Photos by Ryan Nangle and Harry Steele
When Blake decided he wanted to get sponsored he entered a comp, placed third and shortly afterwards received his first contract. This wasn’t solely down to luck, but to his raw talent and sheer determination to make it to the top.
Blake’s main competition is Ray Samson. Having a brother who rides at a similar level is clearly conducive to his progression as everyday rides often escalate into full blown battles.
For 2012 the recently signed Saracen rider will compete in Dirt Wars and the Freeride Mountain Bike Tour among other national and international events. He will also continue to ride on the Animal Bike Tour.
Here Blake talks about moving from Zimbabwe to the UK, making it as a pro rider, competing against his brother and hanging out with with Ryan Nyquist.
Years riding: 9
Sponsors: Saracen Bikes, Animal clothing, Gusset, Halo wheels, OGIO, Bell, GoPro
Bike set-up: Saracen Amplitude ALX frame, Halo 4xr front wheel on Wide Boy hub, Chaos rear wheel on DJD hub, Gusset Hunter cranks, Gusset Nitro pedals, KHE Mac 2 dirt tyre’s, Fox 36 float lowered to 110mm, Gusset Open prison bar 750mm (I prefer 730mm so cut them down), Gusset Cult stem, Gusset Brake, Gusset Black Jack saddle (LOVE this saddle).
Drink: MILK and loads of it.
Music: Indie, rock, tecno, Dub Step.
Park or trails? Trails all the way
Style or tricks? Making big tricks look stylish.
Favourite trick? The 360.
Riding style: Explosive.
“MAAAAN the things that kids get away with (in school) is mental. If i was to do that in Zimbabwe, I would definitely get the cane.”
Hi Blake, welcome to getabmx! How’s it going?
Sup getabmx. I am long good, just getting ready to fly out to California for a month of sun, bikes, buddies and SHED loads of fun. So yeah all good.
2011 was a big year for you. What were your highlights?
Best year yet, highlights has to be ALL the Animal Bike tours that I did. 63 dates, thats mental right.
So you grew up racing BMX from a young age and started riding MTB when you moved to the UK. Why did you make the transition from BMX to MTB?
Thats right, I did start out BMX racing at a very young age, then I moved onto Motocross at the ago of 12, until we moved over to the UK when I was 15 and that was the time where I started buying MBUK mags. That is about the time I started getting to MTB. It was XC at first (I Know it’s a bit not cool, but that was the beginnings) and then I moved over to DJ.
Do you ever ride BMX these days?
I do on occasions yes. But not that much.
It must have been a huge change moving from Zimbabwe to the UK. How did you find it, and how did it affect your riding?
The move from a third world country to a first world country was a MAJOR shock to the system. The crazy thing was the schooling, MAAAAN the things that kids get away with is mental. If i was to do that in Zimbabwe, I would definitely get the cane.
With my riding it opened my eyes to what you can do. From there on my inspiration to progress my skill in riding was on the rise.
I’ve never been to Zimbabwe. What’s it like?
HOT, dry, beautiful, amazing and loads of freedom to what ever you want.
“From watching the Animal Bike tour when I was growing up and getting a wallet signed by Martyn himself and then to be riding along side him was like a dream come true.”
What was your journey from riding as a kid, getting your first sponsor, to getting picked up by big bike companies and competing in huge international events?
It all started when one day when I decided I wanted to get sponsored. So I went to my first ever UK comp, which was at Chicksands. I thought to myself, if I’m going to get sponsored, I have to enter the Pro class and win or get in top three. So I did. I rode the comp and to my amazement I place third which was AMAZING. I was lucky, because DMR was watching and the next comp I did was the last UK Bike show at NEC. That was the day I got my first sponsor, DMR Bikes. From there on my riding got better and inspiration to get even better was at a high again.
After doing a number of UK comps I wanted to progress and try my hand at EURO events. My first event was a event in Portugal at a Bike show. To my surprise I found myself at the top of the podium. From then on it was off to other bigger events in Europe, the more events I did the more I got noticed and that’s when I started to get noticed by big bike companies.
What’s it like riding on the Animal Bike tour to ride with Martyn Ashton and Sam Pilgrim? You must have been pretty stoked when you received the invite?
I was SOOOOO stoked to be asked to ride with Martyn Ashton and Pilgz. From watching the Animal Bike tour when I was growing up and getting a wallet signed by Martyn himself and then to be riding along side him was like a dream come true. Now four years down the line I am still loving it.
Do you enjoy riding in front of large audiences?
I love riding in front of loads of people, it’s a big buzz. It pushes me to do better.
Will Sam Pilgrim ever replace his missing tooth?
Naaaaa, never. But he does have a fake one that he does put in for the ladies.
