in the pic is multi National and European Champion, Wayne Llewellyn who was picked up by Mongoose and went big time in racing before retiring and becoming a Heavy-Weight boxer. Let’s not forget the guy chilling on the Raleigh-Commando! #Roots Photo Credit David Newsholme.
We recently received some images from Paul Newsholme for the early 80’s UK race scene. The quality of these pics are excellent. Paul tells us that both he and his Dad took most of the pictures – and to say they’re 30+ years old – they’re great!
All Artwork by Boulplanet, illustration & artworks design.
Today, Damian Myles was laid to rest. Seven bmx’ers lead him out as Guards of Honour, making Damian the 8th rider on the gate with a special Hutch bike and Aero custom Hutch/Mongoose number plate. Carl Hughes, Darren Oakes, Scott Williams, Darren Nelson, Darren Reidy, Simon Bailey, Andy Oldham and John Bentley all led the way on their bikes sporting Damian Myles UKBMX Legend t-shirts along with Damain’s family and friends. Andy Oldham and Darren Nelson were ranked UKBMX National number 2 and 3 in 1983 behind Damian which makes it even more special from the BMXers side and respect to Damain. Thoughts go to all the family and friends and of course, little Ruby. RIP Damian Myles.
I’m sure if you were around in the early to mid 1980’s racing BMX in the UK you would be familiar with the name Damian Myles. Damian’s from the North West of England and rode for Hutch before becoming UKBMX National Champion and getting picked up to ride for the High- Powered, Mongoose Factory Team along the likes of Andy Ruffell, Pete Middleton the Jarvis family and amongst many more of the big names we read about and saw at the Nationals back then. It really was the first BMX Dream Team in BMX Racing, as everyone on the Team was a big name, including Damian. For those of you that have not heard, our friend Damian was diagnosed with cancer not too long ago and it has unfortunately progressed rapidly. We are all saddened to hear his days are limited. Damian was a popular racer back in the day and it’s nice to see how well he remains respected and admired within the BMX community with all of the kind comments on social media today.
Mr. BMX Weekly Arnold Higginson passed away at age 77.
A retired builder, Arnold financed the publication from late 1981 up to 1985. Later becoming BMX Bi-Weekly and taking on a magazine format, it sold over 46,000 copies at its height, and is remembered fondly in Old School BMX circles. It is Arnold’s vision that enabled the recording in pictures and words the start of BMX from within the UK. Arnold was seen at many of the National and Regional race meets with wife Marjorie, and sons Martin, Nigel taking pictures, and Jonathan racing.
Arnold built the wooden start gate and table top at the former Morecambe band arena where the town’s first races were held most Sundays from 1982 on a track made up of car tyres. Arnold approached and persuaded Pontins at Middleton near Morecambe to build a track. That infamous table top then went up to the Pontins race track where the UK Open Championships were held from 1983, and Pontins became home for Andy Preston and Mike Pardon, the BMX Bi-Weekly test team and regulars in the sister magazine, Freestyle BMX.
BMX owes a lot to a lot of people. Arnold Higginson is one of them. His vision helped to create Legends and put the names of racers like Andy Ruffell, Tim March, Alan Woods and Dale Holmes into the homes of many young BMX’ers. RIP Arnold, happy memories.
Written by: Jonathan Higginson
We bring some sad news this week…Darren Page passed away from Cancer. If you remember Darren from the early BMX days in the UK, he was ranked National number 2 and raced for Torker. He competed in the 83′ European’s in Birmingham, the Worlds in Slagharen and was on the podium at the Halfords NEC back in 83′. He battled with the top guys at the time Darren Mill, Darren Nelson, Andy Oldham and Damian Myles. Sad times for sure. Thinking of both Darren and his family…
In the beginning, back in the old days…
Mike was about nine years old making it around about late 1982 when he came home from school one day & asked if he could go BMX racing with the headmaster’s son of a great rider named James Morris. I remember Mike went with James & his dad (John) on a Saturday at the Farnham bmx track (the four lane track) which was by the sports centre for some practice on his old Duster 100 bmx bike & I haven’t forgotten Mike’s expression when he came back from the Farnham track, he was full of it & had a smile on his face from ear to ear & I knew he had a lot of fun, I could tell he was hooked, this made me curious & prompted me to have a look later too.
Mike pestered me to go to the next race that was held at Farnham & I paid for him to become a member of the club so that he could start racing at club level, well I now knew why he was hooked, once I saw what BMX racing was all about, my first impression was ‘wow’ this is a dynamic new sport & I wanted to be part of it from there onwards. Mike started racing at Farnham more frequently it was great little track back in the day & gradually he got more & more confident, this in turn lit the fuse for him to race at other tracks at open race meetings, then regionals meetings (south central/region 9) then ultimately nationals & international events in the years to come…I can remember Mike winning his first trophy back then & he went on to win many more at all levels in his time racing BMX.
We found out after a little while that there were two sanctioning racing bodies UKBMX & NBMXA we tended in the earlier years to race more NB as the geographical area we lived in (south central) had most of the tracks/clubs affiliated to it, after racing many open meetings we ventured onto regional racing level, I think @1984 Mike race a regional race held at the Southampton track by the (docks) this regional was the starting point for me in bmx when I really started to get involved, Mike was in a moto or quarters/semi I think & he was taken out round a berm by a rider who went on to be one of his main rivals his name was Aaron Valente ‘the black shadow’. I remember shouting as you do as a dad & spectator at the track marshal “are you blind, did you not see what happened” I got a somewhat polite reply from the marshal “if you can do any bloody better, do it yourself” – he tossed the red flag at me & walked off the track…from this point onwards I gradually got more & more involved in helping at race meetings be it open & regional events, I got more involved at south central the following year (1985), but for the rest of the ‘84’ season we race as many meetings as we could, I had this overwhelming urge within me to try & make thing better for the riders & their parents.
It was around this time Mike & myself got involved with helping form a new BMX club called ‘Terry’s Tigers’ at Bartley Heath just outside Odiham in Hampshire, I had my own successful business at the time & I offered my help & assistance to other clubs too who needed it, I had my own JCB diggers & tarmac rollers, often I would get request from clubs & people asking if I could help, I was only too willing to help assist where I could, I remember also sponsoring many open races at other clubs & at the time donating money to help with other club’s finances, as some back then were beginning to find it hard to stay afloat, this did worry me as I could see ahead that clubs & even the ‘associations’ were beginning to struggle financially, the sport had just come out of its ‘craze’ period if you like & both UKBMX & NBMXA had healthy riders affiliated to them, but it was only a matter of time before things would start to become harder for the sport to survive & thrive in the longer term, this led to the period in my time in the sport as the ‘politics’ era, one I was never really a fan of but my desire was to help the riders & the sport as a whole grow from strength to strength…..
‘The era of politics’…
I started out in this early period by being elected a regional rep for south central to the national board at NBMXA @ 1986 & very shortly as we raced NB nationals at the time I became a national track marshal & a race referee & eventually sometime later race director….Mike kept on racing while I got on with the running, organising of the racing with other volunteers of the association, I could see though & in particular after the great IBMXF world championships that UKBMX successfully hosted at Slough, that having the two racing associations running races throughout the UK would eventually not work & I could see what was going to happen, there were exploratory talks that I remember both associations had back then @1986 & 1987 & after these discussions were had the aim of one association was still some way off… Mike & I didn’t just always race NBMXA, he did want to race UKBMX nationals also, although I wasn’t involved with UKBMX at the time I did enjoy going racing with Mike at these events as I didn’t have to officiate etc. the quality & calibre of riders in Mike’s age group (Jamie Staff, Lee Pickstone, Joe Eastwood to name a few) was of the highest standard at UKBMX races, Mike though found the UK the harder of the two to compete in, NB had quantity with great riders but UK had the best riders & it was more intense for him of the two to compete in, well that’s Mike’s view any way! To be honest both associations had great riders of who most of would race both associations events when they didn’t clash as they mostly tended to do, this was the ‘politics’ which I hated & detested at the best of times, this only strengthen my resolve & desire to see ‘one association’ in the UK happen soon, I could also see the same problem happening at international level with IBMXF & FIAC as I believed having two champions be it at national, international & world level devalued the true meaning of the word ‘champion’ as there was always another who could claim they were ‘champion’ too.
1988, the ‘BB’ era…
After another year in which both associations again failed to come together as ‘one’, NBMXA ceased & adopted the name as ‘BBMXA’ this believe it or not was what the new amalgamated association was going to be called, I was by now elected the BBMXA chairman, I was bitterly disappointed that the dream of one sanctioning body wasn’t going to happen, I felt for all the riders from both associations & to be fair UKBMX has their reasons for not joining at this particular time, it was though however still in the back of my mind & my overall goal before the year was out to get all involved again from UK & BB back round the negotiating table in the hope that that dream could finally be realised… 1988 was not a good year for both associations, both financially & participation numbers were down drastically from the heady days from 1984-1987, especially the 86/87 seasons UK & NB rider counts were up in the 1000-1100 on average but in 88 we were not getting more than 500-600 if we were lucky, pro racing ceased at BBMXA after the last national – (prize money drastically cut up until last national) as we could no longer afford to pay the prize money as an association & there was not a major backer that sponsored the national series. Both associations were finding the finances hard to come by, this was a problem that needed to be sorted & quickly, as the BBMXA chairman at the time I made contact with the BCF (British Cycling Federation) at the time to see if they could help with funding or help with finding sponsorship for the national series only to be told by BCF that ‘BMX was not a cycling sport’ & had little following in the cycling world! I was told by the BCF if I needed to get funding for the national series I was to apply for funding through the Sports Council & not the BCF this I did & to my astonishment the BCF gave their presentation for cycling before I went in to do mine for BMX racing, we were awarded a small funding grant to help initially but to my amazement the Sports Council could not understand why the BCF did not help our sport with a grant from themselves, they informed me that they had given a substantial amount to them & were amazed that we had received no support from them what so ever! I was told though that in future the Sports Council would only support one sanctioning body for BMX racing in the UK & that the BCF would be expected to help support the sport of BMX if there was one association.
I informed the BBMXA national board that I had begun new exploratory talks with UKBMX about the feasibility of forming one association again on the feedback I had just received from the Sports Council & the BCF. I held talks with Paul Spur the chairman of UKBMX, Carole Gosling & Terry Beasley all great people who I had lot time & respect for, we were all of the same belief & understanding that for the sport to flourish & grow again we needed to settle our ‘organisations’ differences to come together as one BMX association, discussions I had with Paul, Carole & Terry from UKBMX was encouraging & positive, finally I believed we had made significant inroads in to settling our differences & hopefully once the ‘issues’ were ironed out by all sides then it could be put to vote by the national boards/clubs & riders, at last I believed we were finally getting somewhere, I reported back to the BBMXA board on the progress but some in BBMXA did not want it to happen at any cost while just paying lips service to the cause, we were met with lots of anti-feelings & diehards who wanted to promote their own agendas, I vividly recall one board meeting that lasted 15 hours & even in this meeting we were still not where we wanted to be!!
But before that could happen there was one last great race that we were to witness before the 1988 season was out & that was the last ever British Championships held at the Derby greyhound stadium, this was the biggest ever attended I believe nearly 1300+ riders. My vivid memory of that weekend was of a gifted talented rider called Dale Holmes, he was already achieving great feats at a young age but this remarkable guy did the triple winning 3 classes in the same day I think he won his expert class, cruiser class & superclass finals (racing former top pros) who also raced here & to be honest Dale made everyone look silly, this stands out as one of the great feats of riding I have seen anyone achieve in racing in the UK (Mike did remind me again what classes Dale won in, it was a long time ago!!)
