Here’s a very in-depth interview with Bicycle Union/Volt main-man John Dye about pretty much everything we could think of. Read on for substantial chat about such subjects as London in the 80s, California trails struggles, Nails in the Coffin, Jake the Snake, swanky bowls and the true definition of ‘hardcore riders’.
Modern peabrain reading conventions would suggest this 6,400 word epic should maybe have been cut down a little bit, but it’s much better having too much to read than too little—especially in today’s lockdown era. Pour yourself a few gallons of tea and get stuck in…
Interview by Sam and Clarky. Photos by Steve Crandall, Ian Morris and a few others.
Sam: First question… I’m not saying you’re old or anything, but considering your age, you’ve managed to maintain a fairly healthy, youthful look whilst a lot of people have withered away like old raisins under the sofa. What’s the secret? Have you supped from the Fountain of Eternal Youth?
John: Hahaha, I wonder how old you think I am? I also wonder who are these raisins you speak of? The only fountain I’ve been drinking from is the tea and coffee spout, maybe thats it?
I never got into drinking, alcohol and partying—I think that could have some thing to do with it? I think if you thrash hard on the substances and booze, it wears on you. Look at a crackhead—they look like the living dead.
I got into what’s now considered a healthy lifestyle at a fairly early age through the music I was into. As I went deeper I found there were a lot ideologies that I liked—not eating animal products and not doing substances, so I chose to live a way I felt fitted with what I thought. Some things in that choice are now widely considered ‘healthy’, but at the time I started in ’95, they were considered stupid by mainstream people.
Also over the last ten years or so I got into some fitness habits which I think help too.
Sam: I can’t imagine vegan cooking is too easy. Have you got any good recipes you’d like to share?
I like classic stodgy English food, so I make plant based versions of ’em, I make a mean pizza and ain’t bad at curries either, though its been a while since I made em.
I just go on youtube. Theres a ton of good Youtube channels to get good recipes from, like the Hard Truth by John Joseph (original Cro-Mags singer) or the Vegan Black Metal Chef. The Vegan Zombie is another one, but there are loads.
Sam: It seems you still ride a lot too. Is age just an excuse for some people not to ride?
John: I ride everyday weather depending, currently it’s January 24 and we’ve ridden five times since late November cause the winter has been so wet here, so it really is weather depending some years.
We have a little crew of older guys that go out every morning while the day is yet to be tainted by the rest of the humans—I’m not the oldest of us. Some people will tell you they are too old when they get to 20!
Too old is something I hear a lot—not just for riding bikes but for many activities. It’s been bred into us from early on and handed down—maybe not in malice but just in passionless people. It always grates me, it’s a quitters mentality. If you really enjoy something you will do it for as long as possible. Sure its harder to push your self when you get older but id say its more psychological than physical.
So if you don’t want to ride, don’t ride. No one gets too old to go to the pub? Too old I believe is a state of mind—look at DMC and Ron Wilkerson.
Sam: Going back a bit, you started riding back in the early 80s. What set it off for you? Was there a defining thing that got you into riding?
John: I got my first BMX at Christmas, I think the year was 83. I don’t recall there being one defining moment, but there were many that impacted me. When BMX started coming into the public eye it was very gradual but really exciting. Kids rode Raleigh Grifter and Chopper bikes and emulated being on motorbikes, and some of the bikes even looked like motorbikes—strikers even had fake suspension. So these new chrome bikes with mag wheels and knobbly tyres started appearing and made the other bikes look like they were medieval. If you could get a BMX, you thought the next step would be turning your local housing estate into a hot dusty California race track.
BMX would appear on TV randomly and you’d see your mates and talk about what was being done. Before I owned a BMX we found a local BMX shop called Faze 7 in Waltham Cross which was one of the best BMX stores in the country for a few years. Then you’d find a BMX magazine, then some guys who had good bikes, who knew guys that actually raced. Then you hear about places to ride in other areas and ride over to try find them.
