Q+A with Kyle Evans
How and why did you get into BMX riding?
I come from a family of petrol heads, so when it was coming up to my 13th birthday, my dad took me out on his motorbike and by chance we found a BMX track after bumping into some traffic and turning down a dirt road. Dad was like “well you’ve got your kit on, we’ve got a helmet, it would be pretty cool to hire a bike, give it a go and chill out for an hour.” So I just stumbled across it really, and from that point got hooked.
At what point did you realise this wasn’t just a hobby, but something you wanted to pursue?
I think it was when it turned into an Olympic sport in 2008 and I thought ‘wow’ this could be a career. Also the more I practiced, the more I realised I was quite good at it. I started winning regionals and went to nationals and did really well, then I got scouted and never looked back then.
So, with a busy schedule do you still get the chance to be a normal 23-year-old?
People say, ‘oh, you sacrifice so much to be an athlete,’ and when I speak to the friends I grew up with, I think they’ve got a point. I’m not going out every weekend and having that opportunity but, at the same time, it doesn’t bother me because to me, my passion is riding and I’m getting to do that every day as a job. I’m getting life experience, travelling the world and what’s more I’m doing it with friends, team mates and coaches all who support me.
You say that training can be quite tedious, and sometimes intense. Have you ever got to the point where you thought this isn’t for you?
I’m not going to lie, as an athlete, you’ll get to the point where you will ask yourself ‘is this for me?’. That’s because when you compete in sport at such a high level, there is so many ups and downs. You can win a race and be on a high, then start trailing behind, so you have to control your emotions.
Injury comes into it as well. I’ve been injured several times, and almost every time you crash you take a massive hit. You have physio for three months afterwards and when you do get back on the bike, you have to build your fitness back up. Doubt does cross your mind 10/15 times, but it’s the nature of the sport and you learn to accept it.
But how do you cope and overcome this?
I’ve always had that self-motivation and drive, so when you’re at a low, it always comes back to the fact that you want to be the best. Wanting to feel that overwhelming satisfaction that comes with winning is what drives me.
Having a supportive family and team mates is also important, any time I have been injured, I’ve never had to deal with anyone telling me ‘this isn’t good enough!’, because they’re always there supporting me.
Who would you say is your biggest supporter?
That’s tough! I have a big family of supporters. I’d love to say my dad, but my dad is more nervous for me than anyone.
My mum, my nan and my little sister are probably my biggest fans. I’ve got this picture from a race of my mum holding my little sister with one hand in the air screaming, my little sister screaming with ice cream all over her mouth, my nan with both hands in the air. It makes me happy knowing that no matter what I do, they’ll always support me.
So, looking back to the first ever race you won – can you talk me through what you felt?
My dad signed me up to my first ever race in Preston, which is my home club. It was the first race of the day; my first ever time going up to the start gate racing, and I won! I remember feeling shocked and thinking ‘this is mental!’, but then it gave me a buzz which has motivated me ever since.
So, how about the moment you found out you were going to Rio [Olympics]?
It felt like all the hard work paid off. To qualify for the BMX Olympic category you have to work for two and a half years, during which I travelled the world, competing in world cups, category one races, continental championships and world championships, all to earn enough points to qualify. Then when you finally get told you’re on the Olympic team and you’ve qualified, although it’s a really good feeling, you do realise the hard work isn’t finished yet.
So how does racing in the Olympics differ from other races you’ve competed in? Taking into consideration, especially in Rio, the extra heat or the expectation?
I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel the pressure. At the end of the day it is the Olympic games; chances are you’ll feel more nervous than ever, but there’s no reason why you can’t perform at your best. I told myself no matter what, I want to come back from the Olympics, whether it’s good or bad, and say I enjoyed it and made the most of it.
Even though I didn’t win, I loved the experience and was very fortunate to have gone. But I’m a competitor, so just taking part isn’t enough because I want to win and I will keep trying, you never know it may happen at Tokyo.
So how will you be preparing for Tokyo?
The Olympic qualification period doesn’t start for another two years, so for me right now, it’s all about growing stronger and getting my wrist fixed because I’ve suffered for so long now with chronic pain, and am having to use wrist braces. Once I’m all patched up, I’ll be doing as much racing as possible to get more experience, all with the aim to become a lot more consistent across the board. So that by the time the Olympic qualification comes, I’d have managed to grab all the information and practise needed to qualify and hopefully win a medal in Tokyo. That’s the plan.
There must be so much kit to think about when preparing for a race, but what do you think is one of the most important things that can be easily overlooked?
In BMX you want to make sure you’re first from the start. I don’t think people realise how much tyre choice can change your drag, your grip and your gear ratio. When you’re competing at such a high level even the thousandth/tenth of a second counts, so you need to get everything right to find that perfect combination.
In a weird way I enjoy the process of experimenting with different equipment and seeing what happens. Like I say tyres are vital, I used to spend a lot of time on the Maxxis DTH tyres as a junior rider going into elite, but since Maxxis released the Torch tyres I’ve been riding on those with no complaints.
So if you weren’t a BMX Rider, what would you be doing?
I don’t know. I’ve always said I’d like to be one of those people who train the army or maybe join a fire brigade. Definitely something that is physical, demanding and full of action. I don’t think I could sit behind a desk in an office!
What would be your advice for any budding BMX riders?
For the younger guys, and everyone who gets into the sport, I’d say: don’t take it too seriously. Get down to your local BMX club, have fun, make new friends and take full advantage of what the sport has to offer. It’s such a family-orientated sport, which is so easy to get into – all you need is a bike and helmet. You could build jumps in your back garden if you want, out of planks of wood and a couple of bricks. That’s what I did as a kid and it was so easy and fun to do.