EBA…‘One Goal, One Vision’…One Association
After nearly two years of on-off discussions in late 1988, we finally managed to achieve our goal, not just my goal & dream if you like but that also of Paul, Carole & Terry, we shared that ‘One Vision’ in my view, one of which I am extremely proud of even to this day, *UKBMX & BBMXA agreed to join together to form EBA for 1989*, I was joint chairman with Paul & I remember the first national that EBA held which was at the Alvaston track in Derby, there was 1200 riders at this event & although there were few teething problems it ran very well, the racing was intense & the best I had ever seen in the UK, now the riders could truly say they were racing the best in there age classes, they could now rightly say they were the best in the UK, eventually claiming the right to being National No:1, British Champion as the season was to progress on etc., the 2nd EBA national was at Slough, another fantastic event with amazing racing, again the rider count was 1200, I was so please that two nationals in row were so well attended, I remember thinking at the time, we’ve cracked it, we’ve done this & got it right for the riders & ultimately for the benefit of the sport in the long run, I thought it was fantastic… but my worst nightmare was to be confounded, after another successful EBA national at Ipswich (Rd 3) we headed up north to Copull (Rd 4) for this nightmare to unfold…there were some who had lost their power base, who did not want this dream to succeed & I have to say Ron Peters was the leading light who lead the select few ‘voices of discontent’ from BBMXA side, Ron & few others wanted it to go back to being run the ‘BBMXA’ way, this all unfolded on a Saturday at the Copull national in a nearby pub from what I remember, I wasn’t able to attend the race until the Sunday (Mike went up with David & Andy Please), when I arrived on the Sunday I was informed by the BBMXA board who were still in existence like the UKBMX board, that they had held a ‘EGM’ in the pub which Ron & few others had called & at this EGM had decided & voted to pull out of EBA, this was ‘un-constitutional’ as far as I was concerned as it should have been issued (this EGM) with a 7 day notice before any meeting could take place, I called an immediate BBMXA board meeting there after & I asked at this meeting if the clubs from the regions had been asked about pulling out of EBA, I was lied to by those who I trusted on the BBMXA board & the majority of the BBMXA regional reps who said they had contacted the clubs when in fact they did not. I remember ringing nearly all of the clubs if not all of them (there was a lot of clubs!!) & the vast majority of the clubs knew nothing about the BBMXA side pulling out, I was very disappointed & felt badly let down by BBMXA & how they had treated the whole process when forming EBA, they ultimately let down the riders & they had betrayed my trust.
I immediately resigned my position as chairman of BBMXA as I could no longer trust them, I went to the next EBA board meeting & offered to resign as ‘joint chairman’ with Paul Spur, but I was persuaded to stay on by some great people, although it was sad to see that BBMXA had pulled out, I could see that the EBA board had the right people to lead the sport forward as more importantly the Sports Council & the BCF recognise EBA as the ‘sole sanctioning body’ of racing in the UK, this was important as funding would be given to EBA in the long term. The rest of the 1989 season was still great & I really enjoyed the EBA nationals as I know Mike did, the vast majority of the riders remained & raced with EBA, many good things were to follow in the following years, American Adventure tracks, Great Britain BMX race team (consisting of Dale Holmes, Jamie Staff, Dylan Clayton, Scott Beaumont & Vicky Overson) with Cythia Murray & Carole Gosling on the team, Brighton World cup track (early UCI SX concept @1995) & eventually culminating with the UCI World Championships at Brighton in 1996. Before all this was to happen there was another pressing issue that was calling my attention…
IBMXF – FIAC, ‘A glimpse of hope & unity and visions of one sweet union’
By now you all probably know I’m fan of Queen, the lyrics to the song ‘One vision’ I have used to describe my experiences in my time with EBA & FIAC and eventually later what was to become UCI, I think it sums up my time in the sport of BMX very well, I hope you agree too.
I was FIAC representative from the UK (for EBA) & after many meetings I attended in Paris, Antwerp, Madrid & London culminating over a two year period, IBMXF & FIAC was to cease & become the UCI (the one world international body for BMX racing around the world & crucially also having the backing of the IOC), even back in 1993/94/95 I remember discussions of trying to get BMX into the Olympics a dream all international delegates had at the time myself included. I was extremely proud to have been involved in this process in the early stages of UCI, there were many obstacles still to overcome but I knew this process was going to blossom into bigger, better & brighter things for BMX racing around the world. I have many happy memories of having discussions, meetings with Bob Tedesco of NBL, Louis Vrijdag, and Gerrit Does from Dutch BMX federation Abe Schneider from Australia to name a few…meanwhile things were settling down on the EBA home-front & after a successful trip to Columbia for the UCI Worlds in 1995 with the Great Britain team as I’ve explained earlier about the team, we came back with one world champion – Scott Beaumont (W1), Dale, Jamie & Dylan also all doing very well in the elite men’s final & young Vicky also making the elite ladies final too was a crowning moment in my time with the sport, again more justification for the Great Britain team to get more funding in the years to come from the Sports Council (later Sports England), I feel proud that I got the early concept of this national team of the ground with Cythia & Carole also & in later years the team went on to achieve even more successes long after I retired from bmx.
Endgame – ‘One shaft of light that shows the way’ (extract from A Kind of Magic)
Towards the end of my time with BMX racing I spent a lot of time working with clubs to help assist/advise up-grades to there tracks & give them EBA support in going to their local councils up & down the country from Scotland, the North, South West to East of England basically all over the UK. I helped with building with the American Adventure Brits tracks with Dale Holmes, Geth Shooter (& Mike, he won’t like me mentioning him) & other riders from the midlands area at the time, the Butlin’s track at Bognor Regis, it wasn’t really a suitable track to be honest but Butlin’s were keen to get BMX racing going there in the early stages, big thanks to Tom Lynch MBE & Clive Gosling for their input/advice at the time, EBA wanted to have an end of season event much like the classic Pontin’s race from back in the old days, it wasn’t to be but it was an enjoyable experience at the time.
Brighton was eventually the decline of my involvement with the sport, I was whole heartedly behind the Brighton concept as a future ‘Centre of Excellence’ & City of Brighton put a lot of money into investing in the World Championships for 1996 (as well as from 1995 through to 1996), there were problems initially when the first track was built which we hosted an EBA national & also EBA British Championships, the track we had built was on the criteria that was laid down by the UCI i.e. between 400-500metres long, certain jumps, how many berms, starights etc, I asked Paul Roberts an energetic, passionate guy who I had a lot of time for (after consultation with rider committee who came up with the ideas & concepts) to help oversee the design/track construction with the local excavation companies/contactors from Brighton area at the time, Paul delivered what the riders committee had asked for, but Paul being the visionary he was experimented with different concepts, some he was happy with, others he wasn’t on the track, but I trusted his instincts & so did the EBA board too, when the races were run for the national & the Brit champs in 1995, Paul got a hard time from some riders but mainly parents moaning that their kids couldn’t get round the track this was supposed to be improving our standards at international level by building a technical track at Brighton which Paul & EBA did, there were few problems with it yes I will admit but Paul didn’t deserve the aggro or me that we got for trying to do something different!
After the furore died down the Brighton Worlds track was changed what I thought became a very good technical, flowing track at the time for the 1995 World Cup race (early SX concept), I & the EBA board enlisted the expertise of Bob Tedesco of the NBL & this time I asked Dale, Jamie & Dylan if they could help with the design of the track with Bob, they delivered the goods & I was extremely happy with the outcome however some ‘old politics’ was creeping it way back into the EBA board namely one or two regional reps at the time registering their moans/groans if you like of how much it was costing to pay for the revamp at Brighton & how much expenses were being paid, remember though Brighton council stumped a lot money into this project but still a ‘certain few’ were beginning to cause a few problems behind the scenes…
The final straw that made me come to the decision to call it a day was after the 1995 World Cup race, the EBA board asked myself (my company with my employees) to go down & clear up some cosmetic mess if you like that was left by the contractors who built the track with Bob, Dale, Jamie & Dylan, this cosmetic ‘tidying up’ was done before EBA hosted the World Cup race, I was down there organising it no problem for the race which was broadcast on Eurosport with the team but when I asked EBA to pay my company for the labour cost which EBA paid, there was up roar from the regional delegates at the national board when they heard about the payment, that was it for me, the defining point of when I had enough, some people do forget that I gave up a lot my own time for free (often at my own business expense) but I did it for the greater cause of the sport that I loved & I did it more importantly for the riders because they are the ones that mattered to me the most…
On a brighter note I did end up becoming a UCI Commissaire for BMX, regrettably I never fulfilled this role that the UCI enlisted me for because my father was sadly in decline due to old age & ill health at the time & my priorities were elsewhere at this sad time in my life.
I had many, many great memories of my time in the sport of BMX racing of which I shared with Mike, that will last with me a lifetime, I do follow the sport on TV now especially with the UCI SX races & was also so proud to see BMX racing at the London 2012 Olympics, I was gutted I couldn’t go up to the Olympics to watch the racing but that is life, I was so proud though to see what I had visions for back in the 1990’s finally come to fruition at the highest level some 23 years later with BMX being introduce in Olympics games at Beijing 2008 & London 2012.
I would like to thanks so many people who helped me in my time with the sport there are so many to thank but unfortunately I can’t name them all but I want to pick out ‘the few’ who made things so much easier for me & who ‘made it happen’.
Dale Holmes – without doubt the greatest UK rider this country has ever produce, one of the best in Europe behind Christophe Leveque at the time, his records, achievements speak for themselves, a true gifted athlete, a great ambassador & role model for the younger generation across the world.
Jamie Staff – you could see that Jamie was going to go on to higher achievements inside BMX & outside of it, a truly dedicated person & athlete to the sport of BMX & Velodome sprint riding, one of my proudest moments was seeing Jamie win Gold at the Bejing Olympics in 2008 & an old adversary of Mike’s too back in the day.
Dylan Clayton – on his day no one could touch him, one of the best riders in Europe even with Dale, Jamie & Christophe racing at same races, he was so smooth & fast on his bike & he was in my view the most technically gifted rider I ever saw grace a bike, the ‘bike & him’ were one.
Geth Shooter – the most naturally talented rider in his day, light years ahead of the competition in pro racing, a gifted rider & one of the best in the UK, could have gone onto bigger things if he had the chance too in the USA.
Andy Ruffell – Mr BMX, the one that started it all back in the day, the first superstar of BMX & did so much to promote the sport back in ’craze’ period, a great role model & ambassador for BMX.
Tim March – A giant in the world of BMX, achieve so much in his time racing, a visionary, a pioneer, team owner & a true gent, have been privilege to known him.
Paul Roberts – was different, a one off, ideas sometimes crazy, mostly right about what he said but was always there when needed, a nice guy.
Stephen & Martin Murray (The Murray boys) – Both great naturally talented racers, but equally good at dirt jumping something close to my heart at EBA nationals especially the ‘King of Dirt’ always there with help & support to me back then, absolute gents.
Keith Duly – what a credit to his parents, polite, strong, talented by far the best jumper of his time & a good racer & great guy.
The Key people: like a good glue that holds it all together… ‘The ones that made it happen’ all gave up there time as volunteers for the sport they loved & some still going strong to this day:
Carole Gosling – No one has done more for the sport than her, she is without doubt ‘the glue’ that holds it all together, her experience at national, international level is immense, she is an amazing asset for the sport of BMX globally & I commend her for all the work she has done, have up most respect for this remarkable lady.
Norman Derbyshire – taught me how a ‘national race meeting should be run’, never really recognised for his experience & dedication back in the early days of BMX racing with UKBMX & EBA , a gentleman I respected.
