Today, Damian Myles was laid to rest. Seven bmx’ers lead him out as Guards of Honour, making Damian the 8th rider on the gate with a special Hutch bike and Aero custom Hutch/Mongoose number plate. Carl Hughes, Darren Oakes, Scott Williams, Darren Nelson, Darren Reidy, Simon Bailey, Andy Oldham and John Bentley all led the way on their bikes sporting Damian Myles UKBMX Legend t-shirts along with Damain’s family and friends. Andy Oldham and Darren Nelson were ranked UKBMX National number 2 and 3 in 1983 behind Damian which makes it even more special from the BMXers side and respect to Damain. Thoughts go to all the family and friends and of course, little Ruby. RIP Damian Myles.
I’m sure if you were around in the early to mid 1980’s racing BMX in the UK you would be familiar with the name Damian Myles. Damian’s from the North West of England and rode for Hutch before becoming UKBMX National Champion and getting picked up to ride for the High- Powered, Mongoose Factory Team along the likes of Andy Ruffell, Pete Middleton the Jarvis family and amongst many more of the big names we read about and saw at the Nationals back then. It really was the first BMX Dream Team in BMX Racing, as everyone on the Team was a big name, including Damian. For those of you that have not heard, our friend Damian was diagnosed with cancer not too long ago and it has unfortunately progressed rapidly. We are all saddened to hear his days are limited. Damian was a popular racer back in the day and it’s nice to see how well he remains respected and admired within the BMX community with all of the kind comments on social media today.
Mr. BMX Weekly Arnold Higginson passed away at age 77.
A retired builder, Arnold financed the publication from late 1981 up to 1985. Later becoming BMX Bi-Weekly and taking on a magazine format, it sold over 46,000 copies at its height, and is remembered fondly in Old School BMX circles. It is Arnold’s vision that enabled the recording in pictures and words the start of BMX from within the UK. Arnold was seen at many of the National and Regional race meets with wife Marjorie, and sons Martin, Nigel taking pictures, and Jonathan racing.
Arnold built the wooden start gate and table top at the former Morecambe band arena where the town’s first races were held most Sundays from 1982 on a track made up of car tyres. Arnold approached and persuaded Pontins at Middleton near Morecambe to build a track. That infamous table top then went up to the Pontins race track where the UK Open Championships were held from 1983, and Pontins became home for Andy Preston and Mike Pardon, the BMX Bi-Weekly test team and regulars in the sister magazine, Freestyle BMX.
BMX owes a lot to a lot of people. Arnold Higginson is one of them. His vision helped to create Legends and put the names of racers like Andy Ruffell, Tim March, Alan Woods and Dale Holmes into the homes of many young BMX’ers. RIP Arnold, happy memories.
Written by: Jonathan Higginson
We bring some sad news this week…Darren Page passed away from Cancer. If you remember Darren from the early BMX days in the UK, he was ranked National number 2 and raced for Torker. He competed in the 83′ European’s in Birmingham, the Worlds in Slagharen and was on the podium at the Halfords NEC back in 83′. He battled with the top guys at the time Darren Mill, Darren Nelson, Andy Oldham and Damian Myles. Sad times for sure. Thinking of both Darren and his family…
In the beginning, back in the old days…
Mike was about nine years old making it around about late 1982 when he came home from school one day & asked if he could go BMX racing with the headmaster’s son of a great rider named James Morris. I remember Mike went with James & his dad (John) on a Saturday at the Farnham bmx track (the four lane track) which was by the sports centre for some practice on his old Duster 100 bmx bike & I haven’t forgotten Mike’s expression when he came back from the Farnham track, he was full of it & had a smile on his face from ear to ear & I knew he had a lot of fun, I could tell he was hooked, this made me curious & prompted me to have a look later too.
Mike pestered me to go to the next race that was held at Farnham & I paid for him to become a member of the club so that he could start racing at club level, well I now knew why he was hooked, once I saw what BMX racing was all about, my first impression was ‘wow’ this is a dynamic new sport & I wanted to be part of it from there onwards. Mike started racing at Farnham more frequently it was great little track back in the day & gradually he got more & more confident, this in turn lit the fuse for him to race at other tracks at open race meetings, then regionals meetings (south central/region 9) then ultimately nationals & international events in the years to come…I can remember Mike winning his first trophy back then & he went on to win many more at all levels in his time racing BMX.
We found out after a little while that there were two sanctioning racing bodies UKBMX & NBMXA we tended in the earlier years to race more NB as the geographical area we lived in (south central) had most of the tracks/clubs affiliated to it, after racing many open meetings we ventured onto regional racing level, I think @1984 Mike race a regional race held at the Southampton track by the (docks) this regional was the starting point for me in bmx when I really started to get involved, Mike was in a moto or quarters/semi I think & he was taken out round a berm by a rider who went on to be one of his main rivals his name was Aaron Valente ‘the black shadow’. I remember shouting as you do as a dad & spectator at the track marshal “are you blind, did you not see what happened” I got a somewhat polite reply from the marshal “if you can do any bloody better, do it yourself” – he tossed the red flag at me & walked off the track…from this point onwards I gradually got more & more involved in helping at race meetings be it open & regional events, I got more involved at south central the following year (1985), but for the rest of the ‘84’ season we race as many meetings as we could, I had this overwhelming urge within me to try & make thing better for the riders & their parents.
It was around this time Mike & myself got involved with helping form a new BMX club called ‘Terry’s Tigers’ at Bartley Heath just outside Odiham in Hampshire, I had my own successful business at the time & I offered my help & assistance to other clubs too who needed it, I had my own JCB diggers & tarmac rollers, often I would get request from clubs & people asking if I could help, I was only too willing to help assist where I could, I remember also sponsoring many open races at other clubs & at the time donating money to help with other club’s finances, as some back then were beginning to find it hard to stay afloat, this did worry me as I could see ahead that clubs & even the ‘associations’ were beginning to struggle financially, the sport had just come out of its ‘craze’ period if you like & both UKBMX & NBMXA had healthy riders affiliated to them, but it was only a matter of time before things would start to become harder for the sport to survive & thrive in the longer term, this led to the period in my time in the sport as the ‘politics’ era, one I was never really a fan of but my desire was to help the riders & the sport as a whole grow from strength to strength…..
‘The era of politics’…
I started out in this early period by being elected a regional rep for south central to the national board at NBMXA @ 1986 & very shortly as we raced NB nationals at the time I became a national track marshal & a race referee & eventually sometime later race director….Mike kept on racing while I got on with the running, organising of the racing with other volunteers of the association, I could see though & in particular after the great IBMXF world championships that UKBMX successfully hosted at Slough, that having the two racing associations running races throughout the UK would eventually not work & I could see what was going to happen, there were exploratory talks that I remember both associations had back then @1986 & 1987 & after these discussions were had the aim of one association was still some way off… Mike & I didn’t just always race NBMXA, he did want to race UKBMX nationals also, although I wasn’t involved with UKBMX at the time I did enjoy going racing with Mike at these events as I didn’t have to officiate etc. the quality & calibre of riders in Mike’s age group (Jamie Staff, Lee Pickstone, Joe Eastwood to name a few) was of the highest standard at UKBMX races, Mike though found the UK the harder of the two to compete in, NB had quantity with great riders but UK had the best riders & it was more intense for him of the two to compete in, well that’s Mike’s view any way! To be honest both associations had great riders of who most of would race both associations events when they didn’t clash as they mostly tended to do, this was the ‘politics’ which I hated & detested at the best of times, this only strengthen my resolve & desire to see ‘one association’ in the UK happen soon, I could also see the same problem happening at international level with IBMXF & FIAC as I believed having two champions be it at national, international & world level devalued the true meaning of the word ‘champion’ as there was always another who could claim they were ‘champion’ too.
1988, the ‘BB’ era…
After another year in which both associations again failed to come together as ‘one’, NBMXA ceased & adopted the name as ‘BBMXA’ this believe it or not was what the new amalgamated association was going to be called, I was by now elected the BBMXA chairman, I was bitterly disappointed that the dream of one sanctioning body wasn’t going to happen, I felt for all the riders from both associations & to be fair UKBMX has their reasons for not joining at this particular time, it was though however still in the back of my mind & my overall goal before the year was out to get all involved again from UK & BB back round the negotiating table in the hope that that dream could finally be realised… 1988 was not a good year for both associations, both financially & participation numbers were down drastically from the heady days from 1984-1987, especially the 86/87 seasons UK & NB rider counts were up in the 1000-1100 on average but in 88 we were not getting more than 500-600 if we were lucky, pro racing ceased at BBMXA after the last national – (prize money drastically cut up until last national) as we could no longer afford to pay the prize money as an association & there was not a major backer that sponsored the national series. Both associations were finding the finances hard to come by, this was a problem that needed to be sorted & quickly, as the BBMXA chairman at the time I made contact with the BCF (British Cycling Federation) at the time to see if they could help with funding or help with finding sponsorship for the national series only to be told by BCF that ‘BMX was not a cycling sport’ & had little following in the cycling world! I was told by the BCF if I needed to get funding for the national series I was to apply for funding through the Sports Council & not the BCF this I did & to my astonishment the BCF gave their presentation for cycling before I went in to do mine for BMX racing, we were awarded a small funding grant to help initially but to my amazement the Sports Council could not understand why the BCF did not help our sport with a grant from themselves, they informed me that they had given a substantial amount to them & were amazed that we had received no support from them what so ever! I was told though that in future the Sports Council would only support one sanctioning body for BMX racing in the UK & that the BCF would be expected to help support the sport of BMX if there was one association.
I informed the BBMXA national board that I had begun new exploratory talks with UKBMX about the feasibility of forming one association again on the feedback I had just received from the Sports Council & the BCF. I held talks with Paul Spur the chairman of UKBMX, Carole Gosling & Terry Beasley all great people who I had lot time & respect for, we were all of the same belief & understanding that for the sport to flourish & grow again we needed to settle our ‘organisations’ differences to come together as one BMX association, discussions I had with Paul, Carole & Terry from UKBMX was encouraging & positive, finally I believed we had made significant inroads in to settling our differences & hopefully once the ‘issues’ were ironed out by all sides then it could be put to vote by the national boards/clubs & riders, at last I believed we were finally getting somewhere, I reported back to the BBMXA board on the progress but some in BBMXA did not want it to happen at any cost while just paying lips service to the cause, we were met with lots of anti-feelings & diehards who wanted to promote their own agendas, I vividly recall one board meeting that lasted 15 hours & even in this meeting we were still not where we wanted to be!!
But before that could happen there was one last great race that we were to witness before the 1988 season was out & that was the last ever British Championships held at the Derby greyhound stadium, this was the biggest ever attended I believe nearly 1300+ riders. My vivid memory of that weekend was of a gifted talented rider called Dale Holmes, he was already achieving great feats at a young age but this remarkable guy did the triple winning 3 classes in the same day I think he won his expert class, cruiser class & superclass finals (racing former top pros) who also raced here & to be honest Dale made everyone look silly, this stands out as one of the great feats of riding I have seen anyone achieve in racing in the UK (Mike did remind me again what classes Dale won in, it was a long time ago!!)
