Gary Morgan (A Grifter, me and a World Championship)

My Story by Gary Morgan 

The thing is my BMX story isn’t one story, like life it has many endings and then somehow starts again!

I was a latecomer to BMX by today’s measure, but always had a fascination with bikes, I had a Raleigh Chopper at 11. I was 13 when I got a Raleigh Grifter, far from what it would eventually become, but it got me started. There was little unused land in Blackpool, but my friends and I -the Grifter crew as we were called by the girls (sheepskin mob) at school – went to industrial estates and made jumps from pallets. At 14 the record of 7 Grifter bike lengths (10.5M) in 1979 off an 0.8M take of ramp, still proud of that 43 years on! LOL With BMX racing still 2 years away, it was car parks and streets mainly, and a partially abandoned railway station (South station today) which we made home with some jumps and a simple track for fun.

Around late 81 a group showed up on Puch Murry’s, they were the first BMX bikes I saw and we noticed the length and the weight. Local kids started talking about a BMX track at Ribby Hall, we never had a car but watched a BMX event on the TV with Tim March and Andy Ruffell competing on a poor track, but BMX had started! At the start of 82 the Grifter mob organized a trip to Chorley, it was dark when I left home for the 2-mile ride to the train station, followed by another ride to the track from Chorley station. We were laughed at by those with fancy bikes and when I asked to enter, the official said unless we could jump the doubles we could not race! So, I sent it and I sheared off the pedal arm completely! What a mess! Luckily, John Keen’s Dad offered me a lift home, welcome to 80’s BMX!

A local shop started selling upgrade parts for the Grifter and this helped to fix up and lighten our bikes. By late 82 I was noticed by a few parents who kindly helped me out with lifts and one was Chorley, still only having done a half lap on a track, an official said I couldn’t race in beginners because of some bullshit reason so I raced in Experts! I wish I had a picture of me 1 footing it out of the gate with sponsored riders around me! And then another picture of their faces when I smashed them all day long on a Grifter (priceless). I do remember one guy I raced was on the 80’s TV show that Barry Sheene hosted, he was jumping cars! Did ok too! 83 came and I had an opportunity to race a KX 125 and MX was where my heart was, but money would play its part as usual back then!

So now at 16 I ventured into MX! It started well, I went from the juniors through the seniors to become an expert in 6 events! Even made the newspapers as the fastest rise to expert, this was however when reality set in, the speed was not the problem, I had that covered, it was the need for parts and tires, at 16 earning 25 quid a week with 10 going to my mum and 5 quid for race entries plus transport and petrol on top! Despite top 5 finishes, 6 months and I was done!

Late 83 still no car.  My mate Keith McGinley and I rode to Ribby Hall in winter for the Ribby series, one of the men to beat was a Future World Champ and Peugeot-sponsored Shaun Calvert, so we went head-to-head and I won all day (with a 46/16 gearing), the following week however Shaun owned me! He did say he was motivated for revenge! LOL, 84 so much for beginner’s luck at the Nottingham National (Bunney’s track). So the day went well and I easily qualified for the quarters, I remember my friends telling me my quarter was stacked! “So what” I said,“I have been in this position many times and fancy bikes and reputations never mattered!” I lined up with March, Ruffell, Slater, Lee someone I think from Raleigh and so on, just picture a new rider with literally a handful of races up against the 2 best guys in the UK plus others in their first National Quarter. So, I smoked them down the first straight and leading into the first corner, March just took us both out and the rest went by as I sat on the floor! What a wake-up call, these guys push hard.

Following my first national we were back to Ribby Hall, there was a massive 5ft Trophy up for first. Going for the lead in the main against Tony Hyre, I think (Factory Redline) the sole of my shoe came off!  Bear traps and socks are not good, so second it was for me.

NW Regionals

A great friend, Bob Douglas helped me out with lifts that year. I was on fire in 84, I think I won 90% of the regionals, but one stood out and I didn’t win it either! Sometimes things click and you just get it all right!

On a sunny afternoon under Barton bridge on the Manchester ship canal, I slipped off my pedals at the start in the main. I thought I had a massive points lead, last is just fine. But I saw GT’s Stuart Hickman’s dad waving and shouting “C’mon you can do it” I rode a hell of a lap to just miss out on the win. Now that moment was great but it was significant on more than a few occasions in my life, by chance, I met Julie Woodward (Factory Peugeot) who was smoking the lady’s classes, and her parents kindly offered to take me to some National races and one was the Peterborough National.

In moto 1 Simon Bailey (Factory Hutch) ran me off the track (it happens right) but it didn’t end there, we got through to the semi and Bailey had me to the first turn yet he wanted to bash my number plate as the field took off! So now we are both last, I get past him finishing 4th. Bailey is out and pissed. My mate Andy Perrins hears him plotting to throw stones at me in the first turn and goes to stand behind him just in case.

In the famous final, the gate drops, and I slip off again and this time sat on the crossbar, Andy sorts out Bailey who dropped the stones when he saw me last down the start hill. That click was back, all I can remember was going past Shaun Calvert for third on the back straight when he shouted “go on Gaz you can win”; if you read this Shaun I still get quite emotional remembering your words mate! So it’s the last straight now and I am in second with Factory Redline Tony Hyre in front, by the line it was mine!

The crowd was unreal, never experienced anything like it TBH, BMX Action Bike were taking pictures of my bike and people were asking me all about it! Crazy moment really.

So why a Grifter?

Well, it kind of wasn’t anymore, it slowly got shorter and ended up with Torker forks, Uni seat, Profiles, GT bars etc., but the one thing it always had over other BMX bikes was mild steel large-diameter tubing and it was stiff!

A bloke wanted me to buy his GT frame and said I could build it and try it so I did and it flexed a lot! I suppose I was in some ways ahead of the sport, as everyone wants stiff frames now, I saw this in 82! Honestly, my bike didn’t win any races, that was me but it was a reason I could win and I never felt at a disadvantage on it. Many laughed, as they did at Orbree and his washing machine world-record bike. Or, there’s Burt Monroe and his fastest Indian. Well, Gary Morgan rode his mild steel Raleigh Grifter to 20 Regional wins and 2 National wins, the Lancashire Evening Post Trophy, countless trophy dash wins, and many more!

I kept the frame of course, but sadly after renting my house it disappeared! I often think of that bike and how it’s different to my DK, but then it was made for the tracks of the day I suppose. So now its 1985 and I wanted to do it all, I raced the Wigan National and failed miserably, then after an average performance at the new 16+ regionals I went to the doctors only to find out I had glandular fever! I’d never heard of it either! But I was done for the year!

1986 came around and at 19 now, I was healthy with some money and the regional scene was great with semis at each round as the 15+ guys merged with us! They were quick lads indeed and included Colin Chester, Antony Fisher, Colin Blackburn, Kim Carbutt, the Barfords, Phil Henigan, Sean Calvert, Scott Williams, Trev Stamford, Mcginley, Kennedy, etc.
We battled all year until the final round!

It was a 3-way shoot-out for the series between Stamford (the Blackpool Bullet) Mcginley and myself. I took out the final and series with by far the best field I have ever raced with. Standout Nationals were Immingham where it flooded and the fire brigade pumped off the water. I finished second to Dave Barnsby (that lad could pedal through mud!) on literally a 1 line track!

Special mention to Darren Reidy’s Dad, Colin, for taking a few of us in his van, again down to money, we slept in the back on newspapers! He picked us up and dropped us off, many thanks to him for that. And of course, yet another battle with Charlie Reynolds at the Slough Superclass final, It was 10pm and I can’t even remember who took who out from first and second, but yet again I sat on the floor and watched them all go by!

Still no BMX track in Blackpool at this point, still made every National final though!
I took a year out in 87 as my family grew, we started renting which wasn’t cheap on a 20 YO’s salary.  I became good friends with my biggest Blackpool rival, Trev Stamford.
For 88 we did a few events and I realised I had lost something, my life had moved on and I didn’t have the speed I once had or the will to get it back.

I remember a practice somewhere with Dylan Clayton, I thought he was supposed to be good so I jumped on the gate with him a few times and just got smoked. (You’re done I thought).

I never lost a race at the old Chorley during my 5 runs including my first-ever race!
So I went to a regional at the new Chorley, ‘who is this Kim Carbutt dude anyway?’ Everyone was talking! Yes, got smoked – not a great ride at all TBH! But wait, Tony Fleming and Trev Stamford convinced the organisers to run a Pro-Am as the Pro’s had been wound up and couldn’t race the regional for a year.

So following the regional there was 1 moto, 1 semi and a final Pro race!
Seriously, I was so depressed that I nearly didn’t enter but when you listen to Flemdog spouting I just thought I have to beat that guy, so I entered! Yep, won the whole thing, why? I have no idea it must be that click thing again! Even so, the rot had set in and I was not racing much anymore, we even left one event after practice because the track was crap ( same for everyone when I last looked, mate!). True, just looking for excuses!

A friend’s son Alan Ward got into BMX so I gave him some pointers. His dad kept me in the loop at work and later on they invited me to go with them to the 88 NBMXA Runnymede National so I decided to race. I was surprised to see I was competitive and ended up winning after coming from behind to pass an Irish lad Kevin McShane and fending off a strong finish-line challenge from Paul Roberts!

So that was National #2 won and 5 years apart! I went onto race at the Chesterfield National and got second to some bloke named Dale Holmes, but wait I got an invite to a 2 day race at Pontins in Morecambe, why not I think it was free! Morecambe track was unique and I had 2 shocking motos. I said to Fraser Kennedy’s dad “at least I have tomorrow!” He said, “no today is qualifying for tomorrow!” OFFS!

But a win in the 3rd moto qualified me for the next day with Dale and me 1st and 2nd in my last-ever BMX race in the UK, or at least that’s what I thought! Still, my last 3 races in the UK were pretty good, with a first and second in 2 Nationals and for a bloke who only had speed as a natural ability, nowhere to practice, and no outside help, I thought I did alright!

Respect for fellow riders

I always respect guys I race with, you don’t have to like them, just respect them all the same (even Simon Bailey). I raced Geth Shooter once at a club champs somewhere and finished second from the most unfair gate 8 I have ever ridden when he had gate 1, I did win a new pair of Vans for it though! Thank you, Preston Pirates! Did I think he was rapid and worth the hype, no! None of them were, I believed and it showed at times I was as good or better than anyone (Ah but that guy rides a Grifter and is from the North!).