Rod Wesson – in my view the best commentator the sport ever had, did his homework on every rider, never made a mistake, a great all round guy had many great memories of running national, international races with him.
Paddy Duly – the 2nd best commentator to Rod, sorry Paddy, but Paddy & Rod were a great combination together when commentating on the ‘towers’ at nationals, had great smile & was full of enthusiasm, got things going when it was needed.
Chris Platt – Most laid back person I ever met on national race team, was Start-hill Marshall/referee at the back of the hill, couldn’t go racing without him & his team, often caused me unnecessary panic as we could never find him, he was always found having his dinner in his caravan before the semi-final or finals were about to start at nationals, nothing ever phase him, a nice guy.
There are so many more people that I could & would like to mention but I know I can’t mentioned them all, I would like to say though to the hundreds, if not thousands of riders & their parents that I was lucky enough to meet in my time with the sport of BMX racing, a big thank you for all your contributions & for making the sport of BMX such an amazing sport, I won’t forget those good time & they will stay with me forever, Mike & me still talk about the ’old days’ & my grandson often hears Mike correcting me of what happen ‘back in the old days.’
As for me I’m semi-retired now & enjoying my life with my wife Viv, we see a lot of our family regularly in particular my grandson Cameron who is keen soccer player & also likes BMX racing, I see Mike from time to time too, I am extremely proud of what he achieved in the years he raced BMX in the UK & Internationally.
Thank you for UKBMX history for allowing me to share my memories with you all, I hope you have enjoyed going down memory lane as much as I have.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since Rob Indri passed away.
There are so many good stories and quotes from Rob that are still talked about today in the race world. Rob was known for his mars bars, Lucazade and was also the first guy I ever saw with a can of RedBull at the races. Clearly, ahead of his time. JT race wear, Powerlite, GT, Diamond Back, Rocky Training, Ellis, Haden, Warrior, Thunder, and Primo were all names and bike brands Indri loved to support and quote during his race days. Rob loved to party and never missed a chance to let you know he could down 10 pints easy and could drink Gazza under the table if he ever got the chance. He would always get the Sunday Sport on the way to the track Sunday morning and was often seen Sunday night after the race heading down the M1 or M25 at access speed over 100 mph in his Ford Mondeo, heading back home to Woodham in time for his Monday-Friday suite and “tie” day job working in the City at Loyds of London.
On the track, everyone racing him feared him. Rob had no problem telling the competition they were getting cut off or put over a turn. He really did intimidate a lot but at the same time it was just so Indri so it was accepted. There are so many things that suck about not having Rob with us anymore – especially his stories and good times we all had together on road trips and races. I know with the way BMX progressed in recent years – especially with the new age classes and Vet racing, Rob would have won all through European and World Crowns he desired so much. He would have made an incredible mentor, coach and trainer to riders. He had so much to share with his raicng experiences, motivation and pep talks for others. He really was a great guy to have in your corner at the races if things were not going good not to mention in life. I hope he is still watching down on the BMX scene today and laughing in true Indri fashion… #missed #neverforgotten
By Alan Woods
Timeline: Summer 1980.
I was lucky enough to have raced motocross from 1976 at the age of 11. As you couldn’t get spares at the track we started selling oil, spark plugs and eventually race gear, shocks, etc like is commonplace now at tracks, before we didn’t see anyone anywhere around the UK doing this, this set the seed for our transition into BMX. I had seen some BMX photos in ads Dirt Bike magazine for H_Torque’s Minicycle & BMX Action magazine and as I always loved “push bikes” too it interested me. Anyway back to the timeline, it was still during the 1980 Motocross season that we were taking bikes on our trailer to show at the races so this must’ve been about July or August of that year.
Here is a video I posted from 1979, you can see my mum and dad at our Fox-liveried van and I am racing in the same DG Premier helmet I used for BMX in the first year:
The first BMX bike we had were MOTO ONE’s, either in blue/yellow or red/yellow: bmxmuseum.com.
We had 6 of them to start with. I think these came from a guy in Peterbrough who we bought American (yellow) YZ’s from, I have some old Trials & Motocross News’s in the loft, I’ll look for his ads. Anyway we also ordered some Mongoose’s from him too that he would’ve been getting from the Jarvis’ with a margin on but we got in touch direct and bought I think a couple of Motomags and a Supergoose. I kept the Supergoose and we kept on reordering these. We really had a head start because we already had all the race gear right there – JT Racing, DG, Oakley, etc. that’s why when you look at these photos everyone is tricked out, very few skateboard helmets and stuff to be seen. Around this time a pre-production run of BMX News that came free in Trials & Motocross News and was given out at Schoolboy MX events. It has some of the features that appeared in the production #1 but less ads and content – in fact I think it was mostly to show advertisers what BMX was about. Ipswich Coddenham was one race report I remember in there.
Around this time a gang of guys from nearby Ashton-In-Makerfield (you might remember we built a track there later on) came down to the shop when we just had a little room at my dad’s garage ,mostly with motocross bikes. This turned out to be Dave Arnold, Craig Borrows, etc who had converted Grifters and the Puch Murray bikes with Lester metal mags on them – but all painted lime green!
So by now we had good bikes, Mongooses mostly and I had imported some stuff from CYC in California as well – BUT we had no-where to race, we’d never seen a BMX track except in BMX Plus but you couldn’t get a sense of the scale or length. It’s also hard to imagine what is was like getting info back then. Can you kids imagine this? If you want to know about ANYTHING today you can check Wikipedia or watch YouTube, even in depth-how to’s on any sport right at your fingertips. Exciting times though. We would race round the streets just go – pedal, pedal pedal around the houses. Something else I know I will have difficulty getting across is the EXCITEMENT as being there at this time when we didn’t now what was what, even though we weren’t in California or Australia.
It wasn;t just us of course – in 1980 groups all around the country were promoting BMX and looking to build tracks – Malcolm Jarvis, Alan Rushton, Don Smith, Geoff Barraclough, the Scott-Webb’s over in Ipswich, Redditch….
Next up, we spotted in a Lancashire newspaper that a club had formed in Bolton, there was picture of a kid with a bike, anyway we called them super-excited but they had no track….. however they did have some land that the kids rode on. We said OK let’s make a date and we’ll bring out best guys over. Bring it on! OK so we showed up to what was basically an bit of grassed rough land next to a reservoir. They didn’t even have bikes, apart from the odd Grifter. We set to with shovels to build a jump and layed MX track marking tape that my dad had on a roll to mark the track out. The track basically just ran along the the reservoir, down the side, right over this jump we built, then that was the finish. We had no permission from the council, no insurance, no nothing, I am sure anyone who has tried to get a track going and dealt with the local authorities will laugh out loud at this. By now we had got some Redline bikes or frames from Gecko who also did Kuwahara so the good stuff was going into the UK. From the photos the riders present were pretty much what became our original Alans team: myself, Dave Arnold, Mike Chilvers, Mark Scully, Fenwick Carr, Stu Carr (not related), Craig Borrows and possibly some of the younger guys Andy Parr, etc. Mike Pardon was there but he hadn’t got a bike yet! Even though it was just a mess about everyone was serious like is was the real deal which I guess it was in a way.
Fun times ahead!
The photos attached – apart from the odd one or two that I previously posted on Facebook have never been seen or published before.
“It’s a Sinch for Lynch” – Tom Lynch MBE
Lets get that interview Sinchy – What do you want to say to the UKBMX History fans
Ok ok ok ok, interview? Always a strange thing, said I don’t do interviews way back to Paul Roberts for Dig but I had just bent my forks jumping the snake at Rom! Interviews are cool but this time I will try and get a few names in, apologies if left out, would be impossible to get you all in, if you need a name then contact the oracle Carole Gosling. So lets just we fill the void until Marchy and Ruffs key the words anyway?
So from the start more than 30 years later you have me reminiscing, what would the old school want to know? Ok……. spoke to the agent and the sponsors are happy to roll so back on the payroll, full factory deal!
The classroom window has been swapped with the commuting train, picturing the perfect race, again and again. Still got the snap but people looking at me a bit strange nowadays. Visualization always wins, don’t you know I am a bmxer? Can still pull a 360 on the flat, rollbacks and curb endos…. you with me yet?
Difficult to get across what BMX is unless you live it, dream it, hate it or loved it. It is a lifestyle right here and always has been a bit ‘rock and roll bmx rock star’ no matter how good you are. When the gate drops it can be all yours. We have shared the common interest, the fun, the progression, the challenges, success, failure, friendships, experiences, the pain, bit more pain, learning, growing, riding the ‘whoop de doos’, tabletops and berms at supersonic speeds, watching the powder puffs (Duffy,Vauvelle, Holmes, Murphy, Nichols, Wright, Madden even my sister got squirly) and making sense of the 4130, 44/ 16, 20″ bullet proof wonder.
To be a successful bmx athlete you have to become a product of many, especially in the early days as it was still evolving, learning all the time from mimicking those who you aspire to Tim and Andy (early days Cav Strutt in the mags/ Carl Alford JMC before he quit & came back / Daryl Gibbard factory Kuwahara look/ Keith Wilson jumping in the mags, later Shooter/ Clayton/ Holmes and then finding your own path with what you have or how you are going to lay it down. You could of course not copy anyone but as a child you need role models as natural ability can only take you so far, anyway bmx was about heroes, no play station yet or internet.
Scotland 1977 to 80 brothers Raleigh Chipper, Chopper (from the school of hard knocks when mart/ ged took me on my first ride), sisters Raleigh Eighteen with a cello taped wooden cross bar added to bars, mums shopping bike, big air and wheelies! The bikes did not last long and my skateboard did not work on mud. Fan of motorcycle Speedway, Trials (Kickstart) and Motocross (lucky to have a few motorbikes to rip it up). BMX not known yet to me until Trials and Motocross news warms up to it and then Boom! Local newsagent imported: BMX Plus and Action in 1980.
London England Bike 81 Earls Court Exhibition first sighting of a BMXer, Stompin Stu Thompson practicing (signed photo later) and then discovered BMX was here! You could actually race a moto cross bike without and engine! Next you will be telling me phones will have no cables and you can communicate with people if you have a computer! Although the first satellite phone I seen was one Marchy had. Anyway, the most factory of factory teams of Alan Woods was there and Jane Windle of Hotshot who would a few years later be my sponsor and my surrogate family with her brother Steve and mother and father, thank you. They all gave a great deal to the sport, Merrys at Hotwheels also. House of Escalus – House of Capulet – House of Montague whos who? Let me know, just for fun.
BMX ing immediately with my school friend Hugh on our Team Murrays, over the bars with the coaster brake we go on first curb jump, got talent spotted by the Lambert family (bmx pioneers) whilst messing about practicing jumps, getting air (seen in the mags) with my friends which I often think of as the soul of BMX when we all do this. This was on my Kuwahara KZ with my Bill Walters Leathers on and z rims that gave me and invincible feeling. Ring gnarly MK BMX (Bleakhall & later Club Rays Radicals with Wycome, Kirby, Titmus, Keachy, Driver & Linslade Locals Godfreys, Richards, Blundens on so on). That was next to the speedway track and then the new one at Pineham. I was racing by 1982 until 1994.
Made a coaching comeback to establish a BMX coaching environment, 1999 to 2002 or thereabouts training Liam Phillips and Shanaze Reade now Olympians and World Champions (Charlie P, Mapps, Fry, Clayton & others). Made possible by Uncle Buck, Carole Gosling, Pete Phillips, Keith Duly (KOD), Kona Lisa, Rich Townsend, Bernie Mapp and Blooms as were all integral to the training camps of Team GB BMX Junior Squad, groundbraking.
