Words and photos: Mark Noble

With BMX going the way it is, it’s no surprise that the growing rage of bike contests would soon make its mark here in England. Okay, so we don’t have 98 TV channels outbidding each other for prize money, but promoters are seeing opportunities to create action-sports events. Enter the 1999 Urban Games. This new event came from a snowboard crew, and since their knowledge in bike events was pretty slim, they enlisted Ride UK’s Paul Roberts to help out.

Happening the same month, barely 60 miles away, was the oldest contest in BMX. The King of Concrete has been going for over a dozen years, and each year it gets better and better. A couple stale years in the mid-90s tarnished the KOC’s reputation as the best contest in Europe, but this year everything was set to make it the best KOC to date.

And so, one month in the Summer was set to hold the two greatest bike contests that were ever staged in England…or something.

*****

The Urban Games

Phil Dolan switching on his way to fifth at King of Concrete.

Sponsored by the largest soft drink company in the World. Organized by a snowboard company. Set in a London park. PR agencies. Advertising campaigns. Perhaps the Urban Games had the ingredients for a BMX disaster, but the proof was definitely in the pudding. The vert ramp was 40-feet wide, the dirt contest featured two big four-packs, and the street course was massive. Paul Roberts made sure that BMX was properly represented amid all the other sports, and by all accounts, BMX basically took over. All three days had qualifiers and finals, and Saturday also saw round two of the European King of Dirt series.

Dirt

The jumps were constructed from dirt which required a little work to get right, and the sets were built slightly up hill. But once a huge roll-in ramp was made and the jumps were hardened by cement dust and an army of shovel-wielding riders, the stage was ready. Riders had to go left or right after the roll-in, and you could transfer from one set to another using big gaps which were not for the squeamish. Since this was a European KOD weekend, the amount and quality of riders was amazing. Add into the mix of elite European riders a certain American by the name of Chris Stauffer, and you know that a jumping contest of epic proportions was about to take place.

Bibi, BlackJack, and Julien Rochissani. I could have made all these names up and you’d be none the wiser¿but I didn’t. These guys rule Euro KOD contests. S&M’s Bibi won the Urban Games final on Sunday, and also got second during the Euro KOD. Bibi’s got incredible trails skills and style, and big tricks to boot (tailwhips, 720’s), but he hadn’t accounted for Haro’s Stephen Murray during the Euro KOD. Stephen was transferring, getting the nose down, flipping the first set and landing with enough pump to smoothly trick the second. Rochissani got second just ahead of Stauffer, who was up to his “usual stuff.” The guy is liquid.

Vert

These weren’t the best vert contests ever (a separate comp was held each day). The ramp was built on a slight slope which made it under-vert on one side and over on the other, but most riders didn’t have too much of a problem. Include in that group one Matt Hoffman. All the big stuff came out of Matt’s bag of tricks, and he scared a lot of young girls who had drifted into the arena to see what the fuss was all about. Suffice to say, Matt took first place in the vert final on Saturday, but he pulled out of the vert contest on the next day.

Sunday’s vert contest was all about Jerry Galley. So much power, yet so effortless at the same time, and unpredictable? You never know what’s coming next. Jerry gets the nose down on his 540’s so hard that his second 540 is often higher than the firs Apparently he once tore the front end off a bike hanging up his front wheel up on one. He does 360-airs about four or five feet out landing fakie, inverts, brakeless nosepicks¿he just goes for it, and nails it. First place.

Flatland

The original site for Sunday’s flatland contest was beside a basketball court behind the dirt jumps, but the riders soon discovered this area was bumpy and no good. The only area left was the flat ground in the street course, which limited the size of the arena since riders had to avoid ramps during their runs. It sounded like flatland got the shaft again, but it did bring the comp indoors in front of a lot more people, and the five riders in the finals seemed to ride all right. The tight, difficult area suited Phil Dolan’s riding. He kept it clean and fast, and the stands erupted each time he completed one of his switching, bike flipping front wheel combos. First.

Street

The street course that greeted the riders was certainly the biggest and best of any contest in the UK so far. The large area was filled with something for everyone¿banks, gaps, quarterpipes of all sizes, wall-rides, spines, rails, grind boxes, and guard-rails¿more on those in a minute.

