Interviews: July 2005: Tinker Juarez Interview by Matt Skinner
2005/7/8 21:40:00 (11012 reads)
'Tinker came over to the UK for a 24hr mountain bike race and the UK magazine, What Mountain Bike, caught up with him for an upcoming profile for their August 2005 issue. They talked 20in as well as 26in and here's what they didn't have space for...' Tinker Juarez is a name that echoes all the way from ‘Back in the Day’; he was a ripper both on the race track, where he became the youngest pro of the time aged just 15 in 1975, and away from the dirt and on the concrete of the skatepark. He was crowned the first ever King of the Skatepark by Bicycle Motocross Action magazine back in 1980 and helped inspire a generation of freestyle riders along the way. He was eventually inducted into the ABA BMX Hall of Fame in 1993, seven years after he quit BMX for cross-country (XC) mountain bike racing. He took his trademark hard as nails dedication to training from BMX and applied the same ethic to mountain biking, becoming one of the world’s best and a mountain bike legend, winning silver at the World Champs in 1994, and a two-time Olympian at both the Atlanta and Sydney Games. In 2001 he was inducted into the mountain bike hall of fame and quit XC and got all masochistic by taking in 24 hour solo mountain bike racing. Now aged 44, Tinker’s slowly winding down from being a full-time pro mountain biker and is starting to get back into the groove to get back to the dirt sometime soon, for shits and giggles and to maybe grab a few trophies along the way… How did you get into cycle sport to begin with? “It’s just because I liked anything on two wheels. I liked dirt bikes back in the day, I used to like watching motocross back when I was a kid, just looking at magazines and that sort of thing and knowing that my parents couldn’t really afford motorbikes at the time I felt like dirt bike racing – I mean BMX was the next option. And I’ve always loved jumping and hitting berms and riding whoopty-doos and all that stuff. It just came from when I was a young kid and loving motocross. I never had anybody in my family who was in motocross or anything like that but it was just something I liked – I loved riding and doing anything in the dirt on anything with two wheels so BMX was pretty much the perfect sport.” You’ve gone across the whole spread of cycle sport – from BMX racing, freestyle, mountain bike XC racing, 24 hr solo and now ultra-endurance – but you never did the stereotypical progression from BMX into downhill. So what made you pick XC instead? “Downhill was never really my cup of tea, so to speak. For me it’s not my kind of environment: I don’t like taking chairlifts and I like training more hardcore where you go out and ride your bike and get wasted that way and feel exhausted, eat like an animal and go to sleep before doing it all again. I kinda like that discipline where I’m grinding myself down to the ground.” Do you ever get back on a BMX at all? “No, once I got out of BMX which was back in 1986 I don’t even have a BMX anymore. I’ve actually ridden my mountain bike on a BMX track and just recently – probably in the last year – I have my camper up in the desert and there’s a BMX race up there and they have a class for mountain bikes. I’ve been tempted race it. So I’d say that in probably in less than a year I’ll be racing just for the heck of it, just for fun. I still haven’t lost much of what I used to do in BMX – I can still get good starts, I can do two pedal starts, I can balance against the gate, I know how to throw myself forward over the gate, and I still know how to roll over jumps and things like that. I might give it a shot. I’d like to try and win a trophy you know.” You were crowned the first ever King of the Skatepark back in 1980… “Yeah, I was the King of the Skatepark back in the day and I look back in the magazines – because I’ve still got all my cover shots and I was just remembering being on the cover of Bicycle Motocross Action at a skateboard park when skateboard park riding hadn’t really taken off yet and I remember Osborn from the magazine – I can’t remember his first name – but his son was R.L. Osborn and all that, and they picked up when I did the King of Skatepark; they started into freestyle and doing tricks but I wasn’t really into that. I was jumping in parks because it was part of practicing for BMX racing. I stuck with it doing it like that – I didn’t want to change as I was enjoying doing competitive BMX racing.” How many trophies did you win? About 400 or something? “I probably won a lot more than that because