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.
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.
What year did you start BMX?
I think I started bmx around 1980? I fixed up my sister’s bike, which was a 20’ girl’s shopping bike and used to pretend to do motocross over a track we had in local fields!!! The bike didn’t last long. I had been riding an 80cc Suzuki which my Uncle Paul converted to a field bike before that. I wanted to do motorcross but we had no money for that lark. A group of my school mates; Andy Bennett, Dave Westwell talked about a new shop called Alan’s in Hindley and also Halfords having something called a BMX bike. The brands I remember at the time were Mongoose and Puch Murray. But my first real bmx bike I got in Xmas 1980 and it was a Mongoose Skyway purchased unknown to me from Alan’s by my Uncle Paul as a surprise. I do remember watching the kids show Magpie and they showed Tinker Juarez doing a 360 out of a bowl. It blew my mind. I wanted a slice of that action!
The North West had quite a scene from the sport’s inception, who were some of the guys you rode with back then?
Craig Borrows, Andy Parr, Dave Arnold, Stu Carr, Fenwick Carr, Jason Ramsden, Alan Woods, John Lee, Andy Bennett, David Westwell & Godfrey Burke. Sorry if I forgot anyone.
How did you hook up with Alan Woods and get on Torker?
I almost scammed my way into his team. I had a Mongoose shirt and had “Alan’s team” printed on it. Alan went for a trip to the hallowed land “California” and brought back a Torker F&F with Max pants and a race Shirt plus a yellow Simpson helmet. He then asked me to ride for him. He made an offer I couldn’t refuse. I felt like a million dollars.
First full season of racing must have been around 82? You finished National number 2 to Andy Ruffell in the 15s? What were some of the National tracks you raced at?
Was my first season 82? I thought it was 81? My first race was at Belle Vue for Hindley BMX club. I won on the indoor circuit with wooden pallet jumps. It’s where I saw Cav Strutt do a 360. Mind -blowing. It was also seminal in my development as I used to go to Belle Vue to watch speedway in the 1970s. I always wanted to be a speedway rider or an astronaut. I’ve had a go at one but not the other yet!! Memorable tracks for me were Ipswich, Eastway, Buckmore Park. Alan remembers tracks better than me. Grasby was a good track it had a Rubber start gate and very steep hill?
Any other notable names from that age group that you battled with?
John Lee of course, he was a fast bastard!!!!, Tony Law & Mark White. I was glad I wasn’t racing Fenwick Carr and Jason Ramsden as they where super fast. It seemed like the grit and terrain of Wigan and Leigh produced some fast riders.
You were already getting a ton of press in the UK mags – featured a lot in Official BMX, BMX News newspaper before it became BMX Weekly and onto BMX Bi-Weekly. How did you and Andy Preston team up and test ride for Weekly?
Alan Woods got me into testing bikes for BMX Weekly. I was the rider who would always have a go at big jumps and seemed to excel at tricks. Photogenic maybe? If memory serves me right, I had some kit made by Max for BMX Weekly; Jag shoes, Max pants & Max shirt, it looked real pro. Alan does have that touch. He knows how to make things look factory! I used to go and ride whatever bike the magazine wanted to test. I did jumps, tricks on them & made them look good even if they weren’t. There was a fair bit of the North and South divide thing between mags. Official BMX was based down south and Bmx Bi-Weekly was based up North. There was talent either side of Watford gap so it depended on your postcode which magazine you got coverage in. Andy Preston came on board around this time 83 ish and I think Martin Higginson suggested making a Team. It was a Brit attempt at BMX Action’s. Mike Buff and RL Osborn trick team but way less glamorous! Andy and I were then offered jobs at Pontin’s Holiday Camp in Morecambe as Bluecoat/Bike instructors at the newly built track. What a life!!! It was great to ride everyday and be paid for it. Plus we were available to the magazine’s for photoshoots. It also suited Pontin’s, as they got exposure. We both got pretty good. I personally got better at racing and tricks even though the ramps were so bad. Andy Preston and his folks put a lot of work into making us a professional outfit. His dad was an engineer and designed the portable ramps we used. They were groundbreaking at the time and perfect transitions. We used Andy’s own Land Rover to tow them round. I can’t even imagine the fuel bills.