Ruffell, Slater, March, Shooter, Scofield, etc.: so many really good riders that I was scared to even get on the gate with them but I never let that bother me. Today, looking back, the only advantage they had over me was experience, a club facility and a practice track, but my speed could sometimes overcome that. Was it worth it and what would I do differently and was I happy? Without talking about hindsight I would still say yes! I can honestly see so much potential was missed, the raw ingredients were there, I know because I found them 25 years later!

Just some help and guidance would have tripled the wins, not to the Elite level but definitely world age level.

Did I feel overlooked by the industry?

Absolutely! I mean “c’mon, I won the Peterborough National from dead last to first and had a picture of my bottom bracket taken! If March or Ruffell had come from last to first it would be in every BMX training manual today! People would still talk about it! LOL

Did I think I or anyone else was treated fairly in the North by the industry? Not on your life!
No one came to watch us or talk to us from anywhere, some Blackpool riders really punched above their weight, with National wins and titles, British championships, etc, and yet nothing. I think Daz Reidy had a clothing sponsor at one point! At the same time we were a bit backwards in asking for help but we knew nothing about sponsorship. I thought sponsorship depended on where you lived TBH. When the Blackpool BMX track was built in 87/88, that was great, but it was too late for me and sadly despite the great effort of the Cook family and others it was gone in 2 years.

Was I happy?

Yes, my win/race average I think was quite good, I am content with the fact I did the best I could with the money and equipment I had, no different from all my friends during that time living in Blackpool.

I have been asked who I looked up to and to be honest, it wasn’t a rider. I probably should have told him and after writing this I hope he sees it, but Jim Cook from the Blackpool bmx club has to be mentioned, he was everything to that club and I appreciate that more today than ever having been a President of my club for so long with the struggles of running it etc.  So, yes Jim Cook for me!

BMX ended in 89, but following a visit to my Relatives in Australia in 97 we moved down under mid-99. We had landed in the middle of 10 tracks and clubs within an hour and by late 2000 Jordan my son and I were going to 3 tracks a day just for fun. We decided to race in 2001 and had a great time riding the radically different track layouts of the modern era, although I did struggle a bit with a GT XXL and determined it just didn’t work for me! I put it down to 13 years off a BMX.

Despite this, I won the State Championships on my first try in my class 35-39 20” That’s the beginner’s luck thing! Even so, by my standards I was pretty crap skill wise TBH, I was practicing at Frankston and met a guy with a chromoly DK.  He offered me a ride on it and I was sold, turns out the BB height was only 11.5” compared to 12” of the GT.

I got myself a new alloy DK MP3 frame and started to improve big time. Now the OZ BMX scene didn’t have a National series, just one-off National championships like the Brits and the Capital city ran an open event where everyone went to see where they were at! (Mini Grands perhaps), back in 02, it took 8 hrs to get there and I won that, my first National Champs. The Champs got me a second behind a World 5 rider. This pattern of State success and National 2nd’s went on a few times!

A new beginning

The Warriors facility

There was always something missing and like the early days in Blackpool, we had no track anywhere near our home to practice on. 2005 saw the start of Wyndham Warriors BMX club and by 06 we had one of the best tracks in Victoria, but with no toilets, water, power, shade, or any structures at all, the staggering comparisons with Jim Cook’s attempt to get Blackpool club up and running was in my thoughts!

So the battle, the war even for funding and improvements began and is still ongoing today! In 2005 the club was formed and track work began. The track is basically clay and unrideable after rain.

In 2007 the club bought a container and some tools to maintain the track and we had small events. 08 the track is connected to water and we get a Suzuki jeep kindly donated by Paul Lees to wet and roll the track. 09 and 10 (2) more containers, 1 for storage and one for a kitchen, our events begin to reach 300 riders. The move to transponders meant we could not run on generators, thankfully council connected the main power in 011. 015 the council installed a pavilion with toilets (hooray) by 017 we had tarmac corners and the State Championships with flame throwers on the start hill (looked cool) The event was a great success. From that success, a local MP got the club a grant for a new finish line building which led to a staging structure and other structures as well. Plus we met the Werribee River association who have helped with landscaping and will continue to.

It all changed when covid hit, the track was locked for nearly 2 years on and off and members left due to the harshest lockdown in the world.

Melbourne! (Ask Novak)

Anyway, we are looking for the State Championships as soon as we can, as I believe that big events are the best way to promote the sport. Is the facility finished? No! We need facility lighting so that’s next.

So clubs and facilities are needed for the sport, but like all things they come at a cost, the burden of trying to develop and grow this had a negative effect on my riding and racing for quite a few years. However,I did learn to separate the two in the end.

The British Champions

I took a break from Australian BMX in 08 and after a bit of messing about I was allowed to enter the Brits at Peterborough.   Many thanks to my good friend, Keith McGinley who kindly took me down there and helped me with everything that weekend! Funny, really remember I mentioned the officials at Chorley in 82, well I arrived at the Brits only to have the officials tell me I couldn’t race! WTF?! I have traveled with my bike from Australia because you said I could enter.

After an hour or so they finally allowed me to ride “phew”, the racing went ok through the motos and quarters etc, I never felt that comfortable TBH but made the final, those guys were way quicker than me off that flat gate, but that is no match for being able to ride around the bottom of turns cranking hard after years of carparks only to ride on!

From 5th down the first straight I rode the bottom of the turn and came out with just enough speed to send it over the massive double to take the lead from the main man everyone said (did I mention I don’t care about reputations!) anyway once I hit the front it was all over and I won my first British Championships!

Funny, I still found that hard to write in my old age LOL, my first British Title at 43! I was treated to a rock star presentation at the podium, those kids loved my Australian shirt and I was truly humbled by everyone’s comments and best wishes, so many people remembered me from the ’80s and that was incredible then and still is even now. How relevant was it that I won on the site of my first National win 24 years earlier? (I had 3 goes at the Brits in the 80s),1 try I went out in the semis, 2nd try my handlebars snapped, and 3rd I was playing golf and missed my race!

The old me! Still haven’t won a National Championship in Australia. I entered the 2009 worlds in the 40+ Cruiser, just like the GT 20”, I had a cruiser that just didn’t work for me but I didn’t know that yet, and yes I saw Shaun Calvert and Tony Fleming had been World Champions and Trev Stamford had come close on a few occasions! So what was it I wanted? Was I a rider for fun who did OK? Was I a club President who rode, or was it that I was simply scared of exploring what I had failed to become 25 years earlier? I thought about excuses, was it money? Not anymore! Did I have no time to train? No! Well, what? Perhaps all of the above in some degree or another!

I didn’t take the 09 Worlds that seriously and yet got 5th on the 20” semi in the 30+ at 44 and crashed out in the Cruiser, then I met Shaun! Shaun was a velodrome rider coming back to BMX after being a National Champ at 14, now in his 30’s he wanted to train Jordan who was starting to motor, Shaun offered to help me with Gym work, he said my speed was good but I needed power as in my age class there was always lots of ex AA Pro riders who can gate really well.

After a year or so I ended up with 1RM’s of 101KG bench, 165 KG squat, and 195 KG deadlift, I could go from 0 to 33 KPH in 3 crank revolutions from a standing start on the flat! (Try it and see where you are at.)

Following the 2010 Nationals with a second on 20” despite leading and a 5th on the Cruiser behind great riders including Tim Ward who really put it to me for a few years! (He even said he thought I was rapid and just needed the gate!)

I finally found the best frame I have ever owned… a 2010 Redline Cruiser! I started jumping Pro sections on it pretty quickly, not trying different stuff had backfired on me a few times, anyway the bike is right now.

In 2011 I was different! Why?

Great bike, a track and club to practice at and something new – a trainer, Shaun had sorted my power, my speed was always good and I was confident for the first time since the 80’s I had a real belief in myself, I could get on the gate with anyone in Victoria even the best AA riders at the time and know I could holeshot and did.

Cairns was the venue for the Nationals and my first 10M split put me in the top 10 for the whole 2500 rider event! Now that’s what I was talking about, I doubled for my first 2 Australian #1’s.

I entered Jordan and myself in the Worlds at Copenhagen, having watched Ward and Stamford go 2nd and 3rd in SA the year before. I didn’t drop a race and was the first pick for the final ahead of Eric Rupe, coming from the Winter to 30*+ was a shock and I was cramping bad, I couldn’t have done anything different except been there a week earlier but after cramp locking my leg down the first straight and a 6ft German giving me a tap I was 5th!

2012 Nationals was a battle between me and Stamford at Mount Gambier for first despite the horrendous wind we jumped everything on the first 2 straights and battled through the 3rd straight.

Rhythm, Trev went a different combo to me and bonked a jump giving me my 3rd National plate! So here we go again, it’s Birmingham and I know how fast I am, I go to Manchester for the first time and Daz Reidy tells me how fast Sharpy is! “The fastest age-class rider in the country,” he said, so Sharpy is the Target. After a few gates we can’t be split with whoever was on the inside taking the holeshot. Afterward, Trev mentioned he couldn’t keep up with us and that felt good from the Blackpool Bullet.

Winning every race at Birmingham until I am next to the Canadian and Rupe in 3 for the Semi, I was so confident I decided not to show my hand until the final and let them go down the first straight and tuck in for a safe 3rd letting loose in the final!

What a plan! What a knob! I got to the corner too fast and by the time I let them go I was nailed, it’s ok you’re only in 5th and going for the pass, 4th place lost his bike into the second turn and I was out! What the F**K just happened?!

The post-mortem and regrouping

I soon realised that being the best is no guarantee of anything and at this rate, one go every 12 months I may never be World Champion!

So for 2013, I tried something different, now 47, I entered only A men (14+Pro) events and 30+ events, and I did well in A men making all finals with finishes around 5th against riders who went on to be Olympians for Australia. At the Nationals I was moto’d in the 30+ but I had good speed in the younger age group, which was a positive!

New Zealand Worlds

It brought doubts from me, not because of my speed or power, I knew I was one of the fastest guys, it was more of things out of my control like a cramp or being taken out. I think I was scared and worried I would live my life and all those who said “he rides a Grifter and lives in the North” would be right, I had a gift even for just a few years around my late 40’s and I had to let the World see it!

I watched Jordan on the 20” who was #1 material all day long crash on the first jump in the moto’s , I rushed to see him in the pits and he couldn’t walk!

Do I become the protective parent or the manager? I chose the latter, “Jordan don’t stop moving or it will only get worse”. I pushed him to do some sprints with tears in his eyes but he made the quarters and semis and finally the final! He rode so bravely as he had broken his foot in the end, but he never gave up, I still think it is one of the bravest things I have ever seen!

