In the first of our “ Shifts in Time ” series, we’re going a long way – infact we’re going 41 degrees south and some 18,000 miles from central Scotland.
Why would we do such a thing? The man we’re about to introduce, or should that be re-introduce, was, for many years, a well known, and liked, figure on the Scottish DH scene and one of the first Scottish riders to race World Cup DH.
A racer, and a good one at that he might of been, but I think it’s fair to say this man’s heart has always been in the riding rather than the pursuit of glory. There are plenty of people who may occasionally still check this site who recognise him – some may have even enjoyed some of the legendary trail sessions at Melville.
Time, however, moves on. Melville is no more and it’s a been a long time since we’ve seen Paul Angus adorn a results sheet on our little island. After ending the love affair with his country of birth and finding a sexier, bigger and more defined cousin ( He does have a thing for Arnie ) in New Zealand’s South Island, Paul Angus set sail some 8 years ago and Scotland’s loss in New Zealand’s gain.
A perfectionist to the point of obsession, Pang carries many guises. Boss, former WC racer, mechanic and mentor – We sat down to chat with this former Scottish Downhill Champion over a soy mocca and a haggis pie…
Okay Pang, many young Scottish DH riders don’t have a clue who you are. Without being modest could you just tell us a little bit about yourself, minus the girth ?
I think your intro said it all really, a former Scottish DH legend, pioneer if you like. Introduced many things before they became mainstream like bleached blonde hair, bandanas, chest shaving and sleeveless tshirts.
In all seriousness I was one of the guys who was there at the birth of the Scottish DH scene I guess when it really started to boom and we really made the rest of the country take notice at our riders and our race tracks. It was such an awesome time to be in DH, the bikes were rubbish, every weekend was a battle to fit 3 DH tubes wrapped around each other into your hard compound Michelin Wildgripper DH tyres or Spikes so you could run less than 20psi without getting a pinch flat; you were taking a hammer to your shit chain device for the fourth time to try and get it to keep your chain on; you were trying to wind in the pad adjustment on your hope brakes half way down your run to stop your wheel locking up from the brakes over heating. They were amazing time and you guys don’t know how good you have it now!
So just taking stock there – You were a member of the famous Clan team of the nineties and early 00’s. That was a hell of a deal that Richard and Bobbie Thomson provided yet there doesn’t seem to be anything like it out there any more. How good was that team for Scottish DH?
That team was unreal. Even now I look back on it and realize how much it put other teams to shame, it really was such a factory setup on a shoestring budget. It was THE team to be part of in Scotland. As a junior it was the team you aspired to be on. When I got that letter in the post (this was before email!) I was so stoked! Dream come true. So I really think it was pivotal for the Scottish scene, without the Clan there wouldn’t have been anything to aim for or for other riders to pitch themselves against.
I guess back in the day the scene was actually still the same size, the SDA races were often maxed out but there was definitely a generation of you guys who all pushed each other, with Crawford perhaps a few years ahead and obviously the fastest guy at the time. You were all pretty tight away from the races too though?
They were the best days of my life. We had such a strong crew or riders, with Chris Ball, Iain Cookson, Stu Thomson, Dave Dunn, Paul Smail to name a few. We lived out each other’s pockets really, riding together, racing together, hanging out together. Bikes were our lives and we all had the same goal, to get to race World Cups. Back then there was only Crawfy and Markus Scott (maybe Elliot Campbell too) who had drunk from the World Cup fountain of radness. We wanted to do that and we would do anything to get there.
I know Peaty obviously does his SPS thing and it’s a great thing but it just doesn’t even make the weigh in against the Clan deal. Obviously there was Crawford, Baller, Stu Thomson and you. Alan Blythe is now back on the scene too. It seems there was a recipe in that team for people to develop outside of bikes..?
Your right, it was Stu Thomson’s parents Richard and Bobbie that ran the Clan Team and they did such a good job making it feel like you were basically part of their family. You could never have a bad result to them, they just kept encouraging you and bringing you on as a rider and a person. They gave you confidence in yourself, something which a lot of team managers could learn a thing or two from.