Any notable photo shoots you remember with BMX Weekly?
I do remember some at Pontin’s camp where we put the trick ramp on top of the table top and I used to hit it and get huge airs. But Nigel Higginson was into arty “sky” pictures which gave no hint of the height. So all that risk was for nothing. He did produce some great pictures but I was frustrated at the outcome of some. Especially when I became a frequent guest of the Pontin’s medical centre from crashes. I did a Raleigh photoshoot in Tenerife,1983 and jumped into the harbour off a trick ramp on a tuff burner. The locals thought I was a crazy gringo and it never even made the magazine. Took some balls to!!
You had a lot of Covers – any favorites?
As I get older I am getting prouder of what I have achieved. One day I can show them to my son Sebastian. The Romford Skatepark Aerial cover is my favourite. I just loved that park and wish I could have rode it more.
It seemed like you lost interest in Racing and turned to Freestyle – what made you switch over?
I don’t remember losing interest in racing. I just had no time to do the Nationals and do my trick team commitments. I got third in Wigan national against all the heads of state in the 16 expert class 1983 when I was a fulltime trick rider. So I proved I could still race with the best of them.
You also got picked up by Raleigh, how did that deal come about?
I think the deal came about through Martin Higginson and BMX Bi-Weekly. It made sense. They are guaranteed coverage and a good rider plus BMX Beat happened. When I won that it seemed to explode for us as a team with Andy coming in second place. The Saturday morning TV series we made got us a lot of exposure, plus magazine coverage and demos. We had our 15 mins of fame put it that way.
You won BMX Beat that was featured on TV at the time winning the overall and continued to get a lot of coverage. It had to be a cool thing at the time?
Yes, it was really a special time; doing tricks at the Lyceum theatre in London in front of the biggest pop stars in the country, getting letters from females who watched the show & doing demos in front of a few thousand people. I just wish looking back I had the foresight to train better and market myself better but I wouldn’t change it. I experienced minor fame, which is so lame but it was fun for a while.
With the big money deal and arrival of Andy Ruffell to Raleigh it looked like you got the bump. What can you remember about that and thoughts on getting let go?
Well I was bemused as there was talk about Andy getting a car and nearly 20000 grand sterling. That was a fortune for a BMX Pro at that time. I couldn’t understand why we both couldn’t continue to be Raleigh riders. In fact, I thought it would have been good for the company. Andy’s primary goal was racing, mine was Freestyle. Although Andy would have been the best Freestyler, if he put his mind to it no doubt. I had a great relationship with Raleigh I had been to the factory to help give input on bike design. Plus I had gotten them shitloads of coverage with all the TV and Magazine stuff I had done. I think most people look back and remember Andy for Mongoose bikes not for Raleigh and me for Raleigh not Hutch. But hey I don’t do the marketing so I went to Shiner on the Hutch Trickstar.
You soon got picked up by Hutch (Shiner) how was that deal and riding the 85 Kelloggs?
Shiner and Alan’s in my opinion are the backbone of BMX and Skateboarding in the UK. I was super stoked to ride for them on the Hutch Trickstar. Plus our relationship was so good. The Allen family were beyond kind to me and helped me throughout my Skateboard career also. I was pretty average at the 85 Kelloggs event. I had actually booked to go on holiday with my then girlfriend Diane Arnold ( Jacob Roberts Mum) and we had to cancel it to do that event. She wasn’t best pleased. I just wasn’t into competing and every demo became a chore and I wasn’t enjoying riding. You can check my heat against Ron Wilkerson on youtube. He dabs so many times and does all that clown stuff, dancing on the bike etc. I hated that crap. But in hindsight I wasn’t that bad. The young guns were coming up, doing bigger airs pushing the boundaries of what was possible. Seemed like the writing was on the quarter pipe.
