I have ridden my bike since I was 14 years old. I was on the National Development Squad in the late 1990s, and won many medals at the BUSC championships whilst I was a student at the University of Manchester, mainly in the Track Championships and Hill Climb Championships. I also won the Manchester Regional Track League (Premier Division) on a number of occasions, as well as the Manchester & District Ladies Junior Time Trial Championships. I stopped racing in 2001 after I finished university and started to work full time as I struggled to manage the full days with training on top.
I decided to start racing again in 2011 after I was asked to join VC St Raphael. I was suffering from chronic fatigue on top of the epilepsy that I have always suffered from and I found it difficult to train whilst still working full time. However, I took the decision to swap medication (which I had been on since I was 18) and on Christmas Eve I came off the old medication completely – 15 years is a long time to be on any medication. Since being on the new medication, the chronic fatigue symptoms have lessened and my epilepsy remains under control (touch wood!). I have started training properly again and I am feeling stronger than ever before.
In 2013, I will be riding and managing a women’s team for Biketreks Racing Academy.
The B.M.X. leg end that used to be Andy Ruffel communicated with his fan today via the interweb to advise us of a super dooper new film put together by the great Mongoose company. ” look” he urges “me and Tim March made it” so I thought ok we shall have a gander at this. It was instantly apparent however that Andy meant “made it to the final cut” Which is odd really as I am pretty certain that neither of them actually rode for Goose in the Olden Days.
Now in the early days of BMX out there in the land of good wholesome smog that is Cali fornia. Frames first and then wheels on the beach cruiser Schwinns that were popular….Raleigh Grifters over here.. We’re subject to fatigue. Put another way they frequently broke…..badly. This little film provides a little nostalgic glimpse back in time to one Father’s solution and the industry it spawned.
But it set my mind a wandering as to how fings ain’t wot they used to be. When your kid wandered into the local ‘paper shop in the early 1980s and spent his/her pocket money on the British publication BMX Bi weekly, (a clumsy title for an even clumsier attempt at rad dood journalism). Or the Oh so esoteric American import BMX action bike, it was but a short step from Halfords whence came his Raleigh Burner, to a specialist shop where something lighter properly engineered and race worthy could empty Daddy’s wallet.
Now as can be appreciated, this was most parents first foray into competitive cycle sport so the inclination was to look for complete bikes. Top of the wish list were (as far as complete bikes went) Hutch, Redline, SE, GT, Back and the wonderful Mongoose Super goose. The Super goose and mini goose pictures festooned boys bedrooms all over this country. It’s 4130 true temper Chrome Molybdenum frame and forks dazzlingly chromed. It’s 3 piece crank as opposed to the standard one piece Ashtabula. The Tioga competition 3 tyres. It was a thoroughbred straight out of the carton? Everybody wanted one of these machines.
So here’s a little slice of BMX history. Complete with cameo appearances from Andy and Tim respectively stunt doubles for Bat Fastard and Seasick Steve. Everything changes though. Today’s riders won’t have an idea as to who Tim March, Andy Ruffel or Mongoose bikes are…
Enjoy the film and hey well done Jody Cundy. Full set; Bronze, Silver and Gold.
Right then. My last blog was written by some silly old sod with a bad case of stomach trouble masquerading as me. I just re read what he said though and whilst he would have been paid two pints and a packet of assaulted peanuts, I’ve decided to drink one of the pints for myself. Well he was a grumpy sod wasn’t he? However, because I concur with all that he said……its less of a forfeit and more of a “Not bad youth, let’s have a beer”.
So dear reader….yes its still just the two of us….Manchester for round one of the British BMX series. I am not a reporter so you will not get a sporting review here. However keep reading and I shall reveal how to get just that at the end. Also, Pics and Video will follow later, when I can get to the pooter [this is an ipad jobby].
Family and friends of mine will read what I am about to say and chortle merrily [maybe an 8:0 Marv?] but the facility at the National cycling centre is not this country’s first indoor all seater BMX stadium. Not by a long way. Oh no! Manchester has eased its way into the cycling heart of this Great Nation of ours, but Norton Canes [Where?] Norton Canes dear fiend [the missing R is deliberate…..just in case there are rumbings of discontent…..or even dat content] in South Staffs just off the A5 was home to the salvation of Midlanders who needed somewhere to let all of those pre Troy Lee Redlines and Hutches etc: out of their cages on cold days, when going out off the front door and face planting on a frozen red gravel table top, hurt like a bastard.
