A couple of years ago my wife showed me this video of 15/16yr olds ripping on their jump bikes in the local woods. The footage is rough but she knew the kids, it was local, and we were impressed. Although The Drum-Up has a pretty roadie-centric worldview, my teenage years were spent skateboarding and mountain biking, and I can still appreciate a nice jump when I see one.
Amongst the majority of Drum-Up readers, ‘Superman’ will conjure up Graeme Obree’s revolutionary position used to break the hour record for a second time. But in this context, it’s the motocross-inspired freestyle manoeuvre that most of us could only dream of attempting, let along landing.
Originally hailing from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, Andy Macleod started taking his biking seriously around the age of 13, and was immediately drawn to jumping and getting whatever air he could. He chose a full-face helmet and pictured himself as a motocross rider.
Doing bigger and bigger tricks was the natural progression, and before long he was out every weekend with mates, pushing themselves to better each other as many mountain bikers, skaters or kids into other sports will do.
Moving to Stirling provided great terrain right on his doorstep, but as Andy pointed out to me, there are not many intermediate trails that allow you to advance gradually- it’s easy or hard. This may put some people off but to those with balls and a talent, it means that big steps can be made rapidly. And it seems that Andy and a group of enthusiastic mates, put in a great riding environment, led to some shit-hot skills being developed in a pretty short space of time.
The Cambusbarron quarry was a mecca for local riders but people also came from Bo’ness, Fife, Glasgow, and even England on occasion. A few professional mountain bikers even ride there now and again- the now world famous Danny MacAskill has been spotted in Stirling a few times, along with Stu Thomson, the man behind MTBCut who shot the beautiful, fantastic new MacAskill video: Industrial Revolutions.
Andy also dabbled in racing SDA events at Innerleithen, Dunkeld, and Pitfichie. All in all a talented and super-keen young rider. Local Steven McNeil described him as “an awesome rider… pulling the Superman move over some of the smallest jumps, and landing it leaving us standing there thinking how the hell?”
This pic of Andy’s front-wheel 180 was published in MBUK
Then one Monday night in March 2011, disaster struck. Andy was pedalling out of a T-junction in Fort William when a car hit him at high speed. Witnesses to the accident reported a Subaru car with one side of its roof and windscreen smashed in, with a bicycle lying in the road. Although this junction is in a residential 30mph zone, with a shop and swing-park on it, the presence of a bump in the road apparently is a draw for petrolheads to try to get some air.
Andy was in the wrong place at the wrong time – his right leg was taken off below the knee at the scene and he received serious facial injuries. He was flung 60-70 paces from the junction with the leg lying another 10 feet away. Andy believes the first aiders who arrived on the scene saved his life. He regained consciousness but did not know what was going on, even trying to stand up.
When in hospital it took him around a week to even notice the leg was gone, suffering pins and needles in a right foot that wasn’t there. With his thoughts fuzzy, and some 10 days’ memory lost from a knock to the head, it must have been a bewildering experience. There humour in the darkest of moments, however: when he was told what happened, his first question was “what bike was I on?”. To many cyclists this may come as no surprise- it’s a sport that gives rise to passion.
Needless to say, his bike was a write-off, but this story does not end in misery, far from it. Amazingly, Andy was back on a new bike only 5 months after the accident, part in thanks to a titanium and carbon fibre prosthetic leg (ironic eh?). I’ll cover this more in a follow-up post, but his positivity is simply amazing. “I managed to deal with it alright, I see no benefit in negativity, its not going to make my leg grow back so I just had to get on with it.” He can’t put his finger on where this optimism comes from but is determined that he won’t be held back. Steven McNeil told me: “after the accident I asked him what his plan was, he said To carry on as if nothing has happened.”
Meanwhile, check out Andy’s nomination to carry the Olympic Torch in 2012. Give his nomination a ‘like’ or better yet, log in and leave a comment.
pictures courtesy of Andy Macleod