Seemed like you faded away from BMX shorty after any reason why?
I simply wasn’t enjoying it. BMX seemed to be all gloss and bubblegum no substance It didn’t have an edge. Skateboarding on the other hand did. It was new (to me) I was learning and enjoying the process of learning. I continued doing BMX demos for Manchester council and riding for Shiner but I wasn’t going to win another competition, My tricks became to old school. I also hated the whole BFA thing and Colin Kefford’s vision for BMX Freestyle. It just seemed to be taking a wrong direction but what do I know? In hindsight I should have stuck at it, maybe joined a circus earned some cash and diversified into being a lion tamer!!!
What were you up to in the late 80s and 90s?
I was living in various places. Southsea, Portsmouth for a while. I lived at number 70 liss road with Neil Hawkins, Tracy Weller and we skated partied, skated, and partied. We had great sessions on the vert ramp and hung out with travelling American skate pros. I was skating Vert comps and getting better. I even opened a skateboard shop with Doug Nelson called Soul Skates in Chorley. I skated for Shiner on Powell and Zorlac then Allan Losi put me on LSD boards. Finally Jeremy at Deathbox gave me a deal on Bash. I even got my own Pro model. I spent time skateboarding and competing in Texas, Europe, Brazil, Scotland. It was a real learning phase in my life. I tried lots of things, made lots of mistakes. I came close along with Neil Danz and Davie Phillips to dying in Brazil 1990. We had a big car wreck. How we survived to this day is a mystery. I then got stoked on Surfing and after doing a couple of trips to Cornwall with Gary Lee and seeing his stoke for the sport wanted to learn. I realised I had to live near the waves. So I moved down to Cornwall and spent time surfing with Jamie Blair. I did whatever I could to get by including dishwashing jobs but I gradually learned to surf. I made some great friends during this time and had great experiences. I lived in a tiny caravan and occasionally skated but there wasn’t any vert in Cornwall at the time. I just surfed as much as possible. I then met an Irish girl (as you do) and moved to Ireland. I ended up living in Co Donegal by incredible waves, surfing with amazing surfers and still have a love affair with Ireland to this day. When I first moved to Co Donegal. I ended up delivering newspapers at the ripe age of 27. Thinking fuck what am I doing with my life? But sometimes doors open and I got into lifeguarding which led me into Beach lifeguarding which led me into getting work, which led me into getting involved in “surflifesaving”. I ended up being (wait for it) the All Ireland Paddleboard Champion 4 times in a row and helping the Donegal lifesaving team to multiple successes. I am very proud to have been honoured by Donegal council for my services to lifesaving. For a lad from Manchester I was humbled. All this led to me joining the Ambulance service in 1997. I worked in Donegal for a while then I got a job in Northern Ireland and trained up in Belfast and worked around some interesting areas. The Good Friday agreement came into effect during the late 1990s so thankfully the troubles defused a little. I also got into Irish motorcycle road racing. I went to watch Joey Dunlop a few times and decided I was going have a crack. I got my race licence, bought a CBR600 race bike. Then the foot and mouth thing hit and all road races were cancelled. This probably saved my life in hindsight. Because of the foot-in-mouth I ended up doing a club race at 3 Sisters Wigan (my first race) I won the rookie class and got 6th in 600 Supersport. I thought I was the shit!! So I turn up for the next practice session, a month later, it was wet. I had zero experience in the wet. I highside within half a lap and knock myself out, break my collarbone, badly bruised my hip and mess up my bike. I figure I had the highs and lows of motorcycle racing in one foul swoop. Reflecting on this time it’s funny how my formative racing experiences revolved around 3 Sisters!! Even though the BMX track was gone.
Did you still follow the sport?
I followed BMX racing at the last Olympics but I don’t watch much racing these days. I watch clips the Vans park series on Youtube. The Redbull “Sebastian Keep” clip is pure genius. My honest opinion about BMX racing is it’s lost its way. I don’t mean that in detriment to current racers but I feel the format needs to change to switch it up. I love BMX, it’s given me so much. Riding a little 20” bike took me to places I never imagined. It’s given me great bike control and opened doors for me. I now have a 4 year old son riding around a BMX track but I just want him to have fun. I am not going to push him in anyway to do what I have done (promise). I will always maintain a connection to BMX.
