Introducing: Kayley Burdine

Last October, professional cyclist Marianne Vos launched a new initiative to promote women’s cycling all over the world. By encompassing all disciplines, skills and ages, Strongher was born with one simple goal: get more women cycling regularly. I was elated when Strongher contacted me asking if I would be an ambassador with the likes of Manon Carpenter, Hannah Barnes and Juliet Elliot. How could I say no?

Being a part of a strong and growing platform of female riders has been brilliant, and exciting. I’ve met so many fantastic ladies, both professional and non-professional. One of my fellow ambassadors, and personal sHERO, is the delightful cross-country MTB’r, Kayley Burdine.

After following Kayley’s adventures through social media, we began chatting about all things life and bikes, and I began to unravel her remarkable “rags-to-riches” story… well, Kayley went from a novice to a pro in less than a year! With her strong pro-active attitude towards riding, and women’s cycling, I think she’s a great role model for budding female riders, who are thinking of pursuing life in competitive cycling.

So, who exactly is Kayley Burdine?

Q. Where are you based?
A. Mobile, Alabama United States

Q. How old are you?
A. 27

Q. What were you doing before your cycling life kicked off?
A. Nothing really, just getting up every day to go to work. I was miserable, I didn’t have any hobbies. I’ve played sports my whole life, just about every sport you can think of, even full contact American football. So, I’ve always had something to do, and when all that ended I was lost.

Q. How did you get into cycling, and why?
A. I am a personal trainer who hates doing steady state cardio, and running! I bought a bike to ride to work for cardio during the week, and to take out to the local trails on the weekends! I went on a group ride with some friends and they told me I was fast and should try a race! I didn’t even know racing existed at the time! I found one about 3 hours away from me, in Mississippi! I only had a week to train for it, and that race was the toughest thing I have ever done. I immediately knew that I wanted more, and that’s where it all began.

Q. How did it feel join Easton Shore Cycles, and get a sponsorship so early on?
A. That was one of my favourite moments of my biking career. It was right after I won one of the biggest races I’ve ever done against some really tough competition! I became the only sponsored rider in my city, and it was a huge deal for me. I am forever grateful to Phil, and Eastern Shore Cycles for believing in me and taking a chance on me! Becoming a pro mountain biker after only a year of biking is unreal, and I couldn’t be happier.

Q. What are you most excited about for 2016?
A. Sea Otter. It’s a huge pro race out in California! It’s going to be an amazing learning experience for me, being new to this calibre of racing, but I can’t wait to go out and meet all of these amazing racers that I look up to!

Q. Do you have any international events lined up?
A. Not yet, but I hope to qualify for some real soon!

Q. I love your stripey socks! Have they become your trademark?
A. They have! I try to always wear them when I’m racing, it makes it easier to find me in pictures too. I started wearing them in football games, and they ended up being a good luck charm, so it just kind of became my trademark look.

Q. Now for the bike talk. What bikes do you own? Which is your race bike?
A. I have a 2016 Specialized Epic Pro World Cup(FS), a 2015 Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon World Cup(HT), and a Specialized Ruby road bike. I will be primarily racing the Epic this year, but I’m sure some of the courses will be better on the Stumpjumper

Q. How does it feel being an ambassador for Strongher?
A. STRONGHER is an amazing group of women really trying to promote women’s cycling. Ever since I started racing for Eastern Shore Cycles, I’ve tried to grow my biking community here in Mobile, AL (specifically the women’s community.) When I found Strongher and saw all the women involved all over the world I immediately wanted to be a part of this group! I believe it makes a difference to have a group of strong women behind you when you’re trying to get more women involved! They have become like an international family to me!

Q. When you aren’t tearing it up on two wheels, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
A. I enjoy watching movies, especially funny ones, travelling, and eating out. Travelling to all of these different places, and trying all this different food has really been an amazing experience for me. I’m definitely a foodie!

Q. If it wasn’t for cycling, what would you be doing now?
A. I have no idea! I guess I’d still be lifting weights and watching everything I eat, not really enjoying life! Cycling has opened up so many opportunities to do and see things I never thought I possible!

We’ll be following Kayley’s race adventures for 2016, catching up with her progress whilst getting tips on training plans and nutritional advice. So, watch this space!

Tracey Moseley Interview 2015

Before I got addicted to cycling, and all things with two wheels, I knew who Tracy Moseley was. Growing up, I would watch her race, or hear of her through sports news and more often then not, she was dominating her field. Starting off with her brother, Ed, Tracy entered the world of XC competing in a few competitions before heading into the competitive Downhill scene. After some years of DH racing, Tracy dabbled in 4X before settling into the world of Enduro where she secured herself World Cup victories among many other titles and podium finishes.

And nothings changed! This year Tracy scooped up her third World Cup Enduro title win after sailing to the top spot in the EWS rounds. Shortly after her win, Tracy announced her retirement, and that she would not be defending her title next year. So with this in mind, I thought it would be a good chance to catch up with the multi-talented athlete that is Tracy “T-Mo” Moseley.

Hi Tracy, thank you every so much for speaking with Velo Me. Massive congratulations on another year of phenomenal racing, and securing another championship under your belt. You’ve been so exciting to watch this year, how’s it been for you?

It’s been an incredible year, winning 6 out of 7 of the EWS (Enduro World Series) races and enjoying other events too like the Trans-Provence. Its not been easy though, as I had ups and downs with my fitness and health, so it feels great to come away from the year with a 3rd world title.

You’ve recently announced your retirement from racing, and that you don’t intend to defend your title next year. What will you do instead, and do you feel you might miss the racing environment?

I’m sure I’ll miss the racing environment a little, but after 20yrs of racing, I am looking forward to enjoying my riding more without the stress of racing at that level, and all the training needed! I still plan to take part in some races, but to not have the tie of the overall series hanging over me all year will be nice and will free up some time for other projects!

You’ve been a huge inspiration to riders all over the world, since you started racing in 1992. We’ve all followed your career from downhill, to 4X to Enduro and you’ve become a household name in the homes of all MTB riders. When you started out, who inspired you and what motivated you to race?

My brother I guess was my first inspiration as he got into mountain bike racing in 1992, and for the next 10 years, I followed him to races and tried to keep up with him. I think he can take the credit for my early years of racing, and a lot of my skill development.

It’s quite common for bikers to dabble other disciplines, like BMX’ing and cyclocross, but to race in Downhill, 4X and now Enduro… they are some huge transitions! How did you find moving from one race discipline to the other? And how has your training altered for Enduro racing?

I have really enjoyed the challenge, as for me I am a cyclist and a mountain biker so I have always liked to do other disciplines, so it almost feels quite natural. I think its really important for young riders to not focus on one discipline too soon, and build skills across the sports. The real change in training for me has come in the endurance side, getting enough miles under my belt to survive the long days at the EWS races !

You’ve been in the industry for a long enough time to see the evolution of the women’s cycling industry. It’s great that we’re a growing minority, and we’re starting to get more media coverage to equal that of the men’s races. How has the women’s market changed in your time of riding? And how far would you like to see it go?

I think the women’s side of the sport is in a really healthy place now and with more and more women cycling, it’s only going to improve. We just need more of them having a go at the races to give us bigger fields at the events. Many companies now offer women’s specific products too which is great, my clothing sponsor Maloja has an equal sized catalogue of men’s and women’s clothing. Osprey maye Women’s packs, G-Form women’s pads etc.. So it’s a great time to get involved in the sport!

