In the sleepy towns around the middle of south England, old folklore tells of a strange figure with wild hair, an impressive temper and whenever he is spotted he is usually astride a metallic beast, which is small but well controlled by the man. His legendary status has been confirmed as he was first sighted in the late eighties mastering the same type of metal beast in areas away from the prying eyes of the general public, and even in those days his temper was feared and his skills highly regarded.
Today if you walk around Bridport at night time and happen upon an industrial estate you might be lucky enough to hear the shrill cry of â€œFFFUUUUUCCCKKâ€? followed by a chilling boom of metal landing with force on wood.
With all that said Rob is the man and his riding is without peer, there are lots of other original riders out there and like them he does his own thing and that’s why there is only one â€œDouble Râ€?
Right, let’s try this for the second time.
Its quite appropriate really cause I never seem to get anything first go! (Laughs) That’s the story of my life innit.
Whatâ€¦you’ve never got anything first go?
Well I have. But generally, these days, not if it’s something worth talking about. (Laughs)
I can’t even remember the gist of the last one so this is starting from scratch. How's the riding going?
Goodâ€¦umâ€¦went through a bit of a blank patch. In the month of August I picked up a bit of a horrible cold and stopped riding for a while.
What do you mean a little while?
Well, not stopped riding. Stopped riding any good for a while which annoyed me, and I picked up a few little injuries but I had had such a good run recently it was almost bound to happen. But I am back on top of things now.
I remember last time you said you were going to start keeping a list of potential tricks?
Yeah that’s right. Since the last interview there was talk about, and it’s still going on now, in fact since last interview I have picked up the laptop because of my memory getting a bit woolly I have to write my tricks down so I don’t forget them! (Laughs) Yeah well the old Altsheimers kicking in I have to write them down
How old are you now?
33 Next March. But still pretty fit and stillâ€¦. With a lot of aspects of the world BMX I am not particularly enthusiastic but in the most important and fundamental thing, my own personal riding, I am as motivated as ever, if not more.
Do you still fully enjoy everything you do?
Yeah. And I am so lucky. And I know I am so lucky. I suppose looking back and seeing how when you grow up you have got a lot of difficult obstacles to get through. I mean a lot of people pick up riding in their early teens and you have got through the insecurities of getting through school, job, relationships all that sort of stuff. Then when you get through all that you simply, I suppose most people will work and you have just got to live up to getting old. So you have just got to face the reality and when you get through all that you just don’t have the distractions. Without those distractions admittedly I have got different ones but I am still pretty focused on the riding and still enjoying it.
You still lead a very full life though; it must be tough with not having a lot of time spare?
I can count the spare hours in any given week. Normally I have 5 or 6 nights down the unit (Rob’s Park is usually open till 11pm) and that’s outside of a 40 to 50 hour working week and the rest of the time I really have to spend with my girlfriend.
This (I point at the park) is a lot of work, I know what you do, and you don’t make a penny off it. You obviously have some kind of motivation to keep going?
Yeah, I think it’s the whole thing it’s not one aspect, I mean riding is the most important thing but then there are the things that compliment.
But you could ride without this.
Exactly, yeah, I guess it’s just a question of timing. I suppose another way I look at it, sometimes, is when a time will come that I don’t want to run a skate park, there will perhaps come a time when that happens, when I pass it on or give it up or whatever but I can look back and at least I can say that I did it. I got through it and we did it OK. It’s the scene that motivates and also I guess it’s the company as well. I mean recently, again I suppose it’s because there is an age gap between me and a lot of the local riders, so I guess that gives me a smidgen of authority, but of recent I have had to be the boss and discipline people a little bit. That’s good but sometimes I am respected for being older and slightly wiser, but not always.
But that’s more hassle!
It can be, totally, yeah I know. I sometimes have to ask myselfâ€¦it's when a bad day happens or you have problems with the logistics of running this place you wonder why you do it. But when you have a good day, or maybe you learn something or have a lot of friends in and you’re all having a real good time that’s what makes up for it.
So what is at the top of your trick list at the moment?
