Rob Alton: I was at the Worlds 87-88-89-90 and few others that I can't remember.
All of a sudden you disappeared from the contest scene, where did you go?
Rob Alton: I started to ride for a living, performing in a UK circus show in 1991.
How long have you been touring with the circus?
Rob Alton: I am now into 18th year of performing my Flatland show in TV, circus, variety show, casinos, galas, cruise ships....or where ever they want me!
What's it like being part of a circus?
Rob Alton: I liked the circus, the company was always good and we got to travel all over the world and meet so many people. I was mostly working in European circus shows from 1991 until 2001. At the same time I started to perform in Variety show and casinos and other places. The circus was hard because the floor was always a problem. In 2003 I went to work for Cirque du Soleil in Orlando for 2 years, that was very good and great conditions, just a little to far from home to stay a live there. I did almost 1000 shows for them in just over 2 years! Now I have started to work on Cruise ships and a lot of short gigs so I can be home more for my 7 year old daughter Sophie.
Explain how limited the performance area is?
Rob Alton: The stage sizes always vary, but I can do my full 7 minute show in 5x5 meters. 6x6 is perfect for me. But the bigger the better! I have done shows on 3x6 meters and other small stages, but then it's not my act any more. The other problem is the type of floor. I have done shows on rubber, carpet and very slippery polished floors or dusty floors. And you never know until you are there what it will be like and often no time to get use to the floor before the show. It's never like outside!
Do you have to sell your act to a circus so you can tour with it?
Rob Alton: I am self employed and either use agencies or book the jobs directly. I have been in the business along time now so a lot of people know me and I get work often because of that. I also do a lot of PR work. Good promo material is a must, DVD's and brochures. I am selling a product and it is as important as my riding.
Do you have your own motorhome?
Rob Alton: I had a caravan for 10 years, but I don't need it any more. Hotels are much better!
How hard is it to get bike parts when you need anything special while you're on the road?
Rob Alton: I have spares with me but if some major happens it can be a problem. My chain snapped 3 weeks a go on a cruise ship! Lucky it cracked first and I took it easy for my last shows and then it broke completely! Until now I have been quite lucky. But I do take good care of my bike.
Do you do ramp tricks as well?
Rob Alton: No, I take no risks, I need to able to ride everyday! I still like to go to skate parks for a few manual rolls and tyre taps! No flip whips for me thanks!
Do you hook up with locals (BMX-ers) when you're on the road a lot?
Rob Alton: Yes quite often. Singapore, Germany, Hungary, UK, France. I have missed riding with other people over the years. My lack of progression is partly due to that. No motivation to pull the next new trick or some one push you like I did with Ollie Mathews and Phil Dolan back in the day.
Show riding is so different from regular flatland. It goes against all the rules! I need to do the same routine with almost no mistakes and do it well. I put it all together with the music exactly to the second. It drives me crazy sometimes. Most flatlanders can spend all day or all week on 1 trick, hit it and that's great and then move on to the next trick. But I need to hit all the tricks all the time and usually in very difficult conditions, show lighting and slippery floors are frequent problem.
I have a great respect for the riders today. The level is so high. I know I will never reach that level now. I have so many other commitments, family and our business. I maybe ride 3-5 hours a week so it's hard to progress, you have to put the hours in to progress. I still love to ride just like 23 years ago! It's my life and has given me a great living and a beautiful family and home. Because I am home more I have started to go to more contest just to hang out and do some old school combos. Tricks are tricks, new or old. There's a lot to be said for good Cherrypicker! ;0)
Where can people see your show in the coming weeks?
Rob Alton: Next week I am going to Sardinia for 7 weeks to perform in a Hotel on the coast with my wife too. Andrea has an aerial act. Most of this year is booked up now. We really go day to day with the jobs. People call very last minute and they are often the best jobs. We are now doing a 40 minute show, my wife and I. Some comedy, my wife has 2 acts and I have a longer version of my show too. With this we are working on cruise ships. Get on board, do 2 shows in 1 night and fly home the next day. And yes, riding on a boat when it's moving is very strange! Flatland forever......