Factory of mum and dad (quote from Chris Carter) and friends mum and dads. It was a community and still is. So from 83 onwards – Patterson, Redline, Ame, Vans, Uni (Hotshot, apologies on leaving), Mothers Pride (Bakery/ Dad), Robinson (apologies on leaving, Hoffman was a visionary), SCP (Scott Clark Products), ASR (apologies on leaving), Haro, ELF, Kovachi, Harrods (that’s right Harrods), Nike, URP (signature plate, still on royalties years later, thanks to the Hassells for the opportunity and a cool plate with name on it), AGV (signature helmets), Uvex (shades/ facemask), Jive (coolest plates) then Med (french), and SE Racing as a comeback coach (Shiner, what an emporium, was still finding things years later that had come my way back in the 80’s on Haro for example gold ripper in the box!). Bikes dialed in by Edwardes, Clive Gosling, pedigree cycling family as in when the bicycle was invented and bmx guru/ trivia. He started to build them and trick them out from Campag hubs, super tight wheels, cutting my bars down to specialist one off rims. Even took off my Unit seat and tried clips! A great deal owed to those who invested in me and Edwardes (Carole BMX Legend and in other spheres of life). Always sad when leaving sponsors as the journeys were good but you have to move on.
Results (Results all between 82 to 94 from what I remember) / achievements
Missed a moto at Reddich once, never missed a moto again as It was long chase to the finish line and the look on Lamberts (Brian) face. Immediate regional no 1’s (south east/ east anglia), I remember the London boys seeing my no1 se plate and having a laugh, they stopped laughing on the first moto. About 6 national no 1’s (nbmxa/ ukbmx/ gbbmx/ eba) including Superclass then British Champion and champion of champions twice. Most wins Kellogs Track Wars TV series (Holmes drafted in as a younger expert, working my way through the pack and clipped him on his 1 & 3/8ths and I went down).
European Champion (Spain – we ruled with Howells, Ray, Hayes, Nichols, Gill, Gilmore etc), European challenge cup (Holland), Ireland Invitation win, final round of superclass European Championships tour win (Germany), final round of superclass European championships tour second (Belgium), final round of superclass European championships tour 3rd (Switzerland) which led to overall 5th, 7th and ? in European superclass (elite) respectively. Final round of superclass European champions tour top 16 (Denmark & Italy). Paris Bercy BI-Cross invitation, unsure results. There is a pic of me racing Stompin Stu Thompson but I am informed it may be practice, the original Joe Kid on a Stingray, but remember brake checking Todd Corbitt and hitting the dirt with Gary Ellis. Finally raced the pros if so!18, 000 spectators was awesome.
Coupe du monde des nations masters with Holmes and Gosling (France). Pre Worlds win, World no 3 (UK), Pre Worlds 2nd, World no 5 (USA), world top 16 (France), world top 16 (Holland) all Superclass and World Team trophy winner (IBMXF/ Canada). Disappointed I missed Japan & Australia.
Lots of winter series, notable: Tours/ Toulose Indoor Opens results ? (then to the Alps early snowboarding with my bro and Stobart).
EBA riders rep with Clive and IBMXF riders rep.
Year 2000 and 2001 – ’20th Century Hero’ Ride BMX Magazine, European ‘Hall of Fame Pioneer’ Member of the University of BMX (many other talented riders also). Most Excellent Order of the British Empire Honor (MBE) for services to bicycle moto cross racing, coaching and ambulance service cycling.
Riders Oaths IBMXF presented the USA with the opening of the Worlds and also France.
‘Its a sinch for lynch’ motto now earned, emblazoned on back of race pants (created by Sarah Jane Nichols dad).
We will have to leave the old school bmx adventures where they are, let’s just say Epic and Legendary would begin to make a start.
Game changing influence
(Other than Marchy, Ruffell, Shooter, Schofield, Middleton, Vince, Salisbury etc …. watching the UK pros was so exciting and I wanted to be one as soon as I could). Let us not forget Geth and Charlie jumping the Dollies in 84, took us all up to another level.
1. Las Vegas in 84 (Worlds USBA) and meeting the Patterson bros Brian/ Brent and then later Richie ‘avalanche’ Anderson whilst riding for Patterson (courtesy of Hotshot as if you became national no1, you were going stateside, of which I am thankful, hanging with Windles and Robbie Morales). Pedal pedal everywhere, more into corners/ out, down the back of jumps and aggression. Found some jungle print slip on vans which were ‘to cool for school’ and met Mr Van Doren around this time RIP.
2. Meeting Greg Hill around same time and the impact of Greg Hills Professional BMX Skills book on me (signed copy by all the pros). Read that book every day and even ordered the hackey sack.
3. Meeting Bob Haro around same time, mastered the kickturn from trick tips, the smoothest kickturn, godfather of freestyle, what an inspiring fellow, later raced for Haro and met him again at 2012 Olympics – Legend, still on it.
4. Racing with Mike King when he was 15 expert on Huffy and then Superclass on Haro, what a competitor, so stylish and led the clips movement much later. Best wishes to Eddy, his bikes were my style, so expert.
5. Practicing with Harry Leary (Kelloggs. Third win on how to take last doubles at an angle) and later on in years with Scott Clark whilst on Robinson. Legends. The ‘leary’ one of my favourite jumps equal with the ‘tabletop’, classics.
Who did you look up to in BMX
My early role models and heroes inspired my bmx career and evoked development of new skills and attitudes. I learned from all of them. In addition the continuous study of bmx racing by watching others and knowing/ assessing the terrain (motocross) assisted in the consolidation and improvement.
Early eighties superstar pioneers (between 1982 to 86): 1. Tim March – essence of pure moto-cross and dirt jumping – lateral thinking (few stories there and thank you). 2. Andy Ruffell – all round bmxer inc freestyle and great media personality – professionalism. 3. Geth Shooter – breaking racing boundaries and urban riding – non conforming. 4. John Stockwell – application of mental attitude through training, coaching and in competition – dedication and self-discipline. 5. Dave Dawson (and his Dad Pete team manager who signed me up) – leading teams to success and team support as they led the hotshot teams – team ethics.
Additional: Craig Schofield, holeshot king (picked me up from a # collar bone stack 2005 reunion), nothing like what a little Dr Pepper can’t cure (see what I did there) and Sarah-Jane Nichols – steely determination and domination in the girls. Euro – Phil Hoogendoorn, Claude Vuillemot, Xavier Redois. USA – Patterson bros Brent/ Brian, Ritchie ‘avalanche’ Anderson, Bob Haro, Mike King and Stompin Stu Thompson. Had the pleasure of meeting all of these stars! The photos from the pages of BMX Action, BMX Plus lined my walls! Still got some mags as well as paper bmx weekly, obmx and action bike etc. I am on a roll, digging out the memorabilia as we speak. Most Factory inspiration: Clive Gosling and Darren Wood (Matt Boyle, David Maw RIP needs to be mentioned, even though younger so cool).
Also Barford, Hearne, Paul Wright, Ready, Noble, Stupple, Higginson, Baggs, Archibald, David Wright – adventurer, Staff – power, Sir Chris Hoy also younger but always wore the Scottish flag and I the union jack as even though I am Scottish I raced and qualified in England. Guys like these make it happen.
You came through the ranks in a deep talented age group. Who were some of your rivals growing up
They don’t know this yet but I trained to beat all of them one by one. Yes….. training/ study set aside to concentrate on them individually 13 through 15 expert (Diggins, Wood, Print, Alexander, Godfrey, Haynes, Hayes, Stobart, Gosling, Watkins, Craig Campbell, Morris, Ramsden, Parkinson, Bass, Andy (maximum rider), Grice, Greaves, Hill, Freeman, Gaunt, Stock, Wallace, Roberts etc few motos right there) and that of any up and coming and then same application when I jumped to Superclass. Not all of them needed the full drill mind you. My father Tom Lynch snr was athletic and had boxed and all the training that goes with it including a psychological approach (just watch early Rocky films and you should get it, if you do not then the edge will not be yours).
When did you realize you could win
Already new it but with self-discipline and dedication it becomes a reality and with support from family as home/ travel support team it was then achievable (thank you to them, especially my sister). My father asked me how far I wanted to go with it, we then agreed the terms: train hard, show good sportsmanship and always win. Three to four years to peak, then do something else. That’s it.
What did you do for training
Snr worked nights, he was my alarm clock when he came home as all training was done before school (kept this up when I left), after a time it was 5am starts, lonely? …. yes, but you get the edge on all of your competitors, whatever the weather as they were not doing it or at least as much as me. There is another deep psychological lesson within this part of the journey that stays with me. This was an unprecedented accelerator.
Aims, goals and a strategy to dominate was created and executed. Later used in life.
After school dirt jumping and at one with bicycle i.e. freestyle/ tricks. Won a King of Dirt once, had a quarterpipe, trick ramp and start gate in back garden. You have to breathe it, right?
4 days a week then 2 days track practicing or actual racing.
Training based on duration of 3 race lengths and a full race day of all motos (not all possible before school/ supported with nutritional plan but loved Kellogs cornflakes to start the day and a Schweppes lemonade for refreshment (see what I did there):
Roughly and basic:
Stretching/ some warming up to 20 min
Running up to 20 min
Sprinting on foot 30m x 10
Punch bag work out and then 100 punches each arm harder than the last to finish up.
Weights 3 sets of lots of reps (squats/ dead lifts) dumbbells/ big bar
Hand grip weights
Sit up bench/ press ups inc one hand, all to death
Starts and or sprints on bike 50m, bleeding thumbs from rubbing before grip donuts!
Lunch of Heinz selection of soups, a really tasty and filling lunch you can have any time of the day (see what I did there).
All the training probably not good for me at 13yrs old! Oh my bones now, still strong with explosive power through the city streets.
1. On road – 10 miles (alternate days of 6) of country roads, sprint up hills and sprint on flat until spinning out (or resistance of rear brake? Lots of koolstop) for 1 minute
2. Off road – secret forest training ground: big casams, big downhills then started digging (Stockgrove).
All with absolute focus on one thing. You see there was no second place in the mind at this point. Training was harder than racing but presented a state of calm on race day even if after a bad start. Mental picturing the win always wins. Other mentors other than my father: mr Murray, mr Stobart, mr Chuck Robinson and Rocky what? It don’t supercharge you? Da da da, da da da, da da d d d da, or if you get to watch Wayne Llewellyn or Simon Hayes (yes Oscar winner) in their respective disciplines,
Dinner time, thanks to Pizza Hut and Pepsi, a great combination to enjoy with your buddies (you know what I did there). Thanks to Marcus Rich, Scott and Tim pizza hut film.
Then always prep the night before the night before (Will – Dig).
Change in training
Moved to central London (87/ 88), near the Christies, no forests or country roads, this was a setback. Training took a big hit. Although had the London boys Clive/ Woody, Winnie RIP, Stockwell, Indri RIP, Reynolds, CK Flash, Mark Seaman, Jason K etc introduce me to southbank, rom skatepark, brockwell, peckham, westway, meanwhile, stockwell/ brixton (had to start wearing wrist guards as getting way to much air from big transfers) and go more regular to hounslow, hayes, slough. Joined the legendary Hillingdon Hawks! We even rode with freestyle guys, Phil Dolan and his crew, Neil Ruffell rip, Leachy etc at Rom and street riding and some of the flatland. Knocking about with Winnie at Notting Hill at his new flat round the corner was great, used to see his bro Billy here and there, got a movie with Winnie and Indri also riding at New Cross bowls somewhere. Steve Bardens who I would later share a flat with several times got it on film, also Clive Manfred, Rob, Pollard and some other rad dudes. Then a lil tea break at Clives mum Carole and nan Doris and a look in his sticker box but just a look.