Pro-riders like yourself have said they feel it’s their responsibility to help nurture the next generation of female riders, and help encourage more women to race. You’ve run some coaching courses yourself, can you tell us a little about these courses and what makes them so fun for you?

Yeah I love trying to inspire more women, of all ages, to take up the sport and share the same love that I have for it. I have done a few courses out in Verbier with Bike Verbier and in the future I plan to do more, but nothing definite at this stage…

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career, and what can you pass on to us?

Piss poor preparation leads to piss poor performance!!! Setting yourself goals in everything you do I think is key to success, happiness and having a good time with your sport.

You’ve accumulated a wealth of podium spots, titles and world cups in a variety of MTB disciplines. Do you have any goals aside from racing?

To have a happy, fun filled life and enjoy quality time with my friends and family.

It seems strange to think that next year I won’t be able to flick over the the EWS and see Tracy Moseley lighting up the trails. She’s had such an impressive career in racing which I think we can all take some lessons from, like experiencing different disciplines of riding.

I wish Tracy all the very best of luck, and fun riding for the future. I’m hopeful that Tracy will come back with some coaching courses and share more of her knowledge and experience. But for now… rest up, Tracy! You deserve some quality downtime after roller-coaster career.

Claudio Caluori Interview 2015

Claudio Caluori is famously known for his entertaining and thrilling World Cup course previews, but there’s more… a whole lot more… to this Swiss man of many talents. The manager of Gstaad-Scott, founder of Velosolutions, World Cup MTB commentator, course previewer and presenter of Red Bull Crashed Ice. This man spins many plates, so where do we begin…

Hi Claudio, thank you ever so much for taking the time to chat with Velo Me. Many of us know you for your course previews, which are a personal highlight for me, but you’re also the manager for Gstaad-Scott and owner of Velosolutions. How on earth do you find time for all this?

Ha! I would say, no girlfriends allowed! Oh, wait, this is for Velo Me, uhmmm… For real, I have a really good team together where everybody knows what to do. And I don’t need much sleep!

Velosolutions is a fantastic company building pump-tracks and trails all over the world, with New York City being the most recent creation. How important is it for you to provide fun and safe areas for riders to play and progress? And what’s the most rewarding part about Velosolutions?

Besides the fact that it is a dream job for us being able to create and build tracks that people are going to ride, we really see how pump tracks take people into the sport of cycling, or even into sports generally. For me personally, the most rewarding part is when you see the kids coming out of their houses, riding a new pump track for the first time, and loving it so much that they don’t want to leave anymore.

Can you tell us about any upcoming Velosolutions projects you have in the pipeline? And what would be your dream build, and where?

You know, Thailand and New York City really were a dream, and we just have to watch the videos once in a while to make sure it really is reality. There are projects coming up all over the world, and I can’t really put one higher than another. Metropolises are amazing for us, but the experience of going to small towns in Asia are just as great.

As the manager of the Gstaad-Scott Team you had to make the difficult decision last year to let go three amazing riders: Emilie, Noel and Patrick, in order to focus on supporting Brendan Fairclough and Neko Mulally. How do you feel this has progressed the team’s position, and do you think you’ll be expanding the team in the future?

Yes, it was tough, because all three of them are amazing riders and good friends. The goal is now to establish the team in the top ten of the world cup, and when we reach that goal, we can add more riders again who then will profit from a team that functions at highest level.

Your course previews are brilliant! We all love watching you follow down athletes such as Loic Bruni and Tahnée Seagrave. And how you manage to commentate whilst riding, is multi-tasking at its best! Usually with little/no practise, how does it feel to do these previews?

To be honest, I’m mostly very nervous, but very focused. I usually only get one run, so things have to work in that one go. Just like a racer only gets one run in the finals (but at least he can practice for it, haha). And then, hitting those jumps in the first run, only having looked at them walking… well, it’s certainly exciting.

From the World Cup tracks this year, which track was your favourite and which was the scariest?

My favourite is always Mont Sainte Anne. The scariest was probably Lourdes, because we came out of the winter break and had to hit two pretty big road gaps in the first run. Aaron Gwin said the day before: “Those road gaps look pretty massive…” So I thought, if even Gwinny thinks they’re big, I should be careful…

The riders this year have really pulled out all the stops and shown remarkable sportsmanship and skill. The ladies downhill division has shown amazing performances this year with Rachel Atherton taking the top spot, Emmeline Ragot announcing retirement and seeing young Tahnée Seagrave hot on Rachel’s heels. Sadly the women’s races haven’t received the same level of media coverage as the men’s, but do you find it just as enjoyable and exciting to watch and commentate on?

NO! It’s actually a lot more enjoyable, because they’re doing the same sport, but they look a lot better doing it…

Now the race season is over, and Rampage just finished, you can now reflect on the year. What have been the highlights for you? And what are you looking forward to most for next season?

The 25th anniversary of Mont Sainte Anne, the first world cup in Lenzerheide near my home, the world championships title of Loic Bruni were real highlights.

Really looking forward to Lenzerheide again, but also to Cairns and Meribel. And to Brendan’s and Neko’s domination, haha 😉

You’ve been in the mountain biking industry nearly your whole life, having an extensive race history, going on to build tracks, commentate and travel the world of biking. You’ve seen the sport evolve and the level of performance excel. Can you tell us your views on how the women’s industry has grown to be the highly competitive division it is today?

There were always the exceptional women who dominated the field. They were so far ahead of the others, because weren’t just happy with winning the women’s races. They went and challenged the guys. Anne-Caro Chausson was one of them, Rachel is another one. It would be good to have more of them, and I’m sure even Rachel would want to have more competition. Because right now, everybody just expects her to win, which must be a big load of pressure, that she has been handling very well this year.

A frequent, and popular, topic for discussion is the inequality in MTB for the male and female athletes. This ranges from pay disputes, prize money, lack of coverage and even sponsorship opportunities. Ideally, we’d like to see an even playing field for all athletes, regardless of gender. What are your views on this, and do you think we’ll reach a happy balance?

It really depends how you look at it, but here are my calculations:

Money:
200 men at a world cup. 8 of them get prize money.
30 women at a world cup. 8 of them get prize money. (and if I’m correct, they get the same amount as the men)

TV coverage:
200 men at the event. 20 of them get shown on tv. Makes it 10%
30 men at the event, 5 of them get shown on tv. Makes it 16%

Teams:
200 men, – guessing 50 of them having a spot on a proper team. That’s 25%.
30 women, – guessing 10 of them on a team proper team. That’s 33%.

All of these numbers actually look better for women than for men. And it’s kept this way because the UCI is trying to promote women’s racing.

I’m aware of the fact that you can see this from different angles. I guess it’s not that black and white. It’s what you make out of it. Mountain bike riders generally have to be creative if they want to make a living out of their passion. Unless they can smoke their competition on the race track, but there are only so many who can do that. But there are plenty of other ways.

Why doesn’t a woman create her own team, like the Luna team in XC, and try to get non-industry female brands into the sport? There are plenty of possibilities! Maybe I should give it a try?! Haha.

You can’t expect brands to sponsor you only because you love riding bikes. You will have to give them a reason.