Hoffman’s Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla was on hand, and was finding lines everywhere. He nailed a fufanu to icepick on a five-foot guard-rail behind one of the bigger quarterpipes, then rode straight across the floor into an abubaca on a six-foot tall guard-rail on an even bigger quarter. Scott Malyon was also in there, and no one goes bigger over a jump box. Stuart King made a welcome return to the contest scene, and he fufanu’d the big guard-rail that Rooftop did an abubaca on earlier (but not before falling over the back on one attempt, 16 feet to the floor). Fids was something else, though. He looked at one ramp, saw another one in the next time-zone, and decided it was a bridgeable gap. Jerry Galley didn’t ride street on Sunday, yet he won the finals on Saturday¿but not before knocking himself out crashing a fufanu on the biggest guard-rail on the course, then coming back to pull it clean a minute later.

The crowds dispersed following the street contest, and for all intents and purposes, the Urban Games were all about BMX. Word has it that this was the first of an annual event, and the organizers plan to make it bigger and better for next year, and we can’t wait. *****

King of Concrete

With the buzz from the Urban Games, everyone knew the boat had to be pushed out for this year’s King of Concrete, or the title for Europe’s top contest would be stolen. The King of Concrete was set to be a three day contest, and points from all the events were added up for an “overall” title. More riders than ever before squeezed through the gates, the stands were full, and this was to be the best KOC contest ever.

Flatland

Jerry Galley, invert at the Urban Games.

Flat was organized in part by Haro’s Effraim Catlow, so you know ground riders were well taken care of. This event is known as being the best ground contest in Europe, and with all the shenanigans going on at American TV contests, maybe even the World. Jeez, even Chase Gouin was there.

As is the case with modern flatland contests, you had to be dialed and on top of your game. For example, with second at the X Games and this year’s World Champion title under his belt, Phil Dolan took fifth place. James White rolled into fourth, Effraim Catlow put his clipboard down long enough to take third, and the top two was an epic battle between the Nordic flatland machine, Martti Kuoppa, and the French Master, Alex Jumelin. Every ground rider knows Martti is pushing the flatland envelope. However, Alex rode a perfect, flawless run that was crammed with the good stuff, and had everyone talking about it the next day.Bowls

No KOC would be the same without a bowl contest, and Southsea has them all¿snake runs, jump bowls, peanut bowls, a cereal bowl, and Satan’s Toilet, complete with a vert extension and rails. Pretty much, only one rider can actually tame the Toilet, and that’s Dennis Wingham. He carves out of the vert extension and gets way higher than anyone else. A no-hander gone wrong sent Dennis to the drainage hole at the bottom, and that’s a long way, but he still won.

Vert

Eight riders entered Pro vert, but bear in mind that the KOC vert contest isn’t always the biggest around. Years of holding the comp on one of the worst vert ramps in the country has not given the it the most glowing reputation. But with a brand new ramp, this could all change. Jerry Galley was in the house and was, as ever, ruling the joint with 360s, massive 540s, upside-down inverts¿he was on. Jonas Malmberg was also pulling out the big tricks¿two high, perfect flairs, tailwhips, and more for second. Jonas was now well on his way to accumulating enough points for the KOC overall title.

Spine

There was a big range of ramps that slotted together and moved around the park, and the spine ramp was in the center. A big deck was on one side, and a head-high guard-rail on the other. Enter the ever-technical Schauff team from Germany. One Schauff guy named Benno had crazy-low bars that probably came off a cruiser, and was pulling nutcase links over the spine, as well as tailwhips to peg stalls. Marcus Wilke has more style than most, and combined this with tech stuff over the spine that just looked impossible for second. But in first was Jerry again. God only knows where he gets his pump from. He’d just drop in and BOOM. Massive 360’s over the spine, abubacas on the guard-rail, the works. First place.

Street

About 30 Pros entered street, and all the contents were there for the best contest of the year. Dennis Wingham dusted the concrete off his chin long enough to do a customary backflip over the box, a front flip, a wall-ride, a big 540 on the quarter, and then it was on to the guard-rails. This item of street furniture must have had a target painted on it, because everyone was using it, and you had to do something never seen before to stand out. Dennis saw the obstacle a couple days before the contest and knew what he was going to do¿the sweetest Canadian nosepick on the five-foot rail out of the seven-foot quarter. Nathan Wessel and Rooftop represented Etnies at the contest, and unsurprisingly, Rooftop looked at the course slightly differently than the other riders, flipping over the big gap from the spine to the box, more gaps, and a perfectly pulled fufanu to icepick on the guard-rail. Wessel was all over the course as well¿big gaps, and fastplants to wall-rides. Jonas Malmberg was still in the hunt for the overall title, and nothing was stopping him. Big flairs on the quarterpipe, wall-rides, gaps, no-handed flips over the box, step-through icepicks on the guard-rail, and he barspun an enormous gap from one of the launch ramps onto the café roof.

