MINI Insider – Countryman – Matthias Dandois – BMX MINI Insider – Countryman – Matthias Dandois – BMX


Most people use bikes to ride around on. Frenchman Matthias Dandois uses them to perform tricks that no one has thought of before. We tour Paris in a MINI Countryman with the multiple BMX world champion.
Perhaps the best way to recognise an eight-times world champion is by the lack of trophies in their living room. If you were the best at 19, still are at 31 and have won as many trophies as Matthias Dandois has, you have no need to show off. The visitor’s eye fastens instead on a half-finished puzzle lying on the dining table – 1000 pieces of sentimental kitsch making up the words Je m’emmerdais (I was bored) framed by yellow, red and pink blossoms.
MINI Insider Countryman – Matthias Dandois BMX MINI Insider Countryman – Matthias Dandois BMX
Dandois receives us in his flat in Montmartre, just a short bike ride from the Moulin Rouge, the legendary cabaret in the north of Paris. He offers a fist bump as a greeting, a familiar gesture from the world of hip rappers, but this fist bump is more about hygiene – avoiding too much physical contact. The reporter can’t help noticing the young man’s hands, which are tattooed with the words bon jour (hello). Dandois is slim with a wiry frame, just what you would expect from a BMX world champion. His arms are covered in tattoos, and he’s wearing cool, casual clothes and a backwards baseball cap on top of his dark curls. He doesn’t seem to take his appearance too seriously, but plays with it instead, collapsing the coolness. Just today, he posted a video of himself on Instagram, riding his BMX through urban canyons and bouncing backwards off walls. Tomorrow, there’ll be a photo of him hugging his dog or landing face first on the asphalt. He seems like a man with nothing to prove.
MINI Insider Countryman – Matthias Dandois BMX MINI Insider Countryman – Matthias Dandois BMX

Matthias, Judging by your social media channels, your days appear to be filled with nothing but fun. What are they really like?

Instagram isn’t reality, of course. But I’m lucky to be able to make money doing what I love and work with my friends at the same time. I’m a very positive person and I try to share that with others. But in the end, of course, it’s also my business.

You have around 250,000 followers on Instagram and collaborate with brands, such as MINI, Red Bull and Vans. Are you really more of an influencer than an athlete?

No, my sport is my sport. I know influencers who spend all their time thinking about what to post next and how their fans will react. It’s like a kind of schizophrenia in which your social media personality takes over your real life. I tend to ignore all of that and just get on my bike and do what I’ve always done.

Does someone who holds eight world championship titles still have to train?

I’m not very fond of that word, but I do spend between two and three hours a day on my bike, perfecting my tricks or thinking up new ones. With my headphones on, I’m in a world of my own. To me, it’s like meditation.

MINI Insider – Countryman – Matthias Dandois Tattoo
The first BMX craze arrived in the 1980s, when the trend sport from California spilled over into the rest of world. The lightweight wheels and low seat left their mark on popular culture, but at some point, people’s interest waned and mountain biking went mainstream. Still, a group of hard-core athletes continued to develop the BMX sport further. Dandois was given a BMX bike for Christmas when he was 12. He signed his first sponsorship agreement at 17 and won his first world championship title at 19.
To me, prevailing in urban spaces is the essence of the BMX sport.
Matthias Dandois

Flatland, Dandois’s freestyle discipline, is a little bit like figure skating on a BMX: the athletes perform routines to pumping bass rhythms with a jury looking on and evaluating every move. If the world weren’t in the grip of a pandemic right now, Dandois would probably be on a plane, as the BMX scene is connected worldwide. But COVID-19 has forced him to stay in place, close to where he grew up: Paris, that overcrowded, open-air museum with the Seine running through it. This is where Dandois and his friends pedal from monument to monument, spinning on their back wheels in front of the Eiffel Tower, riding across the glass roof of the Grand Palais, performing tricks on the Place de la République under the watchful eye of the Marianne statue.

Does it feel strange to be staying in one place for so long?

For the first time in 15 years, I have something resembling a routine. I take the dog out, go to yoga, ride my bike. But I miss travelling. When a sponsor sends us athletes somewhere for a film project, we all live together in one big house for a week or two. It’s like camp, BMX camp. The stunts we perform for the camera are always more or less the same, but the aesthetic changes with the architectural backdrop. Bogotá is different from New York or Cape Town. To me, prevailing in urban spaces that were not made for bikes is the essence of the BMX sport. And that’s what I’m doing here in Paris and just outside the city of course, too, together with three or four of my mates.

MINI Insider – Countryman – Matthias Dandois Vans
MINI Insider – Matthias Dandois – BMX – Red Bull

Is there anywhere particular you like to go?

I like to take my MINI Countryman out to Sarcelles, which is in the suburbs. It’s got tower blocks and people selling drugs, and you’re likely to be accosted and given a hard time – but not if you’re on a BMX. You transform a place when you use it to perform tricks. Suddenly, people stop to talk. BMX is a universal language. It helps to connect people who otherwise inhabit very different worlds. I have won eight world championship titles, and whether or not I win a ninth or tenth won’t change my life very much. But what I can do is inspire other people, get them interested in my sport. Who knows, maybe someone watching me do my tricks will one day be a world champion, too.

When you travel outside the city, you always take your MINI Countryman. Does a bike pro like you actually enjoy driving a car?

I very much enjoy travelling in a car, but I prefer to be behind the wheel rather than in the passenger seat. There’s no better way to get to know people than on a road trip. In fact, some of my best memories are associated with cars, like the 10-day trip with friends that took us from Paris to Barcelona, then Portugal, and back again as far as Cologne. I’ll never forget it. What links car travel and BMX is the camaraderie within the group.

There’s no better way to get to know people than on a road trip.
Matthias Dandois
MINI Insider – Countryman – Wheel

What made you decide to buy a MINI Countryman?

The MINI is an urban car; you see a lot of them in Paris. And if you have to transport a bike as often as I do, it’s also the perfect size. I once even got four of us into it and four BMX bikes in the boot – no problem. We’re always on the lookout for good places to take photos or film each other doing tricks, and as many of these places are outside the city, we take the car. The MINI has the agility of a go-kart, which is just what you need in this city’s traffic.

You’re now 31. How long do you intend to keep looking for new spots, doing tricks, winning trophies? Is it possible for an extreme athlete to age with dignity?

I’m never going to stop riding my BMX. And the only way I want to end my professional career is by competing in the Summer Olympics in 2024, right here in Paris, in front of my family and my friends. To give it everything I’ve got, my absolutely best performance, and then say: ciao, that was it, bon dimanche! To leave the stage after my greatest triumph – that’s what I’m working towards.

MINI Indsider – Countryman – Matthias Dandois – BMX
Dandois has already made a head start with his second career, establishing a production company and involving his friends. He arranges photo shoots, makes podcasts and videos, and cultivates the camaraderie. He’s also a big fan of analogue photography and has published a small book of photographs. The fact that his girlfriend is a fashion model is also helpful. The puzzle on the living room table can’t be telling the truth. Matthias Dandois? He’ll never get bored.