There are more and more women coming into our sport. This already creates a reason for the brands to get into it. Now, all it takes it spreading the passion and the good vibes! The media will pick it up and the sponsors will follow!

We’re now in the off-season of racing, how will you be spending your time and what do you look forward to most when you’re not out travelling and riding?

The travelling never stops. I don’t have off seasons.

I’ll be driving our team bus to Latvia, for a repair that would cost me half of the team’s budget in Switzerland. Soon, we should be building a pump track in Bali. The Red Bull Crashed Ice season starts, where I’m doing a similar job as at the World Cup.

And if I really do get some time at home, I’ll be preparing things for Gstaad-Scott, helping my uncle on the farm, or if things get really crazy, I might even squeeze in some time in on the Snowboard at home! Oh I love it!

After speaking with Claudio and learning more about his involvement in the biking world, I can honestly say I have a new found respect for Mr. Caluori. How does he do it all… and remain so focused?!

Claudio’s comments about riders securing sponsorship has given me a lot of food for thought. Sometimes being a great rider just isn’t enough to secure a living from it, and athletes need to be more creative to secure a big name, or make their money elsewhere. It saddens me somewhat that there are fab riders out there, killing themselves in training, travelling and racing… yet, they can barely afford to make a living from their efforts…. or even afford to pay their way to the races! How creative do riders need to be to secure the support required to reach the podium? And do these extra efforts detract from the spirit of riding? Seems like a catch-22 situation, but this will no doubt continue to be the case with the ever growing competition.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s season of course previews and creations from Velosolutions! Massive luck to Brendan Fairclough and Neko Mulally, riding for Gstaad-Scott and world domination.

Manon Carpenter Interview 2015

I was really excited about doing this interview with Manon Carpenter, not only is she a welsh born local girl, but she’s a constant inspiration for me with her fun attitude to riding and her keen perseverance. Unlike many other riders I look up to, something about Manon stands out. Perhaps it’s because she’s so lovely and unassuming. To an outsider, you’d never ever guess that she’s a real badass, and downhill world champ!

With her Dad being the driving force behind her career, Manon is a well versed rider of BMX, Dirt, Cyclocross… ok, anything with two wheels! She’s grown up in a nurturing biking environment and has taken it all within her stride to becoming a regular face on the National and International podiums.

Riding for Madison Saracen since 2011, Manon has acclimated a fair few titles under her belt, notably her World Championship and World Cup win in 2014, beating Rachel Atherton to the top spot. I have been gripped this year with Manon’s riding, defending her title and rainbow stripes, we’ve seen her miss the World Cup top spot by seconds, and yet seen her claim the BDS overall win.

Hi Manon, thank you so much for chatting with Velo Me. Let’s kick this off by going back to 2014 when you won the World Cup, how did you feel winning your rainbow stripes last year?

Winning the World Champs last year was amazing. I actually couldn’t stop laughing for quite a while; elation is probably a good word to describe the feeling. It was such a good way to win, I felt like I’d given it everything I could and was sat in the hot seat waiting for Rach to come down. It was so tense! When she crossed the line and I had won, it didn’t sink in for a few seconds until Tahnee bombarded me with congratulations. It was a good day.

How’s the atmosphere and reception been this year, and was there an added pressure to defend your title?

Everyone’s been so lovely this year, it’s amazing how much more attention the World Champs stripes bring to you. At the last World Cup in Val Di Sole the attention was actually a bit overwhelming! I’m not sure about added pressure, I think the fact that my season didn’t start off great took the spotlight off me a little bit. I think the main thing I struggled with was that I didn’t feel the way I did on my bike last year, I couldn’t get comfortable or find the aggression I needed, which was frustrating.

Now that the races are over this year, what’s been the best race/track you’ve ridden, and why?

I love the World Champs track at Vallnord, Andorra. I can’t get down that track without grinning. There is always something going on and I’m so at home in the steep sections, it’s just like our local tracks! I was a bit gutted it rained because I like how that track doesn’t usually get rough, but after constant changing from wet to dry it did start to cut up quite a lot, so you had to deal with different conditions each run.

You spend a lot of time on the road travelling the world for competitions, does it get tough when you’re trying to physically and mentally prepare for races?

Yes, I find the mental part the hardest. When I’m racing I need as much mental energy as possible to concentrate and find the aggression I need to attack a race track. I’ve been learning a lot about that this year, so I’m trying to make sure I feel fresh heading into each race now. If not you’ll think you’re fine until race day and then all of a sudden you’re in the start hut and something is missing… which is when things go wrong!

With many athletes competing at World level, we hear about all these diets and crazy training programmes they have in place. Can you walk us through a typical day in race season for you: how do you train, and are you on any crazy racer diets?

No crazy diets, just a good healthy balanced diet and I try my best to control chocolate intake! During a race season I try to spend the most time on my mountain bike but I could be doing a gym session, road ride, XC intervals or laps on the DH bike. Honestly, no day is ever the same!

Women’s participation in riding is growing which is fantastic! As a pro-rider and a huge inspiration to us women, do you feel it is important for you, and fellow athletes, to help nurture the next generation of women’s riders?

It’s great to see! I love heading to an uplift day or being at a bike park and seeing loads of girls riding. Some days this summer I’d see an almost equal ratio of girls to guys riding which was awesome. Women’s only events are really useful I think, I love getting the chance to ride with other girls and I think a lot of women feel the same. It’s great riding with someone of a similar ability to you and taking it in turns to push each other, or just have fun on the trail. Be it racing, coaching or just a group ride I think creating a comfortable and relaxed environment is the best way to get girls loving riding bikes. Katy Curd, Tracy Moseley and myself held a 12-18 year old girls day a while back at the Forest of Dean and it was really successful. I’d love to organise some more when I get the chance, it was great this year to see some of the girls who had come along turning up to races this year.

In all your years of riding and competitive racing, what’s the best lesson you’ve learnt, and what advice can you give to aspiring female racers?

I think the biggest break through I made was that braking less making life a lot easier! Or maybe, braking in the right places and letting the bike go in others. If you can stay off your brakes in rough sections it makes everything so much smoother, I still comfort brake and it’s the most annoying thing ever – trying to tell your brain that actually it’s okay. Avoid braking in corners as well, carrying speed instead of having to pedal saves a lot of energy as well. And as far as racing goes, just ride your bike lots! Ride in-between races to get up to speed so you can turn up to a race feeling good and fit. Wishing you’d come more prepared is the worst feeling!

A common misconception about female riders is that we’re all tomboys, wearing baggies and covered in mud. We’re not all like this though and many of us have our feminine side as well. I love muddy riding and I get covered in bruises, but I also love baking cakes, wearing dresses and girly chats about cats and tea. We all know you as a badass racer, shredding hard and showing up the boys on the track! But what’s the feminine side of Manon Carpenter like, and what does she enjoy doing?

Haha yeah I definitely have a girly side as well. One of the first things I’ll do when I get home after the season is organise a night out with the girls and cocktails. It’s nice to dress up and put a pair of heels on, even if it’s a shock after wearing trainers or flip flops all summer! Coffee stops are good, along with trips to the beach and anything outdoors really. To be fair, I would choose an afternoon gorge walking or our out on the motorbike over walking around the shops!!

What are your plans for the winter off-season?

I’d like to go to New Zealand this winter. The last few years I’ve enjoyed spending the winter at home but I would like some warmth this year. I want to make sure I spend as much time riding bikes as possible this time, last year I go a little caught up with media and events etc… so I want to go back to the things I find most fun.

