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Eric Carter, Dave Cullinan & Mike King in Cali | Rattlesnakes & Reality

They say that you should never meet your heroes, but Grant Robinson decided to go and search–out three from his childhood. He took a trip to California to meet with Eric Carter, Dave Cullinan and Mike King…all legends of the sport.

From Dirt Issue 136 – June 2013

Words by Grant Robinson. Photos by Grant Robinson

Beep…Beep…Beep…Uuuuggghh, why is my alarm going off so early? Where am I? Oh yeah, California. F–k. Big day. Double f–k. Massive day. Can you have triple f–k? I’m gonna have it anyways. Three massive days in a row coming up. Wow. Butterflies. Haven’t felt these for a while. OK, treat them just like any other day. Take your camera, keep them on your side and just do your thing. But they’re your heroes…you know, the ones you wanted to be, the ones who were doing what you tried to copy every day of your teenage life. Coffee, that’ll help. God I hate cheap hotels.

We’ve all been there. In our early teens, far too impressionable and with interests that run deep. Too deep. Once a month I rode my BMX on a 12 mile round trip when the bookshop in town called to say my special order of the new bike magazines had dropped. I did four paper rounds a week to pay for those things and I was desperate to buy a mountain bike. My best friend had just got one for his birthday, he’d let me take it for a spin and it was so much faster in the woods than my 20″ (I grew up on the outskirts of a Canadian logging town, BMX tracks didn’t exist). Plus three guys had just crossed over from BMX racing and made these new ‘big’ bikes look cool as hell. It helped that they were from California, the place of all things cool; and I’d heard that they hung out with supercross riders too, so they could have been gods for all I cared. On top of this, they wore THOSE helmets. You know the ones, painted by a guy called Troy Lee who, for some reason, I thought was a girl for a long time…don’t ask ’cause I don’t have the answer. Most importantly they brought with them something that had been missing all along. Style. Until they showed up the only rider that brought any of that to the game was Tinker Juarez and he was in a league of his own. As the alcohol fuelled Charles Bukowski once said, “Style is the difference, a way of doing, a way of being done…to do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art.”

Who am I talking about? Well it can only be Dave ‘Cully’ Cullinan, Eric ‘EC’ Carter and Mike King. Between them their titles are many. The history books will tell you that multiple National and World titles in both BMX and MTB racing went their way and they were at the top of their game for a long time, but what the books can’t tell you is that BMX and MTB racing would not be what we know it today if it wasn’t for them. Brian Lopes could be a part of this list too, but sorry Brian, you didn’t make my teenage ‘cool wall’ (and you are still racing) but I hope we can still be friends.

They were the first to use clipless pedals, the first to use riser bars and most importantly for MTBing, they were some of the first riders to develop suspension in the direction that we know it today. The crazy thing is that it all might never have happened. Girl’s bikes, money and a whole lot of luck all played a significant part in giving rise to these three as giants of our sport. ‘Who cares’ you might say? Time has moved on, riders and equipment today would put them to shame. Oh yeah? Think again. You would weep with joy if you had even a fraction of the style, speed and finesse that these three still possess.>>

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