A World stage to finally perform on!

So now my time had come, I had already decided deep down this was my last one, after 31 years of on and off again BMX this will be my last attempt at the big one. Going for a warm-up roll around in Auckland I was moaning about something, with Jordan out for the Cruiser perhaps he decided he had to pay me back and he did!

“Dad for F**k’s sake stop moaning and just do it, Just do it that was what I needed, his words went so deep and I mentally turned a corner, finally nothing mattered, I can’t be stopped, it wasn’t overconfidence this time! I really didn’t care, it would give it all no matter what! My campaign started badly with a gate failure, me and Marco, another British rider was sliding down the hill stuck to our bikes, but despite seeing stars I didn’t care!

The Moto’s were a blur same as the quarter, but the semi brought me back down to earth with a mighty crash! The race before stopped and we had to wait, for some reason I unclipped rather than balanced, no sooner the gate call started! “Hang on” I said! No deal, the gate was gone without me, “not Birmingham again”. No way not this time, I got back to third on such a short track!

At first, it was a relief but then the reality of a 5th or 6th gate pick on this short first straight sank in! After 31 years! I am 6th pick in my last ever World final and 47 years old, but no moaning, no complaining this will be the best start and first straight of your life! The pits are empty now we are the last final, so just keep loose, just one more lap. I wait behind the gate just a minute away from defeat or ecstasy. It comes down to one thing, the race to the first turn on the shortest straight I have ever raced on and I am in lane 6, the other fast dudes were well on my inside, I take one more glance down the 5M to the first jump and know by the 10M mark my fate will be decided!

Riders ready, destiny is waiting.

The gate drops and my wheel is on it, a perfect start!  No cramp this time, no plan for this one!
The crowd goes wild watching a race of 45+ giants looking for eternal glory!

At 3M it’s the only natural talent I was born with. “My speed” kicks in, see their wheels fade and yet I push harder, the first corner low and fast, spin down the 2nd and jump into the second turn, keep it tight old man!

An awkward jump onto a table top and a then rhythm to the final bend ! I hear “go dad go dad” as I lay the Redline over past my family in the stands! But dare not look, just the last straight now, the jumps are deep for an old guy but the Redline was straight confirming she was the right choice!

Finally the finish line, I was numb, no words! I was World Champion! Turning around I went back down the last straight to see my family, I roar and shout 31 years! As they hang over the railings. So many emotions in such a story!

The future

Following the New Zealand Worlds, I took a little break but in 2014 the Nationals came to Victoria, with the Cruiser now living on my trophy wall, I would have one last serious ride at the Shepparton Nationals.

The 45-49 men was a big class with quarters and many ex AA’s including a World #3, I had a good run through but as usual, I waited until the final before I decided to make it as hard as possible for myself.

I was the first pick but decided I was good enough to holeshot from any gate on this massive first straight, Beep Beep Beep Beep, and then click! I unclipped rolling down the hill in last!

Mmm “I have been here before 30 years ago” I got back on it and by the second turn I was 4th, Shepparton is long and I needed every meter!I hammered down the 3rd straight rhythm pulling up on the outside of leader Comport in the last turn, this was a replay, I knew his move was to push me wide but I was expecting that so the outside inside was my escape.

Running on empty legs on fire, I won my 4th National #1 by 100th of a second in what was probably the greatest comeback of my life in such a field, was unreal!

My son Jordan has multiple National # 1’s, including a recent Masters #1, and 3 World 2’s, and my daughter Amanda, has 2 National #1’s and World 6, both are still competing.

As for me, I still look to keep enjoying it and I am still involved with improving the sport and facility in Wyndham.  I have decided to do a bit of racing this year, but there is no more stuff in the basement anymore! LOL

I hope to see the Wyndham Warriors facility become the National Standard!

Inspiration, regrets, and control…

Andy Hill and the Blackpool team have definitely been an inspiration; when Wyndham was struggling so was Blackpool, 12,000 miles away, as we were linked by social media and I got to know Andy.

Blackpool did some great work. Wyndham had just had our States and I was sure Andy did it on purpose but he topped me with the Brits!

FFS! Ok, then I jumped onto British Cycling and asked if I could do the Blackpool Brits in early 2018 and they said yes!  Sweet, I told Andy, and I borrowed Jordan’s Redline cruiser and hit the Gym! Yes, really! So the idea was to promote me as the ex-pat World 1 coming back to Blackpool to race the Brits in his hometown.  We hoped to rope in Flemdog and Shaun both W1’s to add to the flavor, (now, you know why I was training! ).

By March I was supposed to start entering some UK events to qualify when the BC reception went frosty, they still didn’t say no just that I had to ask the 45+ riders to see if they objected!

“What, from Australia?” So I contacted Billy Stupple. He set it up as a forum and it was great that every 45+ rider had no objection to me riding! Great, it’s back on then! Well not quite. So now it became the property of Dylan Clayton as a rep I believe! Dylan kept me in the loop but in the end, said the vote went 1 against and a fairytale ended! I believe BC missed a hell of an opportunity that day and let down the Blackpool club big time!

Up-to-date

The Australian scene has been held back by a lack of vision. I think they embraced the tech though, there is old skool racing, but the non-riding old skool seems to be bigger. The normal BMX racing is starting to pick up following the lockdowns now and I hope the Pro side of it comes back like it was some years back. I still follow some of the British stuff through SM etc, Daz Reidy’s has some great videos of British racing or links to Youtube, plus he’s OK. I do keep my eye on Andy Hill and his constant push to outdo my club, although he does have some good ideas occasionally I can steal! “Hey, all’s fair in war and BMX right!”

To be fair I know he got the Brit’s flamethrowers from me! Don’t deny it, Andy!

I have made so many friends and got to know so many people, BMX has crossed all ages and I hope it can go on long after Dale and I have gone! I did 4 competitive years in the UK and perhaps 6 in Australia! What a fantastic journey, riding to the train station in the dark! Well, you couldn’t have made it up, could you?

And with that, my story is done!

Thank you to everyone I have mentioned as you were part of my story and also to Dale for giving me the opportunity to put so much down in print, he really is a custodian of BMX history.

I hope in some way my story will add to that history, perhaps it can inspire those who are doing it and having a tough go, and won’t be put off by big names or fancy gear, it worked for me.

My achievements in racing

2 UK Regional #1’s

LEP Open Champion

British Champion

Australia: 23 State plates

4 National #1’s

2013 World Champion

Interview Andy Lomas

You skated before BMX, how did you get into skating and in what year?

David Fraser and I were in Leeds and saw Skateboards in a shop, we brought 2 boards for £20 total. We wore them out in two weeks at my primary school parking lot. Then went back and bought 2 more, summer of 76.

How did you find out about BMX and in what year?

I travelled to Lakewood, California 1979ish with Steve Gratton and Steve Illingsworth (2nd para) and a few more guys. We travelled from park to park skating at a pro level with other pros. Stacy Peralta, Ray Bones, Cab, McGill, Doc Otamura and John Schaff. Everyone was there. At Lakewood, I met Eddie Fiola and Tinker Juarez chatted about how to ride a halfpipe on a BMX bike. I’d already ridden the monster pool on a tank Schwinn beach cruiser. Lakewood was the best, Snake run, Half pipe, Pools, Bowls, The bomb!!! When we returned to the UK we kept skating harder and better after the US trip and then at some point I bought a Murray.

What was your first bike, where did you get it from?

The first real bike was a Mongoose/Supergoose. Supposedly, I was sponsored by Mongoose through Brian Siddedly in Southport. Those days are a bit vague but I remember getting some Skyway Tuffs shortly after.

Local scene: Who did you ride with?

Southport – rode a lot with Mike Chilvers, Steve Gratton and Andy Irwin. It’s a long time ago and I’ve had a bunch of concussions.

Tell us about the photo shoot in BMX News at Southport Skatepark. What do you remember about it and who shot the photos?

Mike Chilvers and I had been at a race in Southport. The rain was relentless and the track as usual was crap and I had seen real USA tracks that were like dirt skateparks.
It was such a chore to sit and wait in the rain to ride a muddy track and then not qualify because of the bad conditions. Remember I was 6’6” and 180lbs I was pushing big fast gears.
I said to Mike, screw this I’m going to the skatepark so I geared down and we were just messing around (Mike wheelied) the whole way lol.

After a while, a guy shows up with a camera (Martin Higginson) and asks who’s Andy Lomas? He said so what’s the deal? Why aren’t you racing? I said this is better and I’m a skater so I know the lines and on a bike you can rip and go hard and fast. I did a few table tops over the corners he said, “What’s your best trick?” So… I never said a word. I just marked a spot he could focus on (since we had a manual focus camera) and popped the biggest foot plant and landed it with both feet on the bike in the air on the bank. Then I did the iconic one handed footplant that was ran in the article. I don’t want to knock racing. If I’d lived in America back then I would have raced into retirement. I was big, fast and aggressive. Falling wasn’t a big deal since I’d skated forever already.

Do you still have a copy of BMX News from that shoot?

I don’t have a copy of the magazine. I wish I did.

You came from the Northwest which was a real hot bed for BMX in the early 80s. Did you race much?

I was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire and moved into a pub called the Queen in Carlton outside leeds. I was one of the first skaters in the Leeds Wakefield area. I raced with Steve Gratton and we would travel around but the weather made it hard. I was such a Tinker Juarez fan and of course Eddie Fiola after meeting them in the States, I wanted to ride vert and pools and pipes. I wanted to be Tony Alva on a BMX.

I’m pretty sure I was the first rider to go to BMX at Romford. Steve had gone down to Chatham Kent racing so I tagged along but instead went to Rom once we got South, I rode BMX with a full face Bell helmet. Everyone at the Park stopped when they saw me!! Steve and I were always ahead of the curve along with Stefan Harkon and Neal Danze. We were the first well-known Skaters and because of Southport it changed people’s perception of BMX.

You moved to the US, what prompted the move?

At 12 years old I wanted to travel to California. In 1981 age 20 I moved to Belmont shores with Darren Burrdell (Sheenagh’s brother). We lived with David Quackenbush of the Vandals. By then we were skating, surfing and BMX riding. And lots of photography!!

You’re a photographer these days and it looks like you still skate?

I shattered my humerus about four years ago. I’m 62 this year so my skating and riding is limited. I’ve had a very crazy life over the past 50 years. I’ll skate more these days but it would be nice to get a 24 cruiser and still shoot photos.

