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.
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.
Mr. BMX Weekly Arnold Higginson passed away at age 77.
A retired builder, Arnold financed the publication from late 1981 up to 1985. Later becoming BMX Bi-Weekly and taking on a magazine format, it sold over 46,000 copies at its height, and is remembered fondly in Old School BMX circles. It is Arnold’s vision that enabled the recording in pictures and words the start of BMX from within the UK. Arnold was seen at many of the National and Regional race meets with wife Marjorie, and sons Martin, Nigel taking pictures, and Jonathan racing.
Arnold built the wooden start gate and table top at the former Morecambe band arena where the town’s first races were held most Sundays from 1982 on a track made up of car tyres. Arnold approached and persuaded Pontins at Middleton near Morecambe to build a track. That infamous table top then went up to the Pontins race track where the UK Open Championships were held from 1983, and Pontins became home for Andy Preston and Mike Pardon, the BMX Bi-Weekly test team and regulars in the sister magazine, Freestyle BMX.
BMX owes a lot to a lot of people. Arnold Higginson is one of them. His vision helped to create Legends and put the names of racers like Andy Ruffell, Tim March, Alan Woods and Dale Holmes into the homes of many young BMX’ers. RIP Arnold, happy memories.
Written by: Jonathan Higginson
By Alan Woods
Timeline: Summer 1980.
I was lucky enough to have raced motocross from 1976 at the age of 11. As you couldn’t get spares at the track we started selling oil, spark plugs and eventually race gear, shocks, etc like is commonplace now at tracks, before we didn’t see anyone anywhere around the UK doing this, this set the seed for our transition into BMX. I had seen some BMX photos in ads Dirt Bike magazine for H_Torque’s Minicycle & BMX Action magazine and as I always loved “push bikes” too it interested me. Anyway back to the timeline, it was still during the 1980 Motocross season that we were taking bikes on our trailer to show at the races so this must’ve been about July or August of that year.
Here is a video I posted from 1979, you can see my mum and dad at our Fox-liveried van and I am racing in the same DG Premier helmet I used for BMX in the first year:
The first BMX bike we had were MOTO ONE’s, either in blue/yellow or red/yellow: bmxmuseum.com.
We had 6 of them to start with. I think these came from a guy in Peterbrough who we bought American (yellow) YZ’s from, I have some old Trials & Motocross News’s in the loft, I’ll look for his ads. Anyway we also ordered some Mongoose’s from him too that he would’ve been getting from the Jarvis’ with a margin on but we got in touch direct and bought I think a couple of Motomags and a Supergoose. I kept the Supergoose and we kept on reordering these. We really had a head start because we already had all the race gear right there – JT Racing, DG, Oakley, etc. that’s why when you look at these photos everyone is tricked out, very few skateboard helmets and stuff to be seen. Around this time a pre-production run of BMX News that came free in Trials & Motocross News and was given out at Schoolboy MX events. It has some of the features that appeared in the production #1 but less ads and content – in fact I think it was mostly to show advertisers what BMX was about. Ipswich Coddenham was one race report I remember in there.
Around this time a gang of guys from nearby Ashton-In-Makerfield (you might remember we built a track there later on) came down to the shop when we just had a little room at my dad’s garage ,mostly with motocross bikes. This turned out to be Dave Arnold, Craig Borrows, etc who had converted Grifters and the Puch Murray bikes with Lester metal mags on them – but all painted lime green!
So by now we had good bikes, Mongooses mostly and I had imported some stuff from CYC in California as well – BUT we had no-where to race, we’d never seen a BMX track except in BMX Plus but you couldn’t get a sense of the scale or length. It’s also hard to imagine what is was like getting info back then. Can you kids imagine this? If you want to know about ANYTHING today you can check Wikipedia or watch YouTube, even in depth-how to’s on any sport right at your fingertips. Exciting times though. We would race round the streets just go – pedal, pedal pedal around the houses. Something else I know I will have difficulty getting across is the EXCITEMENT as being there at this time when we didn’t now what was what, even though we weren’t in California or Australia.
It wasn;t just us of course – in 1980 groups all around the country were promoting BMX and looking to build tracks – Malcolm Jarvis, Alan Rushton, Don Smith, Geoff Barraclough, the Scott-Webb’s over in Ipswich, Redditch….
Next up, we spotted in a Lancashire newspaper that a club had formed in Bolton, there was picture of a kid with a bike, anyway we called them super-excited but they had no track….. however they did have some land that the kids rode on. We said OK let’s make a date and we’ll bring out best guys over. Bring it on! OK so we showed up to what was basically an bit of grassed rough land next to a reservoir. They didn’t even have bikes, apart from the odd Grifter. We set to with shovels to build a jump and layed MX track marking tape that my dad had on a roll to mark the track out. The track basically just ran along the the reservoir, down the side, right over this jump we built, then that was the finish. We had no permission from the council, no insurance, no nothing, I am sure anyone who has tried to get a track going and dealt with the local authorities will laugh out loud at this. By now we had got some Redline bikes or frames from Gecko who also did Kuwahara so the good stuff was going into the UK. From the photos the riders present were pretty much what became our original Alans team: myself, Dave Arnold, Mike Chilvers, Mark Scully, Fenwick Carr, Stu Carr (not related), Craig Borrows and possibly some of the younger guys Andy Parr, etc. Mike Pardon was there but he hadn’t got a bike yet! Even though it was just a mess about everyone was serious like is was the real deal which I guess it was in a way.
