saw there were Greg Guillotte 's huge 1/4 pipe gap and Andy Brown's no footed can cans. Greg and I both hit the ceiling once or twice, that was more scary than crazy!
Was there a lot of "one-up"-ing going on in those days as it seems like a lot of riders progressed quickly?
Lee: I suppose so. Of course we all wanted to be the best, but we also supported and pushed each other. As soon as one person did something we'd all want to do it. Riding with Greg, Andy and Mike Canning really helped me take my riding to next level. In a couple of months I went from getting 6 or 7 feet, to getting 10 to 12 feet. Greg and I had the ultimate love/hate, friendship/rivalry relationship, it was great!! I love all those guys...
How far did you all live from each other and who lived closest to you?
Lee: I lived in Stony Stratford, a village about an hour north of London. From the Meanwhile crew Nick Elkan lived the closest. I worked in London and would stay with him pretty much every weekend. There were also a good group of riders and skaters in my home town, including; Matthew 'Wig' Worland, Andy Allum, Phil Chapman, Lee Clark, Jon Hillyer, Rob Carter, Sean Walmsley, Kevin Roberts, Ian Cox and Wurzel... We built a nice little halfpipe at our local youth recreation center, it was completely full of sand to make it less noisy... so it was super solid! That's where I really learned to ride halfpipes.
What sort of transportation did you use in those days to go to the different spots?
Lee: I have some great memories of getting between spots... being towed by buses & cabs, jumping on trains with no tickets, squeezing 7 people with bikes and equipment into my Ford Escort!! One time Greg and I went up to ride the Retford halfpipe (Big shout out to the Trumpton Riot Squad), we'd been jumping my car off a hump back bridge, and at some point the exhaust pipe bent up so that it was filling up the car. By the time we got back down South we both had chronic carbon monoxide poisoning... I honestly thought I was going to die!
Who were some of the sponsors you rode for before you made your frist trip to the USA?
Lee: My Mum and Dad of course, I can't say enough about them. Then I had a couple of bike shop sponsors that gave me minor discounts. Then Hutch, who never really did anything for me!
Where did you go on your first trip to the USA?
Lee: Nick Elkan and I came out to San Diego for a month. We didn't know where we were going to stay. I'd left a message with Ron Stebenne (the Hutch team manager) and he hooked us up with Kevin Martin, who picked us up from the airport and took us directly to the Enchanted Ramp in Leucadia (That's about 45 minutes north of SD). It couldn't have worked out any better. I ended up living there for a couple of years.
Was it what you expected?
Lee: Well, I got really lucky ending up in that spot. I'd never really had my own ramp, and now I had two half pipes in the yard! Plus amazing riders showing up everyday to session; Ron Wilkerson, Brian Blyther, Dave Voelker, Matt Hoffman, Dennis Langlais, Chris Potts, Joe Johnson, Eddie Roman, Jon Byers, Pete Augustin, the Dirt Bros, too many to remember. We'd usually go to the beach in the morning then ride in the afternoon. It was better than I expected!
Did you get to hang out with some of your UK friends while you were there?
Lee: Yeah, quite a few riders came over during that time. Jess Dyrenforth already lived here (and still does) we did tons of shows together for Haro. John Povah also moved out here around that time. Andy Brown, Gary Forsyth, Jason Hassel, Mike Canning, Jason Ellis, Graham Marfleet, James Hudson, Craig Campbell, John Yull and Larry Bull all visited. I'm sure there are more that I'm forgetting. Good times, great riders!
How did you manage to stay over there for a longer period of time?
Lee: With the help of some great friends! Chris Potts and Kevin Martin both really helped me out... I owe a lot to them. At first I would go back to the UK every 6 months, then I was an illegal alien for years, now I have a family here; my amazing wife Zoe and our kids, Serene and Harmony. I just got my second 10 year permanent resident visa, but I'm not a citizen. I've never considered it, but maybe now Obama's president. Oh yeah... we're about to be grandparents!
Did you do many shows in the USA?
Lee: Hundreds! Back then it was mostly bike shops, schools, county fairs, that kind of thing. I did the '89 Haro Summer Tour with Rick Moliterno, Jess Dyrenforth, Joe Gruttola and Kevin Martin. We were on the road for 10 weeks and did shows pretty much every day. That was an amazing experience. It really helped me get a lot of my tricks dialed. I still get contacted by people that saw us that summer... hard to believe that was 20 years ago!