The dormant bustling metropolis of Norton Canes proudly boasted an indoor riding school, with safe off road parking for the several hundred cretins who left their homes only because they couldnt be arsed to cook a Sunday roast. This then, long before Superman got involved (a company calling themselves Clark and Kent design and build tracks nowadays….they build superb tracks only way that the cloaked saviour of the free world (aka America) escaped detection was because Roger Wilbrahams talked them out of calling the start Hills Lois Lanes) was home to indoor BMX in this sceptered isle.
Like Manchester it had a superbly engineered start hill. A pioneering construction of B&Q timber and plywood.. None of your 12 metre high galvanised steel over engineered thingies with a parc ferme beneath….queued up by the toilets back then….God it was a man’s life in The Royal Ballet. Norton Canes too had some tricky jumps to negotiate. hit the doubles with a gnat’s too much torque and next moto you’d be given a duster to remove cobwebs from the rafters before discovering your perfect holeshot had been gobbled up by the fat kid in Halfords race pants on the Skyway Burner! Manchester shows signs of wear on several jummps in the central straight, but theyre nothing compared to the hub deep sawdust and pony cack on the finish straight at the Midlands indoor BMX CENTRE…..What?. A finish straight that led one over awesome 2 foot high plywood triples victoriously past Elsie’s tea urn and Wagon Wheel, crisp and pork scratchings concession and into the warming comfort of the same plastic seats (decades ahead of time we were) that are (for all of their big bucks) the envy of erm??? no one at Manchester…you see..give me time and I find the thread again.
The National indor BMX arena is quite simply breathtakingly beautiful.. Not without its flaws, but as near to the culmination of dreams that those of us who were BMX Mums and Dads in the ’80s ccould have hoped for.
As you will know from previous blogs. I very much see my remit as one of opening the eyes, hearts and minds of the mainstream cycling fan to the unquestionably biggest and most exciting branch of the sport. Not having been actively involved in a sport that I helped to manage and promote for a long time has never dimmed my enthusiasm for BMX and I always have kept up with it. The opportunity to come up close and personal with it once more having been provided by my son Jamie (passably proud of him you know) is something I am seriously glad about.
One enters the centre from a concourse between The velodrome and BMX arena. A wonderful airy space, with a restaurant (yes Elsie) and bar, where the modern day equivalents of Alan Woods Dad’s van ply their trade. Up a short flight of stairs past a tasteful little cafe and bar area and through the doors into fantasy land. It is quite simply fabulous. Yes the seats are plastic and will never do much for gluteal circulation. The trade off though, is that one learns tolerrance that is so lacking today as one repeats the polite mantra ‘Hey dont worry about it” as the fat bloke from three seats down excuses himself and his evident prostate infection for the umpteenth time.
But honestly your plastic seat and cramped gangway here cost five Earth quid! Walk but 200 yards and every other Saturday you could elect to support the lifestyle of a bunch of continental prima Donnas with around £70 a pop, for the same facilities…..and even the most ardent “BLUE MOON” singing City addict would struggle to say that the entertainment value Accross Alan Turing way wasnt infinitely superior [I speak of football or “soccer” to those reading from across the pond].
To one’s left are those two gargantuan start hills. I’d need to double check, but my guess would be 12 meters and 20 respectively. I used to stand atop start hills in the wind swept days of yore (and mine) and look down at the roller coaster that my boys were about to launch themselves down, with my gall in my mouth, but I have to confess to feeling physically sick at the top of the small (Ha!) hill with the same feeling accompanied by a nose bleed on the bigger one! Add to that; but in those blue remembered start hills there was usually a brief straight before possibly a 4 feet high set of triples or whoops…yes children thats what Daddy used to call rollers. Now though five year olds to 45 year olds prepare their adrenalin twitching bodies for an assault on roughly five hundred yards of cement dust coated earth where the first obstacle is two rollers 8feet high with a twenty foot transition, between them. The ante is then ramped up with jumps that get steadily more complex and bigger between the three high 180degree berms (banking if youre familiar with the velodrome) and every bit as steep.
Bicycle Moto Cross has certainly come of age. A big big happy grin would not leave my face all day;part of which was down to watching kids who I loved so much as youngsters yelling for their own kids. Oh and Lisa Cross, Darling with referrence to the woman you wrote about on Fizzogbook earlier (some lady dared to mutter …”Is all that noise really necessary?”) Yes Mrs Never mind your child will improve if you lighten up, it is very necessary. Standing in the middle of this awesome (yes genuine use of the word not the overworked superlative) every time the gates hit the deck my ears were hit by a wall of sound from several hundred in the stand on one side and the better off pro teams along the finish straight. WOW! and thrice times Wow! and the collective OOH when someone bailed out over the bars would put most football crowds to shame.