EBA…‘One Goal, One Vision’…One Association
After nearly two years of on-off discussions in late 1988, we finally managed to achieve our goal, not just my goal & dream if you like but that also of Paul, Carole & Terry, we shared that ‘One Vision’ in my view, one of which I am extremely proud of even to this day, *UKBMX & BBMXA agreed to join together to form EBA for 1989*, I was joint chairman with Paul & I remember the first national that EBA held which was at the Alvaston track in Derby, there was 1200 riders at this event & although there were few teething problems it ran very well, the racing was intense & the best I had ever seen in the UK, now the riders could truly say they were racing the best in there age classes, they could now rightly say they were the best in the UK, eventually claiming the right to being National No:1, British Champion as the season was to progress on etc., the 2nd EBA national was at Slough, another fantastic event with amazing racing, again the rider count was 1200, I was so please that two nationals in row were so well attended, I remember thinking at the time, we’ve cracked it, we’ve done this & got it right for the riders & ultimately for the benefit of the sport in the long run, I thought it was fantastic… but my worst nightmare was to be confounded, after another successful EBA national at Ipswich (Rd 3) we headed up north to Copull (Rd 4) for this nightmare to unfold…there were some who had lost their power base, who did not want this dream to succeed & I have to say Ron Peters was the leading light who lead the select few ‘voices of discontent’ from BBMXA side, Ron & few others wanted it to go back to being run the ‘BBMXA’ way, this all unfolded on a Saturday at the Copull national in a nearby pub from what I remember, I wasn’t able to attend the race until the Sunday (Mike went up with David & Andy Please), when I arrived on the Sunday I was informed by the BBMXA board who were still in existence like the UKBMX board, that they had held a ‘EGM’ in the pub which Ron & few others had called & at this EGM had decided & voted to pull out of EBA, this was ‘un-constitutional’ as far as I was concerned as it should have been issued (this EGM) with a 7 day notice before any meeting could take place, I called an immediate BBMXA board meeting there after & I asked at this meeting if the clubs from the regions had been asked about pulling out of EBA, I was lied to by those who I trusted on the BBMXA board & the majority of the BBMXA regional reps who said they had contacted the clubs when in fact they did not. I remember ringing nearly all of the clubs if not all of them (there was a lot of clubs!!) & the vast majority of the clubs knew nothing about the BBMXA side pulling out, I was very disappointed & felt badly let down by BBMXA & how they had treated the whole process when forming EBA, they ultimately let down the riders & they had betrayed my trust.
I immediately resigned my position as chairman of BBMXA as I could no longer trust them, I went to the next EBA board meeting & offered to resign as ‘joint chairman’ with Paul Spur, but I was persuaded to stay on by some great people, although it was sad to see that BBMXA had pulled out, I could see that the EBA board had the right people to lead the sport forward as more importantly the Sports Council & the BCF recognise EBA as the ‘sole sanctioning body’ of racing in the UK, this was important as funding would be given to EBA in the long term. The rest of the 1989 season was still great & I really enjoyed the EBA nationals as I know Mike did, the vast majority of the riders remained & raced with EBA, many good things were to follow in the following years, American Adventure tracks, Great Britain BMX race team (consisting of Dale Holmes, Jamie Staff, Dylan Clayton, Scott Beaumont & Vicky Overson) with Cythia Murray & Carole Gosling on the team, Brighton World cup track (early UCI SX concept @1995) & eventually culminating with the UCI World Championships at Brighton in 1996. Before all this was to happen there was another pressing issue that was calling my attention…
IBMXF – FIAC, ‘A glimpse of hope & unity and visions of one sweet union’
By now you all probably know I’m fan of Queen, the lyrics to the song ‘One vision’ I have used to describe my experiences in my time with EBA & FIAC and eventually later what was to become UCI, I think it sums up my time in the sport of BMX very well, I hope you agree too.
I was FIAC representative from the UK (for EBA) & after many meetings I attended in Paris, Antwerp, Madrid & London culminating over a two year period, IBMXF & FIAC was to cease & become the UCI (the one world international body for BMX racing around the world & crucially also having the backing of the IOC), even back in 1993/94/95 I remember discussions of trying to get BMX into the Olympics a dream all international delegates had at the time myself included. I was extremely proud to have been involved in this process in the early stages of UCI, there were many obstacles still to overcome but I knew this process was going to blossom into bigger, better & brighter things for BMX racing around the world. I have many happy memories of having discussions, meetings with Bob Tedesco of NBL, Louis Vrijdag, and Gerrit Does from Dutch BMX federation Abe Schneider from Australia to name a few…meanwhile things were settling down on the EBA home-front & after a successful trip to Columbia for the UCI Worlds in 1995 with the Great Britain team as I’ve explained earlier about the team, we came back with one world champion – Scott Beaumont (W1), Dale, Jamie & Dylan also all doing very well in the elite men’s final & young Vicky also making the elite ladies final too was a crowning moment in my time with the sport, again more justification for the Great Britain team to get more funding in the years to come from the Sports Council (later Sports England), I feel proud that I got the early concept of this national team of the ground with Cythia & Carole also & in later years the team went on to achieve even more successes long after I retired from bmx.
Endgame – ‘One shaft of light that shows the way’ (extract from A Kind of Magic)
Towards the end of my time with BMX racing I spent a lot of time working with clubs to help assist/advise up-grades to there tracks & give them EBA support in going to their local councils up & down the country from Scotland, the North, South West to East of England basically all over the UK. I helped with building with the American Adventure Brits tracks with Dale Holmes, Geth Shooter (& Mike, he won’t like me mentioning him) & other riders from the midlands area at the time, the Butlin’s track at Bognor Regis, it wasn’t really a suitable track to be honest but Butlin’s were keen to get BMX racing going there in the early stages, big thanks to Tom Lynch MBE & Clive Gosling for their input/advice at the time, EBA wanted to have an end of season event much like the classic Pontin’s race from back in the old days, it wasn’t to be but it was an enjoyable experience at the time.
Brighton was eventually the decline of my involvement with the sport, I was whole heartedly behind the Brighton concept as a future ‘Centre of Excellence’ & City of Brighton put a lot of money into investing in the World Championships for 1996 (as well as from 1995 through to 1996), there were problems initially when the first track was built which we hosted an EBA national & also EBA British Championships, the track we had built was on the criteria that was laid down by the UCI i.e. between 400-500metres long, certain jumps, how many berms, starights etc, I asked Paul Roberts an energetic, passionate guy who I had a lot of time for (after consultation with rider committee who came up with the ideas & concepts) to help oversee the design/track construction with the local excavation companies/contactors from Brighton area at the time, Paul delivered what the riders committee had asked for, but Paul being the visionary he was experimented with different concepts, some he was happy with, others he wasn’t on the track, but I trusted his instincts & so did the EBA board too, when the races were run for the national & the Brit champs in 1995, Paul got a hard time from some riders but mainly parents moaning that their kids couldn’t get round the track this was supposed to be improving our standards at international level by building a technical track at Brighton which Paul & EBA did, there were few problems with it yes I will admit but Paul didn’t deserve the aggro or me that we got for trying to do something different!
After the furore died down the Brighton Worlds track was changed what I thought became a very good technical, flowing track at the time for the 1995 World Cup race (early SX concept), I & the EBA board enlisted the expertise of Bob Tedesco of the NBL & this time I asked Dale, Jamie & Dylan if they could help with the design of the track with Bob, they delivered the goods & I was extremely happy with the outcome however some ‘old politics’ was creeping it way back into the EBA board namely one or two regional reps at the time registering their moans/groans if you like of how much it was costing to pay for the revamp at Brighton & how much expenses were being paid, remember though Brighton council stumped a lot money into this project but still a ‘certain few’ were beginning to cause a few problems behind the scenes…
The final straw that made me come to the decision to call it a day was after the 1995 World Cup race, the EBA board asked myself (my company with my employees) to go down & clear up some cosmetic mess if you like that was left by the contractors who built the track with Bob, Dale, Jamie & Dylan, this cosmetic ‘tidying up’ was done before EBA hosted the World Cup race, I was down there organising it no problem for the race which was broadcast on Eurosport with the team but when I asked EBA to pay my company for the labour cost which EBA paid, there was up roar from the regional delegates at the national board when they heard about the payment, that was it for me, the defining point of when I had enough, some people do forget that I gave up a lot my own time for free (often at my own business expense) but I did it for the greater cause of the sport that I loved & I did it more importantly for the riders because they are the ones that mattered to me the most…
On a brighter note I did end up becoming a UCI Commissaire for BMX, regrettably I never fulfilled this role that the UCI enlisted me for because my father was sadly in decline due to old age & ill health at the time & my priorities were elsewhere at this sad time in my life.
I had many, many great memories of my time in the sport of BMX racing of which I shared with Mike, that will last with me a lifetime, I do follow the sport on TV now especially with the UCI SX races & was also so proud to see BMX racing at the London 2012 Olympics, I was gutted I couldn’t go up to the Olympics to watch the racing but that is life, I was so proud though to see what I had visions for back in the 1990’s finally come to fruition at the highest level some 23 years later with BMX being introduce in Olympics games at Beijing 2008 & London 2012.
I would like to thanks so many people who helped me in my time with the sport there are so many to thank but unfortunately I can’t name them all but I want to pick out ‘the few’ who made things so much easier for me & who ‘made it happen’.
Dale Holmes – without doubt the greatest UK rider this country has ever produce, one of the best in Europe behind Christophe Leveque at the time, his records, achievements speak for themselves, a true gifted athlete, a great ambassador & role model for the younger generation across the world.
Jamie Staff – you could see that Jamie was going to go on to higher achievements inside BMX & outside of it, a truly dedicated person & athlete to the sport of BMX & Velodome sprint riding, one of my proudest moments was seeing Jamie win Gold at the Bejing Olympics in 2008 & an old adversary of Mike’s too back in the day.
Dylan Clayton – on his day no one could touch him, one of the best riders in Europe even with Dale, Jamie & Christophe racing at same races, he was so smooth & fast on his bike & he was in my view the most technically gifted rider I ever saw grace a bike, the ‘bike & him’ were one.
Geth Shooter – the most naturally talented rider in his day, light years ahead of the competition in pro racing, a gifted rider & one of the best in the UK, could have gone onto bigger things if he had the chance too in the USA.
Andy Ruffell – Mr BMX, the one that started it all back in the day, the first superstar of BMX & did so much to promote the sport back in ’craze’ period, a great role model & ambassador for BMX.
Tim March – A giant in the world of BMX, achieve so much in his time racing, a visionary, a pioneer, team owner & a true gent, have been privilege to known him.
