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

Congratulations to Jamie Bestwick. Inducted into The British BMX Hall Of Fame.

Jamie burst onto the UK freestyle scene in the sports centre BFA contests of the late 80s, airing ridiculously high on the narrowest of quarter-pipes, often in unfeasibly tight shorts and questionable knitted sweaters!

As vert riding transitioned over to half-pipes Jamie’s prowess really began to stand out. Maybe having a ramp to ride in a local pub car park in Derby helped! His distinctive smooth style included doing his lip-tricks and tailwhip airs in the opposite direction – something that developed into his ability to flow all over a vert ramp like a set of trails.

Despite holding down a full-time engineering career in the 90s, Jamie held his own against the elite of pro vert riding. Once Jamie made the leap to full time riding by moving to College State in the late 90s there was no stopping him. Bessie dominated vert riding, taking his first X-Games gold in 2000, and rarely let go of the reigns after that. 9 back to back golds between 2007 and 2014 count amongst his 13 golds in total. These medals overlook the fact that Jamie can shred any ramp you put him front of him. His talent, drive and experience have cemented him as one of the all time UK freestyle greats. Alongside his personal achievements in BMX his role as UK coach for the hugely successful Olympic team in the 2020(1) Olympics has massively helped raise the profile and appreciation of BMX freestyle in the public consciousness.

Chris Job / DIG BMX

Jamie Bestwick is a hero that needs no introduction and what can be said about him that hasn’t already been said before? Whether it’s smashing headset cups into a KHE Beater or building up his first signature GT frame in the back room of Derby storm whilst eating chips, to winning his first gold at the X games, Jamie doesn’t half-step and approaches all aspects of his life with such a passion and drive, unless that’s dancing or operating technology. From his early days of riding vert with crash mats to his current task as UK Olympic Team manager, Jamie is an incredible individual and anyone who’s ever crossed his path should consider themselves lucky.

Jay Allen

Congratulations to Alan Woods. Inducted into The British BMX Hall Of Fame.

It’s difficult for a Wigan lad to call Alan Woods a pioneer of BMX, for me Alan IS BMX, it’s almost inconceivable to imagine where BMX would be in the North of England if it wasn’t for this man. Someone somewhere should compile a list of National Champions that have come from this little town. It’s crazy. All because of the energy, passion, and foresight of Alan Woods. Alan’s an undoubted Legend of the sport. Dylan Clayton would not have gone racing if it wasn’t for Alan Woods, imagine that, where would BMX be? Even when considering current riders like Kyle Evans, and Paddy Sharrockk, would they have started racing BMX if it wasn’t for the roots laid down by Alan? Even Kye Whyte, “The Prince of Peckham” himself had the honour of riding for Alan’s as his first team.

An honorable mention must also go to Alan’s parents, Arthur and Madge who were very active in supporting Alan when they realised his passion. As a 12-year-old kid myself, I was more excited about the interest Arthur would show in my racing than any trophy I might have won. When Alan eventually approached me and asked me to join the Robinson support team back in 1983, I was over the moon and within days thanked Alan for that ‘Factory’ look. I mean, jeeez, kids would ask for my autograph!!! I could barely write my own name. I also seriously doubt the Freestyle scene in the UK would be what it is without Alan. The apparent time and effort Alan has put in from the beginning is astounding, who can forget the Torker Trick Team with Terry Jenkins and others? AlansBMX still supports a freestyle team today.

I don’t want to digress too much but Alan but he is also a big music fan and has endless stories of live gigs and even had a hand in a then unsigned punk band play a gig in Wigan. This band was later named Green Day. I believe there is footage somewhere on YouTube.

I myself came back into the sport of BMX racing in 2015, I pretty much immediately started getting support from Alan and in return as always, I promoted the shop as best I could. I’m not sure how or when it happened but I sort of ran the Alan’s race team and have got to know the whole family, wife Julie and grown up kids, Toby and Ralph. Toby pretty much runs the mail order side of the shop, and we always have a good laugh, especially when we hit the Karaoke at Christmas. The Alan’s BMX Heritage race team always tries to tip the hat to the past with our choices of race kits, all down to Alan and still to this day the attention to detail to give us the ‘Factory’ look.

