The Prodigy's Keith Flint on RD400s and being Doohan's mate

Tattooed loon and legendary front man of The Prodigy talks RD400s, racing, his passion for bikes and bumping into the King of Spain…

Posted: 6 September 2010
by Visordown

The start of it all
“When I was about 11 or 12 there was a bit of wasteland near where I used to live in Essex. A friend had a little bike and his older brother also had a few, so I just use to hang around there with them. It was great, where the builders had dumped a load of soil we made a few jumps and I often turned up home with bumps and bruises. From what I remember my first bike was some old Honda trials bike, a twin-shock one. It wasn’t really the right bike for the job but it had two wheels.”

Home tuning some firestarters
“Quite a few of us used the land and all the bikes were cobbled together, RMs, CRs, things like that. We did the usual home tweaks to tune them up, cut the exhausts, drilled holes in the airboxes, all the things that obviously the Japanese designers forgot to consider when designing the bike! A little later I obtained a step-brother who was into bikes and that’s when it really got serious.”

A bad omen on the road
“When I was 15 I bought a proddie-raced RD400, the air-cooled one. It had been crashed when it was raced but it had a blueprinted engine and was all wired up and everything, I rented a garage off this old lady on the estate and kept it there so my parents had no idea I had it. At the weekends I used to go to Southend-on-Sea on it, I loved that bike, I did it up, re-sprayed it, got a sticker kit and brought it back to life. Then, when I passed my test on my 17th birthday, I was winding my brothers up, telling them I was going to get a Super Dream for my first bike, start off steady, reliable. They took the piss out of me, saying I couldn’t park it next to their bikes, then I wheeled out the RD…”

Assembling the crew
“A lot of my brother’s mates were biker bikers, while my other brother had more of a Power Valve crew, it was a mish-mash of fast riders and dope-smoking hippy bikers, an eclectic bunch. We used to hair up to the seaside on a Sunday and the last one there bought the cherry cake and hot chocolates. Then on the way home we’d all race back, those were the days before speed cameras and police helicopters, you could pretty much do what you want. Then I did a bit of despatch riding.”

I remember the first time I got my knee down on a track, it was like the first time I put my winkle inside a girl, I just wanted to tell all my mates.

I was a shit despatch rider
“I worked for Delta Dockland, but I was fucking useless. I was so used to that whenever you put a lid on you just started up and roared off I was halfway in the wrong direction before I realised where I was. I kind of owed them more money than I earned, I really was useless, but the guys there were into bikes and we went off and did the 24-hour races, Le Mans, Spa, that kind of things. They got me into bike racing.”

I had a shot at racing myself
“I was lucky, Ben Atkins took me under his wing and John Reynolds and Sean Emmett showed me the ropes, I can’t thank them enough for it, they were amazing. I raced John Reynolds’ hand-me down ex-British Superbike Ducati, it was everything you could imagine it would be. I raced New Era and used to go to Mallory every Wednesday to practice and the day of my first race Mick Doohan called me up to wish me good luck!”

Mick Doohan's a mate
“I actually know Mick Doohan quite well, from my trips to Australia. When we went over there we hooked up with Barry Sheene a few times and I told him I had a FireBlade back home, it was the first thing I bought when the band started doing well. Anyway, I mentioned I was a bit fan of Doohan’s and one night we went out for a meal and Barry invited him out as well. I was star-struck, I don’t want to name-drop because it sounds shit, but I’ve met a lot of famous people in the music industry and I understand what they do, but meeting Mick was one of the very few times I’ve been starstruck. To meet someone you have been on the edge of your seat cheering on, the respect you have for someone like that, it was hard, I had to try and not be the fan that does your head in!”

But racing wasn't for me
“I had to stop racing in 1998 after a big accident. It costs a lot of money to insure The Prodigy’s shows, there is a lot that goes into it, and the insurance started to really hit me hard. Then I had an accident at Mallory where I ripped the front off the bike and collided with another rider. In racing terms it was nothing, I was ready to race again, but I had to do a gig with two swollen legs. I knew I didn’t have a career in racing but I did have one in music, so I couldn’t take the risk. I couldn’t carry on. Such is life.”

I’m not an adrenalin junkie
“I wouldn’t say I’m an adrenalin junkie, but I liked to be fuelled. It’s motor vehicles for me, engines and the flow of getting something right, riding on the edge. That feeling of organised chaos. I like the feeling of flowing and working with a bike, clicking with it, that’s my buzz. I remember the first time I got my knee down on a track, it was like the first time I put my winkle inside a girl, I just wanted to tell all my mates.”

I rode 1,300 miles in a day, on a Tuono…
“I went through a stage of customising bikes, chopping them about, and you just end up giving a lot of money to a lot of blokes, waiting a long time, arguing on the phone and then when it finally arrives it never runs as you imagined it would anyway. I’ve just sold a VTR, but I’ve got a little XR dirtbike, a TTR125 that is tuned up to 150cc, a KTM 250 Enduro, a 690 Supermoto and a Tuono Factory, and I’m looking at getting a new Fireblade or the new Aprilia V4. I rode the Tuono to Jerez and back a few years ago. A mate was riding back on a Desmosedici for charity and someone bet him he couldn’t ride back in a day, the gauntlet was laid down and we did it coast to coast in 24 hours.”

The best thing that I’ve ever done was go pillion
“The best thing I’ve ever done on two wheels was a lap of Jerez on the back of Randy Mamola on the two-seater GP bike. It was amazing, you can forget everything you think you know about bikes, it was incredible. Although I was lucky not to get arrested, before the ride I literally bumped into the King of Spain. He was in the pitlane and I was so excited about the ride I wasn’t really concentrating on where I was going, I bumped into him and was quickly escorted out of the way by his henchmen.”


Previous article
1994: How Foggy rode the 916 to title no.1
Next article
Ian Hutchinson Interview


firestarter, front man, interview, keith flint, music, prodigy
TwitterStumbleUponFacebookDiggRedditGoogle


Discuss this story

Talkback: The Prodigy's Keith Flint on RD400s and being Doohan's mate