Alongside BMX you always skated, how did you get into that and did you compete?
I didn’t always skate, I took it up in 84 properly. We used to skate “stiff necks” ramp in Ince near Wigan. The North West scene with Ardwick and Warrington was booming so I just learned to skate vert ramps. Tim Stamp, Dave Arnold, Craig Burrows always diversified into BMX and skating We just did it all. I entered some ESA skate events then graduated to skating with the A group vert lot. I was never that good. I had moments but never trained enough. I watch stuff from Munster 1989 and it’s still unreal what they do even then.
You came back into racing again and coached in the 2000s what made you come back and how did you do?
Well, I ended up quitting the ambulance job and moving back to the UK from Ireland and living back at my Mum’s in Wigan. I was a bit lost but had some spare cash. So I started racing Supermoto on a 650 Husaberg in the Norasport uk series. I worked my way up to A grade and won some trophies. It’s basically BMX racing with an engine. So much fun. Supermoto got to feel very natural for me but as with most motorsports, it’s about money. I ran out and then decided to have a crack at living in Australia. I sold my bike and kit and made an attempt at trying to find work in Australia. I didn’t as I couldn’t get a visa. I ran out of cash, so I came back to the UK broke and a little lost. It was then Alan Woods that asked if I wanted to race 24” cruisers for him? Of course, I thought why not. I ended up winning the over 40s cruiser class at National level and British championships twice I think? I also raced Masters on a 20” It culminated with me managing Alan’s team for him. We set up a pretty professional outfit with Vans and Shimano onboard. I was asked by Jeremy Hayes at British Cycling to assist with coaching. He’s good and knows how they operate. It was an experience for me. I got involved with Jamie Staff and Jeremy Hayes in writing the “how to BMX manual”
What were your thoughts on the sport this time around getting back into it compared to the 80s?
It was a world apart from what I knew. The BMX tracks where so different. Concrete huge jumps, multiple doubles, step ups step downs, Riding a BMX was very refined to. I was lucky, as when I started racing again for Alan I had been riding skateparks in Australia so I had progressed. I had taught myself spine transfers and a few new school moves. I maintained skills at handling a bike plus surfing had given me an insight into fitness. You have to remember I basically quit BMX Freestyle in 1986 and had never even done a roll in on a quarter pipe. That was a big trick back then. If you think about it Andy Ruffell’s front hop drop in was big news BITD. Now it’s just a set up. I had to face many demons to tell myself at 40 years of age I could still progress. I then got a spate of injuries during my second racing career for Alan. I broke my scapula in Wales in the Masters main then broke my wrist at Copull and popped my shoulder out also. Hmmm I was sore!
What was with the move to Australia?
I wanted to start a new life. I enjoyed the climate of course. I love surfing and thought most people just surfed, worked two days a week and owned their own homes. Boy was I wrong. You work your arse off here. It’s overpriced, fucking hot and unless you’re very lucky you “ain’t” getting a place by the ocean. But it’s also got loads of space and opportunities and if you’re prepared to have a go and work hard it can reward you. It’s given me highs and lows in my 10 years here. It’s given me a son who I adore. Plus a dual passport and grey hair. My job as a paramedic can be very stressful and I wonder how long I can go on doing it? But caring for my lad gives me the strength and purpose. I live day to day at the moment.
Are you still surfing, skating and riding bikes?