I can’t think of any one thing reallyâ€¦. Maybe some of the tech stuff I am doing. I am trying to learn parts of tricks opposite to go into the second stage of the trick, which I do regular. So one minute I might be spinning opposite to spinning my regular way. It’s hard to describe. I mean some of this stuff, a lot of these things you think up and some of them don’t work and some of them do work and what can happen often in that process of learning stuff or going up and trying to jam new stuff is that you develop another idea. And that is happening all the time. I have got a list as long as my arms of stuff I want to do. Not just original stuff.
So you have to keep riding for at least 10 more years.
I'm gonna run out of time, this is the trouble I’m gonna run out of time, that’s what worries me more than anything else. I am actually thinking next year of taking some time off work, which probably won’t go down well with my employers. Or the other thing we were thinking of doing is for about three months next summer is downsizing the park whilst, if we have a summer like this where it has been very hot, downsizing the park and restrict the hours so we can get out a bit more and ride a bit more street. Another great irony is, and I am not saying one way is right and one way is wrong, a lot of people feel that you have to travel and yet I find it almost a paradox that I have lived in the same area for almost 20 years and I am still uncovering spots in my home town. So for those people that really can’t, and it’s not expressed so much now in the magazines because everyone wants to travel, and there is nothing wrong with that, but at the same time perhaps for the younger people who can’t travel if you look hard enough you can find stuff.
As you said earlier you can look at something and a couple of years down the line look at it differently because you have progressed enough to use it in some way.
Exactly, you pass things off. And I think that another important thing that is overlooked nowadays, and again its not right or wrong, is for a lot of people I think what is so important is just to practise basic things to get a basic foundation of tricks. Because if you can only do a, I don’t know, a manual and a tyre tap you can go on a road trip and at every park if they are the only things that you can do then you are restricting yourself. Aren’t you? Although you are taking in the sights and capturing different scenes. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but people I think need to focus. I suppose I was one of those lucky ones, lucky in one respect in hindsight, I couldn’t tell it when I was young but I had none of this around. I had no park so I developed a lot of street and flatland skills.
Flatland is a good place to start, it teaches you a lot of bike control and there are a few people around that started that way too. What has happened to Reaction now?
It’s still a namesake in its own rite. I have just used that for whatever product I am doing at the time in the past. That might have been videos, T-shirts or bike hardware. People might remember various bike products and its generally just small little runs of things and hopefully, although I have had to mothball the project a few times, a freecoaster hub and parts is on its way. I have borrowed the design cause it’s modelled on a coaster brake, which I don't think has been refined. All the hubs that come out of Taiwan use the same design principle but the refinements don’t seem to be there so I have modified it. The parts and this isn’t 100% bullet proof, will all be available separately and it will be 100% serviceable. That’s the important thing. Those that know me will hopefully be confident enough in my ability and I can sell a few. It’s not going to be a world domineering thing it’s just a little market, the same as anything I do and it will be a fun little project.
Plus you can give those that want it a good hub ride! What about the next video?
The ongoing video saga! Well the thing is with video I guess is video draws out a lot of opinionsâ€¦
Surely the opinion should be if you want to watch it buy it if you don’t then don’t buy it?
Ultimately you make a video to please yourself and that’s what we are doing. We always make mini videos and then when we feel we have got to expand them and combine them and then when we feel we have got enough to make one. It’s been almost three years since I made Metalmorphosis, which for its time was a reasonable video. The plan now is to put together a lot of this new stuff and one of the agendas that we are looking at is getting a good chunk of the video being different original stuff. We have tried to keep the standards high in originality, filming and style all aspects really. It’s a constant learning thing, the earliest things we made we had plenty to improve upon! It’s taken time and we just want to improve on our own standards.
It all sounds like things are progressing well. You have put a lot of time and effort in and it’s all paying off.
Yeah. Anyone can look back and remember the non-progressive patches and I like to think a lot of it is behind me. I feel I have been through most of the silly little stages and maybe as you go through lifeâ€¦. I don’t know that sounds a bit too old and wise! You learn to find your own levels and balance things out.
So you are pretty happy then?
