Gear finds pain is worth it to get big biking break
A FEW painful landings and broken bones are worth the hassle for the adrenalin rush of dirt track and slopestyle mountain biking.
Seven years after starting out in Morwenstow by messing around with his mates, Jack Gear has turned professional.
In May, he gave up his job at Bude Post Office to pursue a full-time career in the business of backflips and tailwhips.
From serving stamps in the shop, he now pushes the envelope with fearless displays across the country representing Andrei Burton Events.
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At the age of 15, Gear was believed to be the youngest rider in the UK to land a backflip on a mountain bike.
Now 22, and with the opportunity to train every day, his repertoire of stunts is increasing all the time.
Dedication and daring are the keys to defying gravity.
"If you try a trick and land it first time, it's probably not that good anyway," said Gear.
"A lot of the guys I have ridden with have crashed and given up just because 'it's not worth the damage'.
"I have been pretty lucky, to be honest. I have broken my collarbone, my arm and fractured my spine but that's only three crashes. A lot of people have had ten or twelve broken bones.
"You have to just get back on the bike and do what you're trying to do before it haunts you."
Gear was first spotted at a dirt-track competition in Portreath three years ago and was offered sponsorship for a new bike.
His big break came in a low-key event in Okehampton last year.
"I was invited over Facebook," he said. "Some kid said, 'We have got a competition, come and have a go'.
"All the guys were no older than 14. They were doing no-footers and one-handers and were happy with that.
"When they finished I said, 'Can I do my thing while the crowd is here?'
"I backflipped this really dodgy ramp that I shouldn't have been backflipping."
Among the impressed spectators was Andrei Burton, a cycling show promoter from Exeter, who invited Gear to join his team.
"Over the winter we built a ramp big enough to do some big tricks on but small enough to fit in the back of the van," said Gear.
"In May, we started getting really busy, doing two or three shows a week. It was enough to leave my job at the Post Office."
On Saturday, he was in Edinburgh at a British Cycling Sky Ride event before dashing down to Ipswich for more stunts on Sunday. His other Sky Ride demos this summer have included Plymouth, Manchester and Birmingham.
In competition, Gear's best finish yet was sixth in the Portuguese dirt-jump finals in Lisbon last year.
As a teenager, Gear and his mates would make their own ramps from blocks and wood and record each other's tricks.
"I got a bike for my 15th birthday and it went from there," he said. "We started filming our stuff. That was the best way for improvement. You always want to one-up your last video."
From North Cornwall they travelled to South Wales to take it to the next level.
Red Bull apparently does give you wings as Gear, boosted by "seven or eight" cans, first mastered the backflip.
"There was a foam pit in Newport where you could do it and not hurt yourself," he said.
"I was like, 'I've just got to man-up and do it'. I actually broke my bike. I snapped the forks.
"Back then a backflip would win you a competition. Now a backflip is nothing, there are kids of 12 and 13 doing it.
"To do a big score now you've got to do a backflip and a tailwhip. You've got to be able to put a combo together."
Gear is working on new moves, including the double backflip – "I've done it in a foam pit but it's so scary" – and the frontflip.
Inspiring the next generation is another aim and next month he will return to his old school at Budehaven to give a demonstration.
Check out videos of Gear in action at www.jack gear.co.uk. For more information visit www.andreiburton.com