Final thoughts?

We get one life, I lost my mum at 7 so I figured I would turn up the volume, dream big, drive hard and keep pushing. I’ve skated with the best, ridden with the best. I was a golf pro for a decade. I spent years doing rock concert work. I’ve shot with the seals. I’m about to move to Bali and the Philippines. Oh, and I ordered a Kawasaki 1000 ex cop bike. A new era has begun.

Live your life like it’s your last day on earth (it might be). One day at a time.

Cheers

Superclass Superstar THE LEGEND OF “TOO TALL” WINNIE WRIGHT

As we once again approach the passing anniversary of our dear friend, Winnie Wright (Feb 13th, 2001), I wanted to post an interview that was run in the May 1988 Issue of UKBMX Race Line Magazine.

UKBMX put the Magazine out and flipping through some back issues it still stands up today with race coverage, interviews, news and UKBMX National point updates and race dates. The UKBMX staff that put the magazine together were Bridget Hayes – Editor, Clive Gosling – Assistant Editor, and Photography in this particular issue came from Scott Dick. Additional contributors were Bob Sanders, Billy Wright, Terry Beasley, Nevil Hollis, Lyn Kemp, Brian Little, Roly Sate and Adrian Williams.

NAME: Winnie Wright, my middle name is Anthony. Although a lot of people have got different nicknames for me!

AGE: I am 19 at the moment.

JOB: I’m a Postman. It’s a great job because I can ride in the afternoons, although I have to get up at four in the morning!

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN BMX-ING? It seems like forever, I guess I started riding about Eight years ago.

FIRST RACE: My first race was at Westway. I was doing well until Errol McLean knocked me over a berm and I landed hard on my neck, and everyone laughed at me.

FAVE TRACK: I don’t know. I don’t think there’s a real, first-class track in England, but Alveston and Wigan are rad.

WORST TRACK: Thorne definitely! It is just so crappy!

BIKE HISTORY: You really wanna know, I’ve had a lot of bikes ya know. Well, my first bike was a Team Murray, who’s wasn’t?! Then, I had a Redline, a Torker, a SuperGoose, a blue Kuwahara, a white Kuwahara and even a chrome Kuwahara. Then, I had a March, a JMC, a Mongoose, a specially made Ammaco, and now I’m riding a “Winnie Wright” series frame. I got it made for my design. It is so long!

FAVE RIDERS: That’s an easy one; Clive Gosling, Bobby Hyde, and Keith Joseph.

WORST RIDERS: All of the stiffbacks, the ones with all the power, when they get a jump they go, “AARGH” and fall off!

TRAINING: Yeah, I do a lot of training, down at the pub on Friday nights! My right is so strong! (INSERT LAUGHTER!)

SPONSORSHIP HISTORY: My first team was Westway, we were so fast! Then, there was the Brunswick boy’s club. After that, I got a ride with Sussex BMX. In 1985, I got my first, real Factory ride with JMC. I was riding for Ammaco for two years, but they have no team this year, so I’ve joined Links Racing for ’88.

WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN BMX IN ENGLAND? If I had to say in what happened, I would build a really fast track with massive whoops and stuff! I also think that there should be an open class at Nationals.

THANKS WINNIE!

Interview – Bill Beeken (Ammaco, Diamond Back, Aero)

Year started in BMX?
1979/80

How did you discover BMX, were you already in the bicycle industry?
I worked for Malcom Jarvis at Ammaco selling some of the first Mongoose bikes he brought in from the States. I worked with Joe Cerelo along with Don Smith who came from motorcycle trials and had a good network of motorcycle shops we could utilize.

You were the team manager for Diamond Back, what year? Team riders?
Yes, after Ammaco I went to Freewheeler who brought in Pro-Star and Diamond Back. I was selling bikes and ran the Diamond Back team which consisted of Chris Simmonds, Jason Maloney, Louis Mears and Mark White. We also got to meet and travel with Harry Leary when he came over, visiting bike shops all over the country promoting the brand.

Did you see the spike when BMX really started to boom? How healthy was the industry in the UK at the time?
Once Harry came over things went ballistic for Diamond Back, it really translated into us selling a lot of bikes. I think all the main brands in the industry were doing good once the sport started to boom during the first part of the 80s.

You were one the the early Brits in the industry to make the trip to California. What do you remember from that trip?
Harry returned the favor and invited me over to the US. I went to Pittsburg, Florida and then over to California, met the owner of Aero, Carston Berg who was sponsoring the UK Diamond Back team at the time.

What was your involvement with Aero? It seemed like it was so popular in the UK.
After meeting Carston, Peter Collins and I decided to set up and distribute Aero back in the UK. After having good relationships and contacts already in place, we really got to build the brand up sponsoring the likes of Steve Gratton, Tim March, the Diamond Back and Raleigh just to name a few.

You exited the sport by the mid 80s what did you do after?
I had some great days in BMX, met so many great people. I was good friends with Richard Barrington from ACE, Geoff Barraclough from GT, Craig Schofield and the Raleigh guys among so many.

After I left the BMX Industry mid 80s, I was in the car business and these days I do firm extra work. I still like to check in on social media and the internet to see what’s going with BMX these days. It seems like BMX is in a good place in the UK, which is great.

The forgotten kid on Team ACE – Trevor Shanks

It seems like for one reason or another, Team ACE has been overlooked when we talk about the history of BMX in the UK.  They were right there at the start.  In fact, right here on britishbmxhalloffame.com we thought the first official BMX in the UK was Redditch in 1980, however when researching further, it’s Team ACE we found has the first race put on by Don Smith and ACE’s Richard Barrington a year earlier in 1979 Brockwell Park in London.

We start out with an interview from Team ACE rider, Trevor Shanks who was on the team with the likes of Nicky Matthews, Pete Middleton, Cav Stutt and Andy Ruffell but his name isn’t really mentioned as much when Team ACE is brought up.  We thought it would be cool to get some insight and thoughts from Trevor. Since this interview we have managed to connect with Cav Strutt and some other Team ACE riders so look for a Part 2 down the road.

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Where did you first hear about BMX?
Like so many, I first heard about BMX from the US TV show, “Chips”.  Kids around the country then converted their Grifters to look like BMX bikes and emulated Motocross.  The first BMX bike I saw in person was being ridden by Cav Strutt over at our local Wreck off of Higham Hill in Walthamstow  – this must of been around 1979.

Meeting Don Smith.
During the Easter Holiday I was riding at the forest as usual on my bike when a few of my mates came up and said that there was a bloke down at the Motorcycle shop that wanted to sponsor me in BMX.   I didn’t believe them so I went to the shop as quick as I could ride and when I got there, Dave the manager passed me a piece of paper with a phone on it and said phone this man he is a friend of mine I passed along your name to him and the rest he will explain.  This man was Don Smith.  On the phone he explained that he had just returned from the US to see BMX and wanted to promote it in the UK and he wanted someone who was pretty good on a bike thus Dave giving him my name, he asked if I could go to his flat the next day and he would explain more.

The next day I went and took Nicky Matthews with me who only had a Raleigh Grifter at the time, we were good friends and I didn’t really want to go on my own.  When we went up into his lounge there was this red BMX bike up against the wall and I cannot remember what make it was.  Don proceeded to explain about BMX showing us BMX Magazines and a Video from the States he then said well there’s your bike let’s go over to where you ride and show me what you can do on it, then we will go to my friend Richard’s factory and he will be sorting out race kit and so on.

Meeting up with Richard Barrington at ACE?
At the factory is where we met Richard Barrington and as Nicky was with the two of us we were now both being measured up for race kits so Nicky said, “I’d better see if my mum can buy me a bike now”.  I had the red BMX a couple of weeks and because Don now had an involvement with the UK Mongoose supplier, Ammaco he changed my bike for a Supergoose from there a photo shoot was arranged with the local newspaper for me and Nicky and some of the other guys we rode with including Cav Strutt.  Don and Richard then said we need to put a race team together so we started holding little races in the forest then all the guys who wanted to be part of the team all met down at Richard’s factory and this was the start of Team Ace. Don and Richard had some wooden Ramps made and organized a demo race in Brockwell Park (1979) in London, Ammaco supplied some bikes and Danny Oakley from the US Mongoose Team came over as a guest, this was Team Ace’s first race. Cav didn’t race as he was more into Freestyle and rode Skateparks with Andy Ruffell, but Pete Middleton and Nicky Matthews were a couple of the riders that did.

Did Richard fund it all or were there others involved?
Yes, all funded by Richard.

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281 Trevor Shanks

Other Team riders?  It seemed to be quite a dream team so early on.
Cav Strutt, Andy Ruffell, Steve Gilley, Pete Middleton, Tony Waye, Nicky Matthews, Scott McDonald, Steve Gratton at some point plus myself of course those are the ones most people will remember.

ACE must have been one of the first legit teams in the UK.  What other teams do you remember at the time?
Ammaco Mongoose, Robinson, Halfords, Redline and Kuwahara were some of the earlier ones.

Some of the tracks you raced at?
Ipswich, Buckmore Park, Peterborough, Bishop Stortford , Scotland, Earl’s Court & Redditch.

What was the background on the Ace Frame & Forks?
Richard opened up the Ace Bike Shop (ACE Racing at 444 Forest Road Walthamstow London.)  Cav worked in the shop setting up and fixing bikes.  After a while, Richard with the help from Cav started to design his own frame to take the Ace brand further.  Cav had a lot of input into the design, he and I both rode and tested the first bare metal prototype, then we both got the first chrome plated ones.

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Eastway – Trevor Shanks, Peter Middleton, Cav Strutt, Nikki Matthews.

What happened with you on the team?
I finished racing the 83 season as a privateer after Richard sold my bike and pulled the plug in the team.

One day I had turned up about 5 mins late to go to a race at Ipswich, Richard refused to take me and dropped me from the team although I was always in the finals and winning the odd race.   For some reason he always favored Cav, Pete and Nicky & Andy had already gone over to Ammaco by this time, so my mum took me to Ipswich and I raced under no team name, I beat all the Ace riders in my class and also got myself in the Magazine during the jumping competition.

After a couple of months attending races on my own and getting my name in a few mags, Richard sent Cav over to my house and Cav said that Richard wanted to see me.  I went to see Richard in his office at the shop and he said that I was making a name for myself and did I want to come back on Ace?  I said I’m not sure as he might drop me again.  He apologized and said that as I was paying for my current Redline weekly he would pay it off.  He gave me a job in the shop as I had left school and didn’t have a job and he also started to pay me for riding which no one at the time knew.