And once more, it was time for Jerry Galley. The rail was all about Jerry¿he not only did an abubaca on it, but he also did a backside boneless on it, climbed up and did a bomb drop to fakie on it, and then pulled a hurricane (tiretap to fakie) on the rail. He was on fire.

Jump Box

KOC ended with the traditional jump box contest. Here, as last year, it was all Scott Malyon. The contest finished off with a thirty-man train over the jump box, a bunch of kids stealing banners, and prize giving.

Each year, King of Concrete combines a lot of tradition and heritage with all that’s new and great with riding these days. It’s evolved through the years and has improved in the same way that riding has. It’s not a contest built for TV or made to promote the new Ford Taurus. It’s a contest for RIDERS. What could b, and had everyone talking about it the next day.Bowls

No KOC would be the same without a bowl contest, and Southsea has them all¿snake runs, jump bowls, peanut bowls, a cereal bowl, and Satan’s Toilet, complete with a vert extension and rails. Pretty much, only one rider can actually tame the Toilet, and that’s Dennis Wingham. He carves out of the vert extension and gets way higher than anyone else. A no-hander gone wrong sent Dennis to the drainage hole at the bottom, and that’s a long way, but he still won.

Vert

Eight riders entered Pro vert, but bear in mind that the KOC vert contest isn’t always the biggest around. Years of holding the comp on one of the worst vert ramps in the country has not given the it the most glowing reputation. But with a brand new ramp, this could all change. Jerry Galley was in the house and was, as ever, ruling the joint with 360s, massive 540s, upside-down inverts¿he was on. Jonas Malmberg was also pulling out the big tricks¿two high, perfect flairs, tailwhips, and more for second. Jonas was now well on his way to accumulating enough points for the KOC overall title.

Spine

There was a big range of ramps that slotted together and moved around the park, and the spine ramp was in the center. A big deck was on one side, and a head-high guard-rail on the other. Enter the ever-technical Schauff team from Germany. One Schauff guy named Benno had crazy-low bars that probably came off a cruiser, and was pulling nutcase links over the spine, as well as tailwhips to peg stalls. Marcus Wilke has more style than most, and combined this with tech stuff over the spine that just looked impossible for second. But in first was Jerry again. God only knows where he gets his pump from. He’d just drop in and BOOM. Massive 360’s over the spine, abubacas on the guard-rail, the works. First place.

Street

About 30 Pros entered street, and all the contents were there for the best contest of the year. Dennis Wingham dusted the concrete off his chin long enough to do a customary backflip over the box, a front flip, a wall-ride, a big 540 on the quarter, and then it was on to the guard-rails. This item of street furniture must have had a target painted on it, because everyone was using it, and you had to do something never seen before to stand out. Dennis saw the obstacle a couple days before the contest and knew what he was going to do¿the sweetest Canadian nosepick on the five-foot rail out of the seven-foot quarter. Nathan Wessel and Rooftop represented Etnies at the contest, and unsurprisingly, Rooftop looked at the course slightly differently than the other riders, flipping over the big gap from the spine to the box, more gaps, and a perfectly pulled fufanu to icepick on the guard-rail. Wessel was all over the course as well¿big gaps, and fastplants to wall-rides. Jonas Malmberg was still in the hunt for the overall title, and nothing was stopping him. Big flairs on the quarterpipe, wall-rides, gaps, no-handed flips over the box, step-through icepicks on the guard-rail, and he barspun an enormous gap from one of the launch ramps onto the café roof.

And once more, it was time for Jerry Galley. The rail was all about Jerry¿he not only did an abubaca on it, but he also did a backside boneless on it, climbed up and did a bomb drop to fakie on it, and then pulled a hurricane (tiretap to fakie) on the rail. He was on fire.

Jump Box

KOC ended with the traditional jump box contest. Here, as last year, it was all Scott Malyon. The contest finished off with a thirty-man train over the jump box, a bunch of kids stealing banners, and prize giving.

Each year, King of Concrete combines a lot of tradition and heritage with all that’s new and great with riding these days. It’s evolved through the years and has improved in the same way that riding has. It’s not a contest built for TV or made to promote the new Ford Taurus. It’s a contest for RIDERS. What could be better? See you at KOC 2000.ld be better? See you at KOC 2000.