Paul Roberts – was different, a one off, ideas sometimes crazy, mostly right about what he said but was always there when needed, a nice guy.
Stephen & Martin Murray (The Murray boys) – Both great naturally talented racers, but equally good at dirt jumping something close to my heart at EBA nationals especially the ‘King of Dirt’ always there with help & support to me back then, absolute gents.
Keith Duly – what a credit to his parents, polite, strong, talented by far the best jumper of his time & a good racer & great guy.
The Key people: like a good glue that holds it all together… ‘The ones that made it happen’ all gave up there time as volunteers for the sport they loved & some still going strong to this day:
Carole Gosling – No one has done more for the sport than her, she is without doubt ‘the glue’ that holds it all together, her experience at national, international level is immense, she is an amazing asset for the sport of BMX globally & I commend her for all the work she has done, have up most respect for this remarkable lady.
Norman Derbyshire – taught me how a ‘national race meeting should be run’, never really recognised for his experience & dedication back in the early days of BMX racing with UKBMX & EBA , a gentleman I respected.
Rod Wesson – in my view the best commentator the sport ever had, did his homework on every rider, never made a mistake, a great all round guy had many great memories of running national, international races with him.
Paddy Duly – the 2nd best commentator to Rod, sorry Paddy, but Paddy & Rod were a great combination together when commentating on the ‘towers’ at nationals, had great smile & was full of enthusiasm, got things going when it was needed.
Chris Platt – Most laid back person I ever met on national race team, was Start-hill Marshall/referee at the back of the hill, couldn’t go racing without him & his team, often caused me unnecessary panic as we could never find him, he was always found having his dinner in his caravan before the semi-final or finals were about to start at nationals, nothing ever phase him, a nice guy.
There are so many more people that I could & would like to mention but I know I can’t mentioned them all, I would like to say though to the hundreds, if not thousands of riders & their parents that I was lucky enough to meet in my time with the sport of BMX racing, a big thank you for all your contributions & for making the sport of BMX such an amazing sport, I won’t forget those good time & they will stay with me forever, Mike & me still talk about the ’old days’ & my grandson often hears Mike correcting me of what happen ‘back in the old days.’
As for me I’m semi-retired now & enjoying my life with my wife Viv, we see a lot of our family regularly in particular my grandson Cameron who is keen soccer player & also likes BMX racing, I see Mike from time to time too, I am extremely proud of what he achieved in the years he raced BMX in the UK & Internationally.
Thank you for UKBMX history for allowing me to share my memories with you all, I hope you have enjoyed going down memory lane as much as I have.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since Rob Indri passed away.
There are so many good stories and quotes from Rob that are still talked about today in the race world. Rob was known for his mars bars, Lucazade and was also the first guy I ever saw with a can of RedBull at the races. Clearly, ahead of his time. JT race wear, Powerlite, GT, Diamond Back, Rocky Training, Ellis, Haden, Warrior, Thunder, and Primo were all names and bike brands Indri loved to support and quote during his race days. Rob loved to party and never missed a chance to let you know he could down 10 pints easy and could drink Gazza under the table if he ever got the chance. He would always get the Sunday Sport on the way to the track Sunday morning and was often seen Sunday night after the race heading down the M1 or M25 at access speed over 100 mph in his Ford Mondeo, heading back home to Woodham in time for his Monday-Friday suite and “tie” day job working in the City at Loyds of London.
On the track, everyone racing him feared him. Rob had no problem telling the competition they were getting cut off or put over a turn. He really did intimidate a lot but at the same time it was just so Indri so it was accepted. There are so many things that suck about not having Rob with us anymore – especially his stories and good times we all had together on road trips and races. I know with the way BMX progressed in recent years – especially with the new age classes and Vet racing, Rob would have won all through European and World Crowns he desired so much. He would have made an incredible mentor, coach and trainer to riders. He had so much to share with his raicng experiences, motivation and pep talks for others. He really was a great guy to have in your corner at the races if things were not going good not to mention in life. I hope he is still watching down on the BMX scene today and laughing in true Indri fashion… #missed #neverforgotten
By Alan Woods
Timeline: Summer 1980.
I was lucky enough to have raced motocross from 1976 at the age of 11. As you couldn’t get spares at the track we started selling oil, spark plugs and eventually race gear, shocks, etc like is commonplace now at tracks, before we didn’t see anyone anywhere around the UK doing this, this set the seed for our transition into BMX. I had seen some BMX photos in ads Dirt Bike magazine for H_Torque’s Minicycle & BMX Action magazine and as I always loved “push bikes” too it interested me. Anyway back to the timeline, it was still during the 1980 Motocross season that we were taking bikes on our trailer to show at the races so this must’ve been about July or August of that year.
Here is a video I posted from 1979, you can see my mum and dad at our Fox-liveried van and I am racing in the same DG Premier helmet I used for BMX in the first year:
The first BMX bike we had were MOTO ONE’s, either in blue/yellow or red/yellow: bmxmuseum.com.
We had 6 of them to start with. I think these came from a guy in Peterbrough who we bought American (yellow) YZ’s from, I have some old Trials & Motocross News’s in the loft, I’ll look for his ads. Anyway we also ordered some Mongoose’s from him too that he would’ve been getting from the Jarvis’ with a margin on but we got in touch direct and bought I think a couple of Motomags and a Supergoose. I kept the Supergoose and we kept on reordering these. We really had a head start because we already had all the race gear right there – JT Racing, DG, Oakley, etc. that’s why when you look at these photos everyone is tricked out, very few skateboard helmets and stuff to be seen. Around this time a pre-production run of BMX News that came free in Trials & Motocross News and was given out at Schoolboy MX events. It has some of the features that appeared in the production #1 but less ads and content – in fact I think it was mostly to show advertisers what BMX was about. Ipswich Coddenham was one race report I remember in there.
Around this time a gang of guys from nearby Ashton-In-Makerfield (you might remember we built a track there later on) came down to the shop when we just had a little room at my dad’s garage ,mostly with motocross bikes. This turned out to be Dave Arnold, Craig Borrows, etc who had converted Grifters and the Puch Murray bikes with Lester metal mags on them – but all painted lime green!
So by now we had good bikes, Mongooses mostly and I had imported some stuff from CYC in California as well – BUT we had no-where to race, we’d never seen a BMX track except in BMX Plus but you couldn’t get a sense of the scale or length. It’s also hard to imagine what is was like getting info back then. Can you kids imagine this? If you want to know about ANYTHING today you can check Wikipedia or watch YouTube, even in depth-how to’s on any sport right at your fingertips. Exciting times though. We would race round the streets just go – pedal, pedal pedal around the houses. Something else I know I will have difficulty getting across is the EXCITEMENT as being there at this time when we didn’t now what was what, even though we weren’t in California or Australia.
It wasn;t just us of course – in 1980 groups all around the country were promoting BMX and looking to build tracks – Malcolm Jarvis, Alan Rushton, Don Smith, Geoff Barraclough, the Scott-Webb’s over in Ipswich, Redditch….
Next up, we spotted in a Lancashire newspaper that a club had formed in Bolton, there was picture of a kid with a bike, anyway we called them super-excited but they had no track….. however they did have some land that the kids rode on. We said OK let’s make a date and we’ll bring out best guys over. Bring it on! OK so we showed up to what was basically an bit of grassed rough land next to a reservoir. They didn’t even have bikes, apart from the odd Grifter. We set to with shovels to build a jump and layed MX track marking tape that my dad had on a roll to mark the track out. The track basically just ran along the the reservoir, down the side, right over this jump we built, then that was the finish. We had no permission from the council, no insurance, no nothing, I am sure anyone who has tried to get a track going and dealt with the local authorities will laugh out loud at this. By now we had got some Redline bikes or frames from Gecko who also did Kuwahara so the good stuff was going into the UK. From the photos the riders present were pretty much what became our original Alans team: myself, Dave Arnold, Mike Chilvers, Mark Scully, Fenwick Carr, Stu Carr (not related), Craig Borrows and possibly some of the younger guys Andy Parr, etc. Mike Pardon was there but he hadn’t got a bike yet! Even though it was just a mess about everyone was serious like is was the real deal which I guess it was in a way.
Fun times ahead!
The photos attached – apart from the odd one or two that I previously posted on Facebook have never been seen or published before.
“It’s a Sinch for Lynch” – Tom Lynch MBE
Lets get that interview Sinchy – What do you want to say to the UKBMX History fans
Ok ok ok ok, interview? Always a strange thing, said I don’t do interviews way back to Paul Roberts for Dig but I had just bent my forks jumping the snake at Rom! Interviews are cool but this time I will try and get a few names in, apologies if left out, would be impossible to get you all in, if you need a name then contact the oracle Carole Gosling. So lets just we fill the void until Marchy and Ruffs key the words anyway?
So from the start more than 30 years later you have me reminiscing, what would the old school want to know? Ok……. spoke to the agent and the sponsors are happy to roll so back on the payroll, full factory deal!
The classroom window has been swapped with the commuting train, picturing the perfect race, again and again. Still got the snap but people looking at me a bit strange nowadays. Visualization always wins, don’t you know I am a bmxer? Can still pull a 360 on the flat, rollbacks and curb endos…. you with me yet?
Difficult to get across what BMX is unless you live it, dream it, hate it or loved it. It is a lifestyle right here and always has been a bit ‘rock and roll bmx rock star’ no matter how good you are. When the gate drops it can be all yours. We have shared the common interest, the fun, the progression, the challenges, success, failure, friendships, experiences, the pain, bit more pain, learning, growing, riding the ‘whoop de doos’, tabletops and berms at supersonic speeds, watching the powder puffs (Duffy,Vauvelle, Holmes, Murphy, Nichols, Wright, Madden even my sister got squirly) and making sense of the 4130, 44/ 16, 20″ bullet proof wonder.
To be a successful bmx athlete you have to become a product of many, especially in the early days as it was still evolving, learning all the time from mimicking those who you aspire to Tim and Andy (early days Cav Strutt in the mags/ Carl Alford JMC before he quit & came back / Daryl Gibbard factory Kuwahara look/ Keith Wilson jumping in the mags, later Shooter/ Clayton/ Holmes and then finding your own path with what you have or how you are going to lay it down. You could of course not copy anyone but as a child you need role models as natural ability can only take you so far, anyway bmx was about heroes, no play station yet or internet.
Scotland 1977 to 80 brothers Raleigh Chipper, Chopper (from the school of hard knocks when mart/ ged took me on my first ride), sisters Raleigh Eighteen with a cello taped wooden cross bar added to bars, mums shopping bike, big air and wheelies! The bikes did not last long and my skateboard did not work on mud. Fan of motorcycle Speedway, Trials (Kickstart) and Motocross (lucky to have a few motorbikes to rip it up). BMX not known yet to me until Trials and Motocross news warms up to it and then Boom! Local newsagent imported: BMX Plus and Action in 1980.