Fun times ahead!
The photos attached – apart from the odd one or two that I previously posted on Facebook have never been seen or published before.
“It’s a Sinch for Lynch” – Tom Lynch MBE
Lets get that interview Sinchy – What do you want to say to the UKBMX History fans
Ok ok ok ok, interview? Always a strange thing, said I don’t do interviews way back to Paul Roberts for Dig but I had just bent my forks jumping the snake at Rom! Interviews are cool but this time I will try and get a few names in, apologies if left out, would be impossible to get you all in, if you need a name then contact the oracle Carole Gosling. So lets just we fill the void until Marchy and Ruffs key the words anyway?
So from the start more than 30 years later you have me reminiscing, what would the old school want to know? Ok……. spoke to the agent and the sponsors are happy to roll so back on the payroll, full factory deal!
The classroom window has been swapped with the commuting train, picturing the perfect race, again and again. Still got the snap but people looking at me a bit strange nowadays. Visualization always wins, don’t you know I am a bmxer? Can still pull a 360 on the flat, rollbacks and curb endos…. you with me yet?
Difficult to get across what BMX is unless you live it, dream it, hate it or loved it. It is a lifestyle right here and always has been a bit ‘rock and roll bmx rock star’ no matter how good you are. When the gate drops it can be all yours. We have shared the common interest, the fun, the progression, the challenges, success, failure, friendships, experiences, the pain, bit more pain, learning, growing, riding the ‘whoop de doos’, tabletops and berms at supersonic speeds, watching the powder puffs (Duffy,Vauvelle, Holmes, Murphy, Nichols, Wright, Madden even my sister got squirly) and making sense of the 4130, 44/ 16, 20″ bullet proof wonder.
To be a successful bmx athlete you have to become a product of many, especially in the early days as it was still evolving, learning all the time from mimicking those who you aspire to Tim and Andy (early days Cav Strutt in the mags/ Carl Alford JMC before he quit & came back / Daryl Gibbard factory Kuwahara look/ Keith Wilson jumping in the mags, later Shooter/ Clayton/ Holmes and then finding your own path with what you have or how you are going to lay it down. You could of course not copy anyone but as a child you need role models as natural ability can only take you so far, anyway bmx was about heroes, no play station yet or internet.
Scotland 1977 to 80 brothers Raleigh Chipper, Chopper (from the school of hard knocks when mart/ ged took me on my first ride), sisters Raleigh Eighteen with a cello taped wooden cross bar added to bars, mums shopping bike, big air and wheelies! The bikes did not last long and my skateboard did not work on mud. Fan of motorcycle Speedway, Trials (Kickstart) and Motocross (lucky to have a few motorbikes to rip it up). BMX not known yet to me until Trials and Motocross news warms up to it and then Boom! Local newsagent imported: BMX Plus and Action in 1980.
London England Bike 81 Earls Court Exhibition first sighting of a BMXer, Stompin Stu Thompson practicing (signed photo later) and then discovered BMX was here! You could actually race a moto cross bike without and engine! Next you will be telling me phones will have no cables and you can communicate with people if you have a computer! Although the first satellite phone I seen was one Marchy had. Anyway, the most factory of factory teams of Alan Woods was there and Jane Windle of Hotshot who would a few years later be my sponsor and my surrogate family with her brother Steve and mother and father, thank you. They all gave a great deal to the sport, Merrys at Hotwheels also. House of Escalus – House of Capulet – House of Montague whos who? Let me know, just for fun.
BMX ing immediately with my school friend Hugh on our Team Murrays, over the bars with the coaster brake we go on first curb jump, got talent spotted by the Lambert family (bmx pioneers) whilst messing about practicing jumps, getting air (seen in the mags) with my friends which I often think of as the soul of BMX when we all do this. This was on my Kuwahara KZ with my Bill Walters Leathers on and z rims that gave me and invincible feeling. Ring gnarly MK BMX (Bleakhall & later Club Rays Radicals with Wycome, Kirby, Titmus, Keachy, Driver & Linslade Locals Godfreys, Richards, Blundens on so on). That was next to the speedway track and then the new one at Pineham. I was racing by 1982 until 1994.
Made a coaching comeback to establish a BMX coaching environment, 1999 to 2002 or thereabouts training Liam Phillips and Shanaze Reade now Olympians and World Champions (Charlie P, Mapps, Fry, Clayton & others). Made possible by Uncle Buck, Carole Gosling, Pete Phillips, Keith Duly (KOD), Kona Lisa, Rich Townsend, Bernie Mapp and Blooms as were all integral to the training camps of Team GB BMX Junior Squad, groundbraking.
