Photo: Jeffery Kilmer
Years riding: 9
Sponsors: Black Market Bikes, Atomlab and Profile Racing USA
Bike set-up: Rigid, brakeless, 26”
Music: Death Metal
Riding style: Street
Street is an area where 20” wheels have always dominated. The list of high profile BMX riders is long, whereas I can count the number of well known big wheel street riders on one hand. or at least I could have a few years ago. Product advancements, notably in 24 and 26” wheel frames, has resulted in an explosion of high calibre big wheel street riders. The boundary between BMX and mountain bikes has blurred: Is a rigid, brakeless 26” wheeled bike really a MTB? I know I’d rather ride a 20” wheel BMX bike with two brakes down a mountain.
One of the most well known 26” street riders is Matt Macduff, whose style is akin to most modern day BMX riders such as Garret Reynolds. Matt Jamieson on the other hand doesn’t do bar spins or tailwhips, yet is highly regarded. As he puts it:
“Matt Macduff, he’ll throw bars and whips over stuff, have you seen me do a bar spin or a whip ever? I can do whips once in a blue moon, I’ve done three bar spins in my life, I’m just not that good at that kind of stuff. I like gaps, I like going fast and hitting something and then hoping for the best.”
The first time I met Matt Jamieson was in 2006 when I started university in Sheffield. He caught my eye for several reasons: first of all, his crazy style; he was rocking a huge mullet and some snazzy attire. Then there was his bike. It was big, but it really was a 26” wheeled BMX. This was the first time I had seen a ’MTB’ with a rigid fork, no brakes and a freecoaster. I knew he was going to be good before he even dropped in, and when he did he didn’t disappoint. He was doing big hip 450s and huge airs, and it was clear he had the park sussed out. His loud style and big bike made the moves more pronounced. Matt stood out for sure.
Fast forward five years to February 2012 and we are on our way to Corby. Disappointingly, Matt has a more conventional hair and clothing style, but his overall bike setup remains unchanged; the only differences are the logos. In 2009 Matt sent an email to Carter Holland with a video and he has ridden for Black Market Bikes ever since.
Before rewinding to the beginning of his riding history and delved into the experiences of a big wheeled BMX rider I asked him about his recent trip to Barcelona.
“I front wheel cased, and the bars turned 90 degrees and went into my stomach and took out my spleen and Kidney.”
In April Matt went to Barcelona with Steezy Bikes rider Tom Kilcoyne, BMX’er Tom Peters and skater Steve Watson to tear apart the street mecca and shoot some big moves for his upcoming feature edit.
Unfortunately luck wasn’t on their side and the usually sun soaked city was under water for the majority of their stay. On their last day they were finally rewarded with clear skies, but their misfortune didn’t end there:
“it was a beautiful day but me and Tom both got blow outs and we ran out of tubes and it was bank holiday Friday so nowhere was open... so we just went to the beach and got drunk.”
Did you manage to get a couple of sick sessions in?
We got a couple of good rides, but we all said that on the last day we would send it, but we never got to send it cause we got flats. So a lot of the big stuff I wanted to do, I couldn’t do. I’m booking the next trip in August this weekend to get that stuff done.
Why is Barcelona such a popular destination for street riders?
The place is ridiculous to ride. Every corner you turn you think oh I can ride that, I can ride that, what can I do on that... you actually get complacent. You get to a spot which has a load of good stuff but then there’s something better around the corner. If that was in Sheffield that spot would be raped but because it’s not quite good enough in Barcelona you go to the next one. For example there’s one spot which is just two miles of flat banks of different sizes and hips it’s just crazy.
In February Matt released a promo video of some clips of a rail hop attempt over a huge double set. The edit was due for release in April, but due to the weather both abroad and locally he hasn’t been able to film the big moves.
Have you landed the big drop in the promo?
No I haven’t stuck it yet. Thats one I’m going to go back to last. It’s not one I want to do but one I need to do it. I’ve got a couple of other big moves planned too but you’ll have to wait.
