PHOTO: ANDREW WHITE
16 Helmet Testing Something Is Better Than Nothing
86 All City Andrew Clarke
20 Taking Drops Sean Burns
98 Dive Bombs And Heavy Petting Dean Dickinson
24 Grave Digger Stu Hannibal
110 Strays Photos With No Real Home
28 Mass Observation Theo Simpson
122 Back Track BMX In The Olympics
52 Bouncing Round Brad Simms
128 Being An Asshole Seamus Mckeon
70 Get Lost United In Argentina
132 Pick Your Battles Matt Beringer
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Contributors Alex Allan, Paul Bliss, Seam Kckeon, Marv, Ben Maclaughin, Cody Nutter, Ryan Scott, Joe Cox, Daniel David Freeman, Devon Denham, Shad Johnson and Pete Greaves. Thanks Alex Allan, Michal Mycek, Reubel, Iwo Kepka, Maciek Kaspryzyk, Tomas Platko, Marius in Warsaw, Alin Moldovan, David Gold, Mariusz Dzwonowski, Vlad Danila, Amy Silvester, Jordan, Kelsey, Elf, Cam, Tate, Matt, Mike, Dave, Greg, John, Cody Slade, Codie, Lou, The Wood Shop, 50:50, Pie Hole, The Jakalope, Tanner Locals, Riley’s Deep Vee Collection, Big Dick, Woody, Stefan Gandl and Nash.
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Not For Resale
The Ever Expanding Circle
Struggling to finalise the text for the opening editorial, I just took a walk with Steve Bancroft to the local shop. Today was the hottest day of the year and instead of finishing work early and sitting in the park drinking lukewarm cans of Stella like every other Londoner seemed to be partaking in, we sat in George’s greenhouse, sorry, house and made issue eight for you guys. The sacrifices we make for The Albion… Whilst on our evening jaunt to the shop, a trip that was chiefly undertaken to try and quell Steve’s desire for a cigar, he asked me quite matter of factly ‘Don’t you ever get that craving that you got as a kid when you were in the pub to smoke a cigar?’ No Steve, I’m afraid I’ve never had a childhood desire to chuff on a Hamlet at twelve o’clock at night. Walking back a cigarless Steve tells me that he sees BMX as an ever expanding circle, constantly being pushed outwards by a creative vanguard, leaving the middle
filled with the samey, tame and unadventurous BMX that seems so commonplace these days. I mull this over and return to my computer and scan over the content for this issue, thinking of a theme and a thread that ties all these people together. It’s obvious really, what ties the Salt Lake City scene, Brad Simms, Andrew Clarke and United heading over to Buenos Aires together is that they are all on the outward edge of the circle, they all represent that adventurous and experimental spirit that BMX instills in us. Whilst these individuals might not know each other, they might live thousands of miles apart, they all understand that it’s creativity and free thinking that drives BMX forward and nothing else. It might be true that BMX is an ever expanding circle, and as long as we remember that it’s creativity that pushes it outwards, hopefully we can keep it true and interesting for ourselves and the riders of the future.
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HELMET TESTING Something Is Better Than Nothing Words and Photography by PETE GREAVES
As The Albion is now available in America: DISCLAIMER: THESE TESTS ARE OBVIOUSLY NOT CERTIFIED BY ANY HELMET TESTING STANDARDS. IF YOU WANT TO BE SAFE PLEASE WEAR A WELL FITTING CERTIFIED HELMET, AND IGNORE EVERYTHING I HAVE WRITTEN BELOW. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR SAFETY! Moving on... Sustained monsoon weather can drive a man to all kinds of craziness. Booking last minute holidays to southern Europe, knuckling down and doing some work so you can take a bit of time off when the weather is better (not likely) or in my case, testing some makeshift helmets that I have attempted to use over the years.
completely unexpected that causes me to bang my head and reassess. So far this has never prompted me to start wearing a helmet; that seems to require unconsciousness/ hospitalisation for most people and – touch wood – I’ve never had that happen to me. However, a couple of these ‘bell ringers’ have tempted me to a halfway house. These incidents are explained below, next to the helmet substitute being tested.
Like most BMXers who are too cool to wear a helmet, every now and then I’ll bang my head a bit when riding. Not badly; just enough to send you to bed with a headache and a bit of a sore neck (a slight whiplash from tensing your neck to stop your head hitting the floor is the worst that happens to you 90% of the time). Every time it happens I think I should start wearing a helmet, and every time I don’t bother next time I go out riding. I’m a groundhog, I can’t air for shit and the sensation of flowing through a set of trails is an unknown pleasure to me (proper trails at any rate, and I’d wear a helmet for that anyway). The stereotypical foot high ledge smither, that’s me. I don’t need to wear a helmet. Except that every now and then, I’ll have a surprise crash predicated by something
As I understand it, being twatted ‘upside the head’, can cause damage by a couple of mechanisms. You can fracture your skull obviously; not nice, and can definitely be categorised as one of the more severe mischiefs you can inflict on yourself riding a BMX. Fractured skulls can be pretty easily prevented for the groundhog; all you need is a thin layer of something squidgy between your brittle skull and the hard concrete and it won’t happen. A fair few fractured skulls may have probably been prevented by beanies. The second, and worse thing that happens when you bang your head, is that your brain is decelerated from whatever speed it is going at the instant it hits the ground, to zero. Your brain tries to carry on and the result is that it bangs around inside your skull. I’m no brain
surgeon, but I’m pretty sure that the high profile BMX head traumas are due to this rather than fractured skulls. This injury is related to the deceleration of your head, and I’m pretty sure a very tame version of it is what gives you the post-headknock headache. I had one such incident last weekend when I did a crooked grind and my back peg slipped off, sending me into an instant wheelie flip to coccyx slam / head tap, and it made me think I should wear some form of head protection. Again. Luckily, with modern point and shoot camera technology we can test a helmet’s performance for decelerating your brain nice and gently, very easily. I will explain my method here and maybe someone with more of an incentive to do proper tests can improve on them! There are many, many flaws with the tests I did. I only did them in the first place to get an idea if any of my helmet substitutes would actually have any kind of beneficial effects whatsoever, and the only thing that can really be gleaned from them is – ‘probably’.
Test 1: Bare Head The control test. I worked out the acceleration of the head by using the super slow-mo video mode on a point and shoot camera to see how long it is in contact with the floor during the impact. I calculated its momentum at impact from the drop height and then calculated the average force on the head during the impact. The acceleration is equal to the force divided by the mass. The bare head is in contact for one frame only, or 1/240th of a second, so its deceleration is 108g. Remember, this is the average over the impact, not the peak, and the noggin also bounces a bit, so this cannot be compared with results from tests performed according to the standards.
I initially tried to do the tests with things I found lying around the home... The accelerometer in my phone and a log to represent a head. I couldn’t find any scales so I assessed the weight of the log by making a see saw out of a 4Jeri Exciter peg, a bit of wood and some screenwash.
Figure 2 – Genetic Anomaly
Figure 1 – Not a total write-off... It may yet play a crucial role in defeating Saruman
Test 2: An Actual Helmet The actual helmet was purchased for the purpose of visiting indoor extreme training facilities. It is heavy, ill fitting and probably plays a major role in putting me off wearing a helmet. I was therefore not concerned about breaking it. The peak deceleration with the helmet was 27g, which was actually not much better than the ‘Hatmet’, despite it being much heavier. The problem with actual helmets that are SOLD as helmets is that they are designed to conform with tests for road impacts. This might be good for park and trails, where the kinetic energy is high enough to smash the helmet and absorb the energy, but the polystyrene is not as effective as a stiff foam at decelerating your head at low speeds during a fall on concrete.
Surprisingly, the results were poor (mainly because the log was insufficiently humanoid and the accelerometer in the phone was limited to 2g). I decided that a more realistic head substitute was in order; nothing requiring a beheading but maybe something closer than Treebeard (little reference for Lord Of The Rings fans there). This was achieved by using a helmet as a mould for concrete, and although it looks like it would be more at home in some kind of medical museum, it actually fits all the helmet substitutes that I tested perfectly. Importantly, at 5.5kg it weighs about the same as an actual head. I didn’t want to have to type this into Google, but luckily I remembered that the lanky tea-hawking posho Stephen Fry had given the answer on QI as roughly 5kg. This is important because as we all know, the mass is used along with the velocity of the head to calculate the kinetic energy. The cycle helmet testing labs use a drop height of two metres, but I went for one metre as I think this is more representative of an everyday BMX crash. Also, I didn’t want the concrete skull to smash to pieces.
Figure 3 – This helmet is quite literally made for this head. Or vice versa.
Something Is Better Than Nothing
Test 3: The Hatmet I bought this after my back peg stuck on a sub box, sending me straight to my back and head. I didn’t knock myself out, but it properly hurt.
Test 4: The D3O Beanie I saw a documentary about the wonder material D30. It is a non-Newtonian polymer, meaning that when it is stressed it gets harder very quickly. I thought it sounded good, so I bought a snowboarding beanie with a D3O lining.
I thought back to my days as a tour guide at Speedwell Cavern in Castleton, Derbyshire (I wouldn’t recommend it... the boat ride brings the tourists in, but if I was in the area I’d go to Peak Cavern or Treakcliffe Cavern. They have some truly outstanding stalactites/mites and the world’s largest piece of Blue John). All the guides were provided with ‘bump caps’; basically baseball caps with a plastic lining and padding. I picked one up off the net and modded it with some extra padding. For a while I wore it all the time, then eventually only when I tried something scary. I never banged my head while wearing it, but it never flew off my head while riding so I can’t say for sure whether it’s a success or a failure from field tests.
Figure 5 – Snowboarding wackness I never really bothered wearing this because it basically looks like a tea cosy. It definitely would help prevent a fractured skull (you could nut your handlebars while wearing it with no ill effects) but for brain decelerating purposes it isn’t much cop the tea cosy didn’t stay on the Sloth-from-the-Goonies cranium properly it is hard to tell how many frames it was in contact for, but it was definitely no more than two (an average deceleration of almost 54g).
Photography b GEORGE MA
Words by SEAMUS MCK Figure 4 – The Hatmet The Hatmet was an effective method of decelerating the concrete cranium, recording a peak acceleration of 36g. Result So, do these results mean that you’re almost as safe riding around with a Hatmet on than wearing the Bell? Obviously not. The tests would ideally need to be repeated with a proper accelerometer and a much more unyielding surface (the impact visibly shakes the camera, so some energy is obviously being absorbed by the tarmac). The helmet used shouldn’t be a ‘cheapest in the shop so they’ll let me in an indoor park’ type thing. Proper BMXers who wear helmets buy a good one, so one like that should be in the test. Other than that, the test method is fine. It is much more relevant to the type of head traumas you’ll get in BMX compared to the ‘kerbstone’ impact tests that are designed around impacts with vehicles. Maybe some forward-thinking BMX company could produce some head protection that stays on your head without a chinstrap, is not ridiculously heavy and looks more like a hat than a helmet? Obviously it couldn’t be marketed as a helmet (probably not even considered as head protection if they wanted to avoid an inevitable lawsuit) but I think it makes sense. I’d be happy to discuss how these tests could be improved with anyone, and there is an accompanying article online with the maths and links in.
SEAN BURNS Taking Drops
Photography by DANIEL BLECKLEY Interview by MARV I’ve heard terms like ‘madman’ and ‘insane’ used to describe Sean Burn’s riding, but I’m going to argue that his approach to riding is a lot more calculated than that. I think Sean Burns could be the master of jumping off stuff – he has it down to perfection. Riding off a roof might be one of the first scary things you do on a bike and it’s easy to dismiss it as being something basic and simple. Whilst this might be true, there’s a skill involved in taking the drop. Burns has the technique down to perfection. If you look back on any of his video sections, I don’t think you’ll see a better example of how to land smoothly. It’s an overlooked thing, but avoiding the dreaded ‘bobble head’ can make the difference between looking under control and really sketchy.
Marv: So, we were talking about drops and how your head doesn’t bobble when you land – your head never seems to hit the handlebars, which is such a common thing with other riders… Sean: Oh, the ‘bobble head’?! Yeah! We wanted to know how you take drops so well? Well the reason people get bobble head or head-butt their bars is because they’re looking at their font tyre.
You reckon? Yeah, like if you look at your front tyre your head is going to go that way. Looking straight forward, it’s pretty much the key to it. And, if you land back tyre. I thought it might be something to do with your physique, like you seem to have really long arms and legs. Geoff Slattery has a similar build and he doesn’t drop his head, although I haven’t been studying your bodies too much…
Yeah, but look at Dakota Roach, he’s short but he’s got arms like gorilla legs and he lands smooth as fuck too, he doesn’t head-butt his handlebars. Good point… I mean, it might have something to do with it, but I always find that it’s better if you treat it like you’re jumping a seven stair. People tend to do a quick tuck and then just freefall. I think you need to hold your tuck for longer.
"I mean, look at aeroplanes! They don’t land two wheels, they land back tyres first"
So that’s it, hold your tuck for longer? If you push the tuck slower when you hop, not really hop slower, but just hold it for longer. I guess it’s just about timing. Like some people land too back wheel, others land both wheels.
I was gonna ask about that, do you always try and land in a similar way, like back wheel before? Yeah, you kinda have to. If it’s anything high you need to jackknife the back end down so it comes down first. It’s kinda hard to explain, but basically, you need to tuck and hold it, then level your weight over your seat then at the last minute, push your back end down. You can’t look at your front tyre either. I mean, you have to use your body to compress the shock… Yeah, I can see that… Like sometimes if you watch footage, my head is pretty close to the handlebars and my ass is pretty close to the back tyre, but if you keep looking forward and not at the front tyre, you’re not gonna bang your head on the bars. When did you work out how to take drops, like not looking at your front tyre? I don’t know… It’s never really been a problem for me. When I was younger I saw a video where Ron Wilkerson was explaining that you need to land back tyre first and even before I was doing a hop, I’d be riding off stuff and making sure I got the back wheel down first. I think there’s a misconception that with some kids these days that you need to land both wheels first because it looks cooler or something like that, but if you do that off anything taller than shoulder height, that shit is gonna hurt. I remember doing a barspin drop once and I did the barspin then pushed my back end down. I thought it looked pretty gay, but then I was speaking to somebody afterwards and they said it was necessary, that it was a good
sign of control. Like you’ve made it better, you’ve done the trick and then you’ve put the wheel down to compress. I mean, look at aeroplanes! They don’t land two wheels, they land back tyres first. If a plane has to come in from that height and land like that, I think it’s pretty obvious that you should do the same thing when you’re on a bike. What’s the highest drop you’ve done, or think you could take? Ah man… I think when you take the drop and add in the hop, the highest I’ve done is about 14 feet. To be honest, I don’t like doing anything taller than the backboard of a basketball hoop because you never know just how strong a bike part is. Like you could have the perfect drop and the perfect landing and if it’s too big, your bike could just give out. I haven’t been out and measured the stuff I’ve done, so don’t quote me on that height, but I wouldn’t want to go out and do anything taller than that. I remember I had something in Ride UK where I was talking with Rob Castle about drops and he said he’d done 18 or 19 foot drops… Phhhhffffffffft! Did he fuck man. There’s no buildings in England that big! He’s definitely chatting shit. Hey, did you bring out the low drag bars because there’s less chance of you smacking your face on the crossbar? That’s a good point actually, I did think that when we put them out it might be a good selling point for kids wanting to do drops. It sounds like a good advertising strategy. Hey, we touched on this before, but when you see somebody do a drop and do a bobble head, do you find it funny? Oh yeah for sure. Like you see people looking at their front tyre, so of course their head is going go that way too. Like when you do a 360 you turn your head and your body goes that way, it’s no different with a drop. Benson asked me to ask you if you’ve ever reached terminal velocity when doing a drop? What the fuck does that mean!? It means when the wind resistance stops you accelerating, it’s meant to be around 220 miles per hour or something… [laughs] That shit is over in a second. When you said that, I just thought about that Charlie Sheen movie. I don’t think I can come up with any more questions about taking drops… That’s OK, I don’t want to give too much away or I’ll be out of a job [laughs].
STU HANNIBAL Grave Digger Words and Photography by STEVE BANCROFT
Stu is a straight up honest guy and a solid bike rider, we got chatting in our local bike shop a couple of weeks ago and it turns out he’s in quite an interesting line of work. Some people wash cars, some people work in banks and some people bury dead people. It’s about as honest a job as you could ask for and his openness about it was a breath of fresh air for a dark and sinister topic that is usually afforded a much wider birth. With death being the only truly inevitable event in life – it’s amazing how little we talk about it. Albion: Right Stu, how did you get into grave digging? Stu: I started when I was 14. I used to work at the graveyard during the summer holidays to make some cash, just helping the guys to dig and doing whatever needed doing. When was the first time you saw a dead body? My mum worked as a manager at the burial ground and she showed me a body about a year before I started working there, so when I was 13 I guess. I went up to see her at work one day and she just asked me if I wanted to go around the back and see the bodies – I just said “Yeah, alright.” What, so there are just loads of bodies kicking around out back? Nah, there’s this one massive fridge with all these draws, if you need to work on one or measure one up for a hole then you just pick the draw and pull the tray out. So you have to measure the body to see what size hole you need to dig? Yeah, normally the guys in the mortuary do that but if they’re slacking and I need to get on then I just go in there and pull the tray out and measure them up. So what’s on the tray? Just a dead body lying there or is it in a bag or anything? Well the bag just lies on the bottom of the coffin, it’s not sealed or zipped up or anything, so it’ll just be a body lying on a plastic sheet. 24
Are they naked? Some of them are naked, some are all dressed up ready to party. Some of them are in bits, so they’re in a bag. In bits? Yeah, a guy from around here that died in a car crash down the A31, my mum took me in to show me him to try and get me to slow down with my driving, trying to stop me racing around and shit. She was like “Take a look at this, this is what happens when you drive around like a lunatic.” I was just like “Nah, not really. He died because he was fucking around on the road.” He was one of my girlfriends friends, he was a great guy. So what did he look like? He was all savagely bruised up all over from where he hit the tree. He was a mess. There was clotted blood everywhere. His arm had been sewn back on and his legs were in a bag next to him. I think they had to cut his legs off to get him out the car, he was long dead by then of course. Do the bodies smell? Yeah, if they’ve been there a couple of weeks then yeah, they really kick out a stink. Do you think it makes you look at death in a different way, desensitise you to it a bit maybe? Yeah, I think so. Just joking around a bit at works helps, it takes the edge of it and makes it not seem like a big deal. I don’t think of death as a big deal, I just think if I’m dead, I’m dead.
[a] Wall hop from a makeshift kicker to thread the grave stones landing.
It must be weird being surrounded by death all day, I can’t even begin to imagine that. Well to me I can’t imagine doing what you do, I can’t imagine travelling around meeting all these cool people. That’s your day to day, my day to day is dealing with dead bodies. Makes sense I guess. Is there a spooky side of it? Are you a spiritual person, do you believe in ghosts and spirits and all that jazz? Not really no, but when you’re growing up you always wonder about stuff like that don’t you. When we fill in the graves we pour the dirt in with a dump truck and when the gravel hits the top of the coffin it makes an almighty crash and you can’t help but wonder if one of them will wake up, it’s that loud. It takes a while to get used to that. So you don’t believe in ghosts, but do you get spooked out in the mortuary sometimes? Not massively nah. But you can’t help but have it in the back of your mind. I always think about what I’d do if one day someone knocked back or shouted out or something. Sometimes you can get a release of air from a body and it sounds like a groan. Have you had any major fuck ups when digging graves? Well I told you about that one time, when I clipped the end of another coffin. Yeah that sounded nasty. Can you tell me again for the recorder? Well I was digging away like normal in a spot I thought was empty and right when I was getting to the bottom I caught the end of another coffin. Our graveyard is old now and back in the day they didn’t measure stuff out quite as thoroughly as we do now, so I got a shock when I broke the end off another coffin.