So a fabulous day out. Utterly gripping racing. ride your Specialized Tarmac over to Eastlands. Borrow your Dad’s Cortina. trust your sanity to Richard Bransons choo choo trains, but do your soul a favour…go BMXing. If your name is Cavendish please forget to lock your Pinarello Dogma up…they’ll give you another one.
So in Roadie parlance “all Chapeaux (hats in the air) then?” mostly yes. “So whats Carver”s whinge then?” hey….I’m after a pulitzer here…this comes in the best traditions of balanced penmanship. A few Weeds in a used McDonalds bag Im afraid. Some go to the UCI (“nothing new there then”) some to B.C. and some to The Manchester crew (Sorry Roger). Having said that though, the niggles (for they are no more than this I assure you) that I have are also down to a majority of old timers letting the vocal minority have their way at International and National level.
So Roger Wilbrahams et al you guys are beyond fabulous and that’s not grovelling, but here are my concerns and I know, those of a number of that silent majority.
1, What ever happened to the 15 metre lanes on the start hill? I know that deliberately impeding another rider is an offence still, but it was much easier to police when we had them.
2. Before you get to the start hill for even first gate practise. Which Idiot! yes I mean it and I will say it to your face/s decided to dispense with scrutineering? Doubtless many a good reason can be trumped up to answer this question, most of which will boil down to lack of volunteers..CRAP!. The contemporary utterance is “Riders are responsible for their own equipment”. Well, they always were people, always were. However, whilst your kid is front wheel up against the gate with a bicycle who’s star washer is not about to snap. With Forks that are still well bonded in their crown, a straight in the stays rear wheel, tightened pedals and cranks etc etc. What about the kid in gate 3 who’s Dad doesnt have a damn clue? He can potentially ruin your child’s day, dent you wallet and much worse his and your child’s health. So please bring back the brief but necessary checks that we did before. I am a damn good bike mechanic but I have been grateful to a scrutineer pointing out a loose head set or something more than once. I’ll even volunteer to organise and run it..how’s that?
3 Clipless pedals..in my view bloody dangerous in BMX. Potentially very good but the sport needs to look at this issue very carefully. BMX racing is dangerous as we witnessed yesterday. Exciting to watch as thrills and spills are! I witnessed dozens of twisted knees and ankles as bikes got snapped very quickly from the cleats that were seconds before sitting poorly locked into SPDs. Clipless pedals that are a necessary and vital aid in most fields of cycling are beneficial to very few in this sport, but Brooklyn from Brierley Hill ain’t Grant Hill whom he aspires to be. Would I have put toe clips and a set of Weinneman rat traps on my Son’s Robinson? Of course not. Waffle soled vans on bear traps did the job and there was much more need to pedal!
4, Actually this leads on from 3. The purpose of a clipless pedal as any roadie, trackie or MTBer will tell you, is to make ankling ….i.e. using the full 360 Degrees of each pedal rev to be put to use driving the cranks and ultimately the rear wheel. So? Well I didn’t see an awful lot of pedalling let alone ankling going on! when the riders have these magnificently awesome tracks. why does the fraternity put up with challenge of form over substance? It is a BMX RACE race being the key word here. I witnessed too many processions yesterday as riders with more jumping and pumping ability (pumping for those who arent aware, is the technique of keeping the bicycle wheels moving with a well pawled freewheel, by rocking and “pumping” through the hips. It’s what you do at the end of a ten miler as you look down at your bike, blaming the poor thing for your inability to ride a sub 28). So the race favours riders with those abilities, and dads or sponsors who can afford the “steroids” of a 120 pawl Freewheel. There needs to be a bit more pedaling space between these monster jumps in order to even those 40 seconds or so into a fairer race between all skill levels…Thats not being whimpy, its about balance. In all sports (not just our multi faceted one of cycling) there are different skills on display, that even everything up. If BMX is to keep and grow the funding that is currently WITH HUGE THANKS coming into the sport, then it must appeal to new people, who will be spectators first. We cannot rely on the Olympic games every 4 years to pique interest.. Sport is theatre (The words of German dramatist Bertholt Brecht in the 1930s recognised this) as well as competition for those involved.
