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World champion freestyle bike rider Chris Doney
World champion freestyle bike rider Chris Doney
Yachts taking part in last years Clipper Round the World Race			             	  Picture: onEdition

‘Team spirit’ will keep us buoyant on global challenge

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Chris Doney’s father reckons his son had learned how to ride a motorbike before he could walk.

The image of a baby roaring along in leathers and helmet seems a little far-fetched - until you learn that Chris was born into a family obsessed by two wheels.

Chris Doney, right, with Top Gear's The Stig.

Chris Doney, right, with Top Gear's The Stig.

He says: ‘My dad was a top motorcycle rider and ever since I was born it was drilled into me. It’s all I know to be honest.’

The 23-year-old may have started out on his dad’s motorbikes, but his talents mean he has now become one of the country’s top bicycle stunt riders.

He has toured with the Top Gear Live show and is half of the UK’s leading freestyle trial show, Zero Gravity, performing up and down the country with friend Andy Ponting.

Chris grew up in Fareham, but always knew he wasn’t cut out for studying. He says: ‘I hated going to school. That’s pretty much why I had to make it. I didn’t know anything other than riding bikes. That’s all I can do.

‘So I thought “Why not try and make a career out of it?” I’ve had a lot of backing from my family, big time. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them helping me out.’

Dad Rob was a leading motorbike rider in the 1980s and is now one of the directors at Fareham-based Boarhunt, a company specialising in rescue and recovery of vehicles.

Chris says: ‘When I was younger I used to ride motorcycle trials. I always had a push bike too and used to ride that a lot.’

He adds: ‘My dad entered me in a local competition, which I won. That was a push bike trial with the Hampshire Bike Trial Club. From then on that was it. I used to ride at British Championship level when I was about 15/16.’

At 17 he won the 2005 Auto Cycle Unions Bike Trial UK Championship. He says it was one of the best moments of his life.

‘When I won the UK round of the world championships, that was a good moment. It felt so good because I had worked towards it for years and years and years. That was the first time it was held in the UK and they haven’t held another one since.

‘I’m the only UK rider to win a world championship round on UK soil. I’d love to do it again, unless I had a show booked that weekend.’

Chris started Zero Gravity with friend Andy, 24, who he has known through biking for eight years. They decided to go for it after visiting the Manchester Bike Show (National Motorcycle Show) in 2006.

He said: ‘I used to compete there a lot and what we were doing was sort of a new thing. They loved it. We started it as a show in 2006 and have never looked back.’

In 2008 he was offered the chance of a lifetime, a trip that many men all over the country would love to be a part of - the Top Gear Live world tour.

He describes it as ‘such a big thing’ after one of his sponsors, Jason Finn, who was the world’s number one trials freestyle rider in 2009, offered Chris the chance to perform with him on the tour.

He explains: ‘He was asked by the events company that ran it to take part and be a stunt man, but he needed two riders. It was basically me and him on motorbikes. It was amazing. We did dates in Birmingham and London, plus Ireland, Holland and South Africa.

‘We were on motorbikes dressed up as little green monsters. The Stig was in a buggy and he had to ‘‘kill’’ us. He was a good laugh. We worked with Richard Hammond, James May and Jeremy Clarkson as well. It was good to meet and work with them. They were cool, nice blokes and really down-to-earth.’

Chris obviously did well as he was asked to be part of the Top Gear tour in 2009 and last year as well.

Although he may be known for his skill on a push bike, motorbikes weren’t much of a stretch - plus he got to drive some pretty special cars.

Chris says: ‘There were Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins- all the supercars. We got given the keys for a week and then would parade around the arena. It was pretty cool. It would have been nice to take them out for a cruise in the evening though.’

Chris’s life may sound glamorous, but he’s had some bad injuries over the years.

He reveals: ‘I’ve broken both my ankles from falling pretty high. There was about a 10ft drop and I jumped and got it wrong.’

As part of Zero Gravity, Chris has his year already planned out. Last week he performed at the home of European drag racing, Santa Pod in Northamptonshire, while from July 1-3 Chris will be wowing the crowds at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

He and Andy have recently signed up to do a summer tour for Butlins at Bognor Regis, Skegness and Minehead as part of a much bigger biking event. As far as Chris is concerned, the sky is the limit.

He says: ‘There aren’t many people in this country who earn a living out of riding bikes.

‘We’ll just keep going as we are and keep enjoying it. I’ve ridden all of my life and now it’s my job. I’m pretty lucky really.’

· For more information, go to zerogravity.uk.com