So you dig the graves with a digger? Yeah, we do most of the heavy work with a mini digger and finish them off with a spade by hand. If it’s a little kid then we’ll dig that all by hand. So what happened after you clipped the other coffin? Well as I dragged the bucket back it pulled the end off, I looked down to check it out thinking “What was that?” and I saw the top of a head. I was like “Shit!” Luckily no one else was around. I kept looking around thinking “If someone saw me now I’d be right in the shit.” I just quickly squashed a load of soil back in there and filled the base of the hole with hay so you couldn’t see the bottom. I just crossed my fingers that no one smelt anything at the funeral. Any other mishaps like that? Well, if we haven’t shored it up properly, it’s not uncommon for the bottom of a grave to collapse and when that happens you often see the coffin next door. One time it collapsed and an arm came through. So obviously, over time, the coffins decompose? The coffins at our place decompose real quick, because it’s all green and environmentally conscious, they’re supposed to go real quickly so they’re made out of chipboard. If the hole collapses then you just have to get in there and shore it back up with planks or whatever. Gotta keep the dead people apart. How long does a body take to decompose? It depends on the type of ground, but generally around a year. How deep do you have to bury people? Do people say “Six feet under” for a reason? Nah, that’s an American stereotype. As a legal requirement
there needs to be at least a metre of dirt on top of the coffin. If it’s a hard dig then we’ll stick to that but normally we go down around five or so feet, the deeper you go to more likely the hole is to fall in, so it seems pointless to go any deeper than that. You said that sometimes bodies get flown in. What were you saying about that guy who had been embalmed? It was a little German geezer and it was the first time I’d ever dealt with an embalmed body. I had to help the mortician get him out of his travel coffin and I didn’t realise how stiff the process makes people. We were trying to get him out and he was like concrete. We tipped it on its side to try to slide him out and before you know it matey shot face down onto the tray. He was stiff as a board, his little toes were pointing straight down, keeping him up on an angle. Did he have clothes on? Yeah, he was wearing a little suit. Tell me about the time you dug the hole too small. Oh yeah, there was this Pakistani family having this real big funeral and the geezers that were sending us the coffin told us completely the wrong sizes. So we dug the hole how we were told and the coffin shows up and it’s this massive great thing. They went to lower him in and it wouldn’t fit. I was working on another hole at the time and the funeral director came running up shouting “Get some spades and get up there.” I dashed up and had 50 people all staring at me while I jumped in the hole and tried to make it wider. I was knackard, sweating away in the middle of summer. It was so embarrassing, they had to put the coffin down to one side and I was trying to dig away this rock hard ground, there were all these people looking down at me shouting “You’ve missed a bit. You need 26
to take some out over there. Some here.” They were all getting involved, telling me what to do. It was a fucking nightmare. What about when you buried someone in the wrong place? I came real close to losing my job over this one. I was just having a bad day and got some numbers mixed up. I dug this hole in a shit mood and no one checked it and after the service my boss is like “You dug that hole in the wrong place!” The service was over and I’d filled it in. I started to panic. The family noticed but didn’t say anything until afterwards. Legally it got really messy after that. They tried to sue the company and get the papers in and shit. Once a coffin has been buried then you can’t raise it without the permission of the government. I just fucked up, I was lucky not to lose my job over that one. Do you ever get any weirdos hanging around, you know, like Goths and that? Nah, I’ve not seen many Goths, but there was this one hippy lady with a guitar who’d always be walking around strumming away. She liked me because I’ve got tattoos and that, she was weird but if that’s how someone wants to spend their time – I don’t really get it – but that’s fine by me. When you die do you want to be buried? Yeah, I don’t like the idea of being caked in fire and burnt up. Where I work there’s this lake, I want to be buried on the island in the middle. A few bike parts in with me and I want the grave hand dug, I want to make it as awkward as possible for whoever digs it. Do you believe in God or an afterlife? Nah, I’m a proud atheist. I feel sorry for people who believe in an afterlife, most of them spend their time almost waiting for it. I say make the most of everything now.
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THEO SIMPSON Mass Observation
Interview by DANIEL BENSON
I first met Theo in Sheffield around 2005, where he’d come to study photography. It was his ability on a bike that first brought him some attention that eventually landed him a spot on the newly-formed United team. A year after that, Theo seemed to drift off and apart from buying a secondhand camera from me, I didn’t see or hear anything about him for a good few years, other than he’d pretty much quit riding and was focusing solely on his photography. Then, out of the blue, Theo surfaced again. I noticed a quick and impressive clip of him on Marv’s latest video offering Standard Procedure and also started taking an interest in the work he was producing through his studio, Mass Observation. Whilst many riders might find enough substance in BMX to
take pictures of, Theo turned his attention in a completely different direction, focusing on everyday life in a way that a surveyor would examine a scene. On the surface, there might not appear to be anything sociologically interesting in his photographs, but as Joel Meyerowitz points out in a comment about his own work, it’s a remark that seems pertinent with Theo’s: ‘These are field photographs… I’m not making an incident related thing, I’m trying to work without a hierarchy.’ The Albion met Theo in Sheffield to discuss his own work, photographic practice and whether or not to quit riding. I’m sure we’ll see lots more of Theo’s photographic work – hopefully this isn’t the last time you’ll see him on a bike.
[a] Road and Rail Links Between Sheffield and Manchester II [b] PL16 [c] What We Buy [d] Hyperbolic Paraboloid Roof [e] Telemarketing - Job centre, Hillsborough, Sheffield
Albion: When was the last time you rode before today? Theo: I probably rode Dev about six months ago, and before that it was about two years ago. Would you say you’ve quit? I think I would do now, yeah. Today I just realised that I can’t take the slamming all the time. I proper respect it and I love watching it, but I feel like that’s all it is to me now. It wasn’t conscious though, it just got phased out real slow. Do you read a lot behind a subject before you start working on it? Yeah, definitely. Especially now with the architecture stuff I’m doing. I feel like the research and background work is more important than the photography. The photography is almost the secondary thing, it’s like the final thing to consolidate the idea. The most interesting thing for me is going to libraries and looking through the archives. Finding out about it is just fascinating. That’s why I take the photographs in such a boring way. I want
to take them as if a surveyor took them. Really flat, boring.That’s why I always shoot in a flat light to try and exaggerate that. I remember you did the Right To Buy photograph and I remember looking at the shot and thinking it looked like a nice photo, but it looked nothing like your other work, then I went back to it, and wasn’t it actually a picture your granddad took? Yeah, it was. I was reading a book at the time about remarkable single images and the essay at the start was the curator arguing with this photographer that he couldn’t talk about a single image for an hour. This guy proved him wrong, he talked about Alfred Stieglitz’s The Steerage. It’s a photo of a boat and onboard you have two different classes of people, divided by this line within the image that splits the ship. It got me thinking about singular images, and how they can work. I then found this photo that my granddad had taken of his house years ago. At the same time I was looking at other photos about this ‘right to buy’, policy that the government had taken on. I think it was a policy that made
[f]Right to Buy [g] Installation I, Site Gallery, Sheffield [h] Road and Rail Links Between Sheffield and Manchester III [i] P16, Installation, Site Gallery, Sheffield [j] Installation II, Site Gallery, Sheffield [k] Road and Rail Links Between Sheffield and Manchester I
people more aspirational, like you could own your own house. And look at society now, that’s what everybody wants to do, own something and take pride in something, which is why I’d imagine my granddad took a photo of his own house. I just tried to communicate that through one photo, it’s more like the idea, it’s really conceptually based. I just thought that this one image isn’t screaming about what it’s actually about.You can go through the image and deconstruct it and work it out for yourself – I like the idea that the more time you spend with an image the more things will become apparent. This particular image was a one-off, but your other work seems to be always part of a series. All your work is self-published too, it’s not really editorial. I feel like there’s so much more potential to the book than it being just a container. If you look at photo books in a traditional sense, it’s just a housing for the photos. With the books I make, I try and make the book the project. The paper, the size, the style, the materials, the format, it all references the original idea. And that keeps the photography plain, in a way? Yeah, so the photography doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, in fact, the more stripped back it is, the more boring it is, the more real it is. I think that’s the most important thing. I don’t want to change how people look at it; I just want to encourage them to look at it in a different way. I think you can do that with materials, rather than just photographs. For example the What We Buy book, it’s more like a portfolio, how it all unfolds and it’s real elegant. With the subject matter, it’s a real contrast with the quality of the materials. It’s a really high quality finish, which contrasts with the nasty subject matter. And this is just photographs of cheap, everyday items? Yeah, it’s things you can buy for under a pound. I’m not trying to force it down somebody’s throat, there’s no text that goes with it, all I’m doing is taking it and putting it into another context. It doesn’t even show the worst ones, it’s a very democratic selection. It’s presenting something so people can make their own mind up about it. But that banana holder, for example, it serves no purpose. I thought even taking a picture of that seems almost cynical, in a way? I mean, a banana comes in its own casing anyway. I know! That’s what’s so hilarious about that. A case for a case. Like, you’re from Sheffield, you know what heritage this city has got, it’s synonymous with good craftsmanship and high quality goods. Now when you walk around these days, all that has gone and on the high street, there are these pound stores that are really, really successful businesses selling, what I see, as utter shite. But I tried not to present it in that way. I just wanted to show it to people like ‘look at this’, and let them make their own mind up about it. My favourite thing is the ice scraper. It’s a perfectly functional thing for a pound, does the job well and good value for the price. But somebody thought it was a good idea to put an LED light on
there, it does absolutely nothing! And just think about what’s gone into making that item and how many more there are like it. How did you come to set up your studio, Mass Observation? I think I started it because the work I was making all had a very similar ethos. It’s all similar subject matter, political, economical… It all comes under one thing, the work has one direction and it’s all very everyday. Mass Observation was a way of publishing all this stuff, a way of housing it all together. It’s also about trying to make an opportunity of it too because obviously you need to get by and it’s also a way of hopefully getting more work. We don’t make anything we’re not passionate about. It’s also mint working with Ben [McLaughlin], you often get photographers who think they can design and do everything, but with him it’s mint knowing that every phase is done correctly. That he’ll refine the type, change it and generally make it look good. It’s also about getting over the fact that… well you’ll know that photographers are always precious about their work and they want full control and it to all be about them, but if you want your work to be the best it can be, you have to work with other people. It’s like with your magazine, you get someone to lay the type out, get illustrators in to help make it look good. It just makes something so much more attractive, when you’ve got a group of passionate people working together, instead of trying to do everything and it being patchy. Ed Rusha, he’s one of my biggest influences, especially his series of books on gas stations and parking lots from the air. He didn’t even shoot the aerial photos. He knew that another guy could shoot better aerial photos than he could, so he teamed up with him to get the most out of his idea. How do you work out what you actually want to take pictures of, what projects you want to pursue? ‘The everyday’, is endless, you could take a picture of this scene here and construct a narrative out of it. How did you come to choose the transmission towers, or the parabolic roof, for example? This is something recently I’ve been asking myself. Why have I been choosing these buildings? The hyperbolic paraboloid roof, for example, that’s had some poignancy with me for years, as I’d drive past it so much.
"I like the idea that the more time you spend with an image the more things will become apparent"
As it’s on the way to Retford, where you grew up? It comes out of the fern trees as you approach the roundabout quite unexpectedly. Yeah! It’s just this big spike! It’s fucking unbelievable really. That’s something I’m particularly interested in, roadside architecture. It’s symbolic of a futuristic time, when everyone could afford a car for the first time and it offered so much freedom. The roof was a symbol of that through its design, a symbol of the future and of progression. Mass Observation
The road and the car have taken on a very different guise these days though; they’re more of a problem than a solution. Yeah, these days the way we look at the car and the roads has completely changed, which is why these structures at the sides of the roads seem so alien and have fallen into disrepair. The car and roads have slipped into everyday life and there’s no need to celebrate the freedom and opportunity they bring anymore.
"I think it’s really dangerous to let the camera start dictating the work. You need to use whatever is best for the project"
You mentioned earlier about taking photos of everyday things, but the roof does have a very photographic quality too. Yeah, I guess so. But then I think that it’s the very nature of the building that almost makes the image, it’s very hard to take a bad photo of it because it is so distinctive. With the transmission towers, although I was interested in them, I was interested in people complaining that they’re a blight on the landscape, yet they’re the very things that carry power into your house. They’re designed with such consideration. The UK was the last country in Europe to come up with transmission towers, so the design is really refined. You can notice that the ones in Europe are a lot more brutal, but the ones here have become refined and elegant almost. The network of transmission towers is the second largest man made structure in the UK, after the roads. The roof, it was a Little Chef wasn’t it? Or is it still? It’s nothing now, it was a Little Chef, but before that it was a petrol station and it was just the roof structure. Then it got adapted to become a building. Which in itself is an interesting characteristic of it, how it gets adapted for different uses. Which is something I’m sure you understand well through BMX, I bet you wanted to ride that roof before you appreciated its architectural merit? I always wanted to ride it, we always talked about getting up there and doing it, but never really investigated it. I’m guessing you were aware of the shot Ricky Adam shot for that nice article he did about riding roofs? Yeah, definitely. The shot is actually from a similar angle, which I was conscious of. I just moved to the side a little bit, really. That roof has just been really significant in my life, in so many different areas! It actually got a listed status the other week, but for me that means nothing. I wanted to shoot it in a way that isn’t just a spectacular image. I don’t want to change the context of it by taking some amazing photo. In many ways, it’s anti-photographic. The way that it’s presented is what is supposed to engage you, like the paper and the specific pantones that we use. It’s just another way of making people think ‘that’s interesting’, without the use of celebratory photography.
How many shots do you take of a subject? I remember seeing a documentary on William Eggelston and finding out that he only shoots a single frame of any subject he comes across. I find that fascinating, imagine the discipline that it takes to just take one photo of something that you find interesting and maintain that? I really like that and it is something that I’ve tried to do with my own work, like I try to previsualize everything and commit to an angle. I try and do that a lot and I think one thing that comes down to is film. If you’re brought up learning about and shooting film, you’re just naturally more disciplined, especially in larger formats, because it’s simply expensive to shoot lots. You teach at Sheffield Hallam University don’t you? Yeah, a bit. I actually thought that teaching photography would be the dream job, but you come to realise that making your own work is always the most important thing.You can always go to that at some point in your life, but with your own work you only have this one opportunity really, to crack on with the work that you think is important. Well, the whole nature of photography has changed, with digital photography and mobile phones allowing everyone to have a camera on them at all times. It’s an old question, but how do you feel about digital photography? I love it. For example, the architecture stuff I’ve shot, like the roof and the transmission towers, that’s all digital. The flexibility of the medium is perfect for what I was wanting to shoot. I could use really long telephoto lenses to counteract any converging verticals. I thought you mainly used the Mamiya 7? I do use that, but I think it’s really dangerous to let the camera start dictating the work.You need to use whatever is best for the project. The Dead Ends project, I didn’t even use a camera, I used a scanner, which is a type of camera I guess, but it worked best for that particular project. The latest project I’m working on with Adam Murray, road and rail links between Sheffield and Manchester, I shot it on the Mamiya. Film just seemed to suit the historic nature of the route in a really subtle way, how it’s linked to time. That was a hard project to work on as Adam and myself work in very different ways, he works really fast, getting a project finished in a matter of days, whereas I struggle to work like that, but as we traveled around, it started to become apparent what these journeys were about, the calmness and quietness about it. Dennis Hopper produced a whole series of paintings based around the views from trains, which give out a very similar feeling. Not depressing, but calm and solitary, which for me is what being on a train is about most of the time. Yeah for sure, that was something I really wanted to get across. It’s hard trying to communicate a feeling with a photograph and with that journey it is difficult to do. I guess I’m more interested in roads, really. I’m fascinated with the combustion engine, this tool that liberated the western world. But in the same way historically, how the train did that before the car and opened up places to everyone and opened so many opportunities. I tried to focus on the suburban areas on the route as they’re the places that are so dependant on the train and also the car. I guess the bigger picture is about connection and how that creates prospects for people and then trying to communicate this in this tiny book.
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A loose investigation into why Salt Lake City consistently throws up so many creative and original riders? “Interesting...” says Tate tapping his chin as he gazes up to the snow-capped mountains that surround Salt Lake City. His tone is one of a great scientist peering through a newly found gateway to a new dimension. He’s thinking about a new trick. The depth of his thought leaves his eyes almost vacant, he’s exploring places and tinkering with ideas in his mind, the eyes are a blank facade, closed shutters on the millions of neural circuits sparking and dancing away inside.
Words and Photography by STEVE BANCROFT 37
Salt Lake City
eople in Salt Lake City are wired differently. There’s something in the air. Something that has caused neurological change in the inhabitants’ brains. Something that makes brains more creative and less conformist. But, strangely enough, it’s a change that only seems to affect bike riders. Must be a frequency thing. With jagged mountains looming on three sides and the largest salt-water lake in the western hemisphere covering the fourth, the city is surrounded. The unique geography traps the leafy streets of SLC in a hot box. Picked up as it crossed the warm waters of the great lake, the air coming in from the west is laden with a concoction of salts and minerals, and when that potent alchemy reaches the mountains it is too dense the climb over the monstrous peaks, so there it sits, heavy and still and weird and right on top of Salt Lake City. The scene here has always been a hotbed of talent with the roots of progression leading all the way back to Tim ‘Fuzzy’ Hall’s neon race uniform clad riding in the early ‘80s. Fuzzy was a guinea pig, for although he lived a few miles up the road from SLC, the potion he was breathing had the very same effect. Unbeknown to him, his own experiments on dirt jumps and race tracks were laying down the early work for a scientific study that would go on to be one of BMX’s most universally agreed equations: Love of bikes + SLC air = Unique bike riding. For proof of the principal’s soundness you only have to look at the bike riding of: Matt Beringer, Tate Roskelley, Cam Wood, Mike Aitken, Rob Wise, Dave Thompson and Elf Walters, who are all living, breathing results of the equation – and, as anyone with even an ounce of BMX intellect knows, you just can’t argue with evidence like that. It’s only when a ferocious enough storm rolls in off the Pacific that the air is blown out of the natural basin and lifted from the city. And with this clearing comes a fresh perspective, old stale habits are blown away and a space is opened up for fresh air and fresh thought. New seeds are sown and a new batch of slightly altered air veils the city once more, ready to propagate another round of weirdness. SLC is a laboratory and the Killjoy cast are the eccentric scientists who conduct work there – formidably strong bonds hold these individual atoms together to create a unique molecular structure called a Scene. Tate Roskelley lives near the centre of town, so it’s only right that he gets affected most by all the something in the air. Tate’s riding is void of rationality and it makes him so much fun to watch, nothing he does is conventional – nothing. After hanging out for a few days riding and shooting photos, and even though we got some of the best images in this article, I still had no idea how good Tate actually is on a bike. I didn’t know if he could manual. I didn’t know if he could hop high. I didn’t know if he could hop three. I didn’t really know anything about Tate’s riding, inline with any conventional sense.
While sat eating some weird Chinese food after a productive ride, in an effort to get a handle on his approach to and thoughts on BMX, I asked him a few questions, the first of which was “How high can you air a six-foot quarterpipe?” He laughs and has to put his hand up to stop food coming out of his mouth. From the cough-laugh reaction it was obvious that airing quarterpipes was neither his forte nor something he attributed any importance to at all. “Six inches,” he says with a smile before washing his rice based dish back down with a slug of water. Tate goes on to talk about how he’s always liked to draw outside the box and how well-trodden paths have never held enough appeal to float his boat. When asked for a little background to his unconventional style of riding he replies, “I was never one of those kids to naturally pick up tricks, I struggled with everything quite a bit and I mainly rode by myself. Some people don’t pick things up as easily, that was me, so if I was going to spend time learning something then it was going to be something I really wanted to do.”