Finally, what do you miss most when you’re away from home?

I’d say my friends and the calming influence that is my mum! She’s good at making me do nothing haha. I was away all summer this year and would see some of the stuff my friends were up and wish I was there. But to be honest living the life I do at the moment I love being away in the mountains, I was in Chamonix for the summer and when the sun is out on the glacier Caerphilly doesn’t really compare!

I’m excited heading into next year’s race season, and I hope that Manon finds the aggression she needs to really attack those trails, and remind the world what she’s made of! It’s great to hear her keen enthusiasm for women in riding, and getting involved with events and coaching days to share and nurture up and coming racers.

Since this interview, Manon Carpenter has been announced as the new ambassador for Strongher, a campaign to bring female riders together, all ages, skill and discipline. Promoting women’s riding is important to Manon, and Velo Me so I’m personally very interested in seeing this flourish and I anticipate exciting times ahead… stay tuned!

Rachel Atherton Interview 2015

Whether you’re a mountain biker, or not, the name Atherton is quickly becoming a house-hold name. Between Dan, Gee and Rachel, the Atherton family has accumulated over 25 championship titles in the mountain biking race scene! The youngest of the triumphant trio, and only female, Rachel Atherton, has had a killer race season this year and continues to work hard to promote women’s riding.

I haven’t been riding for the longest of time myself, but I’ve always loved watching mountain bike races and seeing these athletes hurtling down mountains, pushing the limits of the human body and overcoming some terrifying obstacles and injuries. Rachel Atherton has always been an exciting rider to watch for me. She makes riding look easy, but is able to carry a delicate balance between aggressive riding and graceful manoeuvrability. I frequently watch her race and say to myself, “She’s not human. Can’t be.” Her focus, passion and skill are inspiring for any rider, male or female, and I was totally star struck to meet her at the Red Bull Foxhunt this year.

The second women’s Red Bull Foxhunt took place in Scotland last month, coordinated by our 2015 World Champion, Rachel Atherton. This mass start downhill event encourages women to race, meet one another and support female riders in mountain biking. I caught up with Rachel over the weekend to chat about her race year and the importance of the Foxhunt to her.

Hi Rachel! Firstly, massive congratulations on the race season this year. You rode so hard, and passionately. I feel we saw a different side of you almost, and it was so exciting to watch! You looked to have ridden with such determination this year. Where did this drive come from, and did you feel that change in yourself?

Yeah, I think I’ve said it before, but there was definitely a pivotal moment when I was up at the start at FortWilliam World Cup, with Joe my mechanic. I was sick with nerves, dreading it really, but then it was like a switch flicked over in me. Joe said to the team after that he literally saw my whole body change. I just thought, “I can do this.” It didn’t stop my getting sick before all the races though!

Going into next year, how will you physically and mentally prepare to retain your title, and does this add more pressure?

There is always pressure, whether you win or lose, I’m not sure which is the greater – impossible to say really since all the pressure comes from inside. I do try very hard not to think of the past, or where I am in the overall, or what anyone else is doing, but it’s what I tell the girls that I work with on the BDS – just focus on your race. It’s not always that easy to take my own advice! What I have learnt is how important it is to have some downtime before training for the next season becomes all-consuming.

More and more women are getting into mountain biking, and events like the Red Bull Foxhunt are perfect ways to meet other women and have an introduction to competitive racing. How important is it to you to support female riders, and encourage the next generation of athletes?

The Red Bull Foxhunt is ideal for women looking to get into the racing scene, and try it out for the first time. It’s also fun for themore experienced riders and just getting everyone together really. I find that women are more confident with mass starts, and I want events like these to inspire confidence and excitement for racing. These events show a lot of comradery between women which is what this sport needs, more support!

The track this year is a little more technical. Some bigger features and some difficult heather to navigate through. What do you think of the track, and what’s your favourite section?

I came up during the summer to oversee the track build and walk each section because I wanted to make this year harder, offer more lines, and push the riders a little more. The track is great for challenging the more experienced riders, whilst catering for the beginners with easier lines as well. My favourite bit has to be the mass start with all the riders gathered together and charging off down the mountain. It’s amazing to see and be a part of.

This year the Red Bull Foxhunt sold out in just 24 hours, which is incredible! Surely that shows just how needed these women’s events are, do you think there’s scope to open the applications to more riders next year?

It’s amazing just how quick the Foxhunt sold out this year, I thought the website was broken on the day the applications opened! It’s great that so many women want to be involved, and there’s certainly room to expand the event in the future, providing we don’t exceed the site limitations. This is the second year that we’ve ran the women’s Foxhunt, so we have a good foundation to build and expand on in the future.

A lot of women are looking to get more involved in racing, but aren’t sure where to start with regards to training. You speak highly of yoga for core and balance, but what essential training do you think is necessary for the mind and body?

You need to look at all of these areas to make the most of your chances. I love yoga, and view it as much a part of my training as lifting weights in the gym. It has surprised me how few of the girls have any real focused training plan so I have some ideas for tackling that issue next year – watch this space! Everyone can start to get their body in the best possible shape by eating right – organic where possible, loads of colourful veg, and if you suspect that there is something you aren’t getting enough of, don’t be afraid to supplement – there are excellent pro-biotics that I take, based on loads of different grasses, and they don’t taste THAT bad….!

And finally, how does your off-season calendar look, and when does training start for next year’s races?

I don’t have a whole lot of down-time. We get the month of November off which is important to me for rest and catching up with family really. Then it will all kick off again in December when training schedules begin to get prepped racing next season.

Chatting with Rachel was a highlight of the Foxhunt for me. She’s super lovely and easy to talk to, it’s easy to forget that she’s the current World Champion! Her passion for the sport and for women’s riding is refreshing, and I love hearing and seeing the efforts of athletes who support that. I’m excited for what she has planned in the future, and I’m already crossing off the days in my diary for the next Red Bull Foxhunt! I wish Rachel all the very best of luck defending her title in 2016, and she continues to be a total badass icon for all riders out there.

Hannah Wilson Interview 2015

Meeting fellow female bikers is always exciting for me, it’s like being a part of a little club in a way because as we’re considered to be the minority demographic in MTB, so you don’t see us descend the mountains in mass very often, which is why when you meet another girl rider, you gravitate towards them with a friendly smile! Hannah Wilson is one of these female riders who I had a blast riding with, and she works as a Brand Specialist for crankbrothers and Fi’zi:k. I met Hannah at Afan Forest visitor centre, after a brisk ride over some of the trails there, we stopped off for a post-ride cuppa, cake, cats (the holy trinity), and got down to business. I loved learning about her riding, racing and her feelings of working within the bike industry…

“I’ve been riding for about 20 years now. I grew up in Cheshire and when I was 13 I would cycle the country lanes up to 30 miles a night after school on my Scott Timber bike. I’d get home from school, and make myself my 3P concoction of prawns, peas and peanuts before setting off. I figured the 3P meal had all the necessary nutrients I would need to get me through my cycle, and it worked! I loved biking, it gave me a sense of freedom that I couldn’t get anywhere else.

