RIPPING AT 50: Who is Alan Sibley? | Ride UK BMX

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RIPPING AT 50: Who is Alan Sibley?

I first saw Alan ride about 3 years ago. I was immediately mind blown. I was rolling down to Clifton Skatepark and in the distance could see a dude airing a good 6-7ft out of the pool coping deep end. I can remember thinking to myself, f–k this guy is good!

When I got down to the park I was astounded that the guy going that high was Alan, a middle aged man who looked more at home in a solicitors office rather than a skatepark. His looks and age were nothing to go by though, his riding was AMAZING. Boosting high out the bowl and over the hips. And the tech… Don’t even get me started on the tech. I still have no idea what half of the tricks are even called that we’ve shot. I’ve never actually seen anyone else do them, that’s probably the reason. It’s nuts.

3 Years Later I caught a session With Alan at the park where Id first seen him ride to shoot a few frames and have a bit of a catch up.​

Words & photos: Adam Lievesley

Q&A with Alan Sibley

— Let’s get it out of the way shall we… How old actually are you? Haha.

I’m 50, but only feel 16 when I’m on my bike. I’ve discovered the fountain of youth.

– Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? Where do you normally ride?

I’ve been a driving instructor for the last 15 years but before that I was a record producer and a club DJ.

Living in Nottingham, I’m spoilt for choice with skateparks. You can usually find me either at Clifton, Flo or Asylum, as all three have great bowls.

– Knowing you’re still shredding at your age, it definitely fills me with confidence that BMX doesn’t have to end in my 30s. Do you feel any different from when you first started riding? Do you take longer to heal when you take a slam?

I honestly find it just as much fun now as when I first started in the early 80s. There’s a lot more parks to ride nowadays, but unfortunately less people to ride them with.

Recovering from slams does take a bit longer. I constantly ache in my knees, ankles and elbows, but that’s always been the case whenever I’ve rode. Now I struggle to walk down the stairs the morning after a heavy session.

“I’m 50, but only feel 16 when I’m on my bike. I’ve discovered the fountain of youth.”

– When did you start riding? Have you ridden the whole way through or have you had a break?

I got my first BMX back in 1982 when freestyle was emerging. There weren’t many tricks invented then, so you could learn most of them as they came out. By 1984 freestyle had exploded and when I was 14, I was travelling all round the UK entering competitions. I even came 4th at the British Championship at 15 and got a few photos in BMX Action Bike magazine (later R.A.D. – Read and Destroy)

By the time I was 16, the UK BMX bubble had burst and overnight almost everyone had quit. I had no one to ride with so I’m sad to say I stopped and got into making music, clubbing, beer and girls. For the next 15 years I had absolutely no contact with anything BMX related. It was as if it had never existed.

Around 2001 when I turned 30, I bumped into an old mate Ross Marshall. We used to do shows and competitions together; he told me about a jam being held only five minutes away from my house at Radcliffe on Trent skatepark. I couldn’t believe there was a skatepark so close and how good the local scene was. I was instantly hooked again. This was in the midschool period.

I quickly picked up riding again but ditched all my old flatland tricks and had to learn how to ride mini ramps, volcanos and parks etc. BMX had evolved so much in 15 years, it was a whole new style of riding, tricks, fashion and attitude. Everyone had gotten so good, but for me it was just about having fun and not competing. I got to ride with young local shredders like Nikki Croft and Scott the Punk. It was an exciting period to ride in. DVDs like Forward and Criminal Mischief were coming out every month, the bikes were now stronger and we had a large local riding scene based around Radcliffe on Trent and Derby Storm skateparks.

“I do go out of my way to do my own thing and try not to copy anyone else.”

It was perfect for a couple of years until I snapped my collar bone badly which took me out for 2 years. I eventually did start riding again but due to me getting married, having a family and starting my own business, it was now only once every few months. The scene had died down and through lack of riding, I was always rusty and had a constant fear of getting hurt again. So I never really progressed for years and years.