Now I can remember when you and the human cannonball ( Paul Smail ) set of to chase the New Zealand winter – when you came back it seemed almost certain you wouldn’t be staying here much longer…..?
Yeah things changed for me after that trip. Racing the national DH series in NZ was such a laugh, it was more about the after party than the race and it gave me the love back for racing to an extent. But when I got back to the UK I just didn’t enjoy racing here, my time in NZ had spoilt me or inspired me I guess. The racing in the UK seemed so serious, the weather was rubbish, you got so little practice and after the race everyone just got in their vans and drove home.
Also at the time all I wanted to do was huck my meat and Queenstown had the dream track area and I spent so much time there I missed it when I got home (sad eh). So I made a really hard decision to move to Queenstown for the summer and see what happened. It was really hard to leave all my family and good mates behind but I had always wanted to live in another country so there was no time like the present. The best part of 10 years later I am still here!
So now you’re a share holder in Vertigo bikes in Queenstown. You seem to be living a pretty tasty life – Was it all planned or has it just come together as so?
Nothing is planned mate, I have always been of the mindset “what’s for you will never go past you”. I just like to see the way life shapes itself. I just make sure that if a great opportunity is there I am in a position to take it and also wont ever be afraid to take it.
And the shop, she’s fair busy with Scottish folk too?
They are the best employees, you can pay them in Irn Bru and they don’t mind the NZ sandflies.
You’re pretty big in getting the locals out riding with your fun events that seem to grow each year. You told me you enjoy organising stuff like this. Does it never feel like a chore after seeing bikes all day?
The opposite, I love doing stuff for other people like that. It couldn’t be further away from shop life too. Being up on the hill having fun on the bike with a bunch of people all buzzing of it. As long as I have it organized in my head and have planned everything right, it is easy. You just have to be organized, maybe that’s one of my strong points! The Vertigo Summer Series has been great for us, I really wanted to do something to help set Vertigo apart from the other shops in town and also to promote the Queenstown MTB club. So we thought that rather than just doing unoriginal discounts if you are a club member, we thought we would run a free race series for all club members!
I think it’s pretty fair to say that Queenstown is exploding at the moment and it’s now the place to be during the northern hemisphere winter. There’s a lot of passing traffic though, how do you deal with the coming and going of so many people?
Nothing to deal with really, I love meeting new people and showing them the secret stash of trails like most locals do. There is so much more riding than is on the maps here! I enjoy opening my doors to new friends too and then going to see where they live and staying with them in their part of the world. Never gets old.
So ok then, where do you see Vertigo in 5 years from now?
I think we see our future in Enduro Specific 29er Electric Fatbikes with built in autopilot, we are already testing a few prototypes but I think people will be seriously blown away with what they can do. The auto pilot system runs through GPS satellites linked to Strava on your phone, so you can literally just sit back and let the bike do everything for you. People seem to want the bikes to be less fun and dull down the ride a bit so this is the next phase of that development we feel.
I can totally see that Pang. Right, so, social media. Getting pretty serious these days huh? A lot of adventuring going on. Then you’ve got Ratboy and Sam Dale, and a whole bunch of kiwis just doing what they want. The Vertigo page is pretty lighthearted and I think it works. You are what you’re portraying yourselves as. Do you think that’s helped with the shop’s success to the wider audience?
Who knows, I feel like you have to be seen to be doing all this social media stuff. I enjoy doing it but have never liked the idea of shamless self promotion. Would rather just use it to show our personalities and show what we love doing while promoting Queenstown.
You love a bar hump eh?
Who doesn’t. It is all I have left in my box tricks.
I didn’t want to but I suppose we should talk about Huck Wizard given the global repercussions he’s brought about, and your slogan creations. Give us the craic on Huck Wizard first then Pang….
