Photos: Maxime Cassagne.
Over the past two years Sietse Van Berkel has become one of my favourite riders to watch! Energetic flow and just that lil’ something extra I can’t quite put my finger on, at a push maybe its the way he appears to float around the bike.
Running FM and watching so many edits on a daily basis, when I see riders like Sietse come through the ranks and standout. It is a great feeling, I was curious as a result to know more about Sietse. It has been a while since a full FM interview, so why not squash that! Here is the Sietse Van Berkel Flatmatters Interview + Amazing Edit! Watch it right below!
Sietse let’s kick this off with some background information about yourself. How old are you, how long have you been riding, and where exactly are you from? many might not know…
Hi Effraim! 25 years old, started riding BMX since the age of 15, since the age of 16 flatland specific. Originally from a small village named Nieuwendijk, in the south of Holland. A few years ago I moved to Utrecht, an old beautiful city in the centre of Holland.
How did you get into flatland? I’d imagine in Holland, the Flatground was highly influential for you and your scene?
YES! Back in the days, I was in a local skate crew (total of 2 skateboarders and me…) There was no skatepark in our village, so we build our own wooden skateramp. However, my BMX destroyed the ramp, so I couldn’t ride it for a long time. After seeing some flatland video’s on the internet, I knew I wanted to ride a bike like that. I got my first flatland BMX for my 16th birthday; a WeThePeople pony. Hooked on riding since then!
Braun Flatground 2005 was the first contest I visited as a spectator. I was so overwhelmed seeing real life flatland for the first time ever in my life, deeply impressed by all the riders / styles / tricks! The vibe of the finals was amazing; Viki Gomez vs. York Uno and Scott O’ Brien on the mic. Epic!
Around that time there was a pretty big scene in Holland, good riders (Bram, Sytse Winkel, James Alberto) a lot of jams with a lot of people, Renato van Bloemenhuis with FlatTV flatland video magazine. Good times!!
It seems to me that you have really found your way in riding, have you always rode brakeless?
For now I like the idea to have a bike that is as simple as possible. I did make the classic mistake to take of my back brake right after I got my first flatland BMX, I thought it was ‘oldskool’ of not cool to have a back brake. After a few months I took off my front brake, because I could do all the tricks I learned brakeless, and tricks I wanted to learn also were rolling tricks.
A few weeks ago I was curious about some brake tricks, so I put on a front brake again. But it didn’t felt good / natural for me at all, and I got some new ideas for other brakeless tricks. After two hours I took the brake off. So yes, I think I have found my way in riding brakeless. We will see what future brings.
More recently I have been asking interviewees to produce an edit to showcase their riding, whats your concept for your edit?
Well, not really a concept, just riding from the last 2 months. The video I made is a selection of mobile phone clips, some new, some older, different styles and different weather conditions. I try to be original, as well you can see tricks which I think there just cool or fun to do. Some of the clips are pulled first try on cam. I think it’s time to buy a good camera.
How’s the Dutch scene going? Many new riders/faces?
The Dutch scene used to be much bigger. The scene nowadays is based on a small group of dedicated riders. At the moment there are in a few cities small groups of riders, like Groningen, Amsterdam, Haarlem and Eindhoven. There not really many new faces. I hope there a lot more riders in smaller villages who just ride by themselves.
Do you ride on your own, or have a crew to ride with?
99% of the time I ride on my own, which I like. Sometimes I go to another city to ride with other people.
What are your plans this year, contest wise, travelling etc?
I like to go with other riders to jams or contests, because a road trip is always fun! At the end of may I go to Berlin to chill at the 55DSL jam in Mellowpark. In July I go to BMX Cologne, every year good party! After BMX Cologne I’m going to chill with my girlfriend somewhere in Europe for some weeks. Hopefully we will cross some jams.