I still ride bikes most days. I have a good collection. Two road racing bikes, two BMX bikes, two MTB bikes, one 26” cruiser, a 26’ jump bike oh yes and a cyclocross bike. I spent 2018 racing Gravity Enduro mtb events in WA. I took to it pretty well and ended up taking it to the last round to be Champion in my age group but a big old crash ended that. Also the champ, Ian Daniels, is faster than me!! I moved to Victoria in May 2019 from Western Australia to be closer to my boy as I am now divorced from his mother. So I changed my lifestyle completely. I was surfing daily in WA but now I road ride or MTB tracks, gravel and when I can compete in selected events. I got into road riding properly in 2009 at a Master’s level when I moved to Australia and got up to A grade. I also qualified for the UCI Masters road finals in Trento, Italy in 2013 and finished respectfully. Unfortunately it’s been a rough few years for me both mentally and physically but I am still here fighting. I shattered my collar bone and had it plated in late 2018 then had a freak accident and pulled out the plate leading to another operation, bigger plate and a lot of pain and I have only just started to fully recover from that and regain my fitness. Plus I had a full shoulder reconstruction in 2014. I recently competed in the Australian gravel championships. My first road event in 5 years. I got 4th in my age group, it was a definite learning experience especially going nearly 70kph on drop bars down a really rough trail, knowing if I did fall, my collarbone at the very least was gone again. I survived though and gained some confidence.
Future goals with riding?
At the tender age of 54 my goal is to get my fitness back after injury and compete in whatever takes my fancy. I am going to try cyclocross in 2020 and do more MTB XCO stuff. I do enjoy racing road crits and plan to see how I go in the 2020 national masters. It’s a smorgasbord really and there are so many routes in cycling now to go and have fun at. I also plan to ride my skateboard more and as long as I can drop in and hit a smith grind I am a pretty happy man. I plan to keep going until my body or heart gives out, whichever comes first. To all my friends around the world I send out a big hug. Anyone that knows me from BMX or Skateboarding, I apologize if I was ever a wanker to you but I am a good guy, really. Peace out.
How did you discover BMX? What year was it? How was your local scene, who did you ride with back then?
Growing up in the outskirts of East London in the 1970’s was a magical time for anyone who rode dirt bikes due to the close proximity of Epping Forest and untold wasteland as a result of all the damage done in World War 2.
The part of the forest closest to my house was littered with bomb-holes from German air-raids and as it was on a big hill. I was actually riding the bomb-holes as part of a big downhill track from the mid 70’s onwards.
Around Late 1978, we were all riding 24″ tracker bikes with Cyclocross knobbly tires and Motocross bike handlebars, The original ‘Hardtail Mountainbikes’ (20 years before they became fashionable) and whilst riding at a spot called the Hollow Ponds I met the Walthamstow riders of Andy Ruffell, Cav Strutt, Peter Middleton, Nicky Matthews, Steve Gilley and many others and instantly became friends with them. In early 79 we saw the famous episode of CHiPs featured bmx racing, we all knew we wanted to do ‘BMX’ instantly.
Pretty much straight after the CHiPs episode the Walthamstow boys suddenly appeared on modified Grifters, usually colour-changed to one of the colours of the main mx motorbikes, longer-straightened forks fitted, lightweight saddle/post, shopping bike handlebars and gears removed. They were the coolest thing I had ever seen and within weeks I had obtained one and carried out the modifications (real bmx bikes weren’t available in the UK at this time).
Whilst we were all riding at The Hollow Ponds doing big jumps, etc. a chap showed up in a three-piece-suit with a distinctive hairstyle and seemed to know a lot about bmx in America. I described him to my Dad when I got home and he informed me that it was Don Smith, a legendary motorcycle rider/racer from the area that had numerous World Titles to his name, next time I saw Don I certainly took notice of everything he said! He spoke of an upcoming trip to California where he would purchase the latest bmx bikes to import, and how he was going to organise ‘UKBMX’ races with a governing body and a professional class where we could all earn money racing bmx bikes! Don showed up with a full suspension ‘mountainbike’ in Spring 79 with mx style forks, twin shock rear suspension and hub brakes, we all had a ride of it and told him that suspension on bikes would never catch on! Don went on to write the constitution of UKBMX parts of which I believe are still in use today!