As time went on we got to see BMX start popping up regularly on TV and got to know a few names like Andy Ruffell, Tim March, Mike Pardon and Andy Preston, to the point where there ended up being a few TV shows dedicated to BMX. Most sucked though at that point—even back then even as kids we knew that, but we still ate it up.
I found places to ride and other people who rode, we built some ramps to ride. We went to some demos and contests entered a couple of local ones, went to King of Skateparks at Rom in 84, the Fiola GT tour 85, Hole Shot contests, Chingford jams. I got to see mind blowing riding, but it wasn’t until the scene died down that I got into it more.
Sam: I suppose riding back then was maybe seen as a bit of a fad thing for a lot of people in the same category as space hoppers and those plastic clacker things. What kept you with it?
John: Yeah it was totally expected to be a fad by most and was always compared to skateboarding in that way. Once the boom died out BMX was looked upon as some immature activity—totally ridiculed and laughed at.
I could see why people quit. It was by no means an easy thing to attach your self to as teenager wanting acceptance in the world. I think a lot of the older pros got out of it for this reason, they were the first BMX generation so at 16,17 or 18 the pressure back then must have been ridiculous what with that and the direction BMX was being pushed in, a really childish activity in brightly coloured full race gear, balance tricks with showmanship performance-like presentation. The 80s was a very macho time for the world.
It wasn’t like the pros then had older guys to look up to who had been through it. They were the old guys and they were 16 years old, so looking back I totally see why people quit.
I got a new frame one Christmas, I think my first year at senior school and some kids were just like, “Why have you got another BMX? You’re too old for that now.” BMX was the best thing I’d found but when everyone else I rode with had quit and I had to go further afield to find people is when I really got into it. I found the Chingford scene, thanks to Paul Wight and co, in the summer of 86 and that was it—perfect timing. No one was interested in BMX where I lived yet here was a perfect scene of misfits and like minded individuals—I’d found my people. That was probably the most defining moment—that was a must visit destination for anyone who rode after 86 to 90. From there I met lots of older riders and skaters from far n wide.
Sam: What was London like back then? Was Grange Hill an accurate representation?
John: I’d say yeah, Grange Hill wasn’t far off going to school in the London area or anywhere in the South East! Obviously not all of it but the general chatter and getting up to mischief was yeah. Every kid in my school sounded like those kids.
London was so different then to what it is now. It had an edge to it, for decades there were places you didn’t want to hang out in too long—it wasn’t all glass apartments, expensive coffee shops, pizzerias and barbers.
It was like most other cities but bigger and dirtier, and you could get away with more as it was overlooked. It was way less populated, much quieter and there was less traffic.
London only really changed a lot from around 2008. There was a ton of disused land and derelict buildings, with corrugated iron fences always up. In the 80s and early 90s there were still a fair few remaining concrete parks in London and bank spots in the city, but loads have been lost.
Sam: Are there any London riders who get forgotten a bit? Is there anyone who wasn’t in magazines or videos who deserves a mention?
For sure there are loads. Obviously I don’t know some of em, but hear their legend now. The one I do know who didn’t get as much attention as he should have was Marco Lara. This guy was an urban legend back then and is regularly spoken of today—the guy was incredible. He was the first person I saw do a 540—I didn’t even know 540s were possible at this point in time—and he was doing ‘em in the Performance bowl at the KOS I went to in 84. He jumped every fence at every London skate park and anywhere you went in London there was a story about him.
I don’t know how this guy only ever had a few pics in lesser-known mags in the boom years? After ’84 he was out of BMX I think—and the whole year of 84 all you would hear was, “Marco was here the other day and did this.”
There was also Graham Marfleet—he got good as BMX died around 88-90, and pretty much pioneered many of the street gaps that went on to be in magazines. He invented a ton of lip tricks, one of which was the bomb drop to fakie, and was the first person I ever saw do a real trick—not a foot plant—on a back rail—a fence abubaca at Talacre skatepark in Kentish Town in ’89.
Shaun Allison was another one—I saw him ride only once at a Southbank jam in 89, and was blown away. He was doing stuff I’d never seen and it was all done with this brute force. I don’t know if thats cause he was bigger than everyone else at that time or thats just how he moved but it was something I will never forget.
