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When life was wheelie great! Fantastic pictures show youngsters hurtling up ramps in 1980s BMX craze


Whether it was hurtling up rickety ramps, flying through the air or pulling wheelies, it was the ultimate buzz for thrill-seekers in the 1980s.

Some daring young BMX riders even jumped their then trendy new bikes over friends and relations brave enough lie on the ground beneath them, through a bonfire, or even – with zero chancing of ever reaching dry land – off a pier into the sea, as these photos from those heady days show.

They are all from a new book telling the story of the BMX (it stands for bicycle motocross) craze in the 1980s when the bikes were a must-have. Barely a garden or park was seen without them as riders delighted in pulling all manner of stunts and off-road shenanigans.

Some went the whole hog with helmets and fancy racing suits, but in those pre-health and safety obsessed days many were simply having too much fun to bother. Now, of course, it is an Olympic sport too – and one at which Beth Shriever won gold and Kye Whyte silver at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

Marcus Rich is pictured above jumping Glen Weaver’s Escort and into the river Thames, Runnymede in 1984. Some went the whole hog with helmets and fancy racing suits, but in those pre-health and safety obsessed days many were simply having too much fun to bother

Ed Chester is pictured right on his Puch Sabre with a friend. ‘Rad’, short for radical, was BMX-ers’ slang for being cool or going higher or faster than anyone else

Ed Chester is pictured right on his Puch Sabre with a friend. ‘Rad’, short for radical, was BMX-ers’ slang for being cool or going higher or faster than anyone else

Whether it was hurtling up rickety ramps, flying through the air or pulling wheelies, it was the ultimate buzz for thrill-seekers in the 1980s. Mike Jones is pictured on rickety quarter pipe held together by nails in 1982

Whether it was hurtling up rickety ramps, flying through the air or pulling wheelies, it was the ultimate buzz for thrill-seekers in the 1980s. Mike Jones is pictured on rickety quarter pipe held together by nails in 1982

But for the books’ three co-authors, the old days of thrills and spills will always have the most special place in their hearts.

Antony Frascina, 50, an infant school teacher from Wigan, said: ‘In the early 80s BMX appeared from nowhere like a lightning bolt and changed my life forever. It was shiny and chrome and new. It was exciting and aspirational. It was often dangerous and scary but that was half the fun of it. Like any first love it never leaves you.’

With friends and fellow BMX fans Andrew Rigby, 44, an intensive care nurse from Liverpool, and Clint Pilkington, 46, a solutions architect from Manchester, he spent three years collecting hundreds of nostalgic photos and anecdotes from that glorious early era for the book, titled We Were Rad.

‘Rad’, short for radical, was BMX-ers’ slang for being cool or going higher or faster than anyone else.

Some daring young BMX riders even jumped their then trendy new bikes over friends and relations brave enough lie on the ground beneath them. Andy Ruffell is pictured above at a school in Gillingham

Some daring young BMX riders even jumped their then trendy new bikes over friends and relations brave enough lie on the ground beneath them. Andy Ruffell is pictured above at a school in Gillingham

Ian Burford and Clive Colyer at Warren Wood. The book focuses on the everyday riders from the 1980s who, as Antony puts it, enjoyed those ‘seemingly endless summers and the freedom of riding their bikes all day until the street lights came on at night and it was time to go home'

Ian Burford and Clive Colyer at Warren Wood. The book focuses on the everyday riders from the 1980s who, as Antony puts it, enjoyed those ‘seemingly endless summers and the freedom of riding their bikes all day until the street lights came on at night and it was time to go home’

Paul Newsholme is pictured above on his BMX. With friends and fellow BMX fans Andrew Rigby, 44, an intensive care nurse from Liverpool, and Clint Pilkington, 46, a solutions architect from Manchester, he spent three years collecting hundreds of nostalgic photos and anecdotes from that glorious early era for the book, titled We Were Rad

Paul Newsholme is pictured above on his BMX. With friends and fellow BMX fans Andrew Rigby, 44, an intensive care nurse from Liverpool, and Clint Pilkington, 46, a solutions architect from Manchester, he spent three years collecting hundreds of nostalgic photos and anecdotes from that glorious early era for the book, titled We Were Rad

The trio are well-known at BMX shows and have won prizes for building ‘old school’ bikes. 

The book focuses on the everyday riders from the 1980s who, as Antony puts it, enjoyed those ‘seemingly endless summers and the freedom of riding their bikes all day until the street lights came on at night and it was time to go home.’

