Kiean and Ashton Boughen – Motocross champions

Bikes People Culture

What would you do, if you could remove your fear?

Fear is essential. Fear keeps us from taking on life-threatening activities or endangering ourselves and others. The knowledge that actions have consequences – and knowledge of which consequences are best avoided at all costs – keeps us safe.

Fear keeps us away from trouble. Away from injury. Fear keeps us warm, cosy and safe in a bubble of comfort far away from the spiky extremes of the unknown. Fear makes sure our families get to see us every day. It makes sure we’re at a lower risk of suffering unnecessary pain, financial worries, or causing extra work for ourselves or others around us. It helps makes sure we continue to survive.

It also means we don’t necessarily get to live on the edge – or, in extreme cases, perhaps not even live our life at all.

A comfort zone is nice, but removing fear can mean your comfort zone reaches right to the edge of what’s possible – and possibly even beyond it. Is that a good thing? Not if you want to play life in Safe Mode. But if you want to be a champion, especially a champion at something inherently dangerous like motocross, it’s best that fear is not part of the equation. Because, as the Boughen boys featured in our latest film say, there are ‘scary bits’ in motocross. But, to the boys, being scared is nothing to be fearful of. They seek it.

Kiean Boughen

Fear, you might assume, often comes with experience. Learning that doing something which has bad consequences is best avoided, especially if you repeatedly suffer from those consequences. However, it appears fear in fact comes from age as much as experience. For that reason, starting a dangerous sport whilst you’re very young is a key way to remove fear from the equation.

Kiean Boughen (#205) and Ashton Boughen (#2) are two brothers and are both Arenacross champions, with Kiean winning in 2016 and Ashton taking the title in 2017. The sport they rule involves flying through the air on petrol-powered noise-bullets for a hundred feet on some tracks, jumping heights far above the surrounding houses. They hit hairpin turns and berms to change direction at a rate more in keeping with tennis balls than pre-teen bike-riders. They race millimetres from other competitors, risking high-speed tumbles and metal-warping collisions. But are they afraid? No.

Broken bones are part of the deal. You heal. The bike gets fixed. The only truly lasting agony is the lost victory. They’re not restricted by fear, despite the broken bones they’ve had in the past – they’re restricted only by physics. If there’s a 50/50 decision to be made, they go for speed, not safety.

Is this reckless? No. Kiean and Ashton started riding motorbikes aged 5 and 3, respectively. By now, aged 12 and 10, they already have the kind of bike control all but the very best adult motorcyclists have and it’s taking them all they way through national championships and into the international spotlight.

Their committed father, Bradley Boughen, is no stranger to petrol-powered extremes himself having flown ultralight aircraft and paraglided at destinations across the globe, and has been known to simply collapse the parachute ‘for fun’, recovering the situation whilst hurtling earthwards. As such, he’s the ideal example of a person capable of letting go of fear and living right at the edge. And he’s clearly an inspiration to the boys. He organises the MX Master Kids UK Events too, helping other young riders compete at tracks nationally in a professional environment, preparing them for life beyond the first few rungs of the motocross ladder.

He’s also the boys’ only source of money, and it’s not a cheap sport.

Ashton boughen gloves

At the time of filming, the Boughen boys were practicing for their British Youth National championships and Bradley was keen to thank all the sponsors. But don’t think for one moment the boys get stuff for free. “Nah,” said Bradley in his North-West Norfolk way, whilst re-fitting a tyre he’d just had repaired, “we get cheap rates on stuff from sponsors but it’s still expensive doing a race weekend, or even practicing.

“Once you add fuel costs for the bikes and the van, entry fees, equipment, spares etc. it’s easily a few hundred quid for each bike. And it takes a long time travelling around the country.”

What we found was very much a ‘Dad and Lad’ setup, running four bikes (each boy had a race bike, and an old one they used for practicing as ridden in the film) out the back of a Vivaro. The Boughen boys were happy to muck in, move the bikes around, do whatever needed doing, and just loved being there. Bradley advised the teachers at their schools were helpful too, understanding that the boys need time out of the classroom to practice and compete, and allow it as long as their school work still gets done.

Kiean (left) and Ashton Boughen

But the lasting image from the day was one of contrasts. We see glamour when the boys race, especially in massive stadiums sponsored by huge brands, with fireworks and loud music watched by tens of thousands. But we were sat on old boxes in a field just off the A11, watching two young boys with scuffed kneepads eating a packet of crisps whilst Boughen senior reassembled a rear wheel.

But it’s days like these, getting hands dirty and learning more about what you, your bike, and your brother can do, that makes ordinary people into champions.

Since the film, we heard that Ashton had been invited to race over in the Belgium against riders from across Europe. He won both his races. And now Yamaha has invited them over to Spain to try out their new YZ 65cc and 85cc bikes. Finally, Ashton will be representing GB in Australia, at the ‘MX Junior’ 2018 FIM Junior Motocross World Championship event in Horsham, 300km northwest of Melbourne.

How will they all feel about all this attention and exposure? Nervous? Excited?

Not fearful, that’s for sure.

Kiean Boughen practicing