I bought a copy of MBUK once, and inside was a feature about being a new mountain biker and I knew I just had to have a go. I’d done so much road cycling, I wanted to try something a little different so I started riding local trails with some guy friends. I spent most of my time falling off, but I knew it was where I wanted to be and from then on I went off-road as much as I possibly could.

My first race was the Midland Super Series XC when I was 15 and I was wearing my school hockey kit and hockey shin pads! Oh God, I did this on my Scott Timber bike with cantilever brakes! My dad was always really supportive of my cross-country races and he’d wait at the finishing line with a diet coke and ice-cream. Seeing that I was still passionate to pursue mountain biking, when I was 16 my father helped my buy my first MTB bike, a Specialized Ground Control. I had this for about a year, but it was a 19” frame which was just a bit too big for me, so I upgraded again to a Kona Pahoehoe hard-tail.

My first real taste of mountain biking came when I went to university in Edinburgh though, and I joined the cycling club. This was a major shock to the system as I was suddenly faced with real hills. Real big hills! The guys I rode with encouraged me to get a downhill bike for an Alps trip I was going on. Apparently my Kona just wouldn’t cut it. So I got a Specialized Big Hit which I called “Boris”. It had a 24″ rear wheel and a 26″ in the front. This bike took me to the Alps where all my biking experience was really tested. I remember my first descent was on a fire road, and I pulled over to the side and cried. I was so scared! Which was silly reallybecause we were there for two weeks and by the end of the trip, I was in love with downhill! The Alps trip was a big gateway to mountain biking for me and I returned there every year for the next 12 years, even did a season in Morzine as a bike bum.

Between 2003 – 2006, I entered some downhill races and saw a lot of progress withmy speed and competency, but my cockiness got the better of me and a bad fall broke my shoulder and snapped my collar bone. I was out of action for 6 weeks, which wasn’t enough time for a full recovery, but I missed my bike so much. I went out too soon, and my shoulder went again. Then in 2006, I was in a car accident which had me off the bike for two years. During my recovery time, I was working at a Specialized concept store – I couldn’t keep away from bikes!

I decided to try a different career avenue and join the police as a response officer, and I did that for three years, but I just missed the biking world too much. So I left and went to work for Halfords as a buyer in 2011 which was a brilliant stepping stone for moving into Extra in 2014. Being able to combine your passion and your career is the most rewarding feeling and I feel so lucky to have achieved this.

I was aware of the crankbrothers brand from early on, and I loved the fact the owners formed the company as a result of their own passion for biking. Their products are brilliant and built to a very high standard, so being a brand specialist for them is amazing. They pay a lot of attention to what riders have to say, and the problems they encounter as crankbrothers use their innovation to find solutions.”

Being a Brand Specialist for crankbrothers must be wicked fun, What does your job have you doing?

I visit different bike shops and provide tech training on products, and sales training. For crankbrothers, I go to a lot of the UK races, like the BDS races and offer tech support there where I will service pedals and re-build them making them feel like new again. At one of the rounds of the BDS, I serviced Tahnée Seagrave’s pedals, and her dad gave me a some of flapjack in return, just one of the bonus perks of the job! I have shown team mechanics and riders alike how to service the pedals – it really is very simple. I also write up technical content and try and ensure it’s understandable and engaging.

My favourite part of the job is just talking to people about the sport, about products and getting to know the riders and other companies. It’s a great sense of community and I love being a part of it. I can’t think of any other industry that I would want to work in!

It’s not often to you come across female technicians in mountain biking. How do you find it, and have you faced any gender stereotype bias?

I like to do my hair and nails, and embrace my feminine side. But I also like to wear baggies and talk shop. I think that being a girl in a male dominated sport doesn’t mean to you have to lose your feminine side, there’s a balance that can be easily achieved.

Going to some shows and events does still shock me as how many people assume that because I’m a woman, I don’t know bikes and tech talk. Men will look at me at the crankbrothers stand and assume I’m a helper, assisting the technicians or that being a woman, I won’t do as good of a job as the boys, and I hate those assumptions. Those gender stereotypes are what need to be stamped out.

I have been asked how I feel about being one of the only female techs shows, but I don’t really notice most of the time. I talk bikes with everyone and anyone, whether I’m the only girl in the room has no impact on me. There are very few women at the races offering tech support, but it’s always nice to meet fellow female mechanics and it would be great to see some more women interested in the technical aspect and maintenance roles for companies.

How do you think the women’s industry is changing, and which way do you want to see it go?

Women’s participation in mountain biking is a growing market, and it’s great to see it heading in the right direction. There’s definitely a lot of opportunity there for companies to realise and now it’s being considered even more, as there are more women in branding roles. It’s very important for companies to communicate with women at all levels, and in all disciplines to determine where the demand is, whether it’s for kit or for events etc… Female riders are spread out and are often within their own comfort zone with riding buddies. women specific events look to be a really good thing to encourage women, but they can also be intimidating at the same time.

It’s super important for women to really ask themselves what they want from riding so they can have more knowledge about what bike, protection and kit they should be buying. Everyone should enjoy riding and whatever equipment helps them achieve that, is right for them.

It’s a really exciting time for women’s riding, it’s getting more and more competitive now which is great. Within the UK we are really lucky to have some amazing role models in Rachel Atherton, Tahnee Seagrave, Katy Curd, Manon Carpenter and many others. These athletes are dedicated and passionate which has been increasing momentum in the sport. I think pro-riders have a vital role to pay for the active development of women’s riding and it’s great to see all the good work they have been doing.

And Hannah, tell us a little about your current set up and what you like about it so much.

I’ve got an Intense Tracer 275 with 160mm travel. crankbrothers wheels, cockpit and pedals. This bike really comes to life in the corners. It takes on anything and I just love it, I have great pleasure riding it. It’s got a perfect fit, geometry and there’s nothing I want to change…well maybe the red decals on the forks!

Wrap-Up

It was a pleasure meeting with Hannah and going for a ride. She’s got a refreshing passion for biking and the whole industry. It’s been great getting an insider view of work life in the biking world, and it does shock me that there’s still this stereotypical assumption about women’s ability to maintain and service bikes. Speaking with Hannah has inspired me to get a little more technical with my bike and really know every nut and bolt. Perhaps more encouragement is needed to motivate women to do the same, instead of relying on the partners and shops for maintaining and fixing our bikes, something many of us are guilty for, I know I am!

Hannah Myers – The Lady of Flare

When I was starting out in mountain biking, I needed to accumulate a variety of kit from the bike itself to the protective gear, and the clothing. Immediately it became apparent that there is an extremely limited selection for women’s MTB kit. Don’t get me wrong, there’s loads of Lycra wear for road biking and for XC, but not much baggy downhill wear… which is what I wanted (I’m not body confident enough to don the Lycra bodysuits!). One British company stood out though, Flare Clothing. They cater for the female MTB rider, with flattering cut jerseys and semi baggy shorts which was exactly what I was looking for.

Founded by Hannah and Ben, Flare clothing set out in 2012 to produce high quality MTB kit for women which was stylish and functional. Along with post-ride apparel, shirts and hoodies, Flare soon started to dominate the UK women’s biking market and now you can’t make a trip to a bike park without seeing blurs of their vibrant colours and dynamic patterns flying through the trees. Female riders that I’ve spoken with, like Amber Charity, have all mentioned the lack of women’s kit available, and so I set to interview one of the founders of Flare Clothing, Hannah Myers, to discuss the company and it’s vital role in today’s biking industry.