Who did you ride and train with at home
Several guest visitors John Stockwell (ex superclass no1 and mentor), Daz Oneil – he man (training before sunrise), will Smyth Dig (big big air), local friend Mark (Tot) time keeper on all road rides – he was my secret weapon as he did not go to the races (thankful to him), Paul (Erky) RIP for pushing the limits to the max, I mean the max.
You looked so clean riding for Robinson then onto ASR you were riding for such high profile teams at the time
Yeah 86, felt pretty factory (undisclosed transfer fees, signature plates/ team bus, lil fan club, media team, full support crew, no expense spared) and at my peak, euro final win 3 wks before worlds, pre worlds win week before worlds then switched teams before worlds when all the uk pro stuff was going on. Should have stayed put and maintained the balance (apologies to Hoffman, such a visionary, don’t know what happened there). The looking clean bit was to always be out in front and to bunnyhop the puddles in the motos. Anyone notice me crash a lot in practice sometimes, pushing the limits, see how far those tyres can go in a corner? Like a wakeup call, once out of the way by tasting the dirt I could perform a bit better and maybe wear a fresh uniform (fresh and white thanks to sponsors Persil bio and my mother who really took care of my stuff).
You turned Superclass at 16 and went straight to number one
Yeah from 15 expert to Superclass, was hungry for it in 1985 after euro win. Spoiled maloneys comeback at buckmore park (sorry about that) when I was still in the 15x year (first superclass race as now 16yrs old) but now was getting paid. Was on a roll and on tour for over 6 years. No mainstream job until 1991. What a blast!
Might of intentionally came from the back also now and then, as you have to practice working through the field for when you really need it. At this point only wore a helmet whilst racing, looking back pretty dangerous as we were trying some new stuff on the dirt jumping front. Not wearing pads and actually cutting any pads out of uniform enabled me to be unrestricted.
You even won the European Championships finals in Germany against the Dutch Army (Amev Team)
What an outfit, led by Gerrit Does the Godfather of Europe. I so wanted to be on that team. I had been chasing them all year round Europe or rather bouncing off them! Will upload the race at some point, it was near perfect. One year on from my European championship win in 15 expert. If you were in the pack with Amev you would not survive (even before Bas De Bever/ Does etc).
Did you feel even so young you could beat them
As I said 2nd place does not exist and still does not.
1986 World Championships Superclass Slough England. So close with a 3rd. Tell us about that race
What people maybe do not know is that I had been on tour racing all the same competitors in this class and had beaten them all and was on top of my game at this point. So disappointed with the 3rd, watch the race on the links. I knew this was my peak three years on from the agreement with my father. Was hard to stay in the zone, TV crews, magazines, home crowd, on a new team and concerned about the UK Pros and what impact this would have.
Third was not in the plan. Some big hitters in the race including x world champion and a lot of the Amev team. Stock and Fleming also who have always supported me and have been great fellow competitors.
Gate was ok, got busy over first jump, could have got a pedal stroke, and again in first corner, to deep before table top, just clipped lip, could have pedaled more down the back going in to second turn and took addie van de ven up but as I said you bounce of them, had the pro section dialed so knew this was where I would take him and Phil Hoogendoorn (existing world champ). My thoughts, Amev knew my lines, they were so professional. I had a perfect line to rail, Addie van de Ven got in my way and actually slowed me down, he slowed down, I can remember pulling my brake and still pedaling, jumped when maybe I should have manualed last jumps but I could get more power down sooner, needed a longer last straight and I would have got it. Needed 10 to 20 meters.
Met Steve Pollard as fan when it was over, he asked to have a go on my bike as I was debriefing with John Stockwell, good friends and founder of the LRP (London Rokit People).
With a Superclass class and Pro Class both run in the UK at the same time.86/87 You never really went against Tim March , Andy Ruffell and the early 80s UK Stars. Seemed like Andy Welsh / Darren Stock , Winnie Wright were your early Superclass rivals. What was your take on the class the first few years and not getting to race the Pros
Kept away from me in practice which was always funny, mind you when you are top of your game everyone wants to take you out even in practice or even a moto as I found several times. So don’t blame them not that I would have taken any out more just let them know I am coming. Fear is a choice.
Looked up to the pro class very much as I knew I would join them. The demise of the pro class propelled me to the top of UKBMX as the N01 Superclass rider. From jumping over Eddie Kid in Covent Garden to launch UKBMX season sponsorship to becoming riders representative nationally and internationally with IBMXF. Superclass would later become Elite which is Pro. Thanks goes to the early pro stars, they gave us a great start and sacrificed a great deal to establish the sport.
Disappointed that did not get to race the legends of the pros but on reflection they went out with integrity and at the top of their game. Ruffell finished with a win at NBMXA later. Unsure how else it could have been. It would have been a shame to have taken them on when I was at the top of my game. Maybe I should have turned pro at 16 and not Superclass? 15 expert to pro?
Superclass was tough as was still up an expert age group or two or three by the time my 15 x caught up, Darrin Stock, legend Winston Wright, Riviere bros, so many others and later Andy Welsh (he was younger and strong, later it would be Wood, Holmes, Revs and Sharp). What was tough was UKBMX making us tour the UK to reinvigorate local scene BMX racing for our rankings, great idea though. Maybe I will talk more on Superclass another time including the international scene if people like what they read. It felt good winning and retaining the crown for a number of years and representing Team GB overseas.
Tactically I think just being a pro gives you a 15 percent uplift on speed, some pros technically and on skill level were maybe not so good but they were strong and experienced. When the pros were allowed to race back in superclass (some of them chose to), I hit them hard and still retained no 1 for a while I am sure. Although hitting them hard physically meant hitting like a brick wall (Charlie Reynolds).
Shooter paced himself back in to the game I think I can even remember in Denmark Euros he was protecting my position and I am sure Fleming did also at some point. Legends.
What about the organization
All the organisers made it happen for all of us and kept it going, Carole Gosling, Sue Jarvis, Bridget Hayes (Simons mother), Cynthia, Val, Mary Iddiols, Vince, Amanda Dowson, Babs, all the finish ladies Maureen, Mandy, June, commentators Irish Tom, Paddy Duly, John, starters Vic, Sonny Ives, Refs / Officials / Board members Stormin Norman, Murphy, Spur, Bags, Beasley and Mr Woods etc. Sorry if I missed any, very much appreciated and you maybe don’t appreciate it at the time.
You do not stay champion forever in any game even though the spirit is, maybe I will go over this for part at a later date and how we race makes each generation better with continual progression. Things changed with the new breed – Minozzi, Bas de Bever, Neal Wood, Dale Holmes, Jamie Staff then Christophe Leveque / Dylan Clayton in different relationship to the track and bikes, gearing other than 44/ 16 and 180 mm cranks.
The agony of defeat versus the enjoyment of racing and getting together with your friends? Difficult one for a champion as there are certain pressures and responsibilities that come or had come with it. Then the LRP formed and so did our Bicycles & Dirt BMX Club: carl, steve b, steve p, keith, rob, marcus, beckett, s boyle, jon b, ross hill rip, steve bell, Manfred Stromberg, Oliver etc and even the ‘condor’ Matt Hoffman.
A career had to be chosen as there was a BMX slowdown, this affected ones performance also especially with shiftwork and study in the ambulance service, over 20yrs now.
I was with the LRP at an event racing when at 12 yrs in competing I decided before a first moto at a national that I did not want to do it anymore and asked my buddy Jon e Becket to get me out of here.
I was at a track that I won a national there previously from last to first place and now I was at a race just making up the numbers, might do well, might not, but having such a cool time over the whole weekend just having fun. Had to work all that out, so we had a great big breakfast somewhere, which I never have on race day. Didn’t work it all out just had a better understanding of the need to retire would have to be very soon. Did not make a big deal about retiring, no glory in that and always like to leave the party while its still rocking anyway.
Backyard Jams followed which were awesome and it was great just cutting loose on the jumps with the Bexhill, Mad Dog, Gosling, McCoy, Duly, Fuzzy, Cylmer and many others. I just loved getting rad and actually loved it more when everyone had left and we were still jumping, was even better even with a fractured ankle until it would not bend anymore.
Played with MTB a bit downhill/ duel, mainly PORC (love that place), was I going to commit to that and get serious? Would have to actually not do it as was still so competitive, but not my thing anyway, not accurate enough as the tyres and suspension allowed mistakes. The MTB guys did not like so much the BMX guys coming over for downhill duel/ 4 cross etc but Hemming was cool and still is . In fact the MTB was pretty easy (except for cross country) as the bmx attitudes to it were of a killer instinct, full contact and explosive power. Those guys did not know what hit them.
Went stateside quite a lot as my brothers had moved there, Martin was hanging around with Dave Mirra (Pro Town Greenville) and my nephew was riding his private ramps. Was good to meet those pros especially in a place you could ride all year round.
25th Year Anniversary in 2005 was a reunion race. I had to train for it and get my bottle (courage) back so headed to PORC for trails and downhill. The MTB dudes were laughing at the BMX guy with all the JT gear including body armour and belt, pure moto cross (long term loan from Bardens), after first run then they stopped. Took a supply of tubes for blowouts which were many and full rescue kit. The tubes worked out as the jumps were gigantic but got the flow after a few, however the medical kit got used on some kid, he was from Russia and also on his own. I told him whilst eyeing up the biggest doubles in the trail section, if I went down go and get some help. I did as the jumps were not like the 80’s as I found out hitting the massive lip at full speed, pain returned, bottle back, no fear, ready. He had flown another section and found him unconscious under a bush, don’t worry he survived but it was a long drag up from the quarry.
Flying on race day, full on Factory Patterson gear (from Brian), great to see the old school, lil kid appears in the step up on my approach, I bailed, broken collar bone. Five years of ops, titanium plates/ bolts etc. Remind me to make no comebacks, just to get it straight this was not a comeback, great support from the old school though, thank you. Good to see them and follow those that are still racing today (Print, Alexander, Stockwell etc).
Thought about bmx a great deal at this time and located some of my old hardware, out of nowhere a boy who I gave a bike to over 20 yrs before gave me a call, he said its ready. Steve Keech boy to man (well he was a man when we were still boys) had re-chromed my old PR200 Patterson frame, won the euros on it. He gave it to me via my old coach Brian (Lambert) and Jamie, and in true form Clive built it from the parts I had and the bits from my lil secret stash of SE stuff and my Ripper. It is up on the wall and it is very cool (brand new from box old school DX from Carl, Uni Seat from Woody). I have now unpacked the bmx archives and it is like an 80’s Christmas. That old school show and shine formation is incredible, so accurate, keeps it alive, so anorak, love it.
BMX helped you in other things
The BMX experience and Carole helped me to formulate some new ideas BMX Medic (ambulance cycle response innovated and created) & BMX Coaching, really had to make a career choice (2010) but was able to establish an early sustainable coaching environment with British Cycling. Where the likes of Townsend, Staff, Blooms, Clayton, Stockwell, Holmes, Vince etc took it up.
On the ambulance cycle response in London, everyone thought I was joking and had a little laugh, could talk all day about it but I will leave you with two things. 1. Can I ride a bike really fast? You know, of course its going to work i am a bmxer. 2. People are alive that would have died. The other day one of my team members resuscitates and shocks the heart of a 26 year old female who had a cardiac arrest on Oxford St central London, she goes back to work soon and will enjoy a full life.
Career choice….. the right one? More tea and medals all round?
Would have loved to been with our Olympians but was there in person with the guys and in spirit on the track. Did I say mentioned Bob?
