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EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE – LEE AND RALPH | INTERVIEW

Dirt takes a look at the current state of the UK dirt jumping scene and how two young riders are helping to shape its future…

DIRT ISSUE 143 – JANUARY 2014 

Words by Gareth Howell. Photos by Gareth Howell

It seem to me that as a rule the younger generation of riders are getting increasingly lazy, especially when it comes to building places to ride, I mean it’s all done for them these days. Luckily with every rule there are exceptions.

I particularly I worry about the state of the mountainbike trails scene. A few years back, when dirt jumping was in its heyday, if you put on a jam there’d be a huge turnout. Even before social media you could still expect at least 30 or 40 riders to show up even on a quiet day, simply through word of mouth. These days that’d be a bloody good turnout. The kids that are hitting the dirt nowadays seem to be going at it in a completely different way, training in skateparks to get their tricks down, but for the most part lacking the basic bike skills to allow them to get through a proper set of trails. This also shows in the numbers down the local trails on a regular basis. Pretty much all the diggers at spots I’ve spoken to (with a few exceptions) have remarked on the severe shortage of willing workers. I suppose this is probably down to the ever–increasing abundance of ready–made skate and bike parks that cut out the need for all the commitment and manual labour. I can see the appeal, especially as I’m getting older and free time is beginning to get in shorter and shorter supply. However I do feel that a whole generation of riders are missing out on one of the best bits about riding bicycles on dirt – that experience of working hard to create something from nothing and then getting to ride something that you built exactly how you wanted simply cannot be matched.

Luckily there are exceptions to every rule, in this case in the shape of Lee Boarer (21) and Ralph Baggs (17). Most of the people reading this will have come across the name Jimmy Pratt before, most likely in these very pages. DMR’s trail boss has been renowned as one of the UK’s most stylish and committed trails riders for many years now. At the moment he’s out through injury, but these two lads (almost Jimmy’s protégés) are hot on his heels and I reckon they’ve got the skills to give him a run for his money. They both go so high and are so stylish that they stand out amongst any company, BMX or MTB, and at whatever level. They also work their balls off down the trails and that’s becoming a bit of a rarity. I’m hoping that by showcasing this talent and hard work it’ll lead to a few of the kids out there leaving the foampit alone for a winter and picking up a spade. So here’s the master himself, Mr ‘Jimmy’ Pratt, to talk things through…

Dirt: So you’ve been off the bike and spade for a while now, what’s the story there?

Jimmy: Yes since the end of March I’ve been off all exercise! MRI has confirmed that I have a slipped disc with a bulge in it and I’ve torn the ligament around the disc.

How long until you’re back in action?

It could be up to 2 years, not good. Just doing physio at the moment but with no improvement yet.

In the meantime, who’s looking after the trails?

We have Ralph and Lee doing a fine job, I would be screwed without them. Anyone who digs trails will understand that to have two friends who know what to do with a spade and get it done, and done well, is sooooo good.

It’s a huge amount of work keeping a set of trails such as yours running, let alone progressing. I know you’re still acting as foreman but how does it feel taking a bit of a back seat on the actual spadework?

It’s horrible. I’ve been digging my trails for 11 years now, sometimes by myself or just one other person. In the last 4-5 years I’ve been fortunate to have had Ralph at first and then Lee making his re-appearance, this means the trails are constantly progressing. Most of all they share a very similar passion and enthusiasm to ride and take the trails to new levels of radness!

How old were Lee and Ralph when they first started coming down?

Both were 12 years old, makes me sound dodgy but I was younger then too! And strangely enough out of all the hundreds or probably thousands who have ridden the trails they are the youngest two to have gotten through.>>

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