Alan won’t mind me telling you he is also quite the eco warrior and these days spends quite a lot of time doing his bit in trying to protect the planet and raise the profile of the effect of climate change in whatever he does he always has his finger on the pulse with anything to do with BMX.

His knowledge of all things Old Skool is incredible and when Freestyle appeared on the Olympic scene recently our female gold medalist Charlotte Worthington was also riding for….?? Yep, Alan’s BMX…. Over forty years we have had this little shop in our town and the passion is still there. He rang me in tears after the last Olympic finals with Kye and Beth getting silver and gold respectively and he talks passionately about trying to emulate the ‘Frogtown Classic’ race recently staged in the USA, already coming up with ideas and possible venues. So, in essence, you can suggest Alan Woods; not only as a Pioneerhe’s also a Son – Racer – Businessman – Punk Rocker – Husband – Father – Maverick – Eco Warrior – Social Conscience – Alan Woods – BMX

Words – John Bentley (AlansBMX Race team manager)

Congratulations, Sarah-Jane Nichols! Inducted into the British BMX Hall Of Fame.

Pre-BMX

Prior to racing BMX both her brother, Michael, and she were involved in Schoolboy Motocross, generally both finishing middle of the pack.

BMX Career

1981 – Started her journey into BMX racing and had a first place at a Southampton race meeting.

1982 – UK BMX – Junior girls No. 1

1983 – NBMXA No. 1
NBMXA British Champion
Jag World Championships Burbank USA – 4th

1984 – NBMXA No. 1
UK BMX No. 1
Champion of Champions Winner.
Kellogg’s Overall Winner
European Champion

1985 – UK BMX No. 1
Kellogg’s Overall Winner
European Champion

1986 – NBMXA British Champion
UK BMX No. 1
European Champion

1987 – World Champion
NBMXA British Champion
European Champion
Also inducted into the NBMXA Hall of Fame

Post-BMX

Since Sarah’s departure from BMX, she continued Shotokan Karate and earned a black belt. She played Ice Hockey for 35 years during which time she represented Great Britain and the England ladies, playing in Ukraine and France. Sarah also had a role in a TV Show called, Ice Warriors, which was shown on ITV during 1997 for 9 weeks. She was Taaraz the Renegade in the show, which had the same production team as Gladiators and a similar format, except it was on ice. Sadly, they only made the one series. Sarah quit Ice Hockey, just recently, in 2020 when Covid hit, she felt at age 50 that she needed a change, but wasn’t sure what that looked like.

Around 2010, Sarah took up road cycling, and bought her first road bike. She trained hard to do a charity ride from a local village to Paris -210 miles which was incredible. Since then, she’s done a lot of road cycling over the years, including another long ride from Belgium back to the UK and a 100-mile event around the New Forest to name just a couple.

In September last year, Sarah decided what she finally wanted to do and that was to restore her old 80’s Redline and go to a few of the Old Skool shows and events that are held around the UK. Christian Kift was instrumental in helping Sarah restore her bike and in December she was doing Santa Cruise 7, a charity BMX ride around London dressed up as an Elf. Sarah was later invited by the local BMX track, Andover, to take her Redline along, to show, and talk about BMX in the 80s and the differences between then and now. Whilst at the track, she was given the opportunity to use a club bike and try out the bikes and track. To her surprise, she found that she still had a love of BMX racing. Within weeks, Sarah had purchased a second-hand bike, then some padding, (after learning the hard way not wearing any), and she is currently working on fitness and track craft with the hope of a comeback to race next year in the 30-plus lady’s class.

Congratulations to the late David Maw. Inducted into The British BMX Hall Of Fame.

We have lots of stories and background on David’s life and career in BMX the Maw family has kindly shared with us and we will post in due time but for now let’s look at his amazing resume of results from his time in BMX.

