The most powerful rider on the British Cycling scene (they’ve done tests: and that includes all competing riders – he’s more powerful than even the Tour de France roadies and Olympic velodrome nutbars), the most successful BMX racer out there, the fastest guy on a BMX track – ladies and gentlemen, is Liam Phillips. If you watched the Rio Olympics on TV this summer then you will have seen Liam’s custom race-bike clearing 40mph down the start straight and hitting the largest pro section ever made – racing BMX at the Olympics is no joke.
Unfortunately, Liam didn’t have the best luck, and a classic BMX move took him out exiting turn one during a qualifying moto – but that’s one of the beauties of BMX racing, its unpredictable nature. We caught up with Liam to see what he rode at the Olympics, and to ask a few questions about the bike, the set-up, and what he’s planning next.
Name: Liam Phillips
Years Riding: 22
Hometown: Born in Somerset, but lived in Manchester for 10 years now.
Sponsors: GT Bicycles, Bluegrass Eagle, Oakley, Renthal, Tioga, Pro-Gate, Nissan, Pulsar-X, Aldi, Simon Jersey.
“Right now I’m trying to get my head around the Olympics. It has been such a big focus of mine and for it to have ended like it did is still difficult to put into words”
FRAME: GT Speed Series, Aluminium
PEDALS: Shimano body, “with my own custom mods!”
FRONT TYRE: Tioga
REAR TYRE: Tioga
FRONT WHEEL: Chris King hub, Ti spoke, Alienation Rim
REAR WHEEL: Chris King hub, Ti spoke, Alienation Rim
This bike is pretty much entirely custom – starting with the GT Speed Series frame geometry; what did you want with your frame geo on this bike?
I’ve always had my bikes low and long. The BB height is high in comparison to many bikes on the market today, including the standard GT Speed Series. When I tried the standard geometry, I felt I was riding a Harley with ape-hangers and sat ‘inside’ the bike – sorry, that’s the best way I can describe it! I prefer something more ‘superbike’ with a lower front end, higher BB so I’m sat more on ‘top’ of the frame.
What is behind the custom paint?
I’ve been getting my cranks hydro-dipped for a couple of years as the standard DXR’s only come in silver. I want them black to match everything else on my bike! When I first showed up to a race, everyone thought I had carbon cranks… But that’s something for further down the line! The paint design itself was something I came up with. I love that side of BMX, and always try to push the boundaries and have one of the nicest bikes on the circuit. When it’s a bike for the Olympics, that’s taken to a whole new level! So my scruffy drawing was turned into a masterpiece by Fat Creations. I had seen Ali’s work on Instagram, and when Clive at GT mentioned using Fat Creations I was mega excited! So I asked for something clean, very GB inspired and something worthy of competing at the Olympics. I believe that was achieved, although it didn’t get the use it should have after a disastrous performance on my part.
The bars feel really low – what’s the set-up there? I’d have expected taller bars than this – what’s the reasoning?
Again, it’s just personal preference. I have worked with the guys at Renthal since 2010 and helped develop their BMX bar from day one. They are just a few miles from my house in Manchester so it’s awesome working with them and allows me to change, tweak, and try new things. I run a 7.5” rise which is pretty low, with seven-degree back-sweep.
How much titanium is on this bike?!
Haha – yeah, a little bit! Attention to detail is paramount in my day-to-day training. I guess that crosses over to me as a person and my bike.
So you had two identical bikes for Rio? How hard was that to arrange and build?
No issues – I’ve basically had two bikes up and running for years, and I keep all the components the same on each bike. But I usually have the frame/fork colours different. This was the first time I’ve ever had two EXACTLY the same. And I loved it!
Who helps you with bike set-up – do you have a team there working on bike tech at BC HQ?
NOOOOOO! This is BMX. It’s a very simple bike. I have a mechanic, Al Williams, at all the races just to check things over regularly between rides. Al has spent the past six years as one of Team Sky’s main mechanics, doing the Tour, Giro etc. so it’s awesome having someone as skilled on the job.
Have you tried tubeless for racing?
No, it’s something that’s been mentioned, but I’ve never tried.
What’s the oldest part on your bike? Do you run any ‘lucky’ parts for example?
No ‘lucky’ parts. But I had my hubs and pedal cases anodised in the Renthal gold to match my chainring and crossbar. I’ve been using them for a while. But the main reason I’ve used the pedals so long is all the work I’ve done on them! I spent hours in my garage tweaking/modifying and basically trying to make my pedals more difficult to clip out. I did a few races where I clipped out straight out of the gate… then your race is done. I made a promise to myself in 2013 after winning every race at a World Cup, and then clipping out in the final, that I would do everything I could to ensure that never happened again.
How often do you put together a new set-up?
Probably more often than I should! But I thinks it’s good for me, and also good for the brands I work with because everyone loves to see something new.
How good are you at keeping the thing dialled?
Very good! It’s the tool of my trade. I couldn’t ride something that wasn’t dialled. I strip, degrease and rebuild my whole bike before every race. Even the hub internals get pulled out!
Will we see this frame geo go into production for GT?
It was spoken about… Maybe if I had a more successful Olympics it would have been a no brainer! But the less said about that the better!
What else is new – what are you planning next?
Right now I’m trying to get my head around the Olympics. It has been such a big focus of mine and for it to have ended like it did is still difficult to put into words. GT have been the best though! We are going to sit down in the next few weeks to discuss next year’s plans. Wearing the rainbow jersey would be a dream again, but I’d like to race in the US and give it a good go for a full season. Maybe try and win the USA BMX title! That’s never been high on my agenda, but it’s something that excites me right now. I firmly believe that you need to have a strong desire to achieve something, before then sitting down and planning it. If you’ve no desire, it’s neither important or enjoyable enough to sacrifice everything required to achieve what you’re after. I can only thank everyone that has helped me this far, and I look forward to whatever lies ahead.
“I couldn’t ride something that wasn’t dialled. I strip, degrease and rebuild my whole bike before every race. Even the hub internals get pulled out!”