From the beginning
“My earliest memory of riding a bike was when I must have been 10 or 11 years old. I had a chrome BMX that my nan bought me, and I can remember going to work with my dad one day riding no handed and I was really amazed I could do that.”
Later on he hung around some kids with mountain bikes and subsequently Matt got into the sport. After riding cross country with his dad he discovered a trails spot in his home town of Scunthorpe, then proceeded to buy some triple clamp Rockshox forks for his XC bike and learnt how to ride the trails. After the head tube ripped off his frame he bought a Huffy BMX, but found it too small so returned to mountain bikes. When Matt was 15 he rode one the first dirt orientated MTB frames, the iconic DMR Trailstar. At 16 he suffered a horrific accident that put him off trails for a number of years and led to his exploration of the streets:
“I front wheel cased, and the bars turned 90 degrees and went into my stomach and took out my spleen and kidney.”
Other than that incident have you had any other big injuries?
That’s my biggest injury. Other than that when I was 20 I pulled my back one day. I didn’t really know what was wrong with me but it gave me sciatica in both my legs and I had it for a year until the doctors found out what was wrong with me; the disk of my spine had swollen up and it was pushing on my central spine hence why I had sciatica, which is a constant 24/7 pain in your legs. I couldn’t sleep or ride really.
“I believe everybody, no matter what they ride, should ride trails, because riding trails defines your style.”
When Matt was 18 he moved to Sheffield for university. On his first day in the Steel City he was thrown into the BMX scene at the deep end.
“On the first day I moved to Sheffield it was the Sheffield BMX street jam and there were 300 BMX’rs riding through the streets, so I tagged along with that and met up with Josh (Bedford), Joe (Cox),Tom Blyth and Dan Cox and everyone like that and then I started riding Dev (Devonshire Green skatepark) and street.”
How did they react when you showed up on your MTB?
No one really liked me... It took two years to be accepted and for people to think: ’he’s a MTBr but he’s not that bad’.
Do you think that MTB is more accepted in the BMX community these days?
Definitely, because you see it a lot more now. These days you might see a MTBr at the skatepark whereas before you wouldn't. They accept us because sometimes we are better than them... I can remember back in the day going to so many skateparks when MTB wasn’t so accepted and people were looking at me like what are you doing, but after they saw me ride they were like ’oright mate how’s it going’. They don’t expect you to be good. They expect you to carve a quarter like a berm or do an English bow legged hop over a hip. BMX riders start to respect you when they realise that you’re actually quite good.
So how do you respond when people say ’getabmx’
Just no. Nothing more nothing less just no. Too small.
On the face of it Matt is a BMX rider. He doesn’t follow the MTB scene. As he puts it, “I’ve pretty much been a MTB’er in denial, a BMX’er who rides a MTB and watches BMX videos.” He isn’t particularly bothered about the happenings in the BMX world either, he is more interested in the people he rides with rather than the guys on the screen.
“One of the guys that inspires me the most is Shane Steele cause he’s just a complete nutter. Whenever I ride with him I do better stuff cause he sends it so it feels like I need to send it too.”
Matt stayed in Sheffield after his uni course. He rode with BMX riders and mimicked their moves and fashions on his big wheels.
Sheffield was the street capital of the UK, thanks in part to a video made by Joe Cox. The influential BMX riders already lived in Sheffield, but it was the video Voices, released in 2006 and watched all over the world, that put the city at the heart of the street map:
“The video was mainly about Sheffield so everyone felt like they had to move to Sheffield and they did.”
But the street scene is Sheffield has since died down:
“When I first moved there were a hell of a lot of people, you wouldn’t be able to go on a street ride without bumping into other riders whereas now that’s not the case. (...) Street riding is more of a broader thing across the UK now, whereas before it was mainly about the Sheffield scene.”
Matt took his brakes off in his first year in Sheffield. Despite rolling on big wheels he conformed to trends in BMX.
