Exclusive: Five Minutes With…Allan Cooke

From BMX dirt contests to just riding in the dirt

By Seb Kemp
Photos by Paris Gore

While riding in Sedona I had the privilege of riding with 2002 X-Games BMX Dirt gold medalist and helicopter ice-picking , Allan Cooke. Allan retired from competition in 2009 and now works for Bell Helmets. After following his lines down some rocky, dusty Sedona trails, I cornered him for a few moments.

What is your background with BMX?

I started racing BMX when I was three. I started dirt jumping when I was twelve. Then I started competing at dirt jumping when I was fifteen. I got into riding park and started getting some opportunities with companies like DC, Mountain Dew, Specialized and Fox over the years.

For twelve years I did all the Dew tours, X-Games, DK Circuits, Worlds, Masters, Simple Sessions. I was pretty happy with my BMX career and managed to go out on my own terms. I didn't fade away, but my body started to play up and I made the decision to move on. I was given the opportunity to work as Brand Manager for Haro and Premium bikes, and I did that for three years before moving to Bell.

What is your background with mountain bikes?

I've always ridden all sorts of bikes, all through my BMX career. I used road and mountain bikes for training. I just enjoy being on any sort of bike.

There's always been a tension between BMXers and mountain bikers, you joked the other day that you kept your mountain biking under cover. Why was that?

I wouldn't say it was a tension, I'd say it was more of an ignorance by the BMX side. BMXers tend to be a younger crowd and image seems to be more important to BMXers than it is to mountain bikers. I think, it's just pure ignorance. I don't think any BMXer that has ever ridden a mountain bike hates them.

I've ridden motocross bikes my whole life and it crosses over. For me, being on two wheels is home for me. The way the bikes are now - the way you can trust them and what they will get you through--it seems like every few weeks I'll see something that I haven't done before, I'll just give it a go and everything works out fine.

How often do you ride?

I try to ride at least three or four times a week before work. Now that it's getting lighter at night, I try ride after work too. I try to ride BMX three or four times a week too, usually at lunchtimes. There's a really good concrete skatepark just a mile away from Bell, so I'll go up there at lunch when it's quiet so I can get two hours when no one is there.

What is your role at Bell?

It is a sort of a gray area. My enthusiasm has put me in a position where I wear many hats, but on my business card it says "Sports Marketing and Event Management". What takes up most of my time is the athlete management side of it. This comes really easy to me because being an athlete means I know what our athletes want without having to ask and I feel very comfortable about being there with a cold water at the finish line, because I know that's what I would have wanted.

I also do a lot of product development, on a sort of voluntary basis. I've always taken an interest in product, whether it is bikes, parts, hard goods orsoft goods, and I've always paid attention to the technical side. What I also do now is translate what athletes tell me about products to the engineers and developers.

A little while ago, in partnership the ARF (Athlete Recovery Fund), you brought some professional BMX athletes along to Bell's helmet testing facility to show them the difference between certified and uncertified helmets. How did that come about?

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My brother, Aaron was the founder of ARF and this was something we wanted to do to spread the word about the differences between certified and non-certified helmets. Everybody knows that non-certified helmets are not as safe, but I don't think people know the actual difference, and it's huge.

It's awkward though because you have to be careful with how you speak to athletes. I've been there. Like I said earlier, the BMX crowd is younger and usually don't want to be told anything by their parents, or do what the law tells them to do...they certainly won't do what I tell them. So, we put out the video, but giving people the option to click on a web video is different than me going to a skate park and telling people their helmet isn't safe and that they are putting themselves in danger.