After summer I hope to go to FlatArk or Toronto, but depends on the money and holiday time…
In June (weekend of 28th – 29th, same weekend as Barcelona Xtreme) I’m organising a jam as part of Fusion Jam, a funsport-festival in Tilburg, Holland. This is part of Festival Mundial, a really big music festival. Got some camping arranged for the riders, a good floor, for some good chilling and riding together! If you want to come, please contact me!
As part of the new generation of pros coming through, how do you feel the internet has effected your riding, is it a daily motivation for you?
Yes. Internet is an easy way to showcase my own riding. In September 2012 I dropped a small video online of a daily session. I got some goodfeedback about my riding, which motivated me to showcase my riding more.
Sometimes it is a good motivation to watch other riders video’s. Just so nice to see so many good riders from all over the world!!
You have a really unique style, really light footed, almost like Chase Gouin would say “floatland” is this something you worked on, or natural style?
Haha, thanks! I used to work on riding smooth. A friend of me said, when I showed her a link on video, that I got the same movement in normal life, without the bike. So I also I think it’s natural style evolving.
Whats your view of contests? Do you train for them, or are you much more concerned with progression?
I don’t really have priority to train hard for contests. It stops progression for me. Everybody knows the feeling of pulling a new trick, it’s such a good feeling! This feeling is the main motivation for me to ride. But it’s always fun to go to a contest and meet all the riders. That’s a good motivation too for me, I for other riders as well. Contests and demo’s seems a good way to show people what BMX is, so I think it’s a good aspect of riding.
When I know I go to a contest I check in some days before the contest, which tricks I have dialled. So I know on which hopefully kind of unique tricks I have a chance to pull in my run.
Most of the contest floors feel difficult for me to ride, because I’m used to a grippy asphalt floor instead of a slippery wooden or concrete floor. Sometimes I’m lucky when the contest floor is also grippy, like at the ABC flatland contest. I felt way more confident so I was able to pull some links in the contest.
I think it’s just a good thing to see company’s sponsor riders who are just cool or nice riders with own styles, not only contest machines. It’s stimulates young guns to do their own thing riding wise!
How do you think flatland has changed since you began riding?
Really difficult question. Don’t know the changes has been positive or negative.
I feel like I started riding during the beginning of ‘newschool’ period. I’ve seen trends, some contra-trends, and so on, and I still feel like a rookie in BMX-world. How people deal with internet has definitely a big influence on all the trends.
What sticks in my mind is the steamroller-based period as a trend (a trick I still use a lot), now you see people go more and more for diverse tricks and unique styles. It’s way more fun to see people doing their own thing. I think it’s a good ‘trend’ again. We all just have to follow our ownpath.
For myself, flatland hasn’t change much. It’s still my sport and creative outlet from my daily activity, which I like to do a lot.
What is your vision for the future with regard to your personal riding?
I hope I can ride as long as possible with fun. It’s so good to see older guys still being a teenager while riding, no matter the level of riding. I hope I will never get ‘old’ in a bitter way. In another way, I hope I can still continue to progress. This is for me the main motivation to ride BMX. Maybe when I’m older progression won’t be my main motivation to ride, I don’t know.
I got some short term goals riding wise. I hope to learn some techniques I haven’t mastered yet and evolve my own style and tricks more and more.
On a personal note: do you just ride, or do you hold down a job, college, university or something like that?
I have a job for 3,5 days a week. The rest of the week I ride my bike, and try ride some BMX shows with the ActBMX team.
My job is counsellor in a middle school, try to help teenagers with social-emotional problems. I work as well in a innovate school program in Holland, based on personal education and giving kids the chance to evolve their own talents. I’ve got enough time to totally focus on my job, go for it with fun and passion, and also have enough time to ride, have a social life and doing other stuff I like
I noticed on your Facebook that you kill bikes, what are you riding now and how is that bike holding up?
Haha, I try my best to keep the bike safe when I bail.
I only want to change a part when it’s broken, try to care a bit about the environment.
The hardware on my bike is holding up pretty good so far. I want strong parts, which will not break after some months of riding. I think it’s also important to support the small amount of companies that support flatland.
