25 Nov, 2015

Clowning around

Meet Sean Stevens.
Sean tattoos the mark of the rhino in the strangest of places, the top of Kilimanjaro. Photograph supplied.
We hope he doesn’t ride like that during the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge.
Sean is more of a tattoo artist than a cyclist, so he seems to be more confident tattooing a bicycle than actually riding it.
Sean Stevens recently added comedian to his CV, which also includes tattoo artist, superbike rider and ultra-distance runner.
Sean Stevens ran the Two Oceans Marathon earlier this year in his clown suit. Photograph supplied.

He is a comedian … No, I’m serious … he is a stand-up comedian. He is a tattoo artist, and super bike racer too, and he runs ultra-marathons and will now try riding the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge. Raymond Travers went to find out just how crazy Sean Stevens is …

“Hey dude!” he stretched out his hand.

His long hair and visible tattoos, possibly expected from someone who works at a Boksburg-tattoo parlour, added to the character of his smiling eyes and friendly demeanour.

I followed him to the back of the store. A table and two chairs on one side and a whole bunch of filing cabinets on the other made for an almost eerie interview location, completely in tune however with the idea of a tattoo artist who plans to ride the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge in a clown suit.

“Are you actually a cyclist?” I asked, more rhetorical perhaps than a serious question – possibly forgetting the first ‘rule’ of asking questions – don’t ask if you don’t want to hear the answer.

“Ja … no I don’t,” the oxymoron confused almost as much as his next few sentences. “Actually I just started cycling about a year ago. I race superbikes so I had a major accident and I smashed my elbow and broke my humerus. So I wasn’t able to get onto a bicycle again.”

It is unknown whether he interpreted the resultant smile as one of sadistic entertainment on hearing about his suffering or perhaps a sense of knowing what injuries are like. Actually the thought of a stand-up comedian breaking a humerus will always get a smile from a journalist.

Sean explained that he actually entered last year’s Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge and got his number on the same day as he was discharged from hospital.

“It was really hot that day,” recounted Sean, “and my arm swelled up and I realised I just wouldn’t be able to ride it. So ja, this is my revenge on the 947.”

Earlier this year, and wearing the same “technicolour” clownsuit as he plans to wear on 15 November, Sean ran the Old Mutual Two Oceans and Comrades marathons.

“I did it to raise funds for our charity, the Pat Gurr Trust for Children,” he said, “That’s the thing we do. We raise money to buy bicycles for children in children’s homes. Then we deliver them to children’s homes. Just to get them mobile you know?”

I smile. I like happy stories.

“The ride we doing now will hopefully gather and collect more money and raise awareness. So we try and get people to dig out their old children’s bicycles primarily, although we will gladly accept skateboards and roller skates and stuff, which aren’t used anymore. And our Skin Trade Tattoo shops are the drop-off points,” he explained.

The whole tattoo “thing” intrigued me so I asked him when it started.

“I’ve been tattooing for 17 years,” he exclaimed, “one of my god children’s mothers was a tattoo artist and she came and stayed with me for a while and I helped her with designs. And she sat me down one day and said that I should be doing this. So I went and resigned my job the next day and started doing tattoos.”

His craziest tattoo wasn’t necessarily what was tattooed, or on which part of whose body it was tattooed. But it’s where it happened.

“Ja,” he laughs, “we went up Kilimanjaro as well. We’ve got a rhino anti-poaching project that we run as well. So I went up Kilimanjaro, which was hard, especially the last day, and I did a tattoo at the top of Kilimanjaro.”

I find myself whistling the Juluka song as the words: “Oh OK, the world’s highest tattoo” form in my mouth.

He laughs.

“Ja, that’s it. And then I sold that tattoo machine to the guys from Pawn Stars South Africa, like the TV show. And I even tattooed the mark of the rhino on one of the dudes from Pawn Stars South Africa,” he smiled.

The whole rhino thing intrigued me. “What is the mark of the rhino?” I asked.

“The mark of the rhino is a little tattoo,” he says as he shows me a picture, “this is the design which we tattoo on people and it comes with a little code underneath it which is specific to you. And all the money raised from doing the tattoo on people is given to the anti-poaching guys in the field.”

The conversation moved over to racing superbikes.

“That started about three years ago, although I haven’t raced this year because of the injury,” he clarified.

“I ride a Kawasaki ZX10 Ninja. That thing canes it,” he moved over to ‘motor-bike-speak’, “but I used to rally … I used to rally cars and then when my brother started racing superbikes I went and watched him. I found that you couldn’t just watch. I’ve done it probably the cheapest way it’s ever been done in South African history. I use tyres that are way past their true throw-away dates and use them right down to the canvas in true privateer style. Now that’s how I race, I find it more challenging that way.”

The two wheeled talk eventually prompted him to own up about how he really started cycling, which is similar to how most of us have discovered the sport over the past few years.

“I actually started riding trails on a mountain bike just before I had the accident and it was beautiful out there. It is such a nice way to get out there and do something active as well. So ja, jumping on the road is cool and stuff, but when I can I’m definitely going to do some trail riding. It’s just so nice out there,” he explained.

“But then why ride the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge as your first cycling event?” I asked.

“I’ve never ridden it and I don’t know how tough it’s going to be but I think the 947 is something achievable for a lot of people. I think you can become easily involved even if you don’t have a whole stack of cycling experience and stuff like that. Unlike the Comrades, people don’t have to spend 19 months training for it but I think with this kind of thing I can get a lot more people involved from the charity side of things,” he explained.

And, of course, he will be riding in his clown suit.

“I did the Comrades in the clown suit. The suit was hot, but it was hot anyway that day. Without proper training, I was in a haze. I wanted to stop after 30 kilometres, so I don’t even know how I finished it, to be honest, I was so broken.

“I’ve had this thing since I was 20 years old. I built it when I had a hangover and it’s been skydiving, it’s been deep sea spear fishing, it’s done the Comrades, it’s done the Two Oceans, it even went to the top of Kilimanjaro, although I didn’t wear it. So now it’s going to do the 947,” he explained.

The thought of a guy in a multi coloured clown suit raised yet another smile.

“Ja, I only started to do stand-up comedy in January this year,” he said, seemingly reading my mind. “There is a big comedy scene in South Africa at the moment. Especially seeing what Trevor Noah has done.”

Sean did his first corporate gig last month and often appears on stage and various venues around Gauteng. So, you don’t see this dude in a clown suit riding the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge, check him out at a theatre near you. And don’t forget to drop off your old bicycles at your closest Skin Trade Tattoo shop.

Raymond Travers

Raymond Travers

Modern Cyclist Editor |