Hi Hannah, thanks so much for chatting with Velo Me. Let’s start with you! Tell us a little about yourself, you’re biking background and what inspired you to produce women’s biking kit.

I’ve not been riding forever – I wish! I had always ridden hybrid bikes and gone on some family bike rides but started mountain biking a few years ago when I worked at a local bike shop. They had some Trek demo mountain bikes and they were all massive, so they got in a Lush S for me to try out and within the first few rides I was hooked. I ended up buying that demo bike and riding more and more, and before long I wanted new helmets, gloves, clothes to go on my adventures. I scoured all of our suppliers looking for women’s clothing (I’ve got boobs and hips so men’s kit just looks awful on me) and just couldn’t find any. I thought that I couldn’t be the only woman feeling unsatisfied, so I could either sit back and wait for something to come along or put my design background to good use and do something myself.

Flare Clothing is now in its second year of business and we’ve seen a lot of developments with women’s biking kit, post-ride apparel and now even a men’s line. How else do you plan to expand the Flare brand?

For now I want to hone the pieces that are in the line, we diversified this year by introducing DH focussed options and next year I want to concentrate on getting the fit spot on and finding the best fabrics possible. That being said, we do have some riders and customers shouting for Lycra, so maybe you’ll see that in the not too distant future, who knows? In the next few years, though, I’d really like to introduce more urban/casual clothing that is technical without screaming ‘cyclist’ as well as a kids’ range for little rippers.

Out of the many pieces you’ve produced, do you have a favourite range of clothing you’ve done so far?

I love the new Enduro shorts! They don’t look all that spectacular (since the DH kit has more jazzy colours this year) but they are so comfy! I keep telling people “it’s like you’re not wearing anything!” Because they’re really lightweight and super stretchy but at the same time have water and abrasion resistance so it’s a really great balance.

How have you seen the women’s market, and demand for women’s kit change over your time in business?

I think that women as consumers of MTB are becoming more demanding, which is a really good thing. When I started (which wasn’t all that long ago) women were more likely to accept what was available to them, since there were so few options, but now, rather than being satisfied with whatever is available the engaged women are saying “ok, that’s good, but this is what would make it better”, and that makes the market as a whole more confident and the industry take notice.

Flare is a brilliant company, passionate about promoting women in biking and I love the attitude and focus Flare has. What more do you think could be done by bike parks and other leading brands to encourage more women to get out on the bike?

They need to take charge. Shops, bike parks, influential companies need to be active in engaging their female customers (and potential female customers), asking them what they want to see and actually devote a budget to it. In my experience shop owners say “we don’t stock women’s clothing because women don’t buy clothes in shops” and the female riders say “we don’t buy clothes in bike shops because there’s nothing to buy”. It’s a catch-22 situation, and the only way it’s going to change is for the people with power to bite the bullet and spend the money that will make women take notice.

And Hannah, we all want to know what bike you’re currently riding and what trails you love best!

I love, love, love my Juliana Roubion (can you tell I like the colour teal?) and the trails in Wales are awesome – I’ve recently done some riding in the Sierra Nevada in Spain also which is just breathtaking.

Wrap-up

I wear a lot of Flare clothing whilst out on the bike. I love the colours, patterns and the efforts that Flare make to cater for female riders, and even more recently, the male ones too! I think they are very close to perfecting their range of women’s clothing and I think they will achieve this down the line. All women come in different shapes and sizes (as do men), but we tend to be a lot more fussier than the boys. Some women prefer Lycra over baggy polyester jerseys, and some prefer shorties to longs… It’s hard to cater for so many different preferences when the market you cater for is still a small minority, it just isn’t financially or business viable. Saying this, I think Flare clothing are doing an excellent job of producing a comprehensive range of kit for women and given they are only in their second year of business, I can’t wait to see what else they have in store.

Katy Curd Interview 2015

British born, Katy Curd took the biking scene by storm when she raced downhill, 4X and back to downhill. Two times national champion, and World Champion in 4X with multiple podium finishes, Katy has moved back into the downhill scene recently and is holding her ground.

She offers coaching for groups and individuals, sharing expertise and giving champion advice. I’ve been on coaching sessions with Katy to improve my riding technique and build confidence, and she was wicked! Patience of a saint, super kind and a great sense of humour, Katy really made me feel at ease and supported. And what struck me was how cool and humble she is, whilst I’m there awkwardly stumbling over words and forgetting how to ride a bike! I caught up with Katy shortly after her race at Leogang in Austria to see how she’s getting on.

Hi Katy! We’ve all been closely following the UCI world downhill championships this year and it’s proven to be exciting, and anything but predictable. We saw you leap from 11th place in Lourdes, to 5th place in Fort William, your first world cup podium and record time. How do you feel the year is going so far?

I’m having a lot of fun out there this year to be honest, it’s still a big learning curve for me jumping back on the downhill bike as it’s so different to racing 4X but I’m just loving every minute of it. For my first full year back I feel it’s going pretty well, I have achieved some goals of mine already and just looking to be a bit more consistent for the rest of the season. The girls are pushing so hard at the moment its really inspiring and keeps me wanting to push myself.

There seems to be a lot of fun friendly rivalry between the girls at the races, is there any dirt to dish out on them?

To be honest everyone is just real sound and down to earth. I love going riding with Manon when we are both back at home as its always just a good laugh and never serious. When we are at races as you say it’s only ever friendly rivalry, I think that’s the best thing about downhill, it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, its only you that can control your race run so everyone is competitive with each other but still good friends.

In more recent years, there has been a huge increase of women getting into mountain biking, which is great! However there is still a lot of catch up to be done by manufacturers to produce more women specific clothing and protection, how would you like to see the women’s market develop? And what are your views on the current image of women in MTB?

It has been great to see more women getting involved in the sport and hopefully this continues over the next couple of years. I think it’s great to see more options in women’s clothing as this still seems to be a big hole in the market but of course only a small market to aim at. Women have started to get a lot more coverage at races which I think has helped masses in giving inspiration to other female riders, but I think it’s the women only events and days are the best for getting female riders into the sport as it gives a chance for people to meet other riders and they can progress at a level to suit them rather than always feeling inadequate trying to keep up with the blokes! I run a few women only events with Pedal A Bike Away at the Forest of Dean and it’s always great to see how much riders can progress in such a small amount of time by just watching and learning off of other women riders doing the same thing.

What is the best lesson you’ve learnt as a rider which you can share with us?

To be honest I’m still learning things every race I compete in. I think the piece of advice that has stuck with me the most is, ‘whatever happens, happens’. I’m always one for getting nervous before my race run, but knowing I have done everything I can in practice just gives me the confidence to know whatever happens in my race run now happens, the worst thing you can do is sit there and worry about it. Be confident in knowing exactly what you’re doing and just have fun whilst you’re doing it.

You run coaching courses around the UK and in Spain, offering bespoke training, women’s only and group sessions. With the increasing interest of women’s MTB, do you feel it’s more important for female pro riders to get involved to nurture this interest and aim to inspire future generations of female riders?

