Throughout this year, award-winning independent film-makers Pip Piper and Michael Clifford have teamed up with us at Singletrack to put together a new documentary about the birth and development of mountain biking in the UK.
The thought of someone immortalising Great Britain’s unique contribution to our beloved sport got us very excited indeed – so excited, in fact, that we signed up as co-producers with the Blue Hippo Media Team to help bring the film to life initially through a successful crowd funding campaign and associated industry marketing.
Now ‘Mountain Biking – The Untold British Story’ is nearly ready and we caught up with Pip to talk about the making of the film and its upcoming premier this summer.
So Pip, tell us about the film:
“Well, it’s the first time ever this story has been told. It’s never been mentioned in a book except in passing, let alone had a film made of it. As Brant Richards puts it, it’s history that’s been documented in the backs of magazines, but it’s never been pieced together and put out there.”
It seems like you’re trying to present an alternative to the usual narrative of mountain biking being a US invention…
“Everyone believes that mountain biking came from California, and in a sense it did – the term mountain bike was coined by Gary Fisher. But before then, and around the same time, there were people in Britain designing off-road bikes and riding off-road – the Rough Stuff Fellowship, for example, which started in 1955. Geoff Apps was designing very cleverly engineered bikes specifically for off-road use, like a bicycle version of a Land Rover, as far back as the mid 1960’s. Geoff came from a motorbike trials background and so did Peaty, Rob Warner, Martyn Ashton, all those guys. His bikes were meant for riding across rivers, up banks and through bogs. The guys in California were these blonde, tanned hippies bombing down mountains in the sunshine – they had the sizzle, and that was what sold.”
So how did the UK version of mountain biking catch on?
“It took companies like Muddy Fox to bring the fun back into mountain biking. We interview the founders in the film – in fact we brought them back together after 25 years! They made bikes like the Courier that were actually taken up by lots of people, particularly cycle couriers in London funnily enough. Suddenly their bikes were everywhere and they were instrumental in the explosion of mountain biking in the UK.”
Someone on the Singletrack Facebook page made a comment along the lines of “Two hours of watching Peaty and JMC, great!” But it’s going to be a bit more than that, isn’t it?
“Of course we’ve got Jason in there – we couldn’t leave him out. We interview Peaty, T-Mo [Tracy Moseley – Ed], and Martyn Ashton too, but we also have interviews with unsung heroes like Steve Behr, who was photographing the scene from the start, and Tym Manley, the first editor of MBUK. There are plenty of people in there you won’t have heard of – just ordinary riders who were there are the time – because we wanted to tell the story from their perspective too. And we’ve got a lot of great unseen archive footage. There’s one guy who had some incredible stuff – footage of Jason McRoy racing before he’d even started his career, for example. He was one of the people filming stuff right from the beginning. We’re not 100% sure what will end up in the film yet but we’ve got some brilliant material to work with.”
So it’ll be quite an eye-opener, even for people who are already familiar with the story?
“One of the great things about the film is that we’ve had people who are right at the heart of the UK mountain bike scene – Tracy Moseley for example – saying ‘I never knew that!'”
You’re going to have Danny Mac in there too…
“Yes. We’re filming with him at Fort William very soon. He called us when he was driving down from Skye and was so excited – he really wants to be in it which is great.”
How did you come to co-produce the film with Singletrack?
“Mark and Chipps were extremely supportive on our previous project, ‘Bicycle: A Very British Movement’ (www.bicyclethefilm.com) , and for our follow-up we wanted to do a film about mountain biking specifically, so we asked if they’d like to work with us. It’s an unusual and unique thing for a magazine to be doing, but it was perfect for us as they had access to the people and the stories. They were really excited about seeing the film and story come to life and have been instrumental in helping us make it happen. We also have to say a massive thank you to our crowd funding supporters and all the sponsors who have helped make the film possible.”
Where can people see the film?
“It’s being premiered in Hebden Bridge on July 16, but we’ve invited so many people that it’s full up already. There are some regional screenings coming up after that, and we’re also in talks with a cinema chain to give it a limited nationwide release, probably with a Q&A with the directors at most screenings.
“It’ll also be available directly to the public as a download, from the end of July. We think a lot of people will want to own a copy of the film. It’s a unique piece of shared British history.”
For the latest news on the film, head to our dedicated page singletrackworld.com/mtbmovie or keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
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