1. HOW / WHY DID YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH MOUNTAIN BIKING?
In 2015, Macmillan Cancer Support helped my Gran, Ruby, through the end of her life in her own home. It was a pretty rough time. Their help was invaluable, but I wanted to show my appreciation and raise money for the charity. I looked into a few options and settled on the Trans Pennine bike ride - 100km from Manchester to Leeds, up and over the Pennines.
I didn’t own a bike, and hadn’t pedalled one since I was a kid. Then, aged 26, I borrowed an old Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike from my brother-in-law and set about ‘training’ for the challenge.
That primitive bike became like a friend and each ride soothed the feelings of grief and loss of my Gran. I fell completely in love with riding. I trained on the roads in prep’ for the Sportive - riding things like the famous Cragg Vale hill climb on that old hardtail and loving every second.
Pretty quickly though, I found my real happy place - on two wheels, off road. I remember my first trail ride at Gisburn Forest. I rocked up alone on a crisp spring morning and set off down the first route with no idea how to handle the obstacles on my little bike. It didn’t matter. I bounced around that forest like a complete rookie with a huge smile on my face. It sparked something inside me that I didn’t know I had. Gisburn still holds a big place in my heart.
Since then, I’ve never looked back.
2. CRAGG VALE HILL CLIMB ON A HARD TAIL SOUNDS TOUGH. HOW WAS IT?
At the time it felt huge! That old bike probably had enough gears to make it manageable but it was also heavy, badly fitting and in desperate need of a service.
I’ve ridden up there a few times since on both road bikes and mountain bikes. But that first time, I think I rode a 50-odd mile round trip from home and really got my first taste of riding longer distances and bigger gradients. Pedalling past the sign that says “Cragg Vale, start of the longest continuous gradient in England” is pretty cool, even if you’re on the completely wrong bike for the job!