In Earl’s Court in 1981, just after the Brixton Uprising of that year, Ken Floyde saw a BMX race for the first time and had the idea to start a Brixton BMX club.
Now, 40 years on, the club has just reopened after the most recent lockdown, and the generations of riders who have grown up in the club are planning to raise funds by collectively cycling the distance from John O’Groats to Lands’ End.
“I never had a bike of my own.” Ken, the club’s founder and chair, explains.
“I wanted to give deprived kids growing up in Brixton, what I never had growing up as a deprived kid growing up in Tottenham.”
There were almost no BMX clubs in the UK in 1981 when Ken stopped at the Stockwell skatepark on his way home and asked the young people there if they would be interested in a BMX club. They said yes.
The next day Ken got the 37 bus from Brixton and travelled to Twickenham in West London to pay his £5 club affiliation fee to the UK BMX Association. Today BMX, and other cycle sports, come under the umbrella of British Cycling.
“My friend Melvin who took me to the Motorcycle Show in Earl’s Court said I was crazy.” Ken adds. “It was worth the journey.”
Ken has spent the last 40 years fundraising for the club, and for newer and better tracks, as well as mentoring young people in the community.
“We’ve got a safeguarding officer now as well, so we’re ready if Ofsted [the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, which inspects schools and other orgainsations] comes.” Ken says.
“That’s something I’m really proud of … I’ve always tried to foster a sense of family.”
“Quite a lot of youths come from different backgrounds,” says Mike Woof, who does publicity for the club. “It’s encouraging for lads from round here to see local kids riding at a professional level … the positivity that it spreads is immeasurable.”
Mike joined the club after his son signed up, and he found himself riding the track every morning on his way to work.
The clubs’ coaches, Alan Hay and Farran Afflick-Stracker, have been part of the club since they were children, and are keen to get more young people involved.
“You get enjoyment,” Alan explains, “a lot of discipline, a sense of achievement. It helps with your social bubble … you can come here as the CEO or the litter picker and you will be treated with the utmost respect and compassion.
“I don’t care if you’ve got £1 in your pocket or a million, you get treated with respect.”
“Joining the club allowed me to get sponsorship and do something I love,” says Farran.
“Now I’m trying to put back into it what they gave me. I’m taking Ken’s vision and I’m realising it.
Ken focused it, he made it a controlled sport … What Ken did with BMX in the 80s, I’m trying to do the wheelie kids now.”
The club also works with children from pupil referral units and other organisations, such as groups for children with special educational needs.
“It does a lot for the things you don’t see,” Farran explains, “I had kids coming here from Grenfell, and they’d be crying, and then they’d get on the track and they’d be smiling, and for an hour and a half they got to forget … the fear factor of the jump is nothing compared to some of the things that their facing.
“It’s a way of learning how to overcome a challenge.”
BMX racing was recognised as an Olympic sport in the 1990s and two South London BMX riders, Kye Whyte and Quillan Isidore, have gone onto race in the Olympics.
The Brixton BMX club reopened on 4 April and runs on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 1pm.
New members and beginners are welcome, but due to current COVID-19 safety measures sessions must be pre-booked on the Rider HQ app.
Women-only Sunday sessions began again on 2 May. They are fortnightly and run from 1.30 to 2.30pm.
I tried BMX for the first time on Sunday …
The fundraiser will take place over the next few months ahead of the club’s 40th anniversary in August.
For more information on session times, how to book and the fundraiser, visit the club website.