Let me first introduce myself, my name is Peter “Szwed” Szwedowski I’m 31 and a Diamondback Europe team rider… if I had read that six months ago I would think “that’s a good joke” but it's not a joke. This is my story in few words…
I’ve been snowboarding, riding BMX and MTB for over 20 years now. I was very lucky, being from Poland that I was able to make a living from riding for couple years, travelling around the world, meeting people but all of a sudden in 2007 it was over…
I was in my local woods on my motocross bike and lost my front end on a tree stump at 95kph. The crash that followed would change my life forever.
I was pronounced clinically dead and spent five days in a coma. My injuries were catastrophic losing two liters of blood and badly damaging my heart, lungs and brain.
Also I had multiple fractured bones and split my femur open. Due to the severity of the leg injury the doctors were thinking about amputation, but after eight blood transfusions and eight surgeries they managed to save my leg.
I still had my leg (thank god) but I couldn’t walk again for nearly a year.
After this my whole life began to unravel. I lost my sponsors, my girlfriend, my money, then started drinking. All the adversity made me more determined and I managed to get back on my bike three years later, it was hard, from competing at a high level and then having to start from the beginning was frustrating. This combined with three more surgeries became almost unbearable Peter in hospital after the crash
Luckily I met great surgeon who is also a mountain biker. He set me an intensive five year recovery program with various exercises and day by day I could feel myself getting stronger. So finally in 2012 I felt that I was back to something like my old self. My life was getting back on track, I was working now in the cycle industry running a disc brake pad company (Zeit), I was back on my bike and I have a beautiful wife. Then the biggest surprise came, a call from the Polish Diamondback distributor asking if I was available to be a Diamondback Europe rider!
This to me was an honor as I still can remember legends riding Diamondback like Eddie King and the first ever double backflip by Reuel Erickson. I even had a poster of 1993 Diamondback Team Titanium bike on my bedroom wall. At last, I had made the transition from racer to full time rider…
Diamondback Europe has an annual launch every year in Molini di Triora, Italy. Distributors and riders come from all over the world, it’s a massive event. It was during this trip I had a conversation with Duncan McCann who is responsible for Diamondback Europe about a trip to the Diamondback headquarters in Eastwood (Nottingham). I assumed it was just a slightly beer fueled conversation until I got the plane ticket and the official invitation in my inbox.
Peter with the Euro team riders in Italy
As soon as I had landed in the UK we were straight on the bikes (Diamondback Scapegoats) to the ancient forest at Bramcote Hills Park. This is a small place that is rarely ridden and the conditions were the strangest I have ever known. With a lot of rainfall followed by an uncharacteristic warm spell there was 5cm of dust on the trails. All I can liken this to is snowboarding, less turning and more drifting and calving! Although it was a small hill not like the mountains I’m used to, it gave me a great crash course on the UK riding scene and was great for getting used to the new Scapegoat. The scapegoat is a 180mm bike and felt balanced, maybe a bit too much for these trails but I cant wait to get it on a true alpine trail. It is great that Diamondback is such a rider driven brand and very unusual that you can ride with the European Manager and not have to wait every 100m. The Diamondback team are passionate about mountain biking and BMX, with all the guys raced at a high level in their chosen discipline. All get involved heavily with the product development and testing as well as the day to day stuff.
.......and the aftermath
Diamondback is owned by Raleigh the oldest functioning bicycle brand in Europe. Diamondback Europe share it’s headquarter with Raleigh, a very impressive building with some state of the art facilities. Apart from being enormous, there are some cool things that I was not expecting, such as a jig from the 1920’s to hand finish the wheels on a high tech wheel building production line. Some of the in house mechanics have been building bikes for more than 40 years.
It’s easy to get lost in the Diamondback warehouse/offices, everything is done under one roof, design, testing, specification and distribution to nearly every country in the world. Everyone made me feel welcome and gave me the full VIP treatment. For me the coolest place in the headquarters was Diamondback showroom. There is some exciting new bikes coming for 2014 and riding some of the new prototypes, I can’t wait to get my hands on them!
Peter and Duncan with the new DH8 team bike
So now the formalities were out of the way it was time to ride! Sherwood Pines was the place. The Sherwood trails are very mellow, small dirt jumps, xc loop, small park area and a few single tracks. I was impressed how beautiful that place was. We had a great riding session and against all odds in the UK the sun was shining and the trails were dry. We were joined by a couple of Duncan’s friends, one of which is a local guy called Ken Baker. As we were talking he gave me a great insight into the UK scene. Most of the UK is lacking the altitude that most other European countries benefit from, so they have made more technical trails. A lot of work goes into the building of the trail centers and they are popping up all over the UK and Ireland.
Enduro is on the rise and big DH names are converting to it. The UK terrain is perfect for Enduro and it will go from strength to strength.
This is one of the main reasons the new Mission Pro was developed and tested together with the guys in the USA. Its 160mm of travel is perfect for Enduro race and leisure.
Peter and Duncan ripping the trails at Sherwood Pines
The sun was out
I had chance to test ride the new 4x Slopestyle bike still at prototype stage. I was amazed at the handling and versatility of the bike, you could manual this thing for miles!
As Sherwood is a mellow trail it was the perfect bike with 100mm of travel. Hopefully the full production model will be on show at Eurobike later in the year.
The prototype 4X Slopestyle was put to the test
The trails were super smooth and flowing, a lot of time had been spent designing and building Sherwood and it showed. I was racing for so long sometimes you can forget why you mountain bike, getting to meet new people, ride, socialize, travel and have fun is what it’s all about. It was a great day with some good riding with new friends, I cant wait to show them around my home trails in Poland.
Guys just having fun
I spent the evening just outside Nottingham in a place called Beeston where I at last became a true English gentleman eating Fish and Chips with mushy peas (like green baby food!) and a pint of real ale! Duncan has been riding mtb since 1989, this is even longer than me and we are both huge fans of MTB history, he even has some classic Diamondbacks from yesteryear in his “man cave” including a showroom condition Ascent from 1992. There is nothing better after a great day's riding than a few beers and playing with old MTB's
English Fish and Chips
At the end of the stay I asked what was required of me as a Diamondback Europe rider. The reply was very simple “ Diamondback is a lifestyle! just keep doing what you have for the last 20 years” I felt that this was a great fit with the way I am feeling now having been through so much.
Thanks to Diamondback for making this happen all over again and Kate Clancy at KC Photography for the pictures.www.diamondback.eu