You have got to be content with things but at the same time as being content you want to move forward and that doesn’t mean just in your riding, I guess you have got to move forward with a lot of things. I did the Weymouth comp and it was the first Jam I have done for quite while now and someone asked me if I was happy with how it went. I thought on the one hand I was happy with the way I rode, but at the same time you want to strive to do better. At the same time it’s not the end of the world if I don’t. Just keep plugging at what you are doing so long as it’s fun and it’s enjoyable.
Did you enjoy the comp?
It was all right once it got going. I had a few anxieties and it seemed a bit of a chore to start with because I ride for the sake of riding and I know the best value of riding is going to a park when it’s quiet. I can ride what I want when I want and how I want and just please myself. When you are in a comp and you are sharing a park. Perhaps that’s a bit selfish.
Where you worried about the crowd watching?
Yeah (laughs) my riding style was clearly different from the others, that’s not good or bad it’s just different. There is always going to be popular styles of riding and unpopular, there are always going to be people who want to categorise it like that. I think that one good thing about BMX is that it should be big enough to encompass everything. Shouldn’t it?
Yes but I don’t think it’s a very good competition sport.
Yeah I agree with that, it’s not a comparable thing. I think that the video thing Jim Reinstra is doing is a good thing for two reasons, one is that video is a great leveller for a lot of people. Comps do bring out the riders that can handle the conditions of a comp the best. Those people that do reap the rewards and that’s fine, not everyone puts their best foot forward in a comp do they? There are some riders that can do some amazing stuff, and think this might be coming across from skating, where some of the stuff is so advanced or so difficult that it simply can’t be pulled first time maybe. It’s so difficult or technical or whatever. Flatland riding proves that, and I take my hat off to some of those guys who practice nearly all their lives to hit something nearly first time if not second go. The tech side of mini ramp riding and street riding is going that way as well that’s why video brings the best bits out. You don’t want to see someone trying a trick 20 times. The video comp will bring out the riders who can do some original stuff but they are not going to hit it first go and they just don’t want to bore a crowd while they are going for it.
So where is next for Rob Ridge?
(Laughs) I dunno, just more of the same thing I think. I really wanna learn some new stuff; I would love to flow around a park like some people. Not because I want to clone them or become a clone, its another form of riding and some people think it’s a better form of riding to watch. I think it’s better than watching someone like myself who is just start stop, pick up the bike and start again.
So we are going to see Rob Ridge with decent flow?
Well I don’t know about that (laughs) it is equally as fun. I would like to ride like that but I can’t see it. Now we have had the park and I have had home advantage and I can flow around my own park. I wasn’t the first to do it though and there are people who spend a fraction of the time I do there and they can flow it better than I can.
The grass is always greener; I bet the flow riders would like to get some tech skills too.
Sometimes (laughs) but this is the real irony, apparently hang fives are becoming trendy because Chris Doyle is doing them. Without trying to offend too many people because Chris Doyle is doing them the clone army will follow. Again it’s not right or wrong but I always think to myself there are thousands and thousands of trick variations and when I see other people doing the big fufanu on the back rail, I say to myself well they are welcome to that. I’ll just go and get on with something else. The only other thing is that when you get older, I don’t like dwelling on the fact, you tend to measure things more, not that I’m not going for it just that I am a bit more measured. No one is going to see me huck anything at a comp anymore.
It’s not like you crash softly or anything!
Well no. I guess the other words of wisdom, even if they’re not that fashionable to say is just to wear pads. If people are going to go for stuff.
Any thanks you want to give out to anyone.
Yeah. Umm. Everyone that has helped out over the years. The scene we have here is fairly young and flourishing so everybody that comes to the park, it seems in growing numbers, and supports us and encourages us to keep it going it all helps. Yeah everyone I have ridden with and been visited by over the years and stay in touch.
You don’t want to say anythingâ€¦dangerous!
Yeah (laughs) any provocative remarks! I can’t think of anything. No. There is nobody and nothing I hate in BMX. I think its such a diverse and wide sport that there isn’t really, or shouldn’t be, any room for hating and little closed circuits. The BMX world is big enough for all types. I’m just happy to be a small insignificant...
Spoke in the wheel?