My personal ride now is as followed:
Frame: Junglerider indamix 19.5 frame from Navid.
Bar: Tempered, don’t know which one, swapped it with Sytse Winkel.
Barends: St. Martin
Gripstops: Modified St. Martin barend and Autum barend.
Stem:Flatware with homemade knee protection.
Fork: Flatware 0 degrees.
Front rim: Sun, pinned 48h.
Front hub:Proper 48 holes, no broken spokes since 2 years!
Rear rim: Sun, pinned 36h.
Freecoaster: KHE geisha first version, 36h.
Front tires: Odyssey frequency 1.75 .
Rear tire: Suelo 1.75.
Crank: KHE erlkoenig, modified to fit a 20t sprocket.
Sprocket: St. Martin
Front pegs:Suelo, old version, with skateboard griptape. Grippy when it´s wet, good enough for pivoting.
Rear pegs: KHE jessup and Sequence plastic.
Seat: MacNeil Travis Collier, modified the back for easier grab.
Seatpost: Primo long one.
Grips: Proper, but I want to go back to Odi Longnecks. Does someone knows a something to make sure the grips won’t slip? *Editors note: You could try Tennis grip.
With that talk of bike breaking, I know just got a JR frame. I guess if you could talk to a manufacturer what would your advise be into frame design to last?
Haha, I did a social study. Really don’t know much about the technical aspects of BMX-manufacturing. Although, I would like to help a company out and try how long their BMX parts will last my riding
Something we don’t discuss is surfaces whilst riding, whats your preferred surface to ride flatland Sietse?
With A LOT of grip. My homespots are always made of asphalt. I don’t like it when a floor is slippery, and I get the feeling I don’t have control.
We talked about your style evolving a lil’ bit, what riders are inspiring you?
Every rider with own style or tricks!
I really enjoy when I see a photo or video of a rider where you rarely see a thing from.
You’re doing a fantastic job give those riders attention on flatmatters with interviews of Naoki Watanabe, Shuichi Osada, Eiji Kataoka, Peter Olsen, Sebastian Grubinger. Felt the same with all the Ground Tactics entries and older DVD’s. So good to see so many difference.
On big contests like BMX Masters / worlds / cologne I like to watch qualification of riders I rarely see, even if they don’t pull full links. I just need to travel more and visit more places and riders.
Thanks Sietse, dope to hear that! What kind of music are you into?
Depends on my mood or daytime.
For now mostly classic music for waking up, soul / funk / punk in mycar, to see live; every kind of music.
Love to go to music festivals sometimes.
For riding everything: from singer-songwriter (Jose Gonzales, Emil Landman) beats (L’Orange, Perquisite), easy D’nB (High Contrast), band (The Mars Volta, The Bronx, Buena Vista Social Club, Jamiroquai, Happy Camper). Besides that I like to ride without music. Just silence.
You do a lot of shows Sietse right? Tell me something about this?
Together with Bram Verhallen I have a show agency named ActBMX. This used to be the company from Bram and Sytse Winkel. Sometimes they asked me to ride a show with them. In the last years they almost quit riding, so I continued ActBMX. We still ride shows together. Bram even started riding again, and Navid Saleki is also involved. It’s for us fun to do, and good to catch up again!
I like to perform with or without the bike. From time to time I do a project with friend in a theme band (nineties party or zeroes heroes party) where I sing, and I play the bass guitar with friends in a band.
It’s most fun to do BMX shows of demo’s for kids. They are always impressed, and it’s an good and for my easy way to bring a good message to them.
Any final words to wrap up this interview Sietse, it has been great catching up with you and learning more about you and your story.
You’re welcome! Thank you so much Effraim for this opportunity. Thanks to photographers Maxime Cassagne, and Omar Lammers for the great pics. Thank you reader / rider for taking the time to read this interview, (or just scroll down and only read this sentence)! Ride on!
Go watch that edit again….