The youth these days, really? They are all making us look bad on a bike, and Kenzie Nevard is no exception. Going bigger and faster every year, the future is looking bright for this young gun, so we caught up with him (not literally) for a chat.
For most of us, the thought of riding for a major bike brand such as Kona Bikes would be something only dreams are made of. Add infamous bike mechanic Barrie Dixon and TF Tuning servicing your bike and suspension into the mix, and it soon becomes a dream most people wouldn’t want to wake from, let alone for a young child who at the age of just six months was so terribly ill. Now, for 11-year-old rider Kenzie, it’s becoming a day to day occurrence and things are certainly looking up as he is back to full fitness and raring to go.
Born with a rare form of lung disease known as ‘Congenital Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation’ (or “CCAM’ in short) and admitted into Great Ormond Street Hospital at the tender age of six months, Kenzie had to undergo serious surgery, which led to him having the upper area of his right lung removed. “It was a testing time for us, and we were scared stiff, but they saved my babies life” recalls Kenzie’s mum. “We really can't thank everyone at the hospital enough, from the doctors to every single nurse, they were brilliant, and after the operation, it wasn't long at all before he began rolling over, started to crawl and showing signs of a speedy recovery. Little did I know it would be the first of many trips to the hospital with him and I'm sure it won't be the last”.
By all accounts, it was a tough start in life for ‘UK Nipper Ripper’ Kenzie, but in the face of adversity and challenge, fully fit and healthy. Kenzie is riding with a skill set years beyond his age and is now noticed everywhere he rides, which, is becoming quite the day to day occurrence. With a mixture of hard work and natural talent, he's bursting with style by the truck load.
Since signing for Kona Bikes at the age of only ten as a ‘Super Grass Roots’ rider, Kenzie is comfortably at home either on his Kona Stinky 24, Kona Shred 24 or cruising the BMX track and turning heads at every ride.
The (very) Early Years
Considered a serious bike fan since he was old enough to take his first step, it wasn't long before he had his own miniature pump track in his back garden built by his Dad, where he would spend all day, every day riding. This is where he started to learn his trade at the ripe old age of two and a half while watching his sisters Tayla and Megan racing BMX. “Both the girls were pretty young then, but as they got older, we started hitting the BMX tracks with a few local races, then national races too and so Kenzie has always been in the race scene,” remarks his Dad.
At the age of three he entered his first BMX race at Milton Keynes race track in England, which didn't exactly go to plan for the young rider, he lined up with the other competitors (some nearly twice his age) and crashed in a heap within feet of the gate. Anyone that has been to a BMX race will know, no-one, not even the parents are allowed to enter the track (that being left to only the paramedics). This was a very nervous time for his mum and left Kenzie with not only a fear of paramedics but also saying “I'll never race again”.
His ‘No Racing’ rule didn't last too long, and he was back out on trips to the track with his sisters, and it didn't take him long at all before he was cutting his teeth on the bigger tracks. With his Dad being a downhiller; it wasn't long before he was shown the slopes at his local woods and from there his progression thrived.
A staunch regular at the tracks and trails ever since Kenzie is turning into one of the UK's most promising young stars. Kenzie was also eager to start racing downhill, but legally, was not allowed to do this until he was 10 and had to wait till 2015. With that out of the way, Kenzie made his first season count in which he podiumed an impressive seventeen times out of twenty-one races, six of which were wins.
An unusual recipe for success?
Hailing from Hillingdon, West London, you wouldn't think he would get the opportunity to ride much downhill, but that's not the case with Kenzie, and he is out each weekend. When he's not racing, he can be found out riding with his Dad, travelling to some of the finest tracks and trails the UK has to offer proving time and time again he's slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Coming from a bike-mad family, his dad Lee has been riding downhill now for over fifteen years; it was back when he used to ride the Dragon DH series. “We went on a boys holiday to the Alps riding, and as we drove up through the valley, I was pretty much hooked on the mountains from then,” says Lee. It was only a matter of time before he introduced the girls and Kenzie to the Alps.