Factory of mum and dad (quote from Chris Carter) and friends mum and dads. It was a community and still is. So from 83 onwards – Patterson, Redline, Ame, Vans, Uni (Hotshot, apologies on leaving), Mothers Pride (Bakery/ Dad), Robinson (apologies on leaving, Hoffman was a visionary), SCP (Scott Clark Products), ASR (apologies on leaving), Haro, ELF, Kovachi, Harrods (that’s right Harrods), Nike, URP (signature plate, still on royalties years later, thanks to the Hassells for the opportunity and a cool plate with name on it), AGV (signature helmets), Uvex (shades/ facemask), Jive (coolest plates) then Med (french), and SE Racing as a comeback coach (Shiner, what an emporium, was still finding things years later that had come my way back in the 80’s on Haro for example gold ripper in the box!). Bikes dialed in by Edwardes, Clive Gosling, pedigree cycling family as in when the bicycle was invented and bmx guru/ trivia. He started to build them and trick them out from Campag hubs, super tight wheels, cutting my bars down to specialist one off rims. Even took off my Unit seat and tried clips! A great deal owed to those who invested in me and Edwardes (Carole BMX Legend and in other spheres of life). Always sad when leaving sponsors as the journeys were good but you have to move on.
Results (Results all between 82 to 94 from what I remember) / achievements
Missed a moto at Reddich once, never missed a moto again as It was long chase to the finish line and the look on Lamberts (Brian) face. Immediate regional no 1’s (south east/ east anglia), I remember the London boys seeing my no1 se plate and having a laugh, they stopped laughing on the first moto. About 6 national no 1’s (nbmxa/ ukbmx/ gbbmx/ eba) including Superclass then British Champion and champion of champions twice. Most wins Kellogs Track Wars TV series (Holmes drafted in as a younger expert, working my way through the pack and clipped him on his 1 & 3/8ths and I went down).
European Champion (Spain – we ruled with Howells, Ray, Hayes, Nichols, Gill, Gilmore etc), European challenge cup (Holland), Ireland Invitation win, final round of superclass European Championships tour win (Germany), final round of superclass European championships tour second (Belgium), final round of superclass European championships tour 3rd (Switzerland) which led to overall 5th, 7th and ? in European superclass (elite) respectively. Final round of superclass European champions tour top 16 (Denmark & Italy). Paris Bercy BI-Cross invitation, unsure results. There is a pic of me racing Stompin Stu Thompson but I am informed it may be practice, the original Joe Kid on a Stingray, but remember brake checking Todd Corbitt and hitting the dirt with Gary Ellis. Finally raced the pros if so!18, 000 spectators was awesome.
Coupe du monde des nations masters with Holmes and Gosling (France). Pre Worlds win, World no 3 (UK), Pre Worlds 2nd, World no 5 (USA), world top 16 (France), world top 16 (Holland) all Superclass and World Team trophy winner (IBMXF/ Canada). Disappointed I missed Japan & Australia.
Lots of winter series, notable: Tours/ Toulose Indoor Opens results ? (then to the Alps early snowboarding with my bro and Stobart).
EBA riders rep with Clive and IBMXF riders rep.
Year 2000 and 2001 – ’20th Century Hero’ Ride BMX Magazine, European ‘Hall of Fame Pioneer’ Member of the University of BMX (many other talented riders also). Most Excellent Order of the British Empire Honor (MBE) for services to bicycle moto cross racing, coaching and ambulance service cycling.
Riders Oaths IBMXF presented the USA with the opening of the Worlds and also France.
‘Its a sinch for lynch’ motto now earned, emblazoned on back of race pants (created by Sarah Jane Nichols dad).
We will have to leave the old school bmx adventures where they are, let’s just say Epic and Legendary would begin to make a start.
Game changing influence
(Other than Marchy, Ruffell, Shooter, Schofield, Middleton, Vince, Salisbury etc …. watching the UK pros was so exciting and I wanted to be one as soon as I could). Let us not forget Geth and Charlie jumping the Dollies in 84, took us all up to another level.
1. Las Vegas in 84 (Worlds USBA) and meeting the Patterson bros Brian/ Brent and then later Richie ‘avalanche’ Anderson whilst riding for Patterson (courtesy of Hotshot as if you became national no1, you were going stateside, of which I am thankful, hanging with Windles and Robbie Morales). Pedal pedal everywhere, more into corners/ out, down the back of jumps and aggression. Found some jungle print slip on vans which were ‘to cool for school’ and met Mr Van Doren around this time RIP.
2. Meeting Greg Hill around same time and the impact of Greg Hills Professional BMX Skills book on me (signed copy by all the pros). Read that book every day and even ordered the hackey sack.
3. Meeting Bob Haro around same time, mastered the kickturn from trick tips, the smoothest kickturn, godfather of freestyle, what an inspiring fellow, later raced for Haro and met him again at 2012 Olympics – Legend, still on it.
4. Racing with Mike King when he was 15 expert on Huffy and then Superclass on Haro, what a competitor, so stylish and led the clips movement much later. Best wishes to Eddy, his bikes were my style, so expert.
5. Practicing with Harry Leary (Kelloggs. Third win on how to take last doubles at an angle) and later on in years with Scott Clark whilst on Robinson. Legends. The ‘leary’ one of my favourite jumps equal with the ‘tabletop’, classics.
