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Interviews

Mike Smith

Name?

Mike Smith.

Age?

21.

Home?

Hedley Down, Hampshire.

Job?

Bike Mechanic at Cycleworks in Haslemere, Surrey.

Sponsors?

DMR, DirtyHabit, SixSixOne, Profile.


How long have you been riding and did you ever make a conscious
decision that you wanted to be a trails rider?

I have been riding bikes for about seven years and got into trail riding
through Ollie Wilkins, who invited me down to his trails at Milford getting
on for six years ago. Watching him made me think I would like to ride more
trails, so no real conscious decision, just a natural progression I guess.

How long have you been riding for DMR bicycles?

It must be about four years. I was invited to the first KOD national series
comp, myself and Ollie Wilkins went along, they liked our riding and we
were picked up there.

You have a background in gymnastics, how does this benefit your
riding?

I can’t believe you asked that question! Now people will think I’m into
tights and tutus! I haven’t done it for some time but when I was younger
I did a lot. It is a massive asset. Spatial awareness and strength are two
of the biggest advantages, you know where you are throughout a spin or
flip and you have the strength to do limb tricks and I think it is just a good
base to build a strong body from.

Is there anything that you are really picky about when it comes to
setting up your bike?

Not really, I just like it to be clean, I like it to work and feel really solid. You
get on some peoples’ bike and they are just hanging, it feels all loose and
sloppy. I like mine to be tight and together and just work, as it should do. A
bike is designed to work, so you might as well get the best out of it.

What is your favourite part on your bike?

I think probably the front hub, only because it stands out from everything
and everyone else. It’s a difficult question though because I have a setup
that just seems to work. The frame is spot on, I really like the geometry and
all the little trick bits do their job perfectly. I don’t stick anything on unless
it serves a purpose and serves it well.

Are there any personal modifications that you have made to your
bike?

I guess the stickers. They are limited edition so they match my hub and are
different from everyone else’s. I like it to have a bike that is unique even if
it is in the small details. As soon as I get a new frame through I’ll put the
ASP mounts upside down so the brake can run on the underside of the
frame. DMR frames are unique in this feature, it keeps things out the way,
looks cleaner and there is less chance of them being ripped off.

How much input do you and the rest of the DMR team riders have in
frame and component design?

I would like to think a lot. Product development is one of the main reasons
for having a team such as DMR. The final look of stuff is left to designers
Matt and Damo but they do listen to us and take our opinions seriously.
The 14mm fork bolt is a good example. I mentioned it to them last year and
they went about making a production model and now you can run a BMX
hub with no problems and it just gives that extra bit of strength.

We always hear riders talking about gear ratios. For trail riders and
you in particular how important is it and what gearing do you run?

For UK trail riders I don’t see it being that big an issue because trails
nowadays are so well built for flow that you shouldn’t really need to pedal
in between jumps. Myself, I run the same ratio that I always have which
is 36/16 or 25/11 micro drive. I don’t see it to be that big an issue more
personal preference but this is what you’ll find on most trail bikes.

What are the benefits to micro drive?

It just keeps things tucked up and out of the way. If you’re banging around
on some street stuff or hang up a jump real bad the chainring isn’t so big
so it’s less likely to be broken. It looks cleaner as well but there is the drawback that because of it being smaller it is spinning more therefore
wears out quicker.

Do you prefer steel or aluminium?

I prefer steel. More flex and less chance of catastrophic failure. Steel
bends, aluminium snaps, and that’s not what you want to happen when a
landing goes a bit wrong…

Do you go for lightweight or strength?

It is a bit of a compromise really. My frame is pretty light but super strong
and I run rigid forks to cut the weight a bit as well. It helps to have a light
bike for tricks and spins. It is easier to manoeuvre and also to throw away
if it all goes wrong.

What parts do you break the most often?

That’s a hard question. I have a pretty strong setup at the moment and
haven’t broken anything for a while. The last thing I broke was a DMR
Chieftan 3–piece crank, and that was only after it had been on numerous
bikes and was four years old! More breakages tend to come from bailing
and throwing your bike away than from hard riding.

Do you do all the work on your own bike?

Yes, being a mechanic at Cycleworks in Haslemere I do all the work on my
bike and everyone else whose ride ends up in the shop.

Is there any favourite thing to do?
Wheels, just threading away, they are therapeutic really.

What is your favourite trick?

Probably flips or a variation of a flip, you are going in a straight line so
they look a bit cleaner than twists. Recently I have been working on my
flow rather than big tricks because that is what makes the UK trail scene
unique.

Would you say flow is the biggest difference between the UK and US
riders?

I would say yes. A lot of UK riders have a background in BMX trails
where knees in, tucked up over jumps and staying tight is most important.
Hucking comes from the States where a big bag of tricks is what people
want to see. They do have a lot of big tricks dialled, but between the
jumps they often are all loose and look a bit kooky. Trails in the UK are
built different than those Stateside. They maybe aren’t as big and crazy
but they are big enough and far more technical.

Another big difference between the UK and the US is the 24”/26”
debate.

Again, I think it goes back to a BMX background. There are some super
stylish 26” riders but this size wheel lends itself more to downhill or big
bumpy tracks. I just think of it as using the best tool for the job and for
trails it is undoubtedly 24”. For the big freeride events 26” is the way to go
and probably full suspension.

You also ride downhill and BMX, do you try to mix it up between the
three and do you have any particular favourite?

Any type of riding helps your overall skill. I try to get out on my downhill
bike a couple times a week and the same for my jump bike. BMX has
taken a bit of a back seat but I still enjoy it when I go out. Trails would
have to be my favourite because its what I do and I’m good at it. Downhill
comes a close second as it is probably the scariest and most gnarly but if
I was better at it I would try and do more. I love the speed and feeling on
the edge.

A number of British trail riders have made the move up to big freeride
events, do you see yourself entering any of these events?

I thought about it and thought I would enjoy it, but like I said before, you
have to move up to 26” and full suspension and I like the smaller bike, and
a lot of riders must just be nutting themselves and I want to stay in one
piece.

Getting laid or getting on your bike?

Getting laid on my bike would be best, I’ll have to work on that one, but
ultimately if a girl tries to get between me and my bike the bike is gonna
win every time.

Shout outs?

Yeah, big one to Ian, Matt and Damo at DMR. Also, Sam at Profile and
Matt at MMA for the SixSixOne support and especially Mum and Dad for
the trips to the hospital and all their other help.

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