Every so often, a rider pops up on the scene, to kick a new lease of life in the game, that person for me, and a lot of my street friends, was Tim Knoll. Watching this last few edits (see below), you can't help but smile, at his creative ideas, and wonder why did no-one else did that! This is BMX and flatland joined together, how it should be, FUN! Welcome to the Tim Knoll interview...
Tim Knoll BMX from Tim Knoll on Vimeo.
Let’s start with some background about yourself, where are you from, how long riding, how old you are?
I’m from the United States; I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. How long have you been riding, and what got you into flatland? I’ve been riding freestyle BMX for over 10 years as of now (winter 2011). The first 7-8 of those 10 years I primarily rode flatland exclusively. As of over the past 2 years I’ve switched my focus to purely freestyle – incorporating the use of various objects within an urban landscape. From an early age on I was very impressed with freestyle BMX by seeing it on TV over the years. It wasn’t until the summer of 2000 I started flatlanding. I was drawn to it initially because I could practice it in the comfort and privacy of my family’s driveway, and it was safe. At that time I discovered theflatlander.com which featured a how-to section that was a direct link to bmxtrix.com. That marvelous site listed over fifty tricks including written instruction and videos for each. After viewing each of the videos I was very enthusiastic about the trick possibilities I never imagined. I was very eager to learn. I had a ’97 Robinson with rear pegs and a straight-cable back brake that didn’t work (which I didn’t think to remove at the time). I started learning the few, basic tricks that were possible with the impeding limitations of my bike’s setup. I’ve been addicted to riding from then on. What is flatland riding to you? I view it as one of the many forth-dimensional, kinesthetic art forms. Each trick, or piece of art, is an event in space-time. It’s all temporary art, unless captured by video. Flatland’s particularly special because it can be performed almost anywhere in civilized regions due the abundance of level surfaces. It’s minimal, yet very intricate and technical. Personally, for many years, it has been my recreational refuge from the occasional discontent I feel by living in our artificial society. Doing bike tricks feels good. You all know that.
I think it’s fair to say you have one of the most creative styles in all of bmx, I’m interested how you arrived at this kind of riding?
Thanks E! I really appreciate that. I remember within the first handful of months after I first began riding I gave Flatlandfuel a call when Pat had just opened it. I was looking to buy a good video and asked him for a recommendation - it was Dorkin’ 10. He told me all about Kevin Jones and how he invented a lot of the tricks everyone was doing. Upon hearing that I was really impressed that one guy essentially created the foundation of what came to be. From then on I remember being really intrigued by the concept of trick invention. I started trying to create my own original tricks or combos that I hadn’t seen before. During my senior year of high school I became good friends with a skater who showed me a Rodney Mullen video. I had never seen anything like it before. It left a lasting impression. I started dabbling with darkside tricks. It became pretty clear to me that was an untapped frontier and the possibilities were great. My riding started going in that direction. In 2005 I began riding for the Division BMX Stunt Team and made friends with all of the riders, none of which rode flatland. I became inspired to try riding street and park. I wasn’t too comfortable with either initially so I didn’t try very often. Over the years I increasingly dabbled with it. I saw Joe Kid on a Stingray where someone described early street riding as “flatland with obstacles”. I liked that concept, and at some point I decided to take my riding in that direction, which proved to be a lot of fun and very fulfilling. Overall, I’ve always wanted to show people new ideas.
What inspires you?
Watching videos of anyone getting rad on a bike or a skateboard gets me psyched. I’ve had the privilege and advantage of being exposed to three decades worth of freestyle BMX and, to a lesser degree, skate videos. I’m a huge fan of the old school and mid school riding. I love the Baco and Dorkin’ videos. I also just discovered Eddie Roman videos on BMXmdb about a month ago, which showcase some of my favorite riding at the moment. I get stoked on watching skating from Rodney Mullen, Natas Koupas, and Richie Jackson. I discovered Richie Jackson not too long ago and I recommend checking him out. A few of my favorite new school riders include Tate Roskelley, Erik Elstran, Ciaran Perry, and George Manos. This kind of leads on from the previous question, do you ride how you do in the videos every session, or is this something you work up to? Not every session of mine resembles what you see in my videos. It all depends where I go to ride and what I’m in the mood to do. Sometimes I go to the skate park and try to hack it as a fledging park rider. I have a lot of fun jumping the box, even though I don’t do any tricks. When the weather’s nice I love cruising around the city, hitting up various street spots. During rainy or chilly evenings I head to my favorite heated parking garage that has marvelous curb-height manual pads. And of course there are those other days where I choose to experiment with new ideas at a particular spot and if it goes well I set up the camera and tripod to document it – a handful of clips in my edits came from sessions of this type.
Do you regularly session with other riders?
No, unless I go to the skate park because I almost always encounter comrades there. Otherwise, I hit the streets and parking garage alone.
