atherton148 final
atherton148 final

Looking back to the raw, early days of the Atherton HQ.

DIRT ISSUE 148 - JUNE 2014

Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Steve Jones and Laurence Crossman–Emms

Spring time in North Wales 2005, early days for the new inhabitants of Penybont Fawr. A season of change for the Atherton family as they settled into the new Atherton HQ, a new country and a new team structure that was gaining momentum as a major brand and force in mountainbiking. Gee, Dan and Rachel Atherton on the sunny side of the barn of anarchy.

At this moment in time Gee had come off the back of a couple of World Cup podiums, including that famous win at Schladming that dissected Peaty’s wins the previous week in Les 2 Alpes and the following weekend in Mont St Anne, firing a king size warning that he was beginning to put it through the gears.

It turned into an average season for Gee however, one in which Greg Minnaar was on the big Honda outfit and it was brother Dan who was showing his pace, only just missing out on the top step at the Willingen World Cup. Most famously it was the year that Rachel brought back Britain’s first downhill World Championship gold medal.>>



_MG_7877 final
_MG_7877 final

Back in Wern Du chaos reigned, BMX was king, the barn was ramped with ply. I remember it clearly as it was the first time I’d seen the ‘not so pleasant’ side of professionalism having been bollocked by a sponsor for asking the family to get a casual shot around the kitchen table rather than an advert for their products!

It has been a crazy decade and even though they have all taken some major knocks they roll on winning, picking up World Championships and titles. Today Rachel is this country’s most successful downhill racer of all time. Gee is trucking and definitely has the upper hand over his junior ranks nemesis Sam Hill. His podium percentages for the past decade have been off the charts.

Dan has moved to enduro but more than this he is one of the worlds only riders to push the creative envelope. His quarry and yard–works are masterpieces, some of the most inspired digging ever seen, the stuff of which most riders can only aspire to. Dan is currently deep in Sitka territories, his usual enigmatic self. What will he come up with next?

Barns are still part of the Atherton framework, except it’s all so corporate these days – one of team managers, personal assistants, psychologists, spannermen and trainers. Stainless steel has replaced the plywood, they’re on bikes that fit them and the team launch as been cocktails in SE1 rather than a bacon butty and a cup of scruff.

But don’t be too alarmed at the order and branding, they’ve retained their good nature and… well I’m trying to think of a polite way to describe their mild untidiness.