Who did you look up to in BMX
My early role models and heroes inspired my bmx career and evoked development of new skills and attitudes. I learned from all of them. In addition the continuous study of bmx racing by watching others and knowing/ assessing the terrain (motocross) assisted in the consolidation and improvement.
Early eighties superstar pioneers (between 1982 to 86): 1. Tim March – essence of pure moto-cross and dirt jumping – lateral thinking (few stories there and thank you). 2. Andy Ruffell – all round bmxer inc freestyle and great media personality – professionalism. 3. Geth Shooter – breaking racing boundaries and urban riding – non conforming. 4. John Stockwell – application of mental attitude through training, coaching and in competition – dedication and self-discipline. 5. Dave Dawson (and his Dad Pete team manager who signed me up) – leading teams to success and team support as they led the hotshot teams – team ethics.
Additional: Craig Schofield, holeshot king (picked me up from a # collar bone stack 2005 reunion), nothing like what a little Dr Pepper can’t cure (see what I did there) and Sarah-Jane Nichols – steely determination and domination in the girls. Euro – Phil Hoogendoorn, Claude Vuillemot, Xavier Redois. USA – Patterson bros Brent/ Brian, Ritchie ‘avalanche’ Anderson, Bob Haro, Mike King and Stompin Stu Thompson. Had the pleasure of meeting all of these stars! The photos from the pages of BMX Action, BMX Plus lined my walls! Still got some mags as well as paper bmx weekly, obmx and action bike etc. I am on a roll, digging out the memorabilia as we speak. Most Factory inspiration: Clive Gosling and Darren Wood (Matt Boyle, David Maw RIP needs to be mentioned, even though younger so cool).
Also Barford, Hearne, Paul Wright, Ready, Noble, Stupple, Higginson, Baggs, Archibald, David Wright – adventurer, Staff – power, Sir Chris Hoy also younger but always wore the Scottish flag and I the union jack as even though I am Scottish I raced and qualified in England. Guys like these make it happen.
You came through the ranks in a deep talented age group. Who were some of your rivals growing up
They don’t know this yet but I trained to beat all of them one by one. Yes….. training/ study set aside to concentrate on them individually 13 through 15 expert (Diggins, Wood, Print, Alexander, Godfrey, Haynes, Hayes, Stobart, Gosling, Watkins, Craig Campbell, Morris, Ramsden, Parkinson, Bass, Andy (maximum rider), Grice, Greaves, Hill, Freeman, Gaunt, Stock, Wallace, Roberts etc few motos right there) and that of any up and coming and then same application when I jumped to Superclass. Not all of them needed the full drill mind you. My father Tom Lynch snr was athletic and had boxed and all the training that goes with it including a psychological approach (just watch early Rocky films and you should get it, if you do not then the edge will not be yours).
When did you realize you could win
Already new it but with self-discipline and dedication it becomes a reality and with support from family as home/ travel support team it was then achievable (thank you to them, especially my sister). My father asked me how far I wanted to go with it, we then agreed the terms: train hard, show good sportsmanship and always win. Three to four years to peak, then do something else. That’s it.
What did you do for training
Snr worked nights, he was my alarm clock when he came home as all training was done before school (kept this up when I left), after a time it was 5am starts, lonely? …. yes, but you get the edge on all of your competitors, whatever the weather as they were not doing it or at least as much as me. There is another deep psychological lesson within this part of the journey that stays with me. This was an unprecedented accelerator.
Aims, goals and a strategy to dominate was created and executed. Later used in life.
After school dirt jumping and at one with bicycle i.e. freestyle/ tricks. Won a King of Dirt once, had a quarterpipe, trick ramp and start gate in back garden. You have to breathe it, right?
4 days a week then 2 days track practicing or actual racing.
Training based on duration of 3 race lengths and a full race day of all motos (not all possible before school/ supported with nutritional plan but loved Kellogs cornflakes to start the day and a Schweppes lemonade for refreshment (see what I did there):
Roughly and basic:
Stretching/ some warming up to 20 min
Running up to 20 min
Sprinting on foot 30m x 10
Punch bag work out and then 100 punches each arm harder than the last to finish up.
Weights 3 sets of lots of reps (squats/ dead lifts) dumbbells/ big bar
Hand grip weights
Sit up bench/ press ups inc one hand, all to death
Starts and or sprints on bike 50m, bleeding thumbs from rubbing before grip donuts!
Lunch of Heinz selection of soups, a really tasty and filling lunch you can have any time of the day (see what I did there).
All the training probably not good for me at 13yrs old! Oh my bones now, still strong with explosive power through the city streets.
1. On road – 10 miles (alternate days of 6) of country roads, sprint up hills and sprint on flat until spinning out (or resistance of rear brake? Lots of koolstop) for 1 minute
2. Off road – secret forest training ground: big casams, big downhills then started digging (Stockgrove).
All with absolute focus on one thing. You see there was no second place in the mind at this point. Training was harder than racing but presented a state of calm on race day even if after a bad start. Mental picturing the win always wins. Other mentors other than my father: mr Murray, mr Stobart, mr Chuck Robinson and Rocky what? It don’t supercharge you? Da da da, da da da, da da d d d da, or if you get to watch Wayne Llewellyn or Simon Hayes (yes Oscar winner) in their respective disciplines,
Dinner time, thanks to Pizza Hut and Pepsi, a great combination to enjoy with your buddies (you know what I did there). Thanks to Marcus Rich, Scott and Tim pizza hut film.