I’d imagine you have a fair few crashes trying some of your combos, do you get injured a lot?
I’m usually pretty safe. I have gotten a couple serious injuries this past year trying back flips on the box jump we use for BMX shows. I’m a very inexperienced ramp rider, so I’m poor at gauging the proper speed needed on the approach to huck a well coordinated flip. One time I went too slow, nose-cased the deck, went OTB straight to a shoulder dislocation upon catching myself. Another time the ramp was set up on a decline and I went way too fast, over-rotated, and almost overshot the entire landing. I fell over 13 feet (I think) straight to my back on the tail end of the metal landing, resulting in a few cracked ribs and a concussion. My success ratio with flips had been pretty good overall, but those few incidents have proven to be awful. I appreciate how safe flatland is. What bike parts do you most commonly break? As of lately, frames. Within the summer and fall of 2010 I tore the headtube from the top tube on a Travis Collier frame. Then I fatally cracked a Colony Sweet Tooth frame within only 2 months of use! Savage, so through two frames recently, what’s your next choice of frame? Back in October I accepted a flow sponsorship from 2Hip Bikes. Wilkerson tells me I'll get my specially modified street/flat/park frame this coming Spring (19.75" or 20" tt, 13" rear). That’s sweet news…I mean this in a good way, but your riding doesn't really fit in a normal flatland kind of contest rider style, you have crossed over, and shown the two are very similar, I feel like you could ride in a disused builders yard and get clips,have you ever rode contests by the way? As a teenager I aspired to enter contests. My riding sessions reflected that mentality. I’d strive towards 100% consistency with each trick I learned. I remember within my first year of competing I did really well. I placed higher than a handful of people who were way ahead of me skill-wise, but since I pulled every single trick, the judges gave me higher scores. The following year I had improved a lot, but didn’t place nearly as well in the two contests I entered. I remember that bummed me out. I was disappointed that I spent months trying to dial in tricks for these contests only to place poorly. Though, in retrospect I think the previous year inflated my ego and confidence to a higher-than-deserved level. I remember during the second contest of that year I told Rick Wagner, the owner of C4BMX (my sponsor), that I was over it. I continued to ride for the sake of fun and innovation. I couldn’t compete in a flatland contest today. I would require a flat rail, a manual pad and some ledge setup if I wanted to be a competent competitor – but that wouldn’t be flatland. My flatland alone wouldn’t do too well for me. You mentioned George Manos and Ciaran Perry as some of your inspirations, two riders who have become more popular as a result of the internet, do you feel the internet has helped progress flatland riding? I'm completely enthralled by George's and Ciaran's unique styles. The three of us are completely different, but I know we all really appreciate one another's individual approach to the 20" artistry. The internet is indeed the only vehicle for my exposure as well. The web's great for guys like George, Ciaran and I who don't go to contests or other high profile events. The ease of Vimeo and YouTube uploading and viewing have served as a tremendous catalyst for exposure. As riders and internet jockeys, we have the ability to share a combo to the global community within the day of pulling it. For example, you (Effraim) and Martti release new riding clips weekly. These days we don't have to wait for the newest Flatland Manifesto, Diversion, or Intrikat video to release in order to witness the 'latest' riding. Any rider can get exposure without having to rely on high profile videographers like Bobby Carter, Chad Johnston, or Stew Johnson to be included in their projects. Free web video servers have made it a fair game for all. I can browse “flatmatters” or “thecomeup” daily and get exposed to brand new clips and edits - for free! I believe the advent of the internet video has greatly contributed to the progression of flatland. Many are trying to elaborate on what's already been done for the sake of constant progression of the art itself. Aside from that, I've seen so many edits from guys who are relatively unknown, who completely shred, it's unreal. Seeing such an astounding amount of shredders is really motivating. Much of today's riding looks completely different than it did 10 years ago. A few of the 'am' riders I've seen in Ground Tactics this year would easily make qualifications at a CFB pro contest in 2001. The bar is continually raised. I'm hanging on tight to see where things end up 15 years from now. Good points, for me I am using the internet as a tool to progress, to document, share and I hope inspire others to do the same. I know you have inspired many, with your unique approach to riding, with your frame due out in the spring, what’s next for Tim Knoll? Keep it up, Effraim. Flatmatters keeps me on top of what's going on and motivates me. We the community appreciate your support! As for me, I'm still recovering from the shoulder surgery I had in late December. I'm due to resume riding by mid Spring, hopefully. I'll be filming my section for 2Hip's upcoming video 'Club 2Hip'. I also plan to release another web edit at some point in the unforeseeable future. I'm not really binding myself to any deadline. It comes when it does. Mainly I'm just looking forward to getting back on my bike to do some g-turns or jump a box.
Thanks for your time Tim, been a pleasure catching up with you!