I run a lot of coaching sessions to both male and female riders and it’s always really interesting to watch how different riders learn and progress. I enjoy coaching and enjoy seeing riders progress, I have worked with a good few female riders who are now racing national level downhill which is great to see. Over the last couple of years there has been an increase in pro riders stepping in and helping out, Tracy Moseley runs a few coaching camps out in Verbier, which are always a great hit. Manon Carpenter runs women only evenings down at the skate park when she can. Rachel is helping doing track walks with the girls at the National races. All of these days and events I think are increasing the amount of women getting involved in the sport so hopefully more of these events continue to help encourage more female riders to get involved.

You’re a World Champion in 4X, two times National 4X Champion, British downhill series winner and now you’re a fantastic coach and elite downhill rider in the World Cup with podium finishes! That’s quite an impressive list of achievements to have by the age of 26! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you and riding with you, and I was surprised at how “normal” you are, really down to earth and you made me feel relaxed too. How do you stay grounded with all that you have achieved so far?

Ha I am no different to anyone else, I just suppose I am crazy competitive and enjoy pushing myself to the limit. I just love riding my bike the same as everyone else. I am mega proud of what I have achieved but I still have a long way to go until I have reached more of my goals. I love meeting other riders and I just think it’s amazing how riding a bike can connect so many people, it’s always good to ride with others and see that others share the same passion about riding as I do.

And finally, when you’re not tearing it up on two wheels, what does Katy do to have fun and relax?

I’m not too good at sitting down and chilling out so most of my time is spent on my bike but I like spending time with my family (mainly my dog!!), I enjoy taking photos and like to keep memories of all the things we do, riding my motorbike, travelling and exploring new places and without a doubt catching up with friends.

Wrap-Up

Katy Curd continues to be a great inspiration for me, she pushed herself to become World Champion and National Champion in 4X and now she’s putting herself through the paces, competing in the Women’s elite downhill world cup. However, Katy rides with so much fun and passion that it’s impossible to not be motivated to do the same. Her coaching and support for women in riding is great to see and from first hand experience, she’s an excellent coach. Riding is fun, and like Katy said, be confident and enjoy yourself!

Tahnée Seagrave Interview 2015

British born Tahnée Seagrave moved to Morzine, France when she was 7 years old, which is where her passion for mountain biking ignited. To support their daughter’s ambition, and nurture her talent to be the future world cup champion, her parents Tony and Jo, founded FMD racing (Follow My Dream) in 2009.

Earlier this year, Tahnée teamed up with the CoppaFeel Charity to raise awareness for Breast Cancer, and encouraging women to regularly check their breasts and know what to look out for. I thought this was a fantastic campaign and what better way to raise money than raffling off her Devinci custom made downhill bike and custom racing kit from the UCI World Cup at Fort William!

We’ve seen Tahnée rise up through the junior ranks, finishing 2013 off as Junior World Cup winner, and enter the Elite category in 2014 amongst riders such as Manon Carpenter and Rachel Atherton. Now we’re in the midst of her 2nd year as an elite rider, and she’s already proving to be one to watch out for as she was hot on the heels of Rachel Atherton at Fort William and Leogang in the UCI World Cup, coming in 2nd place both times. So what’s next for this young athlete….

Hi Tahnée! Massive congratulations on the awesome run at both Fort William and Leogang despite the torrential weather and the churned up tracks, you came 2nd at both events and achieve your best world cup time. How was it for you, and did you struggle with the back-to-back weekends?

Thanks! The only struggle with back to back weekends is the travel in between. You really have to be smart about recovery to not feel overly tired for the next one. So sleep, nutrition and stretching are a big focus!

Fort William is just great. It just feels like home. The people that turn up to watch are so passionate and so supportive that it just makes you so proud and confident, which makes me relaxed and at ease!

It’s funny, because I used to hate both tracks at Fort William and Leogang. Then I learnt to race them properly, and just deal with the fact that there is nothing you can change. That’s not my job. My job is to ride down said track going as fast as I can. Whether I like it or not. So, in time, they both grew on me and I now love them! Fort William is so challenging and you really have to be smart to carry speed, trying not to use all your energy before you get to the tough parts. And Leogang is a bike park type track, although the changes this year made it a lot more technical, mixing things up! I loved them both.

At the time, I felt lucky at Fort William. I was 50/50 on that track and after puncturing in qualifiers there was no stopping me. Leogang felt like it was a lot more fair and square. I’m a racer, and a competitive soul so I’m never going to be satisfied with a second place 😉

With 2nd place podium finishes in Round 2 and 3, how do you feel going into Round 4 at Lenzerheide, Switzerland as this is a new track to the World Cup calendar?

Words cannot describe my excitement! I’m just like one big balloon ready to pop!

You did an awesome job raising over £10,000 for the CoppaFeel Charity and promoting breast cancer awareness. How did this affect your mindset for riding at Fort William, and did you feel that you raced harder for it?

I got a lot more wrapped up in it then I initially thought. I absolutely loved working with Coppafeel and loved seeing so many people eager to help and so excited to win my stuff. It definitely took priority that weekend although it didn’t affect my race head.

I’ve always wanted to raise money for a charity, and with my profile boosting I thought it was a great time. A friend of Dads had spoken to him about Coppafeel and we thought it was just perfect. Reminding people to check themselves regularly to save lives.

I didn’t think about it, but I do think that it happened subconsciously. Everyone was putting so much effort in, I needed to prove that I was too!

There seems to be a lot of friendly rivalry between the girls, how are you finding your second year of Elite level riding with them? Any funny stories or banter?

I have met some amazing friends through racing. I think we are all very competitive, but I know when to be and when not to be. Everyone’s there to win, and if it’s not me, I’m only going to respect the person that does- they clearly rode better on the day. But that doesn’t affect my friendship with some of the girls, and it certainly doesn’t affect my belief in my ability. We push each other to go faster, what’s to hate?! Not a single bad word to say.

We don’t really ride that often together, it’s hard at races having different lines and different things to look at. I’ve probably ridden most with Manon, who’s also a great friend. We don’t have anything to prove to each other and it’s usually just fun and easy going with lots of gossip and cake talk!

Tracey Hannah and I will pretty much at every race remind each other that we wanna ride really really really fast just before our race runs!

Is talking about chocolate and cake classed as banter?

Recently we’ve seen a lot more women get involved with mountain biking, which is awesome. How do you think the image of women needs to be developed, and do you think there needs to be more support available to nurture this?

I know it’s a touchy subject really, there’s been a lot of debate about it. I hate to put an “image” to it. Everyone’s different, some girls do it for fun, like to cruise, and some like to push their limits. Either or, at the end of the day we all have the same passion for riding bikes!

There may not be all the same support and interest as male riders, but I do think it’s going in the right direction.

What is the best lesson you’ve learnt as a rider which you can teach us?

It’s mind over matter. Every time. You are capable of so much more than what you are set to believe. Whether it’s a steep scary downhill, or a long uphill strain. You CAN and you WILL. Whether it’s there and then, or after millions of attempts. You can. And you will.

You’ve already got a lot on your plate with competitions this year, but do you have any other plans in the pipeline, any more charity campaigns lined up? or World domination?

I am racing back to back weekends till end of September. My other plans are sleep! haha

You’ve gained a huge profile in the mountain biking industry from climbing up through the Junior division, now you’re taking the Elite division by storm AND you’ve done amazing charity work and all by the age of 20. How do you stay grounded with all that you’re achieving?

Thanks, that’s really nice to hear. I will always strive for more. It doesn’t matter in what circumstance/situation. I will always try and seek the best out of a person or a situation. I think a good way to put it is things I achieve are just stored at the back of my mind and I just move on and look forward to the next. I’m sure one day I’ll take time to look back on it.