London England Bike 81 Earls Court Exhibition first sighting of a BMXer, Stompin Stu Thompson practicing (signed photo later) and then discovered BMX was here! You could actually race a moto cross bike without and engine! Next you will be telling me phones will have no cables and you can communicate with people if you have a computer! Although the first satellite phone I seen was one Marchy had. Anyway, the most factory of factory teams of Alan Woods was there and Jane Windle of Hotshot who would a few years later be my sponsor and my surrogate family with her brother Steve and mother and father, thank you. They all gave a great deal to the sport, Merrys at Hotwheels also. House of Escalus – House of Capulet – House of Montague whos who? Let me know, just for fun.
BMX ing immediately with my school friend Hugh on our Team Murrays, over the bars with the coaster brake we go on first curb jump, got talent spotted by the Lambert family (bmx pioneers) whilst messing about practicing jumps, getting air (seen in the mags) with my friends which I often think of as the soul of BMX when we all do this. This was on my Kuwahara KZ with my Bill Walters Leathers on and z rims that gave me and invincible feeling. Ring gnarly MK BMX (Bleakhall & later Club Rays Radicals with Wycome, Kirby, Titmus, Keachy, Driver & Linslade Locals Godfreys, Richards, Blundens on so on). That was next to the speedway track and then the new one at Pineham. I was racing by 1982 until 1994.
Made a coaching comeback to establish a BMX coaching environment, 1999 to 2002 or thereabouts training Liam Phillips and Shanaze Reade now Olympians and World Champions (Charlie P, Mapps, Fry, Clayton & others). Made possible by Uncle Buck, Carole Gosling, Pete Phillips, Keith Duly (KOD), Kona Lisa, Rich Townsend, Bernie Mapp and Blooms as were all integral to the training camps of Team GB BMX Junior Squad, groundbraking.
Factory of mum and dad (quote from Chris Carter) and friends mum and dads. It was a community and still is. So from 83 onwards – Patterson, Redline, Ame, Vans, Uni (Hotshot, apologies on leaving), Mothers Pride (Bakery/ Dad), Robinson (apologies on leaving, Hoffman was a visionary), SCP (Scott Clark Products), ASR (apologies on leaving), Haro, ELF, Kovachi, Harrods (that’s right Harrods), Nike, URP (signature plate, still on royalties years later, thanks to the Hassells for the opportunity and a cool plate with name on it), AGV (signature helmets), Uvex (shades/ facemask), Jive (coolest plates) then Med (french), and SE Racing as a comeback coach (Shiner, what an emporium, was still finding things years later that had come my way back in the 80’s on Haro for example gold ripper in the box!). Bikes dialed in by Edwardes, Clive Gosling, pedigree cycling family as in when the bicycle was invented and bmx guru/ trivia. He started to build them and trick them out from Campag hubs, super tight wheels, cutting my bars down to specialist one off rims. Even took off my Unit seat and tried clips! A great deal owed to those who invested in me and Edwardes (Carole BMX Legend and in other spheres of life). Always sad when leaving sponsors as the journeys were good but you have to move on.
Results (Results all between 82 to 94 from what I remember) / achievements
Missed a moto at Reddich once, never missed a moto again as It was long chase to the finish line and the look on Lamberts (Brian) face. Immediate regional no 1’s (south east/ east anglia), I remember the London boys seeing my no1 se plate and having a laugh, they stopped laughing on the first moto. About 6 national no 1’s (nbmxa/ ukbmx/ gbbmx/ eba) including Superclass then British Champion and champion of champions twice. Most wins Kellogs Track Wars TV series (Holmes drafted in as a younger expert, working my way through the pack and clipped him on his 1 & 3/8ths and I went down).
European Champion (Spain – we ruled with Howells, Ray, Hayes, Nichols, Gill, Gilmore etc), European challenge cup (Holland), Ireland Invitation win, final round of superclass European Championships tour win (Germany), final round of superclass European championships tour second (Belgium), final round of superclass European championships tour 3rd (Switzerland) which led to overall 5th, 7th and ? in European superclass (elite) respectively. Final round of superclass European champions tour top 16 (Denmark & Italy). Paris Bercy BI-Cross invitation, unsure results. There is a pic of me racing Stompin Stu Thompson but I am informed it may be practice, the original Joe Kid on a Stingray, but remember brake checking Todd Corbitt and hitting the dirt with Gary Ellis. Finally raced the pros if so!18, 000 spectators was awesome.
Coupe du monde des nations masters with Holmes and Gosling (France). Pre Worlds win, World no 3 (UK), Pre Worlds 2nd, World no 5 (USA), world top 16 (France), world top 16 (Holland) all Superclass and World Team trophy winner (IBMXF/ Canada). Disappointed I missed Japan & Australia.
Lots of winter series, notable: Tours/ Toulose Indoor Opens results ? (then to the Alps early snowboarding with my bro and Stobart).
EBA riders rep with Clive and IBMXF riders rep.
Year 2000 and 2001 – ’20th Century Hero’ Ride BMX Magazine, European ‘Hall of Fame Pioneer’ Member of the University of BMX (many other talented riders also). Most Excellent Order of the British Empire Honor (MBE) for services to bicycle moto cross racing, coaching and ambulance service cycling.
Riders Oaths IBMXF presented the USA with the opening of the Worlds and also France.
‘Its a sinch for lynch’ motto now earned, emblazoned on back of race pants (created by Sarah Jane Nichols dad).
We will have to leave the old school bmx adventures where they are, let’s just say Epic and Legendary would begin to make a start.
Game changing influence
(Other than Marchy, Ruffell, Shooter, Schofield, Middleton, Vince, Salisbury etc …. watching the UK pros was so exciting and I wanted to be one as soon as I could). Let us not forget Geth and Charlie jumping the Dollies in 84, took us all up to another level.
1. Las Vegas in 84 (Worlds USBA) and meeting the Patterson bros Brian/ Brent and then later Richie ‘avalanche’ Anderson whilst riding for Patterson (courtesy of Hotshot as if you became national no1, you were going stateside, of which I am thankful, hanging with Windles and Robbie Morales). Pedal pedal everywhere, more into corners/ out, down the back of jumps and aggression. Found some jungle print slip on vans which were ‘to cool for school’ and met Mr Van Doren around this time RIP.
2. Meeting Greg Hill around same time and the impact of Greg Hills Professional BMX Skills book on me (signed copy by all the pros). Read that book every day and even ordered the hackey sack.
3. Meeting Bob Haro around same time, mastered the kickturn from trick tips, the smoothest kickturn, godfather of freestyle, what an inspiring fellow, later raced for Haro and met him again at 2012 Olympics – Legend, still on it.
4. Racing with Mike King when he was 15 expert on Huffy and then Superclass on Haro, what a competitor, so stylish and led the clips movement much later. Best wishes to Eddy, his bikes were my style, so expert.
5. Practicing with Harry Leary (Kelloggs. Third win on how to take last doubles at an angle) and later on in years with Scott Clark whilst on Robinson. Legends. The ‘leary’ one of my favourite jumps equal with the ‘tabletop’, classics.
Who did you look up to in BMX
My early role models and heroes inspired my bmx career and evoked development of new skills and attitudes. I learned from all of them. In addition the continuous study of bmx racing by watching others and knowing/ assessing the terrain (motocross) assisted in the consolidation and improvement.
Early eighties superstar pioneers (between 1982 to 86): 1. Tim March – essence of pure moto-cross and dirt jumping – lateral thinking (few stories there and thank you). 2. Andy Ruffell – all round bmxer inc freestyle and great media personality – professionalism. 3. Geth Shooter – breaking racing boundaries and urban riding – non conforming. 4. John Stockwell – application of mental attitude through training, coaching and in competition – dedication and self-discipline. 5. Dave Dawson (and his Dad Pete team manager who signed me up) – leading teams to success and team support as they led the hotshot teams – team ethics.
Additional: Craig Schofield, holeshot king (picked me up from a # collar bone stack 2005 reunion), nothing like what a little Dr Pepper can’t cure (see what I did there) and Sarah-Jane Nichols – steely determination and domination in the girls. Euro – Phil Hoogendoorn, Claude Vuillemot, Xavier Redois. USA – Patterson bros Brent/ Brian, Ritchie ‘avalanche’ Anderson, Bob Haro, Mike King and Stompin Stu Thompson. Had the pleasure of meeting all of these stars! The photos from the pages of BMX Action, BMX Plus lined my walls! Still got some mags as well as paper bmx weekly, obmx and action bike etc. I am on a roll, digging out the memorabilia as we speak. Most Factory inspiration: Clive Gosling and Darren Wood (Matt Boyle, David Maw RIP needs to be mentioned, even though younger so cool).
Also Barford, Hearne, Paul Wright, Ready, Noble, Stupple, Higginson, Baggs, Archibald, David Wright – adventurer, Staff – power, Sir Chris Hoy also younger but always wore the Scottish flag and I the union jack as even though I am Scottish I raced and qualified in England. Guys like these make it happen.
You came through the ranks in a deep talented age group. Who were some of your rivals growing up
They don’t know this yet but I trained to beat all of them one by one. Yes….. training/ study set aside to concentrate on them individually 13 through 15 expert (Diggins, Wood, Print, Alexander, Godfrey, Haynes, Hayes, Stobart, Gosling, Watkins, Craig Campbell, Morris, Ramsden, Parkinson, Bass, Andy (maximum rider), Grice, Greaves, Hill, Freeman, Gaunt, Stock, Wallace, Roberts etc few motos right there) and that of any up and coming and then same application when I jumped to Superclass. Not all of them needed the full drill mind you. My father Tom Lynch snr was athletic and had boxed and all the training that goes with it including a psychological approach (just watch early Rocky films and you should get it, if you do not then the edge will not be yours).
When did you realize you could win
Already new it but with self-discipline and dedication it becomes a reality and with support from family as home/ travel support team it was then achievable (thank you to them, especially my sister). My father asked me how far I wanted to go with it, we then agreed the terms: train hard, show good sportsmanship and always win. Three to four years to peak, then do something else. That’s it.
What did you do for training
Snr worked nights, he was my alarm clock when he came home as all training was done before school (kept this up when I left), after a time it was 5am starts, lonely? …. yes, but you get the edge on all of your competitors, whatever the weather as they were not doing it or at least as much as me. There is another deep psychological lesson within this part of the journey that stays with me. This was an unprecedented accelerator.
Aims, goals and a strategy to dominate was created and executed. Later used in life.
After school dirt jumping and at one with bicycle i.e. freestyle/ tricks. Won a King of Dirt once, had a quarterpipe, trick ramp and start gate in back garden. You have to breathe it, right?
4 days a week then 2 days track practicing or actual racing.
