Nigel Page - For the Love of bikes
What do I love about bikes? Everything, I just love them, I can’t imagine life without bikes - but Dirt Bikes. I've never been interested in road bikes...
I don’t know really why I was first attracted to bikes? It’s the only thing I have always liked and enjoyed doing my whole life, I guess the feeling of freedom and getting around on them, way better than walking! I love all aspects of bikes, riding and racing them as well as looking at and building up different bikes, old school, modern, from BMX’s to Downhill bikes. You could say (or my wife would) I am obsessed. I started out riding around 2 years old in my street in Rainford, Merseyside. My friend Will Booth was a year older than me and had a little bike, so obviously I wanted to do the same.
I can remember my dad taking the stabilisers off and holding my seat a few times riding down the road and then I looked back to him and he was still at the top of the road and I was riding myself. From that point, I was off! I must have ridden bikes every day and then when I was 4, I got an old 8” wheel Italijet motorbike and then I rode that every day. I would sneak home from school at lunchtime (or dinner, if you're from up north) and do laps of the garden before going back to school, I loved that bike.
Bicycle Motor cross
I started racing BMX bikes when I was 10 at the local track to us in Wigan called 3 sisters. It was a famous track back then that held National events and the odd international race like in 1984 when the Kellogs BMX series visited, it was huge. In the early ’80s, the BMX scene was booming and I was at the right age.
My first race was on my Raleigh Ultra Burner. But I was hooked and reading all the magazines and begging my mum for a Robinson race bike, it was a USA made BMX and at that time was the coolest bike I had ever seen! My local BMX shop in Wigan, Alans BMX, was the importer of them. I pretty much raced BMX every weekend from 10 until I turned 17 all over the country and in some international races (huge thanks to my Mum and Dad). If I wasn’t racing, I was riding around with my friends at home around our village and local dirt spots.
At 17 it all changed as I got a car and had to pay the bills with a 9-5 office job and at that time my close friends stopped racing and riding. All of a sudden, I just stopped riding, quit racing and swapped that for driving around and going to clubs and raves at the weekends. It was the mid 90’s and that whole dance music craze was peaking in the UK at that time!
After a couple of years going big in that scene, I guess I started to miss riding bikes. I got a basic Diamondback MTB and used to mess around on that with my mate Stu Clarke. Just locally but I did enter a couple of races but never really got that into it. The Diamondback was a just a standard full rigid bike like most bikes were back then. I used to try and ride it like my BMX. It wasn’t really made for that type of riding time, I would bend the forks or round the crank arms off on the square spindle. Luckily my dad was an engineer and handy on the tools, he used to make metal shims to hold the cranks together and take the abuse it was never designed for!
I rode on and off for a bit, just locally having fun until I was about 24. I was in Ibiza on holiday, just partying and it just occurred that I was over this type of holiday. The thing I enjoyed the most about those holidays was me and my mates hiring Mopeds out and razzing around on them all week (until generally they “fell apart”?!). Coming back from that holiday, I said to my Dad, we’re getting an MX bike and starting racing! I always wanted to do it as a kid but wasn’t allowed one. Not sure why? I think my mum and dad thought it was too dangerous or it was going to cost a fortune, but I used to dream about owning a KX80.
So, I bought a 2nd hand KX125. Me and some mates rode on the local waste ground, but most of the time got moved on by the police and it wasn’t that challenging after a while. The only answer then was to go racing with my Dad, my mates who where all keen never committed! First time out I think I ended up 3rd overall on the day, but won one of my 3 races and again (like BMX in the ’80s) I was hooked. After a year I moved up to the expert class. In one of my first few expert races I crashed and dislocated my shoulder (were Mum and Dad, right after all?).
Whilst I had that injury, I dug out my old Diamondback and started pedalling again. Just for some fitness and something to do, but I started getting back into it all again. After watching the DIRT movie I bought a shorter stem and high rise (club roost) handlebars. This just made things worse, I started to jump bigger and ended up snapping the poor frame in half.
Anything but a 9-5…
At that time I was in an office 9-5 Monday to Friday with St.Helens council, it nearly killed me with the boredom. At the weekend I used to volunteer to work with the Duke of Edinburgh award, running and leading the Mountain Biking activity. After a bit of time, I started to get paid to do this and so I did that instead of carrying on with MX racing (first steps to becoming a pro rider). This got me really into bikes again, but my wages didn’t stretch to the dream bikes I read about in the pages of Mountain Biking UK Magazine. Then a bit of good fortune, in 1996 I won the National Lottery. Not millions, although it felt like it at the time, my office “lottery syndicate” won a fair chunk of cash and I got about approximately 4-grand of it.
