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Daredevil Jed jumps in

Jed Milton, one of the Nitro Circus daredevils

Jed Mildon doesn’t just jump his BMX bike off a large ramp for a living – when he’s really in his best form, he also jumps an old hospital bed, a kids’ tricycle and a rather tired looking old arm chair.

Hamilton-based Jed, 31, is one of the riders with the daredevil Nitro Circus crew, appearing at FMG Stadium Waikato in March 2019.

Distinct from BMX racing, Jed is a BMX freestyle rider – so as opposed to ripping around tracks, he learned his skills at places like the Melville skate bowl.

Although Jed started riding as a six- year-old, like many kids in New Zealand, he grew up wanting to be an All Black. He became more serious about his sport as a 14-year-old.

Jed grew up in Taupo but first wowed Hamilton audiences when the now-defunct X-Air events – pioneered by Mark Wright – were held at Claudelands.

X-Air, he says, “made me passionate (about freestyle BMX), and really grew me”, and was vital in his progression to making a career out of his sport.

Jed solidified his career in freestyle BMX by completing the world’s first triple-backflip in 2011 in Taupo – a trick he says demonstrated his credentials and made people pay attention to his skills.

“That’s how I got my name,” he says of the impressive trick. “Otherwise, there’s a bunch of other guys on the same level.”

Jed Milton at Nitro Circus - Japan 2017

Jed Milton at Nitro Circus – Japan 2017

He spent three months working to perfect the triple backflip near Tokoroa, using a huge foam pit to soften his landing and thus avoid potentially serious injury.

“And then I did the quadruple backflip three years ago, and that took me nine months of practice,” he adds.

It’s surprising, then, to discover Jed still gets nervous at the top of the giant ramp used for events like Nitro Circus.

“I do get scared, yeah – we all get scared, all of us on that show…we are genuinely scared,” he says. “But it’s about overcoming that fear, that gives me my rush.

“That’s what makes it so real for the people (attending) – you can see the emotion in people watching.”

The fear is a result of the risk, and the chance Nitro Circus riders will be injured, Jed says.

“It’s inevitable, in every sport, you will have flaws – there will be accidents…but our sport is a little more prone to that. We do have self-preservation in mind!”

“I do get scared, yeah – we all get scared, all of us on that show…we are genuinely scared,” he says. “But it’s about overcoming that fear, that gives me my rush.

Jed’s view is the riders need to be “present in the moment” to minimise the risk, and when they’re not – that’s when the crashes and potentially serious injuries can occur.

“I feel like freestyle guys are really intuitive, and in touch with ourselves – we take the right steps to make sure we do it properly,” he says.

Jed is primarily employed by Nitro Circus, but also has a range of sponsors who support his career. It is surprising to learn he doesn’t have a bike supplier – he pays for his bikes himself, and puts the price of his current bike at about $3000, which is well below the $10,000 some riders will spend on bikes customised to their exact specifications.

“But a kid getting into the sport – $300 for a bike is really accessible,” he says.

Although usually referred to as a sport, Jed says he also describes his endeavours as part of a performance: “We’re clowns, you know – we’ve got a role, a script, it’s a very choreographed.”

He’ll do 10-15 stunts a show, and even pull off a trick which sees him pick someone out of a crowd to perform a stunt with him – one which involves the crowd member riding on his back while he’s on his bike.

 

“It all comes down to how you look after your body,” he says, noting his personal regime includes nutrition, yoga, stretching and generally keeping active.

He places a lot of emphasis on his diet and strives to avoid processed foods, preferring low carb options when possible.

Jed says the life span of athletes in the so-called “extreme sports” – think BMX, skateboarding, snowboarding – is unknown “and hasn’t been tested yet, because guys in their 50s are still riding, and they’re still competing at the highest level”.

His career has already taken him to dozens of countries, performing up to 80 shows a year. When not on tour, he’s working to develop a training facility near Tokoroa for people who want to follow his career path.

  • Nitro Circus is at FMG Stadium Waikato on Sunday, 10 March.

Tickets can be purchased from Ticketek.

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