"He’s the closest I’ve ever seen a human get to being a mutant ninja turtle"
We talk more about how he never knew Matt or Mike or any of the older SLC locals until he moved over the mountain when he was 16 and I asked him who his major influences were back then; “Matt Beringer, Jim Cielencki, Steven Hamilton... all the dudes who were doing their own thing. Seeing a clip from one of those guys would always peep my interest more than anyone else. Maybe I get bored with seeing the same stuff too much.” “180 barspin on the flat?” I ask, continuing to probe as to what stock tricks he can do “Errr… nope.” “Feeble hard 180?” I go on. “Errrmmm... maybe if the set-up is perfect... I’ve only done a couple.” “Have you ever tried to do a 180 barspin?” Elf interjects. And again Tate’s reply to a question about conventional tricks is “Nope” and it’s a ‘nope’ spoken in a tone that’s not quite proud, but one that makes it clear how little interest or desire he has in cookie cutter BMX riding. It’s a tone that naturally turns my line of questioning to how he thinks up ideas for his often-outlandish tricks. “I just think about riding all the time. I feel like I get inspired by a lot of stuff, stuff that doesn’t even have anything to do with BMX. I’ve always thought that if I wasn’t riding BMX, if I was making music or something, then I’d always want to be distinguishable. I’m interested in ideas. I feel like there’s this open door, and I found it by accident. I may not be the best bike rider skill-wise, but because I thought about it a lot and had a lot of patience, then I found that door.” is his reply.
[a] Only in Salt Lake City is it normal to undo your wheelnuts before doing a trick. Tate Roskelley, fork grind to crate slide.
I ask what he thinks of all the young up-and-comers riding that flat ledge grind based style of street The Experiment
that is so prevalent in the BMX media these days. Without hesitation he responds “I think if people tried a little harder to make BMX their own then they’d get a lot farther than trying to do what Garrett Reynolds just did. It seems so obvious to me. I mean, sometimes I feel like I’ve cheated my way into a place within BMX with my approach.” “So do you think you get something different out of BMX than those who follow trends?” I ask. “Yeah, but I still do it for the same reasons I guess. It boils down to the same feeling. But I’d say more of my riding is mental, it’s more in my head and more premeditated. I work on stuff and connect a lot of stuff I’ve tried together, but the principal is the same I guess.”
"Something that has caused neurological change in the inhabitant’s brains"
We talk about a few of his latest ideas and about how some of them tread close to a line that is at the very edge of BMX. After witnessing him waxing floors and arranging milk crates and undoing his wheel nuts, I ask him where he draws the line, “I like getting a reaction out of people. I know a lot of kids might hate some of the more far-out things I do, and I like that. It’s funny because the more some people will be saying ‘That’s not a trick!’ the more people there will be saying they like it. It just comes down to keeping an open mind on things. I quit playing sports at a young age because I didn’t like rules and I didn’t like coaches, BMX has neither of those so why pretend it does? In my eyes the sky is the limit, as long as I’m having fun then anything goes.”
[b] Tate, superbike to 180 drop. It may have been sketchy, but he rolled away eventually. [c] Matt Beringer, rainbow rail ice on the aptly named ‘Heavy Bike’.
It was a great conversation with a great scientist over some great Chinese food and, afterwards, it’s more obvious than ever that when Mother Nature was raining down conformity on the world, Tate had a def grip on his umbrella. Tate is undoubtedly way out there where the buses don’t run when it comes to unconventional bike riding, but if there’s anyone buzzing around near by then it’s Cam Wood: this awesome vessel of infinite energy is the closest I’ve ever seen a human get to being a mutant ninja turtle. With the edge of his voice rounded off with THC he spends every waking minute flying about the place all like “Duuuuuddde, awesome, let’s roast that shit then go get pizza. Duuuuddde. Awesome!” Cam works three jobs, is a husband, a homeowner, a father to be, has a wolf for a dog, and still manages to ride and dig more than most anyone. His BMX shop, The Woodshop, acts as a hub for the scene, a place to meet and make plans or a place to just sit and be knocked around by all the crazy wooden sculptures that make up the place. Everyone involved seemed to agree that if it wasn’t for Dave Thompson’s fuck-shit-wild ender then Cam would have had the last section in Killjoy. If there had to be a best bike rider in SLC then Cam would be it. Salt Lake City
Apart from the sci-fi creativity and the copper balls, the most endearing thing about Cam’s riding is how fun he makes everything look, a real life cartoon turtle. At one spot Cam took a big swig of water and proceeded to spray it all over the grass landing with his mouth. How many boring tricks require a wet grass landing? None at all. Not one. Only the best tricks need wet grass landings! And that wasn’t the only obscure spot preparation I witnessed during my stint in the hotbox, I saw a chain, a flight of stairs and numerous floors get waxed. I saw palms, fingers and cheeks get duct-taped up. I saw wheel nuts unscrewed, trees pruned, holes in fences wired open, walls pushed over, full-pipes cleaned with a squirty floor mop... the list of experiments could go on and on. After tweaks and dials, more often than not, the experiments are successful and people ride away clean with clips and photos and that warm feeling of accomplishment that makes you sleep happy at night. For its size SLC has one of the highest rates of sponsorships per capita in the world, with at least ten full time professional bike riders calling the place home it’s surprising that they’re not bottling the special air and selling it to all the kids who try too hard a couple of States over in California. And it’s not just the BMX industry who appreciates the city’s unorthodox riding produce – last year Cam Wood made $40,000 for five seconds of riding in a mobile phone company advertisement... turns out that thinking outside the box can pay very nicely indeed. However, riding on this advanced plain takes an equally heightened level of investment and commitment. For his superbike to 180 drop, Tate wore through four pedals, two rolls of duct tape, a bar end, a pair of trousers, a pair of boxer shorts and an arse cheek – it may not always be tens of thousands of dollars, but original riding like this comes at a price. One thing that’s definitely cheap in SLC though is the beer: $1 for a bottle of Miller and $2 for a straight of Jameson. But, being founded by, and still home to, a startling number of Mormons the beer in SLC tops out at 3.2%, so although cheap, you really have to get your guzzle on to get a buzz. Although questionable practice at first, the weak beer works well for productive hangover-free mornings and the placebo effect of having drunk ten bottles of brown fizzy liquid with ‘beer’ written on the front packs a surprising punch. The Mormons are another reason why SLC is the birthplace of so many new tricks and sponsored riders. The city was founded by Mormons and, just like the rest of Utah, it has a reputation for being a very nice place. Very nice, but maybe a bit boring. I don’t know how much you know about Mormonism but it’s kinda like Christianity but with a thread of science fiction woven in. Battlestar Galactica was written by a Mormon and is packed with references, it is more other-worldly than sci-fi, but that whole Twilight saga was written by one
Salt Lake City
too. But the one famous movie that really paints a vivid picture of Mormon life is Napoleon Dynamite. Although it was filmed just across the border in Idaho, the small-town Mormon mentality it depicts is all too prevalent among the leafy green streets of Salt Lake City. For the average Joe Kid it’s all ‘Gosh’ and ‘Flip’ and ‘Heck yes’. There is an evident lack of social decay in Salt Lake, it’s clean and it’s nice. It’s very samey. It’s not very diverse. The city boasts the lowest illiteracy rates, the lowest obesity rates and the lowest illegitimacy statistics in the county. It has the largest percentage of white people of all non-Canada bordering states and the highest rate of inhabitants devoted to a single religion. Generally it’s a clean, crime-free, wholesome society, which of course is good n’ all, but it is very samey. And it’s the repercussions of this diversity vacuum that attribute to the against-the-grain mentality of the bikers. In a town where everyone’s lives are so similar, when a means of creative expression like BMX comes along, a young man with a certain temperament is gonna cut loose and jump straight on that train and ride it all the way to glorious individualism. By his early 30s the average male Utah resident has a wife, a mortgage, a few kids, a steady job and a spot reserved on a pew for Sunday morning worship – and that’s more than enough to drive anyone with even an inkling of free thinking intelligence to grab whatever they can and make like Jackson Pollock with it. So to keep the findings up to date, we now have the equation for unique riding looking like this: Love of bikes + SLC air + Mormon culture. The lingering air combined with the stifling lack of diversity certainly generates the spark, but having now witnessed the phenomena first hand, it’s clear to see that it’s the support of true friends that adds the oxygen to the flames and makes for a real scorcher of a wildfire. When we’re out riding, The Killjoys feed each other with swathes of praise, encouragement and well considered advice. Each new trick is the result of a collective effort. Tips and pointers and speculation come in from all angles and it’s awesome to watch. Often it’s the scene that pulls the trick, not just an individual. So with that observation added to the equation, the updated formula for fresh riding is: Love of bikes + SLC air + Mormon culture = Unique bike riding. Shawn ‘Elf’ Walters is the glue that holds the scene together. It seems he’s the catalyst behind most every session that goes down. He’s also a prankster through and through, always playing with people and conjuring up ever more elaborate practical jokes. There is a portrait in this article of an SLC local called Riley wearing a vee-neck T-shirt, that photo is part of one such humorous trick. Being a fan of the ‘deep vee’ Riley is the butt of much taunting and while I was in town Elf convinced him that I was looking to shoot a cover photo for the next issue featuring The Albion triangle logo shaved into a rider’s chest hair showing through
a deep vee-neck T-shirt. Riley didn’t have much chest hair, but Elf told him it wasn’t a problem and we could ‘Photoshop some in at a later date’. So, struggling to keep a straight face, I was dragged along in the cruel prank and met up with the unsuspecting Riley one morning to shoot the photo you see here. I felt bad but Elf convinced me that he would receive all blame and I had nothing to worry about. As I left Salt Lake I couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Riley – he was so adamant it was a serious idea that he brought a variety of vee-necks along to the photo shoot and is fully expecting to be on the front of the next magazine – little does he know that he’s fallen for an Elf Original and he’s not going to live it down for a very long time. Although he’s often up to no good, Elf’s cruelty is offset by the limitless motivation and passion and laughter he injects into the scene.
"The whole house came alive with spinning and light as the electricity passed through our drunken bodies"
I stayed with Jordan Utley for a touch over two weeks. He lives in a charming wooden house complete with creaky floorboards and musty trinket-filled bookshelves. A self confessed ‘goth’, his is the genius behind That’s It, Please Kill Me, Killjoy and an eclectic sloth of other moving image creations. He makes music videos and sets up for bands and has some fucked up friends. His girlfriend Kelsey is fruity, she’s all hippy meets intellectual and does modeling work on the side. She had a bottle of vodka in her purse all the time, if it’s cool to drink vodka all day then she was well up there. One night after the bar we drove over to her friend’s house who does experiments of a different kind. His house was big and also wooden. There were cats and lights and switches everywhere and nests of wire peppered the floor. He does visual effects for Disney or something. He had a laser. Not a little pointer one like Catfish is always playing with. This one is serious, it’s like a suitcase-sized version and it’ll burn a hole in your arm and leave you blind quicker than you can say “Crazy as a shithouse rat”. We sat drunk and melted plastic with it and watched as the molten molecules refracted the intense light all around the room, making the ceiling come alive with a swirling sea of psychedelic puke. We took it outside, running wires all the way to the street, shining it through distant windows. Whole houses glowed up green from the inside out. He had a thing called a Jacob’s Ladder too; it’s a spark gap electricity machine and we held a fluorescent light tube in each hand and touched one on the crackling live Ladder and one on the ceiling fan and the whole house comes alive with spinning and light as the electricity passed through our drunken bodies. I guess the nerds here like to experiment too. This place is weird. The Experiment
[d] Cam Wood, ninja drop.
Salt Lake City
When offered up against Captain-Kirk-electriclaser-cat-man, Rob Wise is the picture of sanity. He’s clean cut and grounded and carries himself with a humble air of confidence. Rob was out of town camping with his wife for most of my stay, but on the one day that we did go riding he did a man-sized feeble to wallride and then pushed over an entire wall. Although quiet and reserved, Rob is still just as weird as the rest of them. I mean, who only does bangers? It’s either tightly shut off or wound right open, and that in itself makes Rob as unconventional as the rest of the locals. Mike Aitken is a book all to himself and the influence he has in the scene runs to the very bed of the Lake itself. A few sentences in this article is an insult to what he has achieved both on and off his bike. I was having a chat with Jordan on the porch late one evening and he offered a very interesting take on Mike’s crash and the after-effects he’s now battling with. “It’s as if Mike got so good on a bike that the only way for him to progress was for something like this to happen to him. Everything was easy to him, he could do it all, there was nowhere left for him to go. Now he has a fight on his hands. Now every time he learns a trick it’s the hardest trick he’s ever done.” It’s a sentiment that is hard to comprehend, it’s a compliment, a reality check and an acknowledgement of all he’s achieved and continues to achieve. If anyone was wondering on the progress of Mike’s recovery then all I can say is that the day we rode Tanner trails he was the first one through the Thunder line. He dropped in and sailed high, fast and smooth through the biggest
line there, first time. During that session, if it was dark and there wasn’t enough light to distinguish people’s features then from his silhouette alone, just like five years ago, you could pick out Mike Aitken 100 times out of a 100. Dave Thompson is flammable: a live stick of dynamite with a temperamental fuse. Never have I seen tricks performed with such explosive energy – whether it’s two foot high hop whips while cruising full speed down busy roads or ridiculously large gaps and grinds – Dave will unleash an unrivaled degree of assertion on his bike. A hot-headed passionate individual who is much more fitting of the label on Tate’s signature frame The Drifter, he lives on couches and in cars, spending his time pondering life’s bigger questions while pouring concrete in Wyoming. He is a raw beast of a man on his bike and a calm abiding thinker off it. Matt Beringer and his on-going legacy of awesomeness is explored at greater depth elsewhere in this issue, but in the context of a Salt Lake City article all that needs to be said is that Matt is as important as a single individual can be to a scene. He is the seemingly limitless source of inspiration and motivation. To the river of riding that comes tumbling out of SLC – Matt is the source.
[e] Shawn ‘Elf’ Walters, kicked out downside ice. [f] Dave Thompson, angry turndown at a chilled spot.
And that brings us to John, or Cody Slade as he’s called when he straps on his Walmart style rollerblades. Cody lives to get rad. Parking up in a different part of the city every night, he lives in his van and often meets up to join the street session.
Salt Lake City
[g] Cam Wood, tree ride 360 fakie. [h] Dave Thompson, hippies love mountains. [i] Tate, rock bump to hang over tooth.
[j] Cam Wood, hip tabe.
With his short shorts, white sunglasses and unbridled gaiety, Slade has no handle. As he careers around town on the shaky edge of both control and sanity, it’s impossible to tell if he is to be taken seriously or not. By having a great time all the time and acting without rationale, he personifies the magic of Salt Lake City. In a country so obsessed with and proud of their ‘Freedom For All’ it is baffling how few people capitalize on this much-revered treasure. But this place is an exception; Salt Lake City shines like a beacon of creativity in a sea of grey conformity. The locals grab hold of that freedom and run with it in any direction they please, they toss it around
Salt Lake City
between them like a hot potato, encouraging each other to push that freedom to new limits, and it’s an approach that has elevated them to being arguably the most idolized and celebrated BMX scene in the world. The riders here live a healthy and creative life, free from the illusionary constraints adhered to by so many others, and subsequently they have more fun on their bikes than in any other place I’ve seen. Street riding in SLC is a triumphant experiment into the American Dream: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Love of bikes + SLC air + Mormon culture + Strong friendships = Some of the best BMX riding on the planet.
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Photo: Tristan Afre
The Brad Simms Interview A dense dawn mist hides my first view of Transylvania. From the train window little can be seen of the passing landscape, but dark hills and the edge of shrouded forests. I’d left England two weeks ago on a one-way ticket to meet Brad Simms in Kraków, Poland. I left not knowing where I was going or when I’d be back. I was hitching a ride on Brad’s nomadic journey, a journey that in just two weeks had taken me across more borders than most Americans see in a lifetime. We were taking one day at a time, letting the fate of weather decide our path. At his side I was sharing his life of foreign languages, staying with strangers, sleeping on floors, living out of a bag – living on the road.
Words and Photography by GEORGE MARSHALL 53
[a] Water slide ride in the rain, Warsaw, Poland.