What does BMX mean to you
Maybe end then on the ‘true meaning of bmx’ I did see the Murray boys do a back flip in races (Indri memorial) and it reminded me of why I started BMX, it was so rad, maybe inappropriate but radical, no rules, non-compliant just free spirit. I raised a poll on BMX Talk about this 3 and it had some good discussion (check out my other posts on bmx talk about Tim & Andy and the Olympics). Murray, to see him fly….. so impressed by his riding and his achievements as well as ruling the X Games (lil boy from powder monkey) saddened by his accident impressed by the Staystrong (nice one marco) movement and his resilience, we all think of him and his family. Staystrong.
BMX in the Olympics
A dream come true, would have loved to have been on that platform, to be an Olympian has got to be the highest accolade. I hope that all of us done something to assist in laying the foundations to this ultimate achievement and that Shaneze and; Liam bring home the gold and that others follow. It was great to catch up with the old school pros at the 2012 Worlds. As Clive said it was like 1984 in the VIP box (hosted by Jeff Dovey).
So full circle riding BMX with friends to riding BMX with friends, with a bit of racing in-between. Would do it all again as long as I could re race the 86 worlds!
Slough Worlds 86
Slough Worlds 86
The Rise of 1980’s UK BMX Teams – by Chris Carter
Stand at the back of the start hill at any BMX race, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the people queuing for their races in their brightly coloured gear are all equals. But any kid that followed the BMX magazines in the pre and boom years of the eighties will tell you that there was always a hierarchy. Moto winners come and go, even mains can sometimes be won on a fluke – but no-one gets sponsored unless they really have the right stuff! Let’s talk teams! Or more specifically, let’s talk eighties teams!
For most racers, the team with which they spend their racing careers is Factory Mum and Dad. The cost of bikes, travel and gear, the pre and post-race pep talks, the pit crew (Dad) changing gear ratios between motos – all are met by the funds raised from the old man trudging to the office in the rain each day. The kit might bear the name of little Johnny’s favourite manufacturer, but there are a couple of very special words missing from the race jersey.
But for the lucky few, for the greatest talents in our sport, their jerseys bear the word “team” somewhere in their design. National Team, Factory Team, Support Team – to have these simple phrases emblazoned on the back of your shoulders or across your chest is a badge of honour, a mark of respect, a statement that this man is not as other men – a declaration that this man has arrived!
For the new racer, lining up on the gate next to a team rider can be an intimidating experience. There stands the novice, maintaining a wobbly balance while trying to effect a two pedal start. Next to him is the “team” rider – balancing motionless, his gait loose yet powerful, his gaze fixed on the track ahead, his eyes betraying nothing except a calm assuredness that his vast experience will secure a solid victory. Behind the start hill there was no hint of nervousness. He seemed to know almost everyone. And absolutely everyone knew him!
To arrive at the track wearing full race team livery has historically been the goal of many an aspiring racer. In 1985, if you’d asked 100 riders to choose between a number one plate and a factory team ride, I suspect more than half would have gone for the latter.
But how can a sport that is essentially a solo one have ended up with such a team orientated culture? To find the answer, we have to go back in time to the very dawn of BMX in the UK.
With the rise of BMX in the eighties, and the promise for manufacturers, distributors and retailers of increasing returns so long as the sport kept growing, BMX race teams proliferated at an unparalleled rate. By the mid-eighties, at least three prominent UK colour magazines had appeared, and companies were vying with each other to get as much publicity for their brands as possible. One of the best ways to do it was by having a well known rider splashed across the cover or centre-spread wearing the company’s brand logo.
But it wasn’t just the companies that benefited from this incentive. In many ways the magazines, both then and now, are ultimately democratic. Magazine photographers have the sole aim of putting talent on the page. Some riders can provide the talent but can’t afford decent bikes or gear or to get to the events, whereas some riders can afford to get to the events but can’t ride well enough when they get there.
Enter the BMX race team!
With a little corporate backing, kids that otherwise could only afford to shine at local races were given the chance to shoot for a top national ranking. In exchange, the company footing the bill would want their pilot to turn in respectable results and hopefully generate some publicity.
The first BMX team in the UK was set up by ex-motorcycle trials rider Don Smith and fellow BMX enthusiast Richard Barrington. That team was called Team Ace.
Around 1980, Barrington had set up a shop in Walthamstow and sponsored some local riders to get the whole thing going. For Barrington and Smith, this was about more than just pushing a team – they were attempting to push the sport itself into some kind of stable existence in the UK. Those early team riders included Nikki Matthews, Pete Middleton, Steve Gilley, Andy Ruffell and Cav Strutts. Ace even went as far as producing a frame and fork set, though production was limited. Today only one of those early Ace frames is believed to have survived.
Soon after, Ammaco Mongoose burst onto the scene – a team run by husband and wife duo Malcolm and Sue Jarvis to promote both BMX itself and Mongoose bikes. With their own kids Sam/Julian and Russ in the team, along with Steven and John Greaves and Brian Jones, Ammaco Mongoose snapped up Ruffell and Middleton from Team Ace. The age of rider headhunting had arrived!
Ruffell of course would grow to become a sponsor’s dream and stayed with Ammaco Mongoose until the end of 1984. In that time, an enormous amount of money was spent on him travelling all over the world promoting both BMX as a sport and Mongoose as a brand. Yet there can be little doubt that the publicity he generated translated directly into sales for Mongoose that far exceeded the company’s investment in him.
In 1985, UK manufacturer Raleigh decided it wanted a more prominent share of the team pie. Raleigh had previously sponsored a number of well known riders, such as Andy Oldham, Jamie Staff and Kev Riviere, but now they were planning a huge publicity push. And being such a large firm, their strategy was simple – buy the cream of the crop and put them on a Raleigh bike.
Most of the exciting BMX action was being performed by teenagers. Though younger kids might be nagging their parents to buy them a bike, it was invariably off the back of looking at photos of older kids in the magazines. And so, with a suitably corporate no-nonsense approach, Raleigh simply made sure that the most prominent rider in each age group over fourteen would ride for Raleigh. And such was the ubiquity of the Raleigh Burner as a first bike for thousands of kids, that it was almost a money-no-object corporate takeover.
In the fourteens, Kuwahara’s Stu Diggens had been unstoppable for two seasons, so an offer, reputedly into four figures, was made to entice him onto the team (not bad for a school kid back in the mid-eighties!). In the fifteens and sixteens, Raleigh already had the number one guys in the form of Craig Schofield and Martin Jose but added Jason Maloney for good measure. Now they set their sights on the big boys.
Though Ruffell was actually beaten to the number one plate by Tim March in the first year of superclass racing in ’84, Tim couldn’t quite topple him from the top of the publicity charts. Despite being number two, it was Ruffell and not March whose fame extended beyond the boundaries of BMX, and it was Ruffell who got to see the colour of Raleigh’s money!
When Andy was eventually headhunted, Raleigh knew he wasn’t going to come cheap. In his last year at Mongoose, he had appeared in the Sunday Times Colour Supplement in an article which estimated his earnings at around £20,000. Bear in mind this was 1985 and twenty grand was an awful lot of money in those days, especially for a kid still in his teens! Though the details of his deal with the UK cycle giant were never disclosed, it’s not unreasonable to suppose, based on the figure in the Times article, that Raleigh had an even greater figure in mind when they approached him.
Plainly Raleigh felt that those thousands spent on Ruffell would equate to even more thousands in terms of sales. And I would hazard a guess that they were right. Andy Ruffell, BMX publicity machine, was the ultimate team rider.
Although Ruffell’s fame may have extended further outside BMX than March’s, in a curious irony, it was March who managed to pull sponsors from outside the sport into BMX. In 1983 his primary sponsor was Lee Cooper, a jeans manufacturer. In 1984 he started his now legendary MRD outfit, but it was in 1985 that Tim really raised the bar. Somehow he managed to persuade grocery chain VG to enter into a joint team venture with his own March Racing Developments. The result included a fully liveried VG/March double decker bus for transporting the new MRD team to races. During MRD’s time on the race scene, the fortunate beneficiaries of Tim’s vision included riders like Steve Bigland, Mark “Whoppa” Watkins, Anthony Howells and Ashley Davies.
But not all teams have been based on the multinational model of hard cash for hard promotion. Many teams were smaller affairs in which bike shops or importers would either set up their own team or else strike a deal with manufacturers to help out riders in their locality. Names like Edwardes, Youngs, Hotshot-Redline, Shenpar-JMC/Powerlite and then Cyclecraft, Alans-Robinson/Torker and Bunneys-GT all came to be recognized as heavyweight team entities in their own right. And more than a few big names got the extra push they needed by riding for them: Geth Shooter, Sarah Jane Nicholls, Tony Holland, Charlie Reynolds, Dale Holmes, Karen Murphy, Dylan Clayton, Dean Iddiols and Gary Llewellyn to name but a few.
Other teams operated with tiered grades of team membership with riders aspiring to be, as it were, promoted internally. Kuwahara ran a successful national team as a first rung on its factory team ladder, though this sometimes made for complications if the factory star stayed on the team for too long. In 1983, for instance, rising star Darren Wood was on the Kuwahara National squad, but with Diggens taking the factory place in the same age group, and showing no signs of slowing down, Wood eventually had to jump ship to Skyway to secure a full factory ride, in turn leaving the way open for Lee Alexander to join the Kuwahara National Team for ’84.
From around 1986, the BMX magazines began to evaporate as the sport reached its peak and then began to decline in popularity. Without a ready media in which to get promoted, the corporations that had financed so many teams began to walk away from the sport.
In their place emerged a new kind of team run along altogether different lines. Team management moved from being a commercial concern to a more altruistic one. Managers were now helping talented riders meet the high cost of competition simply for the love of the sport and its riders rather than the pursuit of a tangible increase in sales or publicity.
Never was this more apparent than in teams such as Rainbow Racing or Alan Sopp’s ASR outfit. Both became enormously credible teams, yet they had nothing to promote – no frames and forks, no number plates, no clothing line – not so much as a baseball cap. And yet they helped support the race careers of such talents as David Barnsby, Mark Sopp, Mike Riviere, Tom Lynch, Warren Godfrey, Brad Smith and of course the late great Winnie Wright.
Today the heady era of the eighties boom is behind us, but the allure of the place on a team is as real as ever for many riders. Moreover, the digital revolution and the advent of new social media has enabled the creation of entirely new team opportunities and operating models for those sufficiently imaginative to find them. Outfits like Kai Riviere’s RaceDayVideo, for instance, continue to run race teams in order to promote their enterprises. In so doing, these teams help to support a wide range of riders – from gifted hopefuls at the grass roots of the sport, up to national racers in the elite categories. Whilst at the extreme end of corporate sponsorship, Sky’s multi-million pound commitment to British Cycling has enabled the riders at the very top of today’s sport, such as Liam Phillips and Shanaze Reade, to become truly professional athletes on the global stage.
Though the team ride will remain an elusive dream for the majority of racers, there can be little doubt that the BMX Race Team itself is here to stay.
One of the most iconic pictures from the 80’s in UKBMX is Charlie Reynolds and Geth Shooter over the first Dolly Parton’s during a 16 expert battle at the Poole UKBMX National. We have got a few quotes from the riders who were around at the time and their views on the shot.
Geth – “Ere Charlie, why ain’t anyone else jumpin’ these?” Charlie – “Dunno bro, but if I can get over em’ without losing my back end, I’m gonna beat ya”. The rest – “I think we’re in the wrong moto”
That was a real spectacle for Poole National!!! Although, other people jumped the Dolly’s during that weekend, I think this is the picture and memory that comes to mind most. It was a case of those who DARED won. I’m sitting on my mum’s lap in my Torker gear above the head of the rider in Lane 8. Who can name all those that cleared the Dolly’s that weekend?
