Q1. Which MTB trail got you through lockdown?
The first lockdown was when I rediscovered riding after breaking my scaphoid, so it was mainly flat paths as I could only change gear about 5 times before my thumb felt like it was falling off.
By September I had moved to the French Alps, so Lockdown 2 had a 1km radius to explore, which allowed for about 6 minutes of descending as a reward for over 1 hour of climbing, and I was lucky that I could get a fairly decent doorstep loop in.
So I guess the trails that got me through were the ones I couldn’t ride and it was a ‘get fitter, then you can ride this after lockdown’ kinda mojo. Even getting out to ride mellow paths was invaluable for my mental health, nothing quite like the freedom a bike gives!
Q2. How did MTBing become part of your life?
When I was at college, there was a give-it-a-go type bike maintenance session where you got free tyre levers for changing a tube. I kept saying to my friend Izzi, who was a passionate advocate for cycling, something like “I’d love to be able to do that” and she wouldn’t take my excuse of not being able to ride a bike as reason enough not to be able to fix one. I still have those tyre levers now*.
After becoming a ‘pro bike mechanic’, and some encouragement from Izzi, I figured that I better learn how to ride. I rolled around, strider style, the local kids MX track on an early 90s rigid steed. Turns out I quite liked this bike riding thing, so I entered my first race at the 1-2-1 in Hamsterley – something daft like 6 weeks later on a Kona Stinky.
then moved to Sheffield for uni as apparently the biking is good over here? My
short time with Stinky saw it swiftly supplanted with a Dialled 4x bike, which
was sick, I rode everything on it (even swapped the xfirm spring for a soft one
after someone pointed it out haha) and also bribed my way into the Sheffield
community/ TiS Dual Slalom races using biscuits. Still not sure if the bourbons
or chocolate digestives were more popular!
*I didn’t realise what a good deal I’d got at the time, but they’re taxx levers and they’re mint!
Q3. Where are you dreaming of riding in 2021?
I’d love to do either a road trip up to Sweden – Hanna’s Swede Shreds series has me lusting for those long days, vast landscapes and mature forests – , and hit up a few places on the way. I’d also like to explore the lesser known spots in the South of France, the terrain is so different to that which I have ridden in the UK and my french pals are all obsessed with Freeride, so I want to see what is up with that.
I’m currently living in Morzine and hoping to still be here for Summer. After bouncing from NZ to England to Switzerland to Wales and finally to France in 2020 I’m not sure I can hack many more moves. This means that I can properly explore the Portes du Soleil region and see what the rest of the Alps has to offer outside of the bikeparks
Q4. Have you ridden more or less this year?
Less for sure, a broken scaphoid saw to that! However, I was in NZ before Covid hit which is INCREDIBLE, save up your pennies pals as this has to be on your post-covid list, the riding is awesome, but even the ‘tourist’ stuff is the best! And I was mega fortunate to get some lift-assisted riding in once I got to France, most folks I’ve chatted to who have also broken their scaphoid haven’t managed alpine riding so soon after surgery and I definitely have the great kiwi surgeons and physio team to thank for the,so far, textbook recovery.
Q5. What would you like to see MTBing become in the next few years?
I would love for MTB to become more and more accepting, not just for women, but for everyone. It has very much had the image of being a sport for the “lads, lads, lads”! Which, thankfully, is being challenged by the rise of the current crop of female MTB’ers such as Vero Sandler, Hannah Bergman and Alma Wiggberg. But I also want to see better representation, so that riders, like Patagonia’s Brooklyn Bell, are not the exception, but the norm. To prove that our community is open and welcoming to all riders.
As a female in a male dominated sport, I can relate to feeling like you’re maybe not wanted or welcome on a ride (sometimes it is real, sometimes it is perceived, but untangling that is difficult). But we must recognise that I am still coming from a place of privilege being straight and white.
Mountain biking has such a positive impact on wellbeing and our relationship with the outdoors. I really want everyone to have the opportunity to get out and experience that wild, free, joyous feeling you get when razzing through the woods and having a good time out with your mates.
B. How should it evolve?
Evolution comes from experimentation and a bit of chaos, at times! I think for anything to progress you have to have a little risk taking, lest you become boring or lose sight of what it was that gave you the passion in the first place.
I feel supporting the places where MTB’ers can flourish is the way forward. We would not have so many world class athletes if we had no places for them to ride. I’d be stoked to see more freeride type opportunities in the UK, we’re King of the trail centre and Queens of the locally dug enduro scene, but there’s limited options for anything outside of this. Having the right to roam in England and Wales would open up mountain biking, allowing riders to explore and experiment locally, thus boosting the development of many more athletes from our little island.