Clint said the BMX he got as present one Christmas was ‘more than just a new set of tyres, it was the keys to the palace, the gateway to freedom, the door to Narnia. I lived on that thing.’

Andrew said the emergence and growth of BMX ‘gave us the ability to gain a degree of independence and freedom from a young age. We met new people of different ages and backgrounds. BMX united us. For those magical few years, BMX was everywhere and meant everything.’

We Were Rad, priced £45, is available via www.wewererad.com

Ronny Oner's Auntie is pictured above on his bike. Clint said the BMX he got as present one Christmas was ‘more than just a new set of tyres, it was the keys to the palace, the gateway to freedom, the door to Narnia. I lived on that thing'

Ronny Oner’s Auntie is pictured above on his bike. Clint said the BMX he got as present one Christmas was ‘more than just a new set of tyres, it was the keys to the palace, the gateway to freedom, the door to Narnia. I lived on that thing’

Mother Maureen Newsholme is pictured holding the ramp as son Paul goes up it on his BMX bike in the summer of 1981

Mother Maureen Newsholme is pictured holding the ramp as son Paul goes up it on his BMX bike in the summer of 1981

The family had gone camping when Paul's mother holds the board up for her son to make a ramp. She is seen laying down with the ramp on top of her so Paul can do the jump

The family had gone camping when Paul’s mother holds the board up for her son to make a ramp. She is seen laying down with the ramp on top of her so Paul can do the jump

One rider above is pictured losing a wheel. Antony Frascina, 50, said: ‘In the early 80s BMX appeared from nowhere like a lightning bolt and changed my life forever'

One rider above is pictured losing a wheel. Antony Frascina, 50, said: ‘In the early 80s BMX appeared from nowhere like a lightning bolt and changed my life forever’

Paul Taylor is pictured above with three friends. The pictures are all from a new book telling the story of the BMX (it stands for bicycle motocross) craze in the 1980s when the bikes were a must-have

Paul Taylor is pictured above with three friends. The pictures are all from a new book telling the story of the BMX (it stands for bicycle motocross) craze in the 1980s when the bikes were a must-have

A BMX rider is seen jumping Glen Weaver's Escort and into the river Thames, Runnymede in 1984. BMX fan Andrew said the emergence and growth of BMX ‘gave us the ability to gain a degree of independence and freedom from a young age'

A BMX rider is seen jumping Glen Weaver’s Escort and into the river Thames, Runnymede in 1984. BMX fan Andrew said the emergence and growth of BMX ‘gave us the ability to gain a degree of independence and freedom from a young age’

Julian Sparrow jumps from Wilkies Pier at Portland Naval Base. Some riders went through a bonfire, or even - with zero chancing of ever reaching dry land - off a pier into the sea, as these photos from those heady days show

Julian Sparrow jumps from Wilkies Pier at Portland Naval Base. Some riders went through a bonfire, or even – with zero chancing of ever reaching dry land – off a pier into the sea, as these photos from those heady days show

Cecil at Gilligham

Cecil at Gilligham

Ashley Summers jumping Nye Martin's Ford Cortina in 1984.

Ashley Summers jumping Nye Martin’s Ford Cortina in 1984. 

Reece Irons is seen riding his BMX through a lit bonfire. He is seen grimacing as he jumps his way through the flames on his bike

Reece Irons is seen riding his BMX through a lit bonfire. He is seen grimacing as he jumps his way through the flames on his bike

John J.P. Paddick is seen in 1983 rumping from a ramp outside a house.

John J.P. Paddick is seen in 1983 rumping from a ramp outside a house. 

Andy Brooks on a visit to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Andy Brooks on a visit to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Dave Owens goes hands free

Dave Owens goes hands free

Gary Hales jumping out of the snakes at Gillingham

Gary Hales jumping out of the snakes at Gillingham

Dave Harvey is pictured above with daughters Jane, centre and Tasmin, seen right.

Dave Harvey is pictured above with daughters Jane, centre and Tasmin, seen right. 

Christian Francis is pictured jumping over a friend at St George's Park, Bristol, August 1984

Christian Francis is pictured jumping over a friend at St George’s Park, Bristol, August 1984 

Mark Lively is pictured above on the BMX bike on top of the bonnet, while Garry Weaver is seen in the car in a picture taken in Hereford in the summer of 1983

Mark Lively is pictured above on the BMX bike on top of the bonnet, while Garry Weaver is seen in the car in a picture taken in Hereford in the summer of 1983



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