I had spent that money countless times building my dream bike in my head, so there was only one place I was heading! As soon as the money landed I was straight to my local Leisure Lakes Bike shop (local big professional bike shop to my home) and I bought the “trickest” bike I could think of; a fully custom GT Zaskar, costing me over £2000 (That was a huge amount for “a bike”)! Now I had “the bike” I wanted to take the abuse of my riding style and I decided to go to a few more races and ended up going to a National MTB downhill race. It was somewhere in Scotland (can’t remember exactly), I loved it. I think I finished top 20, pretty good I thought, especially at the time bikes were evolving and everyone was on suspension bikes and clip pedals. There was me on the hardtail with my feet bouncing off on flat pedals. I think the skills I learnt from my BMX background and the MX racing helped me get on the pace pretty much straight away, but I never thought I wanted a full suspension bike I thought at that time they looked weird.
Later on, that summer I decided on a huge change. I had enough of working in the Council finance office, I always hated it and now I was getting paid to work outdoors and ride my bike for the Duke of Edinburgh, it just tipped me over the edge. I quit my job, I had no proper skill or job prospects ahead of me, I just knew I wanted to ride bikes and work outdoors. That’s probably been one of my biggest motivations through my career, to never go back to working in an office, no offence to people that do, it’s just not for me.
I ended up going to Northern California to work at a summer camp. (Camp America) It was a great experience and I learnt a lot and grew up fast, but the best thing was the exchange rate. With the money I saved I could buy a GT LTS suspension frame that worked out to half price compared to the UK! I came home and got about swapping all my parts from my Zaskar onto the LTS. A friend of mine then invited me to a Northern Area Mountain Bike Series race (NAMBS). I’ve never been the strongest at pedalling, in BMX I always did better on the tracks that where more DH. I’ve always had decent bike skills and was always pretty good at jumping and corners. At that NAMBS race, I ended up winning the Senior Category and getting the 2nd fastest time of the day.
Becoming a "Pro..."
It was never a plan to race bikes as my job, it just kind of happened. I was always one of the better riders in my village and did pretty good at BMX racing winning lots of regional races and a few podiums at National races when I got a bit older. I started a fair bit later than most (in my mid 20’s), but in Downhill, the combination of good bike skills from BMX and then the MX racing, plus the desire to not have to go and work in the office 9-5 again all made do pretty well!
I think it all comes from just a pure love for riding and. I never made too much as a racer as my nickname “Nigel NO WAGE Page” hinted, but I just made enough to get by really and had odd jobs in the offseason for extra money plus doing a lot of MTB guiding and skills coaching. Racing just offered me an amazing opportunity to travel, make some good friends and just have some of the best experiences. I would say the proudest moment for me racing was when I got 3rd place at the Winter X-Games in the Snow Biker-X. This was the biggest event I had ever seen with TV camera’s everywhere for ESPN and a huge crowd of 10’s of thousands of people. Behind racing at the incredible event, my dad wasn’t very well at home and he kept phoning to see if I had got through my rounds. I remember talking to him on the way up for the final when I had made it through the semi’s, he sounded really unwell but was so happy for me. I was crying on the way up but just kept my goggles on so no-one could see me.
Another race I will never forget is my first senior downhill national in 1998 My dad wanted me to try Downhill racing instead of MX, me being me, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I ended up winning that race in the Senior category, I couldn’t believe it! My 10th place finish at the Fort William World Cup Downhill race in 2002 was pretty cool too.
A nice consequence of being a “pro rider” is the trips and shoots that you got asked to go on. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, I was fortunate enough to go away with MBUK and DIRT magazine. The DIRT road trip shoots were always fun with Mike Rose, Jerry Dyer and Paul Bliss and I really enjoyed some of the MBUK shoots with Steve Behr which were always fun. It’s a bit of an honour to be involved with some of them, to be honest! I just appreciated that I could ride my bike all the time and people wanted to take photos of me riding!
I’ve been lucky to ride for some of the best brands and so had a few nice bikes, plus I had one of the best bikes as a kid, that I still love to this day; a 1982 Robinson Expert and in 1984 my tricked out Hutch Junior with Hutch beartrap pedals, Hutch Hubs and Redline Flight cranks was a bike I will never forget. I can still see it now in my mind.
Another favourite would be from 2001; a Team Intense M1 was one of the best bikes I have ever had, that thing was so trick. Also, my first Kawasaki painted M1 in 1999.
More recently was my custom “Barry Sheene Nukeproof Mega”. That was such a great thing to get from Nukeproof, a huge thanks to you Rob for making that happen. I wish I had been able to keep all my best bikes but I didn’t. I will be keeping the Barry Sheene Mega, that’s for sure!
End of an era, beginning of a new one…
I called an end to my “professional riding career” due to a few back to back bad injuries and some other things that happened. I still had that passion and absolute love for racing and I knew I wasn’t going back to work in a 9-5! The only option was to stay close to racing and all I could think of was to see if I could start a race team. I’ve generally always got on well with sponsors, many of which have become good mates, so I called Jeff at Intense to see if we could work out something. At the time I met Chris and Michael from Chain Reaction Cycles to see if I could get them on board to help promote them as a shop and be the main sponsor for the team. The rest is generally history.