1981 Age 3
Started racing part way through the season

1981 Age 4
No.2 in UK BMX National Series
No.2 in UK BMX Regionals

1982 Age 5
UK BMX National Champion
UK BMX Regional Champion
Won Anglo American Cup – Redditch, England

1983 Age 6
UK BMX National Champion
NBMXA British Champion
UK BMX Regional Champion
No.5 (rode up an age) in World Championships – Slagharen, Holland

1984 Age 7
World Champion – Nagoya, Japan
UK BMX National Champion
No.2 in European Championship
UK BMX Regional Champion

1985 Age 8
World Champion – Whistler, Canada
European Champion – Spain
UK BMX National Champion
NBMXA National Champion
NBMXA British Champion
UK BMX Regional Champion
IBMXF International Champion – Lowestoft, England

1986 Age 9
World Champion – Slough, England
UK BMX National Champion
NBMXA National Champion
NBMXA British Champion
UK BMX Champion of Champions
U.K BMX Regional Champion
No.1 Scorpion Sponsored International

1987 Age 10
UK BMX National Champion
NBMXA National Champion
NBMXA British Champion
U.K BMX Regional Champion

1988 Age 11
BBMXA Hall of Fame
UK BMX National Champion
BBMXA National Champion
UK BMX Regional Champion
No.3 in European Cup – Holland
Awarded Humberside Higher County Colours

1989
Age 12 European Champion – Alborg, Denmark
E.B.A National Champion
E.B.A Champion of Champions
E.B.A Regional Champion

David quietly left the BMX scene at the end of the 1989 season, he needed a new challenge
after winning nearly 100% of all the motos he raced in.

In 1990, David embarked on a new career in Moto-X. He soon became South Humberside Youth Moto-X Champion and held this title for several years. This led him to start racing in the Schoolboy National Moto-X where his first win was at Chippenham, England.

David had a bad accident soon after this and had to have a break to recover and heal.

Congratulations, Stephen Murray! Inducted into The British BMX Hall of Fame.

Stephen and his brother Martin grew up in the Northeast of England and began racing BMX in November 1983 at just 3 years old. By the time he was 16, Stephen had been British Champion 9 times, European runner up twice, and also made two World Championship finals, in the 6 & under expert class in Slough 1986 and 10 years later in 16 expert in Brighton.

Along the way, he rode for some of the most iconic teams to ever come out of the UK. GT, the mighty Titan team run by his mum and dad, Cyclecraft, UGP, Robinson, and Haro. However, his real passion was dirt jumping, and having won numerous Squirt of Dirt and King of Dirt events over the years, his dream was to move to the US and ride against the likes of Ryan Nyquist, TJ Lavin, and Cory Nastazio.

When Stephen left college at 18, he made the infamous Bicycles & Dirt video all on his own and made enough money to make the move out to California to live with Dale Holmes, Neal Wood, Paul Roberts, and others to see if the dream could come true. He picked up his first Pro sponsorship deal with Nirve and in his first year in the States he only managed to complete two Dirt Jump contests having broken 9 bones, and 2 KO’s throughout the year. Nirve tried to cancel the remaining year on his contract thinking they’d signed a duffer but a contract is a contract and they would have to see it through. In the 2nd year, Stephen went on to win the 2001 X Games, becoming the first person in the World to pull a double backflip on dirt in competition. Two weeks later he won the Gravity Games pulling another World’s first with the 360 turndown backflip, a trick still not done by anyone else today. Stephen went on to become one of the best dirt jumpers in the World, breaking Guinness World Records and winning the Gravity Games again in 2002. He helped elevate the sport of dirt jumping by pushing the boundaries of big tricks, mixed in with the best style.

Stephen lived the high life in California for the next 6 years with a BMX career most of us could only dream of, and a rock and roll lifestyle you only ever heard of in the movies, until his unfortunate accident in Baltimore in 2007 where he crashed at the Dew Tour Dirt contest and broke his neck. Flatlining 3 times in the first week, Stephen ended up paralyzed from the shoulders down and from that day onwards his life would take a very different turn. Though he lost the use of his body, he never lost the fighting spirit that took him to the top of his sport and saved his life.

Post-BMX

Stephen has been an inspiration to not only the BMX world, but to the action sports world for not just what he achieved on his bike and for what he did for dirt jumping, but for how he has managed to Stay Strong in the face of everyday adversities and fight for a better tomorrow. Stephen is courage in-action and a true gent making anyone fortunate to know him, grateful.

Photo – Courtesy of Si Paton Malverns Classic / Michael Evans Street Photography