You guys got a lot of magazine coverage in the early 80 then it seemed like Team Ace disappeared pretty quick, what happened?
Late 82 was the end for a lot of the other riders had been snapped up by the bigger teams and Richard decided to pull the plug on the team.

Cav had now given up BMX and wasn’t attending many races, Pete Middleton, and Steve Gilley had moved to Ammaco. I was doing the odd demo and at one time did a demo at a motorcycle shop in Wales.  I was now 17, had a motorcycle and a girlfriend although I was attending the odd race and riding over at Rom etc

I was at home one day and one of my friends came to my house and said that Richard wanted to borrow my bike as he was selling the design to someone.  A couple weeks passed still no sign of my bike so I went to Richard’s house to ask where my bike was to his reply he said it wasn’t mine in first place and that he had sold it along with the design as BMX was dying off.  The shop had closed so I asked Richard what about my money for riding and what am I going to ride with that little contract he had written up a year or so ago in the shop? He tore it up and said I could get a ride anywhere.  This was now the end of Team Ace.  I borrowed a bike and rode for a little longer but not only could not get to many races and not compete with the now faster riders and big teams so my time in BMX was sadly over and my time in BMX was short-lived. (1979 to 1983) I then went into Motocross I tried to go back into it around 85 but I had been away for too long.  So that is the true story of Team Ace from start to finish as it was.

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Richard passed away in 2012 but his name and ACE are stapled in the history of BMX in the UK.  You must be proud of having been involved in something so special in British BMX from the early years?
I still have a couple of bikes & still go over.  I was interviewed for the Rom Boys documentary which should be out later this year.  As I said before although myself and Nikki Matthews were at the very start and got all the lads together to form the Ace team, my name is rarely mentioned only the guys who were lucky enough to move to the bigger sponsors – I stayed with the people who got into BMX to be loyal but had taken away just as quick.  On the hand I still have a lot to thank; Richard, Don Smith and Dave from the shop I worked at for giving my name to Don otherwise I wouldn’t be here telling the story about Team Ace which may have never existed.  I feel very proud to have been a part of although short lived a part of British BMX History and lucky enough to have rode with some of the riders who became top Pros and big names in the sport.  I hope this is ok I told how it was and as much as I could remember as I am an old bugger now. Thank you for asking me to tell you my story as I said I am pretty much forgotten now.

Regards, Trevor Shanks Team Ace Factory Rider 79 – 83

Interview – Mike Pardon

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What year did you start BMX?
I think I started bmx around 1980? I fixed up my sister’s bike, which was a 20’ girl’s shopping bike and used to pretend to do motocross over a track we had in local fields!!! The bike didn’t last long.  I had been riding an 80cc Suzuki which my Uncle Paul converted to a field bike before that. I wanted to do motorcross but we had no money for that lark. A group of my school mates; Andy Bennett, Dave Westwell talked about a new shop called Alan’s in Hindley and also Halfords having something called a BMX bike.  The brands I remember at the time were Mongoose and Puch Murray.  But my first real bmx bike I got in Xmas 1980 and it was a Mongoose Skyway purchased unknown to me from Alan’s by my Uncle Paul as a surprise. I do remember watching the kids show Magpie and they showed Tinker Juarez doing a 360 out of a bowl.  It blew my mind.  I wanted a slice of that action!

The North West had quite a scene from the sport’s inception, who were some of the guys you rode with back then?
Craig Borrows, Andy Parr, Dave Arnold, Stu Carr, Fenwick Carr, Jason Ramsden, Alan Woods, John Lee, Andy Bennett, David Westwell & Godfrey Burke.  Sorry if I forgot anyone.

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How did you hook up with Alan Woods and get on Torker?
I almost scammed my way into his team.  I had a Mongoose shirt and had “Alan’s team” printed on it. Alan went for a trip to the hallowed land “California” and brought back a Torker F&F with Max pants and a race Shirt plus a yellow Simpson helmet. He then asked me to ride for him. He made an offer I couldn’t refuse. I felt like a million dollars.

First full season of racing must have been around 82? You finished National number 2 to Andy Ruffell in the 15s? What were some of the National tracks you raced at?
Was my first season 82?  I thought it was 81?  My first race was at Belle Vue for Hindley BMX club.  I won on the indoor circuit with wooden pallet jumps.  It’s where I saw Cav Strutt do a 360.  Mind -blowing.  It was also seminal in my development as I used to go to Belle Vue to watch speedway in the 1970s. I always wanted to be a speedway rider or an astronaut.  I’ve had a go at one but not the other yet!! Memorable tracks for me were Ipswich, Eastway, Buckmore Park. Alan remembers tracks better than me. Grasby was a good track it had a Rubber start gate and very steep hill?

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Any other notable names from that age group that you battled with?
John Lee of course, he was a fast bastard!!!!, Tony Law & Mark White. I was glad I wasn’t racing Fenwick Carr and Jason Ramsden as they where super fast.  It seemed like the grit and terrain of Wigan and Leigh produced some fast riders.

You were already getting a ton of press in the UK mags – featured a lot in Official BMX, BMX News newspaper before it became BMX Weekly and onto BMX Bi-Weekly. How did you and Andy Preston team up and test ride for Weekly?
Alan Woods got me into testing bikes for BMX Weekly.  I was the rider who would always have a go at big jumps and seemed to excel at tricks.  Photogenic maybe?  If memory serves me right, I had some kit made by Max for BMX Weekly; Jag shoes, Max pants & Max shirt, it looked real pro.  Alan does have that touch. He knows how to make things look factory! I used to go and ride whatever bike the magazine wanted to test.  I did jumps, tricks on them & made them look good even if they weren’t. There was a fair bit of the North and South divide thing between mags.  Official BMX was based down south and Bmx Bi-Weekly was based up North.  There was talent either side of Watford gap so it depended on your postcode which magazine you got coverage in. Andy Preston came on board around this time 83 ish and I think Martin Higginson suggested making a Team.  It was a Brit attempt at BMX Action’s.  Mike Buff and RL Osborn trick team but way less glamorous! Andy and I were then offered jobs at Pontin’s Holiday Camp in Morecambe as Bluecoat/Bike instructors at the newly built track. What a life!!! It was great to ride everyday and be paid for it.  Plus we were available to the magazine’s for photoshoots. It also suited Pontin’s, as they got exposure.  We both got pretty good. I personally got better at racing and tricks even though the ramps were so bad. Andy Preston and his folks put a lot of work into making us a professional outfit. His dad was an engineer and designed the portable ramps we used. They were groundbreaking at the time and perfect transitions. We used Andy’s own Land Rover to tow them round.  I can’t even imagine the fuel bills.

Any notable photo shoots you remember with BMX Weekly?
I do remember some at Pontin’s camp where we put the trick ramp on top of the table top and I used to hit it and get huge airs. But Nigel Higginson was into arty “sky” pictures which gave no hint of the height. So all that risk was for nothing. He did produce some great pictures but I was frustrated at the outcome of some. Especially when I became a frequent guest of the Pontin’s medical centre from crashes. I did a Raleigh photoshoot in Tenerife,1983 and jumped into the harbour off a trick ramp on a tuff burner. The locals thought I was a crazy gringo and it never even made the magazine. Took some balls to!!

You had a lot of Covers – any favorites?
As I get older I am getting prouder of what I have achieved. One day I can show them to my son Sebastian. The Romford Skatepark Aerial cover is my favourite. I just loved that park and wish I could have rode it more.

It seemed like you lost interest in Racing and turned to Freestyle – what made you switch over?
I don’t remember losing interest in racing. I just had no time to do the Nationals and do my trick team commitments. I got third in Wigan national against all the heads of state in the 16 expert class 1983 when I was a fulltime trick rider. So I proved I could still race with the best of them.

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You also got picked up by Raleigh, how did that deal come about?

I think the deal came about through Martin Higginson and BMX Bi-Weekly. It made sense. They are guaranteed coverage and a good rider plus BMX Beat happened. When I won that it seemed to explode for us as a team with Andy coming in second place. The Saturday morning TV series we made got us a lot of exposure, plus magazine coverage and demos. We had our 15 mins of fame put it that way.

You won BMX Beat that was featured on TV at the time winning the overall and continued to get a lot of coverage. It had to be a cool thing at the time?
Yes, it was really a special time; doing tricks at the Lyceum theatre in London in front of the biggest pop stars in the country, getting letters from females who watched the show & doing demos in front of a few thousand people.  I just wish looking back I had the foresight to train better and market myself better but I wouldn’t change it.  I experienced minor fame, which is so lame but it was fun for a while.

With the big money deal and arrival of Andy Ruffell to Raleigh it looked like you got the bump. What can you remember about that and thoughts on getting let go?
Well I was bemused as there was talk about Andy getting a car and nearly 20000 grand sterling. That was a fortune for a BMX Pro at that time. I couldn’t understand why we both couldn’t continue to be Raleigh riders.  In fact, I thought it would have been good for the company. Andy’s primary goal was racing, mine was Freestyle. Although Andy would have been the best Freestyler, if he put his mind to it no doubt. I had a great relationship with Raleigh I had been to the factory to help give input on bike design. Plus I had gotten them shitloads of coverage with all the TV and Magazine stuff I had done. I think most people look back and remember Andy for Mongoose bikes not for Raleigh and me for Raleigh not Hutch. But hey I don’t do the marketing so I went to Shiner on the Hutch Trickstar.

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You soon got picked up by Hutch (Shiner) how was that deal and riding the 85 Kelloggs?
Shiner and Alan’s in my opinion are the backbone of BMX and Skateboarding in the UK. I was super stoked to ride for them on the Hutch Trickstar. Plus our relationship was so good. The Allen family were beyond kind to me and helped me throughout my Skateboard career also. I was pretty average at the 85 Kelloggs event. I had actually booked to go on holiday with my then girlfriend Diane Arnold ( Jacob Roberts Mum) and we had to cancel it to do that event.  She wasn’t best pleased. I just wasn’t into competing and every demo became a chore and I wasn’t enjoying riding. You can check my heat against Ron Wilkerson on youtube.  He dabs so many times and does all that clown stuff, dancing on the bike etc. I hated that crap. But in hindsight I wasn’t that bad. The young guns were coming up, doing bigger airs pushing the boundaries of what was possible. Seemed like the writing was on the quarter pipe.