Sam: That era is often talked about as gnarlier time, with people getting a lot of grief for riding. Did you get in many scrapes? Were there certain places you couldn’t go?
John: I don’t know why the early days were gnarlier but they definitely were. I was very young in the ‘70s but I remember that being pretty violent. Skin heads and football hooliganism blew up late 70s, and the 80s was a full on throw down decade. It just wasn’t a strange thing to see people going at it. It was almost encouraged. It was like the ultimate ”What did you say?” era, making a big deal out of anything.
People were tense and angry, they wanted to victimise anyone that was different. It always seemed worse in the suburbs ‘cause they didn’t see misfits as often as city dwellers. So by the mid-to-late 80s weird looking or long-haired kids on BMXs were excellent targets. It was expected that most days something would happen, but that became part of the day.
But there was never any no-go zones—we’d go anywhere that had a riding scene. Fear of getting mugged or beaten was not a thing we thought of happening, even though we knew it did, we had our wits about us and were constantly assessing the territory. Also as time went on we met older guys who rode and knew how to handle those situations.
In hindsight I’m in disbelief that the only place we copped a real beating and got our bikes stolen was our local ramp in Chingford and that was a revenge attack for something we hadn’t even done. Most of us we’re about 16 or 17—we got bashed with some wooden weapons that night, and watched our bikes get ridden off to fuck knows where. A low point to say the least.
Sam: My dad reckons the cut-down in street violence after the 80s is due to lead being taken out of petrol… could this be true?
John: I never heard this before, but a quick search brings up results and studies into this theory. Fascinating. It could well be true—we all have reactions to the things we take into our bodies. The violent and short tempered are perfect for the divide and conquer technique, if it’s true it was in the air we breathe, there could be some thing to it.
Sam: If I remember right you’ve got a clip on S&M BMX Inferno tailwhipping a double. Have you got any good stories from your time in California? How long did you go out there for?
John: Yep, you are correct. I had two clips in that video which I was quite surprised about. I would butt heads with Moeller back in them days so I wasn’t expecting to be in the video they were releasing. Back then every BMX riders’ life long dream was to go to California. I was riding with Fids a lot at that time and asked him if he wanted to go to Cali which he did. I had been writing back and forward with Neal Wood and I think Paul Roberts was already there too. I secured a place to stay with Neal, who lived with Chris Moeller, Timmy Ball and the Steve Emig in HB. I saved up money for probably two years previously and I’d never got on a plane before.
I went to chase my dreams. I thought I was never coming back to the UK, but California wasn’t what I expected. My own circle of riders were way more hardcore than the Cali guys and at that point in my life that’s what I was searching for. My ticket was open for three months but I came back after six weeks on my own, realising I liked it better here than there. It was a great experience looking back being an up tight young man who had reached one of his life’s goals.
A good story is we had never ridden rhythm section trails back then—we were all about flinging tricks, pulling up and getting wild. But we get to Cali and there’s multiple jumps before every trick set. The first jump I did on US soil I hung up the front wheel and went over the bars off an 18 pack in La Mirada. I watched every race kid and race pro breeze through the lines effortlessly. We thought racers sucked and racing was pointless, so I got humbled hard that day! It took me three days to get through to the end and it was the end of the day when I finally got through. So we excitedly went back the next day and it was flattened!
Sam: Haha brilliant. In that video interview you did fairly recently, you mention constantly winding up the magazines and regularly hassling George French over the phone. Pretty funny stuff. Were things like Ride UK easy targets back then?
John: I thought I knew more than anyone else at that point. We all did really, we were hardcore BMX and if someone else was presenting what we were into as not as hardcore as we thought it should be, we’d be ruffled!
Any mag was an easy target to be fair, and we were not the only scene who tried to terrorise the BMX media back then. We didn’t like the mag cause it was very untravelled and focused heavily on its small circle of friends. We thought if we were out there doing it, then why weren’t the magazines? But its easy to point fingers at people who are doing things whilst you sit and do nothing outwardly but build jumps or go riding.
