Above: BMX lifer Rab, fully X-ed on one of the nicest done minis about.
When I planned my holiday with the missus to Northern Ireland I thought about shooting some BMX over there.
I was thinking about it like this: when was the last time I saw any proper content come from over the water that’s not just an Instagram clip? What was the reason for this apparent lack of BMX, was it that nobody rides? Or is there a lack of content creators over there showcasing Irish BMX?
So, I hit up a couple of indoor skateparks to shoot with some riders and sat down to find out about what’s going on over there. And let me tell you… Irish BMX is well and truly there.
I caught a session at Thunder Park with Ryan Henderson (Hendo) and afterwards The Ramp House with Rab Preston, Connor Worthington and Simon Turk. I had a great time at both parks and was made to feel very welcome.
Words & photos: Adam Lievesley
Q&A with Ryan Henderson & Rab Preston
– What do you think about the riding scene in Northern Ireland? What makes it different to Great Britain? Is there a Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland split? Or is it all one big scene?
There are mixed opinions on this. Personally I think the scene isn’t great. When I started (9 years ago) the parks were rammed. Now most sessions I ride by myself, and if the rest of the boys who work in Thunder Park can be bothered to ride we get a good sesh on. Among BMX there’s never been a split, the scene is that small that when you see someone on a bike, chances are you’re gonna know who it is. There used to be a few indoor parks in the south of Ireland but they’ve all closed. The only indoor parks in the whole country are Thunder and Ramp House, both in the north. Outside of BMX there is still a split in some areas but I don’t even pay attention to it.
The N.I scene on a whole isn’t great but our (RH) scene is banging! I Think the big difference from the mainland is just the country size and the amount of parks we have, wouldn’t say there’s a split really just there’s just not a lot of people travelling north to south / south to north.
– How do you think the BMX scene in Ireland has changed in the past few years? Who did you look up to riding? Were there any Irish heroes?
The scene took a heavy hit in 2016 when our only indoor park (T13) closed. We only had 2 outdoor parks at the time in Northern Ireland.
Pretty much my whole group of mates quit. 3 or 4 of us still rode but if it was raining you couldn’t ride, you could literally go weeks without riding.
In 2018 The Ramp House opened, then a year or so later Thunder Park followed. Back when I first started riding I looked up to Kyle Baldock, he was so unpredictable and was always sending it. Locally I looked up to Mikey McClelland, he pretty much taught me everything I needed to know and still does to this day, lol.
“The scene is that small that when you see someone on a bike, chances are you’re gonna know who it is”
I think the best rider to come from Ireland has to be Jason Phelan. Mikey McClelland and Matt Gillespie were also heavy hitters going across the water doing comps.
The scene is a lot better from the opening of the two parks for sure, there’s a lot of new young riders coming up and a lot of older dudes have picked up a bike again which is awesome to see.
Heroes? Ah man hard to say on the big stage it was Mirra but local riders I’d have to say the first name that I seen in the magazines from home was Peter Adam and he still kills it! And you can’t mention N.I. heroes and not mention Will Smyth.
– What do you think could be different to make it better?
It’s hard to say really, we (Thunder) do a lot to help get kids into all disciplines, workshops, outreach, demos etc.
Covid hasn’t helped though. Kids got too comfortable indoors.
Both parks have helped bring back the scene after the closure of T13. If it wasn’t for these two parks we’d have no scene at all now. I’m forever grateful for both of them and what they’re doing. Even though the scene is small, it’s welcoming and we’re all pretty close.
“Anyone who’s thinking about coming over you’ll not be disappointed, it’s hard to beat the Irish vibe”
If the local councils and communities invested more money into the sport it would deffo help the scene and more riders supporting the parks, there are a lot more riders out there, we still need new faces time to time.
Since the parks opened there has been a rise of new faces on BMXs for sure, and it’s helping rebuilding the scene.
– The two park set ups are very different. Do you think it keeps it interesting?
Yeah man for sure, you know yourself if you stay in one place you get too comfortable. It’s nice to have that option to go between the two. RH has a sick spine mini and a plaza, whereas we have big boxes and resi.
Yeah the difference in the parks is real good, it gives diversity and something different to ride.
– Who is there in Ireland to watch out for? Any up coming talent?
Oh yeah we got some young guns on the rise! Jamie Herron, Lucas and Calvin, the Kennedy bros. These guys kill it and we’re stoked to be supporting them through Thunder. Any time I’m in Ramp House Josh Hamilton kills it, it’s sick to watch him and Jamie bounce off each other and progress.
Deffo Hendo is on a charge at the moment and I hope to see him make some big comps soon. As for up and coming there’s a few kids that could deffo have a crack at it, Young Jamie Herron is unbelievable at his age.
“Even though the scene is small, it’s welcoming and we’re all pretty close”
– What do you think the future holds for Irish BMX? Is it going in a good direction?
Well the future is looking good with more parks being built in 2022, I think will only grow.
– Any extra words or thank yous? Or any recommendations for us mainlanders if we came on a riding trip over there?
Massive thanks to Matt G! He’s played a big part in the urban sports scene, opening 3 indoor parks over the years and getting a lot of outdoors open. If it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t be riding BMX. Big up all the boys that have helped me along the way, Arthur Kelly, Mike Hullock, Matt and Mikey, they’ve all played a huge part in my riding.
Over the last few years I’ve been getting a few of the boys from the mainland over, they love it here and get treated like royalty from the locals, lol. Anyone who’s thinking about coming over you’ll not be disappointed, hard to beat the Irish vibe asking you what the crack is mucker, good parks indoor and outdoor and as you’ve seen yourself man, some amazing scenery.
Yeah, big thanks to Rob & Pete the Ramp House owners for doing what they do and still killing it in their 50s… Yep we have our annual anniversary jam in the works at the minute so watch for that, it’s always a good time!
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