5, So five leads on from 4. INFORMATION! Up go the moto sheets, so that the gradually diminishing scrum of competitors and parents (as ever) can see which moto and gate they have for the next round. But the rest of us? and even those who (when their child or fellow team member) isnt competing would quite like to know whats occuring. BMX meets are fast and frenetic occasions. It is hats off to RICHARD EAMES and colleague who’s name I forgot to ask, who did an amazing job of somehow managing to add to the excitement with their knowledgeable and passionate commentary. BUT! BUT! its only as good as the P.A. not their fault of course and his own voice skills. THAT is not a moan at Richard..simply fact. So again I go back to the past! we had as many riders in the 80s to process but the crowd always knew; A, which race we were about to watch and who was in it and B, which gate position prior to the gate falling. Please do this again OR where possible utilise the big screen. There are only so many times I want to be welcomed by millions of LCDs to Manchester or asked to spend my hard earned cash on a Pure frame from Edwardes. Lets get some info up there boys and girls Pulease. It can be done. If it’s on a screen to be printed, it’s a hop and skip electronically to the big screen.
So thats it for now. At the one end of the fabulous spectrum of racing. I send my sincere thoughts to Spencer Cremin who sustained a broken wrist and collar bone….ever the cyclists injuries in the 40 plus cruiser (24″ wheel division). I also at quite the other end of the age range. URGE. NAY BEG. B.C. to nurture the sublime talent of five year old (yes I mean sublime) Fearless Felix Twitchett from Finelines Bombshell. Please, no matter where this awesome little kid goes, do not (without a fight) allow him to escape the world of cycling. I don’t care if its BMX, Road, Track, MTB, Triathlon, you name it…one day with the right wing for him to shelter under, I as an old man (no need for that, its rude) want to have a tear in my eye as he dons a rainbow jersey beneath the slowly rising union flag.
1 Jelle Van Gorkom (NED)
2 Liam Phillips (GB)
3 Sifiso Nhlapo (RSA)
1 Merle Van Bentham (NED)
2 Laura Smulders (NED)
3 Maartje Hereijgers (NED)
4 Charlotte Green (GB)
Full race reports will be available at The British Cycling Website
and Jonathan Hearn’s amazingly stylish and excelent 20/24 Magazine
Subscribe and keep it going..
Credit, not witless criticism…(please understand that) to Roger Wilbrahams. The Commissaires and volunteers. I had an amazing day. Elsie however still owes me a bacon roll that I paid for but didn’t get at Norton Canes in January 1984.
Till the next block of rubbish…Riders ready..Watch the gate!
Ooh, why shut up when you’re on a roll? First BMX National with both a grandstand and (albeit rubbish) floodlighting? Tamworth ….about 20 miles from Norton Canes…date….find Marvin O’Brien…his Mum Eithne will have the date…I hope.
Tom Murray - Image © Anna Magrath Cycling Shorts.
This winter I set off to the Gent, Six days full of enthusiasm and excitement, its somewhere I have great memories off, somewhere I have passed down many a story about to my friends, family and anyone else who would listen. But there is a problem, a worry stuck in my head I think the world needs to know, but first I better tell you why I qualify to worry about the six days.
The Kuipke track has always been close to my heart, in truth it’s the whole reason I got to ride a bike for a living. As a young kid my parents took me across to Gent to watch the six day with Ben Swift I remember us both sitting there staring in amazement as the six day rolled on and on into the early hours of the night and the party in the middle of the track got more and more wild and out of hand. I made a decision there and then that I wanted to ride the six days, I wanted a piece of that atmosphere to be part of the whole circus, it felt a lot more than just a bike race is was entertaining and a real show.
The thought of riding at Kuipke in the six days didn’t leave me and a few years later I moved to Gent to live with a Belgian family in the heart of cycling land. Riding for the Kingsnorth International team I spent three years riding on the kermis circuit out in Belgium, a great experience. One that taught me how to be a racing cyclist in truth and in 2007 I was finally lucky enough to get an invitation to ride the Noel Fore Memorial event on the Kuipke track. It had taken some getting there but I had made it onto the track in Gent. Even better was that after a good performance riding with Peter Williams against mostly national squads we received an invitation to the UIV amateur six days of Gent. It was the best news ever; I was to be involved in some small way in the six days! I remember the six nights well, it was hard, a real learning experience, some nights went well others went awful but it didn’t really matter I was part of the six day show, full of adrenaline and excitement.