That being said, I do believe the media was at its best when it was most critiqued. Imagine if people only said good things about everything we’d done as humans? I think educated and respectful critique is good for peoples’ work… we wasn’t always respectful about it though.
The George French thing wasn’t that regular—it was one summer. I don’t remember exactly how that came about, but the flushing the toilet when someone answered the phone came from a Beavis and Butthead episode where they did the same thing over and over to a guy called Harry Sachz.
Sam: Magazine beef aside… I’ve heard you’ve got a pretty extensive collection of magazines from over the years. How important were the magazines back in the 80s and early 90s?
John: It’s not really a beef with magazines, it’s not like I dislike them. I love magazines as a media—thats why I am critical of them—I want them to be good. They should be the voice of the BMX movement and they should know whats what.
It’s either people who are brand new thinking they are going to change the whole BMX world, or people who are finished being interested in BMX (or didn’t really care in the first place). It’s fine to move on and not be interested anymore, but if that’s so, then let it go—do the honourable thing. How can someone think they know more about BMX than the riders who look at it on Instagram every minute of the day? The riders are it—we know it—whilst most magazine people move on, if not physically then mentally, and you end up with uninterested staff and boring content ‘cause they’ve seen on social media what they believe is popular.
Name one editor from the ‘90s that is still into BMX enough to ride one? It doesn’t just happen with magazines, it happens with people too, but with the mags and companies it becomes really clear they are no longer interested in BMX riding and is just something they are around.
Who told you about my collection of magazines? I have what I believe is a huge collection, and it keeps growing, I have a ton of holes in the USA collection though. I’ve got odd books and annuals too. Some of it is really weird, some is crap and some of it is amazing. I find print the most interesting part of BMX history, but I’m not interested in anything post ’05—that, to me, is when it started getting bland media wise.
Magazines were all we had when we used to ride—you waited a month for a magazine to come out so you could see what was new and what was going on. Things changed drastically, some times from issue to issue. You learnt about riders, tricks, events, demos, skateparks, new ramps—almost everything was through magazines.
Sam: What magazine did it best? Or which one annoyed you the least?
John: A few magazines had good days. Looking back with a more balanced mind this would be my list of good UK ones. BMX Action Bike first, it was the mid 80s bible, and later changed into RAD which was all skate, but when it had BMX and skate in the late 80s I really liked it.
Then I’d say Invert (which later turned into Ride UK) was next, which we didn’t take much notice of at the time but they look good when I look at ‘em now. Dig was good for its first 12 or so issues, which was actually a span of seven years—93/94 to 99/2000 I think. Ride UK had some relevant issues too in the late 90s and mid 00’s.
Then The Albion I liked too, but even that had its downs after a while. It seemed like every rider interview painted ‘em as having the same hardened back ground.
Sam: It’s fair to say there’s been loads of wacky shit around riding over the years, and there probably always will be. Should riding be treated with a bit more respect? Should people care a bit more?
John: Fuckin ‘ell, this answer could go on… I think riding should be viewed as something good to do. I think it creates good creative social circles—it did for me. Whenever I look at someone doing something lame and attaching a BMX tag on it, it’s never fulfilling.
I equate it to playing a guitar, 1000s of people play guitar, some get paid mass amounts to do it badly, some are amazing and do it for the love, neither are that offended by the other, but BMX riders can be, and we don’t really know why?
I believe riding at its purist form is enjoying ya self—it’s simplistic—riding a bike is fun, riding down a hill is more fun. It’s somewhat lost at the minute. I often meet older riders who are trying to get back into it, they always say, ”It’s different now though.”
But it’s not different at all—if you go on youtube and search BMX you probably get some vloggers with no personality trying there best to sound excited, whilst using words they don’t know the meaning of, but if you go to a local decent park you will probably find people of all ages enjoying them selves doing normal BMX riding.
The BMX media hasn’t helped with the wackiness, they let anyone in who had money to spend, and the more of those people involved the worse it got until now, where they don’t really mean anything and vloggers and Instagram accounts have taken to presenting their own forms of media.