“If you had brakes you were gay... I possibly did it because everyone else in BMX did, but also I think it is quite good because you get to learn a lot more things than when you have a brake. (...) I could roll up to a set of trails, look at them and know how fast to go, you just get to learn how fast to go at things a lot better. There’s obviously also the fact that you can’t back out of stuff. If you’re going fast at something then you have to do it, which helps. You shouldn’t start out riding brakeless though, it is only good once you’ve been riding for a couple of years.”
The one thing I didn’t get moving to Sheffield was that brakeless was more popular here than back at home, despite all the hills...
Yeah I know it makes no sense. It ruins your shoes, I must have spent about a grand on shoes, I need a shoe sponsor. In fact I don’t need a shoe sponsor I crave a shoe sponsor! I guess not having a brake in Sheffield makes no sense.
Whist Matt is known as a street rider, he has a distinctive trails style which is evident no matter where he rides. I asked him what he thought about kids learning tricks before style:
“I believe everybody, no matter what they ride, should ride trails. Riding trails defines your style. You have to have style otherwise you don’t get through the set, because you don’t pump properly and you need to know how to slow down and speed up in the air. I don’t know, trails just gives you style.
The issue is that riding is very competitive now. The aspect of fun of riding a bike is going out the window, which is unfortunate but true. Kids get on a bike and they just want to be like someone on a video they’ve just watched so then they do it and they get a bit of recognition, and tricks and tricks and tricks is how you do it so that’s what they do.
You’ll go to a skatepark and you do something that isn’t bad but then some 12 year old will go and do it better. You just think why... Stop being a dick!”
Photo: Tom Barnes
“I used to go out, set my camera up on a homemade tripod and jump off a building on my own, with no-one else around. So if I fell off I had to pick myself up and not worry about it.”
The real world
Matt wasn’t too happy when I brought up his modelling past: Not because he regretted doing it, but because of how it effected his ego at the time:
“I was a bit of a douche before. I got paid for a couple of modelling jobs and went around everywhere telling people I was a model.”
In the days of Myspace Matt’s style didn’t go unnoticed and shortly after he moved to Sheffield he was contacted by a guy from America who was putting together a book on alternative people from around the world. He went to London for a photo shoot and then he was in a book. I asked him how it was:
“I thought it was good. When I got back afterwards my girlfriend at the time took the piss out of me cause I did some with my top off, but apart from that... In fact the guy I did those photos for is coming back to England and he wants to do some more photos with me.”
You seem to have mellowed out a bit style wise...
I would advise anyone to go crazy with their hair while they’re young. Why not? You’ll only wake up one day and think, ’I wish I had crazy hair when I was younger’. You can get away with it so why not do it. That’s why I got tattoos as well because I didn’t want to wake up when I was old one day and think, ’I wish I had tattoos’. I wanted a bike related tattoo which wasn’t a chain or a chainring so I got a two headed eagle holding a shield which says 26 in it, obviously 26”, 26 for life.
Matt is practically minded and has always enjoyed making things, including a few bike parts which he made during college. He has plans to make his own components in the future for his online shop:
“I want to spend as much time of my life to do with bikes as I can. So when I’m no longer able to throw myself down a 20 stair set anymore I want to be able to continue my bike career but in other ways, like in the community with bike parts. I don’t think I can make things better than other people, I just want to prolong my time spent with bikes.”
He moved to Sheffield to train as an Engineer but after a couple of years in a job he was made redundant and retrained as a Pastry Chef, which is his current profession.
With his work commitments Matt often rides on his own:
“I do just go out on my own at night and ride. The last edit I made on my iPhone was filmed on my own. I used to go out, set my camera up on a homemade tripod and jump off a building on my own, with no-one else around. So if I fell off I had to pick myself up and not worry about it.”
It’s not very often that he rides during conventional hours, especially since his work doesn’t end there. In 2011 Matt set up Steeze Bikes, an online shop selling parts from his sister company Velony Distribution. The ethos of Steeze Bikes is to sell parts he knows work, either from first hand experience or that of his friends. It’s another avenue to prolong his time in the bicycle world, which he hopes will grow to a stage where it can become his sole livelihood. Shortly after setting up shop he sponsored Tom Kilcoyne.