Then always prep the night before the night before (Will – Dig).
Change in training
Moved to central London (87/ 88), near the Christies, no forests or country roads, this was a setback. Training took a big hit. Although had the London boys Clive/ Woody, Winnie RIP, Stockwell, Indri RIP, Reynolds, CK Flash, Mark Seaman, Jason K etc introduce me to southbank, rom skatepark, brockwell, peckham, westway, meanwhile, stockwell/ brixton (had to start wearing wrist guards as getting way to much air from big transfers) and go more regular to hounslow, hayes, slough. Joined the legendary Hillingdon Hawks! We even rode with freestyle guys, Phil Dolan and his crew, Neil Ruffell rip, Leachy etc at Rom and street riding and some of the flatland. Knocking about with Winnie at Notting Hill at his new flat round the corner was great, used to see his bro Billy here and there, got a movie with Winnie and Indri also riding at New Cross bowls somewhere. Steve Bardens who I would later share a flat with several times got it on film, also Clive Manfred, Rob, Pollard and some other rad dudes. Then a lil tea break at Clives mum Carole and nan Doris and a look in his sticker box but just a look.
Who did you ride and train with at home
Several guest visitors John Stockwell (ex superclass no1 and mentor), Daz Oneil – he man (training before sunrise), will Smyth Dig (big big air), local friend Mark (Tot) time keeper on all road rides – he was my secret weapon as he did not go to the races (thankful to him), Paul (Erky) RIP for pushing the limits to the max, I mean the max.
You looked so clean riding for Robinson then onto ASR you were riding for such high profile teams at the time
Yeah 86, felt pretty factory (undisclosed transfer fees, signature plates/ team bus, lil fan club, media team, full support crew, no expense spared) and at my peak, euro final win 3 wks before worlds, pre worlds win week before worlds then switched teams before worlds when all the uk pro stuff was going on. Should have stayed put and maintained the balance (apologies to Hoffman, such a visionary, don’t know what happened there). The looking clean bit was to always be out in front and to bunnyhop the puddles in the motos. Anyone notice me crash a lot in practice sometimes, pushing the limits, see how far those tyres can go in a corner? Like a wakeup call, once out of the way by tasting the dirt I could perform a bit better and maybe wear a fresh uniform (fresh and white thanks to sponsors Persil bio and my mother who really took care of my stuff).
You turned Superclass at 16 and went straight to number one
Yeah from 15 expert to Superclass, was hungry for it in 1985 after euro win. Spoiled maloneys comeback at buckmore park (sorry about that) when I was still in the 15x year (first superclass race as now 16yrs old) but now was getting paid. Was on a roll and on tour for over 6 years. No mainstream job until 1991. What a blast!
Might of intentionally came from the back also now and then, as you have to practice working through the field for when you really need it. At this point only wore a helmet whilst racing, looking back pretty dangerous as we were trying some new stuff on the dirt jumping front. Not wearing pads and actually cutting any pads out of uniform enabled me to be unrestricted.
You even won the European Championships finals in Germany against the Dutch Army (Amev Team)
What an outfit, led by Gerrit Does the Godfather of Europe. I so wanted to be on that team. I had been chasing them all year round Europe or rather bouncing off them! Will upload the race at some point, it was near perfect. One year on from my European championship win in 15 expert. If you were in the pack with Amev you would not survive (even before Bas De Bever/ Does etc).
Did you feel even so young you could beat them
As I said 2nd place does not exist and still does not.
1986 World Championships Superclass Slough England. So close with a 3rd. Tell us about that race
What people maybe do not know is that I had been on tour racing all the same competitors in this class and had beaten them all and was on top of my game at this point. So disappointed with the 3rd, watch the race on the links. I knew this was my peak three years on from the agreement with my father. Was hard to stay in the zone, TV crews, magazines, home crowd, on a new team and concerned about the UK Pros and what impact this would have.
Third was not in the plan. Some big hitters in the race including x world champion and a lot of the Amev team. Stock and Fleming also who have always supported me and have been great fellow competitors.
Gate was ok, got busy over first jump, could have got a pedal stroke, and again in first corner, to deep before table top, just clipped lip, could have pedaled more down the back going in to second turn and took addie van de ven up but as I said you bounce of them, had the pro section dialed so knew this was where I would take him and Phil Hoogendoorn (existing world champ). My thoughts, Amev knew my lines, they were so professional. I had a perfect line to rail, Addie van de Ven got in my way and actually slowed me down, he slowed down, I can remember pulling my brake and still pedaling, jumped when maybe I should have manualed last jumps but I could get more power down sooner, needed a longer last straight and I would have got it. Needed 10 to 20 meters.
Met Steve Pollard as fan when it was over, he asked to have a go on my bike as I was debriefing with John Stockwell, good friends and founder of the LRP (London Rokit People).