So yeah people should take pride in having fun and not try to make it into something it’s not and never has been. Lots of wacky shit existed in the ‘90s but it never took main stage—95 percent of the riding scene knew that it was laughable crap so it wasn’t too important. These days it’s a little different—things have crept in thanks to our inept media mostly.
Sam: Sometimes I’m glad loads of wacky stuff exists in riding as it gives me stuff to laugh about. What’s been your favourite thing to take the piss out of over the years?
John: Favourite ridicule over the years? Thats an unanswerable question… too many to name. I do enjoy laughing though. When I was young I had been rough on some good friends over the years, not realising it. Some times people can take it the wrong way.
Sam: Do you think it’s weird that some people don’t take the piss out of stuff? Are they missing out?
John: People who have no sense of humour and take themselves seriously? Yeah I’d definitely say they’re missing out. Not many people want to be around those who can’t laugh at themselves. Laughing is one the funnest things a human can do.
What are your thoughts on the North/South divide… does it still exist? Are Northern riders different?
John: On a humorous level I really like the North/South divide, its one of my favourite topics of humour. When we were kids all the older riders used to talk about it as being a thing, but it was all in jest. I think it was way more prevalent back then, but I’m doing my best to keep it alive, especially as theres so many of you lot in London now. “Its chockablock full o’nawvernah’s daaan ere ‘rrr teh ya.”
But we should all look at what our similarities are not what our differences are. Way more bonds us as humans than divides, yet they want us to focus on the differences.
Sam: I suppose I better ask some stuff about Nails in the Coffin. Have you got any funny stories from the making of that video?
John: The ‘90s was a great era of BMX—it was amazing, the brands were great, the riders were great and people were bringing out vids at that point in time that were classics. Flick through a mag from that time, and it’ll be better than any other era, guaranteed. I’ve done the test myself, pull out random mags from that era, then pullout random mags from another, compare ‘em.
Nails in the Coffin was filmed over a couple of years, plenty of road trips, Euro trips and America too. It was just a documentation of the riding scene I was in, we hardly ever said, “I’m gonna do this trick can you film it.” I just filmed sessions with friends, and often there would be someone there that was pro level, or visiting pros from the USA. I was friendly with some popular riders and they ended up on the video too. I wanted it to be a window into the BMX lifestyle, not just riding but the stupidity too. No one in the UK had done a video like quite that at that point.
Sam: Why do you think people like that video so much? And do you think makes a decent video?
John: So many people? How many is that 40? I don’t know—we tried to do something reflective of real BMX life at that time. For me a good video is a number of things, a lot of it is about vibe for me. If people look like they are having fun doing bike riding that looks good, you’re half way there. If you look at a lot of old videos from when people didn’t use to make videos so regularly, they always look fun.
I was watching Vic Murphy riding on an old DBI video on Youtube the other week just thrashing around in a carpark whilst Metallica played as the sound track, and it made me want to go out and foot plant a traffic island and do a 180 with a Vic-like roll-back, the tricks were all done with such aggro and confidence—to me personally, that’s what people should aim for.
Clarky: In the intro to Nails in the Coffin there is a short clip of two youngsters fighting. Who were they and is there a story behind that clip?
John: I have no idea who they were. We used to ride a mini ramp in a park in Uxbridge—a small suburban town on the metropolitan line—near Adam’s house. On the video Jerry is doing tailwhip nose picks on it. That’s just an average day in Uxbridge, or was back then.
Clarky: A clip which always made me laugh was when someone wearing a motorbike helmet lets off a firework in a front garden and a car drives past and honks its horn. Who was the helmeted detonator and who was the beeper?
John: Hahaha, that was Jamie from Australia in the helmet—he lived at Andy’s house where Adam Peters lived. Adam was the honker, he was coming home from work early Saturday afternoon. No one rode a motorbike so I don’t know where the helmet came from.
Clarky: Who is making the funny noises in Jerry Galleys final trails run?
John: Not 100% sure but I think it was me?
