At a time when the country is lacking leadership and young people are more distrustful of politicians than ever before, responsibility is falling to real people to make the changes that communities need. Jake100 is the 20-year-old daredevil rider who’s energising a community of cyclists to tackle injustices in their city, and make life better for London’s new generation. It’s true what they say: not all heroes wear capes...some do wheelies instead.
With over 140k followers on Instagram, East Londoner Jake100 has built a huge audience with his unique talent on two wheels – taking over the streets with confidence and pulling off the kind of tricks you’ve only ever seen on video games. Beyond that though – and more importantly – he’s harnessing the spirit of community around ‘Bike Life’ culture to build a better version of London for the young people he represents.
After leading the 'Knives Down, Bikes Up' movement that saw thousands of young riders take over central London to make a stand against knife crime, Jake’s latest project is all about equipping young people with the type of technical and mechanical skills that can lead to employment. ‘Down To Ride’ – in association with Nike – will put 100 young people from marginalised backgrounds through a bicycle maintenance course that will get them back on two wheels and, potentially, propel them into work.
As the latest mesmerising Swerve Sunday event shut down South East London we caught up with Jake100 to get the full story behind his latest community initiative, his inspirational come up, and how bikes hold the key to a better life for young Londoners.
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Complex: What are your earliest memories of riding and how did being on a bike make you feel as a young kid?
Jake100: My earliest memories on a bike would probably be when my stabilisers came off, but then after that the first thing I remember is riding around the local forest trying to jump off little bumps and roots, and feeling over the moon...even when I would only get my front wheel off the floor a few inches!
Was cycling and bike culture something that was big in your area and community growing up?
Where I grew up, I would just ride around with all my boys, and explore the surrounding areas as it was the most fun and the easiest way to get about. Bikes are great for exploring.
When did you first begin to recognise you were skilled on two wheels?
I guess I first started to realise I had a talent for wheelies when I wheelied from my local high street to the youth centre; it was the longest wheelie I had ever seen anyone do in my area but it was just a bit of fun at the time.
How did you develop your talent, did you ever dream of building a career or culture around bikes?
There was no one to look up to who wheelied; no professional riders from the Bike Life world, and not really any videos online of people taking wheelies to the level it’s at now – things have really stepped up in the last year or so. So at that point I never even dreamed I could build a career out of it, as it just wasn’t a thing like that. It wasn’t a possibility.
When and why did you realise ‘Knives Down, Bikes Up’ needed to become a thing?
Growing up – as I started to take riding a bit more seriously – that was around the same time that I was exposed to the knife crime epidemic that’s been going on in London. This was the same time that people in my circle got caught up in it all and were stabbed themselves. Bikes were the one thing that kept me focused and kept me occupied so I never fell into that trap. I always had a positive outlet, something to focus on.
Talk to us about your new initiative, ‘Down To Ride’. What’s it all about?
The Down To Ride initiative aims to support 100 young people from marginalised and lower income backgrounds, and put them through an entry level bicycle maintenance course that can help propel them into employment. At the beginning, it will enable them to maintain and customise their own bikes but for the young people who want to take their skills further, there will be opportunities through the programme to gain internationally recognised industry standard qualifications and potentially even find full time jobs.
Why is it so important to you to give back to your community?
I feel so blessed to be in the position I’m in. I grew up in East London and saw the struggles that people go through first hand. I almost feel like it's my responsibility to help the youth and provide for them through the opportunities that I get. It’s important to do that; to inspire kids and show them what is possible if they apply themselves, and hopefully when they find themselves in similar positions in the future, they too will realise it's their responsibility to do the same...to pay it forward.
It feels like inclusivity is really important to you – has the current political climate made you even more motivated to make a difference to young people?
Inclusivity is huge to me. I’m always trying to bring different friends and kids into the scene. I just feel that in today’s world, we are taught from a young age to better than one another, to almost compete with your peers. I know for a fact that when young people are working together and feel like they are a part of something, that’s when they are going to be motivated to keep achieving and to stay on the right path in life.
What are your favourite parts of London to ride in?
I love riding everywhere in London. Obviously, central London tends to be the most exciting as it’s where all the action is. I’ve been riding around the city for years now, though, so I really enjoy going deeper into all of the different boroughs as the cultures are varied and you experience that shift in real time as you ride between them. It’s also just fun interacting and showing off your talent to different communities throughout London. This whole movement is bigger than one individual area or postcode.
What’s your advice for anyone thinking about riding on two wheels for the first time – why should they get involved in this movement?
My advice for people wanting to get involved and start riding is GO FOR IT! The cycling community and – more specifically – the Bike Life community is truly amazing. It’s incredibly welcoming and everyone who enters it for the first time builds new friendships very quickly. Riding will also give you a sense of freedom that can be very hard to find in busy cities like London. Plus, it’s definitely the best mode of transport there is.
What made you start Swerve Sundays? And what can someone expect if they are attending for the first time?
Swerve Sunday started because Collective Bikes wanted to give the kids something fun to take part in and they’ve fixed that day in the diary so there’s always something to look forward to. It brings everyone together in one place where it's all about fun, and nothing else. If it’s your first time, you can expect to be surrounded by great vibes and will witness some of the best riders in the scene sending it!