I met Sean McKinney several years ago at a jam in Olympia, Washington. As we were yammering on about flatland, college and beer, he stopped me mid-sentence and asked if I knew Leif Valin. I admitted that I did not, but that I knew who he was. Sean said I looked and acted like him. I thought it was weird, but we continued our rambling undaunted.
Years later Mike Daily came to visit me when I lived in San Diego. We were walking down Adams Avenue, book shopping and talking when he stopped me mid-sentence and asked me if I knew Leif Valin. After he said that I looked and acted like him, I knew I needed to investigate.
I first contacted Leif about a year ago, just after the Daily incident. I told him both stories and he replied, “It’s good to know there are two of us, that way the Red Team won’t know who’s who when the Eagle flies.”
Leif Valin has been a fixture in the underground flatland scene for over ten years now. Originality, weirdness, a true love for riding and a propensity to treat those with whom he comes in contact with respect are hallmarks of his style. He also runs a BMX company called Contraption.
Leif recently left his long-time sponsor Hoffman Bikes to join his friends on the Eastern team. Being as he travels quite a lot to ride his bike as much as possible with as many of his friends as possible, I caught up with him the only way I knew I could: online.
Roy Christopher: You were with Hoffman Bikes for a long time. Tell us about the switch from Hoffman to Eastern.
Leif Valin: The whole Hoffman crew is like family to me so it wasn’t easy leaving. I was offered a good deal working with Leigh, Jon and Mike at Eastern, I couldn’t pass it up, everyone at Hoffman understood. I don’t jump into something without thinking it through and through. I’m happy with my situation and haven’t lost any friends.
RC: What about your filmmaking (i.e. “Plastic”)? Is that something you’re really into?
LV: Yes, I like to, but I don’t subscribe to indie film magazines or anything like that.
RC: What do you like to read?
LV: Various things. I haven’t read a book in a while. Last one was a Vonnegut book.
RC: What keeps you riding your bike? What are you trying to achieve with your riding?
LV: The quarter mile in under 20 seconds.
RC: What’s coming up for Contraption?
LV: Hopefully something, Pat at Flatland Fuel is going to distribute Contraption so a big thanks to Pat. Probably no tye-dye shirts this year either. Sorry.
RC: Anyone you’d like to thank?
LV: Thanks to Eastern Bikes, Leigh, Etnies, UGP, Flatland Fuel, Drews BMX, HEADTUBE, Primo, Greg and all my friends everywhere.
[HEADTUBE zine, 2001]
[Photo by Art Thomason.]