Training based on duration of 3 race lengths and a full race day of all motos (not all possible before school/ supported with nutritional plan but loved Kellogs cornflakes to start the day and a Schweppes lemonade for refreshment (see what I did there):
Roughly and basic:
Stretching/ some warming up to 20 min
Running up to 20 min
Sprinting on foot 30m x 10
Punch bag work out and then 100 punches each arm harder than the last to finish up.
Weights 3 sets of lots of reps (squats/ dead lifts) dumbbells/ big bar
Hand grip weights
Sit up bench/ press ups inc one hand, all to death
Starts and or sprints on bike 50m, bleeding thumbs from rubbing before grip donuts!
Lunch of Heinz selection of soups, a really tasty and filling lunch you can have any time of the day (see what I did there).
All the training probably not good for me at 13yrs old! Oh my bones now, still strong with explosive power through the city streets.
1. On road – 10 miles (alternate days of 6) of country roads, sprint up hills and sprint on flat until spinning out (or resistance of rear brake? Lots of koolstop) for 1 minute
2. Off road – secret forest training ground: big casams, big downhills then started digging (Stockgrove).
All with absolute focus on one thing. You see there was no second place in the mind at this point. Training was harder than racing but presented a state of calm on race day even if after a bad start. Mental picturing the win always wins. Other mentors other than my father: mr Murray, mr Stobart, mr Chuck Robinson and Rocky what? It don’t supercharge you? Da da da, da da da, da da d d d da, or if you get to watch Wayne Llewellyn or Simon Hayes (yes Oscar winner) in their respective disciplines,
Dinner time, thanks to Pizza Hut and Pepsi, a great combination to enjoy with your buddies (you know what I did there). Thanks to Marcus Rich, Scott and Tim pizza hut film.
Then always prep the night before the night before (Will – Dig).
Change in training
Moved to central London (87/ 88), near the Christies, no forests or country roads, this was a setback. Training took a big hit. Although had the London boys Clive/ Woody, Winnie RIP, Stockwell, Indri RIP, Reynolds, CK Flash, Mark Seaman, Jason K etc introduce me to southbank, rom skatepark, brockwell, peckham, westway, meanwhile, stockwell/ brixton (had to start wearing wrist guards as getting way to much air from big transfers) and go more regular to hounslow, hayes, slough. Joined the legendary Hillingdon Hawks! We even rode with freestyle guys, Phil Dolan and his crew, Neil Ruffell rip, Leachy etc at Rom and street riding and some of the flatland. Knocking about with Winnie at Notting Hill at his new flat round the corner was great, used to see his bro Billy here and there, got a movie with Winnie and Indri also riding at New Cross bowls somewhere. Steve Bardens who I would later share a flat with several times got it on film, also Clive Manfred, Rob, Pollard and some other rad dudes. Then a lil tea break at Clives mum Carole and nan Doris and a look in his sticker box but just a look.
Who did you ride and train with at home
Several guest visitors John Stockwell (ex superclass no1 and mentor), Daz Oneil – he man (training before sunrise), will Smyth Dig (big big air), local friend Mark (Tot) time keeper on all road rides – he was my secret weapon as he did not go to the races (thankful to him), Paul (Erky) RIP for pushing the limits to the max, I mean the max.
You looked so clean riding for Robinson then onto ASR you were riding for such high profile teams at the time
Yeah 86, felt pretty factory (undisclosed transfer fees, signature plates/ team bus, lil fan club, media team, full support crew, no expense spared) and at my peak, euro final win 3 wks before worlds, pre worlds win week before worlds then switched teams before worlds when all the uk pro stuff was going on. Should have stayed put and maintained the balance (apologies to Hoffman, such a visionary, don’t know what happened there). The looking clean bit was to always be out in front and to bunnyhop the puddles in the motos. Anyone notice me crash a lot in practice sometimes, pushing the limits, see how far those tyres can go in a corner? Like a wakeup call, once out of the way by tasting the dirt I could perform a bit better and maybe wear a fresh uniform (fresh and white thanks to sponsors Persil bio and my mother who really took care of my stuff).
You turned Superclass at 16 and went straight to number one
Yeah from 15 expert to Superclass, was hungry for it in 1985 after euro win. Spoiled maloneys comeback at buckmore park (sorry about that) when I was still in the 15x year (first superclass race as now 16yrs old) but now was getting paid. Was on a roll and on tour for over 6 years. No mainstream job until 1991. What a blast!
Might of intentionally came from the back also now and then, as you have to practice working through the field for when you really need it. At this point only wore a helmet whilst racing, looking back pretty dangerous as we were trying some new stuff on the dirt jumping front. Not wearing pads and actually cutting any pads out of uniform enabled me to be unrestricted.
You even won the European Championships finals in Germany against the Dutch Army (Amev Team)
What an outfit, led by Gerrit Does the Godfather of Europe. I so wanted to be on that team. I had been chasing them all year round Europe or rather bouncing off them! Will upload the race at some point, it was near perfect. One year on from my European championship win in 15 expert. If you were in the pack with Amev you would not survive (even before Bas De Bever/ Does etc).
Did you feel even so young you could beat them
As I said 2nd place does not exist and still does not.
1986 World Championships Superclass Slough England. So close with a 3rd. Tell us about that race
What people maybe do not know is that I had been on tour racing all the same competitors in this class and had beaten them all and was on top of my game at this point. So disappointed with the 3rd, watch the race on the links. I knew this was my peak three years on from the agreement with my father. Was hard to stay in the zone, TV crews, magazines, home crowd, on a new team and concerned about the UK Pros and what impact this would have.
Third was not in the plan. Some big hitters in the race including x world champion and a lot of the Amev team. Stock and Fleming also who have always supported me and have been great fellow competitors.
Gate was ok, got busy over first jump, could have got a pedal stroke, and again in first corner, to deep before table top, just clipped lip, could have pedaled more down the back going in to second turn and took addie van de ven up but as I said you bounce of them, had the pro section dialed so knew this was where I would take him and Phil Hoogendoorn (existing world champ). My thoughts, Amev knew my lines, they were so professional. I had a perfect line to rail, Addie van de Ven got in my way and actually slowed me down, he slowed down, I can remember pulling my brake and still pedaling, jumped when maybe I should have manualed last jumps but I could get more power down sooner, needed a longer last straight and I would have got it. Needed 10 to 20 meters.
Met Steve Pollard as fan when it was over, he asked to have a go on my bike as I was debriefing with John Stockwell, good friends and founder of the LRP (London Rokit People).
With a Superclass class and Pro Class both run in the UK at the same time.86/87 You never really went against Tim March , Andy Ruffell and the early 80s UK Stars. Seemed like Andy Welsh / Darren Stock , Winnie Wright were your early Superclass rivals. What was your take on the class the first few years and not getting to race the Pros
Kept away from me in practice which was always funny, mind you when you are top of your game everyone wants to take you out even in practice or even a moto as I found several times. So don’t blame them not that I would have taken any out more just let them know I am coming. Fear is a choice.
Looked up to the pro class very much as I knew I would join them. The demise of the pro class propelled me to the top of UKBMX as the N01 Superclass rider. From jumping over Eddie Kid in Covent Garden to launch UKBMX season sponsorship to becoming riders representative nationally and internationally with IBMXF. Superclass would later become Elite which is Pro. Thanks goes to the early pro stars, they gave us a great start and sacrificed a great deal to establish the sport.
Disappointed that did not get to race the legends of the pros but on reflection they went out with integrity and at the top of their game. Ruffell finished with a win at NBMXA later. Unsure how else it could have been. It would have been a shame to have taken them on when I was at the top of my game. Maybe I should have turned pro at 16 and not Superclass? 15 expert to pro?
Superclass was tough as was still up an expert age group or two or three by the time my 15 x caught up, Darrin Stock, legend Winston Wright, Riviere bros, so many others and later Andy Welsh (he was younger and strong, later it would be Wood, Holmes, Revs and Sharp). What was tough was UKBMX making us tour the UK to reinvigorate local scene BMX racing for our rankings, great idea though. Maybe I will talk more on Superclass another time including the international scene if people like what they read. It felt good winning and retaining the crown for a number of years and representing Team GB overseas.
Tactically I think just being a pro gives you a 15 percent uplift on speed, some pros technically and on skill level were maybe not so good but they were strong and experienced. When the pros were allowed to race back in superclass (some of them chose to), I hit them hard and still retained no 1 for a while I am sure. Although hitting them hard physically meant hitting like a brick wall (Charlie Reynolds).
Shooter paced himself back in to the game I think I can even remember in Denmark Euros he was protecting my position and I am sure Fleming did also at some point. Legends.
What about the organization
All the organisers made it happen for all of us and kept it going, Carole Gosling, Sue Jarvis, Bridget Hayes (Simons mother), Cynthia, Val, Mary Iddiols, Vince, Amanda Dowson, Babs, all the finish ladies Maureen, Mandy, June, commentators Irish Tom, Paddy Duly, John, starters Vic, Sonny Ives, Refs / Officials / Board members Stormin Norman, Murphy, Spur, Bags, Beasley and Mr Woods etc. Sorry if I missed any, very much appreciated and you maybe don’t appreciate it at the time.
You do not stay champion forever in any game even though the spirit is, maybe I will go over this for part at a later date and how we race makes each generation better with continual progression. Things changed with the new breed – Minozzi, Bas de Bever, Neal Wood, Dale Holmes, Jamie Staff then Christophe Leveque / Dylan Clayton in different relationship to the track and bikes, gearing other than 44/ 16 and 180 mm cranks.
The agony of defeat versus the enjoyment of racing and getting together with your friends? Difficult one for a champion as there are certain pressures and responsibilities that come or had come with it. Then the LRP formed and so did our Bicycles & Dirt BMX Club: carl, steve b, steve p, keith, rob, marcus, beckett, s boyle, jon b, ross hill rip, steve bell, Manfred Stromberg, Oliver etc and even the ‘condor’ Matt Hoffman.
A career had to be chosen as there was a BMX slowdown, this affected ones performance also especially with shiftwork and study in the ambulance service, over 20yrs now.
I was with the LRP at an event racing when at 12 yrs in competing I decided before a first moto at a national that I did not want to do it anymore and asked my buddy Jon e Becket to get me out of here.
I was at a track that I won a national there previously from last to first place and now I was at a race just making up the numbers, might do well, might not, but having such a cool time over the whole weekend just having fun. Had to work all that out, so we had a great big breakfast somewhere, which I never have on race day. Didn’t work it all out just had a better understanding of the need to retire would have to be very soon. Did not make a big deal about retiring, no glory in that and always like to leave the party while its still rocking anyway.
Backyard Jams followed which were awesome and it was great just cutting loose on the jumps with the Bexhill, Mad Dog, Gosling, McCoy, Duly, Fuzzy, Cylmer and many others. I just loved getting rad and actually loved it more when everyone had left and we were still jumping, was even better even with a fractured ankle until it would not bend anymore.
