My UKBMX History by Bill Baggs

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’.

The riders:

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.

Best wishes
Bill Baggs