Early 1980 everyone of the growing crowd of riders had either a Mongoose or a Team Ace BMX bike. I had a very nice Supergoose 2. By the summer of 1980 races had already been held at Redditch, Ipswich (Coddenham) and Buckmore Park.
Who was your first sponsor?
My first race was right at the end of 1980 (or early 81) at Buckmore Park, the track was a quagmire of mud so the decision was made to race on the Go Kart track there with the start gate situated halfway up the hill that surrounds the track. The event was huge with hundreds of riders from far and wide in attendance. I met riders there that day that are still friends now and still race to this day. My next race was a few months later also at Buckmore park but on the proper track. I made the main along With Andy Ruffell, Jay Hardy and Craig Strong and got a good start and went into turn one with Andy but immediately wiped out. I had won all my motos that day with Mark ‘Sid’ Salisbury and Jay Hardy in them and it was then that I realised I could hang with the fastest guys in my age group and I wanted to take up racing regularly. The result that day led to me getting Sponsored by my local Bike shop ‘MASONS CYCLES’ in Wanstead and the manager there, Chris Wonfor was a great help in getting my racing career off the ground.
In winter 1980/81 I would rush home from school, grab my bike and sprint the 3 miles to Masons in freezing temperatures in the dark just to get the latest copy of BMS Plus or BMX Action to read about my heroes in the USA Stu Thomsen, Harry Leary and co.
How long did it take until you got onto Redline?
July 1981 (on Royal Wedding day) I got the breakthrough I wanted in racing by winning a national (Andy Ruffell wasn’t there) and as a result got invited to try out for the New ‘REDLINE FACTORY TEAM’ at EARLS COURT a few weeks later.
I showed up at The Bike Show in Earls Court with my Mum for their try-outs and instantly spotted Stu Thomsen on the track!!! I was speechless! It was the guy from the magazines!! He came over and said hello to Mum and I and as I attempted to say hello back no words came out!! They were picking 2 riders only, one 13 or under, and one 15 and over, all the other riders competing for the older slot were a fair bit older than me and a lot bigger. We were to do some practice laps under the watchfull eye of Stu and then line-up on the gate for a one lap-no crap race with the winner taking the spot. I put my hand in the bag for lane choice and chose gate 5 (6 man gate) and the other riders were all inside me and the first straight was short so getting the lead into the first turn was going to be a tall order. As I put my wheel on the gate I saw a wheel line-up outside me in gate 6…I looked to my side, and up, and up….Stu was joining in…oh no!! Not only was I racing against older/bigger riders but now Stu was next to me on the gate!! nervous!!!
The gate dropped and I got a flier and looked across at the end of the straight…no-one there, whoosh I moved over and took the lead OMG OMG I’m winning!!! Halfway throught the first turn I was hit from behind by what felt like a train!! I flew off my bike but I didnt hit the ground…because someone caught me. Stu had slid-out in the first turn and accidentally hit me, but managed to catch me before I hit the ground!! I was fine but upset because I hadn’t won the race. Stu and the other Redline staff called a re-run because of what happened, and Stu told me not to worry as he knew I would win it, and I did so I was on REDLINE!!! Stu shook my hand and welcomed me to the team and then handed me his race bike saying he could get a new one when he got home and I couldnt get a bike like that in the UK as it was custom built.
A few weeks later, I was racing at Outwell indoor and John Lee and Andy Ruffell were there and as John had been getting closer and closer to (the virtually unbeaten) Ruffell recently all eyes were on them as they took their gate positions for the final. I even thought I was racing for third place at best with those two on the gate. The gate dropped and it all seemed too easy as I took the lead from the first pedal stroke and finished with a healthy lead over Andy with John in third. It was October 1981 and I started to believe that I could actually win races whoever was there.
Who else was on Redline around this time? I’m thinking; Stu Diggins and Gary Willats?
Initially, the Redline team consisted of just two riders, myself and Gary Willats. Unfortunately, Gary got seriously injured in a car crash and missed a lot of races leaving me as the sole representative for quite a while. Stu Diggins got on the team quite a bit later and not long before I left. I got some great results with Redline but myself and the TM didn’t always see eye-to-eye so by June 82 I knew my days were numbered and when my friend Tony Slater expressed an interest in riding for Redline I didn’t stand in the way and parted company with the team.