First riding in the Alps when he was only four years old and has done so every year since, it was towards the end of his first season he got his first full suss MTB, a Scott 20" T-Spark Jr, moving on from his trusted and much loved 16 inch Redline PitBoss. “It was massive…” his Dad tells us, “…he could just about get his leg over the frame. We even had to take the seat post off and had to use cable ties to hold the seat to the frame. But that was him sorted, and he was gone, straight to the slopes, and he's never looked back since!”
Kenzie’s been riding in ‘Les Gets’ and ‘Morzine’ this year where he has spent the whole summer season training with his dad and sisters. When we had a chance to catch up with him, he had been hitting the trails with UK Propain riders James Purvis and Phil Atwill, as well as dropping his first solo edit with the guys at ‘Escapade 7’, after also appearing in ‘A Slice of British Pie’. His Dad says: “Kenz is pretty shy and does not say a lot unless you know him, but I could tell he was pretty stoked, and a bit star struck at the same time. We had a great day out up North with Ratboy, Tommy C and the crew”.
When Kenzie’s not riding bikes, he loves to spend time on his Drift-bike and Snowboard, which, it turns out (unsurprisingly) he's not too shabby with either. We travelled to ‘Les Gets’ this year and caught up with this talented young star for a brief chat about all things Kenzie…
How does riding your bike make you feel?
My bike is everything to me; it’s just me and my bike, and I just love riding… its freedom
Who do you ride for?
Kona Super Grass Roots’, ‘Stak Raceware’, ‘TF Tuning’, ‘Mudhugger’, ‘HT Components’ and ‘Zelvy Rims’.
What's your favourite place to ride? What track?
Pleney Black in Morzine. It’s crazy fast and real rough, and that's what I like.
What about in the UK?
Marlow and Rogate and I like Bike Park Wales, but the weather changes a lot, and it isn't often sunny!
What motivates you?
Watching my Dad and Sisters riding together, I rate my Dad as a 10 out of 10 rider (The answer brings about a rather large smile from his Dad).
What was your luckiest escape?
In France, going over the bars and hitting a tree! Luckily I didn't break anything and was just a bit winded; it could have been a lot worse! (At this point his Mum says) "Or the time he came home from school, jumped on his bike in the back garden without his crash helmet and was playing on his plastic kicker, until he face planted knocking himself out. He was only around six at the time! I thought he had died; he went grey and limp, so we had another trip to the hospital!"
Kenzie, who are your top three world cup riders?
Stevie Smith, Connor Fearon and James Purvis.
Do you find there’s much difference with what bike you’re on?
Not really, you feel every bump on the Shred, and when I get on the full suss, it smooths it out, and my arms don't ache.
What makes you angry?
(Pauses) I'm not sure… (Pauses again) OH… my sisters, he says, with a smile.\
What makes you happy?
Just riding my bike…and new parts (he smiles again).
With some great race results do you have much competition?
Yeah, they are all competition! Whoever is racing is not racing to come third, we all want to win I just hope I'm doing enough, to be lucky enough to win some more races.
Tell us a bit about your set up.
I'm getting a new bike for the new season; it's the same bike as I’ve got now, but they have changed the colours. It’s going to be pretty much out of the box, but we are swapping out the forks for 160mm Pikes after blowing up my others in France. We’ll have some carbon rims from Zelvy's pedals and grips, and that's about it.
What are your plans for the coming season?
I want to enter as many races as I can and get those podiums, working with my sponsors to help me progress with my racing. I hope we can get to ‘Crankworxs’ as well as some rounds of IXS, I need to do more filming for edits, but I find filming pretty boring, but I do watch them a lot, my last edit had thousands of views, I think most of them were me!.
Any shout outs and thanks?
My Mum, Dad, my Sisters Tayla and Megan; Darren Evans, Chris Cockrill, Kona Bikes, Barrie and everyone at TF Tuning for keeping my bike tip top; Mudhugger, Paul at Stak, Firecrest Mountain Biking, Tommy Caldwell, Phil Atwill and a massive thank you to everyone else who has helped me. Oh… and Zelvy, who are making me some 24” rims, I can't forget them,
By Jay Twist