Steve Mini: Fearless Leader | Featured Rider
When you ask Nitro Circus FMX veteran Steve Mini to list some of his favorite tour stops, he doesn’t hesitate: South Africa was one of the best. Those shows were a favorite for a lot of the Crew, it turns out, as South Africa had huge crazy crowds and was a beautiful place to visit. Mini’s been on tour with Nitro since the beginning, more than 170 shows, he estimates, so he has some basis for comparison. But as the de facto FMX leader and one of the Nitro athletes who also helps vet new talent, he has another perspective on what makes for a good tour. “We’re with a good crew of people, so we always have a lot of fun no matter where we go,” he says.
As we said, Mini’s been with Nitro since the beginning, but he keeps a somewhat low profile, so there’s a chance you haven’t heard about him much. But if you ever watch our videos, browse our photos, or if you’ve been to a Nitro show, you’ve definitely enjoyed his work, and from the live show you’ll certainly remember his signature trick, which is one of the craziest combo flips consistently performed today: the backflip heel-clicker superman no-hander landing. We caught up with him during some downtime just before this week’s show in Paris and asked him to tell us about that combo flip. Even though he performs it at almost every show, he says, it doesn’t always go perfectly.
“It’s a really hard trick to do because it’s four tricks in one.” He explains that the flip has to be just right so he has enough time to hit every element. “You’ve got to be a fast thinker and know exactly where you are in the air,” he says. Plus it’s a no-hander landing, which means if he’s not in the perfect position with both wheels hitting at the same time, he’s got a problem. That happened on the last North American tour: At the opening show in D.C., Steve’s timing was just slightly off during this trick and he wiped out on the landing. He jumped up and wanted to immediately try again. Check it out:
“Another thing that always makes it hard with these shows is it’s small arenas, so once you take your hands off and land you’re always going flat-out straight into a wall, so I hit the wall a fair few times,” he adds. You’ll also see that in the above clip, on his second, more successful attempt at the crazy combo. “It’s my favorite trick after I’ve landed it, but the minute leading up to it I hate doing it, I wish I never learned it. But as soon as I land it, I’m happy, it becomes my favorite trick then,” Mini says.
Mini grew up on a farm in Mudgee, a small town in Australia a few hours from Sydney. This is a familiar story, particularly for our Australian members of the Nitro Crew. Take note: If you want to go pro in FMX, it can’t hurt to spend a lot of time in rural Australia. That’s Steve’s story: “I got into it just by growing up on a farm. Just riding bikes around the farm with my brother, doing little jumps, taking a hand off here and there and watching the guys on TV do it, and then as time went on the bikes got bigger and the tricks got bigger and I guess I got pretty good at it.” He started entering competitions, but he really wanted to focus on shows, which is how he got hooked up with Crusty. “I was never really into competition that much, just enjoyed doing shows, so [Nitro] was just a natural transition from Crusty — Crusty finished and Nitro came up and we were lucky enough to get a spot on it.”
We asked him about that stack in D.C. Why didn’t he just move on to the next thing? “If you know that you can do something better, and you didn’t do it the way that you should have done it, then you’ve just got to go back and do it again or else you kind of feel like you let yourself down a little bit,” he says. If that sounds like what a great leader would say, that’s not a coincidence. We mentioned before that Mini helps vet new talent for the FMX side. He’s also the spokesperson and de facto “boss” for that half of the Crew as well. “I’m the middleman, I guess, between the management and the riders,” he says.
Josh Sheehan confirms that, but from him we get a sense that Mini’s job is a little more involved than just translating management-speak into FMXese. “The rest of us, we can just rock up and do what the board says, but Mini at least has to think about what everyone has to do, so he organizes and plans,” Sheeny says. (By the way, “rock up” is slang for “show up” elsewhere in the world, and we think it’s way better, so let’s try to get that going in the U.S.) Blake “Bilko” Williams elaborates on Mini’s role: “He’s in charge of all the segments for all FMX on tour, so he has a lot on his plate.”
“If you know that you can do something better … then you’ve just got to go back and do it again.”
Having been one of the original members of the Crew, Mini was already starting to become that de facto leader, and then he had to miss a couple shows due to a shoulder injury. Because he was out injured, management asked him to run practice, since he was already sort of doing that even when he was healthy. That’s when his role became more official. “I just sort of stuck with it,” he says.
“We all rely on him to have everything set up,” Sheeny says. “He knows what we can all do, and we can trust him.” In the world of Nitro, that kind of trust is key, and it has to be earned. This is a dangerous sport full of big personalities, so taking on leadership responsibility is tough and important. And speaking of those big personalities, is there anyone (*cough Bilko*) who gives him extra hassle (*cough Bilko*) when he’s trying to organize things? Like any good leader would, he says no, the Nitro FMX athletes are almost always focused and easy to get along with. So we get a little more direct and ask about Bilko, Nitro’s resident class clown who is known for his, uh, antics.
“Bilko’s probably the one who helps out the most when it comes to that sort of stuff,” he says. “When it comes to needing a bit of help [getting everyone organized], he’s always the first one that I call on.” Despite being a “bit of a clown,” Bilko’s one of the Nitro veterans who helps keep the team working well together. Mini adds that he and Bilko, along with Cam Sinclair, have really come up together in FMX, starting more than a decade ago with Crusty Demons.
We mentioned before that part of his duties include deciding on new athletes to bring on board. He also helps initiate them to this world. “I make sure when a new guy comes in they know what they’ve got to do for the show, teaching them the show, and making sure the guys practice the things that we need to practice,” he says.
We also mentioned before that Mini is big on the group dynamic — in fact, he feels it’s one of the most important aspects of the show. He takes a lot of pride in how well everyone gets along, because, he says, having compatible personalities is one of the biggest things he looks for in a new Nitro Circus athlete, even ahead of being able to throw down with the best in the world. “It’s got to be the right personality. To me, the personality comes before the riding skill — if they’re a really really good rider but they’re not really going to fit in and be able to tour and get along with everyone, I wouldn’t really pick them. But if they’re really cool and get along with the group well and ride well, then they’re the perfect fit for us,” he says. “You spend a lot of time together; you tour and are pretty much living in each other’s pockets for months on end, so you need to have people around you that are positive people and cool people to hang with.”
And with all of this talk about his leadership, let’s not forget that he knows how to ride. “Steve is definitely an all-rounder; he has a huge turndown, lots of big tricks, and also huge upright and backflip combos,” Bilko says. And to think, FMX was Mini’s second choice. He started out in BMX, but after entering a few competitions as an amateur in his teens, he moved to dirtbikes. He claims he was never really good at BMX, but he found his groove when there was an engine involved. “Once I got on the motorbikes and started trying the same tricks, I picked it up really quickly.” Because of that history, he still takes a lot of inspiration from BMX, especially being able to work closely with some of the best BMX riders. There’s another trait of a good leader — finding inspiration in interesting places.
Perhaps the most important aspect of a good leader is that he doesn’t see himself as any different from the rest of the Crew. He’s proud of the work they all do, and he knows that everyone in the Crew is there to do their best. “That’s why the guys on tour are here, because they’re all the same; they’re all here to give it their all and put on the best show that they can for all the people,” Mini says.
Come see Steve Mini and the rest of the Crew live! We’re headed to Australia and North America, and then back to Europe this summer — and don’t forget the inaugural Nitro World Games in Salt Lake City this July. Hit those links for more details, and come see this insanity live!