With a Superclass class and Pro Class both run in the UK at the same time.86/87 You never really went against Tim March , Andy Ruffell and the early 80s UK Stars. Seemed like Andy Welsh / Darren Stock , Winnie Wright were your early Superclass rivals. What was your take on the class the first few years and not getting to race the Pros
Kept away from me in practice which was always funny, mind you when you are top of your game everyone wants to take you out even in practice or even a moto as I found several times. So don’t blame them not that I would have taken any out more just let them know I am coming. Fear is a choice.
Looked up to the pro class very much as I knew I would join them. The demise of the pro class propelled me to the top of UKBMX as the N01 Superclass rider. From jumping over Eddie Kid in Covent Garden to launch UKBMX season sponsorship to becoming riders representative nationally and internationally with IBMXF. Superclass would later become Elite which is Pro. Thanks goes to the early pro stars, they gave us a great start and sacrificed a great deal to establish the sport.
Disappointed that did not get to race the legends of the pros but on reflection they went out with integrity and at the top of their game. Ruffell finished with a win at NBMXA later. Unsure how else it could have been. It would have been a shame to have taken them on when I was at the top of my game. Maybe I should have turned pro at 16 and not Superclass? 15 expert to pro?
Superclass was tough as was still up an expert age group or two or three by the time my 15 x caught up, Darrin Stock, legend Winston Wright, Riviere bros, so many others and later Andy Welsh (he was younger and strong, later it would be Wood, Holmes, Revs and Sharp). What was tough was UKBMX making us tour the UK to reinvigorate local scene BMX racing for our rankings, great idea though. Maybe I will talk more on Superclass another time including the international scene if people like what they read. It felt good winning and retaining the crown for a number of years and representing Team GB overseas.
Tactically I think just being a pro gives you a 15 percent uplift on speed, some pros technically and on skill level were maybe not so good but they were strong and experienced. When the pros were allowed to race back in superclass (some of them chose to), I hit them hard and still retained no 1 for a while I am sure. Although hitting them hard physically meant hitting like a brick wall (Charlie Reynolds).
Shooter paced himself back in to the game I think I can even remember in Denmark Euros he was protecting my position and I am sure Fleming did also at some point. Legends.
What about the organization
All the organisers made it happen for all of us and kept it going, Carole Gosling, Sue Jarvis, Bridget Hayes (Simons mother), Cynthia, Val, Mary Iddiols, Vince, Amanda Dowson, Babs, all the finish ladies Maureen, Mandy, June, commentators Irish Tom, Paddy Duly, John, starters Vic, Sonny Ives, Refs / Officials / Board members Stormin Norman, Murphy, Spur, Bags, Beasley and Mr Woods etc. Sorry if I missed any, very much appreciated and you maybe don’t appreciate it at the time.
You do not stay champion forever in any game even though the spirit is, maybe I will go over this for part at a later date and how we race makes each generation better with continual progression. Things changed with the new breed – Minozzi, Bas de Bever, Neal Wood, Dale Holmes, Jamie Staff then Christophe Leveque / Dylan Clayton in different relationship to the track and bikes, gearing other than 44/ 16 and 180 mm cranks.
The agony of defeat versus the enjoyment of racing and getting together with your friends? Difficult one for a champion as there are certain pressures and responsibilities that come or had come with it. Then the LRP formed and so did our Bicycles & Dirt BMX Club: carl, steve b, steve p, keith, rob, marcus, beckett, s boyle, jon b, ross hill rip, steve bell, Manfred Stromberg, Oliver etc and even the ‘condor’ Matt Hoffman.
A career had to be chosen as there was a BMX slowdown, this affected ones performance also especially with shiftwork and study in the ambulance service, over 20yrs now.
I was with the LRP at an event racing when at 12 yrs in competing I decided before a first moto at a national that I did not want to do it anymore and asked my buddy Jon e Becket to get me out of here.
I was at a track that I won a national there previously from last to first place and now I was at a race just making up the numbers, might do well, might not, but having such a cool time over the whole weekend just having fun. Had to work all that out, so we had a great big breakfast somewhere, which I never have on race day. Didn’t work it all out just had a better understanding of the need to retire would have to be very soon. Did not make a big deal about retiring, no glory in that and always like to leave the party while its still rocking anyway.
Backyard Jams followed which were awesome and it was great just cutting loose on the jumps with the Bexhill, Mad Dog, Gosling, McCoy, Duly, Fuzzy, Cylmer and many others. I just loved getting rad and actually loved it more when everyone had left and we were still jumping, was even better even with a fractured ankle until it would not bend anymore.
Played with MTB a bit downhill/ duel, mainly PORC (love that place), was I going to commit to that and get serious? Would have to actually not do it as was still so competitive, but not my thing anyway, not accurate enough as the tyres and suspension allowed mistakes. The MTB guys did not like so much the BMX guys coming over for downhill duel/ 4 cross etc but Hemming was cool and still is . In fact the MTB was pretty easy (except for cross country) as the bmx attitudes to it were of a killer instinct, full contact and explosive power. Those guys did not know what hit them.
