BY LAURA DICKINSON
BMX biking has surged in popularity over the past decade. Now an Olympic event with riders like Shanaze Reade becoming household names, more and more people are taking up the sport.
Brixton BMX, London’s oldest BMX club, has been at the heart of this resurgence. Ken Floyde who established the club in 1981, beams with pride as Brixton riders take part in the BMX South Championships on September 29 2013.
“BMX has come a long way since we started our club,” says Ken as he looks out at the new 400 metre national standard BMX track in Burgess Park, Camberwell, where the Championships are taking place.
“Just ten years ago Brixton was one of only three clubs in the southern region, but now clubs from across the south of England have come to take part.”
Brixton BMX started the same year as the Brixton riots, 1981, when Ken encouraged young people across the area to join him and ride at Stockwell Skate Park. The club grew quickly and soon moved to a temporary BMX track behind Brixton police station. Eventually Ken secured funding to build a track in Brockwell Park in 1990.
The club’s most famous alumnus is Charlie Reynolds, a legend in the sport. He won multiple British and European championships and was ‘Champion of Champions’ an incredible six times. He’s one of the few riders in the world to have had signature bike named after him.
Charlie grew up in children’s homes in Brixton in the 70s and 80s. Ken spotted him at the skate park and asked if he’d like to give BMX a go.
“I was the first black BMX star in this country and it’s because of Ken,” explains Charlie. “He set up the track, he would hire mini-buses to take us to national competitions. Ken took people to places where they’ve never been before. You’ve got to take your hat off to him because no-one else would have done it for us.”
At the South Championships it was hard to miss the Brixton team, kitted out in black race tops emblazoned with red and gold flames. The team’s performance drew attention too with a dominant display from Gabor Deli in the Masters event.
Gabor came first in all four of his races, including the final, and was crowned South of England Masters Champion 2013. Alan Hay also impressed in the 17 to 29 year-old Mens’ Cruisers category, finishing second overall.
Brixton BMX welcomes riders of all ages and there’s a real family spirit at the club. Mike Woof started BMX a few years’ ago when his son joined Brixton BMX for their Saturday training sessions in Brockwell Park. He’s now competing regularly and took part in the South Championships over 45’s races while his young son, Tom, competed in the 10 year old boys event.
To the untrained eye, BMX can seem pretty harum scarum. I ask another Brixton parent, Jean-Marie, whether he’s anxious watching his 12 year-old son Cassius compete.
“No, not really,” he tells me. “Being a part of the club has done a lot for Cassius. It has given him confidence, social skills and shown him how to bounce back after a fall. I have a lot of trust in the club.”
There’s a new track now too at Burgess Park and it is superb. Completed this summer at a cost of £1.2 million, it is one of the jewels in the crown of British BMX. It will doubtless be home to future champions. Charlie Reynolds is impressed: “This facility is a massive achievement. I take my hat off to everyone that made it happen.”
He adds that the track is a tribute to all those who strived to establish BMX and who introduced the sport to local youth like him, “with bags of energy and nothing to do”.
“This is all to do with people like Ken, giving people in the community belief that there is something out there for all of us.”
Find out more about Brixton BMX at http://www.brixtonbmx.com/. Coaching takes place on Saturday and Sunday at Brockwell Park BMX track. All riders welcome.