We hang out with ex-pro BMXer Matt Roe to find out why he thinks moun­tain bik­ing is more fun and how he’s found so­lace in the woods

Mountain Biking UK - - CONTENTS -

Words: Ed Thomsett Pho­tos: Steve Behr

Sud­denly, the sound of a whirring free­hub breaks the si­lence and we look up to see a rider launch­ing into view off a step-down. He dis­ap­pears mo­men­tar­ily and then blasts back into view over a crest, fully side­ways, his back tyre slid­ing through the dirt and send­ing up clouds of dust, to hang il­lu­mi­nated in a shaft of light. Pro­jected at full­speed into the next jump, he pulls up off the lip, tucks the bike to­wards him and boosts deep into the tran­si­tion, land­ing with a thud and a holler of laugh­ter and ex­cite­ment.

This is Matt, or ‘Roey’ as he’s known by his friends, and he oozes liq­uid style on a bike. If you ride or have rid­den BMX, then prob­a­bly at one time or an­other you’ve dreamt of flow­ing brake­lessly around a con­crete bowl with half the grace of this man. If his name is un­fa­mil­iar, then what you need to know is that for many years Matt was a pro BMXer for Mutiny and Fly Bikes, and if you go on the in­ter­net and type in his name, be pre­pared to have your def­i­ni­tion of flow re­de­fined.

But th­ese days, the 32-year-old isn’t blast­ing quar­ters or gap­ping stair sets. He’s one of sev­eral mem­bers of the 20in fra­ter­nity who’ve turned their backs on the skate park and headed for the woods, aboard un­fa­mil­iar steeds with gears, big wheels and squishy sus­pen­sion. “If you’d asked me when I was younger, I’d have said I wasn’t re­ally into the whole moun­tain bike thing,” Matt ad­mits to us. “But then I had a go and I was like, ‘F**k me, this is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life!’” Of course, he’s preach­ing to the choir here, but ques­tion­ing Matt about his crossover reaf­firms why we all started rid­ing in the first place. “It’s just mess­ing about in the woods with your mates,” he laughs. “Yeah, you can get car­ried away and start hit­ting big jumps, but at the same time, just go­ing for a pedal after work is still fun.”

Matt ex­plains that part of what in­sti­gated the switch was the stress in­her­ent with be­ing a toplevel BMXer. “I’d feel a load of pres­sure ev­ery time I went down the skatepark. Kids have seen you send it and they ex­pect you to ride like that all the time. It did my head in! I’d just want to go and have a chilled ses­sion, not kill my­self ev­ery time. That’s what’s so great about go­ing down to the woods. No one knows who you are, or gives a shit if they do – you can just go have fun on your bike.”

The flow show

Matt is orig­i­nally from Der­byshire but now lives in Dorset, where he of­ten rides with old-time MBUK reg­u­lar and orig­i­nal dirt-jump star Steve Geall. “It was the jumps that first got me into it,” he ex­plains. “But I’ve grown to ap­pre­ci­ate the speed as­pect too. Go­ing fast down a rough chute, hit­ting cor­ners… I just love it all!” he laughs, his eyes light­ing up. “One thing that’s hard to get your head around is that ev­ery run’s dif­fer­ent. Oh, and roots! You don’t get roots in BMX. If there are bumps in BMX, you smooth them out, but we love bumps in moun­tain bik­ing!”

We ask Matt what it was like ad­just­ing his rid­ing to a big­ger bike. “It was the whole sus­pen­sion thing [that was dif­fi­cult] to start with,” he ad­mits. “It makes the bike to­tally dif­fer­ent to jump. And then there’s choos­ing the size. I think it’s eas­ier this way than for moun­tain bik­ers to tran­si­tion to BMX though. BMXs are so short and twitchy, they take a long time to get used to.”

In the BMX world, Matt is revered for his in­cred­i­ble flow and cre­ative eye for lines. Watch­ing him ride to­day, it’s plain to see he’s brought that style across with him. Off ev­ery lip, he’s pulling back and go­ing dou­ble the height of most rid­ers, and he snakes across ev­ery tran­si­tion, carv­ing out of take-offs and throw­ing his bike’s back end into sig­na­ture kick-outs.

As a BMXer, he was never the guy with the deep­est trick bag, but ev­ery turn­down or 360 he did was styled out to the max­i­mum de­gree. “It’s just flowin’, innit?” he smiles humbly, when we com­ment on this – and we can see from the grin

The woods at Wind hill B1kePark are still and quiet, save for the rustling of leaves and flick­er­ing sun­light, which sends shad­ows danc­ing across the sculpted faces of the jumps.

on his face that it’s not done to show off – just sim­ply for the love of rid­ing. When it comes to try­ing to nail a trick though, you can see the grit­ted de­ter­mi­na­tion of the old BMXer is def­i­nitely still there.

Matt’s scoped out a hefty trans­fer line be­tween two table­tops and takes sev­eral tries to nail a one-foot flat­tie across the chasm. It doesn’t take long be­fore Steve, our pho­tog­ra­pher, has got a shot he’s happy with, but Matt isn’t sat­is­fied and pushes through the sketchy land­ings and near crashes un­til he’s got the move fully clicked. “When I was rid­ing BMX, I’d al­ways try and look for some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent that I could get a bit weird on,” he ex­plains. “Film­ing for video parts used to make me feel alive! You see things dif­fer­ently, be­cause the adren­a­line’s way higher. So when you’re faced with some­thing gnarly, you’re like, ‘Ah yeah, I’ll have a go at that now!’”

Has Matt con­sid­ered do­ing any video projects on the moun­tain bike? “Yeah, I want to go back up north and ride with Rat­boy [Josh Bryce­land], Loose­dog [Josh Lewis] and the 50to01 crew, and go back to Revo [Rev­o­lu­tion Bike Park] too. Last time I went there was for the Red Bull Quar­ter Mas­ters and I re­mem­ber drop­ping in brake­less to­wards that huge dirt quar­ter and ab­so­lutely shit­ting my­self!”

We’re def­i­nitely ex­cited to see what he comes up with next. Matt’s only been on big wheels for two years and the level he’s rid­ing at is al­ready se­ri­ously im­pres­sive. He’s only go­ing to get bet­ter as he con­tin­ues to trans­late his tal­ents from con­crete to dirt. Does he think the switchover will be for good? “My heart will al­ways be with BMX, and that’ll never change,” he ad­mits. “But right now, I’m just lov­ing this!”


Above Matt’s throw­ing it side­ways just for fun at the moment but hinted that he may have some video projects in the pipe­line

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