Seemed like you faded away from BMX shorty after any reason why?
I simply wasn’t enjoying it. BMX seemed to be all gloss and bubblegum no substance It didn’t have an edge.  Skateboarding on the other hand did.  It was new (to me) I was learning and enjoying the process of learning.  I continued doing BMX demos for Manchester council and riding for Shiner but I wasn’t going to win another competition, My tricks became to old school. I also hated the whole BFA thing and Colin Kefford’s vision for BMX Freestyle. It just seemed to be taking a wrong direction but what do I know? In hindsight I should have stuck at it, maybe joined a circus earned some cash and diversified into being a lion tamer!!!

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What were you up to in the late 80s and 90s?
I was living in various places. Southsea, Portsmouth for a while. I lived at number 70 liss road with Neil Hawkins, Tracy Weller and we skated partied, skated, and partied.  We had great sessions on the vert ramp and hung out with travelling American skate pros. I was skating Vert comps and getting better. I even opened a skateboard shop with Doug Nelson called Soul Skates in Chorley. I skated for Shiner on Powell and Zorlac then Allan Losi put me on LSD boards. Finally Jeremy at Deathbox gave me a deal on Bash. I even got my own Pro model. I spent time skateboarding and competing in Texas, Europe, Brazil, Scotland. It was a real learning phase in my life. I tried lots of things, made lots of mistakes. I came close along with Neil Danz and Davie Phillips to dying in Brazil 1990. We had a big car wreck. How we survived to this day is a mystery. I then got stoked on Surfing and after doing a couple of trips to Cornwall with Gary Lee and seeing his stoke for the sport wanted to learn. I realised I had to live near the waves. So I moved down to Cornwall and spent time surfing with Jamie Blair. I did whatever I could to get by including dishwashing jobs but I gradually learned to surf. I made some great friends during this time and had great experiences. I lived in a tiny caravan and occasionally skated but there wasn’t any vert in Cornwall at the time. I just surfed as much as possible. I then met an Irish girl (as you do) and moved to Ireland. I ended up living in Co Donegal by incredible waves, surfing with amazing surfers and still have a love affair with Ireland to this day. When I first moved to Co Donegal. I ended up delivering newspapers at the ripe age of 27. Thinking fuck what am I doing with my life? But sometimes doors open and I got into lifeguarding which led me into Beach lifeguarding which led me into getting work, which led me into getting involved in “surflifesaving”.  I ended up being (wait for it) the All Ireland Paddleboard Champion 4 times in a row and helping the Donegal lifesaving team to multiple successes. I am very proud to have been honoured by Donegal council for my services to lifesaving. For a lad from Manchester I was humbled. All this led to me joining the Ambulance service in 1997.  I worked in Donegal for a while then I got a job in Northern Ireland and trained up in Belfast and worked around some interesting areas.  The Good Friday agreement came into effect during the late 1990s so thankfully the troubles defused a little. I also got into Irish motorcycle road racing.  I went to watch Joey Dunlop a few times and decided I was going have a crack. I got my race licence, bought a CBR600 race bike. Then the foot and mouth thing hit and all road races were cancelled.  This probably saved my life in hindsight. Because of the foot-in-mouth I ended up doing a club race at 3 Sisters Wigan (my first race) I won the rookie class and got 6th in 600 Supersport.  I thought I was the shit!! So I turn up for the next  practice session, a month later, it was wet.  I had zero experience in the wet.  I highside within half a lap and knock myself out, break my collarbone, badly bruised my hip and mess up my bike.  I figure I had the highs and lows of motorcycle racing in one foul swoop. Reflecting on this time it’s funny how my formative racing experiences revolved around 3 Sisters!!  Even though the BMX track was gone.

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Did you still follow the sport?
I followed BMX racing at the last Olympics but I don’t watch much racing these days. I watch clips the Vans park series on Youtube. The Redbull “Sebastian Keep” clip is pure genius. My honest opinion about BMX racing is it’s lost its way.  I don’t mean that in detriment to current racers but I feel the format needs to change to switch it up.  I love BMX, it’s given me so much.  Riding a little 20” bike took me to places I never imagined.  It’s given me great bike control and opened doors for me. I now have a 4 year old son riding around a BMX track but I just want him to have fun.  I am not going to push him in anyway to do what I have done (promise).  I will always maintain a connection to BMX.

Alongside BMX you always skated, how did you get into that and did you compete?
I didn’t always skate, I took it up in 84 properly.  We used to skate “stiff necks” ramp in Ince near Wigan. The North West scene with Ardwick and Warrington was booming so I just learned to skate vert ramps. Tim Stamp, Dave Arnold, Craig Burrows always diversified into BMX and skating We just did it all. I entered some ESA skate events then graduated to skating with the A group vert lot. I was never that good. I had moments but never trained enough.  I watch stuff from Munster 1989 and it’s still unreal what they do even then.

You came back into racing again and coached in the 2000s what made you come back and how did you do?
Well, I ended up quitting the ambulance job and moving back to the UK from Ireland and living back at my Mum’s in Wigan.  I was a bit lost but had some spare cash. So I started racing Supermoto on a 650 Husaberg in the Norasport uk series.  I worked my way up to A grade and won some trophies. It’s basically BMX racing with an engine. So much fun. Supermoto got to feel very natural for me but as with most motorsports, it’s about money.  I ran out and then decided to have a crack at living in Australia. I sold my bike and kit and made an attempt at trying to find work in Australia. I didn’t as I couldn’t get a visa. I ran out of cash, so I came back to the UK broke and a little lost. It was then Alan Woods that asked if I wanted to race 24” cruisers for him? Of course, I thought why not.  I ended up winning the over 40s cruiser class at National level and British championships twice I think? I also raced Masters on a 20” It culminated with me managing Alan’s team for him.  We set up a pretty professional outfit with Vans and Shimano onboard. I was asked by Jeremy Hayes at British Cycling to assist with coaching. He’s good and knows how they operate.  It was an experience for me.  I got involved with Jamie Staff and Jeremy Hayes in writing the “how to BMX manual”

What were your thoughts on the sport this time around getting back into it compared to the 80s?
It was a world apart from what I knew.  The BMX tracks where so different. Concrete huge jumps, multiple doubles, step ups step downs, Riding  a BMX was very refined to.  I was lucky, as when I started racing again for Alan I had been riding skateparks in Australia so I had progressed.  I had taught myself spine transfers and a few new school moves.  I maintained skills at handling a bike plus surfing had given me an insight into fitness.  You have to remember I basically quit BMX Freestyle in 1986 and had never even done a roll in on a quarter pipe. That was a big trick back then.  If you think about it Andy Ruffell’s front hop drop in was big news BITD.  Now it’s just a set up.  I had to face many demons to tell myself at 40 years of age I could still progress. I then got a spate of injuries during my second racing career for Alan.  I broke my scapula in Wales in the Masters main then broke my wrist at Copull and popped my shoulder out also.  Hmmm I was sore!

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What was with the move to Australia?
I wanted to start a new life.  I enjoyed the climate of course.  I love surfing and thought most people just surfed, worked two days a week and owned their own homes.  Boy was I wrong. You work your arse off here.  It’s overpriced, fucking hot and unless you’re very lucky you “ain’t” getting a place by the ocean.  But it’s also got loads of space and opportunities and if you’re prepared to have a go and work hard it can reward you. It’s given me highs and lows in my 10 years here. It’s given me a son who I adore.  Plus a dual passport and grey hair. My job as a paramedic can be very stressful and I wonder how long I can go on doing it? But caring for my lad gives me the strength and purpose. I live day to day at the moment.

Are you still surfing, skating and riding bikes?
I still ride bikes most days.  I have a good collection. Two road racing bikes, two BMX bikes, two MTB bikes, one 26” cruiser, a 26’ jump bike oh yes and a cyclocross bike. I spent 2018 racing Gravity Enduro mtb events in WA.  I took to it pretty well and ended up taking it to the last round to be Champion in my age group but a big old crash ended that.  Also the champ, Ian Daniels, is faster than me!! I moved to Victoria in May 2019 from Western Australia to be closer to my boy as I am now divorced from his mother. So I changed my lifestyle completely.  I was surfing daily in WA but now I road ride or MTB tracks, gravel and when I can compete in selected events. I got into road riding properly in 2009 at a Master’s level when I moved to Australia and got up to A grade.  I also qualified for the UCI Masters road finals in Trento, Italy in 2013 and finished respectfully. Unfortunately it’s been a rough few years for me both mentally and physically but I am still here fighting. I shattered my collar bone and had it plated in late 2018 then had a freak accident and pulled out the plate leading to another operation, bigger plate and a lot of pain and I have only just started to fully recover from that and regain my fitness.   Plus I had a full shoulder reconstruction in 2014. I recently competed in the Australian gravel championships.  My first road event in 5 years.  I got 4th in my age group, it was a definite learning experience especially going nearly 70kph on drop bars down a really rough trail, knowing if I did fall, my collarbone at the very least was gone again.  I survived though and gained some confidence.

Future goals with riding?
At the tender age of 54 my goal is to get my fitness back after injury and compete in whatever takes my fancy. I am going to try cyclocross in 2020 and do more MTB XCO stuff.  I do enjoy racing road crits and plan to see how I go in the 2020 national masters.  It’s a smorgasbord really and there are so many routes in cycling now to go and have fun at.  I also plan to ride my skateboard more and as long as I can drop in and hit a smith grind I am a pretty happy man.  I plan to keep going until my body or heart gives out, whichever comes first. To all my friends around the world I send out a big hug. Anyone that knows me from BMX or Skateboarding, I apologize if I was ever a wanker to you but I am a good guy, really.  Peace out.

Interview – Keith Wilson

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How did you discover BMX? What year was it? How was your local scene, who did you ride with back then?
Growing up in the outskirts of East London in the 1970’s was a magical time for anyone who rode dirt bikes due to the close proximity of Epping Forest and untold wasteland as a result of all the damage done in World War 2.

The part of the forest closest to my house was littered with bomb-holes from German air-raids and as it was on a big hill. I was actually riding the bomb-holes as part of a big downhill track from the mid 70’s onwards.

Around Late 1978, we were all riding 24″ tracker bikes with Cyclocross knobbly tires and Motocross bike handlebars, The original ‘Hardtail Mountainbikes’ (20 years before they became fashionable) and whilst riding at a spot called the Hollow Ponds I met the Walthamstow riders of Andy Ruffell, Cav Strutt, Peter Middleton, Nicky Matthews, Steve Gilley and many others and instantly became friends with them. In early 79 we saw the famous episode of CHiPs featured bmx racing, we all knew we wanted to do ‘BMX’ instantly.