It’s much more than a job to me, it’s my life. Like any management job, it comes with parts of the job I don’t really enjoy, but then I must think of the good bits and I’m so lucky to still be doing this as a job. I get to see and work with friends at races and have made so many new ones all through the sport. I get to go to the races and “when possible” I can ride and race my bike (which is what I really still love). Away from the track, the team has evolved to allow me to help with the development side. Probably the most notable is Nukeproof which has grown with the team across bikes, components and now clothing. It’s something that I really enjoy and genuinely love as much as racing. There is a huge variety in what I do so, no two days are the same. Lastly and most importantly to me, I get to support riders in a way I would have loved to have had when I raced, which is a great feeling. I must thank CRC and all our sponsors for their support too.
It’s been an amazing experience. Downhill World Cup wins, Enduro Wins and loads of really fun side projects. This is topped off by the recent success we have had in the past few years with Sam Hill winning 3 world titles, Elliott Heap winning a U21 title and getting silver last year at the 4X world champs, it’s been amazing. Going from Downhill to Enduro has also been a fun challenge, learning all the new aspects of that sport.
Right now I have 3 amazing riders on the team who as well as being super talented and successful, don’t take things for granted and seem to appreciate all the hard work that goes in all year long to give them the ability to do what they love to do.
I always look out for riders, firstly looking for raw talent and speed. Some riders just stand out, but there are so many good riders in every area nowadays! But some just have that something special, a will and determination - they just want for success, you can’t teach that. You also have to look at them as a person, this makes a big difference, it’s a long season and as a team we have to live, ride and work alongside each other, so we all have to be able to get on and have fun. There is another local lad that I am personally trying to help out, he reminds me of how I was back in 1998 (but probably better haha) who is super talented, and his drive and determination is something else! I really feel like he can do well if, given the chance, racing is where you learn a lot more than just being a good rider.
We do get a lot of people asking about sponsorship and riding for the team from pros to riders just starting out in racing now. If you’re just starting out, I would say don’t bother sending in sponsorship requests until you have really proved what you can do for sponsors/bike companies. There are so many talented bike riders out there and no-one owes you anything.
If you want to get sponsored think why would that company want to sponsor me? What can I offer them to sell their products? Why should they choose me over all the other great riders after some support? Get out there and win some races or do well enough to get noticed, if your more of a freeride rider go and win some comps or prove yourself there. If you are one of the new school social media riders make an edit that is better than everyone else’s! It sounds brutal but if you haven’t done anything really special - you don’t really deserve the sponsorship. If you do, you won’t need to ask for sponsors, they will come to you!
So much has changed from when I started out to now, races, riders and bike progress has evolved and now each discipline has become more focussed and professional across the board. But in the background, there is still just the core love to just ride a bike and race. It’s something that I really love and can relate to. Especially living and growing up in an area which isn’t renowned for Mountain biking (The slopes of Merseyside are just about big enough to be classed as small hill’s, let alone a mountain).
So many people have helped me along the way, the industry has some great people.
From the start, Pete Taylor at Leisure lakes in the early races, Craig at Rideon, then my first proper team ClubRoost Rotwild (that was a great little team) Jerry Dyer helped me a lot, then Jeff and Jen Steber at Intense cycles for many years and Kathy and Chuck Sessler as well as my friend Dale Holmes. Steve Pete helped me out a lot when I first started racing as well as all my teammates over the years. Also, the Seagraves, Tony and Joanne, who helped me set up guiding in the alps for a number of years and Tim and Fee at Alp Active.
Then obviously for the last 12 years - Chain Reaction Cycles (especially Michael Cowan) has given me the best opportunity ever to run a World Class race team and build our own bike brand. I am very fortunate and super grateful. When you work for a big successful company like CRC that has a real passion for bikes and racing, they are willing to invest in you and listen to your experience and knowledge. I put in a huge amount of effort for them, it’s not just a job, it’s my life!
I have probably missed many people that have helped me along the way, but I am grateful to everyone. I couldn’t have made a career in the sport without help and so I try and help people out now where I can, that gives me a huge sense of satisfaction.
But by far the biggest help I have had has to be from my mum and dad. Growing up their help and commitment for my racing as a kid was amazing. I may not have fully appreciated it at the time, but now I am an adult and can look back I’m so thankful for everything they did for me those memories as a kid will always be with me. Now, that support has changed to my family, my wife Michelle and kids; Mya and Harrison. I don’t quite know how Michelle puts up with me, but she always supports me in what I do, I am very grateful for her. She has no background or interest in bikes but she gets on with it.
At the end of it all, I would just like to be remembered as someone who was a decent person who loved to ride bikes and have a good laugh. Hopefully, a half-decent parent as well. Sometimes it’s hard to find the balance between bikes, racing and family. I am not the best at this. But I’m trying.
See you all at the races soon.