Went stateside quite a lot as my brothers had moved there, Martin was hanging around with Dave Mirra (Pro Town Greenville) and my nephew was riding his private ramps. Was good to meet those pros especially in a place you could ride all year round.
25th Year Anniversary in 2005 was a reunion race. I had to train for it and get my bottle (courage) back so headed to PORC for trails and downhill. The MTB dudes were laughing at the BMX guy with all the JT gear including body armour and belt, pure moto cross (long term loan from Bardens), after first run then they stopped. Took a supply of tubes for blowouts which were many and full rescue kit. The tubes worked out as the jumps were gigantic but got the flow after a few, however the medical kit got used on some kid, he was from Russia and also on his own. I told him whilst eyeing up the biggest doubles in the trail section, if I went down go and get some help. I did as the jumps were not like the 80’s as I found out hitting the massive lip at full speed, pain returned, bottle back, no fear, ready. He had flown another section and found him unconscious under a bush, don’t worry he survived but it was a long drag up from the quarry.
Flying on race day, full on Factory Patterson gear (from Brian), great to see the old school, lil kid appears in the step up on my approach, I bailed, broken collar bone. Five years of ops, titanium plates/ bolts etc. Remind me to make no comebacks, just to get it straight this was not a comeback, great support from the old school though, thank you. Good to see them and follow those that are still racing today (Print, Alexander, Stockwell etc).
Thought about bmx a great deal at this time and located some of my old hardware, out of nowhere a boy who I gave a bike to over 20 yrs before gave me a call, he said its ready. Steve Keech boy to man (well he was a man when we were still boys) had re-chromed my old PR200 Patterson frame, won the euros on it. He gave it to me via my old coach Brian (Lambert) and Jamie, and in true form Clive built it from the parts I had and the bits from my lil secret stash of SE stuff and my Ripper. It is up on the wall and it is very cool (brand new from box old school DX from Carl, Uni Seat from Woody). I have now unpacked the bmx archives and it is like an 80’s Christmas. That old school show and shine formation is incredible, so accurate, keeps it alive, so anorak, love it.
BMX helped you in other things
The BMX experience and Carole helped me to formulate some new ideas BMX Medic (ambulance cycle response innovated and created) & BMX Coaching, really had to make a career choice (2010) but was able to establish an early sustainable coaching environment with British Cycling. Where the likes of Townsend, Staff, Blooms, Clayton, Stockwell, Holmes, Vince etc took it up.
On the ambulance cycle response in London, everyone thought I was joking and had a little laugh, could talk all day about it but I will leave you with two things. 1. Can I ride a bike really fast? You know, of course its going to work i am a bmxer. 2. People are alive that would have died. The other day one of my team members resuscitates and shocks the heart of a 26 year old female who had a cardiac arrest on Oxford St central London, she goes back to work soon and will enjoy a full life.
Career choice….. the right one? More tea and medals all round?
Would have loved to been with our Olympians but was there in person with the guys and in spirit on the track. Did I say mentioned Bob?
What does BMX mean to you
Maybe end then on the ‘true meaning of bmx’ I did see the Murray boys do a back flip in races (Indri memorial) and it reminded me of why I started BMX, it was so rad, maybe inappropriate but radical, no rules, non-compliant just free spirit. I raised a poll on BMX Talk about this 3 and it had some good discussion (check out my other posts on bmx talk about Tim & Andy and the Olympics). Murray, to see him fly….. so impressed by his riding and his achievements as well as ruling the X Games (lil boy from powder monkey) saddened by his accident impressed by the Staystrong (nice one marco) movement and his resilience, we all think of him and his family. Staystrong.
BMX in the Olympics
A dream come true, would have loved to have been on that platform, to be an Olympian has got to be the highest accolade. I hope that all of us done something to assist in laying the foundations to this ultimate achievement and that Shaneze and; Liam bring home the gold and that others follow. It was great to catch up with the old school pros at the 2012 Worlds. As Clive said it was like 1984 in the VIP box (hosted by Jeff Dovey).
So full circle riding BMX with friends to riding BMX with friends, with a bit of racing in-between. Would do it all again as long as I could re race the 86 worlds!
EBA Poole 89
Slough Worlds 86
Slough Worlds 86
We asked a number of riders from the 80’s: When you first got into BMX Racing, what British riders inspired you that you looked up to or even those that you would consider your heroes?
David Wylie / Team Diamond Back (anyone remember him?) Was about best in the country my first year 1980. I first raced him at Bradford track in a National. I was on my Mongoose 2 with Tuff wheels. He just beat me and that was my inspiration to get my ass into gear! Then, Andy Oldham was a star in my age group and again the next guy to beat, but of course, the heroes were; Andy Ruffell & Tim March. Overseas, were both Greg Hill and Bob Haro just to name a couple.
My first race ever at Chorley 83, Damian Myles on Hutch with Red Echo full-face, his style and look was straight out of the USA.Tim March, his size style and status was everything to me, he was my hero lol.
Geth Shooter, without a doubt after the second Kellogg’s and Bercy. But all the Americans at the first Kellogg’s. Learning to gate with Richie Anderson and Brian Patterson at Cocksmoor… That’s what got me my snap and changed my racing game totally…
Tony Slater, his style of riding combined with the Redline bike in perfect condition, and the new Redline strip was a perfect combination for me. Mark White with the shear determination to battle on regardless of injury. And, for the US riders, Harry Leary and the Patterson brothers.
