I started riding when I was about 3. My older brother had got into racing BMX at the local track but I still had stabilizers (training wheels) on my bike. Dad told me I could have on go on the BMX track when I could ride without stabilizers…. a week later, they were off! Nearly 30 years on and I am loving BMX more than ever.
For all of my childhood all I raced BMX. I loved the racing but what I loved about it most was jumping my bike. At national races, we used to be able to practice the track all Saturday and I would be riding pretty much from dawn til dusk. I wasn’t practicing race lines, I was having fun riding my bike, riding with the boys, jumping the biggest jumps I could (even though many of these jumps I knew I could never do in a race) or learning one handers and can cans! I am certain there are races I lost because I was so tired from practicing too much…but I didn’t care, I just loved riding my bike.
So when I was in my 20’s I strayed a bit from BMX racing after being introduced to MTB 4X and riding trails. Both involved more jumping and less pedalling – especially as BMX tracks were all pedal pedal pedal jump back then. I made a few World Cup podiums in 4X and it made me a better rider for sure.
In the run up to the Olympics in 2008, I was selected to be on the GB BMX team as a full time athlete. It was a great privilege and I made the top 16 in Elite at the Worlds. Although it was an amazing experience,after 2 years of concentrating full time on racing and with the new olympic cycle about to begin, I realised how much I missed the fun side of BMX, the travelling about to hit new spots, the laughs the friends and the doing it for the love of it. That’s why I always did BMX and that’s where my heart lies!
After being a bit burnt out on racing I went back to a full time job, left the race scene completely for a good few years, and spent all my free time at the trails with my friends, digging, riding and having a blast. It was in this time I got far more confident at hitting trails and was always looking to hit something bigger!
My return to racing was purely by accident, just tagging along to a 4X race with some friends ended up with me nearly winning a 4X world cup and winning the amateur BMX World Champs just over a year later. There was a point where I thought I would never race again, but it turned out I just needed a break. I remembered how many adventures there were to be had!
Which brings me up to date… I’m almost 33 and in my 30th year of riding a BMX bike. I work at the hospital full time, but every weekend I am racing BMX, hitting trails/digging them, looking for the next new spot to ride or the next big jump I can hit. Life is good
You have some awesome trails style and I was wondering how much you think your racing background has affected that. Does racing make you more or less scared of big trails jumps and does it help or hurt your style? Also, do you ever have difficulty scheduling time in to train and practice for racing along with riding your freestyle bike all the time? Racer/freestyler pros are pretty rare these days so I’m excited to hear what you think about this keep shredding! – Chelsea Streitwolf
Well, when I first started riding trails I wouldn’t jump anything very big, because although I loved to go big on a race track, the tracks were so mellow back then and you had to pedal like crazy to jump them. So when I first rode trails it took ages to work out how to go slow to go further/higher, and how to deal with the steep lips. But having a racing background meant I was confident in the air and could ride smooth and in control…I just had to put the two together. As for racing making me less scared of big jumps, it’s played a part…but it’s more the other way around, the trails riding has actually helped my racing much more. It means I’m happy to try a jump on a track really quickly, because at the trails there is no rolling through the jumps, you just gotta do it! I find it funny when people say a jump is “do or die” on a race track, cause it’s not cut off like a trails jump, you can always hook up a race jump and get away with it… you’ve just got to learn how to soak it up!
I don’t really worry about scheduling time for racing and trails, I’m not pro these days, so I just do what I want really. I enjoy racing and like to do well but it’s not the be all and end all. I work mon-fri so I do a couple of evenings in the gym which keeps me in shape for racing – but I do think this conditioning really helps me to have good bike control at the trails too. I have one afternoon I finish work early so I normally go ride the track on my own and do some racing orientated riding because it’s good to have a bit of an goal when you’re riding solo. Then on the weekends, I’ll mix it up, go where the sessions happening, where the people are and the fun is…hit trails or tracks, new spots, local or far away… I’ll travel the length of the country for a good weekends riding!
Youve been involved in BMX racing for your whole life and have raced at the top level along with riding trails and having fun. What advice would you give to parents and riders just getting involved on how to keep it fun for the long haul whilst looking at making a go for the big show? -Julian Allen
I grew up in an era where BMX was a hobby. Only a few top guys could make a living out of it so for me it was always about fun. Things have changed a lot now with the Olympics, but it does seem like everyones always training for the next race and some have forgotten that the essence of BMX is having fun with your mates no matter what age you are. There is no doubt that if you are at the top as an elite rider, or a junior with the potential to make it, then yes you have to work 100% on being the best you can be and it is not about having fun, it’s about reaching your goals and full potential as a racer. But for the majority, BMX is still just a hobby and there is so many adventures and fun to be had. Go on roadtrips, make new friends, get a buzz from jumping something bigger.
Most racers could improve their results by improving their skills and there is no better way of doing that than just riding with your friends and pushing each other! There is no point getting really fast if you haven’t got the skill to deal with the technical tracks these days either. To the parents… just encourage them to have fun and do their best. A base of good skills they learnt by having fun as a kid will be far more useful in the long run than a regional no.1 they trained for when they are 9. If they get older and choose to train harder, put it together with a good skills base and it will have a much bigger impact!
Thank you Joey for taking the time to do this little interview! Be sure to check back soon for a 2013 edit with Joey Gough!