Wise Words is our new interview series talking to some of mountain biking’s most switched on people.
We’ll ask our short list of questions to a heap of influential, inspiring and outspoken people that we feel are driving the direction of mountain biking today. Some will make you think, some will make you laugh, some will be plain dumb, some will inspire you to better yourself and your riding. We hope!
Wise Words this week comes from your 2014 Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup Winner and World Champion, Manon Carpenter.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Manon Carpenter can’t have escaped your attention. A gifted Junior who took the Champery World Champs title in 2011 by some 14 seconds. Manon would then be the first rider to really take the fight to Rachel Atherton, and the two soon became sparring partners. Manon would do the double, taking the World Cup series overall and the World Championships in 2014.
How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?
I’d be interested to know! Possibly quietly opinionated and a (disorganised) organiser. Hopefully fun and up for a good day out or session, and possibly a bit one-track minded. If I’ve got a set of jumps or section of trail in front of me I can be quite focused and not that keen on stopping for long conversations when there’s riding to be done.
What thing or things have you bought in the last year that had the biggest effect on your life as a mountain biker / cyclist / person that works in the bike industry?
A pump for tubeless tyres. I’ve probably had it longer than a year now, but it makes life a hell of a lot easier when setting up tyres.
Also, a water butt for collecting rainwater to wash bikes with. Completely removes any guilt of using loads of water and saves on the water bill too.
What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?
I’m not sure if its unusual, probably just bad, but going out on trail rides without any tubes or pump. I’ll even carry a bag for food and drink supplies but have got into the habit of taking nothing else. I’m trying to change this as I don’t want to be the one making a call to get rescued or limping home with a puncture.
What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?
I’ve heard some riders talking about ‘proper’ mountain bikers, or rather who isn’t a proper mountain bikers depending on what they do or don’t want to ride, or how often. Who cares? Ride what you want, don’t ride what you don’t want to, as long as you’re enjoying it and getting out.
If you could go back and re-ride one day from your life so far, where/what/when/who would it be? Would you change anything?
At the end of summer last year, before I went back to uni, I was trying to decide whether to go somewhere with my last days of summer or whether I wanted to spend them at home. A good friend, Emily Horridge, is living and starting a guiding company out in Les Arcs, and she happened to have some days free before the lifts closed. I booked my flights for a long weekend and one day we rode and hike-a-biked up the face of a steep mountain at the top of the valley, swam in a mountain lake at the top and then rode down on some of the best singletrack I’ve ridden. Following Emily blasting through rocky sections and your typical alpine switchbacks was so refreshing and reminded me of what I loved about bikes.
Other than that, probably World Champs in Hafjell. I’d do it all exactly the same (obviously), except I’d be slightly cooler on the hot seat/post race. We dug the clip out for a school visit recently, and I really wasn’t prepared for the commotion when I won.
I’m like a rabbit in headlights, ending up with my helmet down over my face and generally not being very composed.
What have you wasted the most time on in your life as a rider or bike industry career that you wished you’d given up years ago?
I wouldn’t say anything’s been wasted, I think that ends up with you thinking negatively about things. There are definitely things that could have been done better or different but that’s how you learn what does or doesn’t work for you I guess.
How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking inspiration?
I remind myself how good it’ll be when I’m actually doing what it is I’m lacking inspiration for. It usually works when trying a new jump or line too, it’s almost always fine once you do try it and I try to remind myself of that in the period before when I’m worrying about it. I had to drag myself out the house recently for a ride but told myself it would be worth it, and I had the best time once I was out.
What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?
The feeling of flow. Whether it’s a smooth bike park trail, set of trails, flat out DH or a nibbly rooty, rocky thing I love the feeling of linking up a section and making/carrying speed. The views from the top when you’re in a nice place help too, but finding flow in any set of woods would make me happy.
What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?
It might be controversial, especially as I’m no track builder, but poorly made features/sections of track that don’t seem to have been tested properly and end up with riders getting injured unnecessarily. Some people might say sketchy features are part and parcel of MTB/DH but it’s not my cup of tea, especially if it’s been man-made that way, and it’s a shame that sometimes one or more bad crashes/injuries have to happen before something is done to change it.
What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?
Good times on bikes! I’m kind of going with the flow at the moment (in between uni commitments) and seeing where that takes me. I’m also going along to a couple of women’s days this year which are always good fun. It’s not that riding with guys isn’t fun (it is and I do it often), but I think there’s something about the novelty of having so many girls riding in one place and enjoying each others company, which doesn’t happen all the time.
Also, all bike maintenance products to go biodegradeable/eco-friendly. It wasn’t until I saw an article recently that I thought about it, and now I’ll always try to find and use non-toxic options (there are plenty out there). It’s one of those small changes you can make that barely impacts your life, but will make a difference to the impact you have on the environment you enjoy riding and living in.
Who else should we ask these questions to?
I’ll say Emily! Fellow Bristolian (to you guys at Wideopenmag). She’s always been a riding buddy of mine for all sorts of bike activities (BMX, DH, dirt jumps, trail bikes) and has been a part of the MTB scene from racing Dragons back in the days to dabbling in World Cups, EWS, and is now a French qualified guide creating the dream out in Les Arcs.
Also Veronique Sandler, who is always up for a good time and has recently been inspiring me to start playing around in different ways on bikes.