It’s 5.30am. Brad sleeps across from me, his huge tattooed arm locked like a vice round his bag with all the zips facing his torso. That bag is important to him, his only other possessions in the world are the contents of a bike bag in the rack above head. He snores loudly, able to sleep regardless of the warning of gypsy gangs boarding our overnight train and robbing the unaware passengers. The train carriage is modern and largely empty. Beside us sleep two Polish companions we picked up a week before. One has little more than a harmonica, an old leather jacket and a bed sheet that he sleeps under by night and acts as a flowery bike bag by day. They’d agreed to travel with Brad and I till their money ran out. Since Warsaw, the four of us had been travelling through Eastern Europe on buses and trains, watching each other’s backs. The cost of food was getting cheaper the further we went and black people more scarce. Poland, Slovakia and Hungary were behind us, and now we were six hours into a 16hour train journey from Budapest, heading south, bound across the haunting region of Transylvania to Bucharest, Romania. This trip wasn’t the first time I’d met Brad. Like passing ships our paths had crossed at various unplanned points on a total of four different continents in recent years, and not on the contest circuit either. I first saw him hustling strippers in Portland USA, he arrived the day I left Shanghai, I bumped into him pedalling the streets of London and we stayed at the same hostel in Israel in December last year. Before that week in Israel I admit I had been wary of Brad. I didn’t know him. Embarrassed of my own prejudice, my face-value impression of Brad was a big scary black guy covered in tattoos. I’d heard rumours he travels the world alone escaping a dark past blighted with gangs and crime. Six months ago I wouldn’t have agreed to travel at his side for weeks on end. I got to know Brad as we sheltered from a week-long storm in Israel, talking late into the night. Contrary to my impression, I found him to be polite, well spoken, trustworthy, funny and generous, yet the stories of his background were indeed horrific and saddening. From those late-night conversations I learnt that Brad was a man with a story and it was a story he was keen to share. “I’m sick of people asking me how high I can bunnyhop, or how many countries I’ve been to. Do you know how much shit I’ve seen in my life?” I remember he told me in Israel, with a deep chuckle. Brad awakes in his seat on the train as the rising sun burns through the mist, revealing a landscape of snow-capped mountains and countryside. We slowly veer round rural villages with golden domed church roofs, overtaking old men on horse and carts. The cook in the dining carriage makes us an omelette each for two euros and we return back to our seats, now awake from a dose of burnt coffee. With time to kill, Brad faces the view outside. “Are you ready to do some talking? Now seems like a good time.” He says calmly to me, not moving his
gaze from the view. I prepare myself for what I foresee will be one of the longest and most memorable conversations of my life. I open a bag of nuts, check the battery on my recorder and push the red button. He starts at the beginning. The Deep Woods Of Maryland “I was in the back seat of the car with my brother and little sister. My mom was driving. She pulls over to make a call on a pay phone, gets back in the car and we drive on in silence. As we get close to the house she says, ‘your dad died… your dad is dead.’ I was six years old. I didn’t understand. My dad worked at an asphalt company building roads. He got hit by a truck. Once my dad passed we moved from his Aunt’s house and went to my Grandma’s place in the deep woods of Maryland. She had 13 kids, some of my uncles were in jail – one was dead. There were already eight people in the house. It was crazy living over there. We were poor – us kids made do with the little we had. We’d take tyre lining off the rims of old bikes, make a rock sling and shoot birds out the tree, we’d take five gallon buckets and walk for a miles picking black berries, we’d go fishing. At the time I didn’t think about being poor – I was a kid. “Even when my dad was around we didn’t have money. Family life was never stable. As a kid growing up I probably moved 15 times. I grew up in the dirtiest, shitty places. I grew up with rats climbing over me in my sleep, living in outhouses with trees growing up through the floor, often with no running water, no electricity. “Not all the places were bad, but we’d get evicted or kicked out. I never had the conventional childhood home most kids have. Sometimes we’d only be in a place for a few weeks. Every time I moved I had to change school. I was bouncing round from house to house and school to school. I went to one high school for a single week, longest was for a year,” he tells me, as I consider how unlikely it was that he ever started riding – a sport dominated by white kids with families wealthy enough to afford bikes. Feeling dumb, I ask him the most cliché of questions. Standing Out “I started riding when I was eleven. One day my uncle comes to the house with a BMX bike. I’d seen BMX before, but I never expected to see him doing it. He was outside and just jumping curbs and stuff. I’m like, ‘let me see that bike.’ I got on the bike and jumped from the sidewalk. A month later we got into a car accident and my mom sued. She took the lawsuit money and bought me, my little sister and brother all bikes. “I started out racing. I remember going to the track and thinking, ‘alright, I’m the only black kid here.’ It was strange to me. It was a long time until I went anywhere and saw more black riders. At 14 I went to a contest in Florida. Out of two or three hundred
riders me and my buddy John were the only black kids. I got my first photo in a mag doing a turndown air and got on Bulldog [Bikes]. Being black you definitely stand out and it helps a lot coming up in BMX,” he tells me very openly, as I’m surprised to the degree of the frankness and honesty of his words. Sadly not everyone viewed Brad’s standing out as positive, some even saw it as betrayal. “I remember in high school being a black guy riding a BMX, wearing DCs and having a chain wallet. That was ‘white boy shit’. Kids at school would say shit like, ‘you dress like a white boy and you talk like a white boy – you’re a white boy.’ I used to get in fights over that stuff. In school I never spoke like the other black kids, I never used much slang. I didn’t want to be like everybody else. From 13 or 14 I’d be wearing a skate shoe. Somebody would look at my shoes and say, ‘why the fuck are you wearing those?’ For a short period I actually started only dressing in skate shoes and stuff when I went riding. The rest of the time I’d wear baggy ass clothes, big T-shirts and trainers, because it was easier to blend in. It didn’t attract so much trouble.” In The Family “Things started to go crazy in my life at 14. My mom was always normal, then something triggered a change in her for the worse. The doctor thinks some supplements caused a chemical imbalance in her brain. My stepdad Larry thinks someone spiked her drink while they were apart. She was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. My uncle that died, he had Schizophrenia too, it runs in the family. My brother has it as well but I’ll get to that later. “We got evicted from another house while mom was in hospital for two weeks and moved in with my aunty. Afterwards my mom was fine for a while, but then she had a relapse. One day she got mad. She always hated riding. She took my bike and put it behind a dumpster. It was gone. I didn’t have a bike for two months. I cut grass so I could afford new bike parts, and someone gave me a frame. “Around the same time my sister went to a Destiny’s Child concert at the mall. She fills out five entries for a competition to win a new VW Bug. What’s happens? She won it. She won a brand new shiny Bug in yellow zest. It looked like a big ass skittle. My mom’s mind was still gone. She takes the car and sells it for eight or nine grand and takes us kids shopping. She buys me new shoes, new clothes, she’s spending money everywhere. We went to church and she gave me, my brother and sister each $100 and told us to put it in that basket. I was like, ‘what? You want me to put one hundred dollars in this basket?’ ‘Do what I say. Put it in the basket,’ she ordered me. So I put $100 in the basket, and she put another $400, so we’d given $700, yet at that time I’m thinking we’ve got no electricity, we’d never paid any bills or rent – nothing. “The money from the Bug went in weeks. My mom just gave it away. With no more money, mom started writing fake cheques for anything, for food,
for clothes. She was bouncing cheques left and right. We got evicted from another house, we were bouncing round again, staying with grandparents trying to find a house. “That was a bad time you know?” Brad asks me, nodding his head looking serious. “When I was 17 there were weeks I was not in school, doing nothing. I would be depressed. I was mad at the world. My mom was out of it, we were broke as fuck, no money, nothing…. Riding my bike made me happy, I could forget about the troubles. All I did was ride, I didn’t care about anything else. I think that’s why I was a virgin until I was 18. People asked me, ‘Brad how come you’re not at the high school dance?’ I was outside the school riding. BMX is all I had.
[b] Icepick, Košice, Slovakia.
“My grandparents’ house was too crowded so we moved up the street into The Indian Head Inn hotel. It was me, my stepdad Larry, my brother, sister and mom all in the one room. Still no money. From my father’s death, me, my sister and brother got money from the lawsuit. I got a cheque for $15,000 once a year from the age of 18 to 21. I turned 18 and got my first cheque for $15,000. What do I do with it? I took 10 grand and put it in my savings, and kept five grand in my checking account. I was on top of the fucking world.” Brad’s jubilation at his new-found wealth was to be short-lived. He quickly found himself supporting a growing family of six, all at the age of 18. He discovered the compensation money for his father’s death was not only a blessing but also a curse. “My brother ran through his money partying. My sister had spent hers and was pregnant. Everyone wanted money from me. ‘We’re blood – give me money,’ they’d say. No one worked. I was paying for the hotel room for everyone. My grandparents had some crazy electricity bill, bang, I gave them money for that. After a while I gave my mom money to get a house down the street so we could get out of the hotel, the baby was on the way. My savings were going fast so I got a job at a restaurant, preparing orders for waiters. I hated it. After two months I thought this is too stupid for me and quit. I ran out of money and we get evicted from the house. That was a low time before I started doing stupid shit.” Sticky Fingers
"I grew up with rats climbing over me in my sleep, living in outhouses with trees growing up through the floor, often with no running water, no electricity"
“I was riding with a kid at the time, he was my right hand man. One day he came to school with a knot of money like this.” He says holding his hand out with a two-inch gap between his index finger and thumb. “It must have been 15 or 16 hundred dollars. He Bouncing Round
[c] Car ride, Bucharest, Romania.
always had new shoes and new clothes. I’d say ‘where did you get all that?’ He said ‘see that house there? I’ve been in there.’ So, I started getting into that shit, I started breaking into people’s houses. The first time we got up early about six and skipped school. He’d already scoped the house out, he knew what time the owner left and what time they’d be back, I said to him ‘you’re a fucking real criminal’ – but I thought I’m bit of criminal now too. We went round the back of the house, broke through a window and climbed in. We go upstairs and take all the cash. We never took TVs or stuff like that.” Hearing Brad’s admission I thought, here I am again, interviewing a thief [see issue 4’s article Victory Week] – no different to the thief who broke into my house and took my camera bag, laptop, and my hard drives with five years of photography stored on them, back in 2008. Considering Brad an intelligent and a moral character I asked him how he justified it to himself. “I definitely knew that shit was wrong at the time, but it gave me the taste for fast money. I wasn’t doing it that long. I only broke into houses two or three times. Once I learnt I could make fast money I didn’t want to work a regular nine to five job.” He says, showing little sign of remorse, but more as if he’s talking about somebody else’s past, as if that person in him that robbed houses is no more. “The dumb shit only got worse when I moved in with that friend and his mom. It was way too easy to do stuff once we were living with each other. We’d go out at night and rip out open newspaper machines and take the cash. It didn’t pay that good, so we both got jobs at a department store. I still had sticky fingers – still stealing shit. I looked around the storeroom and the back was full of electronics, laptops, phones. One day my friend throws a phone out the back door during lunch break. At the end of the shift he went round the back to pick it up. We thought, let’s take it to the next level. So I always kept a box cutter on me, a big ass shipment would come in, I’d cut open the shipment, grab a laptop and sling it out the back door, boom – I’ve got a brand new laptop at the house now. Another shipment would come, slice it open, boom – I have a phone. It was wintertime, and when we slung something out the back door you couldn’t see it because of the fallen leaves. We used to return at night, duck down real low and grab the stuff. I sold so much stuff from that job.
Fast Money Hearing Brad’s stories of his uncle, I think about the male role models in his life and ask him how his father’s death has effected him. “You never get over a death, you just get used to it. In total I got 60 grand for my dad’s death. Not many people get an opportunity like that. But money can’t replace a father and that money didn’t help me. By the last installment I was done with everyone asking for money, so for the last $15,000 I just gave it to everybody or bought dumb stuff. It was gone fast, I felt better not having it, everyone stopped asking for money. Who knows? If he’d been alive I’d probably have grown up very different. My stepfather Larry was an alcoholic and my uncle was an armed robber. I didn’t look up to my uncle, but Larry taught me a lot of things, but there are many things he didn’t teach me. There was so much stuff I saw growing up that fucked me up in the head that made me not give a fuck about stealing shit and selling drugs. I saw a lot of drugs growing up. I remember sitting at the table as a kid and watching my uncle chop up crack right in front of me. I remember thinking ‘what’s that?’ I suppose it was only time till I got into that shit. “After I left the department store I got another job at a restaurant working with this rich white kid called Justin, his dad was in the CIA, and he’d always be doing some dumb shit. One day I told him I wanted to make some fast money. He tells me, ‘you could sell weed’. I didn’t know anything about weed. I’d never smoked it, just seen it. A QP, quarter pound, was $400 back then, so I started getting QPs, bag it up into $20s and started selling, selling and selling. “I learnt to ride street as I was selling drugs in New York City. If I had some money I’d go with the main purpose of riding, but also to sell crack or coke. I wouldn’t sell it myself, I would just front the money. I’d give a friend the money to buy it, then he’d flip it and I’d get more money back. I’d stay down there for three weeks at a time. I never sold it on the street myself. I was selling weed in Maryland and have my hands on it, but I actually never touched the crack or coke I sold.” Lock Down
“Eventually we got questioned and I never went back. While it lasted I made good money. I’d sell laptops on the street for 400, 500 maybe 600 dollars. I sold one laptop to a friend’s dad for $300, two fishing rods and a shotgun. My uncle took the shotgun from me and sawn the barrel off for crazy shit.” “Crazy shit?” I ask Brad intrigued. “My uncle used to do the kind of stuff people rap about. He’d drive around with that sawn off, see someone, pull up next to them and pull out the shot gun, rob them and drive off.”
From chatting earlier on the trip I knew Brad couldn’t go to Canada for legal reasons. I ask Brad if there’s any truth in the gang rumours and how he got in trouble with the law. “Nah, I was never involved with gangs,” he says ending with another deep chuckle presumably laughing at the way the stories spread. “But yeah, I got in trouble with the law.” He pauses for a second to consider his words. “Okay. No names in this story. My cell phone was involved with an armed robbery on a delivery driver. I didn’t do it, but I knew who did it. Three weeks after the robbery, I was with a girl on my bike. She said ‘those cops are looking at you weird…” “So I go round the corner and take off. I get away and go ride a parking lot. Then the police charge up on me with guns pulled. They slam me on a car, I thought ‘oh shit I’m fucked up now.’”
“Are you Brad Simms?” ‘“Yeah.’ They pull out my ID… ‘You’re wanted for first degree assault and armed robbery.’ ‘You serious?’ I said. I’m thinking I’m getting locked up… fuck. I don’t remember a single person’s phone number. How am I going to get out of jail? [prev] [d] Downhill run up to pegs, Warsaw, Poland. [e] Wallride to moto, Bucharest, Romania.
“I went to jail for five days. I was on lock-down for 22 hours a day, sitting there in the cell wearing ugly ass black and whites. At 6am the breakfast would come round. I get half cup of juice, two hard-boiled eggs, two soggy pieces of toast. I look at the plate and think this is real, I’ve done it this time, I’ve fucked up. I thought I am in hell right now. I was so depressed in there. I’m sitting thinking I can’t eat what I want, I can’t watch what I want, I can’t fuck, I can’t see my mom, my little niece or my little nephew… I can’t ride my bike. I was thinking am I a criminal? No, I’m a bike rider. I ride bikes. It was a moment, a definite wake up call.
my first clip at one or two o’clock but by midnight on the dot I had 18 clips, done, finished. “The Shook video came out and boom! I went from being unknown to a Nora Cup nominee for video part of year. Not long after I get a call. ‘Hi Brad it’s Mat’. I didn’t recognise the voice so I’m like ‘Mat who? Who the fuck is this?’ It was Mat Hoffman himself, THE Mat Hoffman called MY phone. We chatted for a little while and I got on Hoffman flow. “That’s when I started to couch surf. I couched surfed round the States for months. I was poor as hell, but staying out of trouble and just riding. After six months I got on Hoffman pro team and started to make a living off riding. It wasn’t that much, just a couple of hundred a month. It was just enough to get by, barely enough.” The Light
“On the fourth day my mom comes in and the judge posts bail for me at $5,500. I gave 15 hundred to get out. The bail bonds company pay the other $4,000. Straight after I get out I go on a Props Megatour with the Bulldog team. I fly down to Florida for that.Three days into the trip I was stressing, I was scared I was going to jail. As a first-time offender, I’d be looking at a couple of years. But if you go to jail for two years it turns into six or seven because anything can happen in there. Someone does something to you and you do something to them – you’re done. “My mom called me while I was on the trip to say, ‘Brad, this case might be okay, the lawyer has a crush on me, I know him from high school – he’s always liked me.’ My mom talked to my lawyer at court for an hour and he knew I had nothing to do with it. I paid the lawyer 35 hundred, it was all the money I had. I’d given all my money away through dumb shit… It’s easy to get in trouble – hard to get out. “I came back from the Megatour trip and I get a call from my lawyer telling me I didn’t need to go to court, everything was taken care of. It was weird. Damn, I was happy – I wasn’t going to jail. It definitely felt like this was my chance to do something with my life.” Shook “I enrol onto supervised probation and go out working road construction with my stepfather Larry. It was back-breaking shit in 100 degree heat, starting at six in the morning. I would be sweating bullets like a Hebrew slave. I made a couple of hundred dollars for the first week’s work. I thought, okay I can work with this, no more stealing, no more fast money. Another week went by, I thought I can’t do dumb shit, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life digging roads like my dad did. I quit the job and that evening I get a call from Chad Shackleford, he says, ‘hey Brad would you be down to film a part for my video?’” “A couple days after I take a bus up to Ohio, and start filming my part for the Shook video. I had very little time to film the section. On my last day I get 62
“Back when I was at school, the teacher would tell me every summer she goes travelling all over the world. I’d say ‘so, why do I want to go to Australia? Or Europe? Why do I need to go anywhere?’ She said, ‘fine. Live here in America all your life. Get a job in Jiffy Lube. Be normal.’ I thought what wrong’s with that? That outlook changed when I watched the T1 video “You Get What You Get” – that video changed my life. When I saw Joe Rich, Ruben [Alcantara] and Nate Wessel travelling all over the world I thought that’s what I want to do. Seeing that video was one of the biggest changes for me, besides going to jail. I saw the light.” “One day I get a call from Hoffman asking me if I want to go to Singapore. I sat there thinking where the fuck is Singapore? I rush home and fill out the papers for a passport. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get one because of the whole jail thing. I get the passport and plane tickets for Singapore. I don’t know where the fuck I’m going, but I’m going. I get to Singapore, kids are excited to see me, they want autographs and photos of me. I was thinking I am five thousand miles from home and people know who I am. That trip got me thinking…” “I get back from that first trip and my brother starts acting strange. I think he had smoked some weird shit and it made him zap out. He was high out of his mind for two whole weeks, his eyes were glassy – he was lost. I think it was weed laced with PCP or something. One day he took a cigarette and burnt a hole in his chest. Something was wrong and he goes into hospital for a short time. The day he got back he walks over to this kid’s car, picks up a boulder the size of a basketball and throws it through the windscreen – SMASH – takes some newspaper, lights it on fire and chucks it in the car. We put the fire out and I thought fuck this I’m getting out of here and headed to New York.” “In New York and my little sister calls me and goes ‘Brad, William [Brad’s brother] cut mom’s throat. He cut her throat. Police came and locked him up.’ ‘What? He did what? Is she alive?’ I re-
plied. My mom was okay. He was talking to her and came up behind with a box cutter, and sliced two inches into her neck. He didn’t cut any arteries. My brother went to prison, but something wasn’t right. Inside he was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. He ended up spending four years in a mental institution. He’s out now and back to normal and about to graduate as an automotive mechanic. I don’t do drugs. The main reason for not doing them is the effect they’ve had on my brother. I don’t have a problem with people who do drugs, I have a problem with people who can’t seem to do anything but drugs.” “It’s sad to say, a big part of my travelling in the beginning was me running from my family. That T1 video sparked my desire to travel, but family drama was a reason as well. I got so frustrated, if I could get on any trip then I’d go. I’d come back from a trip and I’d see the same shit, my family just sitting outside, smoking and drinking. No one changed except for me.” Bouncing Round Countries After Brad’s first trip abroad to Singapore he went on to travel to South Africa, Germany, Dubai and China, in that year alone. In the five years that have followed Brad has travelled to over 50 countries. He’s swam in the Dead Sea, marvelled at the ancient gates of Petra, visited Saddam’s palace and entered the much-feared Favelas of Rio. Brad has seen more places, met more people and slept with more women than most would in 20 lifetimes. Capitalising on his growing fame, social media, a lack of responsibilities and an absence of a home to miss, he has been wandering the earth alone for half a decade, only returning to the States when necessary. Brad’s travels aren’t all blissful Kodak moments draped in euphoric freedom. He leads a life of losing toothbrushes, or waiting at rough bus stations as the only black person for miles around. It’s a life of lugging heavy bags around a city at night lost in the rain trying to find somewhere to stay. It’s a life of travelling for hours on a bus to find out your hosts are 15-year-old children who have bunked off school to meet you and don’t speak English. “Yeah, sometimes it doesn’t go according to plan. I once to took a bus from Columbia to Chile to meet a girl, all by myself. I spent 170 hours on buses to bang one chick. I got there and her mum had just died, so I didn’t even bang her. I hung out in Chile for two weeks and then headed back. Some of the motivation behind travelling is women. I’ve never been in a relationship before. I’m picky with women. I’ve had four girls I’ve hooked up with try to marry me over the last couple of years. Some want to move to the States with me to settle down, but I’m not ready. Women are my downfall.” Club Fetish “On another trip I was in Sofia, Bulgaria. We go riding and I’m mesmerised by the women… the most beautiful women.” Brad says raising his
hands to the heavens, as if to be thanking God for their creation. “I wanted to see more beautiful Bulgarian women. I tell the local kid called Vango that I wanted to go to a strip club, but he’d never been to one. ‘How old are you?’ I asked him. ‘21. I’ve always had a girlfriend’. ‘21? And you’ve never been to a strip club. Doesn’t matter if you’ve got a girlfriend.’ I take out 80 Lev ($50) from an ATM and we walk to the door of Club Fetish… I’ll never forget the name. Inside a gorgeous girl asks me if I’d like some company, my jaw hit the floor – sure I’d like some company. Two more girls come over and sit with us. The Madame stripper manager bitch walks over, ‘would you like a drink sir?’ “‘How much are they?’ I ask her. ‘Anywhere from 11 to 22 Lev a piece.’ I’m thinking I’ll have a couple of drinks, throw a tip here or two and go home. I order a Gin and Orange Juice. Vango orders a beer. The Madame then says ‘and a drink for the ladies sir?’ ‘Yeah okay, fine, I’ll buy a drink for a the ladies, what drink you want?’ ‘Champagne’ she orders. Another hot ass girl comes up, ‘more company tonight?’ she asks and order another little bottle of champagne. I’m looking around, there’s a stripper pole dancing, and we’re surrounded by these strippers drinking these small bottles of champagne, I’m thinking something’s not right… this is weird.
