I've lost 25 friends to guns and knives – now my army of 4,000 extreme bike riders are stopping bloodshed on warring estates

Bikestormz – a collection of thrill-seeking young cyclists up and down Britain – is fighting back with the motto BikesUpKnivesDown.

Their intervention couldn't come at a more critical time. This week, a boy of 16 became Britain's 250th stabbing victim this year – and the nation's knife crime epidemic has stretched public faith to breaking point.

With police and politicians seemingly at a loss with how to stem the flow of blood on Britain's streets, the bike community is desperately trying to prove that you can get a bigger adrenaline rush from cycling than crime.

'I lost 25 friends to gun and knife crime'

Founded in 2014 by Mac Ferrari, a reformed "roadman" – a young wannabe gangster – at Bikestormz's last London "ride out" in August police held up traffic, blocked junctions and even cycled alongside the 4,000-strong mob in an attempt to limit the chaos.

Ferrari, a softly-spoken 35-year-old explains: "I have lost too many people I grew up with to murder to prison," he says.

"Over nine years I lost 25 friends to gun and knife crime. My best friend was shot dead in a nightclub when I was standing next to him.

"Others were sent to jail for all kinds of stuff – murder, robbery, drugs. So I wanted to tell the kids to put the knife down and do something more positive.

"I was tired of people glamorising the lifestyle of crime.

"I wanted to show them you don’t need to get the adrenaline rush from crime you can get the same buzz from riding your bike. Now Bikestormz is like our church."

However, unlike knife-wielding, drug-fuelled gangs that force "youngers" to break the law to progress up a vicious pecking order, this new obsession is saving lives and keeping kids out of serious trouble, Ferrari claims.

Anyone who can peddle hard enough to keep up is welcome – no matter their background. Respect is gained by a rider’s skill and range of cycling tricks, rather than their police record.

Authority is established through a series of regular skill events. Fighting is not tolerated. Rude and aggressive behaviour is sanctioned… and already, thousands have been inspired to get off their backsides into the saddle.

Incredibly, some riders even say that the bike group has brought peace to London estates which were previously at war with each other.

'I couldn't go out without being attacked'

Kizzy, an elite rider, 21, says Bikestormz has even brought peace to warring South London estates.

"I used to live in Peckham and there was no way I could go to Brixton without someone attacking me,’ he explains.

"But when you are on your bike there is no problem.

"When you are riding no one cares where you are from. We are all together. There is something really positive about 20 or 30 of us riding together.’

Kizzy, a former Deliveroo rider from south London, says he never carried a knife but lots of kids around him did.

"When I was young I was a right little s**t – stealing bikes, getting into trouble with the police, bad stuff.

"But after I got into Bikestormz I wised up. And I know so many people who have put down their knives and got into riding. That’s what it’s all about – doing something positive."


Road rage not tolerated

Founder Mac had already established a reputation as a stunt motorcycle rider when he got back onto his peddle bike and gained followers for the tricks he posted on Instagram.

But he could never have expected to find 500 young riders raring to go when he organised his first ride out from Tower Bridge – an event now immortalised as Bikestormz1.

"I expected about 50 kids to come together. When I got there, there were 500. And I was responsible for them all. It was terrifying!

"I told them if there is any fighting there will not be a Bikestormz2. And it all went off peacefully. Now we have grown into a massive family.

"It gives the kids something to occupy themselves. When they are not riding they are doing up and fixing their bikes.

"Some kids are rude to drivers and pedestrians when we are out but I tell them to stop it. I don’t put up with road rage."

Bike tricks: levels of success

Desperate to gain status among their peers, the young BikeLifers spend hours practicing their tricks.

  • Riders initially learn to pull a wheelie – pulling up the front wheel and keeping the ‘wheel waving’ by using the back brake to maintain balance on the back wheel.
    Once the wheelie has been mastered they graduate to other tricks:
  • Seat stand – standing on the seat while wheelieing.
  • Swerving – swerve stationary and even moving objects such as cars.
  • Floor touch – dragging your hand along the ground behind while wheelieing.
  • No hand wheelie -wheelieing while not holding the handlebars.

Wheelies up and down the country

Bikestormz represents the UK version of the bike-riding craze known as #Bikelife, which was born in the ghettos of Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Now the Bikestormz movement has grown into a nationwide phenomenon with kids pulling wheelies and riding in groups up and down the country whenever they have free time.

They gather in large groups in parks and quiet roads in industrial estates at weekends or ride around their local area like a mobile gang. Riders join the pack as they see it roll past.

They can also be seen practicing tricks on their own or in groups after school wherever there is space.

Riding down stairs – no matter how steep or long – is popular too.

Meanwhile, bike trick competitions are held in the parks and waste ground in South London throughout the summer.

'Bikestormz saved me from drugs and crime'

The top riders are selected to join a select group called Street Elite. They are chosen their skills but also or their responsible attitude.

"To be selected for Street Elite you’ve got to show a good example to the other riders," explains Montana, an 18-year-old from Lewisham, south-east London.

"Bikestormz has been a good influence on me. It has kept me away from trouble.

"Where I live there is a lot of crime and drugs.

"But riding is a positive thing. Some days I ride from midday until ten o’clock at night. I love it.

"I first heard about Bikestormz after it started up. I went to a ride out and I haven’t looked back. It has helped me steer away from crime."

Founder Mac and his elite riders attract tens of thousands of Instagram follower and get free bikes, trainers and other "merch" [merchandise] from sponsors.

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Kizzy added: "Being in Street Elite gives us much more exposure.

"We get bikes from Mafiabikes, trainers from Nike and we have started music videos for London rappers like JME and Macstar."

Street Elite

Bikestormz top riders are known as Street Elite.

Wheelie Kay

@wheelie_kay 85.2k followers

"From the age of nine I started learning how to wheelie, but it was quite hard, so I left it at that. When I ride with my music it just gives me a lot of energy and people love that."

Little Harry

@littleharry 99.5k followers

"As I got older, around 13, I started watching loads of different people on the internet and realised if I keep on practicing I could be like them one day. For me it’s not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle and I love what I do."

Jake

@jake100 88.9k followers

"I’m 18 and have been riding since I can remember, I’m filled with adrenaline by wheeling through the tightest gaps and going at high speed through traffic!

"It’s an amazing feeling being surrounded by hundreds of people how share the same passion as you."

Ruby

@_rubybailey 34.2k followers

"I have been riding since [I was] two years old. I’m Street Elite’s first girl rider.

"Riding has become a massive part of my life and I can definitely see a future in it for me."

Streeteliteriders.com

The London traffic will once again be brought to a standstill by teenagers cycling five abreast when the group go out on their next ride out on Christmas Eve.

No one knows exactly how many young men and women will turn up at the Tower Bridge starting line at 1pm on 24th December.

No route has been planned but the cycle caravan will certainly pass Buckingham Palace, go through Hyde Park, possibly down Oxford and even roll on into the City of London. And no one can stop them.

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