Have you ever pulled a 900?
Lee: No, not yet! I haven't tried that many, but it would have been nice to pull one. Especially to have been one of the first. I landed one with my foot on the ramp and rolled away, but that's as close as I got. I had a go once during a photo shoot with BMX Plus, I thought I'd nailed it, but when I hit the ramp my grip popped completely off the bars... then the exposed bar end stuck in my arm pit! It was quite painful. I think the Beaver may have a sequence of it.
What are some of the contest results that you are proud of?
Lee: I never really thought that I did that great at contests, but the ones that stick out in my head would be:
*Ross-On-Wye BMX Track '85 - I won my age group racing and then the freestyle contest.
*Holeshot '87 - I finished 2nd, Greg won.. but I think we both rode pretty good.
*2-Hip Flint '88 - My first contest in the USA, I got 3rd behind Mat and Dino. There were a lot of good riders there, and I ended up getting a lot of magazine coverage from that event... so I was happy!
*AFA Masters Wichita '88 - My only AFA contest, I finished 2nd behind Gary Pollack, but there were also some great riders in our class... Steve Swope, Jay Miron, Chris Potts. Everyone was at this contest!
*UKBFA Champion of Champions Alfreton, UK '89 - I won this one during a visit back to the UK, it looks like I was getting pretty high from the photos I've seen recently.
*2-Hip Paris '89 - Just an amazing trip with some legendary riders and skaters. I finished 2nd to Mat.
How long did you manage to live as a BMX pro?
Lee: I supported myself riding my bike for about 4 or 5 years, but I never entered a contest as a pro.
Did you have any idea what you were going to do after that?
Lee: Nothing specific, but I knew it would have to be music, art or something creative. I like making things.
You managed to stay in the USA, when did you decide you did not want to move back to the UK?
Lee: I decided that I wanted to stay pretty much immediately. Then, after the first time I destroyed my ankle I had to go back to the UK for a while, and since then I've been pretty torn between the two. San Diego is a great place, but the music and art scene here is pretty weak. I hope to live in England again someday, I really do love it there...
Did you keep in touch with any of the riders from the UK scene all this time?
Lee: Nick Elkan, who's like part of my family now. John Povah, who I've been seeing more of lately. Most everyone else I've reconnected with recently online... It's been really great getting back in touch with so many old friends!
You're now back on the bike on a regular basis shredding the concrete bowls. When did this all start?
Lee: I dusted of my bike for Andy Shohara's 40th birthday jam in November 2007. I've ridden with Andy, Tony Murray and John a few times since then, and we've had a few old school reunions where the LA crew have come down. It's been a blast! I wouldn't say I've been riding on a regular basis though... but I want to!
As for the concrete.. it's just the best vert I've found to ride so far. Plus there's no flat bottom, so it's easy for an old man to keep his momentum!
What bike are you riding?
Lee: I just got a Verde Spectrum. It feels great, light but solid.
What tricks did you manage to get back into?
Lee: Just some basics; can cans (of course), x-ups, one-hand one-footers, inverts, no footers. I did a couple of no handers on the Van's halfpipe... I felt pretty good on there, but unfortunately it got torn down. I tried a 540, but it didn't go so well.
Who are you riding with on a regular basis now?
Lee: Well, like I said, I haven't really been riding on a regular basis... but some of the old schoolers I've been lucky enough to ride with recently are; Andy Shohara, Tony Murray, Chris Potts, John Povah, Alvin Mullins, Xavier Mendez, Dave Voelker, Brian Blyther, Mike Dominguez, Todd Anderson, Eddie Fiola, Woody Itson, Danny Hubbard and Junior Torres.
Still living the life then?
Lee: Oh, I suppose so... I keep thinking I'm going to grow up, but it hasn't happened yet! I mostly get my kicks from DJing these days, but it's very hard to match the high you get from riding vert. Lately I'd say more 'appreciating' life than 'living the' life... I feel very lucky!
Last words: Yeah, much LOVE to all my friends and family. PEACE and RESPECT to everyone..
Thanks to everyone who took pics that were used for this interview