Lockdown Lowdown || Harry & Pete Parker
This winter me and the boys headed to Windhill Bike Park a few times and being used to watching my friends and knowing what they are capable of, I was amazed to see a young lad absolutely sending all of the big jumps that I was getting twitchy about! Now, I blamed my California trip on not sending the final three on the Pro-line and we are all currently grounded so I still haven't had to make up any more excuses!
It was Ben Moore Racing, Orange Bikes' new rider Harry Parker who was the 14-year-old shredder that caught my eye. Bikes have been my whole life and if there is one thing I do know, it's talent when I see it!
While we are all twiddling our thumbs waiting to be allowed back to our favourite tracks, bike parks, mountains and riding spots, we caught up via Facetime with the new-school shredder who's currently paving the way!
So first things first, Harry, what's the deal? You have just sprung onto the scene almost out of nowhere, how did this all start?
I was 13 when my dad took me to Windhill and remember being scared but also really excited. Week after week I'd be asking dad if we could go there again! Watching all the talented riders hitting the big jumps is what inspired me, I just really wanted to do the same as them. I had made some great friends who are slightly older and some of them were already doing bits of the pro line so I was keen to learn from them and soon we were pushing each other to hit some of the bigger features.
Pete, as a handy rider yourself, what’s your take on all of this? How does it make you feel seeing your boy flying through the pro lines at such a young age?
Thanks for the handy rider comment! I remember the first time I took Harry to Windhill on his older brother's cheap hard-tail mountain bike, we had gone down the blue run, Harry's words at the bottom were "that's the scariest thing I've ever done!" This was November 2018 and prior to that Harry had rarely ridden any pushbikes let alone a mountain bike. We had looked at the pro line and he was amazed by seeing guys hitting the log drop. I had said "maybe in a couple of years you'll be doing that", he was laughing saying "that's not going to happen!"
Harry's mum and I ended up buying a full suspension Calibre Bossnut Evo with 130mm of travel, Harry was hitting the blue, red and then finally black runs within about a month! It was then I realised that Harry was outperforming the bike so we ended up selling and buying a second hand Kona Process 167! I knew this bike was much more suited to Harry's potential.
This led on to hitting the log drop on the pro line just four months after first getting on a bike! Less than a year on and Harry still blows my mind by being able to hit all of the pro line and now helps other riders by training them into sending the jumps safely! I do get nervous when he's attempting something new... but he has a natural ability to gauge jumps and drops and hits everything so smoothly!
I would say everyones mind will be blown, mine sure was! And now Orange Bikes!? Pete, tell us a bit about how that came about!
We were at Windhill & Orange Bikes factory rider Ben Moore was there shredding the pro line. Harry, of course, was doing his thing as usual. Ben then introduced himself and was telling me that Harry had a natural ability he rarely sees. He was even more impressed once he found out that Harry had only been riding about five or six months! One thing led to another, Ben had said he was looking for an apprentice, someone who he could mentor and help where he could. A month or so later we had arranged to compete alongside Ben at the Falmouth Urban Downhill where Harry secured first place in his class and Ben won the overall, a dream start! Ben obviously had mentioned to Orange Bikes about Harry'd potential and this resulted in being signed up by both Orange and also to be one of two apprentices with Ben Moore Racing!
Wow, that's amazing! It's nice to know people are still looking to help talent progress in the industry! Harry, the new bike, how’s it going? What set up are you running and how are you finding it?
The Orange Alpine 6 was the perfect choice for my riding style with Fox 36 170mm & Fox Float DPX2 giving me 165mm on the rear. I've always set the suspension up fairly hard for the pro line at Windhill but I am learning to soften it up more for when I am competing in downhill racing. I am also tubeless now and so far, no punctures! I ride clipless Crank Brother Mallet Pedals, I find it gives me more confidence when hitting the jumps and I'm able to move the bike around more when racing downhill!
What a dream, I think for all of us that brings some hope that with the right attitude and dedication, doors will open! What are the plans moving forward, what are you both aiming to achieve once we are allowed back out to play?
Harry: The first year with Orange and Ben Moore Racing is a huge opportunity but also they have been excellent as there's no pressure to reach the podium, it's about having fun and learning about how to get the best out of the bike!
Prior to the lockdown, we were planning to do more DH racing to try and secure invites to some of the Urban Downhill races in Europe! Once we're allowed to ride again it's about getting out on the bike as much as I can. I have also moved up to the youth category so that gives a bigger challenge as I will be competing against 15 and 16-year-old riders!
Pete: At the start of September 2019 I broke my wrist and ruptured a disc in my neck while competing in the Falmouth Urban Downhill race. I needed surgery to replace the disc with a titanium ball joint so it was quite a set back! I had started riding again in January after nearly five months off the bike. Once we can get back out to hit the bike parks I need to get my confidence back and ease into sending some jumps and drops. We will be entering some more downhill races such as Tidworth, Windhill & Rogate when things return to normal. Because I will be the big five-zero in June I'll be in the Grand Veteran class! What you notice is even in with the older competitors there's still some hugely talented riders and even some ex-UCI World Cup riders! I'll be happy to get down in one piece and have a laugh.
Ouch! that sounds like a rough time of it! Urban downhill too, this is getting exciting! On the subject of lockdown problems, how have you both been keeping busy? Any tips for some other young riders to keep their skills up and stay safe and sharp at the same time?
Harry: In my lockdown time I have been going out every day on my bike to keep my fitness up and doing push-ups and sit-ups so I can come back to riding stronger! My advice is to use the one opportunity each day for some riding but also one of the requests from Orange is to not put yourself at risk so as not to put any pressure on the NHS if things go wrong!
Pete: I have tried to get out once a day but generally some picturesque rides along the Kennet and Avon canal going past Bradford-on-Avon, just to try and maintain some fitness. I usually end up doing about 15 to 20 miles!
Nice! So simple rides, no big jumps and plenty of discipline off of the bike! I like it, I think we can all cope with that! So, Harry, when I was in school, I struggled to think about anything other than bikes. How are you finding it being a highly capable rider and knowing you still have to focus on the normal life stuff?
Yeah it is difficult not to be too distracted but I realise that very few people can make a living from riding bikes, so I still want to work hard and get some good exam results next year!
Music to my ears, we have to remember to be the best we can in all aspects of life! Before I let you both get back to our new normality, is there anyone you would like to shout out?
Harry: Obviously a big shout out to Orange Bikes and Ben Moore Racing for the opportunity that they have given me. Also a big shout out to all the MTB riders who have been friendly, supportive and offered advice.
Pete: A big shout out to Harry, who amazes me every time we get out on the bikes! To say that I'm a proud Dad would be a huge understatement! I can't wait to see what he does with his huge talent in the future. Rampage and Hardline don't seem that far fetched now that I've seen his progress so far!
Thank you guys for taking the time out to let us in on what's been going on and where to keep an eye out for you next!
You can keep up with Harry on Instagram, here.
Big props to Darren Cordingley Photography for the use of his photos and his dedication to action sports media!
Also to Ben Moore Racing for being a real one and passing on knowledge to help younger riders & open doors for the up & coming talent!
Stay safe everyone and I look forward to catching up with all you guys soon!
Interview: Mitch Brooks Photography: Darren Cordingley