How did you get on Halfords and tell us about your first trip to the US?
It was quite a blessing, as I did really well at the Anglo American Cup at Redditch about a week later and was in the final where Tim March beat the Americans. Halford’s main man, David Duffield was in attendance and was on the lookout for an unsponsored rider to fund for a USA trip to race at the upcoming (first ever) IBMXF World Championships at Dayton Ohio. BMX Action Bike magazine’s; Richards and Jim Black, along with Dave Young (Chris’s Dad) were advising him on who to pick, and luckily I got on really well with all those guys and had just had a two-page interview in the magazine, so I have no doubt that it was those guys that influenced him to pick me as the lucky rider. A couple of weeks later I was boarding one of Freddie Lakers Jumbo Jets at Heathrow at 16 years old. I flew to New York where I met Andy Oldham and his Dad who were also making the trip. We flew onto Pittsburgh where the plane developed a landing gear fault and we actually crash landed onto a foam filled runway and Andy managed to sleep through the whole thing!! We missed our connecting flight to Dayton and got a free limo ride to a hotel and flew out the next morning, pretty rad to experience all that at 16. The heat and humidity of the Midwest was a big shock to me and even more so for the Oldham’s as they are Northerners! Andy ended up getting injured in training leaving me as the lone Brit racing. The parade lap was interesting with me myself and I carrying a massive Union Jack around the track. I made the semis where I crashed and that was that. While I was there I hung out with Greg Esser and he persuaded me not to go home but to spend the rest of the summer there following the NBL War of the Stars Series which was a great experience and I even won a round! It was pretty surreal to be traveling, training and hanging out with the very Pro’s that I’d been reading about in BMX Plus just a few months earlier and they now all knew me by name!!! I moved on to Canada after the race season ended and spent the Fall racing there, it was a good scene and about as big as it was back home at that time. I returned home in late October 82 to find that I had still made national #3 even though I’d missed a large part of the season.Being local and racing with Andy Ruffell how was it being around during the start of his celebrity status in BMX?
Andy Ruffell was turning into a media celebrity by now and was getting so much tv work that it seemed like every time I turned the TV on he was on it!! He was getting into the freestyle side of things but was still virtually unbeatable on the track, he was a true phenomenon for the years I raced!!
It seemed like you were not on Redline long before you got picked up by Torker, what was with the move?
Alan Woods contacted me in December about riding for one of his teams, I jumped at that as I’d always admired his set-up and the professionalism of the teams, etc. Initially he asked me to ride a Robinson which I was happy with as I knew them to be excellent bikes, but he eventually decided on me joining TORKER which was also cool as I was good friends with team rider, Darren Page (rip) and his family and they lived locally to me.
Picketts Lock along with the Halfords NEC were big events back in the early 80s that were well-documented not just in the mags but also on TV as well. Do you remember much from these events?
My first race on Torker was at Picketts Lock in January 83 and I had both Tim March and Andy Ruffell in my moto which meant I was virtually guaranteed magazine coverage for Torker. And yes, the centre page spread in BMX Action Bike Magazine was Andy, Tim, Sid Salisbury and myself hitting the first jump. Alan Woods also gave me a Cruiser and I raced against Tim, Alan, Tony Slater and Jamie Vince and although I never won (Tim did) I got a solid second place. I was having an decent season scoring regular top 3’s on Torker and won the inaugural British Championships at Knebworth House (the Trophy says British Open Championships) and got 3rd at the Halfords NEC race after almost going over the gate and being dead last until turn 2. Seeing the race on TV was so cool!!
83 Worlds Slagharen Holland, how was that?
When the 83 Worlds came around at Slagharen for some reason I didn’t want to go and decided to go to the USA again instead, a week or two after the Worlds was a big race at Kettering, Ohio and it seemed like all the Americans that had attended the Worlds flew back for this race. I raced Richie Anderson in Open Class and led him in a moto until the last turn where he blew by me (he probably spun on the gate) but it sure felt good to be ahead of him!