This is probably one of the most iconic pictures of 80’s BMX. The powerhouse vs the showman. Both riders had a huge impact on the sport, Charlie with his sense of theater and Geth for providing the drama. For me, it was Geth that was the ultimate racer, fast and full of skill on the track but also humble and a great ambassador for the sport off the track. I had the pleasure of Geth riding for me at East Coast BMX when he was between sponsors (that didn’t last very long !!) and we still remain friends today. p.s I’m glad to be on this picture but wish I was a bit further ahead!!! LOL
Geth and Charlie at the top of their game, Shooter had the style and the speed, Charlie had a leather fanny pack with mobile phone…if he couldn’t clear doubles in a straight line them he’d 360 them instead.
This pic captures everything about UKBMX in the 80’s for me. Geth and Charlie had some epic battles but were poles apart as people. One southern, loud and flash and the other Northern, enigmatic and workmanlike. Yet on the track, they both were all business and went all out for the win. Most of the guys in the class were rolling the Dolly’s at Poole but these two bossed it. Geth laying down all the style and Charlie just pinning it. Classic!
Timeless classic photo, this was UKBMX racing I think at its best & it was when bmx, in my view, was proper & pure Bicycle Moto X. I’m all for evolving in any sport & it should happen, but looking at this fantastic pic of Geth, Charlie, Martin Jose etc it’s just got this jaw dropping factor about it, it’s hardcore, raw bmx racing at its best, the track was great for it’s time, the atmosphere was electric & the crowd are on edge in anticipation of will they won’t they jump the magnificent Dolly’s every single person is watching this race, in short a stunning picture that will always stand the test of time, people in years to come will still marvel at this pic.
Not the best BMX photo ever taken, but sums up the original spirit of BMX racing and why so many of us 30 or 40 somethings got into the sport when it first came to the UK. Yes, everyone wanted to win, but everyone also wanted to get rad. That’s the difference between original BMX and Olympic era BMX. Thank God for riders like Billy Luckhurst, Paddy Sharrock, James Horwood, Callum Dalby and Connor Swain who keep the spirit of “getting rad” alive in the UK race scene.
“That jump was way ahead of the times and pissed on the likes of Kong or the Chasm just cos of where it was. I swear this pic was on my wall straight outta the magazine.”
We asked a number of top riders from the 80’s: When you first got into BMX Racing, what British riders inspired you that you looked up to or even those that you would consider your heroes?
David Wylie / Team Diamond Back (anyone remember him?) Was about best in the country my first year 1980. I first raced him at Bradford track in a National. I was on my Mongoose 2 with Tuff wheels. He just beat me and that was my inspiration to get my ass into gear! Then, Andy Oldham was a star in my age group and again the next guy to beat, but of course, the heroes were; Andy Ruffell & Tim March. Overseas, were both Greg Hill and Bob Haro just to name a couple.
My first race ever at Chorley 83, Damian Myles on Hutch with Red Echo full-face, his style and look was straight out of the USA .Tim March, his size style and status was everything to me, he was my hero lol.
Geth Shooter, without a doubt after the second Kellogg’s and Bercy. But all the Americans at the first Kellogg’s. Learning to gate with Richie Anderson and Brian Patterson at Cocksmoor… That’s what got me my snap and changed my racing game totally…
Tony Slater, his style of riding combined with the Redline bike in perfect condition, and the new Redline strip was a perfect combination for me. Mark White with the shear determination to battle on regardless of injury. And, for the US riders, Harry Leary and the Patterson brothers.
This is not Quick… Ok, my early role models and heroes inspired my bmx career and evoked development of new skills and attitudes. I learned from all of them. In addition the continuous study of bmx racing by watching others and knowing the terrain assisted in the consolidation and improvement. Early eighties superstar pioneers (between 1982 to 86): 1. Tim March – essence of pure moto-cross and dirt jumping – lateral thinking. 2. Andy Ruffell – all round bmxer inc freestyle and great media personality – professionalism. 3. Geth Shooter – breaking racing boundaries and urban riding – non conforming. 4. John Stockwell – application of mental attitude through training, coaching and in competition – dedication and self discipline. 5. Dave Dawson (and his Dad Pete team manager) – leading teams to success and team support as they led the hotshot teams – team ethic. That is my first thoughts and Sarah-Jane Nicholls – steely determination and domination in the girls. Euro – Phil Hoogendoorn, Xavier Redois, Claude Vuillemot.USA – Patterson bros Brent/ Brian, Ritchie ‘avalanche’ Anderson, Bob Haro, Mike King and Stompin Stu Thompson. Had the pleasure of meeting all of these heroes! The photos from the pages of BMX Action, BMX Plus lined my walls! Still got some mags as well as paper bmx weekly, obmx and action bike etc. I am on a roll, digging out the memorabilia as we speak. Most Factory inspiration: Clive Gosling and Darren Wood. I could go on but that’s enough for now.
Andy Ruffell. My Robinson team boss, Alan Woods and Tony Holland.
Crikey, it’s such a long time ago, I actually think Andy Ruffell was my British Hero, he was the God of Bmx in those really early years.
I didn’t really want to inspire to be like any of the girls racing in the very early days I was just very determined to beat them.
I didn’t have any of the norm hero’s …. Stu …. Greg … Ect ….. The 1st person I was in awe of was Carl Alford … He had 2 bikes at Bournemouth .. But I would say … Jay Hardy …. Malcolm Stapleton … Cav Strutt and Andy … But Tim was the main man in my eye’s.
Ummmm,bloody hell that’s so long ago ….. I always really liked Tom Lynch he was good all round Tim March was way ahead of everyone at my time. Sarah Jane Nichols was unbeatable, I just liked watching winners really, the ones who had that bit extra need to win at all cost. I suppose being from Cornwall and only reading about the big names in my age group like Danny Stabielli who was European Champion at the time and seeing him at Pontins in 83 in the pissing rain stood in a full length leather jacket with his dad holding an umbrella over his head was a moment I thought Jesus, that guy’s cool and he was fast and had style. I was doing 1 pedal starts on my cheap, unbranded bike in my plastic raincoat. Oh, I won my plastic coat … Never got a full length leather jacket though.
Steve Gratton. He was a big inspiration for me and a really cool rider.
Had to think about this, as I started riding in the 80’s with my first race in January 81′. So, I was in at the start of the UK scene. I met Andy Ruffell in 81′ and we became good friends (And, still are some 32 years later). I looked up to Pete Middleton and Tim March always gave me good advice and had my back at Mongoose. I respected these guys a lot but the honest truth was I wanted to beat them and I think I had an inflated opinion of myself back then so I never thought anyone was better than me. I hope that’s a racer thing that pushed me on ? Or I was I just an ass? !
Andy Ruffell, Scott Barber, Clint Miller.
Jon Greaves, Matt Oakley, Anthony Howells, Louis Mears, David Maw, Tom Lynch, Tim March.
I’ve had a think about this and came up with the usual; Andy and Tim but, actually, I was inspired by riders in my own age group. I started a bit later than most so people like Stu Diggens, Darren Wood and Tim Print were already sponsored riders and I just wanted to be as good as them so that I could get on a factory team. My hero was Richie, The Avalanche Anderson. I know he’s not a Brit but I saw him on TV win the worlds in 82′ I think and the way he rode the doubles with his front wheel in the air pedaling all the way was just brilliant back then. I watched it over and over again.. happy days !
I would say I looked up to Alan Woods, Tim & Andy.
Tim March … John Lee ..
Shooter March Ruffell. Everybody really almost everyone I rode with at the track or skate park. Team mates,everyone always has something u can take try / and learn or just be impressed by : )
Tim March, always controversial, formidable, a giant of a man. One of my early BMX mag favourites, always had a crazy bling bike with the rarest and most unique components…
Andy Ruffell was my first inspiration as I bought that ‘BMX IT’ Don Smith book, which featured Ruffell throughout teaching us how to gate, jump, corner, eat!
I always like the David and Goliath theme between Tim and Andy Ruffell, the gossip, the team Tim or Team Ruffell banter all day between the parents and remember all the bustling crowds staying well into the night just to see the battle between them int he finals… I can’t recall ever a rider like Tim (Love him or hate him).
Two of my most favorite legends!
Riders I looked up to or inspired me, big Tim, Geth , Stu Diggins , Wayne Llewelyn ,most of the big factory guys back then.
When we talk about the first UK heroes and superstars in BMX, the obvious names that come to mind are; Tim March and Andy Ruffell. Maybe it’s because they were at the top of their game at the same time BMX racing was getting its start and they were able to get some real outside the bicycle industry media. Andy was on TV regularly and Tim was winning Championships not just in the UK but all over Europe. Their ability to capture the interest and pocket books of major corporate sponsors outside the industry was impressive; Lee-Cooper/ VG and so on. But who were the names and respected riders before them that maybe missed out or were a little in the background during the earlier years? We’re going to post quotes/pics from former top riders and the guys they looked up to when discovering BMX in the UK in the very early days. Stay-tunned.
Age/live 47/Worcester, England
Years raced BMX 1980-1985
How did you get started?
I can’t remember how I got to hear about the first race in the UK that took place at Redditch, but David Duffield was employed by Halfords and they were going to import the Puch Murray bikes into the UK and funded the Redditch track which was very close to the Halfords Head Office. They arranged for some guys to come over from Holland and they allowed some local kids use a fleet of Puch Murray bikes and Protec helmets as a demo race.
My Dad had been involved in Motorcycle trials and knew Steve Wilson, who was then a trials star in the Midlands and a good frame builder. Steve had made a few BMX bikes and on that day he loaned me a bike and I recall finishing 2nd place to one of the Dutch guys.
I soon bought a bike off Steve and then helped develop the bike over the next year or so until I was picked up by Hotshot towards the end of the 81 season.
The original Wilson team included Dave and Adrian Jessop, Dave Westwell, Simon Ryland and Mark Butler
How was your local scene?
The local scene was generally centred around Redditch where we met with a load of the Midlands racers pretty regularly and it was a normal thing to ride the 10 miles each way from home to the track and practice all day – no need to train back then!
My local scene in Bromsgrove involved a few guys that were pretty good, Anthony But was in my year at school so we hung about together a fair bit plus Dean Bateson and Chris Lawther from Birmingham Wheels were local so there were always a fair few guys about and we had some reasonable riding spots.
I remember Anthony Sewell spent quite some time staying with Chris when he was in the UK so we rode together a fair bit too.
Who influenced you back then on a BMX?
Like most guys round the early days of BMX in the UK, most influences came from US magazines so the likes of Stu Thomsen, Harry Leary, Greg Hill etc would have featured pretty heavily
I was into motocross and saw Tim March race a few times at schoolboy nationals and he was bloody quick so when he started racing BMX it felt like the sport had a bit more credibility in my eyes.
Towards the mid 80’s I would say Geth was an influence and was good to see someone who had less ego beat the so called ‘stars’ of the day.
Earlier tracks you rode and raced on?
Most of the Midlands tracks as they were so easy to get to (Redditch, Wordsley, Bromsgrove, Derby, Cocksmoor, Birmingham Wheels, Hereford, Deddington etc) but we did a fair bit of travelling in those first couple of years to places like Ipswich, Nottingham, Grimsby and Cleethorpes, Wigan, Chorley, High Wycombe, Peterborough, Bradford, Buckmore Park, Margate, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole, Hounslow……quite a few when you start listing them!
Who did you ride and race with?
Through most of the time I raced with a lot of the same guys and there really wasn’t a lot between any of us as on the day anyone could have won. There was a change after 1981 when they changed the classes in relation to date of birth so some of the riders changed classes. The main at most Nationals would have consisted of any of the following;
Nikki Matthews, Fenwick Carr, Gary Fenwick, Terry Lloyd, Chris Simmonds, Dean Scott Webb, Anthony But, Keith Wilson, Tony Slater, Andy Ruffell, Mark Cracknell, Geth Shooter, Ian Mason, Harvey Monkton, Simon Bailey, Paul Miller, Martin Jose
Teams you rode for?
