interview and photos by ed docherty
Name, age, sponsors:
James White, 29, Backyard/Seventies and Hoffman.
What happens on an average day?
Get up at five o’clock, kiss the wife, kiss the kids, go to work,
come home about mid-day, try and fit a bit of riding in, go to bed.
What are your kids names and ages?
There’s Brook who’s just turned two, and Megan who’s four months old.
Any interests or hobbies?No time! (laughs)
Name four bands that you like:Biz Markie, Stetsasonic, Doug E Fresh and Jay
Name four movies that you like:
Friday and all Adam Sandler’s films – that’ll do.
How long have you been riding?
Blimey, probably near twenty years but flatland only about ten.
Did you ever ride anything else?
Yeah, when I first started I raced. I just sort of progressed
to flatland. I’ve done everything, I just developed more into flatland. I didn’t
choose to do flatland, it just sort of developed that way. I never said, “Right,
I’m gonna be a flatlander, they’re dope”. If I’d done that I think I would have
chosen vert, you know, to get some money. (laughs)
Who do you ride with?
Me, myself and I. Occasionally with other people but 99% of the time on
What do you aim for when you ride?
Just to better what I did the day before… or the week before now. (laughs)
What influences you to come up with original tricks? Where do you get your ideas from?
I never really try to be original, I just try to copy. Just try
to find a different way of doing stuff, like in and out of stuff, rather than
making up an original trick. It just comes from riding and trying not to be
the same, rather than having to be original. I think your style is more important
than the original trick. If you’re pushing your own style then the original
tricks will come from that, rather than finding the original trick then developing
your style. I just push whatever I’m having fun with. That was a long answer!
I was getting into that! (laughs)
Which riders influence you? Do you watch riding videos or other riders to get influenced?
Yeah, the biggest influence would definitely be the Dorkin’ series. Just
to say Kevin Jones would be unfair really, it was the whole Dorkin’ series,
Mark Eaton and everyone that was on there. I watched those videos religiously,
every day. That would probably be my main influence. This country, rider-wise,
Stephen Bissiker. Just the way he rode, and he was never in the scene as such,
he’d just come out with his diamond jumper on and his Haro cap that he’d had
for so long it was just worn away. Just his style and aura, it still rubs off
on me today even though I hardly ever see him ride.
What do you think about the English riding “scene”, especially flatland?
People said for ages that flatland was dead in this country, but I think
that those little Level Vibes things (James’ flatland jams) have proved that
totally wrong cause it’s packed out. It’s still small, there’s no attitudes,
everybody knows each other. It’s not as high class as other countries but I
like it. As I said there’s no attitude and that’s the main thing, everybody
gets on well together.
It seems like you try to keep a low profile in the ‘scene’, you don’t appear like you want
to make a professional career out of your riding. Why is that?
I don’t try to be underground as such, it’s just hard to go swanning off
around the world (this means travelling around casually, as if it’s no big deal)
when you’ve got a wife and kids, commitments and a full time job. I’m not really
prepared to spend my money on the chance of winning a bit of money. It’s never
been that important to my riding to go to competitions. I’m happy to just progress
by myself, but if I ever got a sponsor to pay me to go to competitions I’d be
there like a shot, but I’m happy as I am.
What about the time you spent in York, PA? Did that not make you think about moving over there
and giving it a shot?
Nah, as I said, I watched those videos so much it was just something I had
to go and check out before it was too late. I had to check out the York scene
and see the Man.
You organise your own jams. What do you think is the appropriate way to judge riders against
each other, or should it be done at all?
There’s not a fair way to judge, especially to judge flatland. It’s just
judging one style against the other, and who’s to say one style’s better? But
having said that, I think competitions are important to the progression of riding.
