Tym Manley and Steve Behr
The creative partnership at the core of the magazine, launched in 1987, which established and maintained the MTB lifestyle in Great Britain and beyond and which was key to the UK’s unique and continuing success in Downhill Racing and Freeride
Tym Manley was the first Editor in Chief and part owner of Britain’s first mountain bike magazine, Mountain Biking UK (MBUK), which has been central, for thirty years and counting, to the development of a British mountain bike scene focused on freeride and downhill and majoring in anarchic humour and fun.
In the 80s, Steve Behr became obsessed by mountain bikes and applied his talent for photography to the early races and then to feature work. His career as a City lawyer had already begun to pall and as MBUK grew Steve was able quit his job and become chief editorial photographer.
Mountain Biking was hardly known in the UK back then, there was no support from cycling organisations, rather the opposite; no stars, no journalists just a small but fanatical riding community spread around the country in small pockets.
Tym came from mainstream lifestyle magazines and he set about building the scene, training journalists and creating celebrities from the talented riders who were beginning to emerge such as Jason McRoy, Rob Warner Martyn Ashton and Steve Peat. After four issues, and kick-started tellingly by a cover feature on skydivers riding bikes out of a Skyvan, MBUK became a publishing phenomenon and promoted the sport in the UK as a grassroots lifestyle activity, made glamorous by the success of Britain’s downhill and extreme riders, but always ballasted by combative testing of equipment and an emphasis on teaching the skills real mountain bikers needed to enjoy their riding.
Tym quickly identified the 70s Marin County combination of off-road epic rides, downhill racing and good natured lunacy as a natural fit for the UK and plugged the nascent sport directly into the spirit of those days, with Charlie Kelly on the masthead as US Editor from Day 1.
For a feature based magazine, great pictures were essential. Working closely together Manley and Behr invented ways to make dirt jumping, slalom, freeride, trials and racing look as cool as they were, inspired in part by the videos of Hans Rey, and had a lot of fun going to the extremes and sometimes a step too far.
MBUK was the first magazine to include ‘freeride’ features regularly before it was even called freeride. The effect was to spread the sport by sharing the innovations of the Laguna RADS, say, or a group of inner city trials riders with those of a gang of Scottish mountain night riders. The readers quickly joined in.
The mix of pro skills, enthusiasm and crazy humour communicated by the featured riders to the growing riding community, and the efforts of those grass roots riders who joined the magazine staff, and often became celebrities themselves while engaging with the readership, saw MBUK drive mountain biking pretty much on its own until the internet took over the community building duties late in the first decade of the 21st Century.
It was influential not only in the British Isles but in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the most naturally anglophone parts of Europe, Holland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. It was even licensed in Russia.
Steve Peat, Britain and the world’s most successful downhill racer was there:
“When I was coming up, MBUK was British mountain biking. It had a huge influence on the UK riding scene and vitally important to the careers of the UK’s first pro riders, sponsoring us as we tried to make our mark on the international race scene”
Visually it just got better. Steve Behr did more than create the image of the UK sport, he quickly inspired trust in the riders he worked with and in leading industry figures around the world and they brought him their input. He not only came up with great visual ideas but had the attention to detail and organisational abilities to bring off extraordinarily creative picture trips far from home on a tight schedule and even tighter budget.
As it began to make money, the owners invested in Team MBUK, the magazine-sponsored international Downhill Team, which included all the best British riders over the years, some of whom, like Steve Peat, went on to become World Champions.
Rob Warner, the first British rider to win a World Cup race and now the voice of World Cup TV coverage was one of them:
“We know mountain biking was cool, but Tym and Steve made it as cool as! The two of them have been a massive part of British mountain biking right from the beginning”
Underneath all the adrenaline fun and glamour, Tym Manley’s editorial strategy was to ensure that MBUK’s credibility was always solidly underpinned by its serious and independent testing of equipment (under the direction of the late Steve Worland), the promotion of good riding etiquette and teaching the skills and attitude needed to stay safe, because, as he was often to write by way of caution: “We hate to lose readers…”
- Tym Manley launched other titles, notably MTB Pro and Privateer, reflecting changing reader involvement in MTB recreation and racing. He received Britain’s Cycling Media Legend Award in 2016.
- Steve Behr continues to shoot for MBUK today along with other cycling and mountain biking publications in the UK and worldwide. He was inducted into the UK Mountain Biking Hall of Fame in 2013.
- Tym and Steve continue to work together regularly on mountain bike projects.
Written by Tym Manley and Steve Behr. Rev 7.11.17mv