THE ADAM BRAYTON INTERVIEW | GAS TO FLAT
Adam Brayton is one of those riders that thinks and works outside the box, a grafter with an eye for invention and sometimes the unthinkable...
An electrician by winter, professional downhill racer in summer, and a bit of both in between, Adam Brayton is one of those riders that thinks and works outside the box, a grafter with an eye for invention and sometimes the unthinkable...
From Dirt Issue 120 - February 2012
Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Steve Jones.
We’d arranged to meet at Honister slate mine, but the call for an urban Americano pulled us in off the mountain and into Brayton’s hometown of Keswick. We’d already spent a few days prior scoping out some spots, the crane graveyard, rock fields…but the man of the Lakes gave us a prologue that had him touching down off a sixty to seventy foot booter just above the town centre. This, plus video memories of Brayton’s lurid slides, speed traps on the scree and gigantic airs in his backyard, meant I looked forward to the next few days of shooting with a mix of excitement and trepidation.
Having witnessed Brayton in action many times I knew to expect nothing but bravery, I was there when he launched into Champery World Cup in sixth place. And also down in San Remo 2008 where an assortment of pros had gathered for a pre–season training session. High overlooking the Mediterranean, and just before the track pulled from E–W to N–S, an outcrop slowed riders progress on all levels, many opting for the sheltered route to the side, others the safety of a halfway house type gap.
Not Brayton, thundering in at full tilt it was obvious the only way for this man was over the top. With an almighty clang and solid bit of Northern English excavation the outcrop was slayed and Brayton out of sight for the next horror show. It’s simply one example of this man’s steely conviction in attacking heavy rock traffic. Brayton…fearless.>>
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Huge motocross influence, motorbikes came a long time before any downhill action when I think back. I first got on my brothers Yamaha TY80 when I was eight years old, since that day I was hooked. Everything about motocross I love, it’s the most demanding, physical sport on the planet in my eyes and it has a great effect on downhill.
Do you feel you are ever at odds between the subtlety of cycling and the aggro of the engine?
You’re not the type of character to back down?
No way ha ha, the only advice my Dad has ever given me is to be scared of nothing. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere and being fazed by a certain section or jump, it’s all about taking risks and putting it on the line, that’s what people want to see. The greatest risk in life is to risk nothing...
Start 2006. Let’s just quickly recap your career to date. 2006 was your first season right? And in junior, second at nationals in Rhugog. What other memories of that year?
Yeah, came in to Rhugog for my first national, second year junior, that was a gnarly race when I think back, ha ha. I went down on the Friday night with no idea what to expect! I went to get in my mates tent, there was no room...I slept outside in a sleeping bag. For anyone that was there they can probably remember it was about minus 10, snowing and pissing down. It was mental, the track was a total bog I was seeded really badly. I knew there would be some moto action going down and have to put in a few passes. I ended up passing three people in my run, it was pretty funny and I took the chicken line at the bottom, but all the juniors did, I got a top 20 overall so I could do a few world rounds that year. Best bit of that weekend was the elites agreed not to hit the chicken line, Warner had other ideas though and hit it, mad dog!
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Yes 2007 I went into expert, I wasn’t too happy about it, so I thought I better make sure I make it into elite! I went to the first national that year and qualified third, I remember that I went to space and back on the bombhole jump, but that was a result I was happy with, but also totally shocked. It was a stacked field that weekend! I won expert by a fair bit and ended up 8th overall on the day. I did most the World Cups that year, things were just starting to develop nicely. I had the confidence and the speed and everything just started clicking. Vigo was hard, I was suffering from such bad nerves I spewed up before my qualifying. I went with my brother and some mates, as I couldn’t hire a car and I was in a hotel almost two hours away! I ended up 39th, my run just started as it began to rain, it didn’t effect me too much, but I didn’t see it as a legit result as a lot of the mid–pack was caught out by it.
The next round was Champery and what a wild place that was, but it was very similar to what I ride at home. There were some big crashes going down that weekend, especially in my qualifying. I came off three times, hit a small child off the triple and also broke my wrist in the crash, they must be made of iron out there because off that jump was fast and I hit him square on. I got up and he was there holding my bike telling me to “chop chop". Alex Rankin (film maker) was my final victim in the final switch backs. I must have been rolling past him too quick as it didn’t make Earthed 5 video!
I went home with my broken wrist and showed my dad, “can you wiggle your fingers!?" I think my little one moved about 1mm “it’s not broken then!" Something I would later hugely regret.