Played with MTB a bit downhill/ duel, mainly PORC (love that place), was I going to commit to that and get serious? Would have to actually not do it as was still so competitive, but not my thing anyway, not accurate enough as the tyres and suspension allowed mistakes. The MTB guys did not like so much the BMX guys coming over for downhill duel/ 4 cross etc but Hemming was cool and still is . In fact the MTB was pretty easy (except for cross country) as the bmx attitudes to it were of a killer instinct, full contact and explosive power. Those guys did not know what hit them.
Went stateside quite a lot as my brothers had moved there, Martin was hanging around with Dave Mirra (Pro Town Greenville) and my nephew was riding his private ramps. Was good to meet those pros especially in a place you could ride all year round.
25th Year Anniversary in 2005 was a reunion race. I had to train for it and get my bottle (courage) back so headed to PORC for trails and downhill. The MTB dudes were laughing at the BMX guy with all the JT gear including body armour and belt, pure moto cross (long term loan from Bardens), after first run then they stopped. Took a supply of tubes for blowouts which were many and full rescue kit. The tubes worked out as the jumps were gigantic but got the flow after a few, however the medical kit got used on some kid, he was from Russia and also on his own. I told him whilst eyeing up the biggest doubles in the trail section, if I went down go and get some help. I did as the jumps were not like the 80’s as I found out hitting the massive lip at full speed, pain returned, bottle back, no fear, ready. He had flown another section and found him unconscious under a bush, don’t worry he survived but it was a long drag up from the quarry.
Flying on race day, full on Factory Patterson gear (from Brian), great to see the old school, lil kid appears in the step up on my approach, I bailed, broken collar bone. Five years of ops, titanium plates/ bolts etc. Remind me to make no comebacks, just to get it straight this was not a comeback, great support from the old school though, thank you. Good to see them and follow those that are still racing today (Print, Alexander, Stockwell etc).
Thought about bmx a great deal at this time and located some of my old hardware, out of nowhere a boy who I gave a bike to over 20 yrs before gave me a call, he said its ready. Steve Keech boy to man (well he was a man when we were still boys) had re-chromed my old PR200 Patterson frame, won the euros on it. He gave it to me via my old coach Brian (Lambert) and Jamie, and in true form Clive built it from the parts I had and the bits from my lil secret stash of SE stuff and my Ripper. It is up on the wall and it is very cool (brand new from box old school DX from Carl, Uni Seat from Woody). I have now unpacked the bmx archives and it is like an 80’s Christmas. That old school show and shine formation is incredible, so accurate, keeps it alive, so anorak, love it.
BMX helped you in other things
The BMX experience and Carole helped me to formulate some new ideas BMX Medic (ambulance cycle response innovated and created) & BMX Coaching, really had to make a career choice (2010) but was able to establish an early sustainable coaching environment with British Cycling. Where the likes of Townsend, Staff, Blooms, Clayton, Stockwell, Holmes, Vince etc took it up.
On the ambulance cycle response in London, everyone thought I was joking and had a little laugh, could talk all day about it but I will leave you with two things. 1. Can I ride a bike really fast? You know, of course its going to work i am a bmxer. 2. People are alive that would have died. The other day one of my team members resuscitates and shocks the heart of a 26 year old female who had a cardiac arrest on Oxford St central London, she goes back to work soon and will enjoy a full life.
Career choice….. the right one? More tea and medals all round?
Would have loved to been with our Olympians but was there in person with the guys and in spirit on the track. Did I say mentioned Bob?
What does BMX mean to you
Maybe end then on the ‘true meaning of bmx’ I did see the Murray boys do a back flip in races (Indri memorial) and it reminded me of why I started BMX, it was so rad, maybe inappropriate but radical, no rules, non-compliant just free spirit. I raised a poll on BMX Talk about this 3 and it had some good discussion (check out my other posts on bmx talk about Tim & Andy and the Olympics). Murray, to see him fly….. so impressed by his riding and his achievements as well as ruling the X Games (lil boy from powder monkey) saddened by his accident impressed by the Staystrong (nice one marco) movement and his resilience, we all think of him and his family. Staystrong.
BMX in the Olympics
A dream come true, would have loved to have been on that platform, to be an Olympian has got to be the highest accolade. I hope that all of us done something to assist in laying the foundations to this ultimate achievement and that Shaneze and; Liam bring home the gold and that others follow. It was great to catch up with the old school pros at the 2012 Worlds. As Clive said it was like 1984 in the VIP box (hosted by Jeff Dovey).
So full circle riding BMX with friends to riding BMX with friends, with a bit of racing in-between. Would do it all again as long as I could re race the 86 worlds!
Slough Worlds 86
Slough Worlds 86
The Rise of 1980’s UK BMX Teams – by Chris Carter
Stand at the back of the start hill at any BMX race, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the people queuing for their races in their brightly coloured gear are all equals. But any kid that followed the BMX magazines in the pre and boom years of the eighties will tell you that there was always a hierarchy. Moto winners come and go, even mains can sometimes be won on a fluke – but no-one gets sponsored unless they really have the right stuff! Let’s talk teams! Or more specifically, let’s talk eighties teams!
For most racers, the team with which they spend their racing careers is Factory Mum and Dad. The cost of bikes, travel and gear, the pre and post-race pep talks, the pit crew (Dad) changing gear ratios between motos – all are met by the funds raised from the old man trudging to the office in the rain each day. The kit might bear the name of little Johnny’s favourite manufacturer, but there are a couple of very special words missing from the race jersey.
But for the lucky few, for the greatest talents in our sport, their jerseys bear the word “team” somewhere in their design. National Team, Factory Team, Support Team – to have these simple phrases emblazoned on the back of your shoulders or across your chest is a badge of honour, a mark of respect, a statement that this man is not as other men – a declaration that this man has arrived!
For the new racer, lining up on the gate next to a team rider can be an intimidating experience. There stands the novice, maintaining a wobbly balance while trying to effect a two pedal start. Next to him is the “team” rider – balancing motionless, his gait loose yet powerful, his gaze fixed on the track ahead, his eyes betraying nothing except a calm assuredness that his vast experience will secure a solid victory. Behind the start hill there was no hint of nervousness. He seemed to know almost everyone. And absolutely everyone knew him!
To arrive at the track wearing full race team livery has historically been the goal of many an aspiring racer. In 1985, if you’d asked 100 riders to choose between a number one plate and a factory team ride, I suspect more than half would have gone for the latter.
But how can a sport that is essentially a solo one have ended up with such a team orientated culture? To find the answer, we have to go back in time to the very dawn of BMX in the UK.
With the rise of BMX in the eighties, and the promise for manufacturers, distributors and retailers of increasing returns so long as the sport kept growing, BMX race teams proliferated at an unparalleled rate. By the mid-eighties, at least three prominent UK colour magazines had appeared, and companies were vying with each other to get as much publicity for their brands as possible. One of the best ways to do it was by having a well known rider splashed across the cover or centre-spread wearing the company’s brand logo.
But it wasn’t just the companies that benefited from this incentive. In many ways the magazines, both then and now, are ultimately democratic. Magazine photographers have the sole aim of putting talent on the page. Some riders can provide the talent but can’t afford decent bikes or gear or to get to the events, whereas some riders can afford to get to the events but can’t ride well enough when they get there.
Enter the BMX race team!
With a little corporate backing, kids that otherwise could only afford to shine at local races were given the chance to shoot for a top national ranking. In exchange, the company footing the bill would want their pilot to turn in respectable results and hopefully generate some publicity.
The first BMX team in the UK was set up by ex-motorcycle trials rider Don Smith and fellow BMX enthusiast Richard Barrington. That team was called Team Ace.
Around 1980, Barrington had set up a shop in Walthamstow and sponsored some local riders to get the whole thing going. For Barrington and Smith, this was about more than just pushing a team – they were attempting to push the sport itself into some kind of stable existence in the UK. Those early team riders included Nikki Matthews, Pete Middleton, Steve Gilley, Andy Ruffell and Cav Strutts. Ace even went as far as producing a frame and fork set, though production was limited. Today only one of those early Ace frames is believed to have survived.
Soon after, Ammaco Mongoose burst onto the scene – a team run by husband and wife duo Malcolm and Sue Jarvis to promote both BMX itself and Mongoose bikes. With their own kids Sam/Julian and Russ in the team, along with Steven and John Greaves and Brian Jones, Ammaco Mongoose snapped up Ruffell and Middleton from Team Ace. The age of rider headhunting had arrived!
Ruffell of course would grow to become a sponsor’s dream and stayed with Ammaco Mongoose until the end of 1984. In that time, an enormous amount of money was spent on him travelling all over the world promoting both BMX as a sport and Mongoose as a brand. Yet there can be little doubt that the publicity he generated translated directly into sales for Mongoose that far exceeded the company’s investment in him.
In 1985, UK manufacturer Raleigh decided it wanted a more prominent share of the team pie. Raleigh had previously sponsored a number of well known riders, such as Andy Oldham, Jamie Staff and Kev Riviere, but now they were planning a huge publicity push. And being such a large firm, their strategy was simple – buy the cream of the crop and put them on a Raleigh bike.
Most of the exciting BMX action was being performed by teenagers. Though younger kids might be nagging their parents to buy them a bike, it was invariably off the back of looking at photos of older kids in the magazines. And so, with a suitably corporate no-nonsense approach, Raleigh simply made sure that the most prominent rider in each age group over fourteen would ride for Raleigh. And such was the ubiquity of the Raleigh Burner as a first bike for thousands of kids, that it was almost a money-no-object corporate takeover.
In the fourteens, Kuwahara’s Stu Diggens had been unstoppable for two seasons, so an offer, reputedly into four figures, was made to entice him onto the team (not bad for a school kid back in the mid-eighties!). In the fifteens and sixteens, Raleigh already had the number one guys in the form of Craig Schofield and Martin Jose but added Jason Maloney for good measure. Now they set their sights on the big boys.
Though Ruffell was actually beaten to the number one plate by Tim March in the first year of superclass racing in ’84, Tim couldn’t quite topple him from the top of the publicity charts. Despite being number two, it was Ruffell and not March whose fame extended beyond the boundaries of BMX, and it was Ruffell who got to see the colour of Raleigh’s money!
When Andy was eventually headhunted, Raleigh knew he wasn’t going to come cheap. In his last year at Mongoose, he had appeared in the Sunday Times Colour Supplement in an article which estimated his earnings at around £20,000. Bear in mind this was 1985 and twenty grand was an awful lot of money in those days, especially for a kid still in his teens! Though the details of his deal with the UK cycle giant were never disclosed, it’s not unreasonable to suppose, based on the figure in the Times article, that Raleigh had an even greater figure in mind when they approached him.
Plainly Raleigh felt that those thousands spent on Ruffell would equate to even more thousands in terms of sales. And I would hazard a guess that they were right. Andy Ruffell, BMX publicity machine, was the ultimate team rider.
