Whilst we normally prefer to marvel at the results of the internal combustion engine rather than pedal power, there is no denying that mountain bike trials athlete and stunt rider Andrei Burton is a very talented guy with a very interesting day job. He earns a living jumping over all manner of things on a bike, including the occasional doughnutting Dodge Viper or a couple of vans…
Andrei has had a great year, appearing at a wide range of events including Top Gear Live. We caught up with Andrei backstage, just as he’d finished a performance, to fire a few questions at him as he got his breath back…
Ben: What’s it like being part of the Top Gear Live show?
Andrei: Yeah its pretty cool. I got a phone call a couple weeks back saying “would you be interested in coming to the show, lets try and figure out something quite different that hasn’t been done before.” As far as I know, nobody’s tried to ride trials or a mountain bike like me, over a moving vehicle, and suddenly it just puts a whole new spin on it, and its really difficult. Especially when we’re trying to ride over a Viper and its spinning, its so powerful and it’s really apparent that that’s flying underneath you. And you’re trying to keep up and get over it. Yeah its really cool, and obviously I jumped at the chance to get involved.
Ben: So is that the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Andrei: No, I’ve done heaps of things. I’ve got two World Records – highest 360 drop and most amount of 180 turns in a minute, and I’ve ridden shows all over the world and ridden competitions for Great Britain for the last 7 years as well. So I’ve ridden some pretty scary stuff, roof top to roof top, ridden over cranes, tanks and army vehicles and pretty much anything going to be honest. That’s a good thing about my kind of sport, you can go into any kind of environment and go “right OK, what can we do here and what can we come up with.”
I’ve got my own demo rig which goes up by four or five metres and its a really big scary thing to ride, so I’m used to riding that, but its stationary. Because the vans here are all moving its very easy to get it wrong, and you rely on the drivers so much. Paul Swift and the team have been absolutely brilliant, and Chris Burns in the Viper, he’s absolutely spot on every time.
Ben: You’ve got the best guys then yeah?
Andrei: We’ve only really known each other for about a week, and we’ve had to very quickly get to know how its going to work between us, and making sure he knows how to react if I go wrong, and how I can react if they go wrong.
Nick: In terms of the bike you’re using, is it fairly standard or have you had to modify it in any way?
Andrei: It’s a really special bike, I ride for Echo Trials bikes and they produce really good lightweight bikes. As you’ll have seen, its got no seat on and it’s got really powerful brakes, so its perfect for riding over obstacles. It’s all specially designed – really strong, really light, exact for what I’m doing.
Ben: It was a really impressive show, we’ve been coming now for the past four or five years and it was the best we’ve seen.
Andrei: It’s very difficult as well, as a mountain biker, to come into an arena where you’ve got 750 brake horse power, and it is all about cars and motors, and then I suddenly jump into that on a mountain bike as well. So that’s why we bought the Viper in, they took a big gamble getting me in so hopefully it’s paid off.
Ben: Are you used to performing in front of a large number of people like that then?
Andrei: Yeah I’ve ridden in front of thousands and thousands of people. I’ve done some big events all around the world so I’m fairly used to riding in front of a big audience. But the cars just add such a different element, we did a show at the National Theatre a couple months ago, and I was doing some really dangerous stuff there on the roof tops. I wasn’t really getting that nervous, I was just enjoying it and was actually quite relaxed. But here, because you’re relying on the drivers and you’re relying on the vehicles, everything is kind of different. So I’ve got to change my judgements and I’ve got to anticipate where the cars are coming in, and I’m hoping they’re going to stop before I jump onto it. Its really difficult from that point of view, and I think it’s really cool and really fun.
Nick: I think people like to see something different. With your sort of ‘extreme cycling’, did you start off in normal mountain biking and then move into this?
Andrei: Yeah pretty much, I sort of started off riding to and from school when I was a little kid and when I got to about 13, I saw some guys riding trials in the town centre where I live and thought it looked really bizarre. I thought “how do you do that and control the bike on the back wheel and on the spot?” Shortly after that I went to a demonstration and watched a professional rider, Martin Ashton, and I was like “oh my god, this is amazing”, what you can do on a bike.
Since then, the sport in the last five or six years has just increased so much, people are now strength training and conditioning and taking it really seriously. I’m jumping 55 / 56 inches, which five years ago would have blown the world record out of the sky, and now there are guys out there that are pushing 60 inches, which is a serious amount of power to generate and control on a bike. I’ve had quite a good year, I didn’t actually train for the competitions this year and I managed to finish ninth in the world. My plan for next year is just to train really hard.
I’m doing Manchester Science Festival, we do an action sports show relating to science, with Newton’s laws and everything built into a big production. And then after that its strength training for next year, six months full-on hardcore in the gym and on the bike every single day, so I’m hoping next year is going to be my year.
Ben: Where can people find out more about you and what you’re up to?