Clarky: How come you lot all rode with Powerlite bars?
John: Good question. I only had those bars for a short time (if you look half way through my part I switch to two-piece Hoffman jump bars). At that point in time four piece were having a little bit of a come back. Taj had Hoffman Low Drags, Castillo had Powerlites first and Colin Winkleman had them too.
I put some on cause I liked how they looked from looking at those guys—I was doing a fair amount of bar spins at this point and you could cut ‘em down real short, which made ‘em easier and low bars go round faster. I think Stuart King would have ridden Low Drags previously—he always changed up his bike, trying newer stuff. So he probably had the first four piece out of us all in this era. But I think I got the first set of Powerlites in the crew.
Clarky: Tollis is one of my favourite riders which is strange because I’ve only ever seen a couple of clips of him riding. Does he still ride?
John: Tollis was from Greece—he moved to London in the late 90s. He was better than most people will ever know—he was fucking amazing. Gnarly, super talented, machine-like dude. Quiet, liked to get recreational. He doesn’t ride any more as far as I’m aware.
Clarky: Rumour has it you once met Jake the Snake. Is it true and what’s the story?
John: Ha, yep. At one point I had Jake the Snake’s phone number in my phone. He was wandering across the market square when I used to work at cyclone—I spotted him and recognised straight away it was Jake the Snake, but couldn’t really believe Jake the Snake was walking about in Waltham Abbey. He was tall as fuck, had a David Icke-like shellsuit on and a plastic bag in each hand.
I told my work colleague Ray, who knows nothing about wrestling, who was next to the door, “It’s Jake the Snake, call him!” He was looking at me like, “What the fuck you on about.” I was the other side of the counter and couldn’t get to the door. So he opens the door and yells, “Jake!” Jake stopped in his tracks, looked over, saw him, said, “Wait there,” and made a bee line for the shop—like he had been recognised and was gonna make the most of it, or he was coming over to kick his ass.
He came in and owned the shop the entire time he was there—a total whirlwind. He had us all laughing, gave us all some good ol’ friendly abuse and made me take his phone number cause he was coming back to wrestle in the town hall, and he would do a signing in the shop.
In the bags were a bottle of Pepsi and a bottle of vodka. This was a rough point in his life—he was battling habits and was a long way from his glory years, but he was cool as shit, funny and friendly.
Clarky: Who do you think would win if the Legion of Doom had to fight each other?
John: I was never a big fan, but I liked Sunny, she was the manager for a bit, she wins in my book—remember her?
Sam: BMX industry stuff isn’t the most exciting thing to talk about when compared with 90s wrestling, but as you run one of the only BMX shops around, I suppose I’d better ask you a few questions about that. One thing I’ve noticed is that bike shops seem to be magnets for strange characters. Do you get many odd specimens wandering into Volt?
You don’t even know how weird the people are who come to Volt, for the most part the extra strange ones are actually not on BMXs. The oddest characters are on the other bikes. Bike shops certainly are a magnet for crazy people, I can’t answer why. Some times this is like Seinfeld, with bikes as a back drop—I have sitcom flashbacks to conversations ’n’ people in here.
Sam: Why do you think bikes attract fairly extreme personalities?
John: I think BMX, the side I see more of, is creative, it’s nerdy, it’s obsessing over weird little things. It’s over analysing where someones feet are in a certain trick or if the bars are turned five degrees more than someone else—trying to make intricacies fun or better—I know you can relate to this. We’re all strange, but not as strange as Joe Public who all seem content to follow whats laid out for them in everyday life.
Sam: Do you think it’s strange that there’s not more BMX shops out there? Or at least shops selling BMX odds and ends. It’s mad that if I need some new pedals I’ve got to get the train to Wigan.
John: BMX is very fast moving and specialist. The shelf life of BMX products is often short. It’s much easier to sell a guy a rear mech that he needs to commute, than to sell a plastic pedal of which there are probably over 100 options, that has now fallen out of favour for whatever reason to a younger guy. Commuter man just wants to get back on the road and will pay for the labour and parts. He’ll have a choice of three options most of the time, and isn’t that bothered as long as it works.