Pretty much straight after the CHiPs episode the Walthamstow boys suddenly appeared on modified Grifters, usually colour-changed to one of the colours of the main mx motorbikes, longer-straightened forks fitted, lightweight saddle/post, shopping bike handlebars and gears removed. They were the coolest thing I had ever seen and within weeks I had obtained one and carried out the modifications (real bmx bikes weren’t available in the UK at this time).

Whilst we were all riding at The Hollow Ponds doing big jumps, etc. a chap showed up in a three-piece-suit with a distinctive hairstyle and seemed to know a lot about bmx in America. I described him to my Dad when I got home and he informed me that it was Don Smith, a legendary motorcycle rider/racer from the area that had numerous World Titles to his name, next time I saw Don I certainly took notice of everything he said! He spoke of an upcoming trip to California where he would purchase the latest bmx bikes to import, and how he was going to organise ‘UKBMX’ races with a governing body and a professional class where we could all earn money racing bmx bikes! Don showed up with a full suspension ‘mountainbike’ in Spring 79 with mx style forks, twin shock rear suspension and hub brakes, we all had a ride of it and told him that suspension on bikes would never catch on! Don went on to write the constitution of UKBMX parts of which I believe are still in use today!

Early 1980 everyone of the growing crowd of riders had either a Mongoose or a Team Ace BMX bike. I had a very nice Supergoose 2. By the summer of 1980 races had already been held at Redditch, Ipswich (Coddenham) and Buckmore Park.

Who was your first sponsor?
My first race was right at the end of 1980 (or early 81) at Buckmore Park, the track was a quagmire of mud so the decision was made to race on the Go Kart track there with the start gate situated halfway up the hill that surrounds the track. The event was huge with hundreds of riders from far and wide in attendance. I met riders there that day that are still friends now and still race to this day. My next race was a few months later also at Buckmore park but on the proper track. I made the main along With Andy Ruffell, Jay Hardy and Craig Strong and got a good start and went into turn one with Andy but immediately wiped out. I had won all my motos that day with Mark ‘Sid’ Salisbury and Jay Hardy in them and it was then that I realised I could hang with the fastest guys in my age group and I wanted to take up racing regularly. The result that day led to me getting Sponsored by my local Bike shop ‘MASONS CYCLES’ in Wanstead and the manager there, Chris Wonfor was a great help in getting my racing career off the ground.

In winter 1980/81 I would rush home from school, grab my bike and sprint the 3 miles to Masons in freezing temperatures in the dark just to get the latest copy of BMS Plus or BMX Action to read about my heroes in the USA Stu Thomsen, Harry Leary and co.

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How long did it take until you got onto Redline?
July 1981 (on Royal Wedding day) I got the breakthrough I wanted in racing by winning a national (Andy Ruffell wasn’t there) and as a result got invited to try out for the New ‘REDLINE FACTORY TEAM’ at EARLS COURT a few weeks later.

I showed up at The Bike Show in Earls Court with my Mum for their try-outs and instantly spotted Stu Thomsen on the track!!! I was speechless! It was the guy from the magazines!! He came over and said hello to Mum and I and as I attempted to say hello back no words came out!!   They were picking 2 riders only, one 13 or under, and one 15 and over, all the other riders competing for the older slot were a fair bit older than me and a lot bigger.   We were to do some practice laps under the watchfull eye of Stu and then line-up on the gate for a one lap-no crap race with the winner taking the spot.  I put my hand in the bag for lane choice and chose gate 5 (6 man gate) and the other riders were all inside me and the first straight was short so getting the lead into the first turn was going to be a tall order.  As I put my wheel on the gate I saw a wheel line-up outside me in gate 6…I looked to my side, and up, and up….Stu was joining in…oh no!! Not only was I racing against older/bigger riders but now Stu was next to me on the gate!! nervous!!!

The gate dropped and I got a flier and looked across at the end of the straight…no-one there, whoosh I moved over and took the lead OMG OMG I’m winning!!!   Halfway throught the first turn I was hit from behind by what felt like a train!! I flew off my bike but I didnt hit the ground…because someone caught me.  Stu had slid-out in the first turn and accidentally hit me, but managed to catch me before I hit the ground!!  I was fine but upset because I hadn’t won the race.  Stu and the other Redline staff called a re-run because of what happened, and Stu told me not to worry as he knew I would win it, and I did so I was on REDLINE!!!  Stu shook my hand and welcomed me to the team and then handed me his race bike saying he could get a new one when he got home and I couldnt get a bike like that in the UK as it was custom built.

A few weeks later, I was racing at Outwell indoor and John Lee and Andy Ruffell were there and as John had been getting closer and closer to (the virtually unbeaten) Ruffell recently all eyes were on them as they took their gate positions for the final.  I even thought I was racing for third place at best with those two on the gate. The gate dropped and it all seemed too easy as I took the lead from the first pedal stroke and finished with a healthy lead over Andy with John in third.  It was October 1981 and I started to believe that I could actually win races whoever was there.

Who else was on Redline around this time?  I’m thinking; Stu Diggins and Gary Willats?
Initially, the Redline team consisted of just two riders, myself and Gary Willats.  Unfortunately, Gary got seriously injured in a car crash and missed a lot of races leaving me as the sole representative for quite a while.  Stu Diggins got on the team quite a bit later and not long before I left.  I got some great results with Redline but myself and the TM didn’t always see eye-to-eye so by June 82 I knew my days were numbered and when my friend Tony Slater expressed an interest in riding for Redline I didn’t stand in the way and parted company with the team.

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How did you get on Halfords and tell us about your first trip to the US?
It was quite a blessing, as I did really well at the Anglo American Cup at Redditch about a week later and was in the final where Tim March beat the Americans.  Halford’s main man, David Duffield was in attendance and was on the lookout for an unsponsored rider to fund for a USA trip to race at the upcoming (first ever) IBMXF World Championships at Dayton Ohio.  BMX Action Bike magazine’s; Richards and Jim Black, along with Dave Young (Chris’s Dad) were advising him on who to pick, and luckily I got on really  well with all those guys and had just had a two-page interview in the magazine, so I have no doubt that it was those guys that influenced him to pick me as the lucky rider.  A couple of weeks later I was boarding one of Freddie Lakers Jumbo Jets at Heathrow at 16 years old.  I flew to New York where I met Andy Oldham and his Dad who were also making the trip.  We flew onto Pittsburgh where the plane developed a landing gear fault and we actually crash landed onto a foam filled runway and Andy managed to sleep through the whole thing!!  We missed our connecting flight to Dayton and got a free limo ride to a hotel and flew out the next morning, pretty rad to experience all that at 16.   The heat and humidity of the Midwest was a big shock to me and even more so for the Oldham’s as they are Northerners!   Andy ended up getting injured in training leaving me as the lone Brit racing.  The parade lap was interesting with me myself and I carrying a massive Union Jack around the track.  I made the semis where I crashed and that was that.  While I was there I hung out with Greg Esser and he persuaded me not to go home but to spend the rest of the summer there following the NBL War of the Stars Series which was a great experience and I even won a round!   It was pretty surreal to be traveling, training and hanging out with the very Pro’s that I’d been reading about in BMX Plus just a few months earlier and they now all knew me by name!!!   I moved on to Canada after the race season ended and spent the Fall racing there, it was a good scene and about as big as it was back home at that time.   I returned home in late October 82 to find that I had still made national #3 even though I’d missed a large part of the season.Being local and racing with Andy Ruffell how was it being around during the start of his celebrity status in BMX?

Andy Ruffell was turning into a media celebrity by now and was getting so much tv work that it seemed like every time I turned the TV on he was on it!!  He was getting into the freestyle side of things but was still virtually unbeatable on the track, he was a true phenomenon for the years I raced!!

It seemed like you were not on Redline long before you got picked up by Torker, what was with the move?
Alan Woods contacted me in December about riding for one of his teams, I jumped at that as I’d always admired his set-up and the professionalism of the teams, etc. Initially he asked me to ride a Robinson which I was happy with as I knew them to be excellent bikes, but he eventually decided on me joining TORKER which was also cool as I was good friends with team rider, Darren Page (rip) and his family and they lived locally to me.

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Picketts Lock along with the Halfords NEC were big events back in the early 80s that were well-documented not just in the mags but also on TV as well. Do you remember much from these events?
My first race on Torker was at Picketts Lock in January 83 and I had both Tim March and Andy Ruffell in my moto which meant I was virtually guaranteed magazine coverage for Torker.  And yes, the centre page spread in BMX Action Bike Magazine was Andy, Tim, Sid Salisbury and myself hitting the first jump.  Alan Woods also gave me a Cruiser and I raced against Tim, Alan, Tony Slater and Jamie Vince and although I never won (Tim did) I got a solid second place.  I was having an decent season scoring regular top 3’s on Torker and won the inaugural British Championships at Knebworth House (the Trophy says British Open Championships) and got 3rd at the Halfords NEC race after almost going over the gate and being dead last until turn 2.  Seeing the race on TV was so cool!!

83 Worlds Slagharen Holland, how was that?
When the 83 Worlds came around at Slagharen for some reason I didn’t want to go and decided to go to the USA again instead, a week or two after the Worlds was a big race at Kettering, Ohio and it seemed like all the Americans that had attended the Worlds flew back for this race.   I raced Richie Anderson in Open Class and led him in a moto until the last turn where he blew by me (he probably spun on the gate) but it sure felt good to be ahead of him!

By the start of the 84 season you had disappeared from racing. What prompted you to stop; birds and booze?
When I returned from the USA in October 83 I got a job running FAZE 7 BMX Shop for Joe Burlo which was great but it was that that helped me to lose interest in BMX bikes as it became a 7 day a week thing, BMX, BMX, BMX all week in the shop, then BMX all weekend, it tipped me over the edge and I quit at the end of 83.  Looking back on how big things got in 84/85 and seeing that the Stars of the Kelloggs on TV were riders that I had beaten week in and week out a few years before, does make me bitterly regret giving up when I did.  When I left bmx I totally turned my back on it and have no memories of bmx after 83 apart from when Tony Slater was telling me about this kid from Derby (Geth Shooter) that was younger than us beating Stu Thomsen and co…that stuck in my mind.