Halfords/Wilson, Hotshot, Patterson, Vector
Your dad Pete was Team Manager for Redline when they had a powerhouse team tell us a little about his history.
He had always been involved in bike sport and was a pretty good trials and motocross rider from the 50’s through to the 80’s.
When I signed for Hotshot I also went to work for Les Windle and lived with the family down in Oxford. Eventually my Dad came to work for the company too in sales and as part of that role he looked after the race teams. It was about the same time that Hotshot started to import Redline and Patterson and he was tasked with building a team.
He had been commentating at Redditch for some years so he knew a lot of guys and I guess doing that job you notice the riders at all ages that are doing well so when he started to look at building a team he already had a good idea of who the talented riders in each age class were. The Redline Team consisted of Geth, Tim Print, Nicky Dalton, Paul Ray, Mike and Sarah Jane Nicholls and the Patterson Team was Me, Tom Lynch, Gary and Mark O’Connor – it was a pretty good group of riders and also the Hotshot Team was used as a feeder group if I remember right?
Seemed like you race NBMXA a little more mid 80s why did you like it more than UKBMX?
I just went where the team rode. I think we tried to make sure that there was a presence at both NBMXA and UKBMX but I don’t remember why I ended up in one more than the other unless it was because there was a bigger NMBXA presence in the Midlands so it was a bit cheaper to do?
Highlight of your career?
I had 3rd and the British Champs in 1983 and then in 1984 was NMBXA No 2 and also 2nd in the British Champs behind Geth on Cruiser.
Why did you stop racing?
I found other things to do and got fed up of every weekend being the same, however I joined the Army in 1985 so that was probably the main reason, although I took my Patterson with me and rode a few races in Belgium and Germany where I was posted in 1986/7
Do you still follow racing these days?
Only through Facebook and Youtube – I would have loved to have started racing later and have been around now to ride todays tracks but I am pretty sure I would hurt myself if I made a comeback now even though I regularly ride my road and mountain bike.
Did you ever think 30 plus years ago BMX would become an Olympic Sport?
Never – it was just a bit of fun for us in our teens but now it really is a pro sport – The commitment to the sport that British Cycling have invested and the work that the likes of Liam Phillips must put in to be at the top of their game is light years away from the sport that I did back in the day
Could today’s BMX Racing learn anything from Back in the day?
I don’t know – apart from the size of the wheels I wouldn’t even categorise them as the same sport. BMX from the 80’s was more like 4x is today with more natural terrain, all weather races (including loads of mud) and pedalling (loads of it at tracks like Peterborough and Bradford too!)
Anything you want to add?
I certainly made loads of friends back in the day and many of them I am still in touch with on Facebook. The sport taught me lessons that I have carried through my life with me and gave me a whole host of experiences that I wont forget or wouldn’t change.
I am glad it has all become more professional but I still remember the party at Geths house between the 2 days of the British Championships when at least 6 of us slept on the floor in the lounge of the Shooter residence in our drunken state and then raced the finals the next day and a number of us made it to the podium – doubt whether that would happen today?
Got some great interviews and posts coming up. Please tag us on any of your oldskool posts on Social Media #ukbmxhistory.
The Early Years of BMX in the UK – by Jay Hardy
Richard, editor of BMX Action Bike magazine and event organiser looks worried. The hall is at spectator capacity, rider entries have hit the maximum allowed by the insurance and there are still seven hundred people outside. Inside the Pickett’s lock centre the TV crew interview the stars of the show. The main sponsor’s people shuffle about adjusting banners and making sure the TV crew have line of sight to their logo, while more other promotions staff give out Lee Cooper records, stickers and for the chosen few, free jeans. Three short years ago our little sport of bicycle motocross didn’t even have a sanctioning body. But now in 1983 we have two national BMX magazines, corporate race sponsors, factory teams and TV. I look down from the balcony above the track we’ve spent the past three days building and wonder at the explosion of OUR beloved little sport.
Like many kids in the 1970’s I cobbled together bikes made from bits of that bike and bits of this. The obligatory cow horn handlebars were so wide to the nine year old me that they were almost as wide as I could reach. My bikes traditional curved forks were straightened, because that of course made them stronger. I didn’t mind that this caused my foot to rub on the front wheel when cornering, they looked like motorcycle forks and that was cool. My best friend Keith’s older brother Tim raced motocross, his 490 Maico was an object of worship to us, the fastest scrambler in the world by our expert reckoning. The day Tim left his motocross parts catalogue on the dining table remains with me to this. Keith and I thumbed through eagerly choosing the parts we would have on our 490 Maico’s. Then, on the back inside cover was a picture that for me started it all, a DG Rooster BMX bike, it was late 1977.
Over the following years many variations of Grifter based creations came and went, culminating in Keith cutting out the twin down tubes and welding a single tube back in. The finishing touch was fashioning vaguely BMX looking handlebars with my dad’s pipe bender. This was the pinnacle of our efforts and it looked just like a real BMX bike, it was 1979.
In the local woods we built a BMX track, complete with wooden start gate made from a single plank about seven inches high, one foot high berms, whoops and a jump over the ditch. This was our heaven and we spent every free moment riding nearly BMX bikes on our nearly BMX track. In our minds we lived the Californian lifestyle that inspired us and we paid a price for it. In England at that time there was a mod revival, short hair, loafers, preferably burgundy and of course what every football loving sixteen year old saw as a rite of passage, the moped or scooter. We on the other hand had long hair, wore vans, rector skate shorts and rode around on those stupid kids’ bikes. In early 1980 the UK was not a BMXer friendly place.
The day Simon Lloyd asked Keith and I if we’d seen those BMX bikes in the garage on Park Street changed my life, simple fact. I couldn’t tell you how I felt or what happened immediately after he uttered those words, only that minutes later we had cycled the three miles to Park Street and were now looking through a plate glass window in silence. Less than two feet away on the other side was a row of real, yes real BMX bikes. I could have cried with joy and can only think that kids that overwhelmed just can’t. Eventually we went inside, the guy in the garage was called Mike, a trendy 25 year old who told us he was starting a team and already had some riders. Eager to impress our pedigree on him we let him into the secret of our BMX track. A week later Mike Relph arrived with his team to ride our track in the woods. The short version of that day is that Keith and I thrashed them and so were now on the team.
My Dad liked the fact that I spent so much time outside being ‘healthy’ as he saw it. What he didn’t like was the price of these BMX bikes. However with help from Mike he relented and bought me my first BMX bike at a discount, I wondered does this mean I’m almost sponsored. Much to my mothers dismay I insisted that my new obsession stay in my bedroom that first night. I spent most of that evening just sat on my bed looking at it.
A month later we were in Mike’s car on the way to Buckmore Park, the journey took hours as the main roads were building sites. But when they got to finish that M25 all would be free flowing and never again these traffic jams. I can still remember turning into the white concrete road that lead down to the track for that first of many visits. As the tree’s opened up to the right there it was, a real properly constructed BMX track. It was all Christmases ever known come at once, berms ten times the size of our track, tabletops just like in the US magazines I’d started to read and the whole event run by adults just for us, this was big time. In the final that day I was in third coming into the last corner, the only thing on my mind was that third place meant my name would be in Trials and Motocross news, the only publication reporting on BMX back then. As that thought went through my head two guys passed me and I finished fifth.
In the months that followed we rode each freshly constructed track as we heard about it. The small but growing core of BMXers turned up to each race and with each weekend familiar faces became friends and rivals. Time spent chatting revealed the lives behind the rider and with it a theme surfaced, that my story was the usual one. They too had been aware of BMX and longed for something to happen in the UK, they had lived as the kids that didn’t quite fit the British norm of Football, Netball, Cricket and Rugby obsessed stereotypes. We were different, we had different horizons and at last we had something that fitted us. BMX allowed us to express who we were and stood on the vanguard of the changing Britain that the 1980’s was to be.
Throughout 1981 something shifted, kids who previously showed no interest in our obsession had started to show interest. UKBMX was formed, tracks and clubs sprang up all over the UK, Mike opened ‘California BMX’ my first ‘sponsor.’ In the store a video promoting the new sport of Bicycle Moto Cross played constantly on loop. The very pronounced English voice over declared that the rider on view was the American bicycle association champion…..Stuart Thomsen. Seeing this grown man with long hair, wearing Vans, riding a BMX bike on a perfectly groomed track under the blue Californian sky was a million miles away from mods, mopeds, football hooliganism and old cynical worn out England. This was the BMX I had longed for and I wanted all of it. Stuart Thomsen was my hero and represented everything that inspired me to keep treading that path in a new direction.
In 1982 Stu came over for the Mongoose international at Earls Court. I lined up with other kids for his autograph, when I got to the front I handed over a copy of BMX Action with Stompin Stu looming large on the cover. He looked up at me, ‘hey a US mag….cool.’ I looked back at him but nothing came out, I was unable to speak. He signed the cover, handed it back and off I hurried with a head full of ‘cool’ things I should have said. Several years later sitting in my hotel room with Stu and several other US pro’s. I recounted this story. He looked at me and just said ’that happens.’
By 1983 things had gone mad, BMX was everywhere, TV adverts linked to it in some tenuous manner just to be trendy, kids TV presenters talked about being rad in a cadence that gave them away as having not a clue about being rad. Hollywood films like ET had BMX in them, corporations now offered you ET BMX bicycles, breakfast cereals allowed you to win BMX bikes, school bike sheds were full of BMX bikes, BMX, BMX, BMX. What the hell…….. five minutes ago kids of my own age were asking me what the funny little bike I rode was. They hadn’t heard of BMX and now every kid was obsessed with it. These people didn’t love it like I loved it, they were all followers, they didn’t dig in the trenches when local authorities wouldn’t give a minute to a proposal for a BMX track. The same local authorities that now couldn’t wait for the positive press opportunity of the local BMX track opening, complete with smiling Mayor who thought the track looked ‘rad.’
Looking down from the balcony at the throngs of BMX obsessed kids below me I had to smile to myself. BMX was already labelled a craze by the press, to most of the kids with shiny new bikes and race kit in the arena below it was a new and exciting sport. But for those of us who were there years before it was and always will be a partial definition of who we are. But my protectiveness of our little sport fell away when I realised that BMX had outgrown us, it didn’t need protecting and fighting for any longer. It had grown up and repaid us by turning us from the weird kids to the cool kids. It took me years to realise that for many of the kids that came to BMX later, the impact on their lives was in many cases more profound than for us. BMX an Olympic sport yeah right!
It’s a real tough call to pinpoint where BMX even started in the UK. There are so many people with stories and many things documented all over the web and scattered amongst old magazines. We have already asked a number of people that were around at the time to give us their take and we are hoping to have some entries posted soon. We will jump around year to to year in an effort to gather great stories – so feel free to jump in if you have details from an earlier or later date. We’re just interested in notable stories at this point not necessarily that they are in chronological order.
Welcome to UKBMXHistory.com. We thought with such an impressive old school following in the UK, especially with social media so big now, it was about time we started documenting BMX Racing from the early days. Hopefully, we can keep adding interviews/stories/blogs from the past and work our way through the years of BMX racing in the UK. We’re really hoping to get some key words from influential people that were involved with BMX through the early years and maybe a little behind the scenes details, as the sport boomed in the early 80s and leveled off in the early 90s. I think you all can agree there is a lot of stuff we can cover. If you feel you’ve got some good material that is worth posting, please feel free to email us. Stay tune for more updates.