If you don't already know Steve Beal, it's time you got to know him - at least from a distance! Grab a pew and enjoy his colourful interview - Mr December.
(Photo Credit: https://www.wheatmanphotography.co.uk) - Rob Wheatman
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
My one superpower would be to control the weather...rain by night, and everyday a sunny day!
What has been your guilty pleasure during lockdown and the last year?
During lockdown my guilty pleasure was riding my mountain bike in an empty forest. I loved having the place to myself, without the usual tourists. However, I know we need them to support our local economy.
Why, when and how did you get into cycling?
Why cycling? Kelloggs!! Kellogg's breakfast cereals were keen on marketing cycling when I was a kid. I'd sit there eating my breakfast marvelling at the BMXs on the packets of my cornflakes!!
When I was 9 years old my mum bought me a BMX, a Raleigh Burner. We didn't have much money, and I knew this was a special gift. I was lucky that we had recently had a BMX track built in Redditch where I grew up...the addiction started there...and that's where I left most of the skin from my elbows and knees... weren't the 80's great??
This led into a desire to have a 'racer' when I was 12, having watched the Milk Race go over the Malvern Hills... and then, aged 15, my 20 year love affair with mountain bikes started. (each phase coincided with me outgrowing each bike I had!) However, I reached 40 years old before I finally satisfied that childhood desire to race in a road peloton.
What's your greatest sporting or personal achievement?
My greatest personal achievements are career orientated. Joining the British Army and then going onto a multitude of small but continual successes, that had a huge influence on my life. Naturally thriving within that environment led to quick promotion and being given exceptional opportunities to qualify in various tactical air support roles.
I was told at 16 years old I wouldn't be allowed to join the Army due to childhood asthma, they changed their rules, I passed the medical, and being a Soldier defined me and the rest of my adult life.
As for sporting successes, I was annually consistently first place in the egg and spoon race at Junior School.
What is the kindest thing that anyone has ever done for you?
When I was a kid (15), there was a bike shop in Redditch called 'Lenny's Bikes', my mum didn't have a car, and my dad wasn't around. I'd managed to buckle the wheel on my mountain bike, due to a spoke breaking and smashing it into curbs! I took my wheel on the bus to town and went to see Lenny in his back street shop.
He knew me well from going in there with various bike related issues. I was always mesmerised by all the tools, the bikes and his chubby face that was always welcoming.
I arrived at the shop, and he said to me, bring the wheel into the workshop...he then said for me to put it in that stand, gave me a spoke and went on to tell me how to repair it.
Once the wheel was true, he said, did you enjoy doing that? I was like a dog with a bone! He said “Do you want to help me this afternoon?” I was so excited! He got me to ring my mum on the rotating dial landline and tell her where I was... and I spent the rest of the day mending bikes! I learned so much that day. When 5pm came, he said to me you worked hard today and gave me £5. I said, but I need to pay you for my wheel.....Lenny said, you repaired that, not me! I'll never forget Lenny, or that day.
Here's £5k :-) What are you going to spend it on?
E-MTB!! I'm a convert. If I session Dowies for example on my self propelled mountain bike, I ride the same climb 7/8 times meaning 7/8 downhill runs, then I'm cooked. I'm not there for the fitness uphill challenge, I'm there for the grin factor dh element. E-MTB would allow me 20/25 dh runs in the same time frame = 3 times more grin factor. Simples!
What achievement outside of sport are you most proud of?
Best recruit and best physical fitness awards at Army Basic Training. I simply just tried my best, I worked hard as I could, and tried to be a good team member. I was genuinely surprised to receive these awards as I saw my peers as equals.
On the contrary, I once got turned down for a part time job in Halfords bike shop!!
What food could you not live without?
I could not live without eggs!! I love scrambled eggs!
Book or film?
Film over book, but I'm not that much of a film / tv person either.
If you had a one-way plane ticket, where would it take you and why?
I think I would go short, somewhere in Europe, and then start an adventure of travelling by land, country to country, and experience as much culture as I could travelling the world. Although I'm a sun lover, my wife is an autumn lover, particularly the tree colour change, so we would return home to the Forest for that pleasure.
Do you have a nickname you can tell us about?
I seem to have shaken any nicknames I have had… in the Army I was known as Yam Yam, or just Yam due to my West Midlands accent. I guess over the years since moving away from the region the accent has eroded though...
What is the naughtiest or funniest thing you've been involved in that you can talk about?
There's a few, some not really for retelling... like the time in Budapest, 30 squaddies... no, not that one, definitely not for retelling.
This one is ok... So, many moons ago, we were on exercise in Slovenia, on a NATO training exercise, so all Nationalities from NATO were present. As you may expect there's a bit of competition between different nationalities... The American's think they're the best at everything, you have a black cat, theirs is blacker! However, they did have far superior camp beds... but that story may involve permanently borrowing things, so I'll tell you about the Blackhawk helicopter instead!
So the Slovenian exercise was over, and we're having the end ex party in a big tent on the airfield. During the exercise the Blackhawk pilots had found it amusing to locate our ground positions, and blow our tents and kit over with the aircraft downwash...
One of the American pilots is there, a few beers in and he pops out a key (helicopters have feeble door locks, not an ignition key).
So he's giving it the all that he's a Blackhawk pilot and puts the key loosely back in his jacket pocket... in our infinite drunken wisdom, we British squaddies think it'll be comedy to pickpocket him! A couple of us keep him engaged with bravado and beer, whilst another drunken Troop member steals the key!!
We carry on our night, all get really, really…really drunk.
Alarmed, we're awoken in the morning by some seriously stressed out Yanks!! We had forgotten about the key, and now an international incident was unfolding!
Luckily, Scouse (you knew it was him, didn't you?) remembered he might have the said key in his combat's pocket...and that my friends, was how war with America was avoided!
What's your favourite coffee/cake stop when on your bike?
As some of you will remember my hosting of the RDFCC Annual Dinner in 2017, my guests were Lou and Vin Kennedy from The Filling Station, Tintern... Always my go to coffee stop.