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You got back into racing years later this time around with Mountainbikes.  What years did you compete and thoughts on the whole UK MTB scene.
Back in 1990, Tony Slater and Craig Schofield dragged me along to a BMX race at Ipswich.  My Torker had air in its tyres for the first time in 7 years and still had 1983 mud on them.  I did ok at the race for the first straight but always blew up puffing and panting before the finish and Tony and Craig kept giggling about me getting frustrated at trying to keep up with this 18 year old kid from Derby who was rather good…Dale something or other….haha

A few years later in 96 I fancied a go at Mountain Biking and went along to the Bike Show and bumped into Jay Hardy and Paul Roberts who persuaded me to enter the National Short Course DH Championships the following weekend.  I managed to win it at my first attempt which made me instantly well-known on the circuit and secured me a mini interview and picture on page one of issue one of Dirt Magazine.  I raced DH for the next few years winning quite a few Nationals along the way.   In 2000 I got the Bronze Medal at the World Championships in Canada and Won the British Championships in 2005.

By the mid 2000s you had found your way back into racing BMX and with only a handful of races, qualified and raced the 2005 Worlds in Paris and even put it in the main.  Seemed like you got the bug again?Yes, I decided to race BMX again and after 3 races back I found myself at the UCI Worlds In Bercy and cruised through the motos, then the 1/8th and 1/4, then I was at the back in the semi thinking it was all over and they seemed to go wide in the last turn so I went under them all and qualified for the main!!  Back in the stands it sank in that I had made a world final when Dale Holmes said ‘Hey Keith, you’re in the main’… A bit of a crash on the third straight meant it was a W7 for me which I gladly took.   I left bmx again after that world final, and kept on plugging away at DH getting more National wins and finally quit DH in 2008 to concentrate on bmx again.  I hooked up with Dialled Bikes in 2009 and won the British Championships in 4x for Dialled and followed it with British Championship titles on cruiser in 2010 and 2011.

In 2012 Mike Wong started up a new Brand FACTORY TEAM BIKES with me as the sole rider that year followed by a strong team from 2013 onwards.  I continued with FTB, becoming the team manager in 2014 and in 2017 I said that I would quit bmx racing for good if I won the British Championships that year.  My body was broken and aching and I really needed a rest so I gritted my teeth and became British Champion for the last time in 2017.

Let’s wrap it up final words?
I decided to take a rest in 2018 and in 2019 started a new cycle sport called Enduro. I raced the seven round series and managed to win five of them, one second and one third to take the title at my first attempt.  Next year, I’m taking a fresh challenge with yet another form of bicycle racing.   Did I mention that I love bikes?!   Thank you for giving me the chance to share a little bit of my history of riding bicycles on dirt.

Interview Bobby Hyde – UKBMX 16x No. 1 1987

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Active years racing?

10 years 1983-1993

How did you get into racing?

My friend at school brought in a BMX Action Bike magazine and that was it, I was hooked. ET had just come out as well. I found out about Hayes track and rode up there. There happened to be a race going on and I got to see all the tricked out bikes and race gear that I’d seen in the mags and it was like a different world… I had discovered BMX racing, my first race was the 1983 Hayes UKBMX National, I rode 12 novice, made the semis but crashed.

Local scene and riding crew?

In the London area we had quite a few tracks within riding distance or a short train ride so we were always at a track including Hayes, Hounslow, Westway, Slough, Dormers, Harrow/Meanwhile skate park, building start gates and ridiculous ramps at the infamous White Flats, which is where I met my partner in crime, Keith Joseph. There were a bunch of us that went riding; Winnie Wright, Nicky Restall, Chico Hooke, my little brother Chris, too many to mention, and we’d always meet up with other riders at the tracks.

Your mum, Val, played a big roll in UKBMX behind the scenes telling us a little more about her roll in the federation.

My Mum started by helping out at the finish line and registration, she worked for UKBMX and then EBA doing licenses and pre-registration for the races and general admin work, when the office closed she ran it from home, she ran Hillingdon Hawks for awhile too. There were a lot of parents helping out at the races in all areas, not paid and never really appreciated, in some real ropey weather, without them the races couldn’t be run, so to all those who worked registration, start hill, finish line, referees and in any area of race-day, thank you!

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How long did it take before you knew you could win at the highest level and contend for a National title?

It took awhile, raced 13x in 1984, a lot of nationals. I went out in the motos, 1/8, 1/4 finals. I made 2 semis that year, Buckmore and Poole, I amassed 5 points that year and earned the #33 plate. I had a national ranking! The next couple of years were tough, wasn’t ranked nationally, again motos, 1/8, 1/4’s. 1987 in 16x I made my first national final, Wigan, I came 3rd, that year was really good, I made every final, coming 3rd & 4ths, that was the year when the last 3 nationals were worth more points, I think they called them Grand Prix.

The last National that year was at Hounslow, Dean Iddiols had gone Superclass so that left Martin Parker in the points lead. Hounslow was Martin Parker’s home track, I think he lived under the water jump, he was always there! Somehow Martin didn’t make it out of the motos. Paul Roberts came up to me and said, “you know you could get #1 today if you finished 3rd or better” I had worked the points out and already knew that but for someone else to come up and say that to me, I had to pinch myself!! Anyway, the final time came and I placed 3rd. I have to tell you, the few years before hand where I had come 5th so many times and didn’t go through, to achieve that goal of National #1 felt bloody good!

That year taught me consistency, the next year was 17x, again consistently made every final, doing well and then at Bretons I won my first national… that was another amazing feeling… then the Superclass final ran and Winnie Wright won his first Superclass final!! my celebrations were short -lived as anyone who knew Winnie, he was larger than life, I was as pleased for him as I was myself, Winnie was that special. I finished #2 that year, another amazing year.

Rivals during this period?

There were so many; Dean Iddiols, Martin Parker, Clive Gosling, Paul Roberts, Keith Joseph, Robert Indri, Ian Feen, to be honest my rivals were whoever was on the gate.

Why didn’t you ever race NBMXA?

I raced NBMXA, again I was motos, 1/8, 1/4’s, didn’t do much until 16x came around.

Sponsors during your years?

I made it onto the Free Agent Factory Team, Scott Dick was team manager.

Your brother, Chris Hyde, was a UK 80’s Factory little star in the sport and went onto win the 1990 World Championships. Give us the 411 on Chris’ racing and why he was so good.

Wow, where do you start with Chris, he was amazing, he came everywhere with me, he rode 13 miles to Slough BMX track when he was 7. I used to try and sneak out without him but my Mum was too quick and nabbed me to take him with me, he started out on a mini burner and a motorcycle helmet, he took to BMX like a fish to water, I used to hold his back wheel on the start gate and then boom he was gone and another win in the record books!

His first national on a DP mini firebird at Teeside he came 3rd, 5x was a tough class then, some good riders, all sponsored, like Chris cared, his first year he finished #2 behind Chris Stanforth, we didn’t race 3 nationals that year, the next year it was lights out, Chris won #1, he got picked up by Raleigh and to be honest I think he was #1 for many years to come, maybe 6 or 7 years, this was UK & NBMXA. In 1985 he came 3rd at IBMXF World Championships in Canada, in France at the 1990 Worlds he took home the win, as a big brother I couldn’t have been more proud of Chris. The only title Chris missed out on was European Champion, lots of 2nds & 3rds but the elusive 1st was never to be, like he’s bothered right, World Champ sounds a lot better than Euro Champ! I think Chris riding everywhere with me, Keith, Winnie and whoever tagged along gave him an edge on his rivals, it’s funny after Chris won the Worlds, we didn’t call him Chris anymore, he went by the name “World Champ”, love you Bruv!!

Best Internationals results?

1990 Worlds in France, for some reason I was kicking some butt, my longtime pal and BMX hero, Dale Holmes, lent me his MCS factory shirt. I sailed through the motos, 1/8, & 1/4s, semi time, I was running 2nd through the 2nd turn, those big ass whoops I rode, dropped to third, slipped my pedals out of turn 3, down to 4th, coming out of the last turn I slipped my pedals twice and finished 5th… I was gutted. Ironically the dude who passed me for 4th won. He was giving it large after the win, rightly so, and I said to him, you only won because I slipped my pedals! it was USA Factory Mongoose rider, Sam Allerano. We always raced Slagharen, tough race every year!! Got a couple top 3 finishes in UK Internationals.

What year did you decide to stop racing and why?

I finished off the 1992 season really well, won a couple of the last nationals and came 2nd at the British Championships, ended up #3 that year. Over Xmas I had my appendix out, I had to take 2 months off work and couldn’t do anything physical. My first race back was at High Wycombe, open-winter meet. I was very cautious over jumps and turns and I loved that track! I had started getting back into playing football so I put my efforts into that. Took my FA coaching badges also.

You’ve lived in the US for some time now, how’s life here and do you still follow the sport now?

Yeah, we moved over to the U.S. in 1997, to Massachusetts to start with then headed to Sebastian, Florida in 2002. We have very lucky how things have turned out, made lots of great friends here, a lot of ex-pats as well. I try and keep up with what’s going on in the BMX world, the amount of time I’ve spent watching old UK & US races from back in the day & present is crazy! And, with both Twitter & Instagram, the old pics bring the memories back!

Who are some of the British riders you like to watch these days?

Just follow the World Cup series, so Liam Phillips is pretty much the only one. The tracks now-a-days are follow the leader, no real action in the turns, still the speed they reach and jumps now are pretty scary! Love watching the Grands, the live-feed to the races is awesome.

Living in Florida with many tracks to ride any chance of a come back?

Mate, when I watch the vids, I imagine a snap at every gate drop and go through the motions at every jump. I have a mountain bike I mess about on, no hills or mountains in Florida so I’m limited! I think I could top 3 at a race! We’ll see, stranger things have happened, although I’m still having too much fun playing soccer!!

Closing words:

When I lived in Massachusetts I worked at a residential school for children with behavioral disorders, we had BMX bikes for them to use for activities but the bikes were real cheap. I got with the local bike shop and explained to them my background in BMX and the job I had, they sorted me out at a real big discount to get 4 decent bikes. The kids loved it, I taught them basic maintenance and to respect the bike, we were able to implement the bike program as rewards for them in their behavior and therapy plans.

One day the kids were watching the X-Games in the rec room, one of them called me and said the guy on TV sounds like you, I said yeah right, when I listened closely I couldn’t believe my ears, it was Paul Roberts, would you Adam & Eve it! I told the kids that I knew the guy commenting and the fun & great friends I had made through BMX, a lot of the kids were able to move on from their setbacks in life, there were some real tragic stories these kids had endured. It was a pleasure to introduce BMX to them and give them something to look forward to, I know BMX gave me a lot of fun times and I met and made friends with a lot of people, thanks very much!

Photo Credit: Mark Noble