Brett Barnes is best known for his track building nous, but he’s also an instructor for the Police Bicycle Unit…did someone say Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill?
He has built over 120 tracks in the last 15 years. He was born and bred a BMX admirer and still has the occasional pump around tracks. He is the owner of Dirtz Design and Construction and has the assistance of excavation wizard Geoff “the Bulcan” Cartwright, as well as Aussie BMX legend and current BMX Australia National Coaching Manager Luke Madill, who is his tester of all his tracks.
His name is Brett Barnes, and he is also a Sergeant in the NSW Police Force.
“I was born in the 80’s, my twin brother and I rode BMX bikes from about the age of eight to 17. That when I gave it up to be a police officer,” Barnes recalled.
Barnes finished his training and became a fully-fledged police officer. As he progressed up the ranks, his fellow members began to notice that their peer had a certain talent behind the handlebars.
Sooner rather than later, he was offered the position as a coordinator of the NSW Police Bicycle Unit. He completed an instructor’s course in 2004 and then went back to general duties for around five years with part time work as an instructor.
For the last year and a half he has been working full time with the position of Coordinator of the NSW Police Bicycle Unit course.
When you say “Police Bicycle Unit”, images of the hit movie 21 Jump Street immediately come to mind. Action scenes of Channing Tatum and a cumbersome athletically challenged Jonah Hill riding through a park with their sirens blinking on their handlebars, inept in every facet of their job, are what Hollywood has stereotyped Police Bicycle Units as worldwide.
Pic Sourced: https://www.popsugar.com/celebrity/Pictures-Channing-Tatum-Filming-21-Jump-Street-2011-05-11-012200-16449198
The idea of hundred of Jonah Hills learning to ride a mountain bike is a very amusing prospect. When asked about this stigma that surrounds his trainees, Sgt Barnes response was surrounded by a great deal of laughter.
“We tend to filter through the Jonah Hills because they have to pass medical and physical tests to be sure that they are eligible or the five day training course,” he smiled
It’s interesting to think that there are specific skills that the police officers need to know in order to ride a bike, Barnes explains that these skills are focused around the development of their balance with particular attention to slow speed and high pedestrian skills.
“If I could get every policeman to ride like a five year old sprocket, my job would be a lot easier. The older you get, the more stiff and apprehensive you are about the task in front of you. The biggest challenge is trying to get them (officers) to relearn how to ride a bike,” Barnes explains.
Even though they filter out the physically weak candidates, some still slip through and Barnes informs that he can’t name names. But if he were to enter into Funniest Home Videos with a montage of policeman falling off their bikes, it would be the highlight of the show.
“If there is anything funnier than a rider falling off his bike, it’s a policeman doing it. But they take it with good humour, laughing at themselves and one another.”
From sprocket to sergeant, Barnes has continued to love the sport on two wheels.
His motivation to be the most prolific track designer in the world came due to a frustration with poor quality tracks. He explains that many clubs want to put in a jump here or a bend there, but it’s not about how it looks or sounds, but how it feels. It’s all about how it works cohesively together.
“Because of the work that Geoff, Luke and I have done with bikes over the last 15 years, we tend to look at stuff differently than most,” he said.
“We tend to make sure that everything is put in the track because it is needed, not because it is wanted. If you put a jump in the wrong spot, it can slow the whole track down and produce a worthless ride.
“The only reason we have been so successful is because we have made the most mistakes and we have learnt from them.”
Ask about his favourite track, and you would expect Barnes to be diplomatic – like a parent who refuses to tell which of their three kids is their favourite*. But he says that hands down, Bunbury BMX Track in Western Australia is one of the best.
His work in Bunbury was to assist BMX star, Lauren Reynolds’ rise to Olympic level and it is no doubt a highlight of his.
“It’s and incredibly challenging course, if you can master Bunbury, you can race on any track in the world,” Barnes enthuses.
Speaking of Bunbury, Barnes can’t wait for the National Championships and is currently finding the time to get some leave so the can come and watch Australia’s biggest BMX event of the year.
Perhaps he should bring along a class of Jonah Hills and use the event as a ‘how to’ on bike handling skills.
Find out more about what you can do in Bunbury by clicking here so that you can best plan your trip to the paradise tucked away in Western Australia.
*It’s the middle child