Although Ruffell’s fame may have extended further outside BMX than March’s, in a curious irony, it was March who managed to pull sponsors from outside the sport into BMX. In 1983 his primary sponsor was Lee Cooper, a jeans manufacturer. In 1984 he started his now legendary MRD outfit, but it was in 1985 that Tim really raised the bar. Somehow he managed to persuade grocery chain VG to enter into a joint team venture with his own March Racing Developments. The result included a fully liveried VG/March double decker bus for transporting the new MRD team to races. During MRD’s time on the race scene, the fortunate beneficiaries of Tim’s vision included riders like Steve Bigland, Mark “Whoppa” Watkins, Anthony Howells and Ashley Davies.
But not all teams have been based on the multinational model of hard cash for hard promotion. Many teams were smaller affairs in which bike shops or importers would either set up their own team or else strike a deal with manufacturers to help out riders in their locality. Names like Edwardes, Youngs, Hotshot-Redline, Shenpar-JMC/Powerlite and then Cyclecraft, Alans-Robinson/Torker and Bunneys-GT all came to be recognized as heavyweight team entities in their own right. And more than a few big names got the extra push they needed by riding for them: Geth Shooter, Sarah Jane Nicholls, Tony Holland, Charlie Reynolds, Dale Holmes, Karen Murphy, Dylan Clayton, Dean Iddiols and Gary Llewellyn to name but a few.
Other teams operated with tiered grades of team membership with riders aspiring to be, as it were, promoted internally. Kuwahara ran a successful national team as a first rung on its factory team ladder, though this sometimes made for complications if the factory star stayed on the team for too long. In 1983, for instance, rising star Darren Wood was on the Kuwahara National squad, but with Diggens taking the factory place in the same age group, and showing no signs of slowing down, Wood eventually had to jump ship to Skyway to secure a full factory ride, in turn leaving the way open for Lee Alexander to join the Kuwahara National Team for ’84.
From around 1986, the BMX magazines began to evaporate as the sport reached its peak and then began to decline in popularity. Without a ready media in which to get promoted, the corporations that had financed so many teams began to walk away from the sport.
In their place emerged a new kind of team run along altogether different lines. Team management moved from being a commercial concern to a more altruistic one. Managers were now helping talented riders meet the high cost of competition simply for the love of the sport and its riders rather than the pursuit of a tangible increase in sales or publicity.
Never was this more apparent than in teams such as Rainbow Racing or Alan Sopp’s ASR outfit. Both became enormously credible teams, yet they had nothing to promote – no frames and forks, no number plates, no clothing line – not so much as a baseball cap. And yet they helped support the race careers of such talents as David Barnsby, Mark Sopp, Mike Riviere, Tom Lynch, Warren Godfrey, Brad Smith and of course the late great Winnie Wright.
Today the heady era of the eighties boom is behind us, but the allure of the place on a team is as real as ever for many riders. Moreover, the digital revolution and the advent of new social media has enabled the creation of entirely new team opportunities and operating models for those sufficiently imaginative to find them. Outfits like Kai Riviere’s RaceDayVideo, for instance, continue to run race teams in order to promote their enterprises. In so doing, these teams help to support a wide range of riders – from gifted hopefuls at the grass roots of the sport, up to national racers in the elite categories. Whilst at the extreme end of corporate sponsorship, Sky’s multi-million pound commitment to British Cycling has enabled the riders at the very top of today’s sport, such as Liam Phillips and Shanaze Reade, to become truly professional athletes on the global stage.
Though the team ride will remain an elusive dream for the majority of racers, there can be little doubt that the BMX Race Team itself is here to stay.
One of the most iconic pictures from the 80’s in UKBMX is Charlie Reynolds and Geth Shooter over the first Dolly Parton’s during a 16 expert battle at the Poole UKBMX National. We have got a few quotes from the riders who were around at the time and their views on the shot.
Geth – “Ere Charlie, why ain’t anyone else jumpin’ these?” Charlie – “Dunno bro, but if I can get over em’ without losing my back end, I’m gonna beat ya”. The rest – “I think we’re in the wrong moto”
That was a real spectacle for Poole National!!! Although, other people jumped the Dolly’s during that weekend, I think this is the picture and memory that comes to mind most. It was a case of those who DARED won. I’m sitting on my mum’s lap in my Torker gear above the head of the rider in Lane 8. Who can name all those that cleared the Dolly’s that weekend?
This is probably one of the most iconic pictures of 80’s BMX. The powerhouse vs the showman. Both riders had a huge impact on the sport, Charlie with his sense of theater and Geth for providing the drama. For me, it was Geth that was the ultimate racer, fast and full of skill on the track but also humble and a great ambassador for the sport off the track. I had the pleasure of Geth riding for me at East Coast BMX when he was between sponsors (that didn’t last very long !!) and we still remain friends today. p.s I’m glad to be on this picture but wish I was a bit further ahead!!! LOL
Geth and Charlie at the top of their game, Shooter had the style and the speed, Charlie had a leather fanny pack with mobile phone…if he couldn’t clear doubles in a straight line them he’d 360 them instead.
This pic captures everything about UKBMX in the 80’s for me. Geth and Charlie had some epic battles but were poles apart as people. One southern, loud and flash and the other Northern, enigmatic and workmanlike. Yet on the track, they both were all business and went all out for the win. Most of the guys in the class were rolling the Dolly’s at Poole but these two bossed it. Geth laying down all the style and Charlie just pinning it. Classic!
Timeless classic photo, this was UKBMX racing I think at its best & it was when bmx, in my view, was proper & pure Bicycle Moto X. I’m all for evolving in any sport & it should happen, but looking at this fantastic pic of Geth, Charlie, Martin Jose etc it’s just got this jaw dropping factor about it, it’s hardcore, raw bmx racing at its best, the track was great for it’s time, the atmosphere was electric & the crowd are on edge in anticipation of will they won’t they jump the magnificent Dolly’s every single person is watching this race, in short a stunning picture that will always stand the test of time, people in years to come will still marvel at this pic.
Not the best BMX photo ever taken, but sums up the original spirit of BMX racing and why so many of us 30 or 40 somethings got into the sport when it first came to the UK. Yes, everyone wanted to win, but everyone also wanted to get rad. That’s the difference between original BMX and Olympic era BMX. Thank God for riders like Billy Luckhurst, Paddy Sharrock, James Horwood, Callum Dalby and Connor Swain who keep the spirit of “getting rad” alive in the UK race scene.
“That jump was way ahead of the times and pissed on the likes of Kong or the Chasm just cos of where it was. I swear this pic was on my wall straight outta the magazine.”
We asked a number of 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.
When we talk about the first UK heroes and superstars in BMX, the obvious names that come to mind are; Tim March and Andy Ruffell. Maybe it’s because they were at the top of their game at the same time BMX racing was getting its start and they were able to get some real outside the bicycle industry media. Andy was on TV regularly and Tim was winning Championships not just in the UK but all over Europe. Their ability to capture the interest and pocket books of major corporate sponsors outside the industry was impressive; Lee-Cooper/ VG and so on. But who were the names and respected riders before them that maybe missed out or were a little in the background during the earlier years? We’re going to post quotes/pics from former top riders and the guys they looked up to when discovering BMX in the UK in the very early days. Stay-tunned.
Age/live 47/Worcester, England
Years raced BMX 1980-1985
How did you get started?
I can’t remember how I got to hear about the first race in the UK that took place at Redditch, but David Duffield was employed by Halfords and they were going to import the Puch Murray bikes into the UK and funded the Redditch track which was very close to the Halfords Head Office. They arranged for some guys to come over from Holland and they allowed some local kids use a fleet of Puch Murray bikes and Protec helmets as a demo race.
My Dad had been involved in Motorcycle trials and knew Steve Wilson, who was then a trials star in the Midlands and a good frame builder. Steve had made a few BMX bikes and on that day he loaned me a bike and I recall finishing 2nd place to one of the Dutch guys.
I soon bought a bike off Steve and then helped develop the bike over the next year or so until I was picked up by Hotshot towards the end of the 81 season.
The original Wilson team included Dave and Adrian Jessop, Dave Westwell, Simon Ryland and Mark Butler
How was your local scene?
The local scene was generally centred around Redditch where we met with a load of the Midlands racers pretty regularly and it was a normal thing to ride the 10 miles each way from home to the track and practice all day – no need to train back then!
My local scene in Bromsgrove involved a few guys that were pretty good, Anthony But was in my year at school so we hung about together a fair bit plus Dean Bateson and Chris Lawther from Birmingham Wheels were local so there were always a fair few guys about and we had some reasonable riding spots.
I remember Anthony Sewell spent quite some time staying with Chris when he was in the UK so we rode together a fair bit too.
Who influenced you back then on a BMX?
Like most guys round the early days of BMX in the UK, most influences came from US magazines so the likes of Stu Thomsen, Harry Leary, Greg Hill etc would have featured pretty heavily
I was into motocross and saw Tim March race a few times at schoolboy nationals and he was bloody quick so when he started racing BMX it felt like the sport had a bit more credibility in my eyes.
Towards the mid 80’s I would say Geth was an influence and was good to see someone who had less ego beat the so called ‘stars’ of the day.
Earlier tracks you rode and raced on?
Most of the Midlands tracks as they were so easy to get to (Redditch, Wordsley, Bromsgrove, Derby, Cocksmoor, Birmingham Wheels, Hereford, Deddington etc) but we did a fair bit of travelling in those first couple of years to places like Ipswich, Nottingham, Grimsby and Cleethorpes, Wigan, Chorley, High Wycombe, Peterborough, Bradford, Buckmore Park, Margate, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole, Hounslow……quite a few when you start listing them!
Who did you ride and race with?
Through most of the time I raced with a lot of the same guys and there really wasn’t a lot between any of us as on the day anyone could have won. There was a change after 1981 when they changed the classes in relation to date of birth so some of the riders changed classes. The main at most Nationals would have consisted of any of the following;
Nikki Matthews, Fenwick Carr, Gary Fenwick, Terry Lloyd, Chris Simmonds, Dean Scott Webb, Anthony But, Keith Wilson, Tony Slater, Andy Ruffell, Mark Cracknell, Geth Shooter, Ian Mason, Harvey Monkton, Simon Bailey, Paul Miller, Martin Jose
Teams you rode for?
Halfords/Wilson, Hotshot, Patterson, Vector
Your dad Pete was Team Manager for Redline when they had a powerhouse team tell us a little about his history.
He had always been involved in bike sport and was a pretty good trials and motocross rider from the 50’s through to the 80’s.
When I signed for Hotshot I also went to work for Les Windle and lived with the family down in Oxford. Eventually my Dad came to work for the company too in sales and as part of that role he looked after the race teams. It was about the same time that Hotshot started to import Redline and Patterson and he was tasked with building a team.
