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
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.
Ok ok, interview? Always a strange thing – I 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 someone’s left out. It would be impossible to get you all in, if you need a name then contact the oracle Carole Gosling. So let’s just 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 squirrely) 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 an 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 saw was one Marchy had. Anyway, the most factory of factory teams – 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 did also. House of Escalus – House of Capulet – House of Montague who’s 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, groundbreaking.
Factory of mum and dad (quote from Chris Carter). It was a community and still is. So, from 83 onwards – Patterson, Redline, Amev, Vans, Uni (Hotshot, apologies on leaving), Mother’s 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 a 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.
Missed a moto at Redditch once, never missed a moto again as it was a long chase to the finish line and the look on Lambert’s (Brian) face. Immediate regional no 1’s (South East/ East Anglia), I remember the London boys seeing my 1 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 (Dale 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 costing me the overall).
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 5th overall. Final round of Superclass European Champions Tour top 16 (Denmark & Italy). Paris indoor there is a shot of me racing Stompin Stu Thomsen 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 in front of 18,000 spectators was awesome.
Coupe du Monde des Nations Masters with Dale Holmes and Clive Gosling in Perpignan, France. Pre Worlds Slough (86) Win, World 3 (UK), Pre Worlds 2nd, World 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 Open results (then onto the Alps early snowboarding with my brother and Rob Stobart).
EBA riders rep with Clive Gosling 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.
Rider’s Oaths IBMXF presented the USA with the opening of the 91 Worlds in France.
Game Changing Influence
(Other than March, 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 brothers; 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.
2. Meeting Greg Hill around same time and the impact of Greg Hill’s 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 kick-turn from trick tips, the smoothest kick-turn, The Godfather of Freestyle, what an inspiring fellow, later raced for Haro and met him again at the 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 at the 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 favorite jumps equal with the ‘tabletop’, classics.
Who did you look up to?
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-around bmxer including 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 Thomsen. 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 magazines as well as 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 Sr., 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 on the terms: train hard, show good sportsmanship and always win. Three to four years to peak, then do something else. That’s it.
Who did you ride and train with at home?
Several guest visitors John Stockwell ( Haro/ UK BMX Number 1), Darren O’Neil (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, I felt pretty factory (undisclosed transfer fees, signature plates/ team bus, little fan club, media team, full support crew, no expense spared) and at my peak, Euro Final win 3 weeks 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 Tony 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, did you expect that?
Yeah, from 15 expert to Superclass, I was hungry for it in 1985 after euro win. Spoiled Maloney’s 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! I Might have intentionally came from the back also now and then, as you have to, 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 86 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! Winning one year after my European championship win in 15 expert was special. If you were in the pack with Amev you would not survive (even before Bas de Bever/ Nico Does etc).
Did you feel so young you could beat them? They seemed like grown men at the time?
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 Final?
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, I knew this was my peak three years on from the agreement with my father. It 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 all 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 into the second turn and took Addie v.d. Ven up but as I said, you bounce off them, had the pro section dialed so knew this was where I would take him and Phil Hoogendoorn (Multi World Champ). My thoughts, Amev knew my lines, they were so professional. I had a perfect line to rail, Addie v.d. 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 Rocket People).
With a Superclass class and Pro Class both running in the UK at the same time. 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?
They kept away from me in practice which was always funny, mind you when you are on top of your game everyone wants to take you out even in practice or even a moto as I found several times. So I don’t blame them. Fear is a choice.
Looked up to the Pro Class very much as I knew I would join them. The demise of the class propelled me to the top of UKBMX as the number 1 Superclass rider. From jumping over Eddie Kid in Covent Garden to launch UK BMX 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 I 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 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 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, Revell and Sharp). What was tough was UK BMX making us tour the UK to reinvigorate the local scene BMX racing for our rankings, great idea though. 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).
Geth Shooter paced himself back in to the game – I think I can even remember in Denmark Europeans he was protecting my position and I am sure Fleming did also at some point. Legends.
Thoughts on UK BMX?
All the organisers made it happen for all of us and kept it going. Carole Gosling, Sue Jarvis, Bridget Hayes (Simons mother), Cynthia Murray, Val Hyde, Mary Iddiols, Vince, Sam Woods, Amanda Dowson, Babs, all the finish ladies Maureen, Mandy, June, commentators Irish Tom, Paddy Duly, John, starters Vic Roberts, Sonny Ives, Refs / Officials / Board members Stormin Norman, Murphy, Spurr, Bill Baggs, Terry Beasley and Mr Arthur Woods etc. Sorry if I missed any, very much appreciated and we often don’t appreciate it at the time.
You do not stay champion forever in any game even though the spirit remains – 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 180mm 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 Alford, Steve Bardens, Steve Pollard, Keith, Rob, Marcus, Jon Beckett, Sean Boyle, Jon B, Ross Hill rip, Steve Bell, Manfred Stromberg, Oliver etc and even Mat Hoffman.
A career had to be chosen as there was a BMX slowdown, this affected one’s performance also especially with shiftwork and study in the ambulance service, over 20 yrs 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 Beckett 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. I 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, Clymer 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 Dave Hemming was cool and still is. In fact, the MTB was pretty easy (except for CX) as the BMX attitudes to it were of a killer instinct, full contact and explosive power. Those guys did not know what hit them.
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 Steve 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, thoughts?
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 Shanaze Reade and Liam Phillips bring home the gold and that others follow. It was great to catch up with the old school Pros at the 2012 Worlds in Birmingham. As Clive Gosling 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!
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.
Andy Ruffell (Riding for Ace) at Harrow Skate Park with Ace boss who is unfortunately no longer with us, Richard Barrington, in the background.
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.
Craig Schofield, Brian Jones, Julian Jarvis, Don Smith, Andy Ruffell, Russ Jarvis, Malcolm Jarvis, Chris Young, Sean Day, (Unknown) Sam Jarvis.
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-tuned.
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 a 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 Shooter 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 NBMXA presence in the Midlands so it was a bit cheaper to do?
Highlight of your career?
NBMXA British Champions 1983 I got 3rd. 1984 I was NBMXA National No 2 and also 2nd at the British Championships in Cruiser behind Geth.
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 Professional 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 the early days?
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?
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.
UKBMXHistory.com - This site is dedicated to the history of BMX Racing in the UK from its inception. Expect Interviews/History/Blogs and current updates with influential people in the sport from the UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.