Graphic designer, bike mechanic, mix tape maker, tattoo designer and the only person I know to have earned the ire of Bikesnob, Mark Skulls is the multi-talented mutha behind the Skull Bike Club – the speciously infamous drinking club with a bike problem.
Mark and I go back a long way. We first met at Adventure Cycles back in the Fort Lane days. Back then it was the only bike store that would employ a couple of hoodrat 14-year-olds who were keen on bikes.
In those days he was that art school kid that drew really good skulls and listened to tonnes of metal. We found we had a mutual interest in building weird bikes, which was stoked by Adventure Cycles’ network of bike part filled caves.
We used to meet at Mark’s Grafton flat, check out his latest artwork for some metal band, listen to some weird records, mess around with bikes and play video games before going out to dig up a stash of buried rum and find a party.
Over time these drunken adventures knitted their bones into a rickety skeleton called Skull Bike Club. These rides got scarily popular to the point of needing megaphones to control the hordes of riders. We had to move fast from park to park to avoid the paddy wagons.
Mark always had the raddest bike setups; he’s the modification king. Now a mechanic at Kinoko Cycles in London, he wrenches top shelf custom rides while shredding the mud of Epping Forest and throwing ten-pin bowling nights all to a heavy metal soundtrack. That’s the thing with Mark: he packs more awesomeness into one day than most can in a whole lifetime.
So, you're the Skull Bike Club's founding member. What is it and how did it start?
It started with Tim White’s [T.White’s Bikes] evening booze cruises, I think, and then just us dudes from Adventure Cycles wanting a blog to post random bike stuff that was getting us stoked. We organised some drunken bicycle get-togethers, but now it's more just a build archive and latest mod blog. It keeps me in touch with you dudes in New Zealand anyway.
So, what’s a fun day for you?
Bowling, beer and bikes
What was your first bike?
First one I remember being stoked on was a red and blue Morrison Dirt Buster 3speed BMX, that bike was rad.
What got you into mountain biking?
I was just a kid riding bikes and it was new back then. A craze! Like chatter rings, remember those?
Best thing about mountain biking in London?
It’s flat and easy to ride out to Epping Forest or catch a train out to some hills. You don’t have to have a car.
And what’s the worst thing about mountain biking in London?
It’s flat and the hills are miles away. The weather sucks most of the year.
I sometimes can’t keep track of all the modifications you do to you’re bikes. What’s your latest?
I dunno, I’m always tweaking my bikes. I guess grinding my dropouts to within an inch of their lives to shorten my chainstays by 1cm.
You have a crazy record collection. What’s your favourite music to ride to?
Any metal with galloping guitars, thrash is good. I love Bolt Thrower.
Favourite bit of mountain bike kit?
I dunno. There’s so much good stuff! It’s pretty nerdy, but I love my Goretex Shimano boots. MT91! I’ve been wearing ‘em all winter. Commuting and mountain biking, I hate numb toes.
Favourite place to ride?
Epping Forest is always good cause it’s easy and there’s always bros and beers, but I love riding everywhere. I wanna travel more.
What are your vices?
Bikes, beer and bowling. Also buying records and video games. I got a lot of vices. Keeps me broke and busy.
In terms of video games, you've got an epic MAME (multiple arcade machine emulator) set up. Tell us about that.
It’s okay, pretty standard cabinet running hyperspin. It’s got an optic on the side with Talisker Whiskey at the moment. I’ve got some ultimate CastleMAMESkull plans in my head but haven’t got around to building it.
What's your favourite video game?
Favourite is hard. Top five is Raiden, Streets of Rage 2, Pirateship Himaru, Paperboy, Skate 3.
You're involved with Heavy Metal Bowling. Tell us about that.
Heavy Metal Bowling is a dream realised! We now put on nights every couple of months at a bowling alley in north London. We play metal, drink beer and bowl. Everyone has a rad time. One time we had a barbecue and a stripper with a flaming sword.
Describe your riding style.
Brian style [famous futurist, alleged time-machine inventor and bicycle shaman] – drunk at 88mp/h.
– Justin Henehan