This is not Quick… Ok, my early role models and heroes inspired my bmx career and evoked development of new skills and attitudes. I learned from all of them. In addition the continuous study of bmx racing by watching others and knowing the terrain assisted in the consolidation and improvement. Early eighties superstar pioneers (between 1982 to 86): 1. Tim March – essence of pure moto-cross and dirt jumping – lateral thinking. 2. Andy Ruffell – all round bmxer inc freestyle and great media personality – professionalism. 3. Geth Shooter – breaking racing boundaries and urban riding – non conforming. 4. John Stockwell – application of mental attitude through training, coaching and in competition – dedication and self discipline. 5. Dave Dawson (and his Dad Pete team manager) – leading teams to success and team support as they led the hotshot teams – team ethic. That is my first thoughts and Sarah-Jane Nicholls – steely determination and domination in the girls. Euro – Phil Hoogendoorn, Xavier Redois, Claude Vuillemot.USA – Patterson bros Brent/ Brian, Ritchie ‘avalanche’ Anderson, Bob Haro, Mike King and Stompin Stu Thompson. Had the pleasure of meeting all of these heroes! The photos from the pages of BMX Action, BMX Plus lined my walls! Still got some mags as well as paper bmx weekly, obmx and action bike etc. I am on a roll, digging out the memorabilia as we speak. Most Factory inspiration: Clive Gosling and Darren Wood. I could go on but that’s enough for now.
Andy Ruffell. My Robinson team boss, Alan Woods and Tony Holland.
Crikey, it’s such a long time ago, I actually think Andy Ruffell was my British Hero, he was the God of Bmx in those really early years.
I didn’t really want to inspire to be like any of the girls racing in the very early days I was just very determined to beat them.
I didn’t have any of the norm hero’s …. Stu …. Greg … Ect ….. The 1st person I was in awe of was Carl Alford … He had 2 bikes at Bournemouth .. But I would say … Jay Hardy …. Malcolm Stapleton … Cav Strutt and Andy … But Tim was the main man in my eye’s.
Ummmm,bloody hell that’s so long ago ….. I always really liked Tom Lynch he was good all round Tim March was way ahead of everyone at my time. Sarah Jane Nichols was unbeatable, I just liked watching winners really, the ones who had that bit extra need to win at all cost. I suppose being from Cornwall and only reading about the big names in my age group like Danny Stabielli who was European Champion at the time and seeing him at Pontins in 83 in the pissing rain stood in a full length leather jacket with his dad holding an umbrella over his head was a moment I thought Jesus, that guy’s cool and he was fast and had style. I was doing 1 pedal starts on my cheap, unbranded bike in my plastic raincoat. Oh, I won my plastic coat … Never got a full length leather jacket though.
Steve Gratton. He was a big inspiration for me and a really cool rider.
Had to think about this, as I started riding in the 80’s with my first race in January 81′. So, I was in at the start of the UK scene. I met Andy Ruffell in 81′ and we became good friends (And, still are some 32 years later). I looked up to Pete Middleton and Tim March always gave me good advice and had my back at Mongoose. I respected these guys a lot but the honest truth was I wanted to beat them and I think I had an inflated opinion of myself back then so I never thought anyone was better than me. I hope that’s a racer thing that pushed me on ? Or I was I just an ass? !
Andy Ruffell, Scott Barber, Clint Miller.
Jon Greaves, Matt Oakley, Anthony Howells, Louis Mears, David Maw, Tom Lynch, Tim March.
I’ve had a think about this and came up with the usual; Andy and Tim but, actually, I was inspired by riders in my own age group. I started a bit later than most so people like Stu Diggens, Darren Wood and Tim Print were already sponsored riders and I just wanted to be as good as them so that I could get on a factory team. My hero was Richie, The Avalanche Anderson. I know he’s not a Brit but I saw him on TV win the worlds in 82′ I think and the way he rode the doubles with his front wheel in the air pedaling all the way was just brilliant back then. I watched it over and over again.. happy days !
I would say I looked up to Alan Woods, Tim & Andy.
Tim March … John Lee ..
Shooter March Ruffell. Everybody really almost everyone I rode with at the track or skate park. Team mates,everyone always has something u can take try / and learn or just be impressed by : )
Tim March, always controversial, formidable, a giant of a man. One of my early BMX mag favourites, always had a crazy bling bike with the rarest and most unique components…
Andy Ruffell was my first inspiration as I bought that ‘BMX IT’ Don Smith book, which featured Ruffell throughout teaching us how to gate, jump, corner, eat!
I always like the David and Goliath theme between Tim and Andy Ruffell, the gossip, the team Tim or Team Ruffell banter all day between the parents and remember all the bustling crowds staying well into the night just to see the battle between them int he finals… I can’t recall ever a rider like Tim (Love him or hate him).
Two of my most favorite legends!
Riders I looked up to or inspired me, big Tim, Geth, Stu Diggins, Wayne Llewellyn, most of the big factory guys back then.