Sixth on the day, but I don’t see that as my best result though, it was a dry run and Sam Hill showed everyone how it’s done, now that was sick to witness that! My time was still top 10 qualifying when everyone came down in the dry, so I took what I could from that. Next was Schladming, and after a few weeks off I came in there hungry and running in 13th overall. Not to bad for my fourth World Cup! I was feeling great, attacking everywhere and on the edge, I came down in qualifying and I thought I had a pretty mint run. Once qualifying was over I went to see where I ended up and I stared at 80th and went down the results, I got to about 30th and thought “shit I’m not in". My heart literally stopped. I carried on and there I was holding a strong 14th just ahead of Peaty. The track dried up and I went from my trusty Maxxis Swamp Things 2.35’s to my High Rollers and was on it until the open bottom section then things got a bit shady. It was a drift the horse couldn’t handle! That was the end of that one, two weeks later I tore my ACL and MCL ligaments in my knee, I told the medics at the race and they said it was a sprain, I couldn’t even bend it, I went to do my qualifying and it dislocated on a jump. That was bad times, I was back in work on the Monday and had a weekend off my bike, it would be almost two years later ‘till it was actually diagnosed with the injury.
Is Champery now comparable to that day in terms of track conditions?
No not in my eyes, I would honestly call Champery an easy track now compared to what it was in ’07. I would say that 90% of it was natural, rooty and mega loose, but it was awesome, don’t get me wrong I still love the place and have it as one of my all time favourites, but they were so different. You had to be there to appreciate it, people were getting carted off left right and centre in body bags.
Yeah ‘08 was a great year in terms of experience, but not so great for results. I rode the whole season with a broken wrist and also my hanging knee. You can’t go into a season carrying any injuries, no matter how tough or determined you are, it just doesn’t happen. Life with the team was awesome, I would go back tomorrow, living in Pila with a track like that’s on your doorstep isn’t going to do your riding or training any harm and then we had the team…Nathan Rankin, Mike Skinner, Lorenzo Slowding etc…all good guys. It was a blast.
2009 Just Reid Racing. It ended early? Lets just recap, injury wise the last few seasons, its been messy…..knee, shoulder, wrist?
2009 was a bad year, my contract was up with Playbiker and I had spent a lot of time with Ben in Italy and we became good friends. He suggested we team up for 2009, it seemed good to me, he had a good set–up, good bikes. It was all there. Sadly my injuries were beginning to catch up on me big time at this point and to be honest my heart wasn’t in it. Ben loves it on the road and it works for him, but I’m more of a home bird so I wasn’t enjoying life in the trailer ha ha. I remember going to Vallnord World Cup and it was freezing, the trailer was only running 5mm plastic walls so she wasn’t the most insulated, so you can imagine I got pretty cold at night. I had a piss in a bottle one night – I was locked in the trailer, no escape – and there was an iceberg in it when a woke up! Luckily I got an extension lead and photographer Victor Lucas had a little fan heater, you couldn’t get me out of there then!
After Vallnord I got a lift home with the Burgtec boys, Fort William was coming up and it’s a special race I suppose, so you want to put in a strong ride. I went up there and it didn’t even feel like a World Cup, I had a mechanical in qualifying, it was the final nail in the coffin for me, so that was it I went home. I had an appointment with a knee specialist the next day. When one door closes another one opens, that saying was pretty true that week as I was booked in for my surgery in two months time.
2010 Llangollen – “I was going to smoke that race that day I reckon"…one year on you did! Won quail..sorry quali, then bronze National Champs.
Ha ha that was ’09. Llangollen debut! The track was mean that year, the best Llangollen I’ve ever ridden, Brendan (Fairclough) rocked up to this one, I knew he was going to be the man to beat that weekend. I felt real good on the course, it was exactly what I love to ride, but unfortunately it was one of those weekends where it just doesn’t go your way. I had two full–on crashes and one of those my knee dislocated, if only I had ridden at 90% it would of been a walk in the park. At last years champs they had mixed the track up with the woods and open section, my first goal was to qualify first, so after doing that I was ready for finals. I thought ‘if I want to be National champ this is where I want to do it’. It was just a shame that there was a fair few big guns missing. If you win it you want to beat the best. I felt real good being last man down and all that but Mr 110 got the better of me, I stayed on but just pushed too hard in sections I should have just ridden smooth. Talk about learning the hard way. Third was still OK, but after qualifying first I felt I had let myself down. But I smoked the speed trap and didn’t even get that Casio watch, but the £100 prize money was...MEGA!
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Almost, there’s still more in the tank, I want to be way more consistent in 2012, that’s high on my list and I feel I’ve worked well on that this winter. You want to be able to pull those results on a bad day.
A strong end to the season World Cup wise?
It wasn’t bad but still nowhere near where I want to be, the final two rounds were more in my flavour of track styles, but it was again ‘so close, yet so far’ kind of thing. I felt great after national champs, I was carrying a lot of confidence but I recognised something I had to change for 2012 to push my riding on. I don’t look at them results and think, “yeah I’m happy with them".
You must now believe in your ability to get into the very top flight?