[f] Wallride Budapest, Hungary.
“I wave over the Madame. ‘Excuse me…how much is this stuff? You told me drinks were a maximum off 22 Lev a piece.’ ‘Well sir there’s menu on every table, I didn’t want offend by telling you a price,’ she said. What I didn’t see at the far end of the table was a small card with the prices on it. There’s no way you could see it. It turns out these little bottles of champagne cost 198 Lev [$120] each. I looked at the tab and it’s 1500 Lev, or $867. I get on my phone and transfer all my money out of my checking account and go to pay. The Madame takes my card, I’m thinking it won’t work we’ll pay the 80 Lev I have and they’ll let us go. She swipes my card twenty times, nothing. ‘Sir, the payment won’t go through.’ “I tell her ‘you’ve swiped my card 20 times – the bank will have blocked it.’ She gave me a phone to call my bank. Every time I push the wrong button. She says, ‘give me your phone, wallet, and now go in this room.’ I go in the room and there’s three dudes in there, all mean big bastards. The biggest says, ‘strip.’ I strip down to my boxers, show them I have no money and say ‘now what?’ Meanwhile, the Madame finds a balance in my wallet from the ATM earlier – she knows I have money. “‘We’re going to an ATM, you’re going withdraw the maximum amount of 400 Lev until we have our money.’ I get my clothes on and we all go outside to the first ATM, leaving Vango behind hostage. The first machine spits out a receipt saying there’s a hold on the card. The Madame and a big ass bouncer walk me to the next ATM, same thing again. The bouncer smacks me round the Bouncing Round
head. I’m thinking, aarrrhh that ain’t good… We go to two more ATMs and none of them will let me withdraw money. ‘So what now?’ I ask the Madame. ‘You’ll see what’s going to happen.’ I hear that and I take off running. I’m sprinting like Carl Lewis. One of the bouncers happens to be soccer player who can run forever. I’m running through the streets. You ain’t catching me. I’m running, running, running. Woo fuck – fatigue’s kicking’s in. Damn I’m getting tired. He’s getting closer. I’m running out of steam. Thinking what am I going to do? He’s getting closer. Well, I’m going to knock this motherfucker out. I turn round – boom – I hit him straight in the jar. I knock this motherfucker clean out. He fell back underneath a box truck, just laid out shaking. I’m sitting there. Damn, look what the fuck I did to him. I just fucked him up. What am I going to do now? I’m breathing hard. Sweating. I black out. What do I do? The bouncer begins to come around, another bouncer runs over chops me in the back of the neck, kicks me in the back, kicks me in the stomach. Another bouncer runs up, both of them grab my arms so I can’t do nothing. Kick me in the back. Kick me in the stomach, slap me in the face. The bouncer I punched gets up. I look at him and his whole jaw is sitting on the side of his face. They walk me back to club, passing two Bulgarian cops sitting in a car, they look at me like nothing is going on, shit is real corrupt there, they weren’t going to help me.” “Back in the club they kick me to the floor. Three bouncers jump on me. I block one hit and ball down on the ground. They were kicking and stomping me in the ribs. The few people in the club run out. One bouncer shouts ‘GET UP!’ I get up and they take me to a back room, then all five bouncers jumped on me. They stomp me down, punch me in the head. I ball down again, in a big knot, taking hits. When’s it going to stop? I can't take this no more. ‘Arrrrghhhh! Okay, Okay. I’ll get you the money!’ I shout out.” “They lift me up and I sit at a table. A clean-cut motherfucker walks in wearing a trench coat. He wasn’t worried about a thing, calmly hands me a phone and says, ‘get me my money.’ That’s all he said. By this time I’m scared. I’m going to get this man his money. I call my bank, ‘hello I’m at just at Club Fetish having a little party and I need to make a large transaction. We’re having a good time tonight.’ I said on the phone and transfer some money.” “They swipe my card. The transaction goes through. They release Vango, and let me go as well. I’d been robbed legally for $867. As we walk out the door, Vango says ‘Brad it’s a good thing you had that money, if you didn’t they told me they were going to take us out into the middle of a field and kill us.’ We ran out back to the house as fast as we could run.” “I don’t want to give a bad impression of Bulgaria though. Any place is dangerous – it depends how you carry yourself,” he says reminding me of my strong concerns of getting my camera bag stolen on the trip. The sight of boxing gloves and boots in his bike bag on the first day put those fears to ease
and the conservation turns to the risks of travelling alone. “I know how to defend myself, and it definitely helps travelling. People say I look mean, that helps. When I go to places I try to blend in and not look vulnerable. If I’m walking somewhere lost, I try to look like I know where I’m going. If I get lost in Europe I look for the whitest person I can see or the first black person, nine times of out ten they speak English.” “The most dangerous place I’ve been is Peru. Also, I didn’t feel safe as a lone black man in the Ukraine. On a train in Kiev, I was stuck behind two big skinheads who were talking at me like ‘why you here? You’re dirty, you have dreadlocks? Do you wash?’ There’s been a few incidents where I get shit for being black. I was outside a club in Latvia talking to a chick, a guy walks over and calls me a nigger and asks me why I’m here in his country. In China, I had people come up and touch me and rub my skin to see if my brown skin will rub off. But for the most part I don’t run into much racism.”
[g] Access hop, Kraków, Poland.
Two Bags And A Bike Few could tolerate a nomadic and lonely existence as Brad does, let alone enjoy it. It takes a certain personality to be comfortable heading to a foreign country where they don’t know any body, don’t speak the language, have nowhere to stay and have only $30 in the bank. Brad is a man content to let go of the reigns and float with the tide. He lives a life stripped to the bare essentials that few could stomach. “I have no possessions at all. When you see me, I come as I am. I have clothes in my backpack, passport, laptop and my bike in the bag. That’s it. I don’t have a room anywhere or anything in storage. I don’t need a bedroom. I can’t miss what I never had. I haven’t slept on a bed every night for more than two weeks in five years. I always sleep on a couch or on the floor. When I lay in a bed it’s strange for me, it’s awkward, I don’t sleep that good.
"I go in the room and there’s three dudes in there, all mean big bastards. The biggest says, ‘strip"
“I wish I could afford a nice place and still be able to travel. Most people pay $800 a month on rent, I spend $800 on going travelling. I used to have a $15,000 travel budget back when I rode for Hoffman. I’d find any contest I could possibly go to and I was gone. If there was a contest in Germany I go there for a month – not go and come back immediately after. I don’t waste money. Hoffman also gave me a daily allowance too. For two weeks it would be $500. That was another reason why I travelled so much. Nowadays unless it’s a contest or a demo, I pay for all my own travel. A lot of riders ask me ‘do you have an unlimited travel budget?’ I know riders who make ten times the money I do but they won’t spend a dime of their own money to go anywhere – that doesn’t make sense to me, what’s the point of having all this money and doing nothing Bouncing Round
"You’ve got to take life and ride it till the wheels fall off"
with it? You can’t take it with you when you’re gone.”
I got the sense during the trip that Brad is starting to think more about his future than he had in the past. Being a street rider who’s nearer 30 than 20, I ask Brad what he’s planning for in the future and how long he intends to travel for. “I hate the whole concept of ‘fail to plan – plan to fail.’ If you spend 12 years of your life making only 20 grand a year as a rider, that’s only enough to cover what you need. Finally, when you’re done, you’re no longer getting paid and you’re back being a flow kid again – what do you do? I don’t have a back up plan for after riding. All I have is what I’ve seen and experienced. That’s one reason why I started learning languages. I speak Spanish, I speak and understand a lot of Portuguese, I’m learning Polish right now, I know some Arabic, Croatian, Mandarin Chinese… I know bits of 12 languages. I hope maybe that might do something for me one day. “The places I’ve been to and the stuff I’ve seen means more to me than any possessions or a
career. I see my travelling as an achievement. I’m the only person in my family that has been out the country. I wish I had enough money to share everything I’ve seen with my family. Sometimes you have to love your friends and family from afar – you can’t take everybody with you on your dream. My bike is my tool to see the world and you get that opportunity only once. I don’t see it as a choice. You’ve got to take life and ride it till the wheels fall off. You can’t take life for granted, you’ve got to appreciate it. When you’re gone, you’re gone…” After nearly three weeks of travelling at Brad’s side, the lure of loved ones, my own bed and the need to earn money all pull me back to England. My time of sharing a single bed with two polish men with names I couldn’t pronounce was over. I left inspired, shocked and further fascinated by the roaming nomad that is Brad Simms. I was heading home, and as I left Brad bound for Turkey with barely enough money to pay for the bus ride, he was heading for home also. The road has become his home, and the riders that welcome him across the world, his family. Where that road leads to I don’t know, but stealing his line, he’ll ride it ‘till the wheels fall off.’
United in Argentina I was fast asleep when we passed over the equator at a cruising speed of 600mph. I’d been looking forward to firstly; see my piss not swirl down the toilet, but drop right down the middle and secondly; to the fanfare of champagne and applause that I’d been told happens when the aircraft slips into another hemisphere. I’d been told in good faith this was true, and even when James Cox assured me it was total bullshit, part of me assumed it would still happen. But like the rest of the plane – which for some reason that I still can’t work out, was completely filled with Spanish geriatrics – the chance of a celebration came and went, without a snore or a bark from the dog in its cage a few rows in front of me. Yes, a dog on a 13-hour flight. I thought that sort of stuff only happened on trains in India. Our route took us over the murky waters of the English Channel, across the tumultuous Bay of Biscay, a quick stop in Madrid, then down over an arid Spain and along the coastline of North Africa where the Sahara Desert ends and the Atlantic begins. From there it’s ten more hours of open ocean, spare the tiny island of Cape Verde somewhere beneath us. As the landing gear cranks into action, we’re swooping down over the Rio Del Plata, the huge river that Buenos Aires sits on, and like some orchestrated dance, the plane doubles back on itself and lands smoothly in the country that will be the new home of Corey Martinez, Nathan Williams, Geoff Slattery, Jimmy Rushmore, Christian Rigal, Ian Morris, James Cox and myself, for the next two weeks.
Story and Photography by DANIEL BENSON Illustration by DANIEL DAVID FREEMAN 71
[a] Christian Rigal, fence hop, Buenos Aires.
After a month of anticipation, we arrived in Buenos Aires. Nothing was as I’d imagined, but then thinking back, how I had made my assumptions about Buenos Aires and Argentina in general, this was flawed from the start. I’d failed to notice, or even ignored, the photos in a friend’s Lonely Planet guide that show a city that was affluent and developed, a place that to my eyes – although I didn’t want to admit it – resembled Paris or Barcelona, cities that in Europe I love visiting. But in Buenos Aires, I felt like I’d been cheated out of something that should be more South American. Whilst we waited for Corey, Geoff, Christian and Nathan to arrive, we bought coffee from McDonalds. I took money out from my own local bank, HSBC, that had cash machines at the airport. We drove to our apartment and past billboards for Diesel Jeans, past a BP petrol station that took me back to my youth, being 14 and riding the tall curbs in the forecourt of the same brand on cold January evenings in Sheffield, learning feeble grinds and 180s. I didn’t expect to travel so far and be greeted by memories and brands that surround me at home. It was as if they were blocking the Argentina I had come to see. This wasn’t Buenos Aires’ fault, which as I’d come to find is a beautiful city, this had much more to do with how I’d sold the place to myself. Generally, I find myself being quite prudent with how I form my opinions. For example, if a new BMX company started and ran an advertisement with a nice, well lit shot of a set of their new four piece bars, with copy that said: ‘The strongest, and best bars you’ll ever run,’ I’d be skeptical of this, I’d want to know more and form my own opinion. Yet with travel, there seems to be a universal optimism that what you see in books or on the Internet will somehow be true and undiluted upon arrival. Buenos Aires sits on the edge of the Rio Del Plata, which I was told is the widest river in the world. Somewhere over the horizon, you reach Uruguay and its curiously named capital, Montevideo. Buenos Aires spreads out southwards from the shore in a vast semi circle. Its flatness makes it hard to
comprehend; you can’t get a vantage point to get a sense of scale. We stayed in the relatively cosmopolitan area of Belgrano. The name seems somewhat ironic, given the untimely date of our travel. The Belgrano was an Argentinean warship that was sunk by the British in the war over the Falklands, or the Malvinas as they’re known in Argentina. Our visit was made all the more ominous by the endless political graffiti, claiming ownership to the islands. Posters of burning English flags and walls daubed with ‘Fuera Ingles de Malvinas!’ seemed to greet us at every junction. The tension they suggested was slightly unnerving, but never once did I feel threatened. Generally the whole city – the whole country even – felt safe, but the gates surrounding the apartments and the security guards on street corners hinted at a lawlessness that we didn’t see. The slums on the edge of the city made you realise that this is very much a country of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. Every city we went to had its slum that we’d pass on the way into or out of the city. In Buenos Aires one such area provided a foreground to a luminous skyline that reminded me of Los Angeles. Beneath the freeway that seemed to whisk us up and away from the impending danger below, I could make out dwellings stacked up to four storeys high, with ramshackle stairways up. I noticed the silhouette of a child sat dangling his legs from a spiral staircase, whilst the sodium white light from a television inside provided him with a halo. I looked down on the streets, more children, this time kicking a football across the packed-mud floor, then another street, this time empty other than a dog barking at something I couldn’t see. We didn’t ride anything too spectacular in Buenos Aires, which isn’t to say it’s not bustling with spots, but the place is so huge that a week here seemed almost insulting to its size. It’s a city you could never know completely, which makes it quite compelling as a rider, knowing that there’s so much to find and explore. ‘Shop team guy’, Jimmy Rushmore, made the most of what he was offered, with a big gap to manual and a fastplant over a rail and down onto the muddy bank of the Rio Del Plata.
United In Argentina
Mar Del Plata I was excited to leave Buenos Aires, not because I disliked the place, but I still didn’t feel like I’d seen the Argentina I was anticipating (that dangerous word again). I’d eaten the Argentina I was hoping for, firstly in the form of some meat cooked by our host, Pablo after the first demo at his shop. The short ribs, a cut of meat I’d never heard of or seen before, was probably some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Visually, I still wasn’t satisfied, although exactly what I was hoping to see wasn’t exactly clear. Long journeys can be the catalyst of thought, looking out of the window we can follow an object for a few seconds until it disappears and a new train of thought begins. “This journey, it’s very boring,” Pablo would tell me as we’re loading up the cars. Again, like a true traveler I chose to ignore what went against what I wanted to see. Two hours into the journey across the huge, flat expanse that spreads out beyond Buenos Aires and down the coast to Mar Del Plata it started to sink in, that Pablo, a sincere Argentinean, knew this country better than I could through a few Google searches. ‘This is what happens when you get all your information off the Internet,’ I thought. For as much as I looked, all I could see were cows, the occasional tree and endless, endless grassland. In the back of the car I saw Nathan watching a movie on his iPad, Corey, Geoff and Rushmore were asleep and Christian was skimming though Instagram. This sort of behaviour used to bother me, like they were somehow cheating themselves out of seeing something authentic, but coming up to
the three hour mark and after seeing nothing but cows, I finally began to believe Pablo and envy the tired and Apple-savvy people behind me. The weather had taken a turn when we arrived in the beachside city of Mar Del Plata. Argentina had taken on a drabness that brought back the heavy skies of Northern Europe. The beachfront reminded me of a French resort; I’ve no idea why, or where I get these assumptions from. The reasoning for these stops was for demos and, given the weather, we didn’t get to ride much here other than a stop at the local indoor skate park. The sun broke through and things dried up a little and the place lost its drabness. I liked Mar Del Plata, it had the calming, beatific effect that towns and cities by the sea seem to have. It also marked the furthest I’d ever traveled. I came to this conclusion whilst sat on the promenade drinking a beer with Coxie, as behind me, somewhat ironically, sat a brand new McDonalds, serving food that looks and tastes exactly the same as the one only two minutes from my house in London. The little street we did ride proved to be surprisingly productive. Back on the promenade, Geoff nose-bonked a wall, dropping a good twelve feet into a bank, Christian skipped and jumped his way down a triple kinked ledge and Nathan tried something that even for someone with the skill he possesses, seemed completely and utterly insane. He called it a day after getting so close to something that seemed implausible and in turn stopped the hearts of those who could watch from jumping out of their chests.
[b] Corey Martinez, 360, Rosario.
United In Argentina
[c] Jimmy Rushmore, Fastplant from flat and into the bank, Buenos Aires.
United In Argentina
Rosario It took an eight-hour schlep back through Buenos Aires and up the Paranas River to reach the city of Rosario. All we had been told about this place was its abundance of beautiful women. I was skeptical. The last city I was told was full of beautiful women was Nottingham, which I soon found out was total bullshit, probably some ploy set up by a university to attract male, sex-mad teen students. I remember seeing The Ripley Rat French kiss a girl who looked like Jabba The Hutt, whilst Matt ‘Wakey’ Wakefield pissed unknowingly into his pocket. As it turned out, Pablo was right, there did seem to be an abundance of women, attractive ones too. I think it’s safe to say that the entire male population of the city turned up to the demo, whilst hoards of attractive females roamed other parts of the city, which recalls another fairytale from my childhood: that there’s an island called Lesbos full of sex-mad lesbians. My friend Darren Watson, who always smelt like dog food and could ride on the back of his dad’s Great Dane, said he’d been there and it was ‘fucking mint.’ Anyway I digress, back to Argentina…
"Silt brought down from tributaries that flow from the Andes Mountains made the river look like a big undulating slick of caramel, quietly flowing past"
[d] Nathan Williams, gap to wallride, Buenos Aires. [e] Geoff Slattery, footplant, Buenos Aires.
One evening Coxie, Nathan and myself wandered out of the hotel, I can’t remember if we were looking for anything in particular. The heat was close, but not uncomfortable. That temperature felt exotic, like you’d imagine it to be in the jungle at dusk. We walked to the banks of the huge river. Silt, brought down from tributaries that flow from the Andes Mountains and right back up into Brazil to the slopes behind Rio De Janeiro, made the river look like a big undulating slick of caramel, quietly flowing past. On the other side, what looks like lush jungle – or at least what I’d imagine it to look like – provided a stark contrast to the city facing it, like the river was providing a natural barrier to the unchecked development of the city. We walked down to the riverbank and watched some guys fishing and found a severed rat’s head, either the body was used as bait or eaten. If the city above was the ‘haves’, the bank was the ‘have-nots’. As we walked around we noticed that where the men fish is also where a pipe pumping out waste from the city enters the river. The fish come for the shit and the men come for the fish.
The two demos the United team had done before the one in Rosario were big events, easily the biggest turnouts of any other demo I’ve been to for that matter. But the one in Rosario was off the chart. Pablo pulled the cars out of the hotel-parking garage and as they sat outside the hotel foyer, word got round that the turnout was huge. I looked at the cars, the hotels, all the people around that were here to help these guys get about, get coverage and ‘just do their thing.’ This was the most rock and roll I’d ever seen BMX, and it was about to get much, much more insane. As the cars pulled up to the spot, the team were immediately swamped by kids. As individual riders left the safety of the cars, they seemed to break off into separate groups of fandom. The demo provided a brief respite, but afterwards the excited masses wanted hugs, handshakes, signed foreheads and newborn babies. This wasn’t in the ‘hundreds’, this was in the ‘thousands’, of kids. Pablo caused a riot with a T-shirt toss. Feral-looking kids dropped to their knees praying, actually praying and kissing crosses on chains, just for a T-shirt. Here were the ‘have-nots’, once again. Everyone had a rough time signing and posing for photographs, being pushed about, grabbed, touched… “Coooreee, Coooreee!” Out of everyone though, Nathan had the roughest time, he didn’t get an inch or a minute for over two hours, he just stood in the middle of a circle twenty people deep. Nathan is so humble I think he’s almost ashamed of how good he is on a bike and the attention he gets from it. Like the fame is an awkward byproduct of his progression and riding in general a pretty selfish act. Pablo told me that the crowds were this big because BMX is big in Argentina, it has its own magazine and own brands. Secondly, people really appreciate that people would make the long journey down to South America. It might make Nathan, or any of the guys feel strange at such a crowd, or even go to some other riders’ heads, but for all the awkwardness and possible selfishness that riding can create, it’s demos like these that provide young riders with some inspiration to keep riding. From my own youth, I remember two occasions like this: firstly going to see a GT Air Show with Zak Shaw and ‘Mad’ Jon Taylor in Rotherham where Mad John did a back-flip and I almost shit my pants, and secondly, whilst skipping school at Wakefield’s Rehab, seeing a Seventies tour where Joe Rich fufanu’d the sub-box out of the back of the BMX bit. That day made me buzz on BMX so hard it felt like I was holding a nine-volt battery on my tongue constantly for two weeks afterwards.
