Injuries can seem bleak at the time, but some can mean a new chapter into something even better...

HOW / WHY DID YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH MOUNTAIN BIKING?

I suffered a knee injury four years ago that rendered me unable to ski, climb, kayak or even run for what seemed like an eternity. My surgeon and physiotherapist recommended I do some cycling as it would be a good low impact sport leading up to my surgery as well as for my recovery. I had a cheap hardtail at the time that turned out not to be as low impact as I was hoping for.

I couldn’t stand up on my left leg very well so I was hunched over and lopsided with my back absorbing most of the impact. I wasn’t supposed to be riding mountain bike trails in the forest but the concrete pavement along the lakefront just wasn’t doing it for me. I hobbled down to Crankworx Rotorua on my crutches a month after my surgery and managed to bag a bargain on a display Anthem SX from the Giant tent. The bike sat in my living room for 5 months before I could ride it. It was my motivation to push through the hard days.

Once I got to ride it I was blown away. In no time at all I was throwing myself down grade 4 trails with no skill whatsoever, the bike could handle it no problem and so could my back and my knee. I was having the time of my life being active again and discovering a new sport. I still couldn't climb, kayak, ski or run for another three years. Biking is all I did and I don’t know what I would have done without it. Since then biking has become my biggest passion.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? (COULD BE RIDING WISE, IN LIFE IN GENERAL OR ANYONE IN PARTICULAR)

I get immense amounts of inspiration from observing others. It is mind blowing what we are capable of overcoming and achieving as individuals.

I am a big believer that the only limits we have are the ones we create in ourselves and try to approach everything with a can do attitude. Especially on the bike. Even if my skill level sometimes tells me otherwise. It is a sobering tactic in discovering where your own limits are and what you need to do to get where you want to be. Chasing way more experienced and skilled riders up and down trails is the best motivational tool I have found.

LOOKING AT YOUR INSTAGRAM, IT SEEMS LIKE YOU’RE ALWAYS OUTSIDE OR TRAVELLING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN RECENTLY, AND DO YOU ALWAYS TRY TO TAKE A MTB WITH YOU?

The last two years have taken me from New Zealand to Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Scotland, the Canary Islands, Slovenia and Norway. I always try to take my bike in its bashed up cardboard box with me. Sometimes it is a hassle and a logistical nightmare to travel with but most of the time I'm grateful to have my reliable and trusty two wheel friend in tow.

I rented a bike in Argentina for a few days. Over the phone the company assured me that they were very good mountain bikes, for real mountain bike trails. Turned out to be a guy living in his mum’s basement who fixed up old bikes he found in the dump. It made for a very funny and entertaining couple of days riding with zero travel, v-brakes and a broken seat post clamp. The slick city tyres were however set up tubeless providing optimal traction.

NORWAY, NEW ZEALAND OR SLOVENIA

All of the above (with a slight hint of favouritism for a little Balkan gem)

Norway for the remote backcountry hike a bike adventures in the mountains above the Fjords. Rock is by far my most favorite surface to ride on and here you can find it in every shape and form imaginable.

New Zealand has the most diversity for riding and a great climate. There is literally something for everyone. Family friendly loops in the forest, big multi day hut to hut adventures, huge jump lines in the park, gravel rides for days, e-bike specific trails, and everything else imaginable in between. The trails are easy to find, well marked and with very little logistics required it is a bikers paradise.

Slovenia for pure natural single track heaven and lots of it!! I struggle to put into words how good the riding is here and to comprehend how they have managed to squeeze so many fantastic trails into this tiny inconspicuous little country. Even though the trails here are some of the most steep, technical, raw and awkward I have ridden, they are beautifully hand built and seem to flow seamlessly from top to bottom. The scenery is breathtaking and the forests spectacular. You rarely see any other riders on the trails and feel like you've ridden into an undiscovered biking world that no one else knows exists.

THERE’S NO ESCAPING THE CURRENT COVID SITUATION, HAS THIS HAD AN EFFECT ON YOUR RIDING?

Not really. Just my riding image. We have been very lucky here in Norway with Covid having very little impact on the things we could do. There was a few months delay in getting my HB130 and biking gear here and was without a bike for a while. Luckily some friends here in Norway hooked me up with a set of wheels and some seriously stylish lockdown leisurewear.

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT LOCKDOWN HAS UNEXPECTEDLY GIVEN YOU?

A complex about how unproductively I use my free time.

WHAT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO DO, WHEN WE’RE OUT OF THE CURRENT COVID SITUATION?

I am starting to think that we will not be out of this situation anytime soon. So I guess to try and navigate life as best as possible in the meantime. I am looking forward to exploring more of Norway and appreciating what's on my doorstep for a change rather than always chasing new destinations.

DO YOU HAVE ANY EPIC RIDING STORIES OR AN ADVENTURE THAT DIDN’T GO TO PLAN? (FOR ME THESE ALWAYS SEEM TO BE THE ONES THAT STICK IN THE MEMORY)

Like every time I leave the house. I love a good misadventure.

I seem to come into my own when nothing is going to plan and things become overly adventurous after fully underestimating a multitude of factors. Getting caught out in the dark on some seriously technical and overgrown trail in Slovenia for almost three hours one Autumn evening with only a torch from a phone was definitely a more memorable misadventure.

My friend had his phone held on his handlebars to light up the trail in front of him and I was squinting as hard as I could trying to follow what little I could see of his back tyre. I found the whole thing highly amusing and loved the challenge of riding as much of the trail as possible. I swore to myself two hours into this epic bush whacking mission that I would take a head torch the next Autumnal afternoon ride we would do.

A few days later, we ended up in the same situation. This time I took a wrong turn and got completely lost. Thankfully I had a phone torch of my own this time as it took us at least an hour to regroup.

YOU’RE A RIDE GUIDE FOR RIDE SLOVENIA, WHAT’S THAT LIKE AND HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE RIDING IN SLOVENIA?

I feel like I need to play down this role as much as possible otherwise everyone will be applying for or trying to steal my job. Being a guide for Ride Slovenia is ridiculous amounts of fun. Sure the days are long and tiring at times. We are hosting as well as guiding, 7 days a week, right through from breakfast to bedtime, but it rarely feels like work.

We get to ride on our favourite trails with very competent and experienced riders. My boss is hilarious and extremely easy going. He cooks the best BBQ ever and ensures there's dessert on the table every night. When I'm not guiding and burning off the insane amounts of food I eat on a daily basis, I'm driving the shuttle on the steepest roughest 4x4 tracks with the most spectacular views. It feels like I'm on safari some days.

As for the riding. Refer to question 4 and come and check it out for yourself. Pre warning. The trails here are definitely not for the faint hearted.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE HB130 FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR?

With Covid limiting travel this year and all events and races cancelled, the HB130 and I will continue to explore the mountains and trails that Norway has to offer.

There are a few places at the top of my list. One of them is a pretty full on downhill trail called Ulriken in Bergen. I rode the trail at the end of last Summer after a really good season of riding. The local boys were amazed I rode the entire trail on my 150mm Norco. This year I'm super excited to throw the HB130 at it and see how that goes.

CLAIRE RIDES

  • A HB130 with the Fox Suspension package.
  • Decked out with Silver Anodised Hope Components
  • Running on Fortus rims laced to Silver anodised Hope Pro 4 Hubs