Mountain Girl - The Lovely Niki
First things first: what’s the gnarliest stunt you’ve pulled?Aww, I don’t know. You don’t plan these things. I was on a track one time and it was a course I didn’t know. I came flying down around a corner and was faced with this big bathtub thing that I had to jump – there was no choice. Had I known it was there I would have probably had doubts, but I just did it.
Rad! Now, you didn’t qualify for the Commonwealth Games when it looked like you were a dead cert, what happened? It’s something I really don’t want to talk about, because I don’t want to be seen to be making excuses. I will say that it was a combination of bad timing and the bronchitis I got that I’m still trying to get over. When it comes to the selection day you’ve got to be strong, and sometimes you’re just not. Although I have consistently made the podium over the last few years at Nationals, nothing is a dead certainty for anyone.
Understood. You were born a Brit but became Aussie in 2001. We’re not complaining, but why? I was born in England and my parents are from New Zealand. We moved around a lot so I have lived in the UK, the US, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. But I have lived in Australia for about 20 years now and I really love it here. Australia is very much my home!
And then you won the Australian Downhill Series in 2001! Where do you keep all your medals? Because I’m away so much they tend to be in boxes.
You’re lucky you’re not in a box yourself – didn’t you break your back snowboarding? Yeah, I was in Sweden and about 18 or so, and in that frame of mind where you don’t consider the consequences of things you do. I was practicing a back flip. I remember being on the hospital trolley. I couldn’t move very much but I managed to inch up the blanket, because there was the X-ray envelope at the end.
You dared to look? Of course. I was a bit of a tomboy back then and not afraid to try anything. I looked at it and I could see the break. I wasn’t really scared: it was all very surreal. In retrospect it was a good thing because it made me more aware of my own mortality.
You’re renowned for going hard on the bike, down hills strewn with jagged rocks and branches and boulders, but in photos you never have any cuts! How come? I have a few scars! It’s just since breaking my back that I try and stay within my limits.
You’ve said that you’re into Arthouse cinema, yet your favourite Aussie film is BMX Bandits. Discuss. Ha! That’s true enough. The bit I love about BMX Bandits is where they go down the waterslide on their bikes! I‘ve always wanted to do that.
Do you get really envious of that bit at the end of ET where they all take-off on their BMX’s? Yeah! That would be a pretty cool trick to have up your sleeve.
A few issues ago we jumped through a hoop of fire into Sydney harbour. Would you do it if we set it up for you? Ha, ha! Did you really!? Well I’m not a big fan of fire so I probably wouldn’t. I’ve been in too many incidents with fire – when I was very young I was sitting at the dinner table with my brother and he managed to set the table alight with a candle.
Top man! If the FHM team were to lie down, how many of us could you bunny hop? [Pauses] I wouldn’t want to speculate, as it’s not the sort of thing I’d do on call. But I could do it… it just depends how fat you all are!
Pretty hefty! Do you mend punctures with two spoons? That’s a myth! You could try and use them, but it’s not the tools of a pro.
Do you ever kick people off their bikes during races? No, never! Winning is important but it’s not the be-all and end-all. No-one’s really nasty to each other, we kinda look after each other.
Do cyclists have gangs like bikies? Erm, there’s groups I guess.
Dangerous groups? Only when they’re on bikes!
Ever killed anything? I’ve missed the odd squirrel.
Will you and your “future husband or partner” ride side-by-side on the road? Yeah I don’t see why not. I hear some drivers saying cyclists should be banned from the road, but we have as much right too be there as anybody.
Do you get saddle-sore? No I don’t. And you shouldn’t if you use the right shorts and apply chamois cream.
Mmm. Should fat people be banned from wearing Lycra? Not if they want to wear it.
Finally, could you crack a walnut between your butt cheeks? Erm, to be honest the thought’s never crossed my mind.
Profile: Henry Blake. Photographer: Fabrizio Lipari. "Mountain Girl - The Lovely Niki" FHM Magazine, April 2006 Issue.