He had been commentating at Redditch for some years so he knew a lot of guys and I guess doing that job you notice the riders at all ages that are doing well so when he started to look at building a team he already had a good idea of who the talented riders in each age class were. The Redline Team consisted of Geth, Tim Print, Nicky Dalton, Paul Ray, Mike and Sarah Jane Nicholls and the Patterson Team was Me, Tom Lynch, Gary and Mark O’Connor – it was a pretty good group of riders and also the Hotshot Team was used as a feeder group if I remember right?
Seemed like you race NBMXA a little more mid 80s why did you like it more than UKBMX?
I just went where the team rode. I think we tried to make sure that there was a presence at both NBMXA and UKBMX but I don’t remember why I ended up in one more than the other unless it was because there was a bigger NMBXA presence in the Midlands so it was a bit cheaper to do?
Highlight of your career?
I had 3rd and the British Champs in 1983 and then in 1984 was NMBXA No 2 and also 2nd in the British Champs behind Geth on Cruiser.
Why did you stop racing?
I found other things to do and got fed up of every weekend being the same, however I joined the Army in 1985 so that was probably the main reason, although I took my Patterson with me and rode a few races in Belgium and Germany where I was posted in 1986/7
Do you still follow racing these days?
Only through Facebook and Youtube – I would have loved to have started racing later and have been around now to ride todays tracks but I am pretty sure I would hurt myself if I made a comeback now even though I regularly ride my road and mountain bike.
Did you ever think 30 plus years ago BMX would become an Olympic Sport?
Never – it was just a bit of fun for us in our teens but now it really is a pro sport – The commitment to the sport that British Cycling have invested and the work that the likes of Liam Phillips must put in to be at the top of their game is light years away from the sport that I did back in the day
Could today’s BMX Racing learn anything from Back in the day?
I don’t know – apart from the size of the wheels I wouldn’t even categorise them as the same sport. BMX from the 80’s was more like 4x is today with more natural terrain, all weather races (including loads of mud) and pedalling (loads of it at tracks like Peterborough and Bradford too!)
Anything you want to add?
I certainly made loads of friends back in the day and many of them I am still in touch with on Facebook. The sport taught me lessons that I have carried through my life with me and gave me a whole host of experiences that I wont forget or wouldn’t change.
I am glad it has all become more professional but I still remember the party at Geths house between the 2 days of the British Championships when at least 6 of us slept on the floor in the lounge of the Shooter residence in our drunken state and then raced the finals the next day and a number of us made it to the podium – doubt whether that would happen today?
The Early Years of BMX in the UK – by Jay Hardy
Richard, editor of BMX Action Bike magazine and event organiser looks worried. The hall is at spectator capacity, rider entries have hit the maximum allowed by the insurance and there are still seven hundred people outside. Inside the Pickett’s lock centre the TV crew interview the stars of the show. The main sponsor’s people shuffle about adjusting banners and making sure the TV crew have line of sight to their logo, while more other promotions staff give out Lee Cooper records, stickers and for the chosen few, free jeans. Three short years ago our little sport of bicycle motocross didn’t even have a sanctioning body. But now in 1983 we have two national BMX magazines, corporate race sponsors, factory teams and TV. I look down from the balcony above the track we’ve spent the past three days building and wonder at the explosion of OUR beloved little sport.
Like many kids in the 1970’s I cobbled together bikes made from bits of that bike and bits of this. The obligatory cow horn handlebars were so wide to the nine year old me that they were almost as wide as I could reach. My bikes traditional curved forks were straightened, because that of course made them stronger. I didn’t mind that this caused my foot to rub on the front wheel when cornering, they looked like motorcycle forks and that was cool. My best friend Keith’s older brother Tim raced motocross, his 490 Maico was an object of worship to us, the fastest scrambler in the world by our expert reckoning. The day Tim left his motocross parts catalogue on the dining table remains with me to this. Keith and I thumbed through eagerly choosing the parts we would have on our 490 Maico’s. Then, on the back inside cover was a picture that for me started it all, a DG Rooster BMX bike, it was late 1977.
Over the following years many variations of Grifter based creations came and went, culminating in Keith cutting out the twin down tubes and welding a single tube back in. The finishing touch was fashioning vaguely BMX looking handlebars with my dad’s pipe bender. This was the pinnacle of our efforts and it looked just like a real BMX bike, it was 1979.
In the local woods we built a BMX track, complete with wooden start gate made from a single plank about seven inches high, one foot high berms, whoops and a jump over the ditch. This was our heaven and we spent every free moment riding nearly BMX bikes on our nearly BMX track. In our minds we lived the Californian lifestyle that inspired us and we paid a price for it. In England at that time there was a mod revival, short hair, loafers, preferably burgundy and of course what every football loving sixteen year old saw as a rite of passage, the moped or scooter. We on the other hand had long hair, wore vans, rector skate shorts and rode around on those stupid kids’ bikes. In early 1980 the UK was not a BMXer friendly place.
The day Simon Lloyd asked Keith and I if we’d seen those BMX bikes in the garage on Park Street changed my life, simple fact. I couldn’t tell you how I felt or what happened immediately after he uttered those words, only that minutes later we had cycled the three miles to Park Street and were now looking through a plate glass window in silence. Less than two feet away on the other side was a row of real, yes real BMX bikes. I could have cried with joy and can only think that kids that overwhelmed just can’t. Eventually we went inside, the guy in the garage was called Mike, a trendy 25 year old who told us he was starting a team and already had some riders. Eager to impress our pedigree on him we let him into the secret of our BMX track. A week later Mike Relph arrived with his team to ride our track in the woods. The short version of that day is that Keith and I thrashed them and so were now on the team.
My Dad liked the fact that I spent so much time outside being ‘healthy’ as he saw it. What he didn’t like was the price of these BMX bikes. However with help from Mike he relented and bought me my first BMX bike at a discount, I wondered does this mean I’m almost sponsored. Much to my mothers dismay I insisted that my new obsession stay in my bedroom that first night. I spent most of that evening just sat on my bed looking at it.
A month later we were in Mike’s car on the way to Buckmore Park, the journey took hours as the main roads were building sites. But when they got to finish that M25 all would be free flowing and never again these traffic jams. I can still remember turning into the white concrete road that lead down to the track for that first of many visits. As the tree’s opened up to the right there it was, a real properly constructed BMX track. It was all Christmases ever known come at once, berms ten times the size of our track, tabletops just like in the US magazines I’d started to read and the whole event run by adults just for us, this was big time. In the final that day I was in third coming into the last corner, the only thing on my mind was that third place meant my name would be in Trials and Motocross news, the only publication reporting on BMX back then. As that thought went through my head two guys passed me and I finished fifth.
In the months that followed we rode each freshly constructed track as we heard about it. The small but growing core of BMXers turned up to each race and with each weekend familiar faces became friends and rivals. Time spent chatting revealed the lives behind the rider and with it a theme surfaced, that my story was the usual one. They too had been aware of BMX and longed for something to happen in the UK, they had lived as the kids that didn’t quite fit the British norm of Football, Netball, Cricket and Rugby obsessed stereotypes. We were different, we had different horizons and at last we had something that fitted us. BMX allowed us to express who we were and stood on the vanguard of the changing Britain that the 1980’s was to be.
Throughout 1981 something shifted, kids who previously showed no interest in our obsession had started to show interest. UKBMX was formed, tracks and clubs sprang up all over the UK, Mike opened ‘California BMX’ my first ‘sponsor.’ In the store a video promoting the new sport of Bicycle Moto Cross played constantly on loop. The very pronounced English voice over declared that the rider on view was the American bicycle association champion…..Stuart Thomsen. Seeing this grown man with long hair, wearing Vans, riding a BMX bike on a perfectly groomed track under the blue Californian sky was a million miles away from mods, mopeds, football hooliganism and old cynical worn out England. This was the BMX I had longed for and I wanted all of it. Stuart Thomsen was my hero and represented everything that inspired me to keep treading that path in a new direction.
In 1982 Stu came over for the Mongoose international at Earls Court. I lined up with other kids for his autograph, when I got to the front I handed over a copy of BMX Action with Stompin Stu looming large on the cover. He looked up at me, ‘hey a US mag….cool.’ I looked back at him but nothing came out, I was unable to speak. He signed the cover, handed it back and off I hurried with a head full of ‘cool’ things I should have said. Several years later sitting in my hotel room with Stu and several other US pro’s. I recounted this story. He looked at me and just said ’that happens.’
By 1983 things had gone mad, BMX was everywhere, TV adverts linked to it in some tenuous manner just to be trendy, kids TV presenters talked about being rad in a cadence that gave them away as having not a clue about being rad. Hollywood films like ET had BMX in them, corporations now offered you ET BMX bicycles, breakfast cereals allowed you to win BMX bikes, school bike sheds were full of BMX bikes, BMX, BMX, BMX. What the hell…….. five minutes ago kids of my own age were asking me what the funny little bike I rode was. They hadn’t heard of BMX and now every kid was obsessed with it. These people didn’t love it like I loved it, they were all followers, they didn’t dig in the trenches when local authorities wouldn’t give a minute to a proposal for a BMX track. The same local authorities that now couldn’t wait for the positive press opportunity of the local BMX track opening, complete with smiling Mayor who thought the track looked ‘rad.’
Looking down from the balcony at the throngs of BMX obsessed kids below me I had to smile to myself. BMX was already labelled a craze by the press, to most of the kids with shiny new bikes and race kit in the arena below it was a new and exciting sport. But for those of us who were there years before it was and always will be a partial definition of who we are. But my protectiveness of our little sport fell away when I realised that BMX had outgrown us, it didn’t need protecting and fighting for any longer. It had grown up and repaid us by turning us from the weird kids to the cool kids. It took me years to realise that for many of the kids that came to BMX later, the impact on their lives was in many cases more profound than for us. BMX an Olympic sport yeah right!
It’s a real tough call to pinpoint where BMX even started in the UK. There are so many people with stories and many things documented all over the web and scattered amongst old magazines. We have already asked a number of people that were around at the time to give us their take and we are hoping to have some entries posted soon. We will jump around year to to year in an effort to gather great stories – so feel free to jump in if you have details from an earlier or later date. We’re just interested in notable stories at this point not necessarily that they are in chronological order.
Welcome to UKBMXHistory.com. We thought with such an impressive old school following in the UK, especially with social media so big now, it was about time we started documenting BMX Racing from the early days. Hopefully, we can keep adding interviews/stories/blogs from the past and work our way through the years of BMX racing in the UK. We’re really hoping to get some key words from influential people that were involved with BMX through the early years and maybe a little behind the scenes details, as the sport boomed in the early 80s and leveled off in the early 90s. I think you all can agree there is a lot of stuff we can cover. If you feel you’ve got some good material that is worth posting, please feel free to email us. Stay tune for more updates.