United In Argentina
[f] Christian Rigal, icepick, Mar Del Plata.
United In Argentina
[g] Jimmy Rushmore, gap to manual, Buenos Aires.
It was raining when I arrived back in London and it’s continued to do so for the month since then. The weather showing its usual indifference to whatever events are occurring in the world and the people who inhabit it. My first feeling about Argentina was that I’d missed out on something. Whilst in Argentina, I’d find myself feeling a little anxious on occasions, that I wasn’t seeing the sorts of things I’d imagined, pictures and ideas I’d gotten from guidebooks and the Internet and swallowed whole without much thought for their reasoning and content. A reasonable grasp of geography would’ve made it clear to me from the beginning that I wouldn’t see the Patagonian wilderness, yet part of me, right up to boarding the plane, hoped that something resembling that unique and poetic landscape might crop up and quell that desire which was simply borne out of a few Google searches and that unquestioning optimism that travel instills in us. Once the jetlag had worn off and with the writing of this article looming over me, I started to reassess what I’d actually seen. I thought about Nathan buying a full round of hamburgers from a street vendor at about four in the morning and sitting with some local riders on the kerb, all trying to talk, all drunk and happy. I remember the buses in Buenos Aires, all decked out in individual styles, like Xzibit had done a one-off season of Pimp My Bus in the city. It makes me hungry thinking about some of the food I ate and how I’ve not eaten any red meat since then because I know it will be a letdown. I can now see that long, boring journey in a different light. I remember the mechanics at every little village. So many mechanics! It made me question the reliability of Argentinean cars. Then the train line that ran parallel for most of that journey and
the empty stations. I wondered if we’d pass a train, like the one we saw in Buenos Aires, which had no doors, only a chain hanging across that provided little protection from tumbling onto the tracks. Looking out into the persistent drizzle, I’m reminded of the storm we watched on the first night and how we weren’t sure how to take this sort of weather. “Is this normal?” I asked somebody, as the sky became illuminated with forks of lightning and the streets turned into rivers. “Maybe… I’m not sure actually” – only to find out later that it had killed 16 people. I remember the everyday things, like trying to buy fruit without the use of language and how now, sat at home, this sort of quotidian thing seems comforting to recall. BMX trips offer both a compromised and a sincere view of the places you travel. For the most part, I think you can make a more accurate picture of a place through your explorations on a bike, but it’s not always through what you see. The terrain we can actually ride on has similarities all over the world. To ride street we need asphalt, concrete, metal, marble and buildings; and how they’ve grown and developed over the world is in a largely homogenous way. It’s the people, the customs and the rhythms of everyday life that provide the real differences of the cities we travel and also in that landscape beyond the city. We’re not always privy to that, as once we’re outside the city our bikes become irrelevant, an awkward mode of transport. So we’re forced to look that bit harder to work out what makes a country tick. On those long, seemingly boring drives, or riding in the bad areas that the guidebooks warn against, we make up our own, genuine picture of the places we visit.
MACNEIL BMX CO. R I D E R : K E V I N K I R A LY / P H O T O : J U S T I N K O S M A N / M A C N E I L B M X . C O M
FAT CAP PIVOTAL SEAT THICK FOAM IN CASE YOU PLAN ON SITTING ON IT, PATENTED PIVOTAL TECHNOLOGY, NO RAILS TO BEND OR TWIST, NO UGLY/HEAVY GUTS SHOWING, WEIGHT: 300 GRAMS, COLORS: BLACK, WHITE, BLACK/ PURPLE, GREY/GREEN, BLACK/RED
Andrew Clarke Words and Photography DANIEL BENSON 86
take the train up to Manchester, leaving Euston at two, with the hope of missing the showers that are peppered all over the UK. London is nice; it’s dry. Not too hot, not too cold. Perfect riding weather. The train whisks me northwards, through the midlands, where vast waterlogged fields resemble one huge marshland and onto Stoke on Trent, where the train runs parallel with canals and rivers, and narrow boats sit idly in the rain, with the only sign of life coming from the small chimneys puffing out smoke that dissolves into the perpetually slate grey sky. From here we venture through that strange hinterland, where the countryside buffers uncomfortably with the ever expanding city. New build houses sit awkward next to a working farm and a scrap yard melts out into a wasteland. In Stockport it starts to hail. The American lady beside me, who for most of the journey has been looking out of the window at this otherworldly scene that has been unfolding for the past two hours, turns to me and grimaces. “Welcome to the North, love, “ I feel like saying. The train limps into Manchester like the weather almost got the better of it. Clarky meets me at the station. As ever, he’s wearing the North Face Gore Tex jacket that seems to have become as synonymous with his person as the streets of Manchester have become for his riding. With Clarky is Sam who is dressed up like De Niro in The Deer Hunter. All camouflage, like he’s ready for some sort of urban warfare. With the threat of rain looming over us, we head out into the city of Manchester.
"It’s like it skipped a beat here, but there’s always been people riding in Manchester. Maybe it’s a bit subconscious too, to keep it a bit underground"
We cut out between the Urban Splash apartments and down onto a wasteland by the railway lines. ‘Look at this man,’ Clarky says with a nod towards the new apartments that surround us. He shakes his head and carries on walking. I know what he means, this could be Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle or Liverpool. Places with distinctive identities becoming subordinated by policies and town planning that seem so far removed from the civic pride these places once held. The wasteland we step into has that unruly edge that Manchester is famous for, I’m sure it once held some purpose in the manufacturing industry, given its position by the canal and the railways. Now it sits idle, a place for drifters and reprobates. As we set up for the over ice on the big chunk of stone - themselves probably relics from some grand industrial building of the past – a group of kids walk down the hill towards us, pushing a motorbike. Before they can talk to us, Clarky is walking over to them, asking about the bike. I’d ask him later, what that was all about. ‘Well it’s better to go up to them, isn’t it? They’re not expecting it, they realise you’re not just a bunch of young kids, don’t they?’ As Clarky stands there chatting to these young scally kids, its hard to tell whose who. The way Clarky dresses, the jacket, the cap, the baggy jeans and the Nikes all seem to be a conscious nod towards remaining incognito on the street and in the estates. It’s a style echoed in the bikes of Clarky and friends. All black, no stickers. I look over at my own bike, with its red frame and chrome parts and even though it probably runs the worst out of them all, it’s the first one you look at, like a magpie looking for shiny things for its nest. You quickly get the sense with Clarky that street riding is much more than the physical act of riding. It’s about the ritual of searching, looking, seeing and acting. There’s a certain self assured craftiness to it, too. Something that seems totally in keeping with the braggadocio and swagger of other Mancunian subcultures that have grown out of the city in the past. The North Face jacket isn’t just a practical jacket to keep dry and warm, it seems like a conscious nod towards the walking jackets and cagoules made famous by the indie and dance music scenes that spawned out of the run down factories and buildings. Liverpool has its tracksuits, Manchester has its walking coats and cagoules made notorious by the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and Oasis, but also entirely necessary with the wet weather. A style out of practicality, something that seems fitting when considering Clarky and his riding. All City
[a] Icepick Road Gap, M4.
I ask Clarky what his plans are for the interview, it’s not uncommon to turn up to shoot with somebody and find out they have no ideas what they want to do. “I’ve been thinking, I’d like to try and get a shot in every part of the city. North, South East and West. There’s a term in graffiti writing called ‘all city’ which means someone has got a piece up in every part of town, like in every postcode. I like that, I thought I’d try and do something similar with the photos.”
keep now, he can look back on it. It’s not going to get lost on the Internet somewhere. It’s not just a load of zeros and ones on a screen. And it’s how you guys intended it to look; it’s how you wanted it to be presented. Bob’s [Scerbo], his video too, Skapegoat. He spoke about collecting things and having an original and I was like ‘too fucking right’ and even though that vid might end up on the Internet, it’s good having that physical copy so I can just watch it on the fly, before I go riding or whatever.” “So with you, it’s all about authenticity?”
[b] Over Ice, M5.
Whilst we explore the four corners of Manchester, it becomes clear that Clarky’s approach to riding has more in common with graffiti writing than it does with mainstream BMX. His knowledge of this huge city is vast. He talks to the street cleaners, the skateboarders and even the prostitutes. His shelves are full of books about Manchester, about it’s architecture and it’s culture. He knows the train timetables and studies maps. Above his computer is a huge map of greater Manchester which he’ll look up to when he’s editing and remember where the spots are. Rarely are we indoors, we’re always surrounded by the hustle and bustle of city life, with it’s sights and smells. For some, this will probably sound like hell, but Clarky seems to relish it. He seems completely at home dipping in and out of the dodgy estates or sitting off at some spot in the centre drinking a beer in the evenings. Clarky is a grafter, he dosen’t expect things for free and for things to be handed to him on a plate. I heard him talking about people getting paid to ride and bring it up when I’ve got the dictaphone on. “Yeah, yeah. I was just chatting shit wasn’t I?” Laughs Clarky. “I think it’s more to do with people thinking they should be owed this for doing this. I’m thinking ‘no you don’t.’ Like look at paramedics, nurses, doctors… jobs like that. They deserve to be getting paid, they’re fucking good people, aren’t they? I think a lot of it comes from people who haven’t worked to begin with. Like you get into riding at a young age and as soon as you get a little hook up you start to feel like you’re owed something. But at the same time, if I was good when I was really young and riding is like it is now, maybe my view would be different. But I like to think I’d have a rounded view about riding. If you’re from some rough area and suddenly you’re out there seeing the world it’s easy to get a chip on your shoulder, which is fair enough in a way as at least you’ve gotten out of there, but the idea that you’re owed something seems so weird to me. Like riding for me, is actually riding! Like going out, riding, finding new spots and making a vid every now and then. I find it so strange to think about it in any way that links it to money, like money becoming a factor in riding.” “You’re a fan of having the hardcopy, or original of something aren’t you?” “Yeah, I like collecting things. Like having a copy of this.” He picks up mag and leafs through it, stopping at Ditchburn’s interview]. He’ll have this to
“Yeah, I suppose so. I could never buy a snide North Face jacket, or like some bird buying a fake Prada bag or something like that, fuck that.” “It seems to be a common theme throughout your riding too, being authentic.” “Erm, yeah I guess so… It’s separate from my work and I suppose for some riders it’s become their work too. Like for me riding is my leisure. I don’t feel like the need to act like I’m gangster to go street riding, because street riding is cool now. In fact I find that strange, as acting like that when you’re in a city just draws attention to yourself when you’re out riding. I think I just like stuff that I can relate to and for the most part I don’t have to pay attention to other parts of BMX that I’m not into. Don’t get me wrong though, I proper buzz of watching someone doing absolutely mental stuff on a bike, but for me it looks a bit like snowboarding, like I appreciate it in the same way as I would watching some crazy snowboarder, as if it isn’t riding, but it’s still impressive.” The next time I travel up to Manchester the weather couldn’t be different. “quite a contrast, isn’t it?” Clarky tells me. He’s right, the grey skies have gone and people seem to be more upbeat. I find that with English cities, all they need is a bit of sunshine and suddenly everyone is so friendly with everyone. As soon as we leave the station we bump into Chris Hamer, a rider whose name has been synonymous with Manchester since the early 90’s. Clarky puts the way he rides down largely to being schooled by Chris from a young age. “We didn’t really have anyone to pass the bat to. I always like the idea of passing on that information I’ve learnt onto a younger generation, like Chris [hamer] did for me. He always told me to look after spots and look for new stuff to ride.” Manchester hasn’t had much coverage over the years, which is strange considering the size of the city. Trips rarely seem to stop there and the riders from there seem to fly under the radar. I ask Clarky if it’s a conscious thing, to keep the city under wraps. “It’s like it skipped a beat here, but there’s always been people riding here. For me personally though, I don’t mind at all. Like I know there’s good stuff to ride here… Maybe it’s a bit subconscious too… to keep it a bit underground”
[c] Barspin Gap, M7. [d] Wallride Nosebonk, M1. [e] Wallride Above the Shutter Barriers, M4.
"I remember going on a Sopranos tour around New Jersey and seeing all these big red Animal stickers stuck up all over the road signs" All City
of different stuff. It’s a pretty accurate picture of going out riding for me. I love Ralph’s stuff on there… I remember seeing his Props interview for the first time and it blew me away. What he was saying, it just seemed so genuine. He pretty much said all there is to say, really. That whole thing he does [with Animal], you can see it’s genuine, there’s no front with it. I remember going on a Sopranos tour around New Jersey and I remember seeing all these big red Animal stickers stuck up all over the signs. They seem to be authentic; it’s just about riders. Which is what he says in his interview. I love when you go on their website the first option is riders, not products. I’m not sure if I’m looking too much into that, but I clocked it.” “Do you not see that with other companies though?” “Erm, I’m not sure. I’m sure it’s me just being biased. Like there’s a lot of rider owned companies out there, set up by riders. But nobody seems to ride together, but I’m just going off what I see. Maybe they’re all genius’s at Animal and it’s all a big marketing scam [laughs].”
[f] Tuck, M6. [g] Tight Barspin, M3.
It has always seemed strange to me that Manchester has slipped by largely unnoticed in BMX. It’s a city that’s cultural heritage sets it up as being one of the most vibrant and exciting cities to visit in the UK, yet BMX seemed to prosper in neighboring cities like Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield. If it wasn’t for Clarky making videos, I doubt there would be anything coming out of the city at all. Today though, when the sun is out, the scene seems healthy. There are a good number of people out, so maybe it’s a misconception that ‘there’s no riders in Manchester.’ I think a better description is that they keep themselves to themselves. We talk about the scene videos he’s put out, three including the one that’s about to come out and what his influences are for making them. “Just do it for the sake of making them, really. Like I don’t want anything too epic, just day to day riding. I was influenced by a lot of old skate videos. It can be a bit of a chore doing them at times though…” “Really? Why?” “It’s like doing homework, isn’t it? Like sometimes you’ll have to sacrifice actually going riding to do stuff for the video, it just doesn’t seem right, does it? But it’s worth it in the end, it’s something to look back on. I really like those Skapegoat videos though, it’s just everyday riding. Like there’s some banging stuff in there, but it’s mixed in with loads
It’s easy to see the similarities with the way Clarky views riding and how his east coast companions do also. I can see a lot of Bob Scerbo in Clarky, the way they get that kick from finding a new spot and how something simple on something new, that you’ve found, can be as aesthetically pleasing and more rewarding than going to the same rail as everyone else and trying to work out something that hasn’t been done before, not to mention both of them taking an interest in the history of a city. There’s that same idea instilled in the pair of them of treating street riding as an all encompassing thing, not just a series of spots to do tricks on. One evening on a previous visit up, we stay in town and have a few drinks after riding. The sun hasn’t been out for weeks and it’s not a particularly warm evening, but we sit outside on some pub benches under a railway arch in the centre of town, with the usual sights and sounds of the city occurring around us. Tramps bother us for money and police sirens seem to linger on the street behind us for too long, like they’re doing it to annoy us. Clarky seems to be in his element. Even on the ride home, to the outskirts of Manchester, when it starts to rain neither of us even bring it up, we both just continue to ride as we become progressively soaked through. Clarky is still laughing and joking, talking about not owning a car, cycling everywhere. I ask him how he got into riding, I get the feeling this certainly isn’t the first time he’s been caught in the rain riding home and I know it won’t be the last. “My mum used to like roller booting, there was this rink down the other side of Stockport and I used to go down with her. They had this little mini ramp in there, with these dead small kickers at either side. There was these lads skating it and after seeing that I wanted a skateboard. I ended up getting one and also picked up a copy of Sidewalk too, issue six. There’s Danny Wainwright doing a pole jam on the cover. I
[h] Feeble to Smith, M11.
remember there was this picture of this guy called Pulley in there from Leeds, doing a K grind. He’s got this big Sprayway jacket on, proper steez, like. I remember thinking ‘whose this guy?!’ because he was a bit scally looking, he looked like the kids from school. So I went down to the ramp and tried to skate it. I just used to sit on my board and go backwards and forwards. Then one day I saw these riders down there, one was this guy called Splodge who owns Note skateshop, I’m sure Chris Hamer was there, then this dude filming called Ross who made these Cheeky Monkey videos. I must’ve been about nine or ten. That’s when I started clocking all the BMX’s about, after seeing them guys. I started saving up some money when my uncle died and got a Diamond Back Venom, the same as my mate had. We did them up with four piece bars, we’d go down Harry Halls bike shop and look at all the stuff in there. Then one day, me and my mate got beaten up for our bikes, taxed, big time. I was about 13. These eight lads came along and we couldn’t get out of this area, which was surrounded by garages. They cracked my mate with a bit of wood then sparko’d me with a punch. I remember because he had this woolly glove on. It was February, half term. I didn’t go down though, I just kept hold of the bike and this big fucker is trying to wrench it off us, then this little scrawny fucker sneaks in and actually gets sat on the bike, then the two of them just get it off me and get off out of there. Massive fishbone pegs, it had. I just remember seeing them
pegs getting off and thinking ‘fuck, fuck!’ Exposure four piece bars too. My face was out here, all swollen. I was just thinking ‘oh fuck, fuck..’ We went to the local curry house and borrowed their phone and called my mum to come and pick us up. My dad said it was insured, so I got a new one. Looking back, I don’t think it was though; I think they just got me another one. So I ended up getting a GT Performer for about £160. I always liked the look of a BMX when I was growing up, seeing kids taking them off kerbs, it just looks fun, doesn’t it? It’s safe to say Clarky learnt some important lessons about street riding from an early age, probably before he even realised what was going on. He’s a rider who understands that you get out what you put in. There’s no front, it’s no act. It’d be easy to assume that Clarky gets his approach to riding from the riders he looks up to on the East Coast, but I think you’d be ignoring some major characteristics of his riding. He’s a Mancunian through and through, if anything has influenced his riding than it’s the city itself and the people who live there and all the rituals and subcultures that the city has spawned. Manchester signifies Clarky as much as Clarky signifies the city. As soon as I think of Manchester, that slightly misunderstood scene, one that keeps itself to itself, I think of Clarky mooching around the estates, looking down backstreets and over fences, keeping himself to himself.