“When I first met him he was on some crappy Handsome Dog aluminum trials frame with only a front brake, which was really weird, so I took him under my wing. He’s really good at what he does, he needs to broaden himself though and do some other tricks. I think he should try and ride some trails. He does a lot of backwards stuff. He is insanely good at fakie tricks. I don’t even know any other BMX rider who can do that stuff as well as him, but he does it so often that it’s ended up being what he does. He needs to relax a bit and learn some other stuff. I might give him some trails training. I don’t know if he will be up for it but I’ll try. I taught him how to air well at Barcelona because he didn’t know how to do that before, as he rides at Milly (Millhouses skatepark) which is flatbanks, rails and thats it.”
Do you have any plans to sponsor anyone else?
I haven’t really looked for other people because I want to concentrate on the shop. I don’t want to be like a lot of brands who are only known because of their riders. Some companies will have an amazing team but their actual products are rubbish. Their riders probably don’t even ride the products that they sell, they will just be paid to represent the brand with stickers all over their bikes. I want to have a good shop with good parts in it and then have a good team and eventually my own parts.
Sponsors and jams
In 2004 Matt received his first hook up from a small American company named Geekhouse after he broke one of their frames. In the email he sent about his broken frame he included a video, and the company liked what they saw. However his riding level soon surpassed the strength of their frames and he went through a frame a month:
“They kept cracking and I ripped the headtube off one. They made me a special beefy frame but I still broke that. Then one day I sent another email saying ’guys I broke another one’, and they just stopped replying to me, they just had enough which is fair enough I guess.”
In 2006 Matt rode at his first MTB jam at Epic skatepark in Birmingham. This was where he realised that he rode at a much higher level than other big wheel riders:
“I thought everyone would be at the same level as me, as I was three’ing boxes and airing quarters but they couldn’t. I guess I didn’t realise that before because I had never ridden with other MTB’ers.”
At the jam he spoke to Pete Fordman, the man behind Epic clothing, and was hooked up on the spot. Pete went on to found a distribution company that imported NPJ so Matt started riding NPJ bikes. During this time he went to a Ride Street jam in London, but it didn’t go well:
“On the first trick I did I snapped my cranks. That was fun. I had to push around the whole day with one crank on my frame. That was when I rode for NPJ, I had a ti axle in some cranks, and one side just snapped off. That was a pretty bad time, I had to borrow bikes all day, and push mine around. I was quite annoyed.”
Pete Fordman later closed his distribution company but two years after the first Epic skatepark jam Matt met the founder of NPJ, Niels Peter Jenson, a former BMX rider and an MTV presenter from Germany. Niels put Matt on the team, however things didn’t remain rosy for long:
“They (NPJ) sent me parts and that, but then they just went bust but they didn’t tell me. I don’t know if they went bust or they just stopped training. The line went dead overnight and I couldn’t get in contact with him, the company, they just disappeared. So then I didn’t have any sponsors as Epic changed their direction at that time too.
I wanted a new frame because mine was broken. I have always looked up to Black Market Bikes because they were always the company who had the most awesome, expensive, exotic frames ever. They were always in the limelight as being one of the best dirt jumping frame companies and I just thought right, I’ll send them an email. So I sent Carter (Holland) an email and he hooked me up and sent me a frame.”
Just like that, in 2009, Matt had his dream sponsor. Two months later he jetted off to New York for the Brooklyn Thrash Jam and met up with Carter.
How was the jam?
It was good. I wish I could have stayed longer, cause I got there the day before the jam and then a couple of days after I had to leave due to work as at that time I was living on my own and I had bills to pay and stuff like that so I couldn’t afford to go for any longer.
I met up with all the guys from The Rise, Matt Macduff, Adam Hauck and all those guys. There were a lot of people there and it was loads of fun riding through New York with loads of MTB’ers riding a bit of street, getting into trouble, it was cool. They were all nice people, just regular guys.