Congratulations on your recent move to Saracen! I take it this was the big news you were going to unveil in this interview (if I sent it to you quickly enough haha). How do you feel about the move from Octane 1, and how did the change come about?
The move from O-1 was a good move over to Saracen. My contract for O-1 was just for a year, which Saracen took into count. It’s great to be riding for a UK based company such as Madison.
“The thing is, whether it’s BMX or MTB, we all love riding bikes.”
Do you have any filming for video sections or web edits in the pipeline?
There are one or two coming out soon. Look out for them.
I read that you rode with BMX legend Ryan Nyquist at Woodward for three days! Was he cool about the whole MTB skatepark thing? A lot of BMX riders disapprove of this, so it’s interesting to hear how one of the biggest names in BMX reacted!?
Man Nyquist was so cool with riding with us. He was tweeting Sam Pilgrim and myself straight after the a sesh, asking what time is the next sesh the next day. The thing is, whether it’s BMX or MTB, we all love riding bikes.
Do you ever get hate for riding a MTB in skateparks, and how do you respond to ’get a BMX’ comments?
Yeah I do but not much at all and my comment back is a look of “What the hell”.
Who do you usually ride with?
My brother Ray and Harry W Steele.
Who inspired you when you first got into riding, and who inspires you now?
The guy who inspired me the most when I started off was Grant ’Chopper’ Fielder and my inspiration comes from watch young dudes shredding hard nowadays.
The bar is being raised all the time. Do you feel under more pressure at comps now than when you started competing?
Yes, pressure is higher then it was. But what can you done. Send it hard and go bigger I guess.
Is there an unknown up and coming rider you have your eye on?
There are loads of up and coming riders, but for me there is a buddy I ride with all the time and it’s Harry W Steele. Loads of style and always wants to shred.
“At the comps there is more competition between me and Ray than the rest of the competition”
Who do you enjoy watching ride the most?
I haven’t got a favourite I watch all the time. But Pilgz, Brandon Semenuk.
What’s it like having a brother who rides? How much competition is there between you on a normal session and at comps?
Well at comps there is more competition between me and Ray than the rest of the competition hahaha. Riding with my brother is one of the best things. I always have a riding buddy and we always push each other to go bigger.
What is the best event you’ve competed in?
My first comp up at Chicksands, I got third place. BOOOOOM!
If you could build your dream slopestyle course, what would it be like?
AMAZING!!! Loads of crazy lines and fun stuff to ride.
Is there a trick you do regularly that still scares you?
YEAH flips on big jumps haha. I’m not a very straight flipper at all.
What has been the scariest trick to learn?
360 double whip.
Do you have a reserve of banger tricks you save for comps, for example in a final run to improve your score?
MMMMMMMMM, 360 double whip and some other tricks that I am working on.
“it’s great seeing kids pushing themselves but you’ve got to walk before you can run.”
Kids these days typically learn to bar spin before they can even air a quarter or whip a jump. Style definitely takes a back seat amongst the majority of young riders. What are your thoughts on this?
Nowadays kids are watching more and more web edits of big star riders in BMX and MTB, and the first thing that they want to do is be like the guy they’ve just watched. Thats why I think kids start on bigger trick like the flip and the bar spin. Were as when I started off it was no handers, no footers and other standard tricks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great seeing kids pushing themselves but you’ve got to walk before you can run.
Most stylish rider?
There are loads, but it’s between Brandon Semenuk and Brendan Fairclough.
What is your all time favourite riding video and section?
It has to be all of the NWD films and every section in them. Haha.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen done on a bike?
Flip whip drop!! One of my fav tricks and I want to LEARN that trick right now.
What is your fondest riding memory?
Landing my first 360 on a double.
Funniest riding experience?
A kid face planting the back of a double and left a face print in the dirt haha. Not funny but it was a very good moment.
Switzerland last year when a flip whip went wrong and I woke up in a MRI scanner. Not a great time.
You have ridden at numerous spots both in the UK and around the world.
What has been the best spot you’ve been to?
It has to be my local place to ride LYM.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Never say never.
Do you have any other hobbies?
Surfing, playing golf.
What are your goals and plans for 2012?
Do more comps, more sick edits and have more fun than last year.
Finally, why do you ride?
The freedom, way of life and it’s got to be the best thing ever.
What would it take for you to move back to Zimbabwe? Or are you fully content with England being your home now?
I am fully content in the UK. I have no intention of moving back to Zimbabwe.
Is it true that you can tame lions and eat venomous snakes for breakfast?
YES!! But it came with three or four scares.
Damion Lee Devlin
As a professional stunt man, do you feel like your becoming a bit of a super hero because of all the crazy things you do on an off the bike? If so, what powers have you unlocked through your adventures of life? =)
HAHAHAHA, Unlocked the superman I guess.
cheers Blake. All the best.