when I was racing at age 13 I was racing almost three times a week during the week – Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and sometime even more – but yeah it just kept on adding up. It was pretty much all in the US and there’s so many BMX races going on at the weekends near my home and I had a lot of national trophies and things like that. And when you race two classes trophies start to add up. I was the youngest pro at the time – I turned pro in ’75 – I knew I wanted to be pro and there were times when I was making fairly decent money when I was riding with Mongoose and I really learned the ropes and learnt how to be a professional at a young age, and that’s just really helped me out in my career when I got into mountain biking.” What do you think you would’ve been doing if you hadn’t got into BMX? “I really wouldn’t know – I never had any plans when I was growing up. I went through High School but I wasn’t thinking about what I want to do with my life with a career, I was thinking that, ‘Hey, I’m racing BMX.’ And to tell you the truth I would’ve never thought that I would be riding a bike 33 years later. I thank god you know, he was the person that gave me the power to go and I just thank him every day for letting me do what I love to do. But really I never really had any plans. I grew up but I wasn’t the brightest kid at school but I wasn’t a bad kid and I was competitive at a young age and I stuck with one sport, I didn’t try any other sports.” You’re going to have lots of good memories when you sit back in your armchairs… “I hope so you know, I’ve saved up all my magazines that I’ve had stories of me, pictures of me, anything that mentions me I’ve got them all marked down. I’m thinking that one of these days I’ll be able to sit on a rocking chair on the front porch or something and start glancing back on my past. “People ask about my past/future, I mean I just met a lad just a little that brought up a BMX and he says that he remembers back in the Mongoose days. Those are the kinds of memories that really stick with me at the moment you know, it’s always nice to see people that come around and bring up my past. If I don’t study it now or if I don’t read about it later I’ll hear about it while I’m racing or at an event. It’s always fun because there are always people that bring up names that I remember and I know that these guys have been around a long time when they bring up guys like Harry Larry, Stu Thompson – these are the guys that I raced against for many years in BMX. It’s always interesting at the race when you can relax and poke around the booths and stuff, and that’s why mountain biking is so cool.” How did you get your nickname? I heard one report that it was because your Mum called you Stinker as a baby? “I can’t lie about that so we will definitely stay with that. Yeah, it came from way back when I was a little kid and nicknames always seem to stick with you forever.” Fact File Real name: David ‘Tinker’ Juarez Born: March 4 1961. Lives: Downey California. Like west of LA Team: Rides for the Siemens/Cannondale team racing 24hr solo mountain bike races and other endures but raced BMX for the dominant Mongoose Pro team alongside Brian Curnell, Jeff Kosmala, Kenny Knachman and Dan Oakle" Favourite food: “Mexican food has always been my favourite.” Music: “I’m still stuck in the 80s you know. 80s rock. Back when Led Zeppelin, Motley Crüe, Cheap Trick and all these fun bands. When I listen to it I feel like I’m still back in that age you know? It’s kinda nice. I’m stuck in that era.” Hobbies: “Well you know, I’ve got a new girlfriend and I think that she’s going to be a new hobby to work on. You know, you’ve got to polish up on those areas where it seems like you don’t know how to work in those areas – you’ve been biking all your life and you get back in this relationship thing and you realise that it’s not like it was in the High School days/daze. So yeah, it takes a lot of work and I’m hoping that now I’ve found someone that I feel like it might be more than just a girlfriend/boyfriend kinda thing. But then I like just spending time at home with my family, my Mom and my family – my sisters and all that. I have three sisters and we all live within driving distance so it’s not bad. I also like riding motorcycles too – moto and off-road on motocross track. Getting out for a little bit of camping and stuff like that. Even fishing to me would be fun to do, even if it’s an easy hobby I still like kicking back by a lake.” Websites: www.tinkerjuarez.com www.whatmtb.com Thanks to Matt Skinner for the interview.