Dean Dickinson And The Sacred Art Of Pool Riding Interview by SHAD JOHNSON Opening Photograph by NOEL MCLAUGHLIN Photography by DEVON DENHAM 99
Dive Bombs And Heavy Petting
Shad: We can get to pools in a minute, let’s start off with a bit of history, so there’s a context for these words to sit in. Can you say a bit about your early days on a bike? Dean: I kind of had a different upbringing to most of today’s BMXers. BMX to me didn’t even really exist, I only really knew of Evel Knievel. My uncle Dan was a big motorcycle enthusiast, and he led me on to Knievel when he gave me a VHS of one of his movies. After seeing that I was completely inspired and would set up little jumps outside my house, back then I was a kid and into organised sports and all that, but I remember one day at a baseball game I met my best friends, the Macabe brothers, Spencer and Justin MaCabe. Spencer had just got a new Hoffman George Jnr and Austin had a Dimondback Venom and they were hitting these little dirt mounds and while I was playing this baseball game with all these coaches telling me what to do and parents freaking out trying to strangle each other, I was watching them thinking “man, that looks so much fun”. Then we’d start going to this place called Clay Canyon, we’d hang out there and hit little jumps. How old were you back then, when all that was happening? I was probably 10 years old and it was like that until I was 12 or 13. The first video I ever saw was Ride’s first video, Thunder. That was so inspiring. Later on I got really psyched on Dave Young and really gnarly street riding. That led me on to riding the local skatepark that had just been built in Vancouver Island, the town I grew up in. You’re talking about Swift Park, that’s kind of notorious, right? Yeah Swift is pretty much a pickle of shit. I know this might be a strange comparison, but as far as the violence and the shit that goes on there, there aren’t many other parks that compare to Burnside, other than Swift. There’s been hate crimes, rapes, tons of drugs, it’s really not a good place for kids to go riding, but that’s all we had, that and street riding. I guess around the same time an article was published in Thrasher that was titled ‘BMX Jihad, Keep It In The Dirt’. At the time, in my eyes, a skatepark revolution was happening with the three main design/build park companies planting their seeds all over the Pacific Northwest, there were new parks popping up everywhere. I thought that article was brain washing a lot of the new up-comers at these new skateparks. It was really hard to get bikes into parks at the time, so that was really frustrating. Shortly before that there was article that really inspired me to ride called Backyard Pool. That was in Ride, I think Jeff Z wrote that and shot all the photos. There were photos of Mike Tokumoto, Fish, Brian Wizmerski and a few more. The Fish shot was of him doing an X-up one footer, it was absolutely insane, three or four feet out the pool and that completely blew my mind. I was like “damn,
that looks amazing” and after that I started riding backyard pools. How did you transition into that. Was it due to all the stuff going on at Swift and the high tensions at Burnside between the skaters and riders? It was tough for me back then, I grew up with BMXers, rollerbladers, skateboarders and I thought that open arms community was awesome. To be excluded from tax funded public skateparks in the community really rubbed me up the wrong way. Just being discriminated against in public parks didn’t really go over very well with me, especially the stuff at Swift. Seeing that article and that photo of Fish in that issue of Ride really blew my mind and I was like ‘damn, I gotta try the pool thing out.’ So I started riding pools and started finding them in the town I grew up in, there was a lot of vacant apartment complexes and homes, I loved it, at the pools you didn’t have to answer to anyone, everyone there was a criminal, everyone was at fault, everyone was doing something they weren’t meant to be doing, it was every man for himself, that’s what drew me in, just the adventure, just knowing that every session there might be your last.
"The redneck comes running up with this gun in his hand and he pops a shot off into the air"
Tell me about the first pool you ever rode? A few of the guys I grew up riding with from Swift, we took a roadtrip to Seattle. We didn’t have a place to stay and we meet up with Mike Hoder, he was talking about a pool in the local area, I was like “we gotta go, we gotta go” and everyone else was like “nah, lets just go to the skatepark”. People might not know, but I’ve seen Hoder shred the fuck out of pools.
So we do end up going out to this pool, and I remember crawling through this chain link fence, and the house was half burnt down, and we get to it and it was this big huge amazing square pool. It just had a little bit of graffiti, it was back before it got blown out. I remember just looking at and thinking “holy shit, I remember swimming in pools like this as a kid, and now I’m riding my bike in one” that realisation completely blew me away. Just finding new lines and trying to make it over the light was so rad. It was such a rad session, just watching Hoder roll in and do the first corner pocket air I’d ever seen was sick. I think I went back up to that pool three more times after that. That was the best square pool I ever rode. There was so much trannie and it was so forgiving. It’s definitely in my top three favourite ever pools. The only one that comes close is Warm Springs, that’s out in an Indian reservation in Oregon, but this one was literally five-notches better than that with the way it rode. The transitions were so consistent, it was a little deeper and it was so forgiving.
The Sacred Art Of Pool Riding
Dive Bombs And Heavy Petting
Let’s talk about a couple of the sketchy situations you’ve been in when riding pools. One sketchy pool that really comes to mind is when I moved down to Southern California… Just so people know, you don’t live down in So Cal anymore, you went to school there, but you’re back up here in Portland now, right? You were down there for what, three, four years? Two and a half actually. Oh, I’m way off, anyway, keep going… Ok, so yeah I moved down there to go to film school and ride bikes and hang out. That was about 2005. I was riding the Long Beach skatepark when it had pretty much just been finished. It’s kinda near some sketchy areas, Inglewood, Compton… I was riding round the park at night and at the time I was super into riding pools, well you know I still am, but I was hustling to try and get some new spots out of people and there was this tweaked out dude there who was like ‘yeah, I know some guy whose got a pool, it’s pretty tight but dudes skate it.’ He said ‘I’m not sure if you could ride your bike in it.’ So he’s going into depth about the shape of it and all that and I’m like ‘damn it, it sounds pretty good, let’s go and check it out.’ So this dude was like, ‘yeah man, come here at six, I’ll show you where it is.’ I’m there for like two hours and the guy isn’t showing so I’m like ‘man, this guy ain’t gonna show up.’ Then he arrives, all tweaking out, like he has no idea who I am, so I’m saying ‘I’m the dude from yesterday, you said you’d show me the pool!’ So we jump in my car, along with this kid who apparently lives at the house and head to the pool, it’s getting kinda dark, but me and the kid just run to the back of the house to look over the wall.The kid jumps over the wall and switches on the pool light and it lights up the whole deep end. I was like ‘holy shit, this is awesome!’ Then I hear the Dad arrive home and I can hear him yelling and screaming in the house, and this isn’t a nice house, it’s in some shitty part of Long Beach. I don’t know if he’s just got home from work or out of jail. I’m thinking, ‘damn, this is getting sketchy.’ Then I start hearing slaps, like hard slaps and he’s beating up this kid and his wife, like crockery is flying all over the house. I’m thinking ‘I need to get out of here’ but before I can, he comes out, cool as can be, he’s smoking a cigarette, all cool and calm. I start loading up my gear and he’s got this skinhead, proper Nazi SS style going on, he looks around, takes a drag on his cigarette, then turns to me and, still all cool and calm, goes ‘It’s about time you got the fuck out of here.’ I just grab my shit and hop the wall and that’s pretty much exactly what I did. I never went back. Was the pool not good enough to make you want to go back? The pool was good for sure, but there’s bad voodoo there. If the house was flattened then maybe. It was just a bad scene, domestic violence like that is the worst. Didn’t you have a gun pulled on you at a pool? Yeah, we were riding probably my favourite pool that I’ve ever ridden, it’s called the Fisher Pool and it’s in
this big massive mansion. My parents were actually friends with the original owners, they used to go to all these crazy parties there, the pool was huge, it had these big high dives into it and was about 13 feet deep. The family were called the Fishers, hence the name, they were doctors and the kids would throw massive parties in the house and the parents lived in some other house. They really didn’t know what was going on. A couple of years later, one of the sons of the doctors climbed up the Fremont Bridge in Portland and killed himself, then a couple of years after that the house was left abandoned. Realtors got hold of the place and put it on the market. Once they did that we just jumped on it and rode it a bunch and we actually ended up making friends with the realtors and they were cool with us riding it. All he said was ‘as long as you pick up your garbage I’m cool with you guys being here.’ We’d switch the pool lights on in the deep end and ride it at night. It was fucking insane, my favorite pool to ride of all time. So anyway, we rode it all summer and things started to get sketchy when this crazy redneck dude bought it. He was like ‘I bought the property, you guys have gotta go.’ It was pretty straight forward, he didn’t want us there. Then I get a call from my buddies Kurt Rasmusson and Dakota Roach and they’re saying ‘yeah we’re doing a roadtrip, is it cool if we come and ride that Fisher pool?’ I’m like, ‘it’s kinda not, but we can check it out.’ So they get into town and I’m thinking, ‘let’s just barge it, it’s nice and hot, you guys will love it.’ We ride the pool, no problem. It’s a good session. There was a kid who lived next door who’d come and ride the pool with us too, he was super cool. I went round to his house to get a glass of water and I remember hearing a truck blazing down the driveway. It was the redneck dude. I remember thinking, ‘holy fuck, we need to get out of here quick.’ We pop our head over the fence and we’re telling them to get out of there quick, then the redneck comes running up with this gun in his hand and he pops a shot off into the air and he’s shouting ‘you guys gotta get the fuck outta here!’ So that was it, we hopped the fence and that was my last session at the Fisher pool. I don’t think there’s been a session since. What are your thoughts on fixing pools. Like with street riding, there’s people who don’t like landing into grass, or don’t like landing into a board, how do you feel about that with pool riding? Erm… I think if you go out and try and preserve spots, you can’t really hate on that. But I like riding spots as natural as possible, like not modifying the shallow end or taking out the coping because it sticks out too far. If people are respecting the spot, I’m totally down for that. I guess I get more psyched on riders like Mike Tokumoto or John Ivers where they’ll just roll into any part of the pool, no matter how steep the shallow end is, I like that. Okay, okay, so I’ve seen some photos of [Brian] Blyther riding the Nude Bowl and I’ve seen a board going down the stairs! So you’re saying maybe the board shouldn’t be down the stairs? [laughs] No! You can’t hate on Blyther because his style is so outrageous. I’ve seen him air so high out of pools
The Sacred Art Of Pool Riding
Dive Bombs And Heavy Petting
and bowls before. I just like seeing people ride the bowls as they came. Alright, alright. I feel you. Okay, so I know that if you’ve ridden pools for a long time, you start to notice certain things that different pool companies do, like this one company might make pools good for airing, things like that. Could you go into a few of your favourite shapes and why? It’s a pretty hard question to answer because I get pretty stoked on every pool I ride, like there’s always something a little different. The pool doesn’t have to have necessarily good transitions, like sometimes the rougher they are, the more you concentrate and the more you get out of it. I guess for sessions, kidney shaped are always good. Amoeba shaped too… and ones with square corners, just like we were talking about earlier with the seattle bowl. As for companies, Blue Haven pools are pretty much the given, they’ve done the 50s and 60s style kidney bowls. They have good transitions in the shallow end and deep end, they use bull nose coping and they’ll often have little features like a love seat or a death box, although that’s not as usable on a bike. Neptune have made some good ones, Anthony Pools too… there’s a couple of others but Blue Haven is the obvious best. They’re just consistent. Amoeba shapes are kinda all over the place, much more wild. Any sessions that you can remember which really stand out to you? The Pink Motel thing really stands out. It was outrageous. Just for the old school guys that made it out. We had Blyther, Ron Wilkerson, Eddie Fiola, the guys like Fish and Tom Dugan. All of Team Shralp. That’s an obvious one, it’s hard to top that one. There was one I had a few years ago that was pretty personal to me at the Malibu Pool with Floyd, Eddie Cleveland, Jesse Whaley, just that session right there was so good. Is that the pool that Eddie had a few clips on it a Fit edit? Yeah, that’s the one. It’s just nice up there, overlooking the ocean, with these hills where all these epic landslides had happened recently. I remember another time pretty recently, I was with Stew Johnson and Sean Burns and we were driving down to Santa Cruz and met up with Ron Wilkerson. It’s like 5:30 in the morning and we turn up at his house and we’re all like ‘we’re exhausted, we need to crash.’ He goes ‘hey, I’ve got this great idea! How about we all go to the Buena Vista pool!?’ That pool is a really famous skate pool, people have been skating it since, like ‘76, ‘75. It’s been filled in with dirt, dug out and been in loads of skate mags and videos. I was like, ‘you gotta be kidding me!’ Burns and I hadn’t really slept in about three days as we were getting ready for Interbike and trying to film. We were all looking at each other like ‘how can we turn down a session with Ron Wilkerson at his local pool?!’ So we went down there and Wilkerson is so pumped he’s there. He’s blasting these huge airs and Burns is riding too. I don’t know if many people know it, but Burns grew up riding pools on the East Coast, like the Asbury Pool, the
Sea Bowl and pools around the Boston area. He can shred tranny. It was just an awesome session to be there at sunrise with these guys, in this pool with all this history. That was probably the most memorable session I’ve had within the past year. I know when you came back up to Portland, not everyone is down to waste a day looking around for a pool. Like there’s so many parks up here it’s kinda easy for someone to finish work and just head out to one of the concrete parks. But you’ve got a tight crew of guys, some riders and some skaters, who you’ve met up with and are down to go hunting around for new pools. Right after I graduated high school I was going down to the Donald Skatepark, which is just in a little town, it’s just a small little park. I’d heard there was a pool out there, so I rented a pump and found the pool, but it turned out people were living in the house, so we wrote it off and thought we’d go down to have a quick session at Donald. When we turn up there’s these two gnarly skaters just eyeballing us. As soon as we got out of the rig they just drilled us. I remember one of the guys coming up to us and he was saying ‘you know, I grew up riding with a ton of BMXers and I helped build FDR, but this bowl is reserved for guys like us. You guys will eat up the coping and it just isn’t made for you.’ I remember looking at the guy, thinking ‘man, I really don’t want to hear it,’ I went to him, ‘oh it’s cool man, we’ve got our own agenda anyway, we’ve just rented out a pump and whilst you guys will be trying to backside 5-0 over a sprayed on deathbox, we’ll be riding the real shit.’ I remember the guy was real big and he kinda took a step back, then came forward a bit. I showed him the pump that we had and there really wasn’t anything said for a little while, then he just went ‘yo, let me get your number’ I was like ‘what!?’ So I thought, fuck it, I gave him my number and we started talking about the pump, like how it was a waste pump from Home Depot. It turns out the guys name was West, so after that, West and I became pretty good friends. We’d message each other when we found new spots. Now he’s one of the main people I go out riding and skating with. I think West is like 43, 45. He never tells me his age, but he’s up there somewhere. [laughs]. So we put our petty differences aside and I’ve been invited to ride a lot of private and permission pools and he’s like ‘if there’s any skaters I know who are telling you that you can’t ride this pool or that pool, they can go fuck themselves.’ He’s got a great heart, we’ve become good friends. Through him I met a guy called Phil Tedder, Phil designs all the pool coping for all the badass skateparks in the world.
"I don’t know if he’s just got home from work or out of jail"
When did you first meet Phil? I think it was at a permission pool. I showed up with West and he was kinda quiet and kept himself to himself. I couldn’t work out how cool he was sharing a pool with some BMX guys, but the more I got to
The Sacred Art Of Pool Riding
know him I found out he was really up for fighting for equal access to skatparks, like equal rights for BMX bikes. And obviously we were both obsessed with riding pools. It’s nice to know that the guy who is building most of the pool style skateparks in the world is completely down with BMX and totally up for multi use skateparks. I mean, I use plastic pegs too, so that’s much more forgiving… And I use metal pegs! [laughs] We spoke about that too and the way it is with most pools, you’re kinda gliding up there so you don’t slam your pegs down on there anyway. As long as you’re not leaning on there. It’s not like smashing down in a feeble when you’re learning them on a foot high ledge. Another guy I met was Josh Henderson, AKA Peacock. He lives in Fresno and has done interviews with the New York Times about the foreclosure rates and being able to ride backyard pools there because of this. Like just about being able to ride pools in the Fresno area because the economy took a shit. Oh Fresno, that’s really nice?! Nah, it’s an inland shithole and it’s hot as hell. There’s no reason to go out there unless you’re a pool rider [laughs]. I actually went out there with him recently and he got on my bike and he’s like ‘damn, I gotta do a backside carve over the light!’
and I’m like, ‘there is no backside!’ So he’d try and do it both ways. He’s taken me to a load of spots, he took me to ride a pool with Lance Mountain and Al Partenen… How did those guys treat you? It was good. Lance was kinda quiet, laughing at people’s jokes. A big skate photographer was there called Rhino, he was there and super cool. Al was cool too, we chatted about bikes a bunch. He actually lives up in Portland. It was a good session. It’s funny how you and I have always been on the committees up here pushing for equal access to skateparks, Ben Ward has been on them too. It’s funny doing that, people know why we’re doing it. I remember going to some pool at about 8.30 in the morning with you Dean, I’ve got no idea why we’d gotten done so early, but we pull up to this pool and we hear skaters in there already, so I’m thinking ‘I don’t care if they’re gonna vibe us out, this is fair game. This is no ones spot’ So we walk in there and we see these two heads in the shallow end, peeking up at us, it was Sage Bolyard, who’s one of the Dreamland dudes who started Burnside and one of his buddies. He looks up at me and goes ‘Of course if I was going to see any bike dudes round here it was bound to be you assholes!’ [laughs]. We ended up having a good session there. It all panned out good.
Dive Bombs And Heavy Petting
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BACK TRACK BMX in the Olympics
Photography by Paul Bliss Words by Bill Blake
Ask anyone involved in BMX what they think about BMX being in the Olympics and you’ll get responses that are united only by their extremities and how those five Zeros are the loops of the noose from which we all hang collectively. As a group whose origins and continuing stance should have the word ‘rebel’ and ‘freedom’ written all over them, racing offers neither. That said there’s another group of heads who can see nothing but good come from it, they think that London 2012 is going to reignite the fever and get BMX racing back to the level it was at in the eighties. Looking at both points of view it’s easy to understand how BMX has become so diverse in the 40+ years it has been around, but where on Earth did this crack appear from. Back in the day, pre Backyard Jam, Dew Tour and X-Games, there was a very healthy national race scene in most countries. It was a scene that started back in the USA in the seventies and by the eighties it had hit the big time. A Double A Pro in the USA with an ABA title under their belt in ‘85 could command a comfortable six figure salary just by racing around 30 weekends in a year, steroids were used but weren’t talked about and no tests were carried out for a very long time. Freestylers were coming up too and BMX riders were figuring out that they didn’t have to just go to the races to get paid or make a career out of being a racer. Now there were other forms of expression involving their riding, now they could ride new terrain. Even the race associations were putting on jump contests alongside their national BMX events and those riders who weren’t possibly going to be the next big thing race-wise had another focus, to get rad, ride jumps and not take things 122
too seriously, the complete opposite of racing. In fact BMX racing, for a fair few riders, was becoming a bit jockish. A crack was appearing in the word BMX, an identity crisis of sorts. Now instead of kids hitting the road to follow the race scene they were more likely to be found on skatepark and pool missions, digging their own jumps and staying home, having a good time away from shouting parents yelling for Jimmy to pedal faster, points chasing, away from rules and regulations and into their own “Brave New Worlds.” Whilst BMX racing may not have lost its fastest racers, it certainly lost the majority of the most creative and interesting ones. The reason: you don’t have to race to have fun on your bike, a no brainer really but for years the focus of riders and BMX business alike was on the race weekend. With these new choices BMX race attendance waned, and by the ‘90s a pro racer’s salary was in the dirt as a new breed of sofa surfing European BMX diehard racers and dirt riders were infiltrating US BMX manufacturing teams and riding for a lot less than the homegrown talent was. The infamous HB house was home to a myriad of BMX bums at this time, some looking for glory in the dirt like Stephen Murray and others like Dale Holmes looking for race wins and pro titles.. This coincided with a few US pro’s career choices whose salaries were dwindling due to the Euro invasion and the ascension of freestyle and dirt riding and the new threat to BMX revenues, mountainbiking. Some pro racers, unable to get the income they needed from BMX, hit the MTB scene for fresh dollars and some easy pickings, and here lies the rub…
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In the mid â€˜90s two US BMX pro racers, who were also racing mountainbikes at the time, turned up to a pro BMX race event and figured out that there was nothing stopping them from using SPD pedals on their BMX bikes. The reason they did this was to increase the speed of their acceleration from a standing start as, with clips, you are able to pull up as well as push down on every pedal stroke. Both of them set fastest laps on an empty track. Now due to a loophole in the rule book allowing the use of them, BMX racers were introduced to the SPD. No one challenged the rule, there were some pros who were always looking for any advantage over their opposition and they took to clips, just like some riders took to steroids to gain an unfair advantage. As soon as they had demonstrated at pro level that there was an advantage of sorts to be had it left all the flats users out on the track at a distinct disadvantage and despite the fact that they were in the majority in the beginning the rule still stayed the same. Now 20 years later you cannot win a pro race on flat pedals, everyone races on clips. The majority of all BMX racers either had to clip in or accept the fact they were destined to get beaten by riders of 124
lesser talent and ability. That is now the state of BMX racing worldwide. This year in London in 2012 every rider at the Olympic BMX race will be clipped into their bicycle. BMX racing is pretty much a stand alone sport now, it jumped the shark sometime ago. So where will it go from here? Well it is rather interesting that the original intent to use the pedals was to have a distinct advantage over someone not using them, this advantage in 2012 is over as everyone is using clips. So why keep them? They make BMX racing look dumb for falling for such a lame idea in the beginning. For the majority of people involved in BMX either as riders or in the business of BMX it stands for Bicycle Motocross. Itâ€™s a nonnegotiable deal. So it begs the question literally, do MX racers bolt themselves to their bikes, is Ryan Villopoto bolted to his, is Travis Pastrana bolted to his, Robbie Maddison? The answer is no. So is BMX in the Olympics? Of course itâ€™s not. If it was we would have all called rollerblading skateboarding. Being an elite athlete is no place for a grubby trails rider or a street urchin, it is a place where all that matters is winning.
