Videodrome: Addy Snowdon

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They might not realise it… but the current wave of progressive peg practitioners owe Addy Snowdon a cold and refreshing pint of premium lager beer.

Not only was he the first man on earth to conquer a hefty number of advanced level grind combinations (such as the Predator II AKA the ice-to-over-ice) – but he did them all on the damp pavements of the North West of England, in a humble manner, whilst working a full time job.

As he continues to map unchartered two-wheeled territory across the North West (and occasionally beyond), The Central Library asked him to travel back into the depths of recent history to reveal the visual Duplo blocks that made him the man he is today.

Put simply, here’s his five favourite video parts from over the years…

Troy McMurray – S & M Video 4 

Troy McMurray was in the first BMX video I ever saw and I could already tell at that point that the stuff he was doing was the best type of riding. The video was called Highrollers 6: Journey and I believe my mate got it at Bike ‘99 as part of a five for £20 VHS bundle deal. The video had some good riding but no real sections so instead I’ve chosen Troy McMurray’s part from S & M Video 4, which I saw soon afterwards.

This section has a bit of everything; indoor and outdoor skateparks, handrails, huge individual dirt jumps, tricks that weren’t pulled and even some contest footage. This is a perfect representation of the way BMX was at that time, with riders trying to do something good on everything and caring more about the riding itself than the footage.

Riding with no brakes and four pegs was quite rare at this time, especially for a ‘pro’ rider. By the time it became popular to set your bike up like that, the people with that setup could only really ride street well. Double truckdrivers over big jumps from a four pegs/no brakes rider were scarcely seen and Troy made everything look superb, keeping the same solid style regardless of the terrain.

Jim Newrick – NSF 2 

I don’t know whether this was intentional but, in my opinion, this part sums up Northern English street riding perfectly: bad weather, dark skies, undercover riding and grey spots, with Joy Division supplementing the bleak ambience impeccably. There is nothing glamorous about riding street in the North of England and videos made there should reflect this.

I don’t know what the North East was like at the time NSF 2 was filmed but I imagine it was very similar to the North West. It was not acceptable in many people’s eyes to look a bit out of place; all it took was a hoody and jeans and you were a target. So bike theft, general abuse and occasionally violence towards BMXers were a real threat, which meant you needed some determination to get out and make a video. Even on incident-free days there was the constant feeling of suspicion about whoever was lurking near.

As a character building exercise, all riders should be made to experience late 90’s/early 2000’s level hassle from the unscrupulous characters of that era, before they’re allowed to continue riding. Things have changed since and I have myself benefitted from how easy it is to ride and film almost anywhere now, but part of me longs for those hard line attitudes to come back and replace whatever it is that youth culture is about now.

I bought NSF 2 a few months after seeing most of the crew turn up at Rampworx skatepark as part of a trip they were on, which ended up being featured in Ride UK. I then watched it at least once daily, probably for a year. I would say I’ve watched that video more times than any other and it’s what focused my interest in street riding.

Not much of this relates directly to the video part but anyway, 16 years later Jim is still making some of the best BMX videos and that should be applauded.

Vinnie Sammon – Animal All Day 

When All Day first came out, before I’d seen it, I remember hearing people complaining that it wasn’t as good as they were expecting. When I watched it, I couldn’t understand their point and it still annoys me that they said it.

I think perhaps the comments came from the fact that since Can I Eat, street riding had progressed and in comparison, Animal were not as far ahead in terms of tricks as they had been. This is a ridiculous way to consider BMX videos though; a video is a piece of entertainment, with many contributing factors in addition to the standard of the tricks. Other significant factors are the music, the cities, the people, the friendships between the riders and the approach to gathering the footage.

When watching Animal and Skavenger videos from this era I always got the feeling that the riders were a normal group of mates, the only difference being that they were quite a bit better at riding than most. This impression can’t be recreated by assembling a group of riders from various different locations into a team, with the only thing they have in common being their ability to do some good riding. These days I can’t differentiate Animal from any other brand but back then it was the best thing in BMX.

There are many good parts on this video but here I’ve chosen Vinnie’s because, amongst a lot of other good things, he did an over to X-up grind down a handrail (in a line). To my knowledge, only one other person has done that trick on a handrail and it was around the same time. If no one’s doing your moves 12 plus years after you first did them, you’re a good rider.

Lino Gonzalez – Animal Cuts 

There is an enjoyable simplicity to the riding in this part. While the tricks are uncomplicated, they are also imaginative and really hard, which is a very difficult combination to achieve.

Another feature of this section is the excellent spot use. There is a lot of barrel scraping going on lately when it comes to spots, particularly in the daily internet update circles. My suggestion to these people is, if you’ve run out of new ideas, just carry on doing the same stuff you did before because progress for it’s own sake is not always a good thing. Anyway, Lino demonstrates how to make something good out of a setup that may not be immediately obvious, whilst ensuring the trick still makes sense and looks like it would feel good to do.

Having watched this part a couple more times so that I could write this, I can’t identify any flaws in the riding. Usually there would be at least one fault in any part, but this is true expert street riding.

Vic Ayala – FBM All Time Low & Animal 1 

‘What am I doing to deserve this?’ It’s impossible to choose the better of these two parts from Vic Ayala so I’ve merged a review of both.

There are many highlights in these parts, the most obvious being the predator grind and the pegs to crooked. At that point I had never seen a predator grind on any spot and Vic’s was on a real kinked handrail, which is one of the most surprising and impressive things I’ve seen on a BMX. It was probably four years after these parts before I saw anyone else do that trick. When watching old video parts, they should be viewed in the context of what else was happening at the time (both within riding and outside of riding). Predator grinds now happen daily but this remains the best one.

One of the more subtle things displayed in these parts is that Vic’s riding features absolutely no unnecessary movements; this is what I like most about his riding. This simple aspect of his riding results in one of the best styles.

To conclude I’ll say that all of the parts I’ve chosen are from full videos that feature many other riders, and that I hope the days of full videos are not coming to an end. Involving other people in your projects is important; otherwise video footage is nothing more than a marketing tool.

It’s the process of riding and filming with other people which is enjoyable, not just seeing the end product. The full-length video format also lends itself to enjoying watching the video with other people; perhaps it’s the solitary environment of internet use which leads people to form bizarre opinions and warps their perception of what’s acceptable.

Read an inteview with Addy here.

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