I do think there’s a lack of BMX specific shops out there. There were more a few years back—it sucks that shops go and scenes usually shrink. The enemy is the big internet price slasher, over recent years the names have changed whilst the agenda is the same.
If you think about it, there are probably less than eight real BMX shops in the UK—most of which sell skateboards or other bikes. Now knock it down to shops that only sell BMX, is there four? I’d say that could be a generous guess. So how did it get this small? Someone is selling a ton of stuff—be aware of where you are shopping if you want things to be a bit healthier and your activity to be more communal.
You were heavily involved in getting that Clissold bowl in Stoke Newington built and it not being rubbish. How did that come about?
Fackin’ ‘ell, you guys want me to type a years’ worth of content or some thing? More than 95% of skateparks being built are crap. How can a skatepark built in 1978 be more fun than 99% of purpose built parks for today’s riding ‘n’ skating? Wouldn’t you be embarrassed if you were building these parks? The people designing ‘em either don’t use the parks, don’t give a shit or can’t skate the stuff they build… or all of the above.
We had to make a big deal about the build of Clissold Park—the original design was going to be a one height L shape bowl with one hip—garbage. We went to user group meetings and there were people there who’d never seen a skatepark, putting their five cents’ worth in. One woman, after the L shape got denied and Bendcrete—the first skatepark company appointed—presented the amazing keyhole bowl design, said she wanted the keyhole shape because of its symetrical appeal! Some thing that would only be seen if you were flying over it in a plane or ‘copter.
Getting a skatepark user group is what you need, but it wasn’t easy attending meetings—I would come out of some of those feeling like an asshole. But persistence pays off, eventually we got a decent skatepark builder and they wanted to make a good bowl for the remaining user group—there were probably 6 people left at those meetings by that point.
I was also on the user group for Vicky Park which I think is a disjointed mess and a waste of space. The park builders, Wheelscape, were abysmal. Not one person on the user group wanted a cradle, but it ended up with one. He was using a calculator to work out the transition to flat bottom ratios—clueless. They messed up the measurements, which is why the heights are so drastic and the flat bottom is so vast.
That’s not to say people don’t enjoy it, but it could have been good, and you ain’t getting another one put there once they’ve built one. So it’s an opportunity lost there thanks to Wheelscape.
Sam: I’m always moaning about dire skateparks, yet I’ve never done anything about it. What should people be doing to avoid these expensive travesties getting built?
John: Get a user group together of people who have travelled and know how certain set-ups work. You don’t have to be an ass, most people after three meetings don’t bother going to many more. Get involved and you can make all the difference, especially if you can get a few of you who all want the same thing. It won’t get done over night—you have to be in it for the long term. It’s a battle, but persist and it will be better.
Sam: Is there a complacency amongst riders today… should people be doing more of their own stuff instead of moaning on Instagram?
John: I’d say there will always complacency in everything in life, it differs from minute to minute of our human existence. If we can get up and do something about the situation we’re constantly moaning about, then we would get something better out of our lives.
The thing I notice most is people who are always saying BMX sucks now are usually people who do the least for it. If all these people posted a pic, some writing or a video every now and then, it would balance out the crap.
Sam: Very true. I suppose this interrogation has gone on for probably a bit too long now. To round things off, I’ll ask this… you’ve mentioned ‘hardcore riders’ a few times in your answers… how would you describe a ‘hardcore rider’? Do they still exist now?
John: Yeah, I still think younger people carry that love for riding bikes in their own way and enjoying themselves—thats hardcore. People who aren’t looking at BMX as a platform to move on to some thing else, people who don’t think skateboarding is cooler, people who’d rather ride bikes than do anything else, those who are looking at small details in peoples riding, those that know where the knees should go, people who like a certain music, those willing to roll the dice every now and then, people who build, or have built, their own places to ride because they like riding bikes more than the other stuff.
Great interview especially the last bit about what is hardcore.Also the x up shot with Kev in the background is just mint.