By the start of the 84 season you had disappeared from racing. What prompted you to stop; birds and booze?
When I returned from the USA in October 83 I got a job running FAZE 7 BMX Shop for Joe Burlo which was great but it was that that helped me to lose interest in BMX bikes as it became a 7 day a week thing, BMX, BMX, BMX all week in the shop, then BMX all weekend, it tipped me over the edge and I quit at the end of 83. Looking back on how big things got in 84/85 and seeing that the Stars of the Kelloggs on TV were riders that I had beaten week in and week out a few years before, does make me bitterly regret giving up when I did. When I left bmx I totally turned my back on it and have no memories of bmx after 83 apart from when Tony Slater was telling me about this kid from Derby (Geth Shooter) that was younger than us beating Stu Thomsen and co…that stuck in my mind.
You got back into racing years later this time around with Mountainbikes. What years did you compete and thoughts on the whole UK MTB scene.
Back in 1990, Tony Slater and Craig Schofield dragged me along to a BMX race at Ipswich. My Torker had air in its tyres for the first time in 7 years and still had 1983 mud on them. I did ok at the race for the first straight but always blew up puffing and panting before the finish and Tony and Craig kept giggling about me getting frustrated at trying to keep up with this 18 year old kid from Derby who was rather good…Dale something or other….haha
A few years later in 96 I fancied a go at Mountain Biking and went along to the Bike Show and bumped into Jay Hardy and Paul Roberts who persuaded me to enter the National Short Course DH Championships the following weekend. I managed to win it at my first attempt which made me instantly well-known on the circuit and secured me a mini interview and picture on page one of issue one of Dirt Magazine. I raced DH for the next few years winning quite a few Nationals along the way. In 2000 I got the Bronze Medal at the World Championships in Canada and Won the British Championships in 2005.
By the mid 2000s you had found your way back into racing BMX and with only a handful of races, qualified and raced the 2005 Worlds in Paris and even put it in the main. Seemed like you got the bug again?Yes, I decided to race BMX again and after 3 races back I found myself at the UCI Worlds In Bercy and cruised through the motos, then the 1/8th and 1/4, then I was at the back in the semi thinking it was all over and they seemed to go wide in the last turn so I went under them all and qualified for the main!! Back in the stands it sank in that I had made a world final when Dale Holmes said ‘Hey Keith, you’re in the main’… A bit of a crash on the third straight meant it was a W7 for me which I gladly took. I left bmx again after that world final, and kept on plugging away at DH getting more National wins and finally quit DH in 2008 to concentrate on bmx again. I hooked up with Dialled Bikes in 2009 and won the British Championships in 4x for Dialled and followed it with British Championship titles on cruiser in 2010 and 2011.
In 2012 Mike Wong started up a new Brand FACTORY TEAM BIKES with me as the sole rider that year followed by a strong team from 2013 onwards. I continued with FTB, becoming the team manager in 2014 and in 2017 I said that I would quit bmx racing for good if I won the British Championships that year. My body was broken and aching and I really needed a rest so I gritted my teeth and became British Champion for the last time in 2017.
Let’s wrap it up final words?
I decided to take a rest in 2018 and in 2019 started a new cycle sport called Enduro. I raced the seven round series and managed to win five of them, one second and one third to take the title at my first attempt. Next year, I’m taking a fresh challenge with yet another form of bicycle racing. Did I mention that I love bikes?! Thank you for giving me the chance to share a little bit of my history of riding bicycles on dirt.
MK19 is already looking like a huge event coming up this August that’s going to take place over in the UK. Bob Haro, Harry Leary, Craig Campbell, Alan Woods, Tom Lynch and John Buultjens are just a few of the names on the roster with an even rumored Andy Ruffell appearance. The Old Skool community continues to grow worldwide with events, ride out and gatherings going on, which is cool to see.
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.
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.
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.
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.