Yeah absolutely, I can’t imagine any World Cup rider is any different, you have to believe and I believe in myself, I couldn’t imagine paying thousands of pounds to race and doing shit week in week out. The gap is getting bigger now between a factory team and a privateer, but that isn’t a bad thing, the sport is growing and teams are investing more to win. It makes it harder for us guys, but there’s only one option and that’s to get on with it and put it to them on the track.
Are you happy where you are at right now considering you have been dogged by injury?
I’m happy now, but looking back on what I’ve been through the last couple of years I would say I regret a lot of the decisions I’ve made and that was from listening to others. Even just talking about it now makes me mad, but I’ve learned from it, that’s all you can do, you have to move on, now I make my own decisions, what’s best for me, I’m here for me at the end of the day, so there are still many positives to take from it.
Would you say you walk the line of risk too close sometimes?
Ha ha maybe, but that’s just who I am, I can’t help it, no matter what it is, if there is a challenge I have to give it a go no matter what the consequences.
Pro Electrician/Racer? How do you describe yourself?
The world’s fastest Electrician.
Lets talk sponsorship. What’s the deal? How is your World Cup season funded?
I get most my parts, but then I fund my whole season, every single race I do I pay for entries, fuel, flights, food you name it.
Yeah a few things, I had to buy some new forks and all my drive chain, it’s not cool when you tear off a mech! I think that’s it, oh and some wheels and a shock. But I also have a lot of great guys behind me who believe in me and continue to support me, I can’t thank them enough although there probably running out of patience so I better shape my ideas up for 2012. Although I have to buy some stuff, it could be a whole lot worse, that’s the way I see it.
This will be your third season on Mythic/Banshee?
Yeah going into the third year with Banshee. Time flies.
Bronze medal National Championships, top 30 World Cup, surely you don’t want to be paying for kit?
Not really, but then again there’s only one thing to do about it, I just need to get out there do as many races as I can and get some great results. I could sit here and whine all day but it isn’t going to change anything, big results equals forks, shocks and drive train.
How do you work things out during the season? For example there must be work commitments both ways – from electrician to racer. It must be difficult to balance out?
Yeah sometimes it isn’t the best, but it’s the rough with the smooth. I’m on a good working spree at the moment, my boss is real good with me, I really couldn’t ask for anymore to be fair. The good thing about it is when you’re sat there working away and you think the top boys are out riding having a blast it fires you up a lot and keeps you hungry.
You like to get back home after a race?
Yeah, I just can’t wait to get back to work! Seriously though, everything I need is here, I have a lot of great people around me, my family, my girlfriend and her family and my friends, everyone supports me so much we have a good set up at home.
Do you find the balance of wiring and racing suits you?
It has to. I’ve got the balance pretty good at the moment and I feel good in myself.
You don’t drink?
Nope, I’ve never had a drink in my life. Let’s hope that’s what it takes to win soon then I will be laughing. Can you believe I get called “boring" for not drinking!? Sorry if the highlight of my life isn’t Friday night.
You’ve never been out in your hometown Keswick? Ever?
Not really, suppose I am boring now aren’t I!? I do get about just in my own little circles, it’s pretty tight knit at home there is a small group of us and all we do is ride, we don’t do much else.
Well I’d have thought you’d make an effort with the God festival. OK, what’s happening bike wise around here? Winlatter, crazy big booters, all mountain adventure, motocross. Where does downhill sit amongst all that?
It sits in pretty nicely somewhere amongst all that. I would say the majority of my riding is DH, I won’t ride XC now till the end of January and I last rode my MX bike in October, with work and all that you make the most of your weekends so it’s just been downhill all the way and the odd motorcycle club trial.
I guess there’s some continuity, that bloody riding kit of yours for one.
Touch it and you could easy get an electric shock! Don’t worry though I’ve toned down a little for next year.
What’s the social highlight of the Keswick season?
The God convention for one, Victorian fair, Mountain Festival, Beer Festival, Jazz Festival there’s loads! If it’s something shit, Keswick has a festival for it.
What’s your problem with Loweswater Gold?
Ha ha ha I was actually going to post you a keg down for New Year, but I couldn’t handle that dirty substance near me. I think my MX bike would run on it. Volatile stuff.
From the man who confesses to being “Fire breathing Italian style from Lakes?" What else?
Italian Stallion mate, have you been on the Gold? I stole that one off my good mate Balboa. What else, I don’t know really, keep working hard, keep working on live circuits, keeps you sharp you know and I fancy a stab at the Rampage thing, do some hucks and one leggers, pull some strings? Sign me up…
I’m sure everyone would agree it would be great to see Brayton move one stage further.
Massive thanks to Joe Weir at Honister. Fore more information on visits to the slate mine or Via Ferrata contact email@example.com