Well, I wanted to do a film for the first film comp we had in town during the first Queenstown Bike Festival. I had the inspiration from a good friend of mine who did a ski movie called “Sorcier De Neige” (snow wizard, look it up). I always liked it, it was a bit stupid and had a guy dressed as a wizard with a really bad beard and hat. We have always had a bit of a hucking culture in Queenstown and just wanted to have bit of fun with it. Everyone loves to huck and you cant beat a good old huck to flat right! Myself and Ginge (Si Smith) completed the trilogy and now have hung up the cape. You might see more if there is seen to be something worthy to take the piss out of.
And the new craze “ hucking is the new enduro”?
Don’t really know what happened with that, I just said it one day when I getting my huck back at the mini dream jumps. I thought that would be cool to have on a tee shirt, so got a few done and some stickers and started to send a few hashtags out there and everyone loved it. I have been reluctant to sell the tees because I wanted to keep it exclusive, only real huckers can get one if they come and see me.
You had Big Ben Cathro working in the shop this summer, and of course Jon Stout has been a regular for a few years now. Is there any reason why you get so many Scottish riders through the doors?
No real reason, just the way it turned out. They hit me up at the right times and are both jolly nice lads so thought why not. Hadn’t seen Ben for a long time and was great fun to have him in town for the summer.
Any funny stories about Big Benji that are descent-world safe?
Mmmm, he never got too rowdy while he was here, his better half Tina kept him in touch. I don’t think his strava record down Hammies track will ever be beaten, that boy is insanely fast! Why does he not have a pro ride on a WC team? Come on people, he has some Sick Skills!
Back in the day the Scottish DH scene had a real buzz that it perhaps doesn’t have as much any more – though it’s gathering momentum again – any real highlights from back int ‘day?
One that I will never forget was after the British National champs back in 2000ish. It was a Saturday race and it was my birthday weekend and we were all camping at the venue (cant remember where is was again). All the teams were there, including the Animal Orange team for those of you who remember that team. They had quite a big pimp team rig that they were particularly proud off. I had and still have a reputation/obsession with drawing cocks on things. Well after a few bottles of White Lightning a few of us got some rolls of black insulation tape and proceeded to plaster the Animal Orange team truck with cocks of all different shapes and sizes. We obviously left the scene of the crime on our hands and knees’ crying with laughter but the team manager was on the warpath the next morning trying to find out who had done it. Needless to say he never did and hopefully he isn’t reading this now!
Then of course there was Big Steve Barker with his Mr Big bikes and the year you, Baller, Smail and a few others went on a full WC season – It seems much harder for the privateer to do such a thing these days?
I don’t know really, it seems harder to get the necessary UCI points and I guess the standard is so dam high now too. Back then you only needed one UCI point and you were away. The thing was back then there were fewer races to get UCI points at. You had to travel to obscure race locations and countries to try and get those points unless you were capable of a top 10 at the UK national champs.
Also you could quite easily qualify at a world cup with a pretty conservative run, where as now it seems you have to go 110% just to make the cut.
But like a great man once said “if you believe it you can achieve it”.
Lets start wrapping this up. Big question here – Where do you see the sport in 5 years from now?
Hopefully the industry keeps feeding us with new standards in wheel sizes, axle widths, headsets, bottom brackets, handlebars, stems, frame materials, paint colours etc so we can continue to be fooled into feeling like we are riding better and faster. I am hoping one of them works for me one day, I still cant beat my Strava times from 5 years ago when I rode on 26” wheels and a 135mm rear axle width.
At this point it seemed like an abrupt but timely end to the interview – complete with a classic huck wizard quote. Scotland currently has a raft of seriously fast DH racers – Greg Williamson, Joe Connell and Junior rider Neil Stewart are all competing at the highest level, and it’s fair to say there are others who should be, but aren’t for various reasons. I’d like to think Pang has had a hand in shaping the race scene, along with the tireless SDA volunteers who have given riders a platform to train and shine on.
His love of bikes is infectious and his riding is still as smooth as ever.
There are plenty of characters in our sport who fly under the radar but have given a contribution that is worthy of note. He may drink coffee with Soy milk, have a penchant for fake beards and a uncanny obsessions with cocks, but Pangs contribution can be felt on both hemispheres.
Something not too many people can lay claim too.