Nowadays, tattoos have become a very normal thing in our day-to-day lives. It’s not uncommon to see full-sleeves while buying chicken and mushroom pies at Spar, and it’s even become pretty standard to see a number of inked up employees in most of our workplaces (we’re at 50% in our office). As mountain bikers though, tattoos can take on a distinctly bikey flavour. Full Sus put out feelers to seek a couple of MTB tattoos, and six lads stepped up to the plate to tell Kathryn Fourie their tattoo tales…
Barry McCallum is a journalist, born in Northern Ireland who now lives in Benoni. Having started riding in 1991 as a student at Rhodes University, he developed the taste for speed bombing down Mountain Drive on a borrowed Mongoose Topanga. Barry’s current favourite ride is Giant Trance. In the early 90’s there weren’t any local MTB mags in SA, so Barry relied on inspiration from international magazines like Mountain Biking UK. It was through this mag that he was introduced to the character of Mint Sauce, the philosophical mountain biking sheep in Jo Burt’s cartoon strip. Barry sports the amusing sheep riding on the top of his left arm, and hopes one day to have a full sleeve of Mint Sauce images. Interestingly, he had the tattoo done by a dude called Schalk, on a half-price special, done in Schalk’s flat.
Conrad Davies is a name many people in the MTB fraternity are familiar with, having ridden all sorts of bikes (mainly gravity inspired) and has worked in the cycling industry for some time. Conrad recently moved to Johannesburg from Hillcrest, and has been pedalling wheels round and round for about 21 years. He is currently the workshop manager at Concept Cyclery Cedar Square and is very into the Enduro scene at the moment, particularly in his Specialized Enduro 29er. Conrad’s tattoo goes back some years to 1985, when he was on holiday in Umhlanga. While purchasing a pair of full finger gloves (the mark of the gravity rider), he saw some artwork in a Troy Lee Designs catalogue, which he really liked, that was then transferred via ink and needle into his upper arm!
Kayn Woolmer is a management consultant from Joburg and has been riding bicycles (and creating the most amazing man-cave-bike-mechanic-room many of us have ever seen) for 14 years. He rides just about anything that rolls, but trail and free ride are his pick. Kayn must be the only management consultant in South Africa to have a full sleeve with four riders smashing it down an alpine ridge! Kayn made a deal with a friend who was diagnosed with leukaemia that if he made it through the ordeal, he’d tattoo his whole arm. Unfortunately, Kayn’s friend passed away, but he honoured the deal anyway. “To me it represents all the awesome people that the sport has made me meet,” he explained.
Francois Swanepoel has been riding bikes since he was a tiny tot, but he’s a lot bigger now and was instrumental in the Gauteng DH scene for some years. When not on the bike he works in Debt Collection, and lives in Roodepoort. Francois’s MTB tattoo is unusual, taking the shape of five gear cassettes encircling his left elbow, “I was inspired by my love of riding bikes. Bicycles are as integrated to my being as breathing. I have 11 tattoos at the moment and have quite a bit of fleshy real estate to cover. I will probably get tattooed until my dying day!” Francois’s tats are mostly done by Ryan ‘Busta’ Bolton, but for some reason Francois calls him Spanky. I decided not to ask why.
Jason Theunissen is the owner of Ballistic Bike Trading and lives in Roodepoort, Gauteng. Jason has been riding on and off for the past eight years, while he enjoys flats and single track, downhills are where he gets his kicks. Jason received news some time ago about a tumor in his head, and decided to follow his desire of getting his leg inked. His tattoo covers almost his whole calf, and is a picture of a skeleton riding a mountain bike down a hill made up of the remnants of riders gone by, old bikes and good times had. “Ride ‘til you die…”
Jason Lea from Cape Town has got a pretty spectacular heart and bicycle integration piece on his forearm. Being from Cape Town, it’s not too surprising that he’s the first dude to admit he was cruising through Pinterest looking for tattoo designs! He has proven that there is actually more interesting stuff than hipster home décor on Pinterest (seriously). “I came across the design and liked how the cycle components were integrated into the heart outline. I provided the design, along with other images of bicycle parts, to Tyler B. Murphy, who is a tattoo artist from Sins of Style in Cape Town. He took all the elements I provided and came up with what you see now. I love the complexity and intricacy of the design. He really did a stellar job!” Jason said.
While tattoos aren’t for everyone, the stories behind them certainly make for good conversation. As the famous author (and alcoholic) Jack London once said “Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past”.
So if you’ve got a mountain biking inspired tattoo, the scarring caused by an oily chainring cutting into your calf doesn’t count, send us a photo. Tweet your MTB Tattoo picks to @FullSussa using the hashtag #MTBTattoo and Full Sus will hook the owner of the coolest tattoo up with an inky prize.