Do you have any plans to return to America?
I’d like to, going to America and staying with Carter are plans that I’ve had since I’ve started riding for Black Market but I just haven’t had the chance (...) and he’s got a lot going on at the moment, new frames, new bikes.
Earlier this year Matt acquired a new sponsor, Profile Racing USA.
Photos by Carter Holland
" I would like to do something street in some woods on a full suspension, full disk, full geared mountain bike. I’d like to try hand plants, threes and other big stuff in woods."
This summer Matt is moving to London, but before then he has some big riding plans:
“I’m going to try and get all the footage I want, go to Barcelona, ride more street in Liverpool and Manchester, and go to Unit 23 cause that just looks cray good, and go to Edinburgh and get lost. That’s the best way as a street rider, get to a city, ride around, get lost and see what you find.”
How do you think London will effect your riding?
It’s a big place so I don’t know. I think I’ll have less time to ride there because it’s more expensive to live so I’ll have to work more.
Are you excited about moving?
I’m excited to move there, but I’m not excited about working there. I’m too worried that I’m going to have to work my life away just to live there. I’m looking forward to it though because me and my girlfriend are going to get our first house together, and I’m really excited for that fact, and she has a really good job down there so I’m really excited for her and her job prospects in London, but for myself I don’t know which way it’s going to go.
Do you think you will live in London for long?
I don’t want to live in London forever that would be terrible. I would like to do two or three years. I’ve lived in Sheffield for eight years, and I’m pretty fed up of it. I can’t stay in places for too long, I like change and I like new things. That’s probably why I ride street so much, because you get on your bike, and you’ll ride it somewhere, and you’ll find a new spot just by riding around and looking for stuff.
Where do you want to move to later on?
No idea at all. The only plan I have in life that isn’t going to happen is to retire in Rome, because I like Rome, it’s a nice city.
Riding wise Matt is currently building up a freeride bike to ride in the woods, but you can bet he won’t ride it like an ordinary MTB:
“I would like to do something street in some woods on a full suspension, full disk, full geared mountain bike. I’d like to try hand plants, threes and other big stuff in woods.”
What got you into the idea doing more freeride, proper mountain biking kind of things?
Just cause I’ve been a BMX’er riding a MTB for such a long time I just think that I should be a guy riding a bike that’s a MTB, rather than being someone who just rides like a BMX’er, I just want to broaden myself a little bit, and I just fancy trying it.
Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
I’d like to be working as a chef less and less as the years go on, I’d like to see myself working part time with that and part time self employed with my own brand and shop, even if that’s just online. Still riding, maybe less street... As the years go on you can feel street taking it’s toll on you, the bodies not meant for jumping down stairs. I can see myself later on riding more trails and more mountain bike sort of stuff. I can’t really predict the future but I hope that I will still be riding and doing well with my projects, Steeze bikes and Velony.
A few of Matt’s bikes over the years. From top left: four Geekhouse frames (He ran sus for one day), three NPJ and two Black Market builds.
When I went on a little photoshoot with Matt the weather was far from ideal. It was windy and after sessioning a couple of spots it started to rain, so we went to a ghetto indoor skatepark in a disused building in the centre of Sheffield. The skatepark was built by Matt and other local BMX’ers at the start of the year, and it couldn’t have been in a more dodgy place. To get to the setup we had to carry our bikes through rubble, past crackheads who were off their face, through some more rubble and up a stair case, hoping that there weren’t any other drug users or squatters waiting for us. The setup consisted of a quarter, a small spine and a vert wall. Of course it was full of kinks and there was grass and nails all over the floor, and it was tight and difficult to ride; but this just made it more fun. DIY skateparks have character for sure, but I wouldn’t want to make this journey often.
Just thank you to those who’ve supported me, like Carter at Black Market, Atomlab, they’ve helped me out, and Profile. And then friends and family, Rebecca for putting up with me riding bikes and ditching her for bikes on sunny days.
Matt Jamieson’s latest edit, Barcelona Left Overs: