JUST FLOWIN’, INNIT!
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
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!”
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 TRANSLATES HIS TALENTS FROM CONCRETE TO DIRT
Above Matt’s throwing it sideways just for fun at the moment but hinted that he may have some video projects in the pipeline