That whole thing with ESPN, they shouldn’t have flippin’ complained, that’s
well out of order. It sounds like there was things wrong with it, but for all
this time there hasn’t been a problem until the TV’s got involved and money’s
there. You’ve just got to accept it. If you want to enter a competition where
there’s big money you’ve got to accept the dodgy things that go with it. But
that thing that Paul Osicka’s come up I think will be brilliant. They’ll get
the best stuff on TV. It’ll push flatland to another level cause everyone can
just do their maddest stuff. The pressure that must be on you to pull tricks
at those things must be well watered down. That idea will be good. Well done,
Paul. (laughs) I still don’t think it’s gonna be any fairer, judging-wise it’ll
probably be unfairer, but it’ll still be the best. The TV’s gonna get what it
wants, it’ll push the riding higher, what more can you ask for? At the end of
the day someone’s always not going to agree with the decision. Yeah, they should
just get on with it and stop being whingey (always complaining) flatlanders.
Where do you see flatland going in the next few years?
Down the drain! (laughs) I don’t know, as tricks go I think it’ll be more
kind of street tricks, not as in doing flatland on the streets but as in instead
of scuff, scuff, scuff, switch, scuff, scuff, scuff, it’ll be more chuck (throw)
Do you think a lot of tricks are coming back into fashion, like all that tailwhip stuff,
you could say Larry Bull was doing that years ago?
Yeah, how ahead of his time was he? Yeah, but I think that’s the way I’m
going, just quick tricks rather than long links. I definitely think that’s the
way forward, and don’t do links for the sake of it, one trick just to make the
link longer – if it doesn’t go together don’t do it.
When did you take your brakes off and what does it mean to you?
I took them off about a year and half ago. When I first saw Chase do it
I wasn’t really into it, I kinda thought it was a big headed thing, “Oh, I can
do this with no brakes”, not necessarily Chase cause I knew he was going off
on his own thing and that was cool, but for other people to do it. But I was
totally wrong. It wasn’t about doing the trick without a brake, it was how the
trick was done without a brake. When I saw Amos riding and how his style had
changed, I thought, “Damn, yeah. This is what I’ve been looking for all these
years” – a more street way of riding. They’ll never go back on.
Do you still use the Rollercoaster hub?
Nah, that was just something I messed about with for a little while.
What’s up with London Bikes?
I tried to start it up because I was fed up with flatland bikes being too
heavy, just a load of stuff on it that you don’t necessarily need. Flatland’s
changed a lot in the last couple of years and the bikes ain’t changed with it.
Flatland ain’t about tailwhips and decades anymore, you’re chucking your bike
about a lot more, and I don’t think the frames are made for that, they’re stuck
in the dark ages. I really wanted to bring a frame out for the modern day flatlander.
Everything was going well, I had the prototype, it was really riding nice, I
couldn’t believe how nice it was riding. A few changes I wanted to make to it
became obvious after a few months but the manufacturers couldn’t do it and I
got messed about and stuff, and it never happened. But I possibly might be getting
a signature frame with Gouin Bikes, but I don’t know if that’ll happen or not.
How many videos have you done and which ones are they?
Two: Show Us Some Skills and Organised Confusion.
Do you do the videos on your own?
I did them on my own but a few other people helped with the filming,
but it was more or less just me.
Was it just like a real basic set-up that you had, like VCR to VCR?
Basic would be putting it mildly – steam powered! (laughs) Just the camera
and two videos, and seriously the videos were so old, they were the ones that
flip up on top, the big heavy things. I just had this little editing thing,
it didn’t do anything. I bought it thinking it was going to be brilliant but
it just did poxy (shitty) little effects, which I used far too much.
Your videos seem like you don’t take things too serious, they don’t seem to be about
representing. Is that true? What kind of message do you wish to promote with your videos?
It was just really to show my scene, which was a funny scene, it was just
basically me and Dan (Price). Two people who rode totally opposite things but
always rode together. It was a funny little scene and I just tried to put it
together. It was just a fun little thing – no attitude, no representing, just
to show my scene, basically.
What’s your favourite bike video?
Any message to our readers?
Buy my signature frame when it comes out, if it come out! (laughs)
Anyone you’d like to thank?
Yeah, I’ll thank my wife Karen, Brook and Megan, Seventies, Hoffman, you,
Freedom… the whole world. (laughs)
Thank you James!