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SEAMUS MCKEON Is An Asshole
Photography by GEORGE MARSHALL Words by SEAMUS MCKEON The distinction between riding and vandalism can sometimes be a grey area, and the distinction from a rider and an asshole can also be blurred. Here, Seamus Mckeon justifies being an asshole. This spring I embarked on a journey to Austin, Texas. Every intersection houses some absurd quikrete creation, every backyard is crammed with an impossibly perfect ramp. Surrounded by this abundance of great stuff to ride and I still find the nerve to nose bonk some poor dude’s truck. I must be a real asshole. True as that may be, at least let me explain myself. Riding in Austin is stressful. The over abundance of incredible stuff to ride nearly gave me an aneurism. Exploring the city with BMX historian Stew Johnson for a tour guide doesn’t exactly help either. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be more appreciative of all the stuff he showed us, but upon arrival at each spot, the dialogue read something along these lines: Me: “Holy shit, that’s a crazy spot!” Stew: “Yup, (insert BMX legend) did a one-handed crankflip backflip to x up abubaca here, y’all wanna ride it?” Me: “Na, I’m good.” I was baffled as Stew led us to after spot of ‘Don Miron did this, Jeff NyQuil did that.’ I couldn’t take it anymore. It’s not like it matters, but of course I’d like to leave my own unique, lasting impression on a city whose roots are so deeply intertwined in BMX folklore. Luckily Austin houses some of the best margaritas that have ever christened my dry lips so I maintained composure quite well. My fortune changes when Stew steers the rig through an unmentionable back alley where he notices a small pickup truck parked ever so perfectly beside an elevated parking lot. He jokingly exclaims, “Someone jump the truck!” He says as we pull up. Just then, I knew I’d found my calling. My inner dialogue 128
probably went something like, “I’ll show these fuckers a NBD [never been done]!” We abruptly stop the van and pile out to have a look at the set up. The truck is far from brand new but it’s not a wreck either. The area is surrounded by mechanic workshops, one of which must house the loving owner. I announce I think I could nose bonk it and those without a camera duck for cover in the shadows. The thought loomed over me of the truck’s owner popping out of his workshop with a crow bar as I bashed a dent in the roof of his whip. People are so tightly wound these days, especially when their meaningless material possessions are threatened. What if that day was the final straw, what if he snapped, came outside and stabbed me with a machete? What would I do if some dickhead was jumping on my car? I had to set all these thoughts aside. I had to prosper for the sake of Austin BMX history. And prosper I did. We got the photo and sped to the van like gazelles. As fate would have it, as we pull off in the van making our escape, the man hops in his truck and drives towards us. Stew slams his foot down on his Ford van, we look back and he’s not following – he’s completely oblivious to what just happened. Life goes on. Am I an asshole for doing such a thing? Let’s consider something, maybe all BMXers are assholes.To us, riding around the universe hell bent on destruction of property and ourselves is a way of life. But in reality, do some scratches on a handrail or tyre marks on a wall really make the world stop turning? No. This beautiful earth is our easel, and we’re here to paint upon it the beauties we express in ways that only we alone can. So if you’re not smashing shit up, maybe you, sir are the asshole. But then again, I came all the way to Austin just to nosebonk some dudes truck, so yeah, I guess I’m an asshole too and I’m OK with that.
Seamus Mckeon Is An Ass Hole
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Pick Your Battles Everyone on earth loves Matt Beringer. No one wants to ride like him, but everyone loves him. They love him because he is the personification of the spirit that BMX was founded on. He is the living, breathing reason why anyone ever started riding. And a status like that can only be afforded to a truly magical person. And Matt Beringer surely is a magician. Now in his mid-thirties and still making a good living as a paid professional bike rider, Matt is top of his league when it comes to riders who have remained current without keeping up with so-called progressions. He’s too busy to acknowledge trends and fads. He’s far too preoccupied with expanding his BMX-paradisetheme-park of a backyard to be concerned with what anyone apart from his closest friends are up to. Never before has a pro rider dared to deviate so far from the well-trodden fashionchasing path as Matt, the few mortals who have mustered the minerals to try it have quickly been ousted from favour – dismissed for eternity as Kooky-Old-School-Has-Been-Guy.
But not Beringer, he’s as current today as he ever has been, and he hasn’t done a ‘cool’ trick in over ten years. He is an entertainer of the highest caliber with skills on a bike that can only be acquired through a lifetime of passion and devotion. A true ‘People’s Hero’, Matt’s unimposing brand of quirky bicycle trickery and uncompromised ethics have cemented him forever more as one of BMX’s all time greats. I had the pleasure of sharing Matt’s company for a few weeks earlier this month. Late one night, after riding his garden and garage, admiring his trophy collection, sifting through thousands of old photographs, touching the computer that Nowhere Fast was edited on and drinking too many shots of Jager, we sat down and recorded some words. The text that follows isn’t everything that he said, but it’s enough to get you started on who the real Matt Beringer is and what he’s been through to earn the much-coveted position of Least-CopiedBMX-Guy.
Words and Photography STEVE BANCROFT
“I started out racing in 1984 with my cousins. I was living in Plain City back then, out in the middle of nowhere, out in the Boonies. After a while I got sponsored by Coca-Cola, I had full on Coke race leathers and used to travel around to all the races with my family. I raced for a couple of years and then I moved to Roy – that was when I was 10, once I moved there I stopped racing and started skateboarding: from 10 to 15 I was all about skating. My bike was sat there with a flat tyre.” “Back then being a skateboarder made you a loser at school. I was a nerd who was in a scene that was not cool. The classic jock route was cool, but being a skater made you unpopular – back then who you hung-out with was the only thing that mattered.” “But then skating started turning into a shit-show and it became all about who was the best, there were way too many cliques. I broke many skateboards just trying to get away from it all. So then we got into biking and we were all about biking again. I had a mountainbike, then I wanted a real sweet road bike, I was going to be Road-BikeDecathlon-Time-Trail-Guy. When I turned 16 my parents were either like, ‘we can help you out with a car or we can help you out with the expensive bike’. So I chose the bike and I got this crazy road bike. Just when I got it we met these kids in Roy who rode BMX and straight away it was just like ‘road bike out of here – BMX is cool now’.” “These guys had jumps and ramps behind their place, so we did tricks rather than racing. I still had my Schwinn Sting from back when I was little. It wasn’t a Stingray, it was a Sting. I started jumping with those guys. I was just into bikes back then. I’d ride and my friends would skate, we were all just goofing around.” “Right about then was when I met Mike Aitken and Fuzzy. Fuzz lived in Roy and we’d always try to get him out riding with us. I was 16 or 17 then and I’d known Fuzz was badass since I was seven. He was Local-Track-Jumper-Super-Badass-Guy. When he first got pictures in a magazine we thought it was so crazy. Fuzzy got everyone around here into riding somehow. We were dorky little kids and we used to hassle him to ride with us all the time.” “Fuzz moved down the street from me and built his backyard. Every other place on the street had a perfect yard, but Fuzzy’s was packed full of jumps. If it was anybody else then they could never have pulled it off, but he’s such a nice guy that everyone was cool with it. Fuzz can relate to anybody. He could have a beer and party with the shittiest bum and he’d hang out with them and be buddies, and then he could also hang out with Donald Trump or Puff Daddy, he can just relate to anyone. It’s amazing; it’s taken him so far with everything. He could talk to the corporate people with Dew Tour, he can blend in with anyone. He’s a chameleon.” “When I was 17 I went to Oklahoma and raced the ‘94 Grands, we drove there and my dad smoked and my buddy’s dad smoked all the way there, and
I hated that long ass drive to Oklahoma with all that smoke – and now I’m the smoker. I turned Novice to Intermediate in ‘94 and that year the King Of Dirt was there, it was a wooden kicker with the back of the berm as a landing. Fuzz clipped-in and tried to frontflip it, Moeller was doing some funny stuff, Joey Garcia won I think. Todd Lyons was there. Jody Donnelly. Luc-e was there, Ocoboc, Butler. I knew who they all were. I remember goofing around in the pits and riding with Butler, just dorking around. Being around people who were kick-ass was so cool.”
"I didn’t have to learn all the latest hot new moves and be CompTrick-Guy"
“I stopped racing due to too many power trips at the track. I had leathers and stuff and looked goofy and then we’d watch the jumping dudes and I realised it was cool to not look like Race-Dude. At my first jump comp I tried to front flip because I could do it into water – I was 20 years old back then. That comp was in Southern California. After that I stopped racing and was just dirt jumping. That was when I was 18 or 19, I wasn’t ever that fast, all the trophies I have are from when I was little.”
“I started doing tricks at the track, over the table. Then I’d enter the odd jumping contest, then Elf moved to town and the trails at 39th happened. Before that, the track was where you went because your friends would be there, then that changed to the trails being where you’d meet your friends. The racing parents were all on power trips and it was all competitive, so it was kind of being rebellious to stop racing and stop wearing the goofy uniform and just jump at the trails and not go to the track.”
[a] Toothpick in a cobra’s nest.
“Then I made friends with people at the trails – Elf and Mike and all my friends now – it just shifted who I was around all the time, we all had similar interests and stuff. One of the funny things when I was little, I went to see Rad at the movie theatre and the local race dude from around here was at the top of the Death Track hill and he was at the premiere and it was all going crazy. That was the only bike video for a while. Then my buddy got Ride On, that was the next video I saw. After that, in high school, I was working at a bike shop, they had 44 Something and Unlock Your BMX.” “Then I went to contests with Fuzz – I drove to one he told me about. I’d try frontflips. TJ and McMurray were there. I didn’t recognise him at first as he’d just shaved off his dreads. We rode Radlands and that was the first time I hung out with Moeller and the S&M guys.” “I started doing OK with stuff and I got on Redline. I was Redline-Dude for a while. Redline-Guy. They gave me enough money to move out of my parents’ place. I was going to school to be a machinist but then I started getting money from Redline and they were sending me to crazy places and stuff. Fuzzy hooked that up, Greg Hill was the TM, Pick Your Battle
Pick Your Battle
then John Purse, and they were looking for a jumper and Fuzzy and Losey put in good words and all of a sudden I’m making money and riding in a lot of contests being Redline-Dirt-Jumper-Guy.” “Back then the contest scene was tight and not everyone was as good as they are now. I’d ride whatever: dirt comps at races and X-Games and CFB comps. I placed okay, I won the MTV Sports and Music Festival thing at TJ’s house. I did a frontflip to one footerlander and tried to 360 frontflip, it was a rider judged thing, a name out of a hat kind of deal. It was dialled, Redline would match my winnings, we split the money as it was out of a hat but Redline matched the amount before it was split – a good few grand.”
"You can go real fast and there’s no scene and no clique and nothing is cool"
“A couple of months after that, after I’d got my van, I got an offer from Nirve. It was a good contract deal and Redline were going to match it, that was at the end of ‘99. Redline and Nirve were fighting over me, they we offering me £2,200 a month. But I was thinking, if 1999 changes to 2000 and the world ends, then I don’t want to die with Redline putting me out there as someone I’m not. It didn’t seem like me, I didn’t fit on Redline. So I ended up riding for S&M for half as much money. It was at the turn of the millennium that I made that choice; I wanted to do what I wanted to do, rather than what was supposed to be best for me. I was worried about the world ending that night. Choosing to ride for S&M was the best choice. I believe in going about a BMX career saying ‘I’m not going to ride anything I wouldn’t buy’ – if you don’t do that then people see right through you, and I didn’t want that.”
[prev] [b] Quick flip over a grassy knoll. [c] Beavis double barspin disaster transfer.
“Back then everything was fresh and new in the scene and in contests, there was more to come up with – it was all unwritten back then. I’d go to the indoor park and do a bunch of tricks, trying to stay dialled for the comps. I wouldn’t call it training though.” “Fuzz got everyone riding dirt, then Elf moved here and got everyone into riding street. Elf was the first person I saw grind a rail. I borrowed some of his pegs back then and did some grinds and it messed up my spokes so I took them off and hated pegs. Somewhere along the way riding just turned into everything. I just went with it. Still now it just keeps going somehow. Back then there were not many people who were good. Now everyone is good.” “Because with S&M I had the right backing, my riding grew how I wanted it to. Chris said to me that whatever I thought was cool was cool with him. I didn’t have to learn all the latest hot new moves and be Comp-Trick-Guy. I didn’t have to worry about coming in first place, I was encouraged to just do my own thing. I don’t know where it’s all going. I lose my mind with thinking about how I got myself into this position of getting money for doing what I want.”
“As soon as you get on your bike, everything else doesn’t matter, it’s just having fun and riding that matters. Riding bikes is what matters. I’ve always just looked at it as riding bikes with friends, and it keeps happening. It makes life like some weird fantasy where it doesn’t feel real. I’ve had shitty jobs and now I don’t. I don’t know how it keeps happening, but it does and I’m not going to argue with that.” “I hope I keep people stoked on the fact that having fun on your bike is better than trying to be the best guy at it. I hope people can look at themselves and laugh. Everyone knows where everyone is at, you can see it. If you just look you can see it. If people are trying too hard to do their thing and thinking everyone else sucks, you can see right through it, that just bums people out.” “It’s crazy that my backyard even exists. It just keeps going. It’s in the flight path of the Air Force base, so the house was cheap. We’re loud all the time. It doesn’t matter though, you can’t get much louder than the planes from the Air Force base, and my neighbours are always cool. I’ve just been a rampscrounge for a long time. It started with the miniramp and it just kept going from there. It’s 12 years of growth, something like that, I lose track of time.” “I’ve been lucky enough to travel around a bunch, places like Japan, South Africa, Russia, Australia, Europe: a good few years of travelling for comps or trips or whatever. My Mom just saw Road Fools 9 for the first time, she wasn’t that stoked. Puking in a horses-head mask isn’t that cool to her. They’ve always been behind me though.” “With frontflips I used to try them lake jumping all the time. I could do them on my snowboard so I tried them on my bike. If a comp was getting good and people were sending themselves then I’d try to throw one. I learnt it into water, tried it at the track way back, I ate shit. Some mountainbike guys came to town, it was Shaun Palmer and Brian Lopes, they were riding Fuzz’s jumps. They put some money together to get me to try it, that was ‘97. He wanted me to do it on a mountainbike, they offered me 500 bucks as they wanted the footage for his video. My Mom was there and she was like ‘I’ll give you $500 to not do it!’ I went there anyway and pulled it somehow and took the money and took off. My parents are awesome, they’ve helped me out when I’ve busted myself up too many times.” “It’s too hard to keep up with the game, so I don’t even try. It’s hard to know where to take what you’re doing. People should do what they want to do, not what they feel like they should be doing. I feel like I go to a place and kids look at me like I’m crazy, I’ve got the highest seat out of anyone and front brakes, but that shit is fun. As long as you’re doing what you want to do and you’re having a good time doing it then that’s all you can ask. Just by watching someone, you can see the reasons why they ride, you can see straight through it. You can see where people are at by the battles they pick. Everyone can relate to having fun on bikes, so I guess that’s why I’m still here.”
“There used to be this place out by the Lake, it was like a Coney Island of Utah. A lot of crazy shit happened out there, fires and crazy shit, some real weird shit, and we got the slides in The Yard from over there. I never knew about a lot of stuff from over there, it was weird timing, some ghost story type stuff. Some people went out to this place for a kick-ass time, but all this crazy stuff happened and they got killed, and the place is so similar to The Yard. People come here after a good time and shit gets weird. I just get this connection with the people who went out there to have a kick-ass time and shit happened and that was the end of them. That place was doomed. Weird timing with shit happening here. I was thinking about ghost stuff out there and did acid and thought I could see all the sprits of people that died. I thought, when I brought those slides back here, that I brought back a piece of the people who died out there, like their spirits. I did acid and it all lined up, I freaked out and ended up looking across at where they came from. I lost my mind last year from just having this place, it messed
me up more than any drugs. This place can never be finished because every day I have a new idea and start changing stuff and adding stuff, it’s a nightmare. I blame being addicted to Red Bull. I just can’t believe it keeps going. I feel like I’m getting older and I’m starting to think about what I should be doing, should I be planning for something after BMX or should I just be enjoying this place?” “It’s funny to think about what people consider cool these days. But if you don’t keep up on what’s cool and are doing your thing and going for it, but it’s not inline with what the clique thinks is cool, if you still do it and have a good time then people are like: wait up, that is not supposed to be cool but it looks cool. Wow. Shit’s fucked.” “BMX is the best way to get into your own zone and not give a shit about whatever else you might think is important. I’ll always ride; it’s an escape to not caring about stuff. It’s a key to your own world. Sometimes you pick a battle and try to figure it out
Pick Your Battle
[d] Fullpipe carve for the Saltair Spirits.
Pick Your Battle
and film it, or you could just go for a cruise. That’s why I like ski biking, there’s no one up there taking a photo or giving a shit. You can scare yourself all day long and it’s awesome. Up there all by yourself, you can go real fast and there’s no scene and no clique and nothing is cool.” [e] Step thru nosepick overlooking SLC.
“I don’t like the people who make you feel like you’re not good enough when you’re doing what you want to do. I don’t like those people. If people make you feel like you’re not up to par, then I do whatever I have to in order to get away from that.” “It’ll always be fun to ride your bike. It all boils down to who you’re around and how you relate to them. Interacting with people and picking battles and messing up. If people know where you’re at and you’re comfortable and encouraged, then you can do what you want and people will appreciate it. It depends what the scene is. Pick your battles and have your friends get your back. That’s why I
like jam formats in contests, you pick a battle and people see where you’re at and they respect what you’re trying to do and the crowd get your back. They can see where you’re at and they help you win your battle. It’s not about a shiny contest run, it’s about picking a battle and getting it done. It’s your battle, other people might not share that battle, it might be stupid to everybody else, but you still try it and if it’s really something you honestly want to do – then everybody is going to be stoked.”
"Puking in a horses-head mask isn’t that cool to her"
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The Albion BMX Magazine, Issue 8, published in the UK and North America June 1st, 2012