And finally, when the bikes in the garage and it’s time for some “Tahnée-time”, what’s the best way for you to unwind and enjoy yourself?

I love shopping. There’s no two ways about it. Carrot cake and coffee. Spending time with the family and the other half. All things that are appreciated so much after being away and so focused on one specific thing… Winning!

Wrap-up

It’s been so exciting watching Tahnée race and progress in this year’s World Cup and I think her determination and focus will lead her to the cup victory in no time at all. She’s a great inspiration for young female riders and I think a lot can be learnt from her: you can still be a girly shopaholic AND tear up the muddy trails like a machine! She’s got the right balance in my opinion! I can’t wait to see this young athlete flourish and reach her true champion potential.

Amber Charity Interview 2015

This website is all about promoting female riders and encouraging more women to get out on the bike, so what better way to achieve this than speaking with a variety of women who ride, race and work in the industry! Whether they are professional racers like Tahnée Seagrave and Katy Curd, or whether they are just starting to break into the racing scene, like Amber Charity.

I’ve been following the 23 year olds progress in racing via social media sites, and eventually we got chatting about all things bikes and her experiences breaking into the race scene. I love Amber’s enthusiasm for riding and in such a short space of time (less than a year), she’s gone from not owning a bike, to racing downhill. Now that’s inspiring! And the thing to set it all off, was when Amber attended the Fort Bill round of the World Cup in 2014…that explains a lot. Who couldn’t be excited and inspired by the riding there?! Here’s her motivational story…

“I first got into mountain biking after visiting the Fort William World Cup in 2014, I saw the action and wanting in on it, I bought Myself a 2013 Ghost XC bike with 120mm travel in September last year.

Not knowing much about bikes at the time, I self taught myself basic bike maintenance and skills. I started riding blue XC routes with the Sherwood Pines cycling club where Dee and Ruth ran women’s rides. I continued with XC until December 2014 when I had my first taste of some starter downhill tracks in Wharcliffe/Grenoside woods, still on my XC bike. After this I knew exactly where I wanted to take my riding…and it was all downhill from there!

Istarted racing on a borrowed Kona bike in March 2015. My first time on a downhill bike, first time in a downhill race, and first time on a real downhill track! So it was pretty crazy! Since then I’ve taken part in 4 races this year and one dual slalom race at the event ‘Girls at Moelfre’.

I absolutely love riding and racing bikes! It’s not just the adrenaline and buzz that gets you, but the family that comes with it. I now know so many people who support me and help me from racing, without them my confidence wouldn’t be where it is today. Especially my team, team Cycopath, to be chosen to ride for a team so early into riding felt pretty awesome and it’s nice to know someone has faith in you!”

Wow, You really went head over heels for riding which is amazing! What has it been like as a woman breaking into the downhill race scene?

Breaking into the race scene was pretty scary! I have massive respect for anyone (male or female) that decide to race. Luckily for me I am using this year as a learning season so the pressure isn’t as high for me to do well in races as I’m not expecting any result.

I’ve found I have always had help whenever I’ve needed, people offer to do track walks with me, women in my category have asked if I want to follow them down on practice days or even talk about lines with them, so I do feel that the women’s competitive scene is a lot more friendly than the men’s. The only real obstacle I have found in my short race experience is more skilled riders being less considerate when they catch you up during practice. I do believe women have the same right to practice as much as the men (vice versa) and if they do catch up to a rider they should use the correct ways and either slow down and wait or shout ‘rider’ then wait till the person has time to pull over safely for them, however this isn’t always the case and I believe more riders should remember they were beginners one day too.

Racing is something many of us consider doing at some point in our bike lives, but know too little about or are too nervous to really “go for it”. As a newbie to the race scene, how have you found the races themselves, and how do you feel from taking part in them?

My first ever race was a push-up race at Farmer John’s MTB park in March 2015. It was a small race, so perfect for my first ever one. It was my second time riding a downhill track, and I was riding on a borrowed Kona bike! We decided to camp over, and on the Friday night… the heavens opened! The rain and storms continued throughout the whole weekend, and to this day they were the worst conditions I have ever ridden in. Because of this, 170 riders soon became 130 and 6 of those were us women. By the end of the race, I placed 5/6 but only because the 6th woman ‘DNS’, but it felt amazing to complete my first race!

The second race I competed in was the Hamsterley TT in which I decided to crash epically and fracture my ribs and a slightly fracture my radius head in my elbow. I didn’t let this stop me racing Peaty Steel city though! I raced again on a borrowed downhill bike due to my XC bike being broken. I placed 23/29 and it was without a doubt the best buzz off a race ever, even with being injured.

I then bought myself a 2015 Mondraker Summum! I’ve since ridden Pearce cycles round 4, just so that I could practice on a harder track (for myself). I also raced the dual slalom at the ‘girls at Moelfre’ event to which I made it to the third round, but got knocked out by Claire who came first in the next round.

What upcoming races do you have planned?

I am planning on racing Pearce cycles round 5, Red Bull Foxhunt, Borderline round 3 and possibly SDA round 5.

As female riders, we are the minority group in MTB and because of this we don’t have the same wide range of support, kit and exposure as the men. In your opinion, what is the biggest problem with women’s biking and where is support needed most?

The biggest problem to me is decent women’s kit (especially downhill kit) and women’s cycling recognition. I’ve not been on the scene of biking too long, however in my short time it does seem to be getting better already with Flare clothing now doing women’s DH kit and Fox bringing out women’s DH kit next year! More kit for women is definitely up there, we want stuff to feel comfortable whilst riding, not big men’s stuff that falls down because they don’t have it in women’s sizes!

Whereas women’s cycling isn’t publicised like the men’s, we don’t get as much coverage on events or as much on write ups. Again, this is getting better I know of a few websites becoming more popular about women like Velo Me! Plus having more female MTB communities like MTB Chix and Trails!

So you’ve had your first tastes of racing this year and you’ve gotten the bug. How far do you want to take your racing, do you see yourself being future world champ?

I could only dream of this! In the future I would like to see myself racing at national level to a high standard. And maybe in a dream world I could be world champ one day, never say never, watch out Manon haha!

How do you like to spend your free time when you’re not on the bike?

I work long hours as an outdoor pursuits instructor however, when I’m not working, I’m either seeing my boyfriend, playing on my Xbox, at the cinema, climbing, at the gym (not enough) or converting my new van! I’m pretty laid back so pretty happy just chilling with friends, with good food and drinks in my spare time.

Wrap-Up

Chatting with Amber has been really inspiring, and eye-opening to the reality of beginners racing. She’s so enthusiastic about biking and competing that I can’t wait to see her go further and reaching the top spot. Amber made some valid points regarding the limited availability for women’s kit, something that Bikepark Wales director, Anna strongly agrees with, and I myself hope to see this market develop in upcoming years. It just goes to show that anyone with a passion for riding can enter a race, and even if you come last, or injure yourself, it’s important to push on and ride through it. Don’t let the fear set in! Something I think many of us are guilty of. I’m not hugely competitive myself, but I’m stoked to be going to the Redbull Foxhunt this year, and who knows… maybe you’ll see me chasing Amber down in the future! So find yourself a race to enter, and give it a go!