Fast forward 7 years to about 2013. Now aged 42. I stumbled across an emerging scene of older riders, who like myself felt like they were missing out on something in their life. Most had recently got back into riding again from the old or mid school period, some had never previously even ridden. It really didn’t matter what level they were at, as long as they were having fun. Having a new scene of people around my own age to ride with in the evenings and at weekends ignited the spark again.

I still ride regularly with these guys, locally at the ‘Suspect Sessions’ and nationally ‘Ride On’ jams, where we private hire parks for the night around the country.

The current national oldies scene is buzzing with jams and private sessions every month and it’s made a massive difference to mine and many other peoples lives.

I’ve been a regular contributor to the over 30s Facebook group ‘Ride On’, which has about 8,000 members around the world, a huge scene that most younger riders probably know nothing about. There’s still thousands of over 30s still shredding worldwide and I think it’s a market the BMX industry has mainly ignored or tapped into. There’s a lot of old guys happily spending money on their new school bikes.

With regards to the Ride On Facebook group, it finally feels like us older dudes have got a BMX home and scene that we can be proud to be a part of.

I’ll happily ride with people of all ages, but being a part of the oldies scene for the last 8 years has really kept me motivated.

– What was riding like for you at the start and how does it compare to now?

When it first started in the early 80s, almost every kid in my school got a BMX. It was a massive craze, all about having fun and going out from morning to evening with your mates, building dirt jumps, nicking bits of wood to build ramps or doing silly flatland tricks down the local shops or city centre. 100% pure fun, but as it got bigger and I started to complete around the country, it all got a bit serious and just about winning competitions. Like any other sport really. I was caught up in the competition scene and riding just for fun seemed pointless.

Don’t get me wrong, we still had a great time travelling around the country in a manky old Transit van and hanging out with all the other talented riders but it did start to get stressful competing every other weekend. In fact when I quit aged 16, when the scene imploded, it was quite a relief to get out of it. Looking back now it seems crazy, I could have carried on and just ridden for fun.

Somewhere we must have lost the way, probably when the adults got involved.

Now I appreciate every single session on my bike and if I ever do enter a competition it’s just for fun to take part.

– Who did you look up to riding when you were younger?

So many in the 80s. USA riders like Eddie Fiola, Mike Dominguez, Dave Vanderspeck were like rock stars to me and my mates. The UK had people like Craig Campbell, Carlo Griggs, Pepi Winder and Jason Hassle.

From the mid school days, anyone who was on Etnies, Props, Baco, or Little Devil videos were cool. Literally dozens of amazing guys back then.

“I’ll happily ride with people of all ages, but being a part of the Ride On scene for the last 8 years has really kept me motivated.”

– Are there any riders you look up to now? Old and new?

All the obvious old guys like Jamie Bestwick, Matt Hoffman, Dennis McCoy, Simon Tabron & Clint Millar are still killing it.

Younger guys. All the Vans Pro Cup bowl shredders, The Fast & Loose crew. I can watch any of them ride all day long, especially Josh Dovey. What a talent he is.

Locally, I get to ride with Tom Justice most weeks. I never get bored watching Tom. Whatever he does is pure class and he’s a real nice guy as well.

– Where do you get your ideas from for all the lip tricks? They are all so mad.

Thanks. I do go out of my way to do my own thing and try not to copy anyone else.

A lot of ideas come from when I was a flatland rider in the 80s, tricks that I’ve adapted to mini ramps, mostly tyre taps variations. Some ideas are pure luck- ‘happy accidents’ – where you mess up and think, perhaps I can make that work, others inspired by skaters and some I just over complicate a trick to see how much I can change it up.

I’ve always been quite creative but its really only been in the last 5 years that I’ve been finding my own quirky style and have just run with it.

I try and make every single tech trick I do unique.

– Do you ever think you will stop riding?

Not any time soon. If I’m lucky and can avoid serious injuries that make it physically impossible to ride, then there’s no need to ever stop.

I try and eat reasonably healthy and keep fit to keep my weight down.

For motivation I’m always chasing new tricks that I can’t yet do and ride as regularly as my body will allow me to.

After stopping so many times in the past I haven’t got enough years left in me to quit and start up again!


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