After that first amateur six day, over the next three years I was lucky enough to ride twice more in Gent and once in Amsterdam, Dortmund and in between took in International events in Alkmaar, Munich and on the new Eddy Merckx track in Gent. Every event was a new experience, a new place, different people a proper adventure, you didn’t always know how you would get from place to place. Once along with Tom Smith I was stuffed in the back of Iljo Keisse’s car along with his huge number six flower after been left stranded in Amsterdam! But that was all part of been immersed in the six day circuit. Although I never got to step up to the professional six day circuit I am happy that for a small while I was part of it, even if that part was pretty small.
So what’s my problem? Well, the atmosphere at Gent this year was pretty subdued, the showmen or orchestrator of the sixes seemed to have disappeared (granted Keisse who is probably the current star of the sixes wasn’t able to take part) and the crowd seemed more interested in the bar than the track. My theory on the reason for this is the changing face of track racing, something that was once fairly individual that didn’t rely on you been in a big backed trade team or part of a national set up now seems to be exactly that. Add to this the exclusion of the Madison from the Olympic Games and it seems like while track racing is becoming universally more popular and important the six days is not been pulled along with it.
In my last year of riding the amateur six days it became more difficult to gain an entry as a result of not been the ‘national’ selection of your country, it had changed from riders who had done it off their own backs, who wanted to be there and be part of it, people who travelled in the back of transit vans from event to event all to be part of the six day circus to deadly serious national selections who the majority of the time while respecting the events were gearing up for bigger and better things on an international stage. This year when I went back and saw the UIV amateur six it was exclusively national selection teams, that’s not that there’s a problem with those riders I’m sure they want to be there and enjoy the experience but in reality there going to move on from the six day circuit to focus on World Championships, Olympic Disciplines or a road career, leaving little for the professional six day circuit to pick from when they look for new riders.
I think that’s the problem, while as the sport gains in popularity the professional six day’s may have to come in line with new format’s that interest a wider audience but the amateur six days should always allow entries from those who have their own dreams and ambitions and follow them. These people are where your characters come from after all. The current six day star Iljo Keisse grew up riding on Kuipke, his dad owns a bar just round the corner from it, he’s a true six day rider who grew up watching the six days and wanted to be part of that, take away the possibility of that happening and in effect your killing the six days slowly. True there are still some rides left, Franco Marvulli and Danny Stam spring to mind, but what happens when they have hung up the wheels, where are the next true six day riders coming from?
Sport’s grow, evolve and change, the UCI in their wisdom have proved this by booting the Madison and individual pursuits out but some things should stay the same for their own good.
Today we have questions from juniors between 12 and 14, don’t forget to send in your questions, any age (adult, Junior or Senior) and any level. Just go to the “Contact Us” page to send me your questions.
Hi Lee, Is there anything I could do in my normal training to help me on the track?
Ollie, Nottingham, UK
Hi Ollie, Add some little gear downhill sprints to your road rides, aim at hitting over 150rpm and do 4-6 of these between 10-20s of effort.
Do you know any good training strategies for roller sessions?
Katie, Surrey, UK
Hi Katie, Rollers are excellent for smoothing out your pedalling technique, try doing some one legged riding, use a mirror to give you feedback on keeping your upper body still and practice riding no hands.
Hi Lee, Do you know anything I could do to increase my leg speed for riding and climbing?
Jake, Northumberland, UK
Hi Jake, Using smaller gears in training will help improve your leg speed as will using rollers. I advise my younger riders to aim at 100rpm average on road rides and 110rpms average on the rollers.
Is there anything I should avoid doing (such as a different sports etc, I play rugby, badminton and have started running 1500m) could they affect my racing?
Jake, Northumberland, UK
Hi Jake, Depends how old you are and how serious you are about your cycling. Certainly up till 16ish doing other sports will give you extra skills and fitness which will help your bike riding too, if you are becoming more serious about your cycling you might want to consider if impact sports like football/rugby are worth the risk.
Hi Lee, How often should I train on the rollers and on the road?
Tom, Wales, UK
Hi Tom, That depends on how old you are and what your aims are? Consistency in training is something that makes a big difference over time.
Are there any exercises I can do off the bike to help me with my training?
Tom, Wales, UK
Hi Tom, core exercises can have a good impact on your on the bike performance, try crunches, front and side planks and leg raises 3 sets of each 3-4 times a week.
If you could give me one piece of advice for my cycling, what would it be?
Tom, Wales, UK
Hi again Tom, Enjoy it, its very hard in life to succeed at things you don’t enjoy!