So the latest news is that Martyn Ashton is currently out of action, following a nasty spill at one of his incredible Animal WD-40 Action Sports Tours , but as Martyn only knows too well from a previous injury in 2003 when he broke his back, things like this can happen in mountain biking.
But you’re just as likely to suffer a serious injury crossing a road, so worrying about this stuff really isn’t the way to go.
Unfortunately, it does sometimes takes a bad thing to bring out the good – or for people to remember why things are done in the first place. So we’re not going to dwell on Martyn’s injury – just like he won’t be. He’s too busy thinking about tomorrow.
Instead we’re going to take you on a trip down memory lane, because quite frankly it’s a story that needs telling. Martyn Ashton is one of the most important people in mountain biking, and is one of the major reasons so many people slung a leg over a fat tyre in the first place.
Back in the early 90’s, mountain bike Observed Trials competitions started becoming popular, but usually involved XC bikes with the saddles slammed, and being ridden round a few traffic cones and over a log or two.
That was, until two friends – Martin Hawyes and Martyn Ashton – decided to get off their 20in Trials bikes, and have a crack at mountain bike trials.
I still remember it – at Caesar's Camp in Aldershot, around 1992. Having been drawn to mountain bike Trials through seeing Hans Rey in videos, I remember watching two guys on regular mountain bikes doing exactly what Hans was doing, but in the flesh. I was blown away that there were other people that could ride like this – they’d re-written the rules – and from that moment I was hooked on Trials, and spent hour after hour practicing.
A couple of years later they appeared on the front cover of MBUK, as the latest thing to storm the UK – and they bump-started the UK Trials scene from that very moment.
Every cross-country race from then on had a Trials comp, and a whole generation of riders were practicing their trackstand’s, bunny hops and endos.
A few years later, Trials grew rapidly thanks to the two Mart’s pushing it in MBUK magazine – which was one of the very few MTB magazines around back then.
The golden thing about Trials, was that it enabled people to go mountain biking on their doorstep, and it helped riders develop skills that made off road riding a lot easier.
Seemingly over night, every town centre had an Ashton or Hawyes replica or two floating around – usually dropping off bus shelters or the loading bay’s round the back of Budgens…
In the late 90’s, mountain biking was in full-flight and whilst it had grown a few new sub-categories, the Trials scene steadily grew – and Martyn started touring with Cannondale, building momentum for his public shows.
Unfortunately, mountain biking suffered a kick to the teeth when Foot and Mouth took hold in 2001 as it dramatically reduced where you could go and ride off road – bear in mind this was in the purist days, as the trail centre hadn’t quite happened yet. Mountain bike rides usually involved crossing fields with livestock.
Thankfully, the army of Trials mountain bike riders continued to grow, and MBUK bumped up its Trials content to reflect what the UK scene was doing.
And Martyn Ashton headed it up – with a clear vision of what to do next.
And so the Animal Bike Tour – later to become the Animal WD-40 Action Sports Tour – was born, and allowed Martyn to take mountain biking to hundreds of town centres all over the UK – inspiring the riders of tomorrow.
And he’s still inspiring people, full throttle, in a way only he can.
Last year, Martyn took his whole concept of bike riding, and added another twist. With road cycling playing an enormous part in UK sport following our performance in the Tour de France and the Olympics, he wheeled out a new online video, dubbed Road Bike Party.
And it rewrote the rules of what can be done on the humble bicycle, yet again. Currently, it sits at around 8.6million views – but I reckon with a bit more enjoyment, we can all help bump it up to over ten million views, and give Martyn the encouragement he needs to get the sequel finished – which until recently has been secretly filming.
People say you shouldn’t meet your idols for fear of disappointment, but Martyn Ashton is one of those folk that smashes the mould to pieces.
When I started on MBUK in 2001, I got to know Martyn and learn more about him – and I can tell you that he really is an incredible guy, and only continues to inspire me.
One thing always stands out to me whenever I hear Martyn’s name – I chatted to him about his shows, wondering if they ever became tedious with weather or attendance, and he gave me this answer:
“It doesn’t matter if there’s 150 people screaming out there, or one guy stood in the rain. If they’re willing to come and watch the show, I’ll give them a show worth watching”
And that is hero status, right there.
Martyn Ashton may be down right now, but he certainly won’t be kept there – so in the spirit of things, let's all enjoy some of his finest hours…
Road Bike Party
If you don’t have the time, skip to 5.35 and 12.20 to see both Martyn Ashton and Martin Hawyes in